Tag Archives: mark lewis

Daily Mirror publisher faces ‘three to four’ phone-hacking cases, says lawyer

Announcing the launch of an internal review of editorial controls and practices last week, Trinity Mirror, publisher of the Daily Mirror, was keen to stress that the review was not connected to recent phone-hacking allegations levelled against its tabloid.

The publisher issued a statement in response to the claims that the Mirror was implicated in the use of the so-called dark arts, calling them “totally unsubstantiated”.

But allegations concerning the paper have since mounted. Lawyer Mark Lewis, who has represented a number of celebrities in phone-hacking suits against News International, said in yesterday’s Sunday Times that the Mirror is facing “about three or four cases which will start within the next few weeks”.

Another report, in the Independent on Sunday, claims that “top investors” in Trinity Mirror, undoubtedly concerned by the steep share-price drop the company saw last week, “want to know more” and have quizzed chief executive Sly Bailey.

Former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan, who was fired by Bailey in 2004, has come under scrutiny as the spotlight shifts from News International to Trinity Mirror, although he denies any knowledge of criminality at the Mirror during his time there. Conservative MP Louise Mensch was forced to apologise to Morgan in parliament last week, after incorrectly stating he had admitted being aware of phone hacking at the tabloid.

Citing evidence collected by the Information Commissioner’s Operation Motorman report, blogger Guido Fawkes has alleged that Morgan signed off on £442,000-worth of invoices submitted to the paper by a private detective. It is important to note, however, that the use of a private detective does not necessarily involve any criminality.

According to a report in yesterday’s (31 July) Sunday Telegraph, Trinity Mirror is planning to increase its cost-cutting target for the year from £15 million to £25 million, triggering further job losses.

The company is due to publish its annual financial results on 11 August.

‘Questions need answers’ from NotW, says PCC chair

The chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, Baroness Peta Buscombe, has said there are “serious questions which need answers” by News International after “their own internal inquiries were not robust”.

In a letter to a lawyer who successfully sued her for libel in relation to the phone-hacking investigation, the chairman condemns all those at the News of the World who have been involved in hacking.

The chairman yesterday wrote to Mark Lewis, a lawyer for some of the celebrities and public figures who believe they are victims of hacking, stating that the committee set up by the PCC to review phone hacking is robust.

Giving evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport committee last year, Lewis said he was told by DS Mark Maberly, a Metropolitan police officer, that 6,000 people may have had their phones hacked by the News of the World.

Buscombe later said in a speech at the Society of Editors conference that Lewis had misquoted Maberly, prompting the libel claim which saw the chairman publicly apologise in the High Court and pay damages to Lewis.

Lewis, of  Taylor Hampton Solicitors, wrote to Baroness Buscombe earlier this week and she has now responded.

“Let me be clear about my position on phone hacking, which has been consistent throughout.

“It is a deplorable practice, and an unjustifiable intrusion into an individual’s privacy,” she said in the letter.

“The commission has always said that it is a breach of the Editors’ Code.

“As I said to the Independent in February this year, it brings shame upon the whole journalistic profession. I condemn all those at the News of the World who have been involved in it.”

Former News of the World journalist defends phone-hacking at lively debate

The News of the World phone-hacking scandal was once again in the spotlight last night, this time at City University where reporters, lawyers, a former tabloid editor and a victim of the NotW’s close attention gathered to debate the question: “How far should a reporter go? The lessons of the News of the World phone-hacking story.”

Former News of the World deputy features editor Paul McMullan spoke largely in defence of the newspaper and its practices, revealing that he had been contacted three times by the Metropolitan police following his recent admission of illegally obtaining information while at the newspaper.

McMullan is one of a string of former NotW staff to confess to phone-hacking, both on the record and anonymously, and allege that the practice was widespread at the newspaper. He admitted last night that he had illegally hacked voicemail accounts, bank accounts and medical records for an investigation into cocaine smuggling.

Appearing alongside McMullan were: former Daily Mirror editor Roy Greenslade, who elected to speak on behalf of the NotW in the absence of a senior figure from the newspaper; former director of public prosecutions Sir Ken Macdonald; Guardian reporter Nick Davies, who broke the story initially and has reported on it extensively; former head of the FIA Max Mosley, who won record damages of 60,000 from the newspaper in a privacy action, and defamation lawyer Mark Lewis, who has represented many of those claiming damages from the NotW after the scandal. The debate was chaired by Andrew Caldecott QC.

