A mother of five from Cornwall has won damages and an apology from the Daily Express after the paper portrayed her as a dole “scrounger” who had refused to go back to work.
Anna Taylor accepted a payout under the Offer of Amends procedure from Express Newspapers after she had sued the group for defamation using a Conditional Fee Arrangement.
Under the settlement, the Express paid undisclosed damages, along with Taylor’s legal costs, and published an apology in its 5 June edition.
Taylor had sought damages of up to £50,000, according to documents filed with the High Court earlier this year, but the sum paid out is understood to have been considerably less.
“Suing is not your everyday thing,” Taylor told Press Gazette. “David Beckham could pay for something like this outright – Madonna could pay for this outright. You don’t expect someone in the public to just be able to sue a national newspaper,” she said.
The story emerged when Taylor approached the Falmouth Packet to say she had been advised that she would be better off on benefit than working full time.
She told the paper that she wanted to work and had written to then Prime Minister Tony Blair and her local MP about the “perverse incentives” of the benefits system. After the Packet splashed on the story in February of last year, it was picked up by an agency, which sold it on to nationals including the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror.
“It was in every single newspaper, but it was only the Express, unfortunately, that we could sue,” she said.
Taylor insisted she had never spoken to anyone other than the local journalist and that none of the nationals that ran the story had contacted her.
“They didn’t even phone me. I didn’t even know it was in national newspapers until ITV knocked on my door,” she said.
Taylor said she moved from her home in Cornwall because she had received abusive letters, and had been harassed in public by strangers who recognised her from her picture.
Taylor said she had originally hoped to pursue the Packet, but was advised that the case against the Express was stronger.
“They even printed where the kids went to school, so people knew everything about me,” she said of the Packet. “The national newspaper – I don’t know how many people read that – but a local paper, when you appear on the front page they recognise you everywhere,” she said.UK Press Gazette 4.7.08