Counsel for Mr Purnell, Richard Rampton QC, told the court that Mr Purnell was a Queen's Counsel specialising in criminal law who had been one of the junior prosecuting counsel in the Maguire Seven case in 1976.
The libel action arose out of an article published in the Independent on 5 June 1992 following the Court of Appeal's decision to quash the conviction of Judith Ward. The article was written by the editor of the Independent, Andreas Whittam Smith, and was headed 'Why lawyers suppress the truth'.
In the course of the article, there was a passage referring to the Maguire Seven case and to the inquiry into that case conducted by Sir John May in 1990. That passage mentioned Mr Purnell by name.
Mr Rampton said that the Independent still maintained that that passage, taken by itself, was a fair reflection of what Sir John May had said in his interim report. Mr Purnell took the contrary view, maintaining that the passage was a serious distortion of what Sir John May had said. That was something about which the parties had agreed to differ.
But the Independent did now acknowledge that the passage could, in the context of the article as a whole, be read as casting a slur on Mr Purnell's conduct and intentions which was neither to be found in anything that Sir John May had said nor warranted by the true facts. The Independent had therefore agreed to apologise to Mr Purnell and to pay him appropriate damages and his legal costs.
Sydney Kentridge QC, for the Independent and Mr Whittam Smith, expressed his clients' sincere apologies to Mr Purnell for the injury which their article had caused him.Reuse content