Penguin Books pays out over MoD libel

Penguin Books pays out over MoD libel

Penguin Books has agreed to pay an undisclosed sum in compensation to the former director general of legal services at the Ministry of Defence, Martin Hemming, following libel proceedings brought against the publisher for allegations made in Shami Chakrabarti’s book Liberty.

Civil rights campaigner Chakrabarti alleged in her book that Hemming had used his position to silence concerns over human rights abuses by the British military, reported The Telegraph. 

Hemming’s lawyer, Cameron Doley, denied his client had ever told commander legal of the British land forces Lt Col Nicholas Mercer to “shut up” or threaten to report him to the Law Society in order to keep abuses quiet, or that Hemming had ever called Mercer “a flake”. He also objected to the epithet “company man”, ascribed to Hemming in the book, entirely inconsistent with Hemming’s conduct.

Yinka McKay, a defamation-specialist and solicitor at David Price Solicitors & Advocates, apologised to Hemming on behalf of Penguin Books Ltd, for “the distress and hurt caused,” and confirmed Penguin would not publish the allegations again and that it had agreed to omit the passages in question in future editions.

Penguin Books agreed to pay an undisclosed sum plus all legal costs, The Telegraph report said.

Hemming, who was director general of legal services at the MoD  between 1998-2009, was awarded the Liberty’s Human Rights Lawyer of the Year award in 2011, and maintains the MoD rejected his calls to stop the use of violent extraction methods to obtain information from detainees in Iraq.

Chakrabarti is director of human rights campaign group Liberty. She chaired the judging panel for this year’s Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and is planning to deliver The Reading Agency Lecture at the British Library, ‘On Liberty, Reading and Dissent’, on 30th November.

“Chakrabarti exposes the tyranny of the state we are in,” said the Guardian last month of her book, On Liberty. Royalties from the title have been donated to Liberty.

Penguin Books said it had no further comment to make on the matter.