Two main London-based human rights legal professionals have been threatened with defamation proceedings for making submissions on behalf of their shopper, in a extremely uncommon growth.
The risk was made by legal professionals representing the Gibraltar authorities and senior ministers, together with the chief minister, Fabian Picardo, at an inquiry exploring alleged corruption on the prime of the British abroad territory’s administration.
Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC and Adam Wagner, each from Doughty Avenue chambers, are representing Gibraltar’s former police chief, Ian McGrail, who claims he was pressed into taking early retirement after looking for to execute a search warrant in opposition to somebody who had an in depth relationship with Picardo. The chief minister denies the allegations.
In written submissions by Sir Peter Caruana KC, himself a former chief minister of Gibraltar and representing the present authorities, he stated he had been instructed that allegations made by Gallagher and Wagner on behalf of McGrail “are thought-about to be outrageous and wholly unfaithful and regarded additionally to be extremely defamatory. We’re additional instructed by the chief minister to say that he absolutely reserves his rights in opposition to all related individuals on this respect.”
At a preliminary inquiry listening to final week, responding to the submissions, Gallagher stated: “We contemplate it to be each inappropriate and persevering with intimidatory and victimising conduct. We’ve requested for that risk to be withdrawn. Regrettably that has not occurred.”
She highlighted the defence of certified privilege, obtainable to legal professionals when representing shoppers in proceedings.
In response, Caruana advised the inquiry: “It is just a risk if my discovered buddy or her shopper believes that they don’t seem to be entitled to the defence of certified privilege.”
However the inquiry chair, Sir Peter Openshaw, a former UK excessive court docket choose, described the threats of defamation as “misplaced. Individuals have to be allowed to make their submissions and witnesses should not be deterred from giving proof or making submissions to the inquiry, and as I say I remorse that that risk was made.”
Talking after the listening to, Wagner referred to as for an apology. He stated: “Attorneys representing their shoppers ought to by no means face private threats of defamation, and it’s significantly regarding that these threats emanated from the Gibraltar authorities itself. We’re happy that Sir Peter Openshaw criticised the federal government’s conduct.”
Mark Stephens, co-chair of the Worldwide Bar Affiliation’s Human Rights Institute, additionally condemned the Gibraltar authorities’s conduct. “Attorneys must be free to characterize their shoppers with out concern of being personally sued for defamation,” he stated. “It’s disappointing and an affront to human rights to see this tactic being utilized by the federal government of a British abroad territory in opposition to UK and Gibraltar legal professionals.”