Kent on Sunday defies legal threat to print school exposé

By Sarah Lagan

Kent on Sunday has run a story detailing a damning report on one of
the county’s top boarding colleges, despite receiving a threatening
legal letter warning it not to publish the article.

Katy Goodship, the paper’s education correspondent, received a
tip-off that an independent care inspectorate set up by the Government,
the Commission for Social Care Inspection, had written a critical
report on the Rochester Independent College.

The report claimed
the college, which charges up to £6,635 a term, needed to address areas
such as “countering bullying, improving child protection policies and
procedures, improving overall management and staffing of the boarding
houses”.

Goodship spoke to the head at the college and began
writing up the story, but just as the paper was about to go to press
the law firm acting on behalf of the college, DGB Solicitors, contacted
editor Bernard Ginns threatening legal action if it published.

The
solicitors sent a two-page letter saying the college “does not accept
the truth or veracity of all the information contained in this report.

“Many
items in the report are untrue and/or unjustified. If you publish any
information from the CSCI reportwhich is untrue and libellous, then we
shall be instructed to take action against your publication for damages
for defamation.”

The story was held for a week as KoS checked its
legal position and found it had a degree of qualified privilege to
print the report as it had come from an official inspectorate set up by
an act of Parliament.

Ginns said: “We thought this was an attempt
to bully us into not printing the story, which we felt was firmly in
the public interest.”

He added that the paper has not heard from the college since publishing the article.

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