The barrister involved with a plagiarism dispute between law firms has admitted a ‘technical breach of copyright’ but insisted that this was not intentional.

Details emerged last week of a out-of-court settlement between national firm JMW and Widnes-based Hayes Connor over the latter’s copying of claim letters, which only came to light when JMW recognised that a claim form received used its own words.

Hayes Connor, which paid £45,000 in damages to JMW for copyright infringement, said it did not know the letter had been copied and blamed the matter on drafting advice from a barrister. JMW did not name any third party but said who had made a separate settlement with a barrister involved in the case.

The barrister referred to as a defendant on public court papers can now be named as criminal and regulatory expert Ian Whitehurst, from Exchange Chambers. In a statement issued through his representatives Manleys Solicitors, Whitehurst expressed his hope that all parties can move on with ‘fresh perspective’.

Whitehurst said: ‘I have spent several years in the emerging field of data protection, much of which was spent developing protocols and good practice. It was to this end that I inadvertently committed a technical breach of copyright which is something I immediately acknowledged and sought to amend. I had hoped that a swift and sincere apology would suffice but it wasn’t accepted.

‘When I first started to practice data protection law, it was an area of law which was completely novel to the vast majority of lawyers, as opposed to the more commercially crowded field it is today. Prior to my professional relationship with Hayes Connor, the firm had no experience of this area of work. I provided them with an incalculable amount of time advising and guiding them in this emerging, ever-developing area of law. It is pleasing to note that following this, they have been able to employ several fee earners working exclusively in data protection.

‘I can claim, with absolute confidence, that I have an extensive history of working collaboratively and providing any advice I can give, whether formally or informally, freely and very often without expecting anything in return.’