Butner wins Harpers libel action

TOP divorce lawyer Paul Butner and society magazine Harpers and Queen have settled a libel action over an article which said he had been dropped as Princess Diana's legal adviser on matrimonial affairs because he “lacked the necessary competence and skills”.

In the High Court last week, Mr Justice Drake was told that Butner, partner in London firm Wright Son & Pepper, had accepted an undisclosed cash settlement.

Counsel Roderick Dadak told the judge Butner was retained by the Princess in 1992 as legal adviser in relation to her matrimonial affairs.

Dadak said in June 1994 Harpers and Queen published an article about solicitors who specialised in divorce.

Dadak said the magazine referred to Butner in terms that he was no longer instructed by the Princess and “conveying the impression that his retainer had been terminated because he lacked the necessary competence and skills which characterised other solicitors profiled in the article”.

“Indeed the article went so far as to speculate as to which individual was to be his successor.”

He said Butner had taken great exception to the publication of “a serious falsehood” and felt that it was highly defamatory.

“His retainer with Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales has not been terminated and accordingly no question as to his competence or speculation as to his successor can possibly arise.”

He said Harpers and Queen publisher the National Magazine company had now paid a “suitable” sum as damages into court and undertaken not to repeat the words.

Outside court Dadak said of the article: “It was damaging to him professionally, hurtful to him personally, and extremely embarrassing to allege he was no longer instructed. It was important, therefore, to set the matter straight.”