Saturday 23 February 2019

British MP wins £30,000 libel damages against 'The Sun' over claims heavy metal band used Nazi imagery

Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon outside the Royal Courts of Justice, central London after he won £30,000 in libel damages in a High Court action against 'The Sun'. Photo: Sian Harrison/PA Wire
Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon outside the Royal Courts of Justice, central London after he won £30,000 in libel damages in a High Court action against 'The Sun'. Photo: Sian Harrison/PA Wire

The British shadow justice secretary has won £30,000 in libel damages against The Sun, over claims a heavy metal band he performed with used Nazi imagery.

Richard Burgon claimed an April 2017 article which said he had joined a Leeds band that "delights in Nazi symbols" was "highly defamatory, false and unfair".

The Labour MP said an image tweeted by the band Dream Troll, which appeared to use the lightning bolt "S" from the logo of notorious Nazi paramilitary organisation the SS, was a "spoof" of Black Sabbath's 1975 album 'We Sold Our Soul For Rock 'n' Roll'.

'The Sun' publisher, News Group Newspapers, and political editor Tom Newton Dunn argued that the image was "strongly reminiscent of Nazi iconography" and Mr Burgon "demonstrated terrible misjudgment and exposed himself to ridicule".

Giving judgment at the High Court in London on Wednesday, Mr Justice Dingemans announced that he had ruled in favour of Mr Burgon and awarded him £30,000.

Mr Justice Dingemans announced the decision at the High Court in London on Wednesday, ruling that Mr Burgon had succeeded in his claim relating to an April 2017 online article, but dismissed a claim for malicious falsehood.

In a tweet after the ruling, Mr Burgon wrote: "Delighted to have won my High Court case against The Sun.

"The Judge ordered The Sun to pay £30,000 in damages.

Tony Iommi and Ozzy Osbourne of heavy metal pioneers Black Sabbath
Tony Iommi and Ozzy Osbourne of heavy metal pioneers Black Sabbath

"With that I'll fund a paid justice internship for a young person from Leeds."

In a statement after the ruling, Mr Burgon's solicitors Carter-Ruck described the decision as a "major victory".

But a spokesman for 'The Sun' immediately announced that the newspaper would appeal against the ruling, saying: "We are deeply disappointed by this judgment and we will be appealing.

"We fundamentally disagree with the judge's conclusions and, furthermore, fear they may act as a brake on the ability of the free press to hold those in power to account and to scrutinise the judgment of those who aspire to the highest offices in the land.

"We do not feel that this ruling pays adequate attention to the need to hold politicians to a higher standard than private citizens, we do not agree with the judge's conclusions on the substance of the image at the heart of the case, and we do not feel that the ruling takes into sufficient account the nature of on- and off-the-record statements in the reality of political journalism."

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