Libel case implications for council investigations

A high court ruling in a libel case could have far-reaching
implications for the way local authorities respond to allegations
about employees.

Mr Justice Eady ruled that former nursery nurses Christopher
Lillie and Dawn Reed were innocent of the allegations of sexual
abuse made against them by an independent review team commissioned
by Newcastle council in 1995.

He said the four reviewers acted in malice when they wrote their
report, consequently forfeiting their right to qualified privilege.
He cleared the council of malice and ordered the four reviewers to
pay the libel damages of £200,000 to each claimant, plus legal

Mr Justice Eady said: “They included in their report a number of
fundamental claims which they must have known to be untrue, and
which cannot be explained on the basis of incompetence or mere

A statement by the review team said they were shocked at the
judge’s decision because they acted on a genuine belief that
Lillie and Reed had abused children in their care. They are now
considering whether to appeal against the judgement.

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