Posts Tagged ‘John Witherow’

THE FALL OF ANDREW NORFOLK — PART ONE: CRUSADE

August 28, 2018

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A YEAR ago today award-winning reporter Andrew Norfolk published a piece of rogue journalism.

In a series of three articles in The Times he accused the London borough of Tower Hamlets of forcing a 5-year-old Christian child to live with Muslim foster carers.

It was a sensational exposé which made headlines around the world.

But the series was a cynical crusade against Tower Hamlets, its social workers and foster carers.

It’s part of a growing body of anti-Muslim articles in The Times.

A year-long Press Gang investigation shows Norfolk’s series was only made possible because he excluded key material.

He suppressed four important pieces of evidence:

— the mother of the child was born to Muslim parents

—  Tower Hamlets was always in favour of the child being cared for by her grandmother

— the mother has used a British-Pakistani barrister in court proceedings

— foster care experts warned Norfolk the mother’s version of events was likely to be faulty.

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ANATOMY OF A SMEAR
YOU ARE reading the first part of the most comprehensive account of Andrew Norfolk’s rogue journalism. It has taken a year to produce and includes a broad-ranging complaint to the press watchdog IPSO.
Press Gang is an independent investigative website edited by the retired former ITV current affairs producer Paddy French. He is unpaid.
Press Gang played a part in the downfall of former News of the World reporter Mazher Mahmood and exposed the unscrupulous career of Piers Morgan.
However, the expense of running the site is significant — the Guardian, for example, charged us £50 for a licence to use the picture of Andrew Norfolk.
If you want to help Press Gang bring rogue journalists to book, you can make a donation, either a small one-off amount or a more useful monthly subscription. You’ll find the Donate button at the end of this article. 

One told him bluntly:

“You shouldn’t go near this story — it just doesn’t ring true.”

Norfolk’s investigation provoked a storm of protest.

The Muslim Council of Britain branded the articles “disgracefully dishonest”.

The press complaints watchdog IPSO, part-funded by The Times, declined to investigate more than 150 complaints.

It wasn’t until Tower Hamlets entered the fray that IPSO ruled Norfolk and The Times had been inaccurate.

IPSO found their coverage “gave the impression that the judge had found the placement was a ‘failure’ by the council …”

‘“This was a distortion.”

In a major humiliation for Norfolk, The Times was forced to publish a highly critical ruling — and flag it up on the front page.

Press Gang can now reveal that Tower Hamlets also made a complaint against The Sun which had followed up Norfolk’s coverage

Sun Editor Tony Gallagher — unlike Times editor John Witherow — surrendered immediately.

The paper wrote to Tower Hamlets, accepting “the article was not accurate”.

Andrew Norfolk, though, remains unrepentant.

“I think we did our job as a newspaper,” he told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 shortly after his series was published.

Until these articles Norfolk, the chief investigative reporter of The Times, was one of Britain’s most respected journalists.

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EXCLUSIVE
THE SUN RECANTS
SUN EDITOR Tony Gallagher (above) initially repeated many of the allegations made by The Times. But the tabloid threw in the towel as soon as Tower Hamlets complained. In December 2017 the paper wrote to the council accepting that these allegations were “inaccurate”. On newspaper databases which still make the article available, the paper added that “future reporting of claims made that the child was forced to speak Arabic, had a gold cross removed, was banned from eating carbonara because of the pork content and ate meals off the floor should not be reported as fact. A court appointed independent guardian visited the foster carer and interviewed the child alone and found there to be no issues with care and care to be of a good standard.”
Photo: News UK

His work in exposing the sexual grooming of  vulnerable young girls, starting in 2011, is widely regarded as a classic piece of investigative reporting.

It won Norfolk many awards.

But among many thoughtful journalists, concerned at the rising tide of Islamophobia in some British newspapers, Norfolk’s role in the “Christian child” saga is chilling.

They cannot understand how a dedicated and courageous reporter could lower his standards to produce a series so one-sided it qualifies as rogue journalism.

Press Gang investigates the fall of Andrew Norfolk.

♦♦♦

IN March last year, police were called to a building in East London.

Officers found a young woman and her 5-year-old daughter.

Because the law protects the identity of the child, Press Gang can only reveal part of what happened.

Police decided that the circumstances in which they found the child required them to exercise their “powers of protection”.

They removed the child from her mother.

Because the incident took place in the London borough of Tower Hamlets, it was the council’s social workers who took charge of the little girl.

Social services now had to find emergency foster care while the courts decided what should happen to the child.

The 5-year-old has an unusual background.

Her mother comes from a relatively humble Muslim background in a predominantly Muslim country.

The mother tongue of both the child’s mother and her grandmother is not English.

The child knows her grandmother well.

She has her own room in her grandparents’ home.

The child’s mother insists her upbringing was Christian.

She says her daughter is also Christian.

Andrew Norfolk

CRUSADER
ANDREW NORFOLK made his name with his 2011 series about mainly British-Pakistani men sexually grooming and sexually abusing young girls in Rotherham. It led to several awards including the Orwell Prize and Paul Foot Award for investigative journalism. He was named Journalist of the Year at the 2014 British Press Awards. When he first heard about the grooming allegations his immediate thought was “this is a dream story for the far right.”  
Photo: Graham Turner for The Guardian

The child’s biological father does not appear to play a significant role in her upbringing.

Social workers now had to decide where the child should go.

They chose a foster carer who was an English-speaking Muslim whose first language is Arabic.

Their own children speak English as their main language — and English is the language used in the home.

At a court hearing in March, the mother asked that her daughter be placed in the care of her grandmother.

Tower Hamlets was in favour if the grandmother passed the necessary assessment process.

The process was delayed partly because the grandmother’s main residence was in a foreign country and because official documents had to be translated into her mother tongue.

When the first foster carers went on an extended holiday in June, a second Muslim family took over.

In the summer of 2017 “friends” of the child’s mother contacted Andrew Norfolk and told him they were concerned about the foster carers.

They provided reports from a social services supervisor which stated:

— the child was sobbing and begging not to be returned to the foster home because “they don’t speak English”

— the child claimed that the carer removed her necklace which had a Christian cross and

— the child claimed the carer suggested she should learn Arabic.

Family “friends” also told Norfolk:

— the carer refused to allow the child to eat her favourite Italian food, carbonara, because it contained bacon

— the first foster carer wore a niqab while the second foster carer wore a burqa.

♦♦♦

ANDREW NORFOLK now began to examine the evidence.

He contacted experts in fostering.

One of these was Andy Elvin, chief executive of The Adolescent and Children’s Trust (TACT).

Elvin said that, in emergency placements like this one, the number of available foster carers would be limited.

Social workers would take into account the nature of the foster carer’s home situation and their ability to give the little girl a stable home environment.

Norfolk told Elvin about the allegation that the foster carers didn’t speak English.

Elvin told him this was nonsense: all foster carers went through a lengthy assessment to make sure they were fluent in both spoken and written English.

Norfolk also asked about the removal of personal effects.

Elvin said there were likely to be sound reasons for taking this course of action.

He added:

“Norfolk also appeared to be totally unaware of basic family court proceedings.”

“This included the fact that the court appoints a guardian, independent of both the parent and the foster carer / local authority, to make sure the child is properly cared for.”

Norfolk said his sources included council reports and concerns raised by “friends” of the mother.

Elvin said he didn’t think this was good enough.

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IGNORED
ANDY ELVIN (above) is the chief executive of the UK’s largest fostering and adoption charity. He warned Andrew Norfolk that there were problems with the narrative he was exploring. The reporter ignored him …  
Photo: TACT

He told him:

“You shouldn’t go near this story —it just doesn’t ring true.”

At this point, Elvin says, Norfolk accused him of being “defensive”.

Norfolk also spoke to a journalist who is a foster carer.

This individual doesn’t want to be identified.

Norfolk gave him much more background information about the case.

The journalist told Press Gang:

“He knew that the child’s heritage was complex and that she was the daughter of migrants on both sides.”

“He had enough information to work out that some members of the family may also be Muslim”.

“He knew that the maternal grandmother had applied for custody and was being viewed favourably by social services.”

“As a foster carer, I challenged many of the claims made about the foster carers in Tower Hamlets.”

“I questioned the reasons why the crucifix might have been removed: we probably would have done the same, mainly for the child’s safety given her age.”

“I explained that birth families routinely — and understandably, perhaps — find fault in foster carers or make false allegations.”

“I also explained that family contact sessions are often difficult, and generally don’t reflect the quality of the placement.”

“I told him he should be very careful.”

These warnings should have been enough for Norfolk to dig deeper into the mother’s tale.

Was she telling the whole truth about her daughter’s placement?

Norfolk was also uniquely placed to investigate the mother’s background.

The Times’ news desk — like those of all national newspapers — was well aware of the circumstances in which the child came to be taken into care.

But Norfolk also had access to the mother — either directly (which he has never confirmed) or through “friends”.

He should have asked for documentary evidence of the mother’s Christianity and for the certificate showing where and when the little girl was baptised.

It would also have been easy for him (as it was for Press Gang) to establish that

— the mother has had relationships with men from several different countries

— this wasn’t the first time she’d been involved with the police

— she appeared to have issues with both alcohol and drugs

— she has an older child who has been the subject of proceedings in the family court.

If Andrew Norfolk made these inquiries, he decided not to share the results with readers of The Times.

Towards the end of August last year Norfolk and senior figures at the paper decided on the editorial line they were going to take.

The paper would publish the mother’s version of events.

The paper also decided that the story would feature on the front page on Monday, August 28.

The date was significant because there was a long-arranged hearing of the family scheduled for the next day.

And, a fortnight earlier, Tower Hamlets had informed the family court that the assessment of the grandmother had finally been completed.

It was positive.

This meant that the court was almost certain to end the foster care and place the child in the care of her grandmother.

Family court experts say that the mother’s legal team would have also have been informed of these developments.

Press Gang asked Andrew Norfolk and The Times if this was the reason why August 28 was chosen.

After that date, the child would no longer have been in the care of Muslim foster carers but have moved to be with her Muslim grandmother.

Neither Norfolk nor The Times answered the question.

