Posts Tagged ‘Mazher Mahmood’

THE SHAME OF ANDREW NORFOLK — PART 5: A CHAMPION OF FAKE NEWS

May 30, 2019

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IN JULY last year the chief investigative reporter of the Times published another of his sensational exposés from the “dark side” of Britain’s Muslim community.

Andrew Norfolk’s target was a small Rotherham-based racial justice charity, Just Yorkshire, some of whose trustees are Muslims.

The award-winning Norfolk told readers how one of the charity’s reports led to death threats against Rotherham’s Labour MP Sarah Champion.

It wasn’t true.

Three months later, and after Press Gang intervened on behalf of the charity, the Times dramatically withdrew Norfolk’s allegation.

In a letter from one of its lawyers, the paper admitted “no death threats … were attributable to the report”. 

It was fake news — published on the front page of a paper that once claimed to be “Britain’s Most Trusted National Newspaper”.

Before Norfolk and the Times got to work on its reputation, Just Yorkshire had never received abuse on its website.

Now there was a steady stream, including death threats. 

One of these read:

“Filthy inbred Muslim cunts. We’re going to kill you all. Britain first.”  

The charity was forced to close. 

This new scandal follows Norfolk’s now notorious “Christian child forced into Muslim foster care” investigation of 2017. 

Norfolk was exposed as a rogue reporter after the judiciary confronted his false narrative.

The court released documents which revealed that the so-called Christian girl at the centre of the story was the daughter of a woman whose parents are practising Muslims. 

For much of her life, the little girl was brought up by her grandparents — in a Turkish household of practising Muslims.

(This story has been told in the first three parts of The Shame Of Andrew Norfolk: see, for example, Retribution.)

Now comes the fake “death threats” story … 

♦♦♦

On 25 July 2018 the Times launched a campaign claiming the racial justice charity Just Yorkshire had put the life of the MP Sarah Champion in danger.

Over a four day period the paper published seven articles criticising the charity.

It was a typical Andrew Norfolk investigation — the initial front page article was buttressed by two further articles.

An editorial made it clear the Times backed its chief investigative reporter to the hilt. 

The issue was kept alive the next day with another front page article and a comment piece by columnist David Aaronovitch.

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A “SLIP”, AN “ERROR”, A “MISTAKE” …
THE DRAMATIC front page article written by Andrew Norfolk in July 2018 which claimed the Just Yorkshire report led to death threats against the MP Sarah Champion. On Christmas Eve 2018 the Times buried a 69-word paragraph on page 24 admitting there was no truth in the allegation. Lawyers for the paper privately described the allegation as a “slip”, an “error”, a “mistake”.

The campaign came to an end with a front page story on July 29. 

By then the 16-year-old charity’s reputation was in tatters — its funders were backing away and its only employee would soon be made redundant.  

Norfolk’s first article was headed:

Terror police boost MP’s security for MP over criticism of Asian sex gangs

It continued on page 7 under the headline:

Security stepped up after scathing report led to death threats

The first two paragraphs stated:

An MP who received death threats after condemning the sexual abuse of girls by groups of British Pakistani men has been given increased security amid fears that hard-left and Muslim opponents are trying to force her from office.

Sarah Champion was accused by activists in her Rotherham constituency of “industrial-scale racism” for highlighting the “common ethnic heritage” of most of those implicated in the town’s sex-grooming scandal.

There were, in fact, two strands to Norfolk’s “Terror police” story.

The first was the allegation made against Just Yorkshire.

The second was an exposé of an alleged plot by Muslim Labour Party members in Rotherham to unseat Sarah Champion.

This second strand is discussed later in this piece.  

Norfolk attempted to create a link between these two separate elements but was unable to find any evidence.

Instead, he lumped the alleged plotters with Just Yorkshire branding both as critics of the MP. 

In his article, Andrew Norfolk claimed that Just Yorkshire was a major opponent of the MP:

The strongest public attacks on Ms Champion, who campaigns for the victims of child sexual exploitation, have been made by a Rotherham-based racial justice charity, Just Yorkshire.

The charity’s leader has accused the MP of “industrial scale racism” and “inciting and inviting hatred against minorities”. 

Norfolk added that a report co-authored by Nadeem Murtuja, interim director of Just Yorkshire:

… said that British Pakistanis felt “scapegoated, dehumanised and potentially criminalised” by their MP, who had “crossed a point of no return”.

The Just Yorkshire report had examined the impact of a controversial Sun article by Sarah Champion in August 2017 on the town’s 7,600-strong Asian community.

Champion’s article was headed “British Pakistani men ARE raping and exploiting white girls … and it’s time we faced up to it”.

The MP, who was Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities at the time, wrote:

There. I said it. Does that make me a racist? Or am I just prepared to call out this horrifying problem for what it is?

Champion was heavily criticised for the piece and later admitted it “should not have gone out in my name and I apologise that it did.” 

She resigned from the shadow cabinet a few days later.

Just Yorkshire’s report on the local impact of her article was published seven months later, in March 2018.

SARAH CHAMPION

SARAH CHAMPION
THE LABOUR MP for Rotherham plays a key role in Andrew Norfolk’s articles on Just Yorkshire. When Norfolk revealed that police increased her security in July 2018 after she received death threats, she declined to comment. But after the Times admitted there were no death threats and Just Yorkshire complained to the press watchdog IPSO, she sent the Times an email confirming that her security had been increased as a result of the charity’s report. She has not responded to requests by Press Gang to provide the evidence for this.

Norfolk wrote:

Its foreword accused her of “fanning the flames of racial hatred” and acting like a “neo-fascist murderer”.

He noted that “Ms Champion apologised to the Rotherham Pakistani community ‘for any hurt or adverse reaction I inadvertently caused’, but said that Just Yorkshire’s findings were ‘based on an extremely limited survey, distributed through networks not made in any way clear in the report’.”

Norfolk added:

The Times understands that the report led to death threats against Ms Champion. Scotland Yard’s counterterrorism unit increased her security risk level and she was advised to accept extra protection. The MP declined to comment.

Readers of the Times will have thought this was a charity run by Muslims whose extreme views had endangered the life of the town’s MP.

Three months later the Times, after the intervention of Press Gang and facing the threat of legal action, backed down.

