A Sunday newspaper has apologised for a defamatory article about a senior QC based on ’wild and disgraceful’ accusations made in court by a convicted former solicitor. In a statement in open court, the Mail on Sunday and MailOnline agreed that allegations published in October 2016 about the conduct of Sasha Wass QC of 6KBW Chambers were ’completely and utterly untrue’, and should never have been published. The newspaper agreed to pay damages and costs.
The offending article, by veteran investigative journalist David Rose, related to confiscation proceedings concerning Bhadresh Gohil, a former solicitor jailed in 2010 for fraud and money laundering offences and struck off the roll in 2012. Under the headline ’Revealed: How top QC buried evidence of Met bribes to put innocent man in jail’ the two-page article reported accusations made by Gohil in court about Wass, counsel for the prosecution.
Among the accusations were that Wass had attempted to bury evidence that police officers responsible for investigating Gohil had taken bribes; that she had backed the bringing of further criminal charges against Gohil when in fact she knew he was an innocent whistleblower; that she had lied to the Court of Appeal and that she knew that tampered-with evidence had been placed before the court.
Appearing before Mr Justice Nicklin, the Mail’s solicitor Alison Soens, of international firm Reynolds Porter Chamberlain, said the newspaper withdraws these false allegations and apologises to Wass.
Wass’s solicitors, defamation specialists Carter-Ruck, said that the reading of the statement in open court and the publication of an unreserved apology ’represents a hugely significant and necessary milestone in Ms Wass’s attempts to vindicate her reputation following the publication of these grotesque libels’.
The newspaper’s behaviour was compounded by the disdain with which it handled the complaint, the firm said. Despite a ruling in Wass’s favour by the Independent Press Standards Organisation, the newspaper refused to publish an apology and continued to publish the article online.
In a statement Wass said: ’I assisted Mr Rose with his factual enquiries, which I hoped would enable him to write an accurate and balanced piece. The Mail on Sunday distorted the information I had provided and falsely suggested in its article that I had made an admission to Mr Rose of wrongdoing. The article also failed to make clear that I did not – and would never - knowingly mislead the court. Prosecuting counsel are not rogue agents and act only on CPS instructions based on the evidence provided to them.’
Adrienne Page QC and Jacob Dean of 5RB, instructed by Carter-Ruck, acted for Sasha Wass QC. Alison Soens of Reynolds Porter Chamberlain LLP appeared for the defendants.