♦♦♦

THE TIMES front page headline on August 28 could not have been starker:

Christian child forced into Muslim foster care

The sub-head read:

Concern for girl who ‘had cross removed and was encouraged to learn Arabic’

The first six paragraphs of the main story set out Andrew Norfolk’s thesis:

A white Christian child was taken from her family and forced to live with a niqab-wearing foster carer in a home where she was allegedly encouraged to learn Arabic.

The five-year-old girl, a native English speaker, has spent the past six months in the care of two Muslim households in London. The foster placements were made, against the wishes of the girl’s family, by the scandal-ridden borough of Tower Hamlets.

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In confidential local authority reports seen by The Times, a social services supervisor describes the child sobbing and begging not to be returned to the foster carer’s home because “they don’t speak English”.

The reports state that the supervisor heard the girl, who at times was “very distressed”, claiming that the foster carer removed her necklace, which had a Christian cross, and also suggested that she should learn Arabic.

It is understood that the child told her mother that when she was given her favourite Italian food to take home, the foster carer would not allow her to eat it because the carbonara meal contained bacon.

More recently, the girl is said to have told her mother that “Christmas and Easter are stupid” and that “European women are stupid and alcoholic”.

The article was illustrated by two photographs, taken from behind, which showed the second of the child’s foster carers wearing a burqa.

The child was shown wearing European clothing.

Her long hair was slightly pixellated.

The captions included the text:

“The five-year-old girl, whose identity The Times is protecting, with her present foster carer. Her mother is said to be horrified by the alien cult­ural, religious and linguistic environment in which her daughter has spent the past six months.”

The article added that Tower Hamlets was a “scandal-ridden” council, citing the removal of mayor Lutfer Rahman in 2015 for corrupt and illegal electoral practices.

It also noted an Ofsted report in April 2017 which found “widespread and serious failures in the services provided to children who need help and protection”.

Rating the children’s service as inadequate, Ofsted condemned an “entrenched culture of non-compliance with basic social work standards”.

The next day Norfolk published a second story with the headline:

Parents begged Tower Hamlets council to let child in Muslim care stay with grandmother

The article continued:

A council that forced a Christian child to live with conservative Muslim foster carers has blocked a number of attempts to move her to families where she would feel more at home.

Inquiries by The Times have established that the girl’s family has spent the past six months begging the London borough of Tower Hamlets to allow the five-year-old to be released into the care of close family friends or relatives.

The east London council has most recently opposed attempts to place the child into the temporary care of her grandmother.

♦♦♦

THE story was picked up by media in both Britain and abroad.

The credibility of The Times combined with Andrew Norfolk’s reputation persuaded many journalists and commentators to accept the paper’s narrative as fact.

Two examples show how toxic some of the coverage became.

Journalist Allison Pearson, writing in the Daily Telegraph a few days later, wrote:

It’s like something from a dark, dystopian drama.

She added

The authorities note that the child sobs and begs not to be sent back to the foster home “because they don’t speak English”. Her alarmed mother reports that her daughter says “Christmas and Easter are stupid” and that European women are “alcoholic”.

Incredibly, this is not science fiction.It’s happening right now, in Tower Hamlets, a scandal-ridden London borough, where the five-year-old has spent the past six months in the care of two different Muslim households.

The Sun published a column by Trevor Phillips, former chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, which carried the headline:

The decision to put a five-year-old Christian girl into Muslim foster care is like child abuse and the council must pay.

Phillips took The Times narrative as gospel.

♦♦♦

ANDREW NORFOLK could only publish his story by purging it of inconvenient facts and deceiving his readers about key evidence.

NATIONALITY

Norfolk bent the narrative to leave readers with the impression that the little girl was English.

Norfolk purged anything that might suggest the girl’s parents were foreign-born migrants.

He also purged the fact that the grandmother was foreign-born.

He deceived readers by describing the little girl as being a “native English” speaker. 

WITHEROW

JOHN WITHEROW
EVER SINCE he took over the editor’s chair at The Times in 2013, John Witherow has been under fire for his coverage of issues involving Briton’s Muslim population. In 2015 the press watchdog IPSO ruled that a Times story headed “One in five British Muslims has sympathy for Isis” was inaccurate. The paper had twisted a survey in which respondents weren’t even asked about the terrorist group. In 2012, when he was editor of the Sunday Times, the paper published a front page article written by the now-disgraced Mazher Mahmood, gaoled in 2016 for conspiring to pervert the course of justice. The piece accused a Muslim dentist of being willing to perform female genital mutilation. The police investigation collapsed when it turned out that an undercover “associate” of Mahmood’s had probably prostituted herself to persuade the dentist to co-operate. For the full story, see Withering Heights.
Photo: PA

He deceived readers by publishing a photo in which the little girl looked just like any ordinary English child.

MUSLIM BACKGROUND

Norfolk twisted his story to suggest the little girl was an English Christian trapped in families from an alien religious background.

To do this he had to purge the fact that the mother was from a Muslim background.

A court-approved document later made it clear her parents are Muslim.

The same document record the mother’s insistence that they are Christian.

This fundamental conflict was of no interest to Andrew Norfolk.

Norfolk also purged his narrative of the comments made by the experts he talked to.

They told him there might be innocent explanations for the removal of a necklace carrying a cross such as concerns for the little girl’s safety.

These warnings did not suit Norfolk’s chosen narrative so he simply ignored them.

LANGUAGE

In order to emphasise the horror of an apparently English-speaking girl under pressure to speak Arabic, Norfolk purged the complex linguistic heritage of the child, the mother and the grandmother.

It’s clear the child speaks at least English and the foreign language spoken by her grandmother.

The mother is multi-lingual.

The grandmother speaks English poorly at best.

TOWER HAMLETS

For Andrew Norfolk, the villain of the piece was Tower Hamlets council.

To do this he had to purge the fact that social workers had always approved the grandmother as a carer provided an assessment was positive.

Norfolk deceived his readers by using emotive language like the mother “begging” the council to allow the child to go to her grandmother.

And by stating that the council “blocked” the mother’s wish for the child to go to her grandmother.

In his first article he purged the fact that the social services supervisor’s report — the only documentary evidence he had — concerned highly charged contact sessions with the mother.

He deceived readers by leaving out the fact that the child had a court-appointed guardian who was independent of both the mother and Tower Hamlets. 

He also purged his account of the critical Ofsted report of comments which praised parts of the fostering service:

“Most children in care live in good foster homes …”

“Children living with family members and foster carers are generally settled.”

“The fostering service is actively recruiting new carers, and it supports carers well. Care proceedings are effective for most children in progressing plans for permanence.”

♦♦♦

IT WAS after Andrew Norfolk had published his first two articles that the East London Family Court sat to decide the fate of the little girl.

Judge Khatun Sapnara heard the assessment of the grandmother was positive.

Both the mother and Tower Hamlets were in favour of the child going to live with her.

The judge agreed.

Andrew Norfolk and The Times reported the hearing in a front page story the next day which included the sub-head: 

The Times praised for exposing council’s failure

But the judiciary were already moving to place a completely different narrative into the public domain.

Judge Sapnara ordered a summary of the court proceedings to be published.

It was blunt:

“For the avoidance of doubt, the Court makes it clear that the decision to approve the new care arrangements for the child to live with the grandmother under an interim care order is as a result of the application of the relevant law to the evidence now available to the court and not as a result of any influence arising out of media reports.”

The summary noted that the child’s “biological father has not been located.”

It stated that the mother’s legal representation was paid for out of public funds.

It also stated that the child’s guardian — appointed through the court and independent of both the mother and Tower Hamlets — “has no concerns as to the child’s welfare and she reports that the child is settled and well cared for by the foster carer.”

The court also ordered that legal representatives for the mother and Tower Hamlets produce an agreed statement.

Both parties accepted that the first foster carer wore a hajib [the headscarf] and not the niqab Andrew Norfolk had stated as fact in the opening paragraph of his first article. 

This statement recorded the views of the grandmother.

She “… has been distressed and angered by the allegations against the foster carers which she has said were false and lies.”

These allegations were made by the mother and reported by Andrew Norfolk.

The grandmother “has a good relationship with the carers and is grateful for the excellent care she says that they have provided to the child.”

The child told the grandmother that she “is missing the foster carer and has asked … if she can have contact with the family.”

♦♦♦

NEXT
HALLELUJAH!

THE INSIDE story of the dramatic court hearing that began to unravel Andrew Norfolk’s narrative. The judge breaks with tradition and publishes a highly revealing summary of proceedings. Noting the disagreements between the mother and the foster carers, she orders a report to be prepared that both Tower Hamlets and the mother must agree. When it’s published, it does even more damage to Andrew Norfolk’s version of even

♦♦♦

NOTES

The full text of Andrew Norfolk’s first two articles can be found at the end of this article. Press Gang is adding them because The Times operates a pay wall. 

♦♦♦

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APPENDIX 

FIRST TIMES ARTICLE
28 August 2017

BYLINE

Andrew Norfolk, Chief Investigative Editor

HEAD

“Christian child forced into Muslim foster care”

SUB-HEAD

“Concern for girl who ‘had cross removed and was encouraged to learn Arabic”

PICTURE CAPTION 1 

The girl with one of the two Muslim carers appointed by Tower Hamlets

PICTURE CAPTION  2

The five-year-old girl, whose identity The Times is protecting, with her present foster carer. Her mother is said to be horrified by the alien cult­ural, religious and linguistic environment in which her daughter has spent the past six months

A white Christian child was taken from her family and forced to live with a niqab-wearing foster carer in a home where she was allegedly encouraged to learn Arabic.

The five-year-old girl, a native English speaker, has spent the past six months in the care of two Muslim households in London. The foster placements were made, against the wishes of the girl’s family, by the scandal-ridden borough of Tower Hamlets.

In confidential local authority reports seen by The Times, a social services supervisor describes the child sobbing and begging not to be returned to the foster carer’s home because “they don’t speak English”.

The reports state that the supervisor heard the girl, who at times was “very distressed”, claiming that the foster carer removed her necklace, which had a Christian cross, and also suggested that she should learn Arabic.

It is understood that the child told her mother that when she was given her favourite Italian food to take home, the foster carer would not allow her to eat it because the carbonara meal contained bacon.

More recently, the girl is said to have told her mother that “Christmas and Easter are stupid” and that “European women are stupid and alcoholic”.

In any decision regarding a foster placement, local authorities are required to give due consideration to the child’s “religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background”.

