Ryanair appeals discovery order in defamation action

Pilot seeks access to unredacted airline report into incident at German airport

Ryanair has appealed a High Court order requiring it to disclose a more detailed version of a report into an investigation into an incident involving one of its flights. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty

Ryanair has appealed a High Court order requiring it to disclose a more detailed version of a report into an investigation into an incident involving one of its flights. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty

 

Ryanair has appealed a High Court order requiring it to disclose a more detailed version of a report into an investigation into an incident involving one of its flights.

The incident is at the centre of defamation proceedings the airline is taking against one of its former pilots, Capt Erik Besancon, who was dismissed in August 2013, over postings he made on a website called the Professional Pilots Rumour Network.

Capt Besancon used the pseudonym Enjoy the View. The postings concerned an incident at Memmingen Airport, Germany, in September 2012 as a Ryanair flight from Manchester was landing.

It was investigated by the German Federal Bureau of Aircraft Investigation, which produced an interim report that Capt Bescancon got hold of. He posted comments in December 2012 relating to the incident.

Ryanair sued, claiming the words meant, among other things, that the airline operated unsafe internal procedures and that a culture existed within the company that pressurised crews to operate in a manner that comprised safety and forced crews to operate under serious stress.

Capt Besancon denies the claims and also pleaded fair and reasonable publication on a matter of important public interest.

The pilot, in preparation for his defence, sought discovery of certain documents, including Ryanair’s own base investigation report into the incident. The airline released certain material but Capt Besancon complained the base investigation report was too heavily redacted. Ryanair said that was on the basis of maintaining confidentiality.

Only headings legible

Capt Besancon asked the High Court to resolve the issue of discovery, and last year a judge ruled Ryanair should make discovery. The discovery row centred on the base investigation report and the High Court judge found, while Ryanair had voluntarily handed over the report, it was almost completely redacted with the only portions left legible being headings over various items of information.

The High Court ordered Ryanair to produce the report and said redactions should relate only to names of people who made statements or provided information and any other information identifying those individuals

On Tuesday, Tom Hogan SC, for Ryanair, argued before the Court of Appeal that the High Court erred in analysing the issues. The High Court also did not reflect what the particular issues were that justified discovery, counsel said.

The High Court judge merely stated the documents sought were necessary and relevant and may help Capt Besancon attack Ryanair’s case, he said. It was not at all clear the documents sought were relevant and necessary.

Oisín Quinn SC, for Capt Besancon, said the High Court was correct in finding that Ryanair had conceded from the beginning that the Memmingen report was relevant. He urged the appeal court to uphold the High Court decision. The court has reserved judgment.