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The fight for the truth is getting slightly fairer (maybe)

Home Tomorrow's Business The fight for the truth is getting slightly fairer (maybe)

The fight for the truth is getting slightly fairer (maybe)

The legal profession is second only to the PR trade in terms of trying to stay out of the papers.

(The lawyers are supposed to keep the clients out of the media too, the PRs to get them in, but with their own involvement mysterious in each case.)

The PR trade is doing a rather better job of it than the briefs just now. Lawyers are all over the press and not in a good way.

The Times yesterday reported that Britain’s courts are being used as “tools of intimidation” by oligarchs and their lawyers.

On Twitter, the paper’s political editor Steven Swinford has a thread on how the lawyers tried to silence Catherine Belton and her book Putin’s People.

They are pleasingly named and probably should be ashamed.

In Private Eye this week, the magazine makes fun of Carter-Ruck for proudly proclaiming that it won’t work for anyone associated with the Putin regime.

This is, erm, a recent development, the Eye notes.

Powerful people being threatening via lawyers is not new, but it has definitely got worse.

You could make the start date 2 July 2003**.

What in the old days might be a conversation with ground conceded on each side, quickly turned into “no comment” (or, my favourite, “off the record, no comment”) and a threat via email.

Just the other day I got a series of over-the-top legal threats that were totally unnecessary and frankly, hilarious. (They were penned by a PR but obviously approved by a lawyer).

There were denials of things I never suggested in the first place. Warnings as to what would happen to my career if I dared to put in print what was so far only an inquiry.

And questions as to my character (depending on context, fair enough).

I think these things have the opposite effect to the one intended. If you’ve been around, you’ve been threatened before.

You think you must be on to something. Editors suddenly get interested. You might decide to widen the circle of hacks making inquiries (we hunt in packs on occasion).

I think that will happen more and more.

Rival organisations that dare not take a legal risk on their own will link up and agree to publish the same thing at the same time, on the basis that surely the oligarchs, or whoever, can’t sue everyone.

In this ongoing battle, the truth has been the loser for years. If lawyers, and PRs, start telling bullies “no”, it might at least be a fairer fight from here.

**(That’s the date Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea.)

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