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Friday, 12 May, 2000, 20:03 GMT 21:03 UK
Businessmen get libel damages

Two Northern Ireland businessmen are to receive more than $1m in damages after a libel action against a documentary filmmaker over his book on an alleged loyalist death squad.

Car dealers David and Albert Prentice from Portadown, County Antrim, brought the case in the United States against Northern Ireland journalist Sean McPhilemy and his publisher over claims made about them in The Committee.

In a statement Mr McPhilemy and his publisher said they regretted the embarrassment and offence caused to the Prentice brothers.


Sean McPhilemy made allegations against the Prentice brothers in The Committee
Sean McPhilemy made allegations against the Prentice brothers
The court case was due to start on Tuesday before the decision to settle.

In the statement Mr McPhilemy and Roberts Rinehart said they "accept that David and Albert Prentice are not and have never been members of a committee as described in the hardback and paperback editions of the work entitled The Committee Political Assassination in Northern Ireland, and in the press release associated with it.

"And that David and Albert Prentice have not been involved in any activities of the type described in The Committee."

Mr McPhilemy and his publishers also said they "sincerely regret the embarrassment and offence caused to Albert and David Prentice by the books".

A spokesman for David and Albert Prentice said that their intention from the outset had been to clear their name of the "ludicrous allegations contained in the book" and that objective had been achieved.

They are to receive $1m immediately plus additional damages to the full extent of insurance cover held by the publishers.

The Prentices originally served a $100m writ on Mr McPhilemy in 1998.

Lawyer for the Prentice brothers, Bill Taylor with Washington based firm Zuckerman, Spaeder, Goldstein, Taylor and Kolker said his clients were delighted that their names had been cleared.

He told BBC Radio Ulster: "We're awfully happy and they're awfully happy and I know they will be glad to get home."

Journalist won earlier libel action

The settlement followed a case on 30 March in which Mr McPhilemy was awarded libel damages of 145,000 against the Sunday Times newspaper.

He had sued the newspaper at the London High Court for claiming that his Channel 4 Dispatches programme, The Committee, was a hoax.

He brought his case because he said his reputation as a journalist had been blackened by the allegation and his sources of income had been damaged.

The programme told of a loyalist committee including high-level public figures in Northern Ireland, which the programme said had conspired to murder Catholics.

The book The Committee was not published in the UK.

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See also:

30 Mar 00 | Northern Ireland
'Committee' filmmaker wins libel battle
07 Mar 00 | Northern Ireland
Trimble rejects book allegations
09 Feb 00 | Northern Ireland
Claims withdrawn in libel trial
Links to more Northern Ireland stories are at the foot of the page.


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