The wife of a bus driver has denied trying to exact ‘revenge’ on their local GP by alleging he was incompetent and unable to speak English to a Daily Mail columnist.
Spaniard Dr Antonio Serrano was on the receiving end of a Kelvin MacKenzie-penned article, criticising his decision to report a bus-driver he thought was reliant on alcohol.
Kevin Jones allegedly told the GP he was drinking ‘half a bottle of Bacardi’ every evening, meaning he would certainly be over the limit the following day.
The driver had his licence suspended for nearly a year, losing around £17,000 in income, but Mr Jones denies ever admitting to an alcohol problem.
Mr and Mrs Jones tipped off journalists Kelvin MacKenzie and Charles Rae, who reported the story under the headline, ‘A whole year of hell, thanks to a foreign doctor’.
The column stated a ‘language barrier’ led to Mr Jones’ career being placed in jeopardy, but yesterday (THU) his wife admitted she had no problem in conversing with him.
Dr Serrano denies the paper’s claims, saying he acted responsibly and is now seeking aggravated damages.
The libel claim case is being heard at the High Court in London.
Mr Jones’ wife, Samantha gave evidence first for the defendants.
Ronald Thwaites QC, for Dr Serrano, asked, ‘Does your husband normally hide behind your skirts?’
‘No he does not’, Mrs Jones replied.
‘When your husband wrote to Kelvin MacKenzie, was that a letter written by him or written by you or written by both of you?’
‘I believe we created that together.’
Mrs Jones said neither she nor her husband were Daily Mail readers, but friends had shown them an earlier MacKenzie column about foreign doctors.
She went on to claim she had no idea her letter to Kelvin MacKenzie would trigger an investigation and finally the disputed column.
‘I did not know at the time it was going to go in the newspaper.
‘Writing a letter to a national newspaper is not something I do regularly, I don’t know how they work.’
Mr Thwaites said, ‘In fact, you and your husband were furious about the consultation, that a man who consistently drinks to excess as your husband did, could be reported to the DVLA if he refuses to report himself.’
‘Are you bitter against Dr Serrano?’
Mrs Jones denied it.
‘Were you trying to get revenge? Why then did you write to the newspaper?’
‘Because I don’t think people should be treated like that when they go to see their doctor’.
Earlier, Mrs Jones stated her husband likes to drink Foster’s lager and vodka, but only in moderation.
‘He used to drink Bacardi.’
‘Do you like a drink yourself?’, Mr Thwaites asked.
‘Yes, I do’, Mrs Jones said.
She also confirmed her husband smokes ‘roll-your-own’ cigarettes.
But Mrs Jones maintained her husband would only drink with friends at the local caravan park ‘if he wasn’t working’.
‘I would buy a 35cl bottle [of Bacardi] shopping a week.
‘He may have had a couple of glasses of spirits.’
But the amounts were never excessive, she added.
‘Do you suggest that the fact Dr Serrano is Spanish-born is in anyway relevant to the events that occurred in the surgery on 24 January 2011?’
‘No’, Mrs Jones said.
‘Do you say that there was a ‘language barrier’?’, Mr Thwaites asked.
‘I say he may not have been able to understand what we trying to get over to him.
‘He misheard what we were saying.
‘Kevin was telling him half a bottle of Bacardi as an example, not that he drinks that much.’
‘Was it difficult for you to understand what Dr Serrano was saying?’, Mr Thwaites asked.
‘No, it wasn’t’, Mrs Jones answered.
Asking about the ill-fated consultation with Dr Serrano, Mrs Jones maintained the GP made her young son cry.
Mr Thwaites countered, ‘Your son was upset because your husband used him as part of a desperate plan not be made made homeless - ‘Look at my child, look at my family’.’
‘That is utter nonsense’, Mrs Jones said.
‘Did your son not join in and say ‘you are an alcy dad?’
Mrs Jones denied it, saying, ‘I am quite upset about that’.
Mr Thwaites has already claimed the Mr Jones is a ‘liar’ seeking to get revenge on his GP.
‘He [Mr Jones] is trying to take revenge on a good doctor in order to give him a bad outcome.’
Associated Newspapers maintain the story was justified and substantially true.
Both parties have earlier agreed that the case should be decided by a judge rather than a jury.
The trial continues