Guardian reporter Nick Davies began by apologising to the NotW for “saying some beastly things about it” and said they were unlucky to get caught out in an industry-wide practice

I should start off by apologising to the NotW, in a way I feel sorry for them. It’s sheer fluke and bad luck that that particular newspaper is the subject of all this attention. It’s just because one journalist Clive Goodman got caught hacking the voicemail not of an ordinary punter but of the royal family. All of us with our headlights on know very well that this illegal activity was going on in most Fleet Street newsrooms.

Davies even drew attention to the naming of the Guardian’s sister paper the Observer by the Information Commissioner’s report on obtaining of phone records. But despite his apologies he was unequivocal in his distaste for the phone-hackers: “I’ve had enough. Even though I’m a reporter I want a law to protect me from these creatures. These people have no business in our phone calls, they have no business in our bedrooms.”

Davies did however speak out in support of a law which would give reporters additional powers to hack into telephones and voicemail accounts where there was a demonstrable public interest.

What we’ll discover as we go through this evening is that a lot will cluster around two simple words, ‘public interest’ (…) I would go so far as to say I would like to see a change in the law to allow journalists to intercept voicemail messages if it’s in the public interest. The huge problem is that nobody knows where the boundaries of that concept are.

Well, as Roy Greenslade pointed out in his terrifically acted (if somewhat comical) turn defending the NotW, “What is the public interest to the Guardian and the Observer is very different when you reach the celebrity agenda of the Sun and the NotW.”

Paul McMullan clearly has a very different concept of public interest to Nick Davies and especially to Max Mosley, with whom he repeatedly clashed. McMullan said, in answer to “How far should a reporter go?” that “if you want to get ahead in journalism you have to go as far as you possibly can, there is no limit”.

I think privacy is the thing we really have to fight against, privacy is the place where we do bad things. We hide our misdemeanors embarassments and things we wouldn’t want to have to tell our wives and children we were up to and then we say privacy, it’s my private life, I can break my marital contract, I can have a completely false public perception when actually, I’m a grubby little sinner.

Mosley, on the other hand, is clearly more of a fan of the French way of doing things. He claimed throughout that the private lives of public figures have no bearing on their public life, dismissing McMullan’s notion that there was a legitimate public interest in reavealing the private actions of those who presented themselves as family men, or who were said to be role models.

…there is this mad argument ‘oh we should expose Tiger Woods or Mr [John] Terry because they tell the world they are great family men and they’re not. This is the idea that people go to watch John Terry play football or Tiger Woods pay golf, and they say to themselves ‘why am I going to see him, oh because he’s a wonderful family man’. It’s so absurd.

Mosley was very firm in his belief that jounalists should not be able to get away with breaking the law because they decide it serves the public interest. Defamation lawyer Mark Lewis pointed out that if the police want to tap somebody’s phone they have to approach the home secretary first for permission, with prima facie evidence, and not just go on a “fishing expedition” if they so decide.

Sir Ken Macdonald, former director of public prosecutions, countered that their argument was “too simplistic”, arguing that without journalists bending, or perhaps breaking the law, a huge number of important public interest stories would not have been published. Macdonald also expressed concern about allowing public figures to live “entirely parallel lives”, which he said could lead journalists to “an attitude of deference to those in power and to cultural elites”.

His comment prompted an audience member to ask whether a hypothetical story about David Cameron being caught with call girls had legitimate public interest. Given what this information would tell us about the judgement of the country’s prime minister in opening himself up to bribery and coercion, Nick Davies was surprisingly unsure whether he thought this constituted public interest.

Repeatedly mentioned of course was Cameron’s director of communications and former NotW editor Andy Coulson. Last night’s Dispatches documentary featured a former senior NotW journalist claiming, anonymously, that the former editor had listened to hacked voicemail messages. Coulson has continually denied any knowledge of phone-hacking, despite recent accusations in the New York Times that he sanctioned the practice. Roy Greenslade, in his role as the newspaper’s defender, sounded quite convinced in his support of Coulson, inparticular Coulson’s claim that he wouldn’t neccessarily have known or even asked about the provenance of stories. According to Greenslade:

Editors don’t have to know every intimate detail on this occasion I don’t think he did (…) A lot of people here will say ‘of course he knew’, but it seems perfectly feasible to me that you don’t neccessarily know every detail about the methodology.

