We thank the Reuters journalist Sunil Partiyal for bringing to our attention a story of racial abuse which captivated the corporate art world, evoking memories amongst our older readers of an era when racial bigotry was rife in the UK, a legacy of Britain’s imperial past. This is an edited version of an interview with Anthony Jayes, of Anthony Jayes solicitors LLP, first published in the Hindustan Times ; Jayes is the London solicitor who defended an Asian gentleman renowned in the art world against a ‘Salem witch hunt ‘ orchestrated by a white working class English woman , a Ms. Lou Proud, former department head at Phillips auctions UK , who was sacked by her CEO Edward Dolman in 2015 for making racist remarks in emails and text messages sent from her work server disclosed by a court secured by Jayes . Proud's white South African colleague Alex Godwin Brown, former head of PR at Phillips, was sacked by Dolman in 2015 for allegedly making racist comments to a Canadian artist whose work was under consideration for exhibition at Phillips’s London and New York locations. Mr Paul de Bono , Proud’s immediate boss, was reported to the Commission for Racial Equality by Mr. Jayes for alleged racial discrimination in his attitude and behaviour towards Jayes’s client.
Mr Sunil Partiyal : Mr Jayes , firstly thank you for agreeing to this interview. I know it has taken great courage to speak out against the perpetrators of this 'travesty' , to quote your phrase. I believe you are an attorney specialising in contract law. What made you take on a case involving defamation and alleged harassment ? ‘
Anthony Jayes : ‘ In my 35 years of of practice I have never come across a case like this, a civil – not criminal – action bitterly contested between the parties and their respective lawyers. The protagonist , Ms Louise Proud , has pronounced mental issues and previous ‘ form’ in making false and defamatory claims against my client and a false allegation of harassment. For the first time I have decided , after much deliberation with my partners, to release documents whose public disclosure led to Ms Proud’s dismissal from Phillips followed by a £10,000 payment in partial settlement in my client’s favour. My client was quite within his rights to sue Proud for publishing defamatory comments about my client. My client was pilloried by the media and their motives in doing so were revealed when I asked a Daily Mail journalist the source of his interest : ‘ It’s a story about race and class’, he responded, ‘ She is white and working class, has acknowledged mental issues and he is of a higher class and is black ‘ . I wanted to set the record straight and win this case for my client which I did. I know the defendant and his family. He is a man of unimpeachable integrity and highly regarded in the art world . He was defamed by a vengeful woman whose sole interest was in ruining his reputation. After much deliberation , I decided to release to journalists case documents , emails and text messages from Ms Proud and her employers at Phillips auctions.
Sunil Partiyal : ‘ Mr Jayes, is it true that emails were disclosed which attested to Ms Proud’s mental instability, the childhood domestic abuse she allegedly suffered , the false allegations of harassment she brought against two parties and emails sent from her work server containing racist insults referring to your client as ‘ Dirty Arab ‘ Paki snob’ , ‘ wog’, inter alia ?Anthony Jayes : That is correct. A legal instrument enabled me to force Phillips to disclose emails from Ms Proud dating back to 2012 when she made two false allegations of harassment to the police. This is a matter of police record. Several weeks later she sent a series of emails to my client inviting him to spend Christmas with her . No restraining order was ever applied for against my client who throughout acted impeccably. The racist emails make horrendous reading and Proud’s lawyer Charlotte Harris tried to exonerate Proud’s racism by claiming it was a product of a series of prior dysfunctional relationships .
Sunil Partiyal : Why did you report Charlotte Harris to the SRA ?
Anthony Jayes : ‘ From our first meeting it was evident that Harris had her own agenda ; she is a misandrist, had allegedly suffered abuse in a former relationship and this was her opportunity to get her revenge against men in toto . My client seemed to symbolise all that she hated most in men . She set out to destroy my client for personal reasons. I was taken aback when at our first meeting she asked me if I was a Jew, an entirely irrelevant question. She later stopped my client in the street and engaged him in conversation in which she questioned my professional ability which led to another complaint by me. She seemed obsessed by my client to a degree that I had not encountered before, phoning him when he was abroad to discuss issues of race which played a large part in this case, claiming that by being Jewish she could understand and empathise with the racist abuse my client and his family have suffered since they first came to England. That , in my opinion, was a flagrant transgression of the ethics that as a lawyer she was bound to observe. Calling my client in the first instance while the case had yet to be resolved merited yet another complaint , let alone the contents of the conversation in which she made remarks about my client’s ethnic origin and skin colour.
