Papers lose libel action over Iraq allegations

Colonel Tim Collins who led the Royal Irish Regiment into Iraq with a widely broadcast battle speech has won undisclosed libel damages over reports in the Sunday Express and Sunday Mirror. The papers had run stories which linked Collins and his soldiers to investigations about Iraqi troops who were alleged to have been gunned down as they surrendered. Collins had been investigated by the Ministry of Defence in relation to other allegations but was cleared of any wrongdoing.

Both papers admitted they had got the story wrong and apolgised to Colonel Collins for the "hurt and embarrassment" caused by their respective articles. The papers had basically accused him of trying to conceal war crimes against surrendering Iraqi soldiers.

A spokeseman for Collins who is due to leave the army in August said he was relieved this episode was now over.

The case highlights the risk of running stories like this without proper evidence to support the associations and suggestions being made. It also shows how difficult it can be for independent media to obtain reliable evidence fro the battlefield.

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