Victory for Former NUM Chief Over Miners' Strike "Spy" Libel
Former National Union of Mineworkers Chief Executive Roger Windsor has won a libel action against The Sunday Express and its former editor, Rosie Boycott, over allegations that he spied for the security services during the miners' strike of 1984 and 1985.
On 21 May 2000 The Sunday Express ran an article by Nigel West (a pseudonym of Rupert Allason, the spy writer and former Conservative MP) headed "Spy expert predicts the revelations in former MI5 chief's memoirs". The article referred to the anticipated publication of Dame Stella Rimington's autobiography and alleged that Mr Windsor had acted as an MI5 "mole" during the miners' strike, tipping off the Government about strategic decisions taken by the NUM leadership. By doing this, the article alleged, Mr Windsor had betrayed the miners and had ensured the collapse of the strike.
These allegations had been published more than once some years previously, by left-wing Labour MP's speaking in Parliament. However, the cloak of Parliamentary privilege which applied on such occasions had always prevented Mr Windsor from taking steps to clear his name. Publication of the allegations by The Sunday Express in a non-privileged context, combined with Carter-Ruck's no win no fee scheme, meant that he could, at last, take action.
Proceedings were issued by Carter-Ruck partner Cameron Doley and, after a hard-fought battle lasting some 18 months, the Defendants accepted that their allegations were wholly untrue. They agreed to enter into a settlement whereby they accepted (by way of statement in open Court) that Mr Windsor had never provided any information to MI5, MI6 or any other government organisation about the NUM or its members, or about any aspect of the miners' strike. Dame Stella Rimington had herself already stated publically that there was no truth in the Defendants' allegations.
As well as joining in the reading of a statement in open court, The
Sunday Express and Ms Boycott withdrew their allegations and apologised
to Mr Windsor on the pages of the newspaper. They also agreed to pay
Mr Windsor a substantial sum in damages, together with his legal costs,
and undertook not to republish the offending allegations at any time
in the future.
The vindication obtained at long last by Mr Windsor represents a particularly
welcome success for Carter-Ruck's conditional fee agreement scheme.