Mr Jagdish Mehta, a Reuters journalist, has written extensively about a civil action in the UK which in the opinion of many readers gives the lie to the orthodoxy that Britain has evolved into a tolerant multi racial society where skin colour or creed are not determining factors in the advancement or progress of British immigrants. The civil action , initiated by a working class white girl , Lou Proud , who has a history of making false allegations of harassment , was in turn accused of racially abusing an asian male in a series of emails disclosed by a court order procured by the London solicitor Anthony Jayes which led to Proud’s immediate dismissal as head of photographs at Phillips UK auction house.
Lou Proud , the 46 year old former head of photographs at Phillips auctions was dismissed by her CEO Edward Dolman after the disclosure of emails containing ‘ irrefutably’ racist remarks , according to her immediate superior Mr Paul De Bono. She was forced to issue a public apology and pay £10,000 as a penalty fine to the victim of her abuse.
It is further alleged that she has been accused of handling stolen artworks and has been accused of harassment of the photographer Alison Jackson who threatened her with a restraining order.
Her former colleague at Phillips UK Alex Godwin-Brown who was dismissed by Mr. Dolman in 2015 after the disclosure of racist remarks attributed to her was interviewed by the Pakistani newspapers The Daily Nawa I Waqt and Pakistan Today . Here we re print the second part of that interview.
Jagdish Mehta : Ms Godwin – Brown , you deny being a racist and repudiate the allegation in court documents disclosed by the London solicitor Anthony Jayes that you racially insulted an asian man who at that time was in litigation with your colleague Lou Proud .
Ms. Proud, who was recently sacked by the Qatar Museum Authority is facing allegations of theft of art works which were consigned to her during her tenure at Phillips auctions . She was questioned last month in Qatar in this regard and about remarks she allegedly made about a client named Bjorn Von Below ?
Alex Godwin – Brown : Yes, I heard that she had been arrested in Doha but not formally charged . Lou said that Bjorn Von Below, a banker and Phillips client , had been mentioned in correspondence to Gaby du Plooy , in connection with one of the art pieces that she is supposed to have stolen but I know nothing more. I believe that Bjorn is one of her clients to whom has she sold several pieces.
JM : It’s been reported in the Qatar press that Proud skipped the UK to avoid paying £200,000 in legal fees to Kingsley Napley solicitors.
AGB : I have no comment to make.
JM : Did you or Proud’s lawyer call Ms. Du Plooy and try to persuade her to withdraw her statement implicating Proud as an accessory in art theft as alleged ?
AGB: I know nothing about that.
JM : It is alleged that a formal complaint was made to Kingsley Napley solicitors.
ABG: I can’t comment .
JM: Would you agree that It’s the kind of vindictive or retributive action that one might expect of Ms Proud who has a history of making false allegations of harassment , or to give her the benefit of the doubt, one might infer as such from the disclosed documents and emails which Mr. Jayes described as ‘ irrefutably racist ‘ . Would you agree ?
AGB : I can’t imagine her doing that. She had a clinical breakdown after the civil action which was too stressful for her to cope with. She was quite alarmed how a minor civil action had spun out of control and the consequent publicity greatly upset her. She had an abortion while she was employed by Phillips which greatly traumatised her. She had to have at least six months of therapy and was always taking time off work. I felt sorry for her and still support her whatever difficulties she might find herself in.
JM: What do you think of her former lawyer Charlotte Harris ? Why was she reported three times to the Solicitor’s governing authority by Mr. Jayes ?
AGB : I think Lou greatly regretted hiring Harris. Lou mentioned that Harris had been abused in a former relationship and was seeking vengeance by proxy, so to speak.
JM : Two of Harris’s colleagues we spoke to mentioned that she had issues with being Jewish and female in a predominantly male profession .
AGB : Maybe that’s true. Lou was initially pleased when Harris took her on but became exasperated when she realised that Harris had her own agenda and advised Lou that on no account should she go to court.
JM : Mr Jayes told us that Harris was furious when Proud’s racist emails were disclosed to Phillip’s senior management, leading to Proud’s dismissal .
AGB : That’s correct. I guess they had no option but to sack her.
JM : In the disclosed emails Ms Proud insults an asian art dealer and Phillips client, referring to him by the names of Indian vegetables , by repeatedly describing him as an ‘ Arab’ when she knew he was a Hindu and calling him a ‘ black bastard’ among other pejoratives. We have seen these documents and the comments attributed to Ms Proud are, to quote Mr Jayes, ‘ irrefutable’.
ABG : I agreed earlier in this interview that overtly racist insults are unacceptable. I can’t comment further as Lou refused to discuss the contents of the disclosed emails. We all knew that she’s been carpeted by Phillips management. Nicola Mason told me that Lou was fortunate that criminal charges were not brought against her.
JM : We were told that papers were submitted to the police by Jayes . We spoke to the French photo dealer Thierry Marlat last year who claimed never to have been in a relationship with Proud and described her as mentally unstable . He said he had not seen her in four years and then admitted to having seen her more recently at the Arles Photo Fair. He seemed to be embarrassed to be associated with her.
AGB : That’s nonsense. Lou was in a long relationship with him and stayed with him in Paris en route to Doha very recently . I met him several times at Phillips with Lou. He’s well liked . He ended the relationship as he did not want to move to London but maybe they’ve got back together again.
JM: Mr Marlat has been supplying Proud with prints for years. Is he implicated in the art theft allegation ?
AGB: I cannot comment.
JM: Were you aware that Ms Proud had made at least one false allegation of harassment ?
AGB : Yes, Nicola Mason told me .
JM: Were you aware that she was being sued for defamation ?
JM : Proud appears to have a history of making false allegations of harassment . According to Kingsley Napley she had been arrested for racially abusing a hotel worker; was this information disclosed to senior management at Phillips ?
AGB : I don’t know. Lou is a very private person . She didn’t tell me till much later that she had been undergoing psychiatric treatment in 2014.
JM : Can you tell me anything about Mr Bjorn Von Below and his alleged involvement in the theft of artwork consigned by Proud to Phillips ?
AGB : I know nothing about that.
JM: Von Below is a banker and art collector. In a disclosed letter Proud makes defamatory comments about his ancestry.
ABG : I met him twice. I didn’t take to him. I found him to be arrogant and conceited.
JM: Is it true that Proud has been sacked from the Qatar Museum’s photo department ?
AGB : I have no idea. We haven’t spoken in a long time and she told me was very unhappy working in an Arab environment. It’s a short term contract. She said she may work for Marlat if the Qatar thing falls through.
JM: Are you aware that her former lawyer Charlotte Harris may be sued for malicious harassment and slander ?
AGB: I don’t know. I’ve never met Harris.
JM: She was accused of ‘ less than professional conduct ‘ by Jayes who reported her three times to the solicitors governing body. Why was that ?
AGB: I have no idea. I heard form Lou that she was a staunch feminist and hated men.
JM : Why do you think the working classes in England hate Indians and Pakistanis ? Is it a legacy of Empire as Jayes suggests ?
AGB: Yes, perhaps that’s true. Maybe they feel threatened by their presence in the UK.
JM: Is Proud racist ?
AGB: I don’t believe she is. The comments attributed to her were probably made in the heat of the moment. I’m sure she regrets making them.
JM: Is Harris a racist ?
AGB : I have no idea.
JM: Paul De Bono was reported to the Commission for Racial Equality by Mr. Jayes. Does that surprise you ?
AGB : Yes actually, it does. I’m sure he’s not a racist. I know him well. He’s kind and considerate.
JM: Thank you Alex