Leeds & West Yorkshire

MP Richard Burgon wins 'Nazi metal band' Sun libel case

Richard Burgon Image copyright PA
Image caption Shadow Justice Minister Richard Burgon won the libel case at the High Court

A member of the shadow cabinet has won £30,000 damages against The Sun over claims a heavy metal band he performed with used Nazi imagery.

Labour MP Richard Burgon claimed the article which said he had joined a band that "delights in Nazi symbols" was "highly defamatory, false and unfair".

In the High Court, Mr Justice Dingemans ruled in the Leeds East MP's favour.

His solicitors described the decision as a "major victory". The Sun said it would appeal against the judgement.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Dingemans noted the online article continued to be published for more than six months and that "there has been no apology", adding that an award of damages of £30,000 was "appropriate"

Shadow Justice Secretary Mr Burgon's claim for malicious falsehood against the newspaper's political editor Tom Newton Dunn was dismissed.

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

In a tweet after the verdict, Mr Burgon said he was going to use the money to help a young person from Leeds.

At a hearing in January, Mr Burgon's barrister Adam Speker said the April 2017 article involved a "deliberate misrepresentation".

He said The Sun had "manufactured a knowingly false and misleading story" by "doctoring the image published by the band" by removing the hashtag "#blacksabbath" which accompanied the tweet.

But Adam Wolanski, for the defendants, said that Mr Burgon "aspires to be secretary of state for justice, to occupy the office of lord chancellor and to be a senior member of Her Majesty's cabinet".

He said: "For this reason, the question of whether he demonstrates good judgment is a matter, not just of legitimate comment, but a matter of vital public debate."

Image copyright PA
Image caption (L-R) Keir Starmer, Richard Burgon and Dianne Abbott listen to a Jeremy Corbyn speech

After the judgement, Mr Burgon said he was "delighted" to have won the case.

"Their slur attempting to link me to Nazi symbols was held to be false and defamatory," he added.

"It caused both me and my friends - who are not politicians - distress."

In a statement, The Sun said it was "deeply disappointed" by the judgement.

It added: "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."

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