Ryanair ordered by court to produce documents relating to Channel 4 defamation case

Ryanair has been ordered by the High Court to make available for inspection certain documents which Channel 4 and an independent production company say they need to defend a defamation action by the airline.

Ryanair is suing over the August 2013 Dispatches "Secrets from the Cockpit" programme which dealt with a number of criticisms of Ryanair over its fuel policy, passenger safety, and pilot working conditions.

Ryanair says it was defamatory because it wrongly suggested the airline 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 makers, Blakeway Productions, say the words complained of were true, an expression of honest opinion, and fair and reasonable publication on matters of public interest.

As part of the pre-trial disclosure process, both sides sought further and better discovery of documents they say they need to prepare their cases.

Last month, Mr Justice Charles Meenan delivered part of his decision on discovery in which he said Channel 4 and Blakeway were entitled to claim journalistic privilege over certain sources though he made orders in relation to how disclosure in relation to documents over which legal advice/litigation privilege was claimed.

Today the judge dealt with outstanding discovery sought by Channel 4 and Blakeway against Ryanair.

Last December, Ryanair was directed by the court to make discovery of eight categories of documents, but this was appealed, in relation to three categories. The Court of Appeal ruled there should be discovery subject to certain amendments.

The defendants were dissatisfied with how Ryanair responded to that order for discovery and returned to the High Court seeking orders for better discovery.

In his ruling on this, Mr Justice Meenan said in relation to the adequacy of Ryanair’s discovery so far, he was of the view this had not been established and it was not necessary for a further and better discovery order. Nor was there a basis for appointing an indepenent expert to review the discovery.

However, in relation to certain documents relating to in-flight fuel incidents, he ordered Ryanair to make available for inspection to Channel 4 certain documents in unredacted form, subject only to the redaction of the names of personnel mentioned in such documents.

He also gave parties liberty to apply to the court in relation to documentation over which commercial sensitivity was claimed.

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