Page last updated at 16:50 GMT, Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Murderer's libel claim thrown out

Marian Bates
Marian Bates died in an armed robbery at the shop

A convicted murderer's libel case against a national newspaper has been thrown out by a High Court judge.

Peter Williams, 24, was jailed for life in March 2005 for killing Nottinghamshire jeweller Marian Bates during a raid on her shop.

He sued the Daily Mirror for an article he claimed identified him as a "grass" who had told police that local crime boss Colin Gunn had organised the raid.

The judge said this could not, as a matter of public policy, be defamatory.

He concluded that it was right to strike out the claim because of Williams's background and serious criminal convictions.

'Abuse of court'

The newspaper's August 2007 article about Gunn included a photograph of Williams under the caption "the henchman" and referred to him having confessed to police that Gunn set up the raid.

Mrs Bates was killed as she shielded her daughter Xanthe during the raid at the family shop in Arnold, Nottingham.

Williams, who is serving a minimum of 22 years, claimed it led to him being identified as a "grass" or police informer by fellow prisoners, and also complained about the henchman allegation.

Gunn is currently serving a life sentence for conspiring to murder John and Joan Stirland, who were gunned down at their Lincolnshire home in a revenge killing.

Lawyers for the newspaper's owner MGN Limited said Williams had no reputation to be damaged.

Its counsel, Victoria Jolliffe, pointed out libel can only be claimed if the words result in the general public having a lower opinion of the claimant.

She said Williams' claim that his reputation was damaged in the eyes of the criminal fraternity was invalid.

She also argued that the claim was an abuse of the court's process as Williams had no reputation capable of being damaged.

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