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Former chief MoD legal adviser receives apology from Penguin Books

Major publisher to remove offending passages from future editions of Shami Chakrabarti book following 'untrue' and 'unjustified' allegations

9 November 2015

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Penguin Books Ltd has apologised to Martin Hemming CB, the former director general of legal services in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) following the publication of a book written by civil liberties advocate Shami Chakrabarti.

In a case brought before the High Court, 'On Liberty', written by the renowned human rights activist, was heard to have contained untrue allegations regarding Hemming's tenure at the MoD.

According to Chakrabarti, Hemming had used his post to silence legitimate concerns relating to allegations of serious human rights abuses on the part of the British military and had threatened and briefed against a senior officer who wished to express those concerns.

Chakrabarti also labelled Hemming as a 'Company Man' and 'an apologist for torture.'

Carter Ruck's Cameron Doley, Hemming's solicitor, told the court his client had never attempted to silence legitimate concerns relating to human rights abuses and had not threatened or briefed against the officer in question.

It was also refuted that Hemming had ever acted in a way which would justify the nickname 'Company Man' attributed to him by Chakrabarti.

David Price Solicitors & Advocates's Yinka McKay, Penguin's solicitor, was in agreement with Doley's comments and apologised to Hemming for the offence and distress caused by the allegations.

She suggested that any offending passages would be removed from all editions of the book and that an undertaking had been given not to repeat the allegations in the future. Hemming would also receive damages and any legal costs incurred under the terms of settlement.

In a statement released following the trial, Hemming said: 'It was devastating for me to read these false allegations and to have both my professionalism and integrity attacked in Ms Chakrabarti's book.

'I tried to speak with Ms Chakrabarti after the book was published in order to put her right but she would not even meet with me. She thereby left me with no choice but to go down the legal route. I am hugely relieved and pleased that Penguin has now done the decent thing and withdrawn the allegations and apologised.'

He added: 'I understand that, when she had extracted an expression of regret from Andy Burnham after threatening to sue him a few years ago, Ms Chakrabarti issued a statement in which she expressed the hope that he and others would "remember the value of treating fellow human beings with dignity and respect in future." I hope that Ms Chakrabarti may reflect on those sentiments in the light of today's events.'

Matthew Rogers is an editorial assistant at Solicitors Journal

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