Kelvin MacKenzie's Daily Mail column sparks £200,000 libel claim

Journalist accused of 'insulting disregard' for reputation of doctor, days after he is dropped from Telegraph online column

Kelvin MacKenzie faces more woes after being dropped by the Telegraph as it emerged that his column in the Daily Mail has become the subject of a £200,000 libel case.

Dr Antonio Serrano, an NHS doctor in Sussex, has claimed that his reputation was smeared by Mackenzie's column in April 2012 that described the "living hell" of one of his patients.

The column, headlined "A whole year of hell, thanks to a foreign doctor", suggested that Serrano was seriously incompetent and had an "inadequate grasp of the English language", according to a claim form filed at the high court in London.

Mackenzie's typically provocative Daily Mail column was published on 21 April last year and began: "Last week, I raised the uncomfortable issue of foreign doctors working in this country, and targeted the offensive behaviour of a Spanish consultant. I have since received, and investigated to my satisfaction, an even more shocking case."

The column went on to describe how a diagnosis by Serrano led to a bus driver's licence being revoked by the DVLA.

In a 13-page claim form seen by MediaGuardian, lawyers for Serrano said the column falsely portrays the medical professional as "a particularly shocking example of foreign doctors working in the NHS who, for reasons deriving from their being foreign, are seriously incompetent, inadequate or otherwise unacceptable."

Mackenzie instructed his agent, the former Sun journalist Charles Rae, to put some of the allegations to Serrano, the lawyers claim.

The Daily Mail column reported that the patient's local MP, Amber Rudd, was "appalled" at his treatment by Serrano. In fact, the Tory MP made it clear she had no view or comment when contacted by Rae on Mackenzie's behalf, according to the claim form.

It adds: "In the premises it is to be inferred that Mr MacKenzie published the article with an irresponsible and insulting disregard for the reputation and feelings of the claimant [Dr Serrano], being more determined to publish another, follow-up story on his xenophobic theme of 'foreign doctors' than concerned with publishing a story that was either true or fair."

The Daily Mail's publisher, Associated Newspapers, had not returned a request for comment at the time of publication, but the newspaper told Press Gazette that it was contesting the claim.

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Josh Halliday

The GuardianTramp

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