The good reputation of lawyers and other professionals is the whole basis of their livelihoods and, if they are subjected to unjustified press criticism, it is only right that compensation is paid. In a case on point, a leading criminal barrister won libel damages from two national newspapers.
The offending articles concerned the circumstances in which a sportsman had been acquitted of an affray charge following a trial which attracted a great deal of public interest. They alleged that the barrister was reasonably suspected of professional negligence in respect of decisions she had made prior to the trial and that the prosecution had thereby not been properly mounted.
After she launched defamation proceedings, the High Court was told that those criticisms were entirely unjustified. The true position was that she had only briefly been involved in the case and had played no part in selecting charges or in deciding whether another sportsman should also be prosecuted. Due to a diary clash, she had bowed out from the case five months prior to the trial.
Having risen through the profession to become a QC, the barrister had appeared for the Crown in a string of high-profile trials. As a self-employed barrister, her good judgment and competence were two of her most important attributes and the false allegations had caused her considerable distress, striking at the very heart of her professional character. In the circumstances, the publishers of both newspapers agreed to pay her damages and legal costs in settlement of her claim.