Tower Hamlets refused to respond to requests to explain why it had chosen to place a white, English-speaking Christian child with Muslim foster carers, including one household where she was unable to understand the language spoken by the family.

Her first carer, with whom the girl lived for four months, is believed to have worn a niqab outside the family home. The carer at her present foster placement wears a burka, fully concealing her face, when she accompanies the child in public.

The wearing of a niqab or burka generally indicates adherence to a conservative, Salafi-influenced interpretation of Islam that is often contemptuous of liberal western values.

To protect the child, The Times has chosen not to identify her or the unusual circumstances that led to her being taken into care earlier this year.

The girl’s mother is said by friends to have been horrified by the alien cultural, religious and linguistic environment in which her daughter has spent the past six months.

“This is a five-year-old white girl. She was born in this country, speaks English as her first language, loves football, holds a British passport and was christened in a church,” said a friend.

“She’s already suffered the huge trauma of being forcibly separated from her family. She needs surroundings in which she’ll feel secure and loved. Instead, she’s trapped in a world where everything feels foreign and unfamiliar. That’s really scary for a young child.”

In some areas of the country, a longstanding shortage of foster carers from ethnic-minority backgrounds frequently leads to non-white children being, of necessity, placed with white British foster parents. It is far less common for the reverse to take place.

Published fostering statistics for England show that of the 51,800 children who were in foster placements last year, 39,900 (77 per cent) were white, as were 52,500 (84 per cent) of the 62,400 approved foster carers.

The 2011 national census found that 80 per cent of England’s population was white British, falling to 45 per cent in London and 31 per cent in inner-city Tower Hamlets.

Across the capital last year, 39 per cent of fostered children and 42 per cent of foster carers were white. In Tower Hamlets, only 24 per cent of looked-after children were white.

No figures were published nationally or at local authority level to show how many children were placed with foster carers of a different ethnicity.

Tower Hamlets declined to reveal how many cross-cultural foster placements it was overseeing. The council also refused to say whether it had a shortage of white British foster carers. It cited confidentiality obligations and accused The Times of putting at risk the stability of a vulnerable child’s foster placement and schooling.

Ten years ago a council report warned of a need to “recruit foster carers from a range of backgrounds” in Tower Hamlets to enable it “to match carers and children, taking into account a number of factors including ethnicity, religion, language, culture and location”.

The under-represented communities that it sought to target in 2008 in adverts for new foster carers were “Caribbean, African, Vietnamese, Bangladeshi (for older children) and white”.

More recently the council has earned public notoriety. In 2015 it was stripped by the government of many of its powers after its former mayor, Lutfur Rahman, was found guilty of corrupt and illegal electoral practices.

In April this year an Ofsted inspection of the council found “widespread and serious failures in the services provided to children who need help and protection”.

Rating the children’s service as inadequate, it condemned an “entrenched culture of non-compliance with basic social work standards”.

The Department for Education said it was unable to comment on cases but a spokesman stressed that “when placing a child in a foster home, the local authority must ensure that the placement is the most appropriate way to safeguard the child and support their welfare. A child’s background is an important consideration in this decision.”


SECOND TIMES ARTICLE
29 August 2017

BYLINE

Andrew Norfolk, Chief Investigative Editor

HEAD

“Parents begged Tower Hamlets council to let child in Muslim care stay with grandmother”

PICTURE CAPTION Tower Hamlets has placed a young Christian girl into foster care with two Muslim families in turn. For the past two months, the child’s care has been entrusted by the council to a foster carer who wears a burka
A council that forced a Christian child to live with conservative Muslim foster carers has blocked a number of attempts to move her to families where she would feel more at home.

Inquiries by The Times have established that the girl’s family has spent the past six months begging the London borough of Tower Hamlets to allow the five-year-old to be released into the care of close family friends or relatives.

The east London council has most recently opposed attempts to place the child into the temporary care of her grandmother.

Instead, she initially spent four months with a carer whose family often spoke Arabic when she was with them, leading the girl to complain that she was unable to understand what they were saying.

A Tower Hamlets employee who supervised regular meetings between the child and her family recorded the child’s distress, at the conclusion of each meeting, when she was handed over to the carer.

In a written report of one meeting, the contact supervisor described the girl as “very emotional and tearful”.

“She said they don’t speak English at the home, she doesn’t understand the Arabic words where she is. [The girl] said she wants to go back home to her [mother].”

The social services employee heard the child whispering Arabic words to her mother that she was allegedly told must be said aloud to ensure that “when you die you go to heaven”.

Her reports also describe the child’s account of her necklace, which carried a Christian cross, having been removed, and not returned, by the first foster carer.

After another supervised meeting, the council worker heard the child explaining to her mother that the foster carer “said she needs to ask [her social worker] if she can learn Arabic”.

At the end of the meeting, the girl “started crying and saying that she doesn’t want to go back”.

For the past two months, the child’s care has been entrusted by the council to a second foster carer. Both women concealed their faces when they were with the girl in public, the first by wearing a niqab and the second with a burka.

It is understood that the five-year-old has also spoken of the first foster carer having refused to let her eat a meal of carbonara because it had bacon in it.

Friends of the family said she had also told her mother that “Christmas and Easter are stupid”.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child says that any state agency considering a foster placement must pay due regard to “the desirability of continuity in a child’s upbringing and to the child’s ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic background”.

Tower Hamlets has refused to respond to requests from The Times to explain why it has twice chosen to place the girl in an environment that is wholly alien to her heritage and upbringing.

A council spokesman said yesterday that its fostering service “provides a loving, stable home for hundreds of children every year”. All its foster carers received training and support to ensure they were “fully qualified to meet the needs of the children in their care”.

“In every case, we give absolute consideration to our children’s background and their cultural identity.”

A national shortage of foster carers from minority ethnic backgrounds, particularly in rural areas, often leads to a non-white child being placed with white British foster carers. It is far more unusual for a white child to be placed in a non-white foster home.

According to published fostering statistics for England in 2016, 84 per cent of approved foster carers were white, as were 77 per cent of fostered children.

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EXCLUSIVE: THE WATCHDOG STIRS

January 19, 2018

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THE TIMES is under investigation for a controversial series of articles which claimed a five-year-old Christian child was forced by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets to live with Muslim foster parents. 

The three articles, written by award-winning Chief Investigative Reporter Andrew Norfolk and published in August last year, resulted in a barrage of complaints to the watchdog IPSO, the Independent Press Standards Organisation.

Critics claimed the series was inaccurate and amounted to a racist smear against Britain’s Muslim community. 

The Muslim Council of Britain branded the articles “disgracefully dishonest”.

IPSO — funded and controlled by newspapers including The Times — rejected 254 complaints.

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GOSPEL
THE FIRST of The Times articles, published on August 28 last year, attracted 251 complaints — all of them rejected by the Independent Press Standards Organisation.

It ruled that only people directly affected could complain about discrimination.

And it claimed it was unable to investigate allegations of inaccuracy “without the involvement of an individual in the position to know the facts of this case … “

But Press Gang has learned that everything has dramatically changed.

A “party directly involved” has recently come forward.

An IPSO spokeswoman confirmed that this person has submitted a complaint — number 255 — and that it is being investigated.

The complaint alleges that one of the articles in the series was inaccurate — and also breached the section of IPSO Editors’ Code which protects children.

The new complaint is a major blow to The Times.

The paper — and its editor John Witherow — had hoped the “Childgate” affair had blown over.

This morning Press Gang told the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) about the new development.  

Miqdaad Versi, Assistant Secretary General of the MCB, said he is now “looking to re-submit his complaint.”

He had previously condemned IPSO’s failure to investigate as an “appalling dereliction of duty”.  

WITHEROW

JOHN WITHEROW
THIS ISN’T the first time Times’ editor John Witherow has come under the Press Gang microscope. In 2012, when he was editor of the Sunday Times, the paper published a front page article written by the now-disgraced Mazher Mahmood. The piece accused a Muslim dentist of being willing to perform female genital mutilation. The police investigation collapsed when it turned out that an undercover associate of Mahmood’s had probably prostituted herself to persuade the dentist to co-operate. For the full story, see Withering Heights.
Photo: PA

Andrew Norfolk, who won the Paul Foot award for his investigative reporting of the grooming of teenage girls in the north of England, has defended his articles.

He told the BBC Today programme last October:  

“My job as a reporter, when matters on the face of it raise serious concerns are brought to our attention, my job is to investigate them.”

He added:

“And when you discover issues that you believe are in the public interest to explore and expose … I think we did our job as a newspaper.”

IPSO is also considering whether to accept another complaint: number 256.

On Wednesday, Press Gang submitted a 13 page complaint — the most comprehensive IPSO has received on the issue of accuracy.

Yesterday, a copy of the complaint was sent to Andrew Norfolk and John Witherow, editor of The Times.

We asked for a comment by 2pm this afternoon.

There was no response from either. 

The Press Gang investigation continues.

Anyone who has any further information can contact via Twitter @pguk10

♦♦♦

CORRECTION
This article was amended on January 21. The original headline — “A Watchdog Stirs? — was amended to “A Watchdog Stirs”. The second paragraph originally said there were three front page articles: in fact there were only two. Apologies for the mistake. 

♦♦♦

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RIGHT OF REPLY  
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WITHERING HEIGHTS

November 22, 2014

Mahmood_head_with_words_04

THE PANORAMA exposé of Mazher Mahmood revealed the methods the “fake sheik” used at the News of the World and the Sun on Sunday.

But he also used the same unscrupulous tactics during his two spells on the Sunday Times.

Mahmood was a reporter in the 1980s and re-joined the paper for more than a year after the closure of the News of the World in 2011.

One man who knows about Mahmood’s troubled career is John Witherow, the current editor of The Times.

Witherow worked in the Sunday Times newsroom in the 1980s when many of Mahmood’s stories had to be corrected.

He was also there when Mahmood was fired in 1989 for tampering with computer records.

But after the death of the News of the World — by which time Witherow was Sunday Times editor — he still decided to take him on.

And, of course, Mahmood was soon up to his old tricks.

Press Gang investigates a sordid tale of journalistic prostitution.

♦♦♦ 

IN APRIL 2012 the Sunday Times carried a dramatic front page.

The headline — “100,000 women mutilated in UK”.

The paper claimed they’d been subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM).

