In a judgment handed down yesterday, Mrs Justice Sharp awarded management consultant Andrew Miller libel damages of £65,000 against the Daily Mail over an allegation that there reasonable grounds to suspect that he was a willing beneficiary of improper conduct and cronyism ( EWHC 3721 (QB)). The judgment was given nearly 7 months after the conclusion of the 5 day trial on 25 May 2012.
The case arose out of the publication of a front page “Daily Mail” article entitled “Met Boss in new ‘cash for friend’ storm”. The article was published on 2 October 2008 – the day Sir Ian Blair resigned after three and a half years as Metropolitan Police Commissioner. It concerned the award of Metropolitan Police contracts to Mr Miller’s company and began:
“Sir Ian Blair used public money to pay a close friend a five-figure sum to sharpen his image, it emerged last night.
The beleaguered Scotland Yard chief employed Andy Miller to advise him on how to ‘make the transition’ when he took over as Britain’s top officer three years ago“.
In a judgment in November 2011 ( EWHC 2677 (QB)), Mr Justice Tugendhat held that the words complained of meant that
“there were (at the date of publication) reasonable grounds to suspect that Mr Miller was a willing beneficiary of improper conduct and cronyism because of his friendship with Sir Ian Blair in respect of the award of a number of Metropolitan Police Service contracts to Mr Miller’s company worth millions of pounds of public money, and that that is a meaning defamatory of Mr Miller”.
Associated Newspapers contended that this allegation was substantially true and that the action was an abuse of process.
Mrs Justice Sharp held that the defendant had failed to establish the defence of justification . The Judge criticised the defendant for calling no witnesses, instead relying on ‘highly selective extracts‘ from documents amounting to ‘multiple hearsay‘. She said:
‘It seems to me that selective snippets of hearsay from individuals who have not been called, particularly when it has been “cherry picked” from material which casts it in a different light, provides an obviously unsatisfactory evidential basis upon which to invite a court to find facts and/or draw adverse inference.’ 
The Judge found that Mr Miller’s company had been awarded the relevant work by the Metropolitan police
‘because it was the better candidate and won the tender on the merits … There is no evidence, or none that satisfies me, that Sir Ian Blair played any part in the initial sift, or indeed in the ultimate selection of Impact Plus … The evidence is that Impact Plus was appropriately paid for the work it did, and that it did a good and valuable job‘. 
The Judge also rejected the defendant’s contention that the action was an abuse of the process.
She held that the charge made in the article was serious and it was very prominently published to many millions of people. She concluded
“I am in no doubt that Mr Miller had suffered considerably as a result of its publication; and was very distressed and hurt by it. There was substantial aggravation in my view. This is also a case where a significant award is required to vindicate Mr Miller’s good name, “in case the libel, driven underground emerges from its lurking place at some future date” and so “he can point to a sum sufficient to convince a bystander of the baselessness of the charge”.
As a result, she awarded general and aggravated damages in the sum of £65,000.
Lord Blair said:
“I am pleased by this judgment. The allegations of impropriety involving Mr Miller’s friendship with me were always without any foundation.”
This is the fourth award of damages made after a full libel trial in 2012 and the second against Associated Newspapers.