The Times newspaper had acted responsibly when publishing an article about police officer, Gary Flood, which had linked him to corruption involving Russian oligarchs, the Supreme Court has ruled. In overturning the Court of Appeal decision and reinstating the original High Court ruling, the highest UK court said that it had been in the public interest not only to report the story but also to name Flood and the accusations that he had faced, and the efforts that the newspaper had taken to investigate the facts and given him the opportunity to put his side of the story amounted to the responsible journalism defence to defamation.
The defence was born in a case involving the former Irish Prime Minister Albert Reynolds and is also known as the “Reynolds defence”. It seeks to protect reports of a story which, although untrue and damaging to a person’s reputation, are in the public interest to be reported provided that the reporting has been conducted responsibly. Flood was actually investigated and no criminal charges or internal charges were actually brought. This became clear after the newspaper had published the story, but a separate issue remains to be decided as to whether the online version of the story can benefit from the defence as the newspaper had failed to amend that version following the results of the police investigation.
The Supreme Court judgment can be found here: http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKSC/2012/11.html.