A leading lawyer is suing the Times for libel over a report relating to a complaint against her to the barristers’ watchdog for England and Wales.
The story concerned Dinah Rose KC representing the Cayman Islands government in opposing same-sex marriage in a case at the privy council, for which she was criticised by LGBTQ+ rights campaigners, including some students at the University of Oxford, where she is president of Magdalen College.
In a story last year referring to the Bar Standards Board (BSB) headlined “Law chiefs rule against Magdalen College head in Caymans gay rights row”, the Times reported that a gay rights campaign group had said Rose “must apologise” for “recklessness” for claiming that she was professionally obliged to take the case under the “cab rank” rule. It quoted the BSB as having told Colours Caribbean that Rose’s interpretation of the rules “might possibly amount to evidence of recklessness” if “taken at its highest”.
The BSB later issued a public statement clarifying that it had not found her to have been “reckless” or to have acted inappropriately and had not taken any regulatory action against her. It said: “We apologise to Ms Rose if this has not been made sufficiently clear.” It also stated that criticism of Rose for taking the case was “misplaced” because under the bar code of conduct, “a barrister must not withhold their services on the grounds that the nature of the case or the conduct or opinions of the client are objectionable or unacceptable”. The Times article was subsequently taken down.
The Bar Council, the representative body for barristers, later described the BSB’s handling of the complaint against Rose as “unacceptable and inexcusable”, including the fact that it did not give her the opportunity to be heard or comment on the matter.
At the time of the story, Rose tweeted that Times Law “were warned that they were taking a quote from a press release out of context, without the decision being available. They pressed on and published it, regardless. I have instructed solicitors to bring libel proceedings.”
As first reported by the legal blogger Joshua Rozenberg, proceedings have been issued against the Times and its legal editor, Jonathan Ames.
Rose’s solicitor, Mark Lewis, said: “It is not appropriate for us to comment at this time.” The Times also declined to comment.
The judicial committee of the privy council ruled in March last year that there was no right to same-sex marriage under the constitution of the Cayman Islands.