Newspaper wins fight to call businessman a crime boss

David Hunt sued the paper over a 2010 article that alleged he ran a criminal network 'so vast that Scotland Yard regards him as ‘too big’ to take on'

The Sunday Times yesterday claimed a victory for press freedom after a judge rejected a libel claim brought by a London businessman who the newspaper had named as an organized crime boss.

David Hunt, 52, sued the paper over a 2010 article that alleged that he ran a criminal network "so vast that Scotland Yard regards him as 'too big' to take on".

But Mr Justice Simon threw out the claim and praised the work of Sunday Times investigative journalist Michael Gillard, the author of the story. "I am satisfied that it was reasonable for [Gillard] to describe the Claimant as a violent and dangerous criminal and the head of an [Organised Crime Gang] implicated in murder, drug trafficking and fraud," he said.

Martin Ivens, acting editor of the Sunday Times, said: "This expensive and risky libel battle against a notorious crime figure in East London was made possible by the courage of investigative journalist Michael Gillard and several witnesses. Hunt has been brought to justice by a libel action where the authorities have failed for more than two decades. The judgment highlights the role of journalism for the public good."

Hunt's attempts to clear his name only resulted in a spotlight being shone on his murky past. The court heard that he had grown up in Canning Town in London's East End as one of 13 children and, in his early Twenties, joined a gang called The Snipers who were involved in serious crime.

The court also heard that Gillard had based his report on police documents including a "Threat to Life Report" made in 2008 to a Borough Commander of the Metropolitan Police and referring to investigations conducted by Scotland Yard. "Throughout Operation Epsom and Operation Houdini there have been repeated examples of the Hunt organisation's ability to carry out murder, intimidation and acts of extreme violence," it stated: "I have no doubt that David Hunt has the motive, means and capability of funding this contract to kill. He runs his criminal network by use of extreme violence."

Another police document revealed to the court referred to further intelligence gathered in the police's Operation Epsom. It said Hunt was "supported by a number of paid heavies and together they instil fear in their victims." It added that Hunt had "a large number of associates willing to work for him, and despite a wealth of intelligence dating back approximately 20 years, police appear to have a very poor success rate in developing and progressing this into prosecution material."

An intelligence report for the police's Operation Houdini investigation found that Hunt's organisation had gained power in the 1980s "with the popularity of the drug scene increasing…with acid house parties and the UK being targeted by cocaine cartels". It said: "David Hunt went from strength to strength making large amounts of money from these activities in the process of gaining a reputation of a hard man who would stop at nothing to get results even resulting [sic] to murder if required."

In examination of Mr Gillard, Hugh Tomlinson QC, representing the Claimant, had suggested that "the best you can say" was that "a lot of police officers have made serious allegations against Mr Hunt". The reporter went through his evidence and argued that there was "crushing detail" in the documents that he had obtained. "When I put all this together, I take the view that there is truth in the allegation that he is the head of an organised crime group."

The judge said Gillard was a "highly-experienced journalist" and praised his reporting. "He came across as extremely self-confident, but also thoughtful about the role of investigative journalism, and clear and persuasive in his views about the proper treatment of the information he discovered," he said. "His evidence was both lucid and entirely credible."

The newspaper did not prove that Hunt Was head of an organised crime network that was involved in murder and drug trafficking, the judge found.

News UK, publisher of the Sunday Times, has invested considerable resources in fighting the long-running action. Hunt also brought proceedings against the London Evening Standard, which is owned by the Lebedev family, which also owns the Independent titles.

Mr Justice Simon said that had Hunt been successful, and been a man of good character, he would have awarded him £250,000 in damages. But instead he rejected the libel claim.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete tomorrow
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
peopleBroadcaster has a new role bringing 'the big stories that matter' to US
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
Life and Style
Moves to regulate e-cigarettes and similar products as medicines come amid increasing evidence of their effectiveness
healthHuge anti-smoking campaign kicks off on Wednesday
Life and Style
fashionEveryone, apparently
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
Arts and Entertainment
Shia LaBeouf is one of Brad Pitt's favourite actors in the world ever, apparently
filmsAn 'eccentric' choice, certainly
Life and Style
An Internet security expert has warned that voice recognition technology needs to be more secure
techExperts warn hackers could control our homes or spend our money simply by speaking
peopleBenjamin Netanyahu trolled by group promoting two-state solution
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

1st Line Service Desk Analyst

£27000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client who are...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Computer Futures

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Computer Futures are currently...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style