Written by Brian Cathcart
At the Royal Courts of Justice in London tomorrow the owners of the Mail on Sunday will formally admit that the paper published an article featuring unfounded allegations that wrecked the life of a working single mother from Leeds. They will also apologise and pay her damages.
The treatment dished out to Danielle Hindley proves nothing has changed since before the Leveson Inquiry, when, as the judge put it, newspapers went around ‘wreaking havoc in the lives of innocent people’. Hindley did nothing wrong and though she told the Mail on Sunday the allegations against her were unfounded, the paper published anyway.
It’s also a humiliation for the complaints body IPSO, which the press and the government falsely claim is an effective regulator. Though Hindley took her case to IPSO and it upheld her complaint in 2018, it then did its best to let the Mail on Sunday off the hook. Only after this disappointment did she decide to sue.
Hindley, who operates a small beauty business from her home on the outskirts of Leeds, was all but ruined when the Mail on Sunday called her a ‘cosmetic cowboy’ in 2017 and published an unfounded allegation that she botched a treatment. She was driven to the brink of suicide, while her young son’s health and well-being were destroyed.
The Mail on Sunday and its owners, Associated Newspapers, admitted they knew ‘the high level of distress and anxiety’ she was suffering but they still dragged out the legal process by insisting for as long as possible they would fight the case.
Though they have now admitted defeat and paid damages, they have inflicted wholly unjustified harm on an innocent person, and for them the cost of settling is pocket money. There is nothing to stop them doing the same to another blameless person tomorrow.
Tomorrow should be a shaming day for the Mail on Sunday, which was edited at the time by Geordie Greig, now in charge of the Daily Mail, which is owned by Lord Rothermere, and for their legal teams. The reporter whose name appeared on the article was Charlotte Wace.