In a 2020 publication, the Sun newspaper made unwarranted accusations against the law firm, Milestone Solicitors, and its principal, Uma Rajasundram. The offending article was labelled as an exclusive under the heading: ‘ASYLUM PRICE LIST: Lawyers’ legal aid charges for migrant cases’ and contained claims that solicitors, such as Milestone Solicitors, were touting a price list to help migrants stay in the country.
It further contained negative remarks from Priti Patel and further quoted another ‘Whitehall source’ as stating that ‘chasing dinghies to get taxpayers’ cash for keeping illegal immigrants in our country’. If this was not bad enough, the newspaper thought it would be appropriate to include a picture of a dinghy full of immigrants being rejected by Greek officials as well as a picture of Uma Rajasundram wearing a sari. Clearly, these photographs were included with a view to having maximum impact on the reader and it was successful in this regard, as the article resulted in over 100 comments from readers, which contained threatening and racist content.
The article was not as it appears remotely true. The accusation regarding a ‘price list’ was entirely incorrect and was based on a list of hourly rate charges levied by the firm to private paying clients rather than it having any relevance to their legal aid work.
In order to succeed in a claim for defamation, a party must demonstrate that:
- A comment was published to at least one other person;
- The comment relates to the complainant and the complainant is identifiable from the comment made;
- The comment is likely to make individuals generally think worse of the complainant as a result of the comments made; and
- The comment has or is likely to cause the complainant serious harm.
Common defences run in response to a claim in defamation include a claim that the comments were true or that the writer held an honest opinion in respect of the comments. Given that the statements made above were plainly untrue and that there was evidence in the public domain to make that clear, it is difficult to see how the newspaper could avail itself of either of these defences. Given the volume of threatening comments made in response to the article and the lack of a viable defence, it would have been highly likely that the Sun would have been found liable for defamation. It is perhaps therefore not surprising that the Sun has removed the article entirely and published the following comments on a permanent basis:
‘We have been asked to make clear that charging rates which solicitor Ms Rajasundram and her firm advertise on their website for immigration work are for private clients only, not for legal aid.
We did not and do not suggest that Ms Rajasundram and colleagues act in any way outside the law or professional conduct and we are happy again to make this clear to readers.’
These published comments highlight a common remedy in successful defamation cases: a public retraction and an apology. The Sun has further paid compensation to Ms Rajasundram.
How can Nelsons help
Should you be affected by any defamatory comments, please do not hesitate to contact Kevin or another member of the team in Derby, Leicester, or Nottingham on 0800 024 1976 or via our online enquiry form.Contact us