A human rights firm has received an apology from The Times newspaper for a story printed almost a year ago.
The article last April had accused London firm Hodge Jones & Allen of misleading victims of Ireland’s Magdalene laundries scandal.
The firm had taken out advertisements for women to come forward who had been detained in institutions run by Roman Catholic nuns to work with no pay between 1922 and 1996.
HJA rejected the allegations and threatened legal action unless there was a retraction.
In its corrections and clarifications section yesterday, The Times said it had reported a statement made by the Irish government which suggested the firm had falsely claimed to have drafted government proposals for the scheme.
The newspaper said: ‘We accept that HJA’s advert did not make such a claim, far less was its advert dishonest, and we apologise for any suggestion to the contrary.’
The Times also confirmed the firm’s senior partner Patrick Allen (pictured) did submit proposals to the Irish government in October 2011 on how a compensation scheme might operate following a request by the campaign group Justice for Magdalenes.
The newspaper added: ‘We acknowledge that Mr Allen and his firm campaigned for many years to obtain justice for the victims pro bono.’
As part of the settlement, The Times also agreed to remove the online article immediately and to pay damages by way of a donation to charity – the advice agency run by Sally Mulready and the Irish Women Survivors Network at the London Irish Centre to provide advice to Magdalene laundries victims.
The Times will also pay a contribution to HJA’s costs.
Senior media silk counsel Justin Rushbrooke QC of 5RB took the case on a CFA.
Allen said he was pleased the matter was concluded but regretted it had taken a year to resolve.
‘The article made serious accusations against me and Hodge Jones & Allen and called into question our business methods and our integrity. These allegations were completely unfounded, as the settlement terms and the apology recognise.’
Allen added the firm is pressing on with helping laundry victims based in the UK to obtain compensation from the new scheme.
It is currently working with Sally Mulready and the London Irish Centre with around 70 UK-based claimants to complete their claims and set up a PI trust to receive their damages where appropriate.