The Times has apologised to the former CEO of Al Rayan Bank, Sultan Choudhury OBE, after it published a photo of him online next to a pre-paywall preview of an article that had the headline: ‘Female Circumcision is like clipping a nail, claimed speaker’.

The quote was not actually from Mr Choudhury, but from a former speaker at an institute of which Choudhury had been an unpaid director. This was explained in the full article, but that was behind a paywall and only available to subscribers of the Times.

Mr Choudhury brought a defamation claim against the Times, alleging that the preview was ‘misleading and libelous’ because the headline and the photograph meant he held the views espoused in the headline, which he said he found ‘abhorrent’. He said he was ‘utterly shocked’ by the preview, which had caused him huge distress and had resulted in him being sent hateful comments online and argued that the Times could not rely upon the whole article in its defense because the ordinary internet reader could not see it because it was behind the paywall.

The Times published an apology, explaining that any impression that the headline conveyed Mr Choudhury’s views was not intended, and making clear that Mr Choudhury did not say those words. The Times also apologised for any distress caused to Mr Choudhury and agreed to pay damages and his legal costs.

The case is a helpful reminder that care must always be taken when showing part of an article alongside photos without the full article for context.