Reporters Mazher Mahmood and Eleanor Mills, the paper’s associate editor, said they had caught a doctor and a dentist:

“offering to circumcise girls as young as 10 or help to arrange for the procedure to be carried out.”

Female circumcision is illegal in the UK.

The detailed story of the undercover operation was carried on an inside double page spread.

A woman journalist, posing as a woman who wanted her nieces circumcised, went to see Dr Ali Mao-Aweys.

Dr Mao-Aweys operated a private clinic in Birmingham.

The paper recorded him saying:

“I have a doctor that will do [it].”

“He is here in Birmingham.”

He gave the undercover reporter the name of Birmingham dentist Omar Addow.

The reporter went to see the dentist.

Initially, according to the report, Addow was wary but eventually agreed to perform the operation:

“I’ll do it for you.”

“Okay, I’ll do it for you.”

“I need to organise very well … nobody should know [anything about] it — between you, me and Allah only.”

Earlier he had said he was opposed:

“It’s not allowed in this country,” he said.

“It’s really dangerous — you, everybody go to jail.”

MAZHER MAHMOOD THE PICTURE Rupert Murdoch's News UK tried to stop Panorama  on 12.   Photo: BBC

MAZHER MAHMOOD
THE PICTURE the “fake sheik” tried to stop Panorama showing in its November 12 programme. Judge Sir David Eady threw out an application that showing recent images would endanger him and his family.
Photo: BBC

“Myself, Omar, personally I am against the ritual circumcision of the female …”

The paper reported that he relaxed when the reporter mentioned Dr Mao-Aweys’ referral.

The reporter and the dentist then went to his nearby flat “to discuss the matter privately” where he agreed to carry out a limited form of the procedure.

The Sunday Times passed the evidence to the police.

Two weeks later Mazher Mahmood reported that the two men had been arrested.

He quoted West Midlands Detective Inspector Caroline Marsh:

“I am grateful to the Sunday Times for the information provided and we are currently investigating what we regard as very serious allegations.”

On the face of it, a fine piece of investigative work on a subject of national importance.

But the story soon began to unravel …

♦♦♦

IT STARTED just a few months later, in September 2012, when the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided not to bring charges.

There was “insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction.”

Harry Ireland, chief crown prosecutor for the West Midlands, was blunt:

“The main evidence in this case is from the undercover journalist or agent but she has consistently failed to sign her draft statement for the police despite being given every opportunity to do so over the past five months.”

He added:

“I also have concerns over discrepancies between her draft statement and the evidence from the covert recordings.”

“For example, at one stage, the covert recordings record the doctors refusing to help the woman with her request.”

“I am also troubled by the fact that the covert recordings disclose a time gap which is insufficiently accounted for when the undercover journalist or agent apparently went with one of the doctors from the surgery to his home.”

JOHN WITHEROW THE EDITOR of the Sunday Times didn't answer emails about Mazher mahmood until after Channel 4 News began to nvestigate ...  Photo: PA

JOHN MOORE WITHEROW
NOW EDITOR of The Times, Witherow has done nothing to bring Mazher Mahmood to book — even though he’s probably known that the “fake sheik” has been a rogue reporter for more than twenty years.
Photo: PA

“Unless there is a very compelling explanation for this, the covert evidence is very unlikely to be admissible in evidence.”

“That evidence has not been forthcoming.”

“A search of the suspects’ homes, computers and phones failed to provide any evidence that they were involved in any way in this illegal practice.”

“A financial investigation has also found no evidence of suspicious transactions which might then merit further investigation.”

Ireland did not explain why he described the woman as “journalist or agent” instead of just “journalist”.

Nor did he give any further details about the nature of the “time gap” which troubled him.

The Sunday Times told the Guardian:

“We stand by our investigation and contest the statement made by the CPS.”

There was no report of the CPS decision in the Sunday Times.

♦♦♦

A FULLER version of the events leading up to the story didn’t emerge until a General Dental Council disciplinary hearing against Omar Addow in August 2013.

Only the Independent carried a report of the proceedings.

It described what happened when the undercover reporter went to the dentist’s surgery:

“When the reporter’s stomach apparently started rumbling, Mr Addow carried out ‘percussion’ and examined her abdomen, the hearing was told.”

“This led to him checking her breasts for abnormalities and performing a vaginal ‘exploration’ before inviting her back to his flat, it is claimed.”

“The journalist recorded the visit to the flat on a hidden “handbag-cam”, for which Mr [Mazher] Mahmood … supplied the batteries.”

“Soon after arriving, the journalist — described on the film as being 33 and of Ghanaian origin — disappears into the bedroom with Dr Addow for over an hour, the hearing was told.”

The Independent then quotes Tom Kark, QC who represented the General Dental Council:

“When he leaves the bedroom, he appears to be wearing a sarong.”

GLASS HOUSES THE NEW skyscraper home of Rupert Murdoch's British newspaper empire in London. All glass and light, it promises a new era in operness and transparency. But the company hasn't changed — and refuses to answer Press Gang questions  about Mazher Mahmood.  Photo: Rebecca Television

GLASS HOUSE
THE NEW skyscraper home of Rupert Murdoch’s British newspaper empire in London. All glass and light, it promises a new era in openness and transparency. But the company  refuses to answer Press Gang questions about Mazher Mahmood …
Photo: Rebecca Television

The newspaper reports Kark as adding:

“It appears he and the journalist have sexual intercourse.”

“We may form the view that the journalist had gone to extra lengths to get her story”.

Addow told police:

“We did sex.”

Before the pair went into the bedroom, the dentist had insisted he was opposed to FGM.

The Independent notes:

“It was only after they had disappeared into a room for an hour that the dentist was recorded on the handbag-cam saying:

” ‘I will do it for you. Between you, me and Allah only’.”

The Sunday Times told the Independent:

“The journalist in question was a freelance engaged in a legitimate undercover investigation into female genital mutilation which is a matter of public interest.”

“She denies having had sexual intercourse or any other sexually intimate contact with Mr Addow.”

The Sunday Times did not report these proceedings.

The General Dental Council later found Addow guilty of conducting an intimate examination of the woman and of offering to perform FGM.

He was struck off.

The Sunday Times reported the decision.

It also included the comment that Addow:

“… claimed he and the female journalist had had sex at his home.”

TULISA  THE SINGER'S case was the straw that broke the camel's back. After decades of tolerance from the Crown Prosecution Service and the judiciary, the judge in the case suddenly saw Mahmood in his true light ... Photo: PA

TULISA CONTOSTAVLOS
THE SINGER’S case was the straw that broke the camel’s back. After decades of tolerance from the Crown Prosecution Service and the judiciary, the judge in the case suddenly saw Mahmood in his true colours … a perjuror.
Photo: PA

The report added:

“The journalist denies having sex with Addow.”

In May this year, the doctor who introduced Addow to the journalist was also struck off.  

The Sunday Times reported that Dr Ali Mao-Aweys had been removed from the General Medical Register by a fitness-to-practice panel.

The paper did not report the panel’s comment about some of the undercover journalist’s recordings:

“The panel noted there are long silences in the recordings which have not been explained by either party.”

“The panel has not been made aware of what occurred during these silences although it was concerned by their length.”

♦♦♦

PRESS GANG emailed Eleanor Mills, now Executive Editor of the Sunday Times.

Initially, she told us: 

“The CPS decided the evidence wasn’t robust enough to prosecute because of some problems with the tape.”

“I was very disappointed as I think it is ridiculous to have a law in the books under which there has never been a prosecution.”

This was before the damning General Dental Council hearing where the prosecuting QC Tom Kark said the journalist had sex with Addow.

We wrote again.

We asked why the Crown Prosecution Service described the woman involved in the sting as a “journalist or agent”.

Was she a journalist or wasn’t she?

We also asked if she was a long-standing member of Mahmood’s team.

We then put the key question:

“The central allegation hovering throughout this story is that you and Mahmood either encouraged, permitted or tolerated a woman working for you to prostitute herself in order to persuade the dentist to offer to carry out FGM.”

“Before she went into the bedroom at his flat, he was insisting he was opposed to the practice and would not do it.”

“After an hour, she and the dentist reappeared — Mr Addow wearing only a sarong —  and he agreed to do it.”

Mills did not reply.

We asked her to forward our email to Mazher Mahmood.

He didn’t answer.

Eleanor Mills is president of the organisation Women in Journalism.

♦♦♦

WE ALSO sent a copy of the email to John Witherow.

He’s now editor of The Times.

He didn’t reply.

Witherow should have known that Mazher Mahmood was a rogue reporter.

He worked alongside him in the Sunday Times newsroom back in the late 1980s.

The two men even shared a by-line on a prophetic story in March 1986.

They revealed that a group of Libyan pilots training in Britain had offered to form suicide squads to attack US bases …

Witherow was working for the paper when Mahmood resigned in 1989 shortly before he was to be sacked.

But he would have known there were problems with some of Mahmood’s stories long before then.

In March 1986 Mahmood posed as an Arab and tried to buy £45,000 worth of falcons from Jemima Parry-Jones of the Gloucestershire Falconry Centre with a view to illegally exporting them.

RUPERT MURDOCH THE EX-AUSTRALIAN tycoon has always had a soft spot for Mazher Mahmood and made sure he had a temporary berth on the Sunday Times.  Photo: PA  Hertfordshire.

RUPERT MURDOCH
THE AUSTRALIAN tycoon has always had a soft spot for Mazher Mahmood and made sure he had a temporary berth on the Sunday Times after the closure of the News of the World.
Photo: PA 

In the article, Mahmood said that, before the deal went ahead:

“Parry Jones changed her mind and called in customs officers.”

In April the paper was forced to carry a letter from an indignant Parry-Jones.

She made it clear that she had told Mahmood that a licence was needed to take the birds out of the country — and offered to help obtain one.

“When it became apparent to me that the man posing as an Arab purchaser — your journalist — was seriously interested in purchasing birds which he might export illegally, I notified the Department of the Environment, Wildlife Division, and made arrangements for the Customs and Excise to be present at the second meeting to apprehend the man.”

“The suggestion that I only called in the authorities because I was aware that the man was a Sunday Times reporter is untrue.”

“It was only when the man made a second appointment that I had worthwhile information to give to the authorities.”

In 1988 the paper had to issue corrections to other stories Mahmood had written.

One concerned an article about a Birmingham travel agent accused of money-laundering — the photograph illustrating the piece was of an entirely innocent man.