The panelists debated various possible ways of negotiating the difficult terrain between freedom of the press and privacy, with Max Mosley calling for the law to require prior notification on issues which the subject of the story might not want publicised. Mosley’s strict position was largely dismissed by the journalists present, who saw the extent to which it could compromise a free press. Nick Davies suggested a variation on the idea, in which editors could approach a “council of wise men” who (quite who was never clarified) could arbitrate and advise on publication, with their recommendation taken in to account if the editor was challenged post-publication.

The risk all these possible regulatory measures pose to freedom of the press was articulated of course, leaving the panel not much closer to a workable solution to the problem by the end. But it was a spirited debate which generated decent conversation about some of the issues at the heart of the phone-hacking scandal and well-demonstrated the difficulty of satisfying both the need for freedom of the press and the need for privacy.

Solicitor Mark Lewis considering legal action against PCC

Mark Lewis, the solicitor who represented the head of the Professional Footballers Association, Gordon Taylor, in the News International phone hacking case, is considering taking legal action against the Metropolitan Police, the Press Complaints Commission and its chair Peta Buscombe.

In a unexpected addition to her speech at the Society of Editors conference last year, Buscombe cited police claims that Lewis’ evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport select committee was false [also see today’s main news story here]. Lewis, giving evidence to the committee’s inquiry into allegations of widespread phone hacking at News of the World, said detective sergeant Maberly had told him there were 6,000 people  affected by phone hacking – but he was not clear if this was the number of phones, or whether it included the people who left messages on hacked phones.

Following Buscombe’s claims about his evidence, Lewis complained through numerous letters to the PCC. Lewis told Journalism.co.uk at yesterday’s CMS press briefing that his complaint with the PCC and the Met “was not over by a long shot yet” and that he may pursue legal action against both organisations.

When Journalism.co.uk previously contacted the PCC over Lewis’ complaints, the Commission did not wish to comment.

As reported by the Independent on Sunday, Lewis has asked for the police inquiry into phone hacking to be re-opened, headed by someone other than assistant commissioner John Yates – whose phone hacking evidence was today criticised by the CMS committee in its press standards, privacy and libel report.

Full coverage of the CMS report at this link…

The report in full and our page-by-page guide at this link…

Mark Lewis: Libel law’s ‘killing effect’

Mark Lewis, the solicitor-advocate in Manchester who currently represents Dr Peter Wilmshurst (see background here),  has written an excellent piece on the need for libel reform, in the Solicitors’ Journal. “When the law is so bad that it leaves you speechless it needs changing,” he writes.

The law of defamation is expensive to pursue and even dearer to defend. The stress, time and financial cost of a libel case stop people speaking out. Libel law is simple currently: a rich claimant trumps a poor defendant. Newspapers worry about the ‘chilling effect’ of libel – investigative journalism is hampered as a result of lawyers for the press advising their clients to err on the side of caution.

At least it’s not a matter of life or death. Well, it is now. The chilling effect turned into the ‘killing effect’ when claimants realised that a well-drafted claim form is likely to have the effect of silencing an individual who attacks medical products or procedures.

Full story at this link…

PCC chair should resign over phone hacking evidence denial, says lawyer

Mark Lewis, the lawyer whose phone hacking evidence has been challenged by the Press Complaints Commission chair, Baroness Peta Buscombe, has called for her resignation.

A Metropolitan Police detective inspector had been wrongly quoted in phone hacking evidence given to the House of Commons, Buscombe yesterday told delegates at the Society of Editors’ annual conference.

A letter to the PCC from police lawyers claimed that only ‘a handful’ of people were targeted by News of the World, Buscombe cited, contradicting evidence given by lawyer Mark Lewis to the Commons select committee investigating media law and press regulation, in September.

As reported by Press Gazette, Buscombe said: “This letter says that [Detective Inspector] – Mr Maberly has in fact been wrongly quoted on the 6,000 figure. The reliable evidence, we were told in an email confirming the contents of the letter, is that given by assistant commissioner John Yates to the select committee, who referred to only a ‘handful’ of people being potential victims.”

Following Buscombe’s claims at the conference, Mark Lewis from Stripe Solicitors has today issued a fierce letter to the PCC, copied to the chair of the Commons Select Committee and the Press Association. Addressing Buscombe, Lewis wrote: “I am sure that upon mature reflection you will appreciate that in doing so you have betrayed any semblance of impartiality and regrettably ought to find yourself in a position where the honourable action would be for you to resign.”

