Further to the breaking story of a cack-handed attempt to gag reporting of parliament, below is an excerpt from an uncorrected transcript of oral evidence given by Mark Stephens to the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee. Stephens is a media lawyer and partner in Finer Stephens Innocent LLP:
Mark Stephens: I would say removing the right to sue is really what it is about. We are seeing at the moment a real problem with a company called Trafigura who have retained lawyers to attack Green Peace [sic] International predominantly, but also media organisations who are reporting about the alleged toxic dumping in Africa of waste.
They are doing this in a number of ways. Letters are being sent; they are suing the lawyers, Leigh Day, who are taking claims; I understand that Leigh Day are representing 16 people who died, 100,000 people who needed medical attention, including miscarriages, respiratory problems and organ failure, and there is a class of about 30,000 Ivorians who have suffered as a result of this toxic dump. It seems to me that it is wholly inappropriate for a very wealthy company to try and chill down discussion about toxic dumping through this kind of aggressive behaviour. For example, there are threats to individuals at Green Peace International; and there are also threats, for example, to the BBC. If the BBC want to get a balanced story and hear from Trafigura, on the one hand, and also someone from Green Peace International or a scientific expert, the threats to the BBC are being communicated back via the producers who are saying to the people from Green Peace, “But of course you can’t mention this, this, this, this and this because otherwise we might get into a defamation wrangle with Trafigura”. That seems to me just plain wrong. Let us have an open debate about it.
Paul Farrelly MP: I have read about the toxic dumping case but could you spell the name of the company?
Farrelly: Could you name the lawyers who are representing them?
Stephens: Carter-Ruck in this country; and there is a Dutch firm called Houtoff who are also representing them.
And who was the MP that posed the offending parliamentary question?