In another article Mahmood claimed that Pakistan wanted Britain to return former brigadier Usman Khalid because he was suspected of involvement in the 1985 air crash that killed the country’s President, General Zia.

The correction made it clear Pakistan had asked for no such thing — and the paper accepted Usman Khalid’s assurance that he was not involved in the crash.

The most serious correction followed a story alleging that the head of a fee-paying school near Shrewsbury was cruel to pupils.

The piece said police were investigating and quoted teachers and pupils who supported the allegations against Edward Pease-Watkin of Packwood Haugh School.

The piece provoked a storm of protest — and generated a significant correction the following Sunday.

The chairman of the governors said the piece “outraged governors, parents and ex-parents, staff, pupils and ex-pupils, the school doctor and the vicar”.

He said the police investigation was complete — and had found no evidence to support the allegations which had been made by a sacked teacher.

He added:

“The staff, at an informal gathering on May 8 [the day the article appeared] expressed unanimous support for the headmaster and school.”

A letter from one of the teachers quoted in the article insisted he talked to Mahmood “to discourage him from pursuing allegations which were malicious.”

Another letter, signed by 58 pupils said “your article was an injustice.”

“Mr Pease-Watkin has all that is good in a headmaster, providing strong leadership and fairness in academic activities, and is caring and courteous at all times.”

“He has a fantastic track record of achievement … and is a source of great inspiration to us all.”

We also wrote to John Witherow asking him to comment on these stories.

He didn’t reply …

♦♦♦

MAZHER MAHMOOD is not the first “rogue journalist” John Witherow employed during the eighteen years he spent editing the Sunday Times.

In July 2003 the respected investigative journalist David Connett was offered a senior post on the celebrated Insight team.

But not as a conventional member of staff with a contract.

Instead, he was to be a highly-paid freelance who would carry out the “dark arts” of news-gathering for the team.

As former Insight reporter Edin Hamzic recorded in an email:

” … it was better for the team to keep him off the books in case we got rumbled.”

He added that the arrangement meant “we could have a get-out clause in case we got caught.”

Connett was not listed on the paper’s internal phone directory and did not have a company email address.

The reporter said that Insight editor Dean Nelson, a Christian, had misgivings about using the “dark arts”:

“He didn’t want to get involved in all the black arts and deal in stolen property etc.”

Connett added:

PECKING ORDER  THE FLOOR plan at Murdoch's new British newspaper HQ shows which paper has the best view ... Photo: Rebecca Television

PECKING ORDER
THE FLOOR plan at Murdoch’s new British newspaper HQ shows which paper has the best view … the Sun is top of the pile.
Photo: Rebecca Television

“The downside of this arrangement was that if anything ever went wrong the brown smelly stuff would arrive in my lap.”

The arrangement lasted until July 2005 when editor John Witherow decided to axe the Insight department as a separate department.

When the paper treated Connett as a freelance with few employment rights, he went to an employment tribunal claiming unfair dismissal.

In April 2006, the tribunal ruled that Connett was more than just a casual employee — and the Sunday Times agreed to pay him £30,000.

Even though all of this material was on the public record — and most of it was also included in Nick Davies’ 2008 book Flat Earth News — none of it was explored by the Leveson Inquiry …

No details have ever been provided either by Connett or the Sunday Times as to exactly what “dark arts” he used — or if any of them were illegal.

Neither Connett or Nelson were asked to give evidence before Lord Leveson.

Nor, as far as Press Gang can tell, has any reporter on the Sunday Times ever been questioned by the various police investigations into illegal news-gathering …

♦♦♦

BY THE time Panorama broadcast it’s twice-delayed programme on Mazher Mahmood, John Witherow had achieved his ambition.

He was editor of The Times, rewarded by Rupert Murdoch for decades of loyal service.

And he’s still at it.

The Times was silent during the dramatic run-up to the programme when lawyers acting for Mahmood failed to secure an injunction preventing recent images of the “Fake Sheik” being shown.

It was silent when the Attorney General asked the BBC to delay the programme because Mahmood might face charges of perjury and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. 

Nor did the paper — which regards itself as the UK’s paper of record — carry a full report on the programme itself.

POLICE CHIEF  MET COMMISSIONER Bernard Hogan-Howe force has had more than three months to arrest Mazher Mahmood on suspicion  of committing perjury ...  Photo: PA Commissioner,  after The President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, accompanied by his wife Sabina Higgins arrive at London Heathrow Airport.  During the visit they will stay at Windsor Castle.

POLICE CHIEF
MET COMMISSIONER Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe. More than three months after a judge accused Mazher Mahmood of lying in the Tulisa Contostavlos cocaine case, the Met has still to arrest the reporter on suspicion of committing perjury. Compare that to the 12 days it took West Midlands police to arrest the two medics in the FGM case after Mahmood presented them with his dodgy evidence…  The Met also ignored a letter from Press Gang in 2012 asking for Mahmood to be investigated for perjury in other criminal cases.
Photo: PA 

Instead it buried two sentences in another story about BBC proposals to hive Panorama off to the independent sector.

Those two sentences read in full:

“In a Panorama episode last night, postponed from Monday, Steve Grayson, a former associate of Mazher Mahmood, an investigative reporter known as the “Fake Sheikh” [sic — Mahmood always called himself the “Fake Sheik”], alleged that some of Mr Mahmood’s stories were obtained by entrapment.”

“Mr Mahmood, who has worked for the News of the World, The Sun and The Sunday Times, has denied acting improperly and described allegations in the programme as ‘unsustainable and wrong’.”

♦♦♦

LAST NIGHT Press Gang finally clarified the exact nature of the police investigation into Mazher Mahmood.

In a statement the Met told us its inquiry into Mahmood — known as Operation Silverhawk — was concerned only with the Tulisa Contostavlos trial.

The investigation, by the Special Enquiry Team of the Specialist Crime and Operations division, is not looking at any other cases:

” … at this stage the MPS [Metropolitan Police Service] has not been asked to investigate any further matters.”

Asked if Mahmood had been questioned, the spokesperson added:

“We do not discuss the identity of people interviewed under caution.”

Yesterday the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) confirmed that three planned criminal trials with Mahmood as a key witness had been abandoned.

The CPS also identified a further historical 25 cases where criminal convictions secured as a result of evidence provided by Mahmood were open to challenge.

However, the Met statement makes it clear that Mahmood’s role is not being investigated in any of these cases.

In November 2012 we wrote to the Met to ask them to investigate our allegation of serial perjury by Mahmood in many of the criminal cases he gave evidence in.

The Met acknowledged the letter but never responded.

The Press Gang investigation into Mazher Mahmood continues …

♦♦♦
Published: 22 November 2014
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COMING UP
“A PRETTY DESPICABLE MAN”
PART TWO: ASSAULT ON THE BANK OF ENGLAND

THE “DARK ARTS” were practised on an industrial scale at the Daily Mirror when Piers Morgan was editor. An extraordinary example took place in 1998 when the paper ordered private eyes to break into the mortgage accounts of every member of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee. A Pretty Despicable Man continues with a revealing analysis of the paper’s cynical bank jobs…

CORRECTIONS  Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.

LYING TO LEVESON

November 10, 2014

LYING TO LEVESON

THE LEVESON Inquiry refused to hear serious allegations against Mazher Mahmood.

The claims were made in a Press Gang statement which presented evidence 

 — that Mahmood committed perjury in some of the criminal cases he generated.

—  lied about his connections to a notorious firm of private detectives

— employed a convicted criminal as a key member of his team.

The Leveson Inquiry wouldn’t accept the evidence because there wasn’t time to consider it properly.

Even so, the Inquiry was a bruising experience for Mahmood.

Decades of telling lies suddenly caught up with “Fake Sheik”.

When he told Leveson he left the Sunday Times in 1988 because of a “disagreement”, it wasn’t true.

He was about to be sacked.

And when he claimed his News of the World articles had secured 253 convictions, he was exposed again.

A Press Gang investigation forced him to concede lawyers could only find 94.

But it could have been much, much worse …

♦♦♦

AFTER THE closure of the News of the World in July 2011, Mazher Mahmood enjoyed the protection and patronage of Rupert Murdoch.

While hundreds of people lost their jobs, Mahmood was kept on the payroll.

He was destined to join the planned Sun on Sunday.

But when Murdoch decided to delay the launch until the hacking scandal cooled down, Mahmood was assigned to the Sunday Times.

The paper’s editor was John Witherow.

This meant that the “Fake Sheik” was a Sunday Times reporter when he gave evidence to Leveson in December 2011.

When the Press Gang investigation concluded that Mahmood had lied about the number of convictions he’d secured at the News of the World, we wrote to John Witherow.

Initially, he didn’t answer.

It wasn’t until after Channel 4 News took an interest in the story that Witherow finally replied:

WITHEROW

JOHN WITHEROW
THE EDITOR of the Sunday Times on his way to give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry in January 2012. He was happy to answer questions at the Inquiry but reluctant to discuss Press Gang allegations about Mazher Mahmood. Today, he’s editor of The Times.
Photo: PA

“We are indeed doing a thorough investigation into the number that Mazher supplied,” he told us.

“I will examine the results and decide what to do when I know the outcome.”

Channel 4 News didn’t pursue the story and Witherow never came back to us.

However, by that time Press Gang had submitted a statement to Leveson about Mahmood’s fake convictions.

The Inquiry asked Mahmood to respond.

His employers commissioned the law-firm Linklaters to carry out an independent investigation. 

Their report has never been made public.

Instead, Mahmood was allowed to summarise it in a further statement to the Inquiry.

He said Linklaters “verified” only 94 of the 253 people he claimed had been convicted.

He then came up with three reasons to explain the discrepancy.

First, he claimed that he was counting the number of offences rather individual defendants.

Second, he included “over 140” illegal immigrants in the total who he claimed were deported.

But Linklaters wouldn’t accept these as criminal convictions.

“I apologise for my error in including these individuals …” Mahmood told the Inquiry.

Third, he included 13 people disciplined by their professional body.

“Again, I understand from Linklaters that such actions do not amount to prosecutions or convictions and so I apologise to the Inquiry …”

He insisted, though, that:

“I am personally confident that my work as a journalist has led to substantially more convictions than the 94 individuals …”

Press Gang submitted a second statement pointing out that the News of the World always talked of Mahmood’s score in terms of individuals.