The paper’s legal department admitted: 

 … the death threats made against Ms Champion since the report was published have not been directly linked to the report …

♦♦♦

FOR INTERIM director Nadeem Murtuja and the trustees of Just Yorkshire, the onslaught from Andrew Norfolk and the Times came as a complete shock.

A week before his first article, Norfolk had rung Murtuja and told him about the alleged plot to unseat Sarah Champion.

“He’d also been told that one of these plotters, a local Labour councillor, had been at the launch of our report,” said Murtuja, a former senior council official in Doncaster.

“I told him this wasn’t true: whoever told him that was mistaken. It’s clear Norfolk was trying to make a connection between the councillor and Just Yorkshire’s report.”

“But Norfolk didn’t mention anything about our report leading to death threats against Sarah Champion — that came as a bolt out of the blue.” 

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NADEEM MURTUJA
THE FORMER council official took over the running of Just Yorkshire in 2017. Andrew Norfolk rang him and asked if he was a practising Muslim (he is) but never told him he was going to write an article claiming the charity’s report had led to death threats against Sarah Champion. 

For several weeks the charity, formed in the wake of the Bradford riots of 2001, watched as its reputation crumbled.

Formally known as Just West Yorkshire, the charity had been set up with the support of the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust in 2003.

Funders distanced themselves and abuse began appearing on its website.

One said: 

“Soon will come a crusade and all Muslims will be butchered. Britain First”

And another:

“Filthy inbred Muslim cunts. We’re going to kill you all. Britain first.”  

On the day the Times campaign against Just Yorkshire drew to a close — 29 July 2018 — Press Gang released the first part of its damning analysis of Norfolk’s Muslim fostering care articles.

This was the first anniversary of Norfolk’s notorious Muslim foster care article .

Norfolk had accused the London borough of Tower Hamlets of forcing a Christian child to live with Muslim foster carers. 

In fact, the mother of the child was the daughter of practising Muslims from Turkey  — and the grandparents had also looked after the little girl for much of her life. 

Press Gang concluded that Andrew Norfolk was a journalist who did not let the facts stand in the way of a sensational story.

The chief investigative reporter of the Times, we noted, had won 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.

When the Times published Norfolk’s sensational “Terror police boost security for MP Sarah Champion over criticism of Asian sex gangs” article, Press Gang was not willing to accept it at face value.

We spoke to Nadeem Murtuja.

He told us Norfolk had twisted the facts to fit what Just Yorkshire considered to be an anti-Muslim narrative. 

He said that when the “Temperature Report” was published on 15 March 2018, it attracted no national publicity and only BBC local radio and the magazine Big Issue North reported its findings.

Press Gang persuaded Nadeem Murtuja and the trustees of Just Yorkshire to join forces with the website.

An alliance was in the interests of both parties.

For Just Yorkshire, Press Gang had expertise: a year-long investigation into the Muslim foster care case meant we had an insight into how Norfolk operated.

We had drafted the only comprehensive complaint to the press watchdog IPSO against the paper’s Muslim foster care coverage.

We also had access to legal advice from leading libel lawyers. 

For Press Gang, Just Yorkshire was an important case study.

Unlike Tower Hamlets, which had been reluctant to take on the Times, Just Yorkshire had nothing to lose. 

Unlike Tower Hamlets, which reluctantly submitted a weak complaint to IPSO, Just Yorkshire were determined to make a full complaint.

Unlike Tower Hamlets, which was extremely nervous about briefing journalists, Just Yorkshire was willing to share everything.

Throughout September and the early part of October, Just Yorkshire and Press Gang carried out a detailed examination of the seven articles which Andrew Norfolk and the Times had published. 

The analysis showed Andrew Norfolk resorted to his tried and tested technique of purgeanddeceive in order to create his sensational campaign … 

♦♦♦

NORFOLK STARTED by leaving out the title of the Just Yorkshire report from his first article on July 25.

It’s called “A Temperature Check Report: understanding and assessing the impact of Rotherham MP, Sarah Champion ‘s comments in the Sun newspaper on 10 August 2017″.

The reason why Norfolk left out the title was because, although the report was critical of Champion, it did so with restraint. 

Norfolk purged the title in order to justify the headline “Security stepped up after scathing report led to death threats” and deceive readers about the measured nature of the report. 

Throughout the entire four days’ coverage of the issue, the Times did not once mention the title of the report. 

Next, Norfolk completely purged his account of a section in the introduction to the report which cautioned readers about the limits of the report.

Just Yorkshire agreed to produce the report “subject to the following provisos”:

A  That this report is nothing more than a temperature check report that is only focusing on one segment of the local community.

B  That the atmosphere that exists in Rotherham cannot be directly attributed to Ms Sarah Champion’s comments; and

C  In that context, it is very difficult to assess if the impact of Ms Sarah Champion’s comments has directly resulted in an increase in racism, Islamophobia or community tensions etc. This can only be determined by South Yorkshire Police and Rotherham Council through their community tensions monitoring processes;

D  Therefore, this report is a temperature check report at best – providing the local Pakistani community a platform to respond directly to Ms. Sarah Champion’s comments and have their voice heard. 

E  To acknowledge that Ms Sarah Champion should be commended for the invaluable support she has provided to some victims of the CSE [Child Sexual Exploitation] scandal.

Norfolk left out these qualifications in order to deceive his readers who might have wondered how a report prepared on this basis could possibly lead to death threats and increased security for Sarah Champion. 

Norfolk used the same techniques when it came to the major charges he levelled against Just Yorkshire: that it accused Champion of “industrial-scale racism”, of “fanning the flames of racial hatred” and of acting like a “neo-fascist murderer”.

Take the charge that Just Yorkshire accused the MP of “industrial scale racism”.

This is what Norfolk wrote:

Sarah Champion was accused by activists in her Rotherham constituency of “industrial-scale racism” for highlighting the “common ethnic heritage” of most of those implicated in the town’s sex-grooming scandal.

Again, Norfolk deceives his readers by saying that Just Yorkshire was criticising Just Yorkshire for “highlighting the ‘common ethnic heritage’ of those involved in the grooming cases”. 

