Alan Sugar to sue The Sun


4:27 pm - February 24th 2009

by Sunny Hundal    


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The Media Guardian reports today that Alan Sugar is suing The Sun newspaper for its recent front-page story that Muslims had issued a ‘Jewish hit-list’ targeting him among others. The story was, of course, pure rubbish. He

…yesterday issued a writ at the high court in London against the Sun’s publisher and News International subsidiary, News Group Newspapers, and its editor, Rebekah Wade. The businessman and TV star is understood to have been angry at the story, which he felt risked his personal security.

Woohoo! There are two issues here.

First, the original posting on the ummah.com forum said something along the lines that Muslims should contact prominent British Jews to express their worry over Israel’s invasion of Gaza. In typical racist fashion, the paper made it into a front-page story that insinuated that Muslims had put together a ‘hit list’ of prominent Jews to target and kill. It was such a blatant case of scaremongering and lies that the PCC will almost certainly force it to issue an apology. But the complainants should ensure The Scum apologises prominently and complain again if they feel the apology wasn’t prominent enough (which the PCC can pursue).

Secondly, there’s the allegation that the messages were themselves posted by “anti-terrorism expert” Glen Jenvey who then sold the story. He denies this. But both Tim from Bloggerheads and the ummah.com administrators say otherwise. The problem is, the PCC isn’t the sort of body that does investigations into computer records to determine who is telling the truth. So that part of the complaint remains in limbo. But with Alan Sugar now suing the investigation is on hold anyway.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


This is great news 😀

I’d be fascinated to know precisely what Sralan is claiming against News Group Newspapers. It’s not libellous as far as I can see, and I’m not sure what ‘increasing a risk to my security’ precisely falls under in a legal sense.

No point reading the papers of course – if the Guardian think that he “yesterday issued a writ at the high court in London”. You haven’t been able to issue a writ since the Wolfe reforms…

I am also wondering what the basis of the claim would be. Doesn’t strike me as libel either. It might be factually incorrect but Sir Alan would have to show that it would cause right-thinking people to think less of him.

On the basis of Sugar’s claim, I’ll be interested to see what, if anything, Head of Legal or one of the other law bloggers has to say, but I’m assuming some kind of tort alleging negligence/recklessness.

What will be interesting here is whether Sugar will be prepared to take a settlement offer, which The Sun will surely put up, or whether he’s after a full pound of flesh (yeah, I know, Merchant of Venice reference) and willing to take it all the way to trial in order to try to force the full background to the story, and how The Sun came by it, into the open.

As usual the PCC will cop out. Clearly the industry cannot regulate itself.

Every complaint, where “basic journalistic standards have not been adhered to”, should result in a retraction as prominent and clear as the offending piece.

Nothing less will suffice.

He’d have to prove specific loss – injury – if it’s a tortious action, which wouold be a toughie in this case. I agree that the Sun appeared to have followed the ‘if in doubt, make it up’ school of journalism here, and that the PCC should be involved, but I’m really struggling to work out the legal angle here. If he’s trying the ‘negligent misstatement’ line, he’s definitely on to a loser.

Probably need someone with a criminal/media law background…

Well, how about the claim that the article was inaccurate and endangered his life? I thought that was the basis of his claim.

Aaron – I agree that the PCC needs teeth. It’s incredibly lame as it is.

Alan Sugar has not rushed into this. I think it’s fair to assume that some very capable professionals have spent a lot of time investigating the event and considering their options before acting.

Glen Jenvey’s camp reacted to the news of the PCC investigation with some bizarre accusations about the the PCC (and/or the Guardian) being in league with extremists. I’ll be watching how they react to this latest news with interest.

The real tragedy in all of this is that no muslim is able to take any legal action against the Sun for what was yet another malicious slur against them as a whole.

I am sure there are many anti-muslim stories to be spun out of the fact that Sir Alan is taking this action.

I am willing to bet, that Sir Alan is going to take this to the limit and expose the whole episode which will include editorial policy vis-a-vis muslims in operation in the Sun and beyond.

I have high hopes for Sir Alan.

Best news in many years.

I’m not sure what ummah.com thought it was doing calling on ‘prominant British Jews’ to condemn the Israeli attacks.

Sugar isn’t Israeli and singling him out to denounce the attacks simply because he’s Jewish is just plain racist.

Nobody is calling on Lenny Henry to denounce Mugabe.

The real tragedy in all of this is that no muslim is able to take any legal action against the Sun for what was yet another malicious slur against them as a whole.

legal action wouldn’t really work. The Sun is guilty for mis-representing the posting on the website into a ‘hit-list’ and possibly taking false information fro Glenvey.

They do have recourse – that is, to go through to the PCC and get the Sun to issue a prominent apology.

shatterface: Sugar isn’t Israeli and singling him out to denounce the attacks simply because he’s Jewish is just plain racist.

