LETTER: `Right of reply' does not resolve disputes

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From Mr Adrian Jack

Sir: Walter Cairns's suggestion (Letters, 21 December) that libel actions be replaced by a statutory right of reply suffers from the grievous defect that the truth would never be established. The Sunday Times's allegation against David Ashby was that he was a hypocrite in speaking up for family values when he was a practising homosexual. Whether Mr Ashby was a practising homosexual is a matter of fact which (if disputed) can only ultimately be determined in a court of law.

One sympathises with Mr Ashby, because the evidence for his being a homosexual (at least on the basis of newspaper reports) seemed a little thin; but the jury decided that he was. It follows that the Sunday Times's attack on him was justified. Giving Mr Ashby a right of reply would not have resolved that important issue.

Yours sincerely,

Adrian Jack


London, EC4

22 December