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Granada pays pounds 2m for TV libel; World in Action apologises to police.

Three policemen who were accused in a television programme of fabricating evidence against a prisoner charged with the brutal killing of his cell mate left court yesterday with their reputations restored after a libel settlement believed to total around pounds 2 million.

Granada Television apologised and agreed to pay "very substantial" damages - believed to be pounds 100,000 each - to the three, plus their estimated pounds 1.2 million legal costs, over allegations in a World in Action programme broadcast in April 1992.

Granada is believed to be facing a total bill of about pounds 2 million, including its own costs, in what is thought to be the biggest libel settlement by a TV company.

A High Court judge in London heard that the three were caused "very great distress" and damage to their reputations by what they saw as a suggestion that they were involved in a cover-up to conceal the fact that prisoner Patrick Quinn was killed by a police officer - possibly one of them.

The programme asserted that the officers - who were all present in court yesterday - had perjured themselves at the trial of Mr Quinn's cell-mate, Malcolm Kennedy, leading to his conviction for murder. Kennedy's conviction was later quashed on appeal, but a retrial was ordered and he was eventually convicted of Mr Quinn's manslaughter.

There was "no truth whatever" in any of the allegations against the officers, said Mr Barton Taylor, solicitor for Sgt Peter Bleakley and Pc Emlyn Welsh, of the Metropolitan Police, and former Pc Paul Giles, now retired because of ill-health.

He told Mr Justice Garland that Mr Quinn was killed at Hammersmith police station in west London on December 24, 1990.

World in Action regarded aspects of Kennedy's murder conviction as unsafe. Following the broadcast, the Court of Appeal quashed his conviction and ordered a retrial.

The retrial was aborted after the discovery of a police computer-aided despatch report which supported the police account of timings and contradicted the central thrust of the programme, said Mr Taylor.

At a second retrial, Kennedy was convicted of Mr Quinn's manslaughter and his subsequent appeal was dismissed.

The TV company did not challenge that conviction and "they now accept without reservation that the officers did not lie or commit perjury and were in no way involved in any falsification of evidence or in misleading the court at any stage".

Granada, although it initially contested the libel writ, had now apologised personally to the officers and repeated the apology on network television.

Ms Claire Posner, for Granada, said the programme was made in good faith in the light of doubts raised over Kennedy's original conviction and there was never any intention to suggest the officers were involved in the killing or a cover-up.

The programme's narrator had stated: "World in Action does not know who killed Patrick Quinn. We're not suggesting any of the officers named in this programme, nor any other particular officer, harmed him." If the programme was understood to make any such suggestion, it would be completely false.

The judge said he was happy to give Mr Taylor leave to withdraw the record in the case and "lay to rest a chain of events that began as long ago as Christmas Eve 1990".

Sgt Bleakley said later: "We are all pleased it has come to an end. It has just taken a very long time. We wish Granada had come to a settlement earlier in order to bring this tragedy to an end."

After the announcement of the settlement, a statement issued by Granada Television said that World in Action had investigated the case with painstaking care.

It stated: "It is incorrect to suggest that the programme accused these officers of involvement in murder. In fact the programme explicitly said World in Action did not know who killed Patrick Quinn."
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Author:Gordon, Cathy; Taylor, Mike
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Sep 29, 1998
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