Barrister, Member of Parliament for Banbury and Pooh Bah look-alike Tony Baldry has contacted the blogger whom he threatened with libel over allegations he had interceded on behalf of James Ibori; Nigerian oil-magnate currently on trial at Southwark Crown Court for corruption.
The blogger in question, Richard Wilson had read a Correction in the Independent on Sunday newspaper on 28 February which withdrew previous claims Tony Baldry MP had written a five page letter on behalf of Ibori’s solicitors to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; and copied to the Attorney General, Justice Secretary and Home Secretary: only as Tony Baldry QC.
Wilson discussed this and the background on his blog, as well as the observations of Allen Green (aka Jack of Kent) that it is virtually unheard of for a barrister to write such a letter to major Government departments on the instructions of a solicitor.
Further threats of defamation proceedings followed from Baldry’s solicitors, Olwsang against both Wilson and his blog providers, WordPress; which was thought to be legally liable under English law. Had this gone further, I suspect the California-based WordPress would have given the Agincourt Salute.
Although Wilson removed the blog missive in question, he continued plugging away and now has received a fullsome e-mail from Baldry which suggests, to me, he has realized he cannot issue casual threats of lawfare. It is reproduced in full in the first link, and excerpts follow:
Part of my frustration with the Independent on Sunday was that the journalist concerned made no proper effort to get in touch with me, or to put to me the matters which were going to become allegations in his article. This hardly strikes me as being responsible journalism.
If this is accurate, I would agree with Baldry and, not withstanding my sharing Allen Green’s incrediluity, would expect the IoS to print a clarification. My distaste at monstrously high libel payouts are that: not opposition to individuals setting the record straight.
I think it is also fair to observe that notwithstanding the Independent on Sunday’s apology and correction, again, without making any attempt whatsoever to get in touch with me, you simply sought to repeat the IOS’s earlier allegations which were untrue and defamatory.
This is fair, but Wilson’s blog also has a comments feature which, I assume, he would cheerfully have permitted Baldry to use. This would not be the first time there has been an attempt to erase critical web-prints relating to Baldry.
I understand that an application has been made under the Freedom of Information Act to the Foreign Office for disclosure of the letter and this, I understand, has been refused by the Foreign Office on the grounds that its release could be detrimental to relations between the UK and another Government and also that its release could be detrimental to the administration of justice, and as a member of the Bar, I think I would be quite rightly open to criticism if, given those conclusions by the Foreign Office, doubtless in consultation with the Office of the Attorney-General, I was to publish the letter myself. That matter, as I understand it, is now before the Information Commissioner for him to decide.
Credit where credit is due. Any 105 word sentence deserves reprinting. Although I sympathize with Baldry’s dilema, I believe it would reflect well on him if he gave his acquiescence to the Information Commissioner.
It would avoid situations like:
However, I think that you and organisations such as the NLF, might like to reflect on the motivation and tactics of whoever “leaked” the existence of this letter to the NLF.
If they had thought that I had done something untoward, as a Member of Parliament , they could presumably have “leaked” the whole letter, or acted in such way as that the letter could have been made available to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards who regulates the conduct of Members of Parliament. Indeed, the day after the IOS’s article was published, I immediately sent the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards a copy of the letter myself.
So those who “leaked” the existence of the letter, chose to leak what were clearly selective, inaccurate, and untrue assertions as to its contents.
Baldry also states:
So, for example, I understand that you have made a request to the Foreign Office, under the FOI, for a copy of the envelope in which the letter was sent. I hope they still have it, as it will show that it is a perfectly normal white envelope !
I assume such a FoI request would be rewarded, so Baldry would be taking a hell of a risk if he had, in fact, used House of Commons stationary… I conclude he did write as a QC. Yet, this does not address the incredulity of Allen Green and others, with the inference against Baldry’s non-Parliamentary probity.