SIR JOHN STEVENS THE FAKE SHEIK enjoyed exceptionally good relations with Scotland Yard. In 2003 he and then News of the World editor Andy Coulson were invited to the Commissioner's offices at New Photo: PA OF the Metropolitan Police invited Mazher Mahmood and Andy Coulson to his office in Scotland Yard following the CPS decision to abandon charges in the Beckham kidnap affair Photo: PA

SIR JOHN STEVENS
 METROPOLITAN POLICE Commissioner from 2000 to 2005, Sir John Stevens— now Lord Stevens — was on good terms with the “Fake Sheik”. In his 2008 autobiography, Mahmood tells the story of how he and then News of the World editor Andy Coulson were invited to have drinks with Stevens at New Scotland Yard in 2003. It was shortly after the Crown Prosecution Service decision to abandon charges in the Beckham kidnap affair because one of Mahmood’s informants was considered an unreliable witness …
Photo: PA

For example, in March 1996, the paper reported that the conviction of a solicitor

“brings the total number of victims successfully prosecuted after being exposed by Mazher to a staggering EIGHTY in four years.”

This part of our statement was accepted — and can be found in the evidence section of the official record of the Leveson Inquiry.

(See the Notes for details.)

But Press Gang also submitted new, equally damaging allegations.

It was this new material which the Inquiry declined to accept.

One of its legal team told us the material:

“is not amenable to written evidence: it relates to matters which the Inquiry is not taking detailed evidence … and/or cannot now be fairly examined at this stage in the Inquiry’s proceedings.” 

♦♦♦

THE NEW material suggested Mahmood’s lie to Leveson wasn’t an isolated incident.

There were other occasions where it was also possible he’d lied in the witness-box.

Press Gang cited the case of the actor John Alford, a star of the TV series London’s Burning.

He was gaoled for nine months in 1999 after supplying cocaine to Mahmood during a “sting” operation.

At his appeal, the judgment noted that Mahmood:

“described himself … as an investigative reporter with 89 successful criminal prosecutions to his name.”

That figure could not possibly be true.

By that time, our assessment was just 28.

Mahmood had been inflating the figure to increase his credibility as a witness and strengthen the prosecution case.

In September 2012 Press Gang wrote to John Witherow.

We asked him to arrange for Linklaters to:

“carry out a survey of Mazher Mahmood’s witness statements in the many criminal cases where he has given evidence” because of concerns “that he may have committed perjury …”

Witherow did not reply.

The rest, of course, is history.

When the Sun on Sunday was launched in February 2012, Mahmood was its star reporter.

In July 2014 he was caught red-handed lying to the judge in the Tulisa Contostavlos trial.

TULISA CONTOSTAVLOS THE SINGER"S trial collapsed in July after the judge found that mazher Mahmood had lied under oath.  Photo: PA                                                              THE SINGER walked free after Sun on Sunday undercover reporter Mazher Mahmood was caught lying in the witness box ...    Photo: PA

TULISA CONTOSTAVLOS
THE SINGER walked free after Sun on Sunday undercover reporter Mahmood was caught lying in the witness-box …
Photo: PA

(See The Sting in the Singer’s Tale for the full story.)

News UK  — owners of the Sunday Times and the Sun on Sunday — announced a full investigation into the allegation that Mahmood had committed perjury.

This was nearly two years after we warned them Mahmood was potentially a serial perjuror … 

♦♦♦

BUT ALLEGATIONS of serial perjury weren’t the only revelation in the Press Gang statement. 

We also returned to the question of Mahmood’s bodyguard “Jaws”.

“Jaws” is Mahmood’s second cousin Mahmood Quereshi who, until a serious accident in 2006, acted as his bodyguard.

He gets the nickname from his diamond-studded gold teeth.

In the first Press Gang statement, we pointed out that one of the villains in a Mahmood exposé in 1996 bore a remarkable similarity to “Jaws”.

In his response, Mahmood admits the villain is, indeed, his second cousin.

He says Quereshi was the source of the story — Mahmod exaggerated his role in the gang in order to protect him …

By the time of the second Press Gang statement we also pointed out there was a possibility that “Jaws” was, in fact, an active criminal during the period he was employed by Mahmood.

"JAWS" Mahmmod Quereshi — known as Jaws for his diamond-studded gold teeth — is a key figure in the Mazher Mahmood story. A former criminal, he became a minder and a fixer for Mazher Mahmood.

“JAWS”
MAHMOOD QUERESHI  — known as “Jaws” — is a key figure in the Mazher Mahmood story. A criminal, he became a minder and a fixer for Mazher Mahmood. 

In 2005, during a libel action against the News of the World, lawyer David Price produced a list of convictions against Quereshi dating from a theft case at Bradford Crown Court to a case in Leeds in 1999.

In other words, when “Jaws” was acting as the source of one of Mahmood’s stories in 1996, his criminal career was still in progress.

Another of Mahmood’s paid informants, Florim Gashi, claims Quereshi had “been in prison a number of times … “

He also acted as an informant in many of Mahmood’s stories, including the alleged plot to kidnap Victoria Beckham.

♦♦♦

THERE WAS one final piece of information Leveson was not prepared to consider.

This involved Mahmood’s links with a firm of private detectives called Southern Investigations.

One of the partners was a former Metropolitan Police detective sergeant, Sid Fillery.

Fillery had retired and joined Southern Investigations, taking the place of Daniel Morgan, a private detective brutally murdered in 1987.

The other partner was Jonathan Rees, who was arrested several times on suspicion of being involved in the murder.

He was never convicted.

SID FILLERY A FORMER detective sergeant in south London, Fillery became one of the partners in Southern Investigations. In 2003 he was convicted of making indcent images of children. Photo: PA

SID FILLERY
A FORMER detective sergeant in south London, Fillery became one of the partners in Southern Investigations. In 2003 he was convicted of making indecent images of children.
Photo: PA

However, Rees was gaoled for 7 years in 2000 after he was caught planning a conspiracy with corrupt police detectives to plant drugs on an innocent woman to prove she was an unfit mother.

Fillery was convicted in 2003 of making fifteen indecent images of children.

His computer included photographs of two naked boys engaged in oral sex and another showing the anal penetration of a young girl.

Southern Investigations acted as brokers between corrupt police officers who wanted to sell sensitive information to newspapers, including the News of the World.

In his evidence to Leveson, Mahmood doesn’t name the firm but it appears to be Southern Investigations.

He told the Inquiry:

” … I stopped working with them at the end of 1992 or early 1993 …”

However, in our statement we told the Leveson Inquiry we had seen documents seized during anti-corruption inquiries which suggested this also wasn’t true.

These documents revealed that in 1999 Rees and Fillery carried out “confidential inquiries” into “illegal immigration” after receiving a “request” from “Maz Mahmood”.

The invoice for this work, submitted in July 1999, was for £1,488.72 — one of the largest the firm raised in that year.

Again, we told the Inquiry we had written to Sunday Times editor John Witherow and asked him to investigate.

He never replied.

For this article, we once again contacted Witherow — now editor of The Times.

He didn’t respond.

We also asked Mahmood for a comment.

There was no reply.

♦♦♦

NOTES
1  The Press Gang statements to Leveson were originally submitted by editor Paddy French in the name of Rebecca Television. In October all national media-related material from this site was transferred to Press Gang. The first statement is here: the second here.
2  Mazher Mahmood made four statements to the Leveson Inquiry. Two are relevant to this article: the first which includes his claim to have secured 253 successful prosecutions and the fourth where he admits that the figure is false.
3  See also the other articles in this series: Fake Convictions and The Sting In The Singer’s Tale.

♦♦♦

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COMING UP
“A PRETTY DESPICABLE MAN”
PART TWO: ASSAULT ON THE BANK OF ENGLAND

THE “DARK ARTS” were practised on an industrial scale at the Daily Mirror when Piers Morgan was  editor. An extraordinary example took place in 1998 when the paper ordered private eyes to break into the mortgage accounts of every member of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee. A Pretty Despicable Man continues with a revealing analysis of the paper’s cynical bank jobs…

CORRECTIONS  Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.

FAKE CONVICTIONS

August 29, 2014
FAKE CONVICTIONS

THE COLLAPSE of the Tulisa Contostavlos trial in July is the latest scandal to hit Rupert Murdoch’s prize investigative reporter Mazher Mahmood.

The case against the singer-turned-entertainer was thrown out when the judge said Mahmood — also known as the “Fake Sheik” — lied when he gave evidence to the court.

Now the Metropolitan Police is considering possible perjury charges against the Sun on Sunday reporter.

Lies have been a staple part of Mahmood’s amoral newspaper career — and Press Gang has been at the heart of exposing many of them.

Here we republish an article which first appeared in April 2012.

It tells the story of an unscrupulous journalist who will do anything — including committing perjury in the witness box — to get ahead.

TULISA CONTOSTAVLOS THE SINGER"S trial collapsed in July after the judge found that mazher Mahmood had lied under oath.  Photo: PA                                                              THE SINGER walked free after Sun on Sunday undercover reporter Mazher Mahmood was caught lying in the witness box ...    Photo: PA

TULISA CONTOSTAVLOS THE SINGER walked free after Sun on Sunday undercover reporter Mazher Mahmood was caught lying in the witness box … Photo: PA

♦♦♦

ONE OF the few people to come out of the News of the World hacking scandal with his reputation intact was Investigations Editor Mazher Mahmood.

After the gaoling of royal correspondent Clive Goodman and private eye Glenn Mulcaire in 2007, Mahmood was held up as a beacon of the real News of the World.

In 2008 the Murdoch-owned HarperCollins published Confessions of a Fake Sheik in which Mahmood claimed:

“To date I have been responsible for more than 230 successful criminal prosecutions.”

When he made a statement for the Leveson Inquiry in 2011 the figure has risen to 253.

But when Press Gang challenged Mahmood to provide the evidence to substantiate the claim his employers News International refused to provide a list.

We carried out our own investigaton and went through every article Mazher Mahmood had written for the News of the World.

There was only evidence to support 70.

And we found evidence Mazher Mahmood may have protected a relative who was involved in a fake passport racket …

THE MAN WITH NO FACE One of the few photographs of Mazher Mahmood, taken many years ago. The former Investigations Editor of the News of the World has claimed that publishing his picture would endanger his life.