Andrew Norfolk

PURGE AND DECEIVE
ANDREW NORFOLK is one of Britain’s most decorated journalists: his work on Asian sex gangs won him both the Paul Foot Award and a share of the Orwell Prize. But his recent investigations into issues involving Britain’s Muslim community have drawn criticism from many quarters. Press Gang has condemned his purge-and-deceive strategy: purging important facts and twisting others to deceive his readers. Even the press-controlled watchdog, IPSO, has found some of his articles breached the editors’ code of journalistic practice. 
Photo: Graham Turner for the Guardian

This is what the charity actually said:  

To attempt to define the issue of child sexual abuse / grooming along ethnic lines, and to see the Pakistani community through the prism of paedophilia and criminality is frankly racist — or even claiming there is something inherent in their heritage is bordering on industrial scale racism.

The charity wasn’t criticising Champion for pointing out that most of those convicted of child sexual exploitation were of Pakistani-heritage — it was criticising her for saying that all men of a Pakistani background were potential abusers. 

Norfolk then deceives his readers by selecting “industrial scale racism” from the larger quotation and leaving out the words, “bordering on”, in order to make it look more extreme. 

There was an even more serious deception: readers had no way of knowing that the “industrial scale racism” quote doesn’t even appear in the “Temperature Check” report of March 2018. 

It actually comes from the press release Just Yorkshire released on the day after Sarah Champion’s Sun article was published back in August 2017. 

But, while he was selecting what he considered to be a damaging quote, Norfolk purged his account of a highly significant statement in this press release. 

Just Yorkshire said:

“We condemn any form of threat made towards Sarah Champion for speaking out — and we urge local enforcement agencies to provide the maximum protection.”  

And when Norfolk says the charity accuses Sarah Champion of “fanning the flames of racial hatred” he purges his article of the fact that Champion had condemned her own article of doing exactly that.

In the days after her Sun article appeared Champion claimed the paper made “the headline and opening sentences highly inflammatory and they could be taken to vilify an entire community on the basis of race, religion or country of origin”.

The MP said she did not write the headline or opening sentences, which were “stripped of any nuance about the complex issue of grooming gangs, which have exploited thousands in my constituency”.

The Sun hit back, saying “Sarah Champion’s column, as it appeared on Friday, was approved by her team and her adviser twice contacted us thereafter to say she was ‘thrilled’ with the piece and ‘it looked great’.’

A spokesperson added:

Indeed, her only objection after the article appeared was her belief that her picture byline looked unflattering. Her office submitted five new photos.

Champion admitted: “The article should not have gone out in my name and I apologise that it did”.

She resigned as shadow equalities minister.

Norfolk also stated that the foreword of the “Temperature Check” report accused Sarah Champion of “acting like a ‘neo-fascist murderer’.”

But once again, he deceives his readers by stripping this provocative quote of its context.  

The preface — not foreword as Norfolk says — was written by the respected West Indian academic Professor Gus John. 

TEMPERATURE CHECK 2

TEMPERATURE CHECK
THE FRONT cover of Just Yorkshire’s report. Andrew Norfolk did not share with his readers the title for fear it might alert them to the care with which it was prepared.  Although Andrew Norfolk’s articles suggested Just Yorkshire is a Muslim charity, it was in fact run for nearly ten years by a Buddhist: the Singapore-born civil rights activist Ratna Lachman. She died of cancer in 2017 and was replaced as interim director by Nadeem Murtuja. The charity has three trustees, all of them women. Zaiban Alam is a barrister. Zlakha Ahmed, MBE is the chief executive of the organisation Apna Haq which helps domestic violence victims, including those from ethnic communities. Both Alam and Ahmed are practising Muslims. The third trustee, Leila Taleb, a human rights consultant, is an atheist. 
Photo: Just Yorkshire

He wrote that one of the reasons why Sarah Champion’s article was so offensive to Rotherham’s Muslims was that it was published on the second anniversary of a tragedy that shook the town.

In September 2015 two white thugs attacked an 81-year-old Yemeni man Muhsin Ahmed on his way to a local mosque for morning prayers.  

As they set about him, they asked if he was a “groomer” — that is, one of the men who had abused young girls in the town. 

Ahmed was so badly beaten that he later died of his injuries. The two attackers were subsequently gaoled.  

Gus John noted:

Here was a Member of Parliament, a Labour MP, whom the Ahmed family and the Pakistani community had a right to expect to conduct herself differently, effectively doing exactly what the neo-fascist murderers of their loved ones [sic] had done, motivated as they were by hatred of Muslim / Pakistani men, as a collective, for sexual exploitation of white girls.

Andrew Norfolk states that John was accusing Champion of “acting like a ‘neo-fascist murderer’,” when John was actually saying was that she was doing what the two murderers had done — assuming that all Pakistani-heritage men were potential groomers.

And, once again, Norfolk deceived his readers by tampering with the quotation.

He changed the meaning of the words “neo-fascist murderers” by reducing the plural “murderers” to the singular “murderer”.

If he had left the quote as it really was, readers might have wondered how Sarah Champion could possibly act as two murderers at the same time.

Norfolk’s opening report of 25 July 2018 was a classic example of his purge and deceive method of working.

♦♦♦

NORFOLK’S DRAMATIC front page article of July 25 was backed up by two other pieces on the same day.

Norfolk wrote a piece supporting Sarah Champion’s stand on the issue.

It was headlined “MP faced fury for stand on sex gangs”.

Norfolk  wrote:

Sarah Champion incurred the wrath of many on the political left when she told readers of the Sun that the country “has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls”.

He did not mention the fact that Champion had condemned her own article.

He also deceived readers when he claimed:

Nowhere in the [Just Yorkshire] report was it acknowledged that the MP stressed in her [Sun] article that in highlighting the ethnicity factor she was referring to a specific model of child abuse, the grooming and exploitation of “mainly white pubescent girls” by organised groups of men.

This is false. 

On page 11 of the “Temperature Check” report it states that in her Sun article Champion “described the perpetrators of the abuse as predators, working in gangs, and said that their common denominator was their ethnic heritage, namely British Pakistani. She identified their victims as ‘mainly white pubescent girls who were being sexually abused’.”

Another piece criticised the Joseph Rowntree charitable trust for supporting Just Yorkshire for much of its sixteen years existence. 

On August 25, the day that Andrew Norfolk makes the “death threats” accusation, the Times devoted one of its leading articles to the case.

It was headed “True Champion”.

It stated that “Rotherham’s MP deserves support for speaking out on sexual abuse”.  

