Gazette: made false allegations
The Law Society has apologised and agreed to pay “very substantial” undisclosed damages to a solicitor who it wrongly accused of a £7m fraud and also wrongly claimed had been struck off. The allegations were made in a front-page article in the Law Society Gazette.
Mr Justice Eady was told at London’s High Court that a “serious error” occurred in the article about solicitor Patrick Stewart in the 26 September 2002 edition of the Gazette, which is sent to all members of the Law Society.
Stewart’s counsel, Korieh Dodu, said that his client was a partner in the former law firm Swepstone Walsh, and that the article, headlined “Police charge solicitor with £7m fraud”, alleged that he had been struck off the roll of solicitors in October 2001, following disciplinary proceedings for breach of the solicitors’ account rules.
Dodu said his client was also concerned that the article might be read as meaning that he had been charged with offences arising out of the laundering of money.
He continued: “The allegation that he had been struck off was completely false and there was no question of his having been charged with any offence.
“The defendant has acknowledged that a serious error occurred in the article and published a front-page retraction in the next issue of the Gazette.
“The publication of these allegations nevertheless caused Stewart considerable hurt and embarrassment as well as serious damage to his professional reputation.”
He said, however, the Law Society was present in court through its counsel Sara Mansoori to publicly apologise and to agree to pay Stewart a “very substantial sum in damages” together with his legal costs.
He continued: “While Mr Stewart would have preferred that the article had never been published, in the circumstances he accepts that he has achieved all that he can by bringing these proceedings and feels suitably vindicated. He is prepared now to let the matter rest.”
Mansoori added: “I agree with everything that Mr Dodu has said and offer the defendant’s sincere apologies to Mr Stewart.
“The allegation that he had been struck off was published as a result of a serious error, which should not have occurred and which the defendants very much regret.”
By Roger Pearson