THE MAN WITH NO FACE
ONE OF the few photographs of Mazher Mahmood, taken many years ago. The former Investigations Editor of the News of the World claims that publishing his picture would endanger his life …

♦♦♦

WHEN FORMER News of the World Investigations Editor Mazher Mahmood appeared before Lord Leveson in December 2011, he was allowed a special concession.

Leveson ordered that the television cameras be turned off.

“For good reason,” he said, “this evidence is being heard in circumstances that, although the witness’ account will be given orally, it will not be screened visually … to the public.”

“I make that order having regard to all the circumstances of the case.”

Leveson never explained what the “good reason” was but it’s likely the judge accepted Mahmood’s claim that showing his face would endanger his life.

Five years earlier, however, another judge had come to a different conclusion.

It happened as a result of a Mazher Mahmood undercover sting involving the MP George Galloway.

Posing as the Fake Sheik, Mahmood had dinner with Galloway at the Dorchester Hotel in London in March 2006.

GEORGE GALLOWAY The MP was one of the few victims of Mazher Mahmood's "Fake Sheikh" stings to see through the disguise. He posted photographs of Mahmood on the internet.

GEORGE GALLOWAY
THE MP was one of the few victims of Mazher Mahmood’s Fake Sheik stings to see through the disguise. He posted photographs of Mahmood on the internet.   Photo: PA

Galloway believes Mahmood was trying to entice him into illegally accepting campaign contributions from foreign donors.

“After dessert”, Mahmood says in his book Confessions of a Fake Sheik, “Galloway enjoyed a coffee and posed for a picture with myself and my minder Jaws …”

Jaws — a giant of a man with a “full deck of gold teeth with diamonds embedded” — was actually Mahmood Qureshi, Mazher Mahmood’s second cousin.

Galloway later remembered a section about Mazher Mahmood in Andrew Marr’s book My Trade which contained a description of Jaws.

Galloway went public — and threatened to publish phototgraphs of Mazher Mahmood on his Respect Party website.

The News of the World were awarded a temporary injunction preventing the posting of the images.

But the following day Judge Mitting decided to lift the injunction.

The judge was not impressed by the argument that publication of Mahmood’s image might be useful to targets out for revenge.

“For photographs of Mr Mahmood to be of any use to such people they would have to have a whole package of further information,” the judge noted, “not least information as to his whereabouts and habits.”

“Armed with such information, the photographs might be of some assistance, but one would have expected anybody who had got that information also to have been able to obtain at a mimimum a description — more likely a photograph — of Mr Mahmood to permit them to inflict whatever harm it was that they might have in mind.”

Judge Mitting concluded:

“I am satisfied that the true purpose of this application is not protection of Mr Mahmood’s life and physical integrity but the protection of his earning capacity and position as an investigative journalist and his utility to his employers in that respect.”

♦♦♦

LORD LEVESON’S decision to switch off the cameras inevitably increased the mystique surrounding one of Rupert Murdoch’s star reporters — if his life was under threat, it suggested his journalism must be important.

In his sworn statement to the Inquiry, Mahmood claimed his journalism at the News of the World had led to the successful prosecution of 253 people.

When he gave oral evidence in December 2012, he said this figure was already old hat.

“It’s incorrect, actually,” he said on oath.

“The total has gone up to 261, and as we sit here at the moment, at Southwark Crown Court, two more women are being sentenced as a result of my work.”

So he was claiming a grand total of 263 convictions.

When Press Gang examined the News of the World for the period Mazher Mahmood worked there, we could only find evidence of 70 convictions (see the Appendix for the full list).

In his statement to the Leveson Inquiry Mahmood said:

“… ethics should be of paramount importance in all fields of journalism because in my view a large part of investigative journalism is to expose moral-wrongdoing … ”

The Leveson Inquiry was to examine Mahmood’s own moral compass in some detail.

When he gave evidence to the Inquiry in December last year, Mahmood was asked by barrister David Barr about the reasons why he left the Sunday Times back in 1988.

“Is it right that you left the Sunday Times under something of a cloud …?”

“We had a disagreement,” replied Mahmood, “Correct.”

This interpretation of the crisis that unfolded at the Sunday Times in December 1988 angered Roy Greenslade who had been the managing editor of the paper at the time.

He compiled a witness statement and a series of exhibits and submitted them to the Leveson team.

Greenslade told how, in 1988, he had received a complaint from a police officer about a story Mazher Mahmood had written the previous week.

The story was about a chief inspector in Plymouth who had been convicted of drink driving after an accident.

ROY GREENSLADE The former Sunday Times executive — now professor of journalism at City University London — revealed that Mazher Mahmood resigned from the paper in 1988 minutes before he was to be sacked for dishonesty.

ROY GREENSLADE
THE FORMER Sunday Times executive — now professor of journalism at City University, London — revealed that Mazher Mahmood resigned from the paper in 1988 minutes before he was to be sacked for dishonesty.   Photo: Roy Greenslade

Mahmood wrote that the officer had been demoted to the rank of constable.

In fact, the demotion was only to inspector.

The Sunday Times apologised for the error the following week.

When he was challenged about the mistake, Mahmood claimed that it was the fault of the Devon News Agency which had sent a report of the court case to the Sunday Times.

The news agency were contacted — they insisted their original version had the correct demotion.

The Sunday Times computer room was asked to retrieve the version the agency had sent.

This showed the demotion was to constable.

But in the course of this inquiry, a computer operator mentioned that Mazher Mahmood had recently visited the room.

A more detailed investigation began.

It uncovered an earlier version of the news agency story — the demotion to inspector was correctly reported.

Mahmood admitted going to the computer room but denied tampering with the computer record.

A meeting of senior executives chaired by editor Andrew Neil took place.

It was decided he would be fired.

After the meeting, Greenslade found a letter of resignation from Mahmood on his desk.

“Because of the nature of my work,” Mahmood wrote, “I am only able to operate with the absolute support and trust of my senior colleagues and lawyers, but now that my honesty and integrity is in question, I feel there is no longer a place on the paper.”

After Greenslade’s devastating witness statement, Lord Leveson called Mahmood back before him in January 2013.

David Barr now questioned Mahmood again:

“Tampering with the computer file in order to pass the mistake from yourself to the Devon News Agency was wrong, wasn’t it”

“Absolutely,” admitted Mahmood.

“Look, I was a young reporter,” he added, “and I’d had a series of run-ins with Mr Greenslade while at the paper, and, you know, I’d made a mistake.”

“I acknowledge that, and rather than incur the wrath of an executive I didn’t get on with, I foolishly thought the best way would be to cover my mistake.”

“It was the wrong thing to do, and I resigned.”

Roy Greenslade does not remember having a bad working relationship with Mahmood.

♦♦♦

WHEN THE News of the World closed in July 2011, Mahmood was without a paper for a couple of weeks.

But at the end of August he re-joined the Sunday Times.

Editor John Witherow was asked if he had any concerns about taking on the man who had been caught lying to the paper in 1988.

“Clearly, we checked him out very carefully and needed reassurances that he was not involved in any way with the phone hacking, which he assured us he wasn’t, and independently we were assured he wasn’t.”

“As far as I am aware, the police have no interest in him, so that was very important before we took him on.”

Witherow was happy to have a man of Mahmood’s undercover skills on his staff:

“He has an exemplary record on these sorts of stories.”

“He has instigated, I think, about 250 prosecutions of people, for exposing criminality.”

“Yes, we were concerned but I think he is a remarkable operator in that form of journalism.”

We asked Witherow if he had checked to see if Mazher Mahmood’s claims about the number of convictions stacked up.

He didn’t reply.

WASEEM MAHMOOD, OBE Mazher Mahmood's early career was built on betraying his family including his brother Waseem. At a family dinner, he revealed that some of his brother's colleagues at BBC Birmingham were moonlighting. When Mazher Mahmood exposed the practice, Waseem was forced to resign. When

WASEEM MAHMOOD, OBE
Waseem Mahmood is Mazher’s brother. He was a successful BBC producer in Birmingham in the 1980s — until his brother wrote an exposé of moonlighting at the Pebble Mill studios based on gossip around the Mahmood family dinner table. Waseem Mahmood says: “With only ‘an unnamed BBC insider’ identified as the source for the revelations, I tendered my resignation the day after the article appeared, and when my mother refused to admonish my brother, claiming that it was a good story and that ‘he was only doing his job’, I packed up my wife and children and left the family home, never to return.” Waseem was forced to go abroad to rebuild his shattered career but succeeded — he was awarded an OBE in the 2005 News Years Honours List for his media work in countries affected by war. Photo: Waseem Mahmood

♦♦♦

WHEN MAZHER Mahmood started work at the News of the World in December 1991, he was one of many investigative reporters on the paper.

Under editor Patsy Chapman, he was just another member of the team.

When Piers Morgan took over in January 1994, it’s clear that he didn’t think much of Mahmood.

Readers of his 2005 book The Insider will not find the name Mazher Mahmood in the index.

The feeling was mutual — there’s no mention of Piers Morgan in the index of Mahmood’s 2008 Confessions of a Fake Sheik.

It was not until Phil Hall took over from Morgan in August 1995 that Mahmood’s star began to rise.

Hall made him Investigations Editor and, in March 1996, the paper made a major claim for the success of Mahmood’s articles.

The piece followed the conviction of a solicitor gaoled for six months for living off immoral earnings after an undercover operation.

The conviction, claimed the News of the World, “brings the total of villains successfully prosecuted after being exposed in our pages by Mazher to a staggering EIGHTY in four years.”

But, up to that point, the Press Gang analysis of the News of the World had only carried stories about 13 named people who’d been convicted.

With the mention of a further five unnamed people, the maximum number of successful prosecutions was 18.

♦♦♦

IN THE course of our research, we found an extraordinary story which Mazher Mahmood had published in September 1996.

On the face of it, it was a typical Mahmood operation: he infiltrated a gang run by a Bradford hairdresser who were running a fake passport racket.

The hairdresser was buying genuine passports from British Asians and then amending them so that illegal immigrants could enter the country.

Mahmood posed as one of these buyers and successfully entered the UK via a Eurostar train from Paris.

What made this article unusual was that the man buying the genuine passports was “a local thug called Mehmood, known as Jaws because he has gold teeth studded with diamonds.”