It began with the role of the Rowntree trust. It acknowledged that it had done good work in social policy and housing but noted: 

That makes it all the more disappointing that it should be implicated in the saga in which the Labour MP for Rotherham, Sarah Champion, has received death threats for condemning the sexual abuse of girls by Pakistani men.

It said that Sarah Champion’s protection “has had to be increased”, adding: 

With the murder of the MP JO Cox still fresh in the memory, it is appalling that a local representative should need police protection.

It ended by saying that:

When Ms Champion told the Sun that Britain “has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls” she was doing no more than stating a truth. And unless the truth is confronted, the danger is that abuse will be repeated. She is, as her name suggests, a champion of her constituents.

The campaign against Just Yorkshire continued the next day with another front page article by Norfolk.

This time it concerned a private, undated letter Tory Home Secretary Sajid Javid had written to Champion and which she published on her website.

The headline was “Javid orders research into ethnic origin of sex grooming gangs”. 

In fact, the letter outlined research that was already on-going.

Buried deep in the article was the statement that if “there is a need for further research, we will take it forward.”

It was another example of Andrew Norfolk’s purge and deceive technique.

He was trying to give readers the impression that Javid had ordered research, perhaps as a result of his articles. 

The columnist David Aaronovitch also joined the fray with a piece headed “Criticising Muslims doesn’t make you a racist: activists who have denounced Rotherham’s MP are trying to shut down debate about real problems in their community.”  

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RAMPED
TIMES COLUMNIST David Aaronovitch joined in the attack on Just Yorkshire. On 26 July 2018 he wrote that “accusations of racism against Ms Champion and consequent threats to her on social media had been ramped up” by Just Yorkshire’s report. Press Gang wrote to Aaronovitch and asked him for the social media evidence that backed up this claim. He did not reply …

Aaronovitch wrote:

Yesterday we revealed that accusations of racism against Ms Champion and consequent threats to her on social media had been ramped up by a report published by a so-called racial justice charity [Just Yorkshire].

Two days later the campaign came to an end when Just Yorkshire was mentioned in a front page article by Norfolk. 

This was another attack on the Joseph Rowntree charitable trust for funding peace groups in Northern Ireland which allegedly had links to terrorists.

There were two paragraphs about the charity’s funding of Just Yorkshire.

The Times reported this week that the trust, a Quaker organisation, had given £550,000 to a group that accused a Labour MP of “industrial-scale racism” for highlighting the sexual abuse of girls by gangs of British Pakistani men.

Norfolk did not tell his readers that this sum had been spread over many years. 

Michelle Russell, the Charity Commission’s director of investigations and enforcement, said yesterday that it had opened an investigation into Just Yorkshire for its attack on Sarah Champion, the MP for Rotherham. “We are examining the administration of the charity and scrutinising some of its activities,” she said.

This was misleading.

The Charity Commission told Press Gang it had received complaints about Just Yorkshire — including one about the “Temperature Check” report — but that these had been received before Norfolk’s articles were published.

The Charity Commission also confirmed that it had not used the word “attack” in its press statement.

The Commission added that it had asked Just Yorkshire for its comments on the Times coverage.

A spokesman told Press Gang it was still considering the issue.

The result of the campaign by Andrew Norfolk and the Times against Just Yorkshire was devastating.

Funders pulled back and income dried up. 

The charity made its only employee, the interim director Nadeem Murtuja, redundant in January this year and told the Charities Commission it has decided to close.

♦♦♦

BY MID-OCTOBER last year, Just Yorkshire and Press Gang were ready to hit back at Andrew Norfolk and the Times

A nine page letter was sent to the editor of the Times, John Witherow, to say that the  articles about the charity were defamatory.

The letter, dated 16 October 2018, challenged the paper to provide the evidence that proved the “Temperature Check” report had led to death threats against Sarah Champion.

WITHEROW

JOHN WITHEROW
THIS ISN’T the first time Times editor John Witherow has been investigated by Press Gang over his attitude to Muslim issues. In 2012, when he was editor of the Sunday Times, the paper published a front page article written by the now-disgraced News of the World investigations editor Mazher Mahmood and reporter Eleanor Mills. The piece accused a Muslim dentist of being willing to perform female genital mutilation (FGM). The police investigation collapsed when it turned out that an undercover associate of Mahmood’s may have “prostituted” herself in order to persuade the dentist to carry out the procedure. Police founded no evidence the dentist was involved in FGM. See Withering Heights for the full, sordid story. 
Photo: PA

The response from the Times could not have been more dramatic. 

On November 5, Kirsty Howarth, a senior editorial lawyer at Times Newspapers Ltd which owns the Times, wrote to say:

 … the death threats made against Ms Champion since the report was published have not been directly linked to the report …

The Times was admitting that the allegation about death threats — the single most important element of Andrew Norfolk’s front page of July 25 — was false.

This was a major retreat.

The lawyer did not, however, admit that this was a mistake, nor did she offer an apology.

Indeed, she tried to argue that Norfolk’s first article was not misleading.

“What we in fact understand to be the case is that the publication of the report increased counter-terrorism police’s already significant concerns about Ms Champion’s security ie to a level beyond that which had existed when her life was previously threatened. 

“In light of the severity of those concerns … we do not consider that the article is misleading, but as the Times is a newspaper of record which aims for complete accuracy at all times, it has amended the article online and intends to publish following wording in its Corrections and clarifications column both in the paper and online subject to any reasonable comments you may have …” 

Kirsty Howarth did not provide the evidence which showed Champion’s security was increased as a result of the Just Yorkshire report.

The paragraph the Times was proposing to publish was as follows

Our article about Sarah Champion MP’s security protection being increased (News, 25 July) suggested that a report by the charity Just Yorkshire had led to death threats against Ms Champion. In fact, as was made clear elsewhere in our coverage, whilst the report led police to increase her security protection, no death threats made at that time were attributable to the report. We are happy to make that clear.

Just Yorkshire replied to this letter on November 13.

The charity said the proposed paragraph “is not acceptable, either in terms of content or prominence”.

The letter continued:

When you use the word “suggested” you know full well it is a weasel word.

The article stated bluntly: “The Times understands that the report led to death threats against Ms Champion.”

When this first article continued on page 7, the headline was even blunter: “Security stepped up after scathing report led to death threats”.

The letter noted that proposed paragraph now claimed Andrew Norfolk made it clear “elsewhere” in the article that no death threats were “attributable” to the report. 

