A Royal Navy captain who was fired for bullying junior officers has now lost his legal battle suing the Ministry of Defence for leaking details to the press.
David Axon was removed from the HMS Somerset in December 2004 after an internal investigation found his position to be untenable due to his behaviour towards colleagues.
The story was initially reported in the Sun four days after he left the ship. The information was leaked by the Ministry of Defence press officer Bettina Jordan Barber who was paid £5,000 for the story.
Ruling on the case, Mr Justice Nicol said that Mr Axon “did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy”. Concluding that, although Ms Jordan-Barber had a duty to preserve the confidential information that she received at work, this was “a duty which she owed to either the Crown or the MoD. It was not a duty which she owed to Mr Axon.”
Ms Jordan-Barber was paid £100,000 by the Sun newspaper between 2004 and 2012 for working as an informant. The press officer, who had access to top-secret material, was jailed for a year in 2015 after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office.
Mr Axon was put in charge of the HMS Somerset and its 185 crew in June 2003. In May 2004 the 133-metre ship was sent on a six-month operational tour of the Gulf. It was towards the end of their deployment off the coast of Iraq that the complaints from several colleagues on board the ship were made.
This lead to an equal opportunities investigation which resulted in Mr Axon losing his job as captain of the HMS Somerset, with reported fears that the ship would no longer be effective in battle.
Mr Axon said: “I accept that I bullied my officers, to my eternal shame.”
Unless he launches a successful appeal, Mr Axon will have to pay legal fees reported to be £500,000. This is because the judge threw out the case in which Mr Axon argued that the Ministry of Defence was liable for Ms Jordan-Barber’s breach of confidence, misuse of private information and a breach of his Article 8 privacy rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.