Bates wins libel battle with Catholic Herald

Bates: substantial damages

Guardian religious correspondent Stephen Bates has accepted an apology and substantial damages to settle a libel claim against the Catholic Herald and its editor, who accused him of fabricating a story.

The allegation was made in an editorial written by Herald editor Dr William Oddie, attacking a front-page story Bates had written on the resignation of the Archbishop of Cardiff, John Ward.

Rupert Butler, for Bates, told the High Court the editorial alleged the Guardian journalist had dishonestly fabricated all of the central facts in the story, headlined, "Sacked: the Archbishop judged unfit for office".

He said the Catholic Herald had supported the archbishop’s stance in resisting pressure upon him to resign and disputed claims that he had been sacked.

Butler said Bates had accurately reported that the archbishop had resigned following an audience with the Pope and the Vatican had announced his departure conformed with canon law by which a Bishop can be "earnestly requested" to resign.

Accordingly, there was no mendacious fabrication of any of the central facts in the article published on 27 October as alleged in the Catholic Herald leader on 2 November, Butler said.

Rebecca Jackson, for the Catholic Herald and Oddie, offered the defendants’ sincere apologies to Bates and said they regretted publishing the false allegations.

Following the hearing, Bates said: "I would rather not have had to bring this action because I do not believe in journalists suing other journalists, but the extraordinary nature of the Catholic Herald’s highly personal and offensive attack on my professional integrity left me with no alternative."

He said of the Catholic Herald’s editor: "I hope he will belatedly decide to acquaint himself with the laws of libel before he embarks on another preposterous attack on anyone else."

Bates, who also covers royal affairs for The Guardian, has worked at the paper for nearly 13 years.

He was formerly with the BBC, Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph.

 

By Jon Slattery

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