Still No Clues About Drones That Caused Shut Down Of Gatwick Airport, Suspects Released Without Charge Could Win Substantial Damages

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Sussex Police still has no new clues about the possible origin of drone activity that caused the shutdown of London-Gatwick Airport on multiple occasions last week.

Meanwhile the couple who was arrested by the police and whose name got first leaked and then widely published by news organizations could win substantial financial damages for having their privacy violated.

Last week all flights to and from London Gatwick airport were suspended multiple times while authorities investigated reports of drones flying close to the airfield. Several thousand passengers were impacted and the shutdown caused multi million pounds in damages.

You can access my initial article from last Thursday here.

Flights in and out of the airport were suspended at about 9pm on Wednesday after two drones were sighted near the airfield. Gatwick announced that the runway had reopened at about 3am on Thursday – but just 45 minutes later it was shut again.

The airport’s chief operating officer Chris Woodroofe admitted it could take days to recover services, warning those responsible they could face five years in jail. …

He said there were two drones which had been seen flying “over the perimeter fence and into where the runway operates from”.

After several days of hunting for clues and suspects Sussex Police arrested two individuals as “persons of interest” but released them later without charge. Soon after this story broke UK news organizations got a hold of the couples personal particulars and published them through their individual channels. They also interviewed neighbors and the couples social circle to gain information for their articles.

Now according to an article of The Guardian these news outlets could find themselves on the short end of the stick and liable for up to GBP 125,000 per publication for violating the couples right to privacy.

The couple arrested and released without charge in relation to the Gatwick drone incident could win at least £75,000 from the newspapers who identified them, according to a leading libel lawyer.

Mark Stephens, head of media law at Howard Kennedy, said they had a strong legal case if they wished to pursue legal action. “Absent of a compelling reason and the police saying you can, you may no longer identify people who have been arrested.

“The damage is likely to be in the region of £75,000 to £125,000. It could be more when you total all of the news outlets, because each one is going to pay something for the damage it caused. I don’t see any lawyer who wouldn’t take it on a no-win-no-fee basis. …

The couple were taken in for questioning on Friday, with Sussex police confirming only that a 47-year-old man and a 54-year-old woman from Crawley had been arrested in relation to the incident, which saw one of the world’s busiest airports effectively shut down for 36 hours in the run-up to Christmas.

They were identified in many newspapers and the Mail on Sunday ran the couple’s picture on its front page next to the headline: “Are these the morons who ruined Christmas?” …

The couple later identified themselves as Paul Gait and Elaine Kirk, making a public statement outside their home on Christmas Eve in which they said they felt “completely violated” by the arrest and subsequent coverage.

“Our home has been searched and our privacy and identity completely exposed,” said Gait. “Our names, photos and other personal information has been broadcast throughout the world.”

Good Morning Britain host Piers Morgan has already apologised for calling the pair “clowns” and suggesting they were “terrorists”.

It’s well known that the press in the UK has a very harsh tone and very little restraint as there are (or used to) very few constraints that reign in their reporting as to no to infringe upon freedom of the press however that principle is getting more and more tested with tougher laws in this regard being on the way or having been implemented since early 2018 already. This is one of the cases that could in fact test how far the press in Great Britain is allowed to go especially when it comes to non-public figures.

Since the release of the couple there was another story out which suggested a strong possibility that there was never an actual drone at Gatwick and the eyewitness testimony not proof of anything.

The police has since rebutted that report saying it was the result of miscommunication between the press office and news outlets.

Conclusion

This situation got completely out of control starting from the several airport shutdowns to blaming innocent members of the public and releasing their information, even calling them terrorists.

Earlier reports also said that the army has been dispatched to deal with the drone threat at Gatwick but didn’t elaborate on how what that would accomplish exactly. You gotta wonder if anything will come out of that investigation either sooner or later.

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