Sun pays Â£30,000 damages to Muslim bus driver accused of fanaticism
- guardian.co.uk, Thursday 26 February 2009
A London bus driver today accepted Â£30,000 in damages fromÂ the SunÂ over a claim that he ordered passengers off his vehicle so that he could pray.
The story in March last year caused Arunas Raulynaitis considerable distress and embarrassment, his solicitor, Stephen Loughrey, told Mr Justice Eady at the high court in London.
Loughrey said the newspaper now accepted that the allegations were entirely false and that Raulynaitis did not order any passengers off, there was no rucksack and no one refused to reboard because they feared he was a fanatic.
“The article suggested that Raulynaitis was so arrogant, unprofessional and contemptuous of the passengers within his care whom he is paid to serve, that he ordered them off his bus so that he could pray,” he added.
“The article went on to allege that the passengers later refused to reboard the bus because they spotted a rucksack and feared he may be a fanatic and therefore, it is to be inferred, a terrorist,” Loughrey told the court.
“While it is the case that Raulynaitis did pray on the bus, he did so during his statutory rest break, as he is of course entitled to do. Not a single passenger was inconvenienced in any way. It transpires that an individual who noticed Raulynaitis at prayer chose to film this act on a mobile phone and sent the video to the Sun, which then reproduced stills from it alongside the article, as well as the footage itself on the Sun’s website.”
Loughrey said the article not only created an utterly false impression of Raulynaitis’s attitude toward his passengers, but also wrongly cast serious aspersions on his religious faith.
He added that News Group Newspapers, the News International subsidiary that publishes the Sun, had already published an apology and agreed to pay substantial damages plus costs.
The newspaper’s solicitor, Patrick Callaghan, apologised for the publication of the false allegations.
Raulynaitis’s law firm, Carter-Ruck, said the damages were for libel and breach of privacy. “As well as being highly defamatory of Raulynaitis, the article was also a clear and serious infringement of his privacy,” Carter-Ruck added.
“It included photographs of him at prayer, and indeed the website version of the article included deeply intrusive mobile phone footage, which readers of the Sun were encouraged to watch.
“References to the false story quickly found their way on to a number of other often Islamophobic websites and the footage of Raulynaitis at prayer was also posted on YouTube, where it was viewed by thousands more people.”