Just Yorkshire said “we cannot find any such assertion”.  

The Times did not answer this letter — instead there was a series of phone calls and emails.

TIMES 5 NOV 2018

BOMBSHELL
THE DRAMATIC letter from Times lawyer Kirsty Howarth admitting that neither Andrew Norfolk nor the newspaper had any evidence to back up the sensational allegation that Just Yorkshire’s report had led to death threats against Sarah Champion.

On December 3 Kirsty Howarth emailed to ask:

Are you able to set out for me in concrete terms what the remedy package you consider appropriate would consist of in order that I may instructions?

On December 11, Just Yorkshire submitted two articles for publication — one a short front page apology and an inside news article setting out the charity’s criticism of Andrew Norfolk’s articles. 

The charity also asked for compensation and a letter from editor John Witherow to its principal funders explaining that there had been no death threats as a result of the report. 

On December 21 Howarth emailed to say this proposal had been rejected: 

… the Times editorial independence is sacrosanct and is never used as a bargaining chip in resolving complaints.

She then suggested Just Yorkshire might submit a letter for publication in the paper’s letters page: 

 … but I should warn you that the time that has passed since the articles were published is likely to be relevant here.

On Christmas Eve last year the Times published its 69 word paragraph on the bottom left hand corner of page 24 … 

♦♦♦

MEANWHILE LEGAL advice had been sought about whether Just Yorkshire could sue the Times for defamation.

A libel lawyer told Press Gang it would be risky to bring an action: 

The Times will argue that the article did not say that the report incited people to make threats against Sarah Champion, or that JY [Just Yorkshire] intended or was negligent as to that consequence. It simply says that there was a causal connection.  They will argue that there is no serious criticism of JY, certainly not one which would cause serious harm, in saying that the report led to people doing unintended things …

Since libel actions are expensive, Just Yorkshire decided to put the issue of litigation on hold.

Instead, the charity turned to the Independent Press Standards Organisation, IPSO.

Although it claims to be “independent”, IPSO is funded by Britain’s major newspaper publishers.

One of the most powerful of these groups is Rupert Murdoch’s News UK, owners of the Times, the Sun and the Sunday Times

On January 8 Nadeem Murtuja and the trustees of Just Yorkshire made an official complaint to the watchdog.

Just Yorkshire’s complaint was that the Times had breached the accuracy clause of the Editors’ Code which newspapers sign up to.

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FAKE NEWS
“IN AN age when world leaders routinely dismiss unwelcome reports a as ‘fake news’, readers need a source they can trust for honest journalism that informs, entertains and analyses without bias. …”
Source: The Times annual IPSO statement, 2017

This states: 

The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.

A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator. 

A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.

Just Yorkshire also claimed that the paper’s coverage broke the discrimination clause which states:

The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s, race, colour, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.

IPSO has few powers and the best Just Yorkshire could hope for was a adjudication that the Times had breached the Editors’ Code

There is no financial redress, the main “punishment” is that the paper might be forced to publish a judgment setting out the breaches. 

IPSO now asked the Times to respond to Just Yorkshire’s complaint. 

When the paper replied on January 25, it had changed its position.

Previously the paper argued that the first Andrew Norfolk article only “suggested” Just Yorkshire’s report led to death threats.

Now its position was that: 

The Times has openly accepted that it was not correct to say … the report ‘led’ to death threats. It regrets the error …

The letter added that the “error” was a “slip”.

However, the paper insisted that there were many other references to death threats in its coverage of Just Yorkshire, the two most important of which “clearly linked the death threats to Ms Champion’s own comments, not to the report”.

It added:

In the light of this, the Times considers it appropriate for the wording [of the paragraph published on 24 December 2018] to have said the article ‘suggested’ that the report led to the death threats and did not consider that the error, though unfortunate, was significant or that it required an apology, though clearly a correction was needed.” 

The paper also gave IPSO more information about its sources for the allegation that concerns about the “Temperature Check” report had contributed to counter-terrorism police providing extra security for Sarah Champion.

The paper: 

… is able to confirm that the information came from trusted and highly reliable and credible sources and it was accurate. The Times has since spoken to Ms Champion who has confirmed that these statements are correct. 

This was another change from the original article which had stated

 The MP declined to comment.

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MYSTERY AT THE YARD 
METROPOLITAN POLICE Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu is in charge of counter-terrorism policing in England and Wales. His staff officer Nick Bonomini told Just Yorkshire that the Met’s Parliamentary Liaison & Investigation Team “… are not, nor have they, conducted a formal investigation into the report published by [Just Yorkshire].” Another officer later confirmed that the force knew of no death threats which were linked to the report. However, the Met also confirmed that “action had been to safeguard” the MP as a result of the report. Sarah Champion later claimed that the report had led police, who already had “significant concerns” for her safety, to increase her security. Press Gang has been unable to reconcile the contradiction between these two positions. Sarah Champion has declined to answer any of our questions.
Photo: MPS

Now the MP had come out into the open on behalf of Andrew Norfolk and the newspaper. 

The Times denied its coverage discriminated against Nadeem Murtuja and the trustees of Just Yorkshire.The charity’s response to the Times letter was withering.In a letter, dated February 8, it noted that the Times letter only discussed one occasion when the paper said the report “led” to death threats. The charity said: 

It seems to us that whoever wrote this letter is suffering from amnesia. 

The Times was ignoring the fact that when Norfolk’s front page article of July 25 continued to an inside page it carried the headline:

Security stepped up after scathing report led to death threats.

 

Nor was Just Yorkshire impressed with the Times sources who said its report had led to increased security for Sarah Champion:

The obvious riposte to this assertion is that, presumably, these were exactly the same “trusted and highly reliable and credible sources” that told Andrew Norfolk about the death threats. 

Just Yorkshire said these sources were “evidentially worthless”. 

The charity had also cited a previous IPSO ruling, called Solash v The Times, where a complaint against the paper was upheld because it wouldn’t reveal the documentary evidence to back up its source.

Just Yorkshire invited IPSO “to make a similar ruling in this case”.

The charity also welcomed the emergence of Sarah Champion, adding:

… Sarah Champion can now furnish the evidence of increased security that Andrew Norfolk and the Times have failed to provide so far.

