Solicitor who advised on Panama Papers and Snowden files stories leaves Guardian after 17 years

A taxi passes a company list showing the Mossack Fonseca law firm at the Arango Orillac Building in Panama City. Picture: Reuters/Carlos Jasso

Solicitor Jan Clements, who advised Guardian journalists on stories including the Snowden files, Panama Papers and the “black spider letters”, is stepping down after 17 years at Guardian News and Media.

During her career at the group, the senior editorial legal adviser was closely involved in pre-publication advice as well as libel litigation.

Her expertise in freedom of information led to notable cases such as the battle for access to Prince Charles’ lobbying letters to government, known as the “black spider letters”, which resulted in the Supreme Court quashing the Attorney General’s attempt to veto the Upper Tribunal’s decision to allow the Guardian to see the letters.

Clements has defended and won significant cases for GNM in support of public interest journalism, in particular around the protection of journalistic material.

These included the 2001 case of R v Central Criminal Court ex parte Guardian, Observer and Martin Bright – a judicial review of police production orders requiring the newspapers and journalist to provide all material arising out of contact they had had with a former employee of the security services – in which the High Court ruled that, even in national security cases, the state cannot merely assert its position without producing evidence.

Clements’ work has also involved working across new legislation and law reform, especially in relation to freedom of information, open justice – in particular lobbying against secret courts – and for journalists’ rights including the protection of confidential sources and the right to visit and interview prisoners.

Clements joined GNM in 1999 from a north-west London firm of solicitors, Alexander and Partners, where her areas of practice included criminal and public law.

“I didn’t come from a media law background – I learned that on the job under Siobhain Butterworth, who set up the editorial legal department in 1996,” she said.

“It has been amazing working at GNM. We have worked on a large number of cases to do with press freedom and journalists’ rights, and had a great deal of support in those from the editors and journalists.”

Clements is leaving GNM at the end of the month and will continue to work in media law on a freelance basis across the wider news industry.

Picture: Reuters

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