The eminent media lawyer behind the Sunday Telegraph being forced to pay 'substantial damages' to the chairman of Finsbury Park Mosque is a devout Christian who has issued a scathing attack on the 'press-biased' regulator and on Fleet Street's 'scant regard for the truth'.
Jonathan Coad, who has acted successfully for high-profile clients including Tulisa Contostavlos, the Duchess of York and Paul McKenna, told Christian Today that his Christian faith and subsequent sense of justice drives all his work.
'Fleet Street is controlled by a small number of very powerful individuals, most of whom seem to have scant regard for the truth, and who are also determined that they should not be held accountable for what they publish,' Coad said. 'As a Christian that concerns me very greatly. So it falls to me to do what I can to prevent false information being published and if it is published, see that it is corrected.'
Coad was speaking to Christian Today after the Telegraph confirmed that it had paid damages and removed the March 2016 article, which was by the journalist Andrew Gilligan and claimed that the mosque administrator, Mohammed Kozbar, supported the use of violence in the Israel-Palestine conflict and blamed the UK government for the rise of Islamic State.
Headlined 'Corbyn and the mosque leader who blames the UK for Isil', the article featured a picture of the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn shaking hands with Kozbar, and a quote in which he said the mosque chairman was 'fantastic'.
Coad, of Keystone Law, previously said that at a preliminary hearing, a judge had determined that the article meant his client was 'a supporter of violent Islamist extremism who has praised and encouraged Islamist terrorism abroad, and that he is a hypocrite who has falsely claimed to have led the mosque away from Islamist extremism when he knows he has not done so.'
Coad told Mr Justice Warby that the 'grave and unjustified' defamation was aggravated by the assertion that Kozbar had declined to comment, when in fact the newspaper had never made contact with him.
Coad said: 'Mr Kozbar is content to use this opportunity to point out that, notwithstanding its bullish attitude prior to the issue of proceedings, the defendant has shied away from the opportunity to stand by the grave allegations that it published against him and his faith community, and has rather bought itself out of these proceedings by means of a substantial payment in damages. On that basis he is also content to let this matter rest.'
Coad told this website: 'I have been a critic of the British press and particularly a critic of the self-regulation of the British press for around 25 years.'
Speaking of the current supposed watchdog, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), Coad said, with a reference to Lord Leveson's call for new press regulations: 'IPSO is a completely inadequate and press-biased regulator and should be replaced with something which is Leveson compliant.'
'And I say that as a Christian because of one of Jesus Christ's name that he gave himself is the Truth. And if you don't have a proper independent regulator then what suffers is the truth. For Christians the truth is of incomparable value and is something for which I should fight.
'Before IPSO I was a vocal critic of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC).'
Coad, who came to faith aged 14, attends an Anglican church but said he is 'not wedded to one denomination' and describes himself as 'just a servant of Jesus' who is happy worshipping at Baptist, Methodist and Catholic churches too.
He said of his client: 'Mohamed is such a nice guy. I describe him as man of peace, and having got to know him, he is a lovely man of peace. The allegations against him in the Telegraph were really horrible, portraying him at least as an apologist for violence if not worse. It seemed to me that one way I could do the work of Jesus in my job which I try and do all the time is to serve a man of peace from another faith, representing him in a claim based on him being very badly wronged by a national newspaper.
'I told him I was a Christian from the outset. He loved the fact that I was a Christian and making this part of my Christian work. He though that was a great thing and we were very much able to speak to each other as two people who have a strong faith.'
Coad, who is now representing Noel Edmonds who is suing Lloyds Bank, added: Faith is the absolute basis and the centre of my work, completely. And all my clients know that I'm a Christian and am pretty sure most of Fleet Street know that I'm a Christian.'