Just Yorkshire asked for “tangible evidence (social media records, emails, anonymous letters)” and for details of the discussions with counter-terrorism police “which led to them advising, and her accepting, increased security”. 

The letter continued:

In the circumstances, we cannot see any reason why Sarah Champion should decline to provide the documentary evidence necessary to prove that our report contributed to her being given greater security.
On its own, we are not prepared to accept that Sarah Champion’s word alone is sufficient to prove the Times position that our report contributed to increased security.
We note that Andrew Norfolk and Sarah Champion have been fellow campaigners on the issue of Asian sex gangs for several years.
We further note that Andrew Norfolk has written many articles that feature the MP all of them, as far as we know, supportive of her stand on the Asian sex gangs issue. 


The Times responded to these points in a letter dated February 20.

On Just Yorkshire’s point that the paper had ignored the existence of the headline “Security stepped up after scathing report led to death threats”, the Times was  … completely silent.

The letter now made the highly revealing statement that none of Andrew Norfolk’s sources actually told him about the death threats:

We were not told that the report led to death threats …. That sentence in one of the seven articles was a mistake, as we have acknowledged from the very beginning …

Just Yorkshire responded to these revelations in a letter dated March 1.

The letter asked: 

… how on earth did Andrew Norfolk come to make the “mistake” that led him to declare that “the Times understands that the report led to death threats against Ms Champion”?

What the Times now seems to be suggesting is that he conjured the “mistake” out of thin air ..

 

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MORE HYSTERIA, LESS ANALYSIS? 
THE TIMES is currently running TV ads extolling the virtues of its journalism. The ad shows hyenas dominating the benches of the House of Commons, suggesting that MPs are full of hot air — and in need of the calm, analytical approach of the Times

The letter invited IPSO 

… to come to the conclusion that the “death threats” allegation was a deliberate decision by both Andrew Norfolk (who wrote the sentence beginning “The Times understands …”) and the Times (whose sub-editor wrote the page 7 headline) in order to create a damning, malicious and sensational … article …

 

IPSO asked the Times to make any final comments before referring the Just Yorkshire complaint to its Complaints Committee.

When the Times replied, on March 7, it did not provide the evidence Just Yorkshire had asked for which proved that the “Temperature Check” report led to increased security for Sarah Champion.

The letter did, however, include an email from Sarah Champion to the Times.

The MP confirmed that her life had been threatened both before and after the “Temperature Check” report was published.

She added:

… the report’s publication (and its contents) increased counter-terrorism police’s already significant concerns about my security and led to their advice that I should increase my security protection, which duly happened.

I hereby confirm that everything that was stated by the newspaper … is true and entirely accurate.

The Times also added some further information about Andrew Norfolk’s two sources:

The Times journalist involved is an experienced, award-winning journalist. He had multiple conversations with two sources for the point regarding Ms Champion, the report, the threats she had received and her police security.

Both sources are known to the journalist as people of integrity and credibility. The newspaper only knows the identity of one of the sources who it can confirm is of some standing and who it knows to be reliable. 

The paper added:

We can say no more than that the source whose identity is known to the both the paper and journalist has direct knowledge of the security concerns raised by the police in light of the report and the measures implemented as a consequence.

Just Yorkshire also complained about the paragraph the Times had published on Christmas Eve last year.

This stated

Our article about Sarah Champion MP’s security protection being increased (News, 25 July) suggested that a report by the charity Just Yorkshire had led to death threats against Ms Champion. In fact, as was made clear elsewhere in our coverage, whilst the report led police to increase her security protection, no death threats made at that time were attributable to the report. We are happy to make that clear.

The charity argued that this paragraph was inaccurate on three grounds:

— the paper had not “suggested” its report had led to death threats. On two occasions it is stated it as a fact, first when the Times “understands” there were death threats and the second, the headline which stated the “scathing report” led to death threats

— the paper argued that it had made it clear elsewhere in its coverage that the report did not lead to death threats. Just Yorkshire said that the only source of any death threats cited by the paper was its report

—  although the paper acknowledged the “death threats” was a “mistake” and that it “regrets the error”, the paragraph did not apologise.

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FOR ROTHERHAM … 
WHEN A right wing fascist murdered 50 Muslims at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in March, he plastered his magazines with slogans. One of these was marked “For Rotherham”, a reference to the Asian sex gang stories. 

The Times maintained that its paragraph was accurate.

At this point, IPSO concluded its inquiries and complaints and arbitration officer Madelaine Palacz prepared a report which was submitted to IPSO’s Complaints Committee hearing on March 13.

♦♦♦

JUST YORKSHIRE’S complaint was considered by IPSO at a time when the organisation was under fire for not protecting minorities.

On February 28, the campaign group Hacked Off issued an open letter to IPSO calling on it to stop “condoning religious and race-based hate”. 

The letter stated: 

Racist and faith-based attacks against communities are so common in parts of the press that they have become a dangerous normality. It is clear that these attacks encourage the discrimination, harassment and violence suffered by members of minority communities every day.

Yet you have taken no action. In respect of each of the examples cited in this letter, you have not upheld a single complaint. In one entire year, of over 8,000 discrimination complaints, you upheld only one.

By allowing these abuses to go on without sanction you are turning a blind eye to the continuing incitement of hatred.

We write to express our deep dismay and to ask you to address this problem urgently and publicly. While the press must be free to do its job, your implicit condoning of religious and race-based hate must stop.

Among the signatories were the charity War on Want, and cross-party politicians including Baroness Warsi, Keith Vaz, Lord David Alton and Caroline Lucas.

More than 40 others added their names: Steve Coogan, the broadcaster James O’Brien, the barrister Helena Kennedy and the Bishop of St Albans. 

The chair of IPSO, Sir Alan Moses replied:

IPSO rejects the accusation that it condones religious and race-based hate or in any way approves of offensive attacks on groups on the grounds of their beliefs or identity.

Our decisions on discrimination and accuracy make it clear that a finding that there has been no breach of the Editors’ Code does not in any way imply that IPSO approves of what has been written.

The real issue, with which the letter fails to grapple, is how to strike a balance between the freedom of a journalist or newspaper to offend a group while protecting individuals.

As well as making its complaint, Just Yorkshire also wrote to Sir Alan Moses asking the IPSO board to carry out a broad-ranging inquiry into anti-Muslim journalism at the paper. 

