Ryanair appeals order to disclose detailed version of incident report at centre of defamation case

Ryanair has appealed a High Court order that it disclose a more detailed version of a report into an investigation into an incident involving one of its flights at Memmingen Airport, Germany, in September 2012 at the centre of defamation proceedings the airline is taking against one of its former pilots. Picture: Rui Vieira

Ryanair has appealed a High Court order that it disclose a more detailed version of a report into an investigation into an incident involving one of its flights at the centre of defamation proceedings the airline is taking against one of its former pilots.

Ryanair is suing Captain Erik Besancon, who was dismissed in August 2013, over postings he made on a website called the Professional Pilots Rumour Network. He used the pseudonym "Enjoy the View".

The postings concerned an incident at Memmingen Airport, Germany, in September 2012 as a Ryanair flight from Manchester was landing. It was investigated by the German Federal Bureau of Aircraft Investigation which produced an interim report which Mr Bescancon got hold of.

He posted comments in December 2012 relating to the incident.

Ryanair sued claiming the words meant, among other things, the airline operated unsafe internal procedures, that a culture existed within the company which pressurised crews to operate in a manner that comprises safety, and forced crews to operate under massive stress.

Capt Besancon denies the claims and also pleaded fair and reasonable publication on a matter of important public interest.

The pilot, in preparation for his defence, sought discovery of certain documents, including Ryanair's own base investigation report into the incident.

The airline released certain material but Mr Besancon complained the base investigation report was too heavily redacted. Ryanair said it did so on the basis of maintaining confidentiality.

Mr Besancon asked the High Court to resolve the issue of discovery and last year a judge ruled Ryanair should make discovery.

The discovery row centred on the base investigation report and the High Court judge found that while Ryanair had voluntarily handed over the report, it was almost completely redacted with the only portions left legible being headings over various items of information.

The High Court ordered Ryanair to produce the report and said redactions should relate only to the the names of people who made statements or provided information and any other information identifying those individuals Ryanair appealed and on Tuesday, Tom Hogan, counsel for Ryanair, argued before the Court of Appeal that the High Court fell into error in analysing the issues.

The High Court also did not reflect what the particular issues are which justify discovery, counsel said. The High Court judge merely stated the documents sought were necessary and relevant and may help Mr Besancon attack Ryanair's case, he said.

It was not at all clear the documents sought were relevant and necessary, he said.

Oisin Quinn, for Mr Besancon, said the High Court was correct in finding that Ryanair had conceded from the beginning that the Memmingen report was relevant. He urged the appeal court to uphold the High Court decision.

The Court of Appeal reserved judgment.

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