Ryanair must let Channel 4 see fuel-incident documents in defamation action

Airline says 2013 ‘Dispatches’ wrongly claimed it endangered passengers

The Dispatches programme dealt with criticisms of Ryanair’s fuel policy, passenger safety and pilot working conditions. Photograph: Eric Gaillard/Reuters

The Dispatches programme dealt with criticisms of Ryanair’s fuel policy, passenger safety and pilot working conditions. Photograph: Eric Gaillard/Reuters

 

The High Court has ordered Ryanair to let Channel 4 and one of its programme makers see documents they say they need access to in order to defend the airline’s defamation action against them.

The company is suing them over Ryanair: Secrets from the Cockpit, a 2013 documentary in Channel 4’s Dispatches series that dealt with a number of criticisms of the airline. Ryanair says the programme wrongly claimed it endangered passenger safety by operating a low fuel policy and by pressuring its pilots to take on as little fuel as possible. Channel 4 and the programme’s makers, Blakeway Productions, stand by the documentary.

In the pretrial discovery process both sides had asked for more access to documents they said they needed to prepare their cases. Last month Mr Justice Charles Meenan said Channel 4 and Blakeway were entitled to claim journalistic privilege and therefore protect some of their sources, but he made orders about disclosure of documents over which legal advice or litigation privilege was claimed.

On Thursday the judge dealt with outstanding discovery against Ryanair. Last December the court had told Ryanair to release eight categories of document. After the airline appealed three of those categories, the Court of Appeal ruled that it must release them subject to certain amendments. Channel 4 and Blakeway were dissatisfied with Ryanair’s response to that order and returned to the High Court.

In his ruling on this, Mr Justice Meenan said a further discovery order was unnecessary. He also ruled out appointing an independent expert to review the discovery. But he ordered Ryanair to let Channel 4 see documents about in-flight fuel incidents once individuals’ names had been redacted. He also said both sides could apply to the court in relation to discovery of commercially sensitive documents.

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