Law firm for ex-NHS IT head Richard Granger issues warning

A law firm which represents Naomi Campbell, Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant is also acting for the former director general of NHS IT Richard Granger.

A law firm which represents Naomi Campbell, Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant is also acting for the former director general of NHS IT Richard Granger.

The firm, Schillings, says on its website that it is "one of Britain's top law firms dedicated to safeguarding the reputations of international corporations, brands, celebrities and high-profile business people".

Its clients also include GlaxoSmithKline, the Harrods Group and the London Stock Exchange.

Schillings says that it "uses the law to protect the reputations, privacy and confidentiality of clients by helping them and their PR advisers to manage what is published and broadcast about them".

Working for Richard Granger

Details of work done by Schillings for Richard Granger emerged during a Parliamentary committee hearing earlier this month into press standards, privacy and libel.

Committee MP Paul Farrelly asked Ian Hislop, the editor of the magazine Private Eye, for examples of the "chilling" effects of libel and conditional fee arrangements in which claimants pay their legal costs only if their claim is successful.

Hislop had brought a letter to the committee from Schillings "to prove the point". He said, "Last week I received this letter from Schillings, a firm which does a great deal of threatening newspapers and other publications in terms of privacy.

"Now, Schillings has sent me a letter saying it acts for a man called Richard Granger." Granger was chief executive of NHS Connecting for Health, a part of the Department of Health which is delivering parts of the £12.7bn National Programme for IT. Granger left the NHS more than a year ago."

Legitimate target of inquiry

Hislop said, "Mr Granger is not involved in a sex scandal... He is a legitimate target of inquiry for journalists. I have a letter from Schillings here saying, 'We understand that your journalist has been approaching various parties to make inquiries'.

"That is it, a lawyer's letter straight in. It quotes Reynolds [a libel-related case] immediately, 'We remind you of the recent judgment ... defamatory allegations ... confidentiality' - it is confidential and private, what we are asking about, his business life."

Hislop said that Schillings wanted to know all the allegations and, in advance of publication, what would be said. The law firm also wanted to know when Private Eye was going to publish. The letter ended with a threat, said Hislop. "That is a 'chill wind'," he added.

Privacy law for the rich and powerful

Hislop said his journalist was just "asking questions". He claimed that the letter was proof that privacy law is used not only by celebrities. "Straight away, as soon as the celebrities make a bridgehead, the rich and powerful who want to use it for their own means come right in behind," he said.

Hislop said that Schillings had marked its letter "Private and Confidential". He read parts of it because he "assumed it was more important to tell you [the committee] about it than observe Mr Schillings' wishes".

Schillings made no comment to Computer Weekly and gave no reply to our questions.

Photo credit: casey.marshall/Flickr

Read more on IT risk management