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Debenhams Ottaway are representing the Sube family in their claim for defamation against News Group Newspapers Ltd, publishers of The Sun following the publication of articles that portrayed them as having used their European citizenship to come to the UK to claim benefits and as ungrateful jobless beneficiaries of the benefit system.

The articles published throughout 2016 generated significant online comment, including a tweet by Rhodri Colwyn Philipps, the 4th Viscount St Davids, in which he said “I will open the bidding. £2,000 in cash for the first person to carve Arnold Sube into pieces.” This week Mr Colwyn Philipps was found guilty of malicious communications.

The Subes were vindicated in a recent Local government Ombudsman after their decision to ask Luton Borough Council to advise them whether or not proposed housing was suitable for their needs was found to be exercising their statutory rights and didn’t refuse offers of suitable accommodation. They also ruled that the Council had breached legal obligations by keeping the family in hotel accommodation with no cooking facilities for such a long time causing the family to incur significant increased expenses.

The entire family, including their young children, have suffered significant racial abuse and bullying as a result of the articles and plan now to seek an apology and compensation from The Sun through a High Court claim as The Sun have refused to mediate.

This case provides a clear example of how mainstream media and social media can collide resulting in great distress for victims despite allegations being proved false. We now live in an age where published news can be commented on almost instantaneously and lead to personal attacks on innocent people.

Luke Harrison, Partner Lead Litigation, Insolvency and Dispute Resolution Partner said of the case

“The articles in The Sun are almost entirely untrue. They led to a frenzy of racist and xenophobic comments on both The Sun’s own website and in social media whipping up the national moods post the Brexit vote. The Sun has remarkably refused to apologise and pay compensation leaving the Subes little option but to place the matter before the Courts”

Notes for editors

1. A copy of the Ombudsman’s decision, the Subes’ letter before action to The Sun and The Sun’s response is available upon request from lth@debenhamsottaway.co.uk.

2. Luke Harrison is lead litigation Partner and Vice Chairman of the national Commercial Litigation Association. Legal 500 call Luke a ‘high-quality and experienced commercial litigator’, whilst Chambers and Partners call the litigation practice “esteemed”.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.