The independent press regulator has ruled in favour of a leading QC after she complained about an article which appeared in the Mail on Sunday.
The piece had suggested Sasha Wass had ‘buried evidence’ and put an ‘innocent man in jail’ in a dispute involving a former solicitor.
Wass, a tenant at 6KBW College Hill chambers, complained about the article – published in October last year – to the Independent Press Standards Organisation.
The article concerned confiscation proceedings relating to Bhadresh Gohil, a former solicitor convicted for money laundering offences. Wass was leading counsel instructed by the Crown Prosecution Service during the trial in which Gohil was convicted.
Gohil was jailed for 10 years in 2010 for helping Nigerian politician James Ibori launder millions in money that had been corruptly obtained.
The article in question reported allegations relating to Wass’s conduct of the prosecution, which had been made by a barrister for Gohil in court.
The court had heard claims that Wass buried an official report by the Metropolitan Police supplied by Gohil, which allegedly confirmed there was evidence that officers in its anti-corruption unit had taken bribes. Gohil was subsequently prosecuted for perverting the course of justice.
Wass said the article included a number of damaging allegations about her conduct of the prosecution that were ‘entirely without foundation’. She also said that the newspaper inaccurately reported that she had made key decisions in the case, giving the impression that she had acted out of spite, when the decisions had in fact been taken by others.
Further, the report also said that Gohil had been cleared by the Solicitors Regulation Authority when in fact the regulator had only closed the file on him pending the outcome of the trial. Gohil was struck off the roll in 2012.
‘This assertion was significantly misleading, as it gave credibility to his claims of innocence and supported the idea that she was responsible for a miscarriage of justice,’ IPSO found.
The newspaper said that the article’s central allegation was an accurate report of a statement made in open court and that it had taken care to approach the complainant for her comments on the allegations and published her response.
However, IPSO said that ‘while the newspaper had discussed making amendments’ to the online article it did not offer to publish a correction in print for nearly five months’ and that the wording offered had not addressed the misleading impression given by the further inaccuracies about the complainant’s conduct in prosecuting the case.