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May 21, 2014

Counsellor receives apology

Categories: Defamation, News

Tags: apology, Libel, statement in open court

Statement in open court settles legal innuendo case


Associated Newspapers has made a statement in open court apologising to Baylissa Frederick for the publication of articles about her in the Daily Mail and on MailOnline.  Ms Frederick works as a counsellor.  She is the author of Benzo-Wise: A Recovery Companion, which was later republished as Recovery & Renewal.  In both books she gave an account of how she had managed to overcome an addiction to clonazepam, a benzodiazepine drug, which she had been prescribed to relieve the symptoms of a medical condition.  An important part of her account concerned the fact that she had managed to fully recover from her addiction such that she had no ongoing problems resulting from it.  Her personal account of recovery was used as an example to other people, showing them that they too could recover from similar conditions.

The article complained of was called Drug that steals women’s lives: it’s more addictive than heroin, with horrifying side-effects. It concerned the problems people experience as a result of being addicted to Valium, which can continue even after they stop taking the drug.  It mistakenly reported that Ms Frederick had stated in an interview given to the Mail that she had been addicted to Valium and that her life continued to be blighted by her former addiction.  This contradicted the story which Ms Frederick had given in her book and in public speeches about her recovery.  Ms Frederick complained that many readers of the Mail article would also have read her book or heard her personal account.  Her claim relied solely on  a legal innuendo meaning to the effect that people with such knowledge would have concluded from reading the Mail article that she had behaved in a bizarre, self-contradictory manner and had possibly shown herself to be mentally unbalanced and a liar because she had made statements to the Mail which contradicted what she said in her book and elsewhere.  Her case on damages relied upon the receipt by her of a number of unpleasant messages following publication which were similar to the meaning complained of.

Ms Frederick also received a payment in damages and the publication of a clarification in the MailOnline setting out the correct position.

5RB’s William Bennett was instructed on behalf of Ms Frederick by Martin Soames and Gordon Clough of Simons Muirhead Burton.