This is called a “standards investigation” and IPSO can order one in cases where there is a “serious and systemic” problem.

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IPSO
IN 2014 the Independent Press Standards Organisation — IPSO — replaced the disgraced Press Complaints Commission (PCC).  The PCC had been swept away by the public revulsion over the hacking of the mobile phone of the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler. It was the Times stablemate, the News of the World, which had been responsible — and the brand became so toxic that Rupert Murdoch closed it. But despite claims that it is a new and improved press regulator, IPSO remains firmly under the yoke of a mainstream press owned in large part by foreign-based billionaires like Murdoch. Its weakness is demonstrated by the fact that it has not been able to prevent Andrew Norfolk and the Times from publishing distorted articles about Britain’s 2.7 million Muslims.

If found guilty, the newspaper can be fined up to £1 million. 

There have been no standards investigations since IPSO started operations in 2014.

Just Yorkshire pointed out that there were broad similarities between the Muslim foster care case and false allegation that its report led to death threats against Sarah Champion.

Moses wrote back to say that the complaints investigation had not been completed but added:

“I have passed your letter to Charlotte Unwin, Head of Standards, so that the concerns you have raised can be flagged up for our ongoing standards monitoring.”

The Just Yorkshire complaint was considered at a meeting of IPSO’s complaints committee on February 13. 

Two members were unable to attend — former CPS official Nazit Afzal and the black barrister Helyn Mensah. 

As a result, there were no representatives of the Asian community — and no representative of any of the UK’s ethnic minorities. 

♦♦♦

WHEN IPSO sent Just Yorkshire its ruling on March 28, it was clear its complaints committee had bent over backwards to protect the Times.

There was little the committee could do to mitigate the impact of the headline which appeared on July 25:

Security stepped up after scathing report led to death threats

It found that this was a breach of the accuracy clause of the Editors’ Code:

The print headline to the first article on page 7, had made the categorical claim that the March 2018 report had “led” to the MP receiving death threats. This was a significant claim given its seriousness; it established a causal link between the actions of the complainant and the threats which the MP had received against her life. The newspaper had produced no evidence to support the claim made in the headline on page 7.

But it took a different view of Andrew Norfolk’s comment, again in the first article, that “the Times understands that the report led to death threats against Ms Champion.” 

The complaints committee’s argument was tortuous:

The MP had confirmed that her life had been threatened both before and after the publication of the March 2018 report. She had also confirmed that the report’s publication — and its contents — had increased counter-terrorism police’s already significant concerns about the potential risk to her security, and led to their advice that her security protection be increased, which subsequently happened.

The Committee considered the claim made in the first article, that the newspaper “understood” that the March 2018 report had led to death threats, in that context. Unlike the headline’s categorical claim, the article had made clear the basis for the newspaper’s belief that the report had led to death threats against MP, namely that police had increased the her security risk level and had advised that she accept extra protection. There was no further breach … 

In other words, IPSO found it was perfectly reasonable that Norfolk “understood” that increased security had led to death threats. 

What is astonishing about IPSO’s justification is that the Times, when it was discussing exactly the same remark, stated: 

The Times has openly accepted that it was not correct to say … the report ‘led’ to death threats. It regrets the error …

So IPSO actually found the paper was not inaccurate when the Times had not only admitted its comment was “not correct” but also “regrets the error”. 

In fact, the newspaper only argued that it was not a “significant inaccuracy”.

Norfolk_cover_with_spine_g.indd

NORFOLK UNMASKED 
PRESS GANG is not the only critic of Andrew Norfolk. Brian Cathcart, professor of journalism at Kingston University and a founder member of the pressure group Hacked Off, has been analysing Andrew Norfolk’s journalism for more eighteen months. Earlier this year he and Press Gang editor Paddy French joined forces to produce a 72 page report exposing Andrew Norfolk. The report examined the Just Yorkshire affair and the notorious “Christian child forced into Muslim foster care” case. The report also analysed a third example of Norfolk’s distorted reporting — a November 2018 article that claimed Rotherham council had favoured a convicted rapist in family court proceedings concerning the child he’d fathered on one of its victims. Official sources later revealed that the council had merely obeyed the rules of the family court. Click here to read the report

The Times pleads guilty, IPSO finds it innocent … 

For the breach over the “Security stepped up after scathing report led to death threats’ headline, IPSO acknowledged that a correction was needed but concluded that the single paragraph the Times published on 24 December 2018 was adequate.

The Committee expressed some concern at the wording of the correction which was published, particularly the use of the word “suggested”; the headline of the first article had stated, as fact, that the March 2018 report had led to death threats. However it did make clear the correct position that no death threats made at that time were attributable to the March 2018 report.

Just Yorkshire had argued that a 69 word paragraph buried on the letters page did nothing to counter the impact of a front page article.

IPSO’s complaints committee did not agree:

The Committee considered that the publication of this wording in the newspaper’s established Corrections and Clarifications column as well as online, represented due prominence.

The committee found the Times analysis of the “Temperature Check” report was not inaccurate.

The committee also found there had been no discrimination against Nadeem Murtuja and the trustees of Just Yorkshire. 

Just Yorkshire appealed against the ruling.

The letter pointed out that News UK, the ultimate owners of the Times, makes considerable claims for the quality of its journalism:

All News UK titles strive for the highest standards of accuracy and all editorial staff are expected to follow standard journalistic best practice in verifying stories. When reporting events not witnessed at first hand all possible steps should be taken to establish the credibility and reliability of any sources, and to corroborate their accounts.

Just Yorskhire said the paper had fallen short of its own standards. 

The charity also reminded IPSO that it also set high standards for its own deliberations.

The advice given in the preamble to the guidance which accompanies the Editors’ Code emphasises that the code:

… goes beyond a narrow, legal interpretation of the rules, which could provide loopholes, and instead talks about the Code being honoured “not only to the letter but in the full spirit”. That means that instead of legalistic quibbling, the Code should be honoured in what we might perhaps all recognise as the spirit of “fair play” and “doing the right thing”.

Just Yorkshire said that IPSO’s complaints committee had failed its own test. 

It asked the Independent Complaints Reviewer to “reconsider the complaints committee’s verdict on this matter and apply the principles of ‘fair play’ ….”

 IPSO’s “independent complaints reviewer”, former local government chief executive Trish Haines, submitted her report on May 10.  

