What happened in London at PM Shehbaz Sharif’s defamation case against Daily Mail

Judge rules PM Shehbaz will have to deposit £30,000 by Nov 23

Murtaza Ali Shah
PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif. — Twitter
PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif. — Twitter

  • London High Court awarded costs to ANL in defamation case brought against paper by Shehbaz Sharif.
  • Rules that Shehbaz's lawyer will have to deposit £30,000 by Nov 23.
  • Court order shows that Shehbaz's lawyers applied for “stay” to stay proceedings.

Justice Matthew Nicklin at the London High Court has awarded costs to Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL) in the defamation case brought against the paper by Shehbaz Sharif, the prime minister of Pakistan, over allegations of corruption.

At a hearing here, the judge ruled that Shehbaz Sharif’s lawyer will have to deposit £30,000 by Nov 23 after the lawyers of Shehbaz Sharif applied unilaterally to the court to withdraw the stay application in favour of the trial proceedings to go ahead. Lawyers of Shehbaz Sharif at Carter Ruck made this move after Shehbaz was cleared in the money-laundering case by a court in Pakistan but the application for stay at the London High Court was made much earlier than that.

The court order shows that Shehbaz Sharif’s lawyers applied for the “stay” in the court in agreement with the Daily Mail newspaper to stay the proceedings. Before this, Daily Mail applied for several “stays” citing the security situation in Pakistan, the Covid-19 lockdown and the inability of the legal team to travel to Pakistan to obtain evidence in the case.

According to legal sources, this “stay” was agreed between all parties – Daily Mail publishers, Shehbaz Sharif and Imran Ali Yousuf – in agreement but then Shehbaz Sharif’s lawyers decided to withdraw the “stay” just ahead of the case management hearing where the dates for the trials were to be set.

The purpose of the costs and case management hearing is to set directions for the case to proceed to trial and to consider the parties' costs budgets, i.e. their estimated costs of the proceedings to a conclusion.

Legal sources said that Shehbaz Sharif’s team decided to make this move after Daily Mail’s lawyers at Wiggins LLP initiated talks with Sharif’s lawyers at Carter-Ruck to consider ways to resolve the matter, including out of the court and ahead of the trial.

Shehbaz Sharif’s lawyers, according to sources, took “stays” after both London and Pakistan legal teams decided that since the money-laundering cases in UK and Pakistan were of the same nature, over the same papers and same allegations, it would be appropriate to let one jurisdiction run these cases while taking stay would be a natural course of action.

According to UK law, any party that withdraws an application has to pay the costs of the other side. In this case, Carter Ruck applied for the stay to be vacated and instead asked the court to go ahead with the trial proceedings.

The court has also asked Shehbaz Sharif’s lawyers to submit a comprehensive reply to Daily Mail’s defence within a month or the case could be struck out. The sources said that Shehbaz Sharif has already submitted a reply to the defence by Daily Mail but the substantive and comprehensive reply is being prepared in line with the outcome of money-laundering cases in Pakistan. In 2019, the prime minister served a defamation case on the British daily and its journalist David Rose for blaming him for misappropriating public funds.

“The article is gravely defamatory of Shehbaz, including false allegations that he misappropriated UK taxpayers’ money in the form of Department for International Development (DFID) aid intended for the victims of the devastating 2005 earthquake in Pakistan. Shehbaz denies these allegations,” the legal notice said.

Originally published in The News