Times apologises to Dinah Rose
Newspaper pays substantial damages to leading KC
The publishers of The Times and the newspaper’s legal editor Jonathan Ames have apologised to Dinah Rose KC for an article they published about her. They have agreed to pay her “substantial” damages and her legal costs.
William Bennett KC, for Rose, told the High Court this morning that an article published on 21 November 2022 — now withdrawn — was about her involvement in a case about same-sex marriage legislation in the Cayman Islands. Rose had represented the islands’ government in an appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. Her involvement had attracted criticism from those who thought the case was promoting a ban on same-sex marriage.
The article reported claims by a gay rights campaign group based in the Cayman Islands that Ms Rose had wrongly claimed that she had been professionally obliged to accept the instructions when in fact she had not. The article further reported that while the Bar Standards Board, to whom a complaint about Ms Rose had been made by the campaign group, had decided to take no action against Ms Rose, it had decided adversely to her that she had been wrong to make that statement and had been reckless in doing so.
The article was incorrect. The Bar Standards Board did not find that Ms Rose had wrongly claimed that she had been professionally obliged to accept the instruction when she had not; and nor did it find she had acted recklessly in making that claim.
A day after the article appeared, the Bar Standards Board said that:
it had taken no regulatory action against Rose and had made no ruling against her;
she had been correct to act in accordance with her professional obligations; and
the board had seen no evidence to support a contention that Rose had knowingly misled anyone or that she was reckless in doing so.
Ms Rose was shocked and distressed by the article. She considers the professional obligation of barristers to accept instructions in controversial or unpopular cases to be an important matter of constitutional principle. The rule of law and the proper administration of justice require that access to legal advice and advocacy should not be denied to those whose opinions are objectionable to barristers or to members of the public.
The defendants accept that the article was incorrect and are here today by their solicitor to apologise to Ms Rose. They have also agreed to pay her substantial damages and her legal costs.
Jessica Kingsbury, representing Ames and The Times, told the court they offered Rose their sincere apologies.
“They acknowledge that the article made allegations against her which were untrue,” the solicitor said. “They are very sorry to have caused her distress.”
Judge Lewis, sitting as a judge of the High Court, gave permission for the record to be withdrawn.
As part of the settlement, The Times published an apology to Rose online and in its print edition this morning.
One of the most effective advocates of her generation, Rose was elected in 2020 as the 43rd president of Magdalen College Oxford since its foundation in 1458. She is the first woman to hold the post. Although she stopped taking on new work when she became its head, the college agreed that she could complete two outstanding cases.
As I reported last year, the Bar Standards Board issued a public apology to Rose a day after the Times story had appeared. Before reviewing its original decision, the board said, it would have been appropriate to have invited Rose to comment on the review. “It apologises to Ms Rose for its failure to do so, and has commenced a review of its processes for the future.”
Rose said at the time:
I was appalled to discover this week that the Bar Standards Board had entertained a complaint about my conduct without giving me any opportunity to respond to it, and that its independent reviewer, whilst rejecting that complaint as unfounded, had made comments that were based on an erroneous and incomplete reading of the Bar Code of Conduct. I would like to thank the Bar Standards Board for its recognition that its process was flawed and for its apology today.
I am conscious that lawyers in many countries face intimidation and harassment for representing controversial clients. This is never acceptable. Our legal system cannot function without advocates who are prepared to argue all sides of a case, including those which are objectionable or unpopular.
I am pleased that the Bar Standards Board has now accepted that I was bound by my professional obligations to appear for the Cayman Islands government.
The day after the article had appeared, Rose explained why she was taking legal action against the Times and its legal editor (referred to as @TimesLaw):
She has made no further comment on the case since then.
Update 1045: Rose was represented by Mark Lewis, a solicitor at Patron Law. He said after the statement in open court:
This case went to the very heart of a barrister’s ability to represent their client irrespective of views that some might disagree with. It was unexpected that those at the Bar Standards Board and The Times did not know the answer to the oft-repeated question “how can you represent… ?”
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