She stated:

” … the question for the Complaints Reviewer is whether there was a substantial flaw in the decision making process. In my view, there was not.”

This was the end of the regulatory road for Just Yorkshire.

Although IPSO had proved to be a toothless watchdog, its process had revealed important information about the failings at the Times.  

Nadeem Murtuja and the trustees of Just Yorskhire are now considering whether to proceed with an action for defamation … 

♦♦♦

SARAH CHAMPION is a key figure in this story.

She now makes it clear — mostly, it has to be said, through her silence — that she does not support Andrew Norfolk and the Times in their assertion that the Just Yorkshire report led to death threats against her.

However, it is also clear that she did nothing to correct the falsehood as Andrew Norfolk and the Times assault on Just Yorkshire continued over several days

She also did nothing to dissuade Andrew Norfolk from running the second strand of July 25 story — the alleged plot by “hard-left and Muslim opponents” to topple her as Rotherham’s MP.

She would only say she had no “comment” to make.

Press Gang has evidence that she knew about this element of the story before it was published.

Her silence on the matter suggests that she was prepared to see it published.

In fact, Andrew Norfolk’s evidence for the plot was painfully thin.

Only two politicians were actually named as potential plotters and one of these, former Labour deputy leader Jahangir Akhtar, was no longer on the council.

The only evidence against him was correspondence — Norfolk gave no date for it — in which he called Champion an “ogre” and “if Labour wants to keep her seat, they need to get rid of her pretty quick”. 

The other alleged plotter was councillor Taiba Yasseen who had been dropped from the Labour-controlled cabinet.

Norfolk said that this was “for reasons the party has declined to reveal, but supporters of Ms Champion say that the decision was prompted by concerns that she was trying to discredit the MP.”

No evidence was advanced to support this assertion.

Nor did Norfolk gave any details of actual plotting. 

The evidence for his claim that “far-left activists” were involved appears to be that Yasseen is a membership of Momentum.

Norfolk noted that Yasseen, who has ambitions to become an MP, said the allegation was “categorically untrue”.

Yasseen is a supporter of Sarah Champion — and Sarah Champion has supported Yasseen’s bid to become a Labour candidate in other northern constituencies.

Any plot by Rotherham’s Muslim community to unseat the MP also runs up against some powerful demographics.

The town’s 7,600-strong Pakistani community makes up just over 3 per cent of the 257,000 population.

They elect three out of 61 councillors, all of them Labour.

In the 2012 by-election and the 2015 general election UKIP were the second largest party.

The town has a strong, right-wing element — in the 2012 by-election, the BNP came third to UKIP.

Press Gang asked Sarah Champion if her involvement in Andrew Norfolk’s anti-Muslim journalism is designed to keep right-wing Labour voters from switching to UKIP and the BNP.

She did not reply. 

Andrew Norfolk and Times editor John Witherow also declined to comment. 

♦♦♦

Published: 26 June 2019
© Press Gang 

♦♦♦ 

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EXCLUSIVE: THE WATCHDOG STIRS

January 19, 2018

the-times_head_01d

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.

DIRBYN_XoAALCx8

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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THE FALL OF MAZHER MAHMOOD

October 5, 2016

mahmood_head_with_words_06

TODAY A jury found Mazher Mahmood guilty of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

The verdict was unanimous.

The 53-year-old Mahmood and his former driver Alan Smith, 66, were convicted of plotting to doctor a statement in the Tulisa Contostavlos drugs trial in 2014.

[The two men were sentenced on October 21.

Mahmood was gaoled for  15 months — Smith received a 12 months suspended sentence.]

The verdict destroys Mazher Mahmood’s reputation.

Mahmood did not dare to give evidence because of the substantial body of evidence the prosecution would have marshalled against him.

Some of this comes from Press Gang:

— Mahmood lied to the Leveson Inquiry about the number of criminal convictions he as responsible for.

He claimed more than 250 but Press Gang could only find 70.

Mazher Mahmood court case

FALSEHOOD
MAZHER MAHMOOD arrives at the Old Bailey still determined to preserve his anonymity. The jury were told that there were 11 emails between Mahmood and his driver Alan Smith. When police inspected their computers they found they’d all been deleted …
Photo: PA

Our investigation forced him to go back to Leveson and admit that Murdoch lawyers had come up with just 94.

— in 2012 Press Gang warned Murdoch’s ethics watchdog (the Management and Standards Committee) that Mahmood was a serial perjurer.

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SNAPPED
THE PICTURE taken by police after Mahmood was convicted  …

Over and over again, he’d gone into the dock and lied about his success in securing convictions.

These inflated claims made it more and more difficult for his victims to defend themselves.

Mazher Mahmood court case
ALAN SMITH
THERE WERE four phone calls between Smith and Mahmood at this time. Police wanted to examine Smith’s mobile phone but he told them it had been destroyed either after it was run over by a motor car or after a jacked-up vehicle had been dropped on it. He was given a suspended 12 months prison sentence.
Photo: PA

The Management and Standards Committee didn’t reply.

— Press Gang revealed that two years before the Tulisa exposé, Mahmood used an associate to prostitute herself to persuade a dentist to agree to carry out female genital mutilation.

This was for a front page exposé for the Sunday Times in 2012.

The case against the dentist collapsed when the journalist / prostitute refused to sign a statement.

(The story is told in Withering Heights.)

John Kelsey Fry QC at Lewes Crown Court
“FUNDAMENTALLY FLAWED”
DEFENCE BARRISTER John Kelsey-Fry QC said the case against Mahmood was “fundamentally flawed and illogical and defies common sense.” His client “repeatedly insists he did not discuss Smith’s evidence with him and he repeatedly insists he could not discuss Smith’s evidence.”
Photo: PA

The most detailed account of how Tulisa turned the tables on Mahmood is the following Press Gang article published in August 2014.

It’s a shocking story …

 ♦♦♦

STING IN THE SINGER'S TALE

Originally published:
29 August 2014

♦♦♦

THE FULL story behind the dramatic collapse of the trial of singer Tulisa Contostavlos — and the unscrupulous role of Sun on Sunday reporter Mazher Mahmood — has not been told.

During the trial in July [2014] it became clear that one of Mahmood’s associates, a driver called Alan Smith, changed his witness statement after a discussion with the reporter.

Mahmood had claimed, at an earlier hearