A statement has been issued by JWB Consultancy who represented the complainants in the case, Mr David English and two local businessmen.
Statement on behalf of Mr David English and two other local businessmen following Sunday World clarification
“On 7 June 2020 the Sunday World published a malicious, exploitative and entirely inappropriate interview with an individual, Mr Robert Beck, who is subject to a restraining order and who has been described by a District Judge as “living in a parallel universe” and a “danger to the public”.
“This interview platformed, and in the view of many tacitly encouraged, threats of vigilante violence. The platforming of these threats attracted widespread concern, including from the Justice Minister.
“The article advanced scandalous allegations against Mr David English, a man with no criminal record and who is in fact an innocent victim of this deranged individual. He has the court ordered protection of a restraining order. The publication, in our view, facilitated the breaching of this restraining order by virtue of publishing the interview with Mr Beck.
“It further attributed defamatory comments to the PSNI, when in fact these were comments of Mr Beck which were simply read into the court record by the PSNI in the course of Mr Beck’s conviction for harassing and threatening to kill Mr English.
“The publication then went on to carry Mr Beck’s claim of responsibility- without any critical analysis- for four violent attacks on legitimate business premises, which the publication accused of serious criminality. This scandalous and baseless assertion should never have been published. None of the proprietors of any of the premises have any links to crime, nor have they ever even been arrested, let alone charged with any criminal offence.
“In another elementary error the article stated Mr Beck had been released without charge in connection with attacking the aforementioned premises. This is untrue. He was in fact charged for these attacks and as such the publication may very well have fatally prejudiced a live case, which would of course amount to contempt of court.
“JWB Consultancy acted on behalf of Mr English and the owners of two of the properties attacked by Mr Beck. We are pleased that all clients have been vindicated by today’s clarification, and indeed the management of Independent News Media’s earlier decision to remove the online versions of the article inside 48 hours of publication.
“We sincerely hope lessons will be learnt and that the management of Independent News Media will exercise more editorial control over the Sunday World, which consistently falls far below even basic journalistic standards. It is less than six months ago that the publication was forced into a front- page retraction and referred to IPSO’s professional standards for their conduct.
“The swift clarification and the earlier removal of the exploitative, inaccurate and wholly malicious article is however to be welcomed. It is to the credit of Independent News Media that they moved so quickly to seek to remedy this appalling episode.
“The PUL community deserve fair and equitable media treatment, and until that becomes the basic standard then inaccurate and malicious journalism will continue to be robustly challenged. This may be a long legal war, but it is one which in the end we will win; basic justice demands it.”