Defamation – libel
This was a claim against the Mail on Sunday regarding a libellous article by the journalist David Rose that was published by the newspaper in October 2016 and on the MailOnline website until October 2017. The thrust of the article incorrectly suggested that the claimant (Ms Sasha Wass QC, a senior Silk at 6 KBW Chambers) had, essentially, suppressed evidence of police corruption with the aim of putting an “innocent man in jail”.
The article in question, written by David Rose, concerned confiscation proceedings against a disgraced former solicitor Bhadresh Gohil, who had admitted to and been convicted of fraud.
The two page article appeared under a main headline “Revealed: How top QC ‘buried evidence of Met bribes to put innocent man in jail’” and included a photograph of the claimant with the caption “SCANDAL: Senior Barrister Sasha Wass”.
Allegations in the article included that, when Ms Wass was working on the case, she had tried to “bury damning evidence” and that “bribes had been taken by police officers responsible for investigating Mr Gohil”. These allegations had depended on accusations made on behalf of Mr Gohil at a Court hearing.
In addition, there were claims that Ms Wass had encouraged additional (unfounded) criminal charges to be brought against Mr Gohil for perverting the course of justice, when actually she knew he was an innocent whistleblower. In further claims – that the Court of Appeal subsequently described as “fanciful” – Ms Wass was also alleged to have lied about her knowledge that evidence presented in the Court of Appeal had been tampered with. In summary, the article heavily implied that Ms Wass had been involved in a criminal conspiracy.
Associated Newspapers (the parent company of the Mail on Sunday newspaper and Mail Online website) recognised that all of the accusations and claims published were not true, and that its excessive reluctance to acknowledge Ms Wass’s ensuing complaints had served to aggravate her distress.
Associated Newspapers has paid £110,000 in libel damages to Ms Wass, and has also agreed to pay her legal costs. These costs will be assessed by the Court in due course if not agreed. Associated Newspapers also agreed to publish full apologies in the Mail on Sunday newspaper and MailOnline website on 17th June 2018.
Ms Wass’s solicitors, media law specialists Carter-Ruck, commented following the payment of Ms Wass’s damages:
“The recent reading of the joint Statement in Open Court, the publication of an unreserved apology and the payment of a substantial damages sum together represent a long-overdue vindication for Ms Wass following the publication of these grotesque libels by the Mail on Sunday and David Rose, who chose to collaborate with a convicted, self-confessed fraudster and to report very serious allegations which were in fact entirely untrue.
Carter-Ruck is, as ever, pleased to have worked with Temple Legal Protection in this matter. Legal expenses insurance plays a vital part in allowing wronged individuals like Ms Wass to manage litigation risk, and thus approach litigation against large organisations like Associated Newspapers on a level playing field.”
In a statement released after the Mail’s High Court apology, Ms Wass said “I was left with no option but to pursue the matter though the courts in order to obtain proper vindication for this devastating attack on my professional standing and reputation, to ensure the removal of the article from MailOnline and to seek suitable damages and reimbursement of my legal costs.”