‘Murderer’ wins defamation law change

A man wrongly called a murderer has forced a change in the law to make it easier for Scots to sue for defamation.

Danny Wilson has been fighting for nearly four years for the right to take a council to court for describing him as a convicted killer in its files.

However, the entrepreneur had been unable to take action against City of Edinburgh Council because he could not get legal aid to fund a defamation claim.

Now, The Herald can reveal, the Scottish Government has responded to his case by amending the law on legal aid for those who want to go to court when their names are blackened.

Government lawyers last month quietly issued a new legislative “direction” on Scotland’s civil legal aid law, outlining exactly when litigants can expect to get state funding for defamation actions.

Cameron Fyfe – a litigator at Glasgow legal firm Ross Harper, claimed the move marked a victory for Mr Wilson.

He said: “I am delighted for Danny that his litigation has resulted in a change in the law, which will make it much easier for individuals in his situation to obtain legal aid to proceed with actions for defamation.

“The inability to obtain legal aid was a glaring fault in our system that has now been remedied.”

Mr Wilson only discovered that files from City of Edinburgh Council social work department described him as a “lifer” after he and his partner applied for IVF at a hospital south of the Border.

The businessman, who now lives in Wales, was turned down for the procedure, on the basis of information on his criminality in dossiers held by City of Edinburgh Council’s social work department.

As first revealed by The Herald in 2007, Mr Wilson argues the incorrect information did him huge damage. He and his partner later successfully conceived a child after visiting a foreign clinic.

Mr Wilson said: “Everything should be fine, perfect. But it’s not. The social work department has destroyed us. I’ve been neglecting my firm, I’ve been suffering depression. The whole thing is contemptible.”

Social work files are now routinely shared – even across the border – under guidelines put in place following the Soham killings.

The Scottish Government yesterday played down the importance of its legislative changes, saying the new direction was “a routine case of making minor changes to the wording of the legislation to ensure there is no legal ambiguity when the law is being considered”.