English PEN has decided to retain libel lawyer Anthony Julius as a trustee despite objections from Daphne Caruana Galizia's family his firm attempted to "financially cripple" the murdered Maltese journalist for whom it once campaigned.
Although Julius' firm Mishcon de Reya acted against murdered anti-corruption activist Caruana Galizia, English PEN concluded there was "no reason to invite Anthony Julius to step down" as a trustee following what it described as "a careful internal investigation".
Caruana Galizia's family said they are disappointed by the conclusion.
The sons of Caruana Galizia - Matthew, Andrew and Paul Caurana Galizia - brought Julius' involvement with PEN into question in May 2018 when they accused his London firm of seeking to "cripple [their mother] financially with action in UK courts".
At the time, they appealed to PEN saying: "Had our mother not been murdered, they would have succeeded ... The campaign for justice in our mother’s case cannot be disentangled from the abuse that she suffered at the hands of Mishcon de Reya’s lawyers. The reputational damage to English PEN is only going to get worse for as long as [Julius] is there and his firm continues to harass and intimidate journalists."
A small working party of trustees (excluding lawyers on the board) was formed to review of PEN's policies; however, a statement released by English PEN on Monday (23rd July) said it "has concluded that on the basis of the totality of the information that has been made available to it, there is no reason to invite Anthony Julius to stand down as a trustee."
PEN said Julius, who is a professor at UCL and an author on the topic of censorship in the arts, had "given considerable support to English PEN in recent years, having offered pro bono assistance in our work with writers and journalists at risk".
"English PEN condemns the persecution and murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia. English PEN also condemns legal actions – and the threat of legal actions – which are intended to have a crippling effect of the kind that has been reported by some media and journalists. However, having been given access to Mishcon de Reya’s correspondences on the matter, which it has carefully reviewed, and having spoken and communicated with the principal individuals involved on both sides, as well as an independent human rights lawyer, the board has concluded that the material put before it does not support the claims that have been reported or made in this particular case," the statement read.
PEN further maintained trustees were appointed "as individuals, not as representatives of organisations, subject to full disclosure of possible conflicts of interest".
Julius told the Guardian: “I defend English PEN and support the invaluable work they do both here in the UK and internationally. I welcome the thorough investigation which my fellow trustees have undertaken.
“PEN is committed to addressing through open dialogue with journalists, lawyers and freedom of expression groups, the wider, more complex set of issues which the investigation has disclosed. I look forward to participating in this dialogue as a PEN trustee.”
Caruana Galizia’s sons, Matthew, Andrew and Paul, said the outcome was "disappointing" and "wholly inconsistent with English PEN’s principles".
"It’s disappointing that English PEN have decided to support Mishcon instead of journalism. This has never been about our mother’s case as an isolated incident or about Anthony Julius as an isolated actor," they said in a joint statement. "Neither has this been about working with lawyers in general: there are brilliant lawyers who, at a great cost to themselves, fight for the rights of journalists and writers."
PEN thanked the Caruana Galizia family for highlighting what it described was a troubling trend in which law firms' professional ethics were increasingly under strain since deregulation while reduced staffing of news organisations left investigatory work to worldwide networks of independent bloggers, freelance journalists and NGOS who are "vulnerable to intimidation and worse".
"We believe that English PEN is able to help confront this new set of challenges," PEN said.