The claim by William Roddie, director of Spectrum Properties (Scotland) Ltd, that the Scottish Mail on Sunday published by Associated Newspapers had run a false, defamatory story damaging his reputation has been dismissed by Court of Session judge, Lord Jones.
Despite Roddie’s allegations that the original article painted him as a “fraudster” conducting “criminal enterprise,” Lord Jones examined the article and concluded the words used contained nothing to convey that meaning.
The article itself, published on 12 January, looked at public money originally meant for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and described how it was being sent to other, less deserving companies. Roddie claimed the article implied his firm was “not a company to do business with” as it was being run in an “irregular manner” by committing fraud on the public purse. He said the Scottish Mail article apparently caused his auditors, PKF, to resign from their services to his business.
A senior counsel for the defenders moved to dismiss the action, saying the alleged meaning referred to by Robbie could not be drawn from the words themselves. Thus, the claim was deemed “irrelevant” and the case concluded. Within the newspaper article itself, the terms “fraudster” were seen to be qualified within the context and no further defamation was said to have occurred.
This is an important example of how journalists have to be clear with their words, sticking to the facts and carefully describing any circumstances that have arose in the past. In this case, the Scottish Mail’s choice of words ensured they avoided a potentially harmful defamation case against them. As none of the facts presented in the article were challenged as being untrue, instead with the claimed interpretation being said to be false, the defender’s plea was sustained and the case was thus dismissed.