The Times has issued a formal apology to Dinah Rose KC, President of Magdalen College, after she sued the newspaper for libel earlier this year.
The libel case originated from an article published in The Times on 21st November 2022, in which they stated that the barristers’ watchdog, the Bar Standards Board, had categorised her actions in a Cayman Islands legal case as “recklessness”.
Rose represented the government of the Cayman Islands to the UK’s Privy Council Judicial Committee in 2021 regarding their opposition to same-sex marriage. Though her representation was criticised by groups including Colours Caribbean and the Oxford LGBTQ+ Society, the Bar Standards Board maintained that she committed no wrongdoing.
Colours Caribbean argued that Rose should have used the ‘foreign work’ exception to the ‘cab rank’ rule for self-employed barristers. This states that instructions from a professional client should only be not carried out under certain circumstances, including if the work would require the barrister to act for a foreign lawyer.
In an email to Magdalen students, Rose maintained that the cab rank rule applied to the Privy Council brief and thus she was obliged to accept it. The Oxford LGBTQ+ Society stated, however, that her important role as president of the college meant that she should have extricated herself from such a high-profile case.
The Times’ story, written by its legal editor Jonathan Ames, quoted the Bar Standards Board, reporting that they told Colours Caribbean that Rose’s actions “might possibly amount to evidence of recklessness”.
The day after the article was published in The Times, the Bar Standards Board issued a statement which stated that they had taken “no regulatory action” against Rose and that there was no evidence that the actions she took were reckless.
They stated that “a barrister must not withhold their services on the grounds that the nature of the case or the conduct or opinions of the client are objectionable or unacceptable” and Rose was correct to accept the instructions from the Cayman Islands government. They also stated that criticism of her was “misplaced” given her obligations as a barrister.
Rose announced her intention to bring libel proceedings against The Times the same day, tweeting that the newspaper was “warned that they were taking a quote from a press release out of context, without the decision being available”.
On 16 May The Times issued a formal apology to Rose, stating that “we accept that under the constitutional principles which she cited, the Bar rules did not allow her to refuse a brief for the Cayman Islands government in a case concerning the right to same-sex marriage. The article was therefore misleading. We apologise to Ms Rose for the distress caused, and have agreed to pay her substantial damages and legal costs”.
In open court today, solicitor Jessica Kingsbury, representing The Times and Jonathan Ames, stated that they “acknowledge that the article made allegations against her which were untrue”.
Mark Lewis, Rose’s solicitor, tweeted that it was an “honour and privilege” to represent her. He commented further that “it is fundamental to democracy that barristers act for all without fear nor favour, no matter whether their client is popular or not”.
Image Credit: Ed Webster via Wikimedia Commons