Top libel lawyers sue Law Society title over blunder

Gazette: apologised for story

Law Society Gazette is being sued by two of the UK’s leading law firms after it claimed falsely in an article that two libel lawyers had been struck off the roll of solicitors.

The story, headlined "Police charge solicitor with £7m fraud", appeared on the front page of the Gazette but was followed a week later by a front-page apology stating it had been a "serious error" and at no stage did anyone at the Gazette appreciate that the statements were incorrect.

It went on to say: "We recognise that these allegations are completely untrue and should never have been published. The Gazette apologises unreservedly to those individuals for the damage to their reputations and the distress and injury to their feelings caused by our article."

The story had falsely said that two former partners of top London solicitors Swepstone Walsh were struck off following disciplinary procedures and that five former partners of the firm were involved in money laundering from a pool of investment funds held by the company. The following week’s apology stressed that both these claims were untrue.  The B2B weekly was also forced to issue a statement to legal correspondents on the nationals correcting the mistake. One of them predicted there would be "substantial damages".

Nigel Tait, a partner at Peter Carter Ruck, who is acting on behalf of Rhory Robertson – one of the solicitors worngly said to be been struck off –  said he intended to issue a claim this week and his client was taking it "very seriously indeed". "He was completely pole-axed to see these allegations on the front page of the Gazette. He had no warning at all that he was going to be a victim of these libels. We have already secured a front-page apology which recognises the allegations are completely untrue but he remains perplexed as to how they could have been published in the first place.

We shall this week be suing them for libel."

Adele Ashton of David Price Solicitors & Advocates, acting on behalf of Patrick Stewart, said: "An offer of amends has been made by the Gazette. We are currently taking our client’s instructions.

"Clearly the allegations made were extremely serious and highly damaging to our client. This is particularly so as the false allegations were published in a reputable legal magazine."

A spokeswoman for the Gazette refused to comment on whether any action would be taken against staff.

By Ruth Addicott

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