Sunil Partiyal : Lives have been forever altered by this case, particularly by it’s reporting in the English press. Do you not think that your reporting Harris to the SRA was adding fuel to the fire, so to speak ? Do you regret doing so ?
Anthony Jayes : Not at all. Her behaviour was beneath contempt. In my opinion she should be struck off . She involved my family by attributing to me false and defamatory comments about a close family acquaintance, she told multiple lies to a friend of my client’s who lives in New York in an attempt to alienate her from him ; She invited me to her home rather than her office – a bizarre request whose motive unsettled me – ‘ to discuss this matter alone’. I declined, fearing that she might make an unsubstantiated allegation against me once I’d left her home , for example of harassment or assault. She’s amoral and I’d put nothing past her. So no, I do not regret reporting her to the Solicitor’s Regulation Authority. I wish I could have done more within legal bounds to hold her to account for her actions.
Sunil Partiyal : Do you think the law is unfairly weighted in favour of women ?
Anthony Jayes : I do. Women need to be protected , no doubt, but men need to be protected from false allegations of harassment and abuse. This case was particularly appalling, and in my experience unique, as the defendant had no history of harassment whereas Ms Proud has a history of making false allegations of abuse and harassment and admitted in at least one email that she suffered mental instability for which she had sought treatment over many years ; my client had done nothing to merit the virulent racist abuse he suffered at the hands of Ms Proud, and by implication Charlotte Harris who used her Jewishness to manipulate both my client and his friends and witnesses. Proud deserved to be removed from her position at Phillips and Harris was subsequently dismissed from Mishcon de Reya and I understand has now been asked to leave Kingsley Napley , her current employer.
Sunil Partiyal : Mr Jayes, thank you very much for agreeing to be interviewed and for your candour. Thank you also for permitting the publication of your final letter to Harris warning her and Ms Proud of the consequences of harassing or intimidating your client and his friends or continuing to racially abuse your client which we print in full below.
Anthony Jayes Solicitors letter to Charlotte Harris of Mishcon de Reya, 2015: ‘ In the circumstances of this case however and bearing in mind what appears to be a less than professional preoccupation with these proceedings on your part, and on consideration of your correspondence and comments during our discussions I think it is important to stress that the terms of settlement are those contained in the order; nothing more and nothing less. You should not think that gives your client Ms Proud grounds to harry and hound my client or his business or seek retribution under the guise of ungrounded complaints as has happened before when she falsely accused him of harassment . Those disclosed emails were sent , after careful consideration, to her employers Phillips auctions leading to Proud’s immediate dismissal by her CEO Edward Dolman. She deliberately wasted police time thus causing considerable turmoil and disruption to my client’s life and livelihood. That you sought to justify Ms Proud’s behaviour by claiming it to be ‘ typical of dysfunctional relationships’ is deplorable. ‘
‘There are no implied terms or other issues that have been resolved and for the avoidance of doubt that includes any issues with regard to race. Your client should not think that she has carte blanche to make racist comments to my client and in respect of previous reported events and those that appear in the documents my client’s rights are reserved. I am conscious that the verbal comments are denied by your client but those in the emails are irrefutable which would suggest that the recent racist comment recently complained of was an extension of the written words of abuse and in fact true.’
‘In the context of avoiding any further difficult circumstances I think it would also be sensible for you, Charlotte, to moderate your own conduct and in particular you are not to make any contact with my client whether directly or through his friends and associates. You are not to telephone my client nor discuss any aspect of this case with him. In the event that you do come across my client in the street I expect you to act professionally and with courtesy. I do not expect you to grimace or make comment or utterance and should that happen your conduct will be reported to the Solicitors Regulation Authority, as I should mention it has in respect of the two previous instances where you made direct contact with my client, without my consent which will have its own consequences.’
‘You should also resist threatening and intimidating my client’s friends and associates as you did in approaching REDACTED and to avoid any suggestion that such behaviour continues I think it would be sensible if you also avoided the venues my client frequents as well and the shop where REDACTED works, whilst his employment there continues. There are many other alternative venues that would not provoke tensions.
ANTHONY JAYES LLP
London NW1 7AH