The GP who is suing the publishers of the Daily Mail for £200,000 wrote an ‘unfair and unjust’ letter to the DVLA that ‘omitted’ significant details about a bus driver’s drinking, lawyers for the newspaper have said.
Dr Jose Antonio Serrano Garcia wrote to the vehicle licensing agency after a ‘very difficult’ consultation at the Little Ridge Surgery, St Leonards-on-Sea, in January 2011 with patient Kevin Jones, during which he was diagnosed with gout and they discussed his alcohol intake.
His referral led to Mr Jones’ licence being revoked and the bus driver was featured in Mr MacKenzie’s article – headlined ‘A whole year of hell, thanks to a foreign doctor’, after he was reinstated following further tests by a DVLA medic.
Dr Serrano, who is suing Associated Newspapers Ltd – publishers of the daily newspaper – over an April 2012 article penned by former columnist, Kelvin MacKenzie, said Mr Jones admitted drinking ‘half a bottle of Bacardi’ on occasion.
The 45-year-old doctor alleges his professional reputation was blackened by the ‘xenophobic’ article and seeks more than £200,000 damages, claiming he resigned from his job to take a more junior position after his confidence was shattered.
But, during his closing speech to the High Court today, Desmond Browne QC, for the publishers, said that the doctor ‘omitted’ matters from his letter which would have resulted in a different outcome for Mr Jones.
Mr Browne said: ‘A letter was written by Dr Serrano in terms which he knew were unjustified, in terms which omitted a significant number of matters which should have been included.’
‘As a result he failed to place before the DVLA any evidence to justify the removal of the licence.’
‘There was not any evidence to justify the removal summarily and it would not have happened if Dr Serrano had written a fair and just letter.’
The QC also said the article at the centre of the case was ‘justified’, adding: ‘The overall impression is one of incompetence and lack of caring by writing to the DVLA without any evidence to justify the contents of the letter and indeed ignoring any evidence which would refute the contents of the letter.’
Mr Browne told Mr Justice Dingemans, who is hearing the case, that the publishers had initially offered the doctor an apology, but that subsequent investigations revealed that it would have been ‘undeserved’.
He added: ‘By rejecting the more than adequate apology that he had on offer, negotiated through the Press Complaints Commission, Dr Serrano had triggered an investigation into the entire matter.’
‘Now that investigation is concluded, I would ask your lordship to find that the apology on offer would have been quite undeserved.’
Mr Justice Dingemans is expected to reserve his ruling on the case until an unspecified later date.