Lewis maintains the accuracy of his evidence: ‘the conversation that I had with DS Maberly was witnessed by at least two other people, including the barrister for [Professional Footballers’ Association chief executive] Gordon Taylor.’

His letter is reproduced in full below:

Dear Baroness

I am deeply concerned that you have thought it proper to criticise my evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee without either having the courtesy or the propriety to put the allegations to me first. I regret that your failure to act properly has compromised any veneer of impartiality that you sought to create.

The different versions of events that appear to have been given do not even amount to a conflict of evidence. It seems that you have chosen to accept the contents of a hearsay letter constructed on behalf of the Metropolitan Police rather than the first hand evidence that was given by me to the Select Committee.  I am sure that upon mature reflection you will appreciate that in doing so you have betrayed any semblance of impartiality and regrettably ought to find yourself in a position where the honourable action would be for you to resign.

If it assists, the conversation that I had with DS Maberly was witnessed by at least two other people, including the barrister for Gordon Taylor. The context of the conversation was the resolution of the application for Third Party Disclosure against the Metropolitan Police. You will be aware that the Metropolitan Police had not told victims of phone hacking that they were victims. It is a matter of great concern that you have still not sought to examine the underlying documentation that would disprove the contents of the letter sent by the Metropolitan Police.  I was sceptical of the “whitewash” report that the PCC had issued but had satisfied myself that the report was carefully constructed to record that you had investigated nothing and consequently found nothing. My concern now is that you have magnified those findings in such a way as to suggest that there were a mere handful of victims.

My evidence was clear. DS Maberly had told me the 6000 figure but that he would not give me everything, just enough “to hang the News of the World”.

If you had checked the underlying documents you would have realised that the Police evidence was no more than “spin”. I find myself incredulous at the crassness of your statement. Even on the Gordon Taylor case, there were more examples of phone hacking than the “handful” that was mentioned within your report or by the Metropolitan Police. Of course, it suits the Metropolitan Police to try and downplay their woeful failures to notify all the victims of unlawfulness. In the Taylor case there were numerous individuals whose phone messages were hacked, and whose numbers were therefore acquired by the enquiry agent Glenn Mulcaire.

The dishonesty of the News of the World position was demonstrated by the News of the World’s initial denial of the use of information that had been obtained by unlawful phone hacking. It was only after the disclosure of the “transcript for Neville” document that the News of the World were forced to concede that the evidence that they had given was false. It is astonishing that you are not more concerned that a “Statement of Truth” was put forward by the News of the World that was incorrect. Evidence was given to the Court that was untrue. That evidence was given on behalf of a national newspaper that enjoys a very substantial readership. Why has the PCC not taken action against the News of the World? Why did you not mention that aspect within your speech to the Society of Editors?

The settlement of the Taylor case followed a Court Order that the News of the World must identify the individual known as ‘Ryle’ . The News of the World did not do so and has not done so. Have they given that information to the PCC? Have you listened to the recording?

Rather the News of the World chose to settle the case rather than identify their own employee who had been engaged in that unlawful activity. It is noteworthy that your report chose not to investigate that aspect. The PCC can be nothing unless it is a beacon of truth prepared to expose and criticise its own members where it is proper to do so.

Whilst I am as strong an advocate as there can be for a free press as a balance to Parliament and the Judiciary, I do so by balancing the absolute standard of honesty and the need to protect privacy. The unlawful access of phone messages in order to find tittle-tattle is wholly unacceptable by any decent standard. I should not have to remind you that it is your job to enforce those proper standards so that we can have an honest and free press not just a free press.

I will debate this issue with you in any forum. A free and open debate is called for after the findings of the Select Committee. If DS Maberly wishes to expose himself to cross-examination by the Select Committee than he should offer himself up to give evidence and disclose all the underlying documentation that will show exactly how many individuals had their phones hacked and how many individuals were listened to.

Yours truly

Mark Lewis

Letter to John Whittingdale MP

Dear Mr Whittingdale

I enclose a copy of a letter that I have sent to Baroness Buscombe as a result of her suggestion that I misled your Committee. I have not misled it at all and standby the evidence that I gave.

If the Committee wishes to recall me then I will gladly attend. I invite the Metropolitan Police to volunteer the disclosure that they gave in the Taylor case as well as the wider disclosure that they refused to give in order that I can demonstrate the falsity of their position.

Yours sincerely

Mark Lewis

Copy of letter to Press Association