First, it’s not clear whether it was Muslims/ummah.com doing this. See Tim Ireland above.

Secondly, I believe the posting was trying to say something along the lines of ‘we should try and contact these people to alert them that their background is being used as a cover for Israel’s invasion.

Going by your definition, Melanie Phillips is the biggest racist going because she constantly mixes up criticism of Israel with anti-semitism.

It was Glen Jenvey who posted as “Abuislam” (the character that started all this)that singled out Alan Sugar and named him

Sunny (11): Phillips frequently confuses Muslims and Jihadists and has called for all Muslims to ‘denounce terrorism’ as if by not doing so they are giving tacit support – and she has rightly been called an Islamophobe for this; if umma.com HAS called for Jews to distance themselves from the Israeli attacks they are guilty of anti-Semitism by the same logic, and to the same degree.

And I’ve no idea what ‘their background is being used as a cover for Israel’s invasion’ means. Is it something to do with ‘The Apprentice’

Surely Sugar’s got a very strong case. Had an Islamist website urged its readers to put pressure on Alan Sugar there would be an argument that his personal security could have been put at risk because some readers may have responded – over-reacted if you like – by bringing pressure to bear by attempting violence or by threats of violence. The site should know that some readers would interpret it’s words as a call to physical action even if that was not explicit in the text. This is a common argument that Alan Sugar would have heard – e.g. from the Sun. If I go around shouting that an Islamist website has said these things then when it hasn’t, then by the same argument, his security is put at risk by me – because any susceptible Muslim who hears me will react exactly in exactly the same way.

‘They do have recourse – that is, to go through to the PCC and get the Sun to issue a prominent apology.’

I am a little pessimistic about the PCC and the idea of a prominent apology. If and when they do issue this apology it will be miniscule and so begrudging it might as well be in the Personal Classified section. And I can see it even then being turned into how muslims are strangling free speech by some sections of the blogosphere.

This was the original thread in Question

http://ummah.com/forum/showthread.php?t=195566

They’ll issue an apology in the usual manner:

‘7 ACROSS: Is not on Islamic death list (4),(5).’

He’d have to prove specific loss – injury – if it’s a tortious action, which wouold be a toughie in this case.

Maybe, maybe not.

One thing we don’t know here is how Sugar may have reacted to the original story.

If he took it seriously to begin with he may have changed plans and schedules, took on additional security, etc.

Anything he may have done in response to the original article which resulted in him incurring financial costs or interfered with his business activities could form the basis of a tort.

It may still not fly in court, but I can well imagine his lawyers having a fair bit of entertainment at Rebekah Wade’s expense just asking for documents and files relating to the story.

is it news. it news to me.

Nobody is calling on Lenny Henry to denounce Mugabe.

Very funny.

Pete B – so you’re saying that Sugar has a case because Islamists might have seen the Sun story and threatened him?

I have to say I find it hard to see how he can argue both that (1) the story was false and (2) he was put at risk.

Maybe one or the other, but not both?

cjcjc (or may I call you ‘cj’? 🙂 )

The argument would be that Alan Sugar feared for his own safety and/or that of people close to him and as a direct result: suffered psychological distress, he may have changed plans (costing him missed business opportunities); incurred expense by, for example, increasing personal security; he may believe he suffered social disadvantage because other people avoided him fearing embarrassment or physical danger if they were in his presence when pressure of any form were brought to bear.

The truth or otherwise of the report doesn’t affect any of this personal damage – what it does do is prevent the Sun saying they were only reporting facts that were in the public interest. Since they made it up. As an analogy, say someone says in a crowded place there is a report in the paper that I’m a paedophile. There isn’t, but I suffer fear, distress, change plans etc. because I fear that someone will attack, villify me in public or at least cause me embarrassment. The fact it is untrue merely removes any defence from the person saying these things.

The legal point, I think, is only whether Sugar’s fear is reasonable or not. The Sun could defend itself by pointing out that Muslims are generally more law-abiding than the general populace, that Muslims are generally not violent and Islam itself preaches restraint.

Would be good to see …

Pete

Appearing at the hight of the Gaza bombing, when news had come of children being killed, the Sun story claiming angry Muslims were planning to “retaliate” against prominent British Jews was bound to harm community relations, and though it was fabricated, could have put ideas in the head of susceptible young people.
By suggesting that Sir Alan Sugar might be a target the Sun was potentially setting him up. In fact there was probably more chance that someone less famous might be attacked, just because they would be easier to go for. (The other aspect was that some young lads might get into serious trouble through misguidedly following the idea)
Not many of us have the wherewithal to go for Murdoch in the courts, so Sir Alan is doing us a favour.


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