In a Statement in Open Court [pdf] read before Warby J on 16 May 2019 it was recorded that a motorcycle enthusiast had won libel claims against four national newspapers that had falsely claimed he attempted to deceive the public into believing he was a police officer.
The claim by Darren James Emanuel, an independent consultant, was against the Times, the Mirror, the Telegraph and the Express in respect of the publication of inaccurate and defamatory allegations about him in February 2018.
The articles reported on a court case during which Mr Emanuel was convicted (and later acquitted on appeal) of wearing an item of clothing which resembled police uniform, in circumstances “calculated to deceive” the public that he was a police officer. They alleged that Mr Emanuel had used imitation police attire to speed through rush hour traffic, and claimed that Mr Emanuel had been charged and convicted by a Magistrates’ Court of a significantly more serious offence than the one he had in fact been charged with and convicted of.
In fact Mr Emanuel was wearing a high visibility jacket, as recommended by the Highway Code, over which a tabard marked “POLITE NOTICE: THINK BIKE” (insignia used widely by cyclists and motorcyclists) had been permanently stitched. The former police motorcycle he was riding had been lawfully de-commissioned and reconditioned for civilian use by South Yorkshire Police. Mr Emanuel was mistakenly convicted even though the magistrates accepted that he had not intended to impersonate a police officer. Mr Emanuel immediately appealed and just two weeks later his conviction was overturned and he was acquitted.
Each of the four publishers made a Part 36 offer in the sum of £7,500 which he accepted. Legal actions remain ongoing against other publishers. The newspapers refused to agree a joint statement in open court and three of the four publishers have not published apologies. The apology which was published was without his agreement.
Mr Emanuel’s representative, Persephone Bridgman Baker, commented:
“The ‘Polite Notice: Think Bike’ tabard worn by Mr Emanuel is ubiquitous in London and clearly not an item of police clothing. Mr Emanuel’s initial conviction was swiftly overturned, but the damage had already been caused by these four newspapers’ inaccurate reporting of a charge which had not in fact been brought against Mr Emanuel, which led to the wide publication of the false allegations online. The publishers have now paid Mr Emanuel substantial damages.”
Mr Emanuel was represented by Nigel Tait, Persephone Bridgman Baker and Mathilde Groppo of Carter-Ruck.
I am not surprised that the newspapers sensationalised the story, you simply cannot believe anything that is printed in newspapers these days. I was somewhat surprised that even the Times and the Telegraph (hitherto respectable newspapers) engaged in such irresponsible journalism. However, this is a story of irreponsible policing. I note that both the prosecutor and the judge in the Crown Court stated on the record that this should never have been brought before the Courts – see the “statement in open court” link above paragraph 41. This would have cost the tax payers at least £20,000 to prosecute an unwinnable case. What on earth were the police thinking? Have they nothing better to do with their time? The Metropolitan police always complain about having insufficient resources… now we know the reason…. they waste what precious little resource they do have! It’s scandalous.