Dailymail, a UK newspaper, has tendered an apology to its prosecutor for publishing false claims made by Bhradresh Gohil, a lawyer.
Gohil, lawyer to James Ibori, former governor of Delta state, had accused Sasha Wass QC (Queen’s Counsel) of lying to judges in order to hide incriminatory evidence of police corruption, at the risk of sending an innocent man to jail.
Dailymail had on October 9, 2016, published an article titled ‘Revealed: How Top QC Buried Evidence Of Met Bribes To Put Innocent Man In Jail’.
A court heard claims that Wass not only buried an official report by the Metropolitan Police confirming there was evidence that officers in its anti-corruption unit had taken bribes, but that she prosecuted the lawyer who brought the report to the attention of the authorities for perverting the course of justice.
The article was about the confiscation proceedings relating to Gohil, who was convicted of money laundering offences during Ibori’s trial at which Wass was the lead prosecution counsel.
Wass, vexed by the report, complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (ISPO) that the newspaper had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.
Subsequently, IPSO upheld the complaint and has required the Daily Mail on Sunday to publish an apology as a remedy to the breach.
The article also gave background information about Gohil’s conviction. It said that he had previously been convicted for money laundering, that he “continues to protest his innocence” and that he had “pointed out” that he had been “cleared of wrongdoing after a probe by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA)”.
But Wass complained that 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 had inaccurately reported that she had made key decisions in the case against Gohil, giving the impression that she had acted out of spite.
She said that the report that Gohil had been cleared by the SRA was inaccurate, explaining that SRA had closed the file, pending the outcome of his trial.
Dailymail, in its defence, said that the article’s central allegation was an accurate report of a statement made in open court, adding that it had taken care to approach the complainant for her comments on the allegations before publication, and it had published her response.
During IPSO’s investigation of the complaint, the newspaper offered to publish a correction, addressing some of the inaccuracies raised by the complainant.
The committee expressed concern that the newspaper had failed to accurately report the complainant’s denials of the allegations.
The committee considered that these inaccuracies together had given the significantly misleading impression that the complainant had had greater influence over the conduct of the case than was the position, and that she had potentially abused this authority.
The impression given supported the allegation that she had “buried evidence…to put an innocent man in jail”.
This, according to IPSO, represented a further failure to take care over the accuracy of the article in breach of Clause 1(i). A correction was required in order to avoid a breach of Clause 1(ii).
Dailymail said the wording of the correction offered addressed some of the inaccuracies raised by the complainant, and it included an apology, which was required under the code, given the seriousness of the inaccuracy. (TheCable)