The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, has apologised to a Muslim man after a government press release falsely described him as an extremist hate preacher.

The press release, published in September 2015, concerned UK Government measures to stop extremists from radicalising students in universities and colleges. It identified Dr Salman Butt, the chief editor of the Islam21C website, as an extremist hate preacher who legitimised terror, and as someone from whose influence students should be protected.

Dr Butt subsequently brought proceedings against the Home Secretary, including for libel.

In a statement in open court read out on 15 November 2021before Mr Justice Nicklin, who sits as Judge in Charge of the Media and Communications List, the Government accepted that the press release’s description of Dr Butt was “wholly false”. It publicly apologised to Dr Butt, and agreed to pay him compensation and his legal costs. It also agreed to remove Dr Butt’s name from the press release.

Dr Butt’s barrister told the court that Dr Butt “…was opposed in the strongest possible terms to all criminal violence, and [was] deeply offended by the suggestion that his speeches legitimise terrorism or that students should be protected from what he says”.

He continued: “The publication of these false and defamatory allegations by the Defendant has caused Dr Butt and his family very great distress, anxiety and damage to his reputation. He was particularly upset that these allegations had appeared in a formal government document that was issued for the information of the press and that it was published without any prior warning being given to him, and without providing him with any opportunity to respond.”

The barrister acting for the Home Secretary told the court that the Government was, “…sorry for the harm caused to [Dr Butt] and in particular for the fact that the allegation was made and maintained for so long”.