Although the article calls him “Mehmood” and doesn’t give his last name, the description is uncannily similar to the one Mazher Mahmood gives for the Jaws that later became his bodyguard.

This undercover operation could easily have netted three successful criminal prosecutions for Mahmood — yet there is no evidence that he went to the police.

In our recorded delivery letter sent to Mazher Mahmood in March 2012, we asked him if the Jaws in the article was the man who became his bodyguard.

He didn’t reply.

Jaws is one of the key supporting actors in the Mazher Mahmood story.

Until he was paralysed in a car crash in 2006, he had been Mahmood’s bodyguard for several years.

In his book Confessions of a Fake Sheik, published in 2008, Mahmood says: “Jaws was huge, and spent every day at the gym, so was a powerful looking man as well.”

“He was from Bradford and had spent his early adult life committing a number of petty crimes in and around the area.”

“He’d gone to see a fortune teller who told him that a long-lost relative would change his life, so he flew out to Pakistan and spent all his money trying to find a relative who’d do that, speaking in his Yorkshire accent as he went; but found no one to help so returned home”.

“He saw my name in the paper and called me, and I did — change his life, that is.”

“He joined me, working as my bodyguard, and with his size and those teeth he was an unforgettable sight.”

“He was a great man to have standing next to you, intimidating and forceful when needed.”

But three years earlier Jaws, alias Mahmood Qureshi, had given a different version of their relationship.

"JAWS" Mahmmod Quereshi — known as Jaws for his diamond-studded gold teeth — is a key figure in the Mazher Mahmood story. A former criminal, he became a minder and a fixer for Mazher Mahmood.

“JAWS”
Mahmmod Quereshi — known as Jaws for his diamond-studded gold teeth — is a key figure in the Mazher Mahmood story. A former criminal, he became a minder and a fixer for Mazher Mahmood.

He was appearing in a libel action brought by one of the gang Mazher Mahmood had accused of trying to kidnap Victoria Beckham.

Jaws had been part of the undercover team infiltrating the so-called gang.

He was accused of inciting gang members.

While he was on the stand, in April 2005, Jaws changed his evidence.

At first, he’d insisted that he hadn’t been asked by Mazher Mahmood to “initiate conversation about the kidnap”.

But later he admitted that Mazher Mahmood had asked him to do so.

David Price, acting for the gang member, seized on the change of evidence.

He accused Jaws of trying to protect Mahmood in his earlier testimony — claiming that Mahmood had given Jaws “a chance in life” after a life of crime with employment at the News of the World.

“You are trying to protect your cousin,” said Price, “because he gave you a chance in life”.

Jaws replied:

“How did he give me a chance? He did not give me a chance. How?”

Price then went through Jaws’ criminal career — stretching back to 1982 before finally ending in 1999.

“You owe a debt of gratitude to Mr Mahmood and that explains why you lied to the court this morning, that’s what I’m suggesting. Do you want to comment on that?”

“No, I do not want to comment, there’s no comment on that,” replied Qureshi.

“I did not lie. I got it wrong.”

Later, Jaws explained that his entire earnings from his involvement in various News of the World stories was “less than £10,000 … perhaps near £5,000.”

♦♦♦

BY THE time Rebekah Brooks took over the editorship in May 2000, the News of the World was claiming 103 convictions for Mazher Mahmood’s investigations.

This is at odds with the Press Gang analysis at that point: 32 named individuals with another nine who were unnamed.

By the time she left to edit The Sun in January 2003, the News of the World claimed Mazher Mahmood’s convictions stood at 119 compared with our tally of 32 named defendants with a further nine unnamed.

Brooks was replaced by Andy Coulson who lasted four years until he resigned in January 2007 after the paper’s Royal Correspondent Clive Goodman was gaoled for hacking royal phones.

Under his leadership, Mazher Mahmood’s claimed convictions had jumped to 145 but the Press Gang version only showed 62 defendants successfully prosecuted (17 of them unnamed).

Colin Myler replaced Coulson — who went on to become David Cameron’s Director of Communications.

Myler was responsible for the biggest single leap in the claimant count of any News of the World editor — in April 2007 Mazher Mahmood’s total suddenly rocketed to 204 convictions.

Mazher Mahmood claims a high moral purpose: catching criminals, revealing "moral wrong-doing" and exposing hypocrisy. There's no doubt he's caught some serious criminals — including child abusers and would-be murderers — but the bulk of his journalism reveals a different picture. A third of his stories are about sex — over a quarter target celebrities or royalty. A substantial proportion of the people in his stories are originally from the Asian sub-continent. One of the ironies about Mahmood — the child of immigrant parents from Pakistan — is that he spent an enormous amount of his time in the ethnic  communities of Britain looking for people he can expose. This fed into a News of the World agenda that painted Britain as an "open house" for foreign scroungers, cheats and criminals.

THE News of the World claimed a high moral purpose for Mazher Mahmood’s work: catching criminals, revealing “moral wrong-doing” and exposing hypocrisy. There’s no doubt he caught a couple of serious criminals — including child abusers and would-be murderers — but the bulk of his journalism reveals a different picture. A third of his stories are about sex — over a quarter target celebrities or royalty. A substantial proportion of the people in his stories are originally from the Asian sub-continent. One of the ironies about Mahmood — the child of immigrant parents from Pakistan — is that he spent an enormous amount of his time in the ethnic communities of Britain looking for people to expose. This fed into a News of the World agenda that painted Britain as an “open house” for foreign scroungers, cheats and criminals.

This figure arrived out of the blue — the paper had carried reports of only two convictions since the paper’s previous claim of 145.

One possible explanation for the jump was a sting operation which Mazher Mahmood organised in May 2006 to catch illegal immigrants.

Pretending that he wanted people to work, he collected 70 people — and had them driven to the Colnbrook Detention Centre near Heathrow.

Police had already been tipped off and 66 were arrested and detained.

Press Gang asked the Home Office what happened to these people.

They were not able to tell us.

There is no doubt that they could all have been prosecuted for staying in Britain illegally.

But, if that is the case, then it is surprising that the News of the World didn’t report the fact.

There is another way of dealing with illegal immigrants — “administrative removal”.

This is where the immigrant agrees to go back home voluntarily.

This system is fast and cheap and avoids the courts.

Press Gang did not include these people — we considered that, if they had been prosecuted, the News of the World would have reported the fact.

By the time the paper closed in July 2011 it was claiming more than 250 successful criminal prosecutions.

Press Gang could find evidence of only 70 — with 18 of those unnamed.

♦♦♦

APPENDIX: The Successful Criminal Proesecutions of Mazher Mahmood

THE METHODOLOGY followed in preparing the following list of convictions was that all articles written by or featuring Mazher Mahmood were examined.

Between December 1991 and December 1995, physical copies of the News of the World were viewed on microfilm.

From January 1996 to July 2011, all News of the World articles on the Newsbank electronic database were analysed.

The research was carried out by Chris Nichols and Paddy French and took place at the British Library, Colindale, London.

The names of 52 individuals reported to have been convicted (including one where the name was with-held to protect a victim) are listed.

18 convictions where the names are not given are identified separately.

The date of the article where the conviction is reported, if available, is given.

In all cases, the article refers to the conviction and not the original exposé.

1991 No convictions reported.

1992 No convictions reported.

1993 6 convictions reported:
4 July: Terry Valvona & Rosemary Iredale
5 Sept: Norman Wardell
12 Dec: Syed Rizvi, Parghat Heer, Fahim Iqbal

1994 No convictions reported.

1995 9 convictions reported (including 5 unnamed):
17 Sept: Shafique & Salim Mumtaz, Iqbal Raja, Ghulam Murtaza and 5 other unnamed individuals

1996 4 convictions reported:
17 March: Gordon Brown, Paul Garlick
24 March: Stephen Harvey
8 September: Kim Lisles

1997 7 convictions reported (including 3 unnamed):
10 Aug: Mohinder Singh
17 Aug: Bruce Allen, Jonathan Pickering and three others, unnamed
21 Dec: Brenda Tonnesson

1998 2 convictions reported:
14 June: Iqbal Master
20 Dec: Clifford Davies

1999 4 convictions reported:
9 May: John Alford 26 Sept: Earl Hardwicke, Stefan Thwaites
17 Oct: disc jockey Johnnie Walker

2000 7 convictions were reported:
20 Feb: Dr Manohar Rangwani
28 May: Mohammed Khan
13 Aug: Mohammed Yousif
1 Oct: Gary Harris, David Weir, Barry Dickenson Undated: Ishmail Pirbhai [not reported in 2000 but cited in final News of the World issue in July 2011]

2001 No convictions reported.

2002 3 convictions reported (including I unnamed):
2 June: Shaheen Begolli
29 Sept: Antonio Russo + 1 unnamed)

2003 5 convictions reported:
6 July: Joseph Rivas, Luzum Balliu
14 Sept: Neil Montgomery
28 Sept: David Cheney, Sultan Merchant

FINAL EDITION The successful criminal prosecutions of Mazher Mahmood were plastered all over the final issue of the paper in July 2011. They were bogus ...

FINAL EDITION
THE News of the World was often confused about its claims for the success of Mazher Mahmood. In March 1996, for example, the paper said the number of successful prosecutions was 80 in four years. By December 1997 it was claiming a total of 88 in three years… Often it couldn’t even make its mind up about what it was actually talkng about. In February 2004 it was boasting of 127 people “behind bars” — an absurd claim when many defendants were fined, given suspended sentences or ordered to do community service.

2004 2 convictions reported:
15 Feb: San Keung Yau, Keith Blasdale

2005 3 convictions reported:
30 Jan: Niki Dimitrov
10 April: Agha Mohammed, Besnik Qema

2006 11 convictions reported (including 9 unnamed):
23 July: Paul Singh, Adeola Magbagebeola and 9 others, unnamed.

2007 3 convictions reported:
8 April: Rani & Joginder Kashyap
22 April: Name withheld to protect daughter [but counted as named for the purposes of this survey].

2008 2 convictions reported:
26 Oct: Mohammed Kutubuddin
Undated: Gary Pennant [not reported in 2008 but cited in final News of the World edition in July 2011]

2009 No convictions reported.

2010 2 convictions reported:
24 Jan: Suresh Kumar, Baldev Sidhu

2011 No convictions reported.
The News of the World closed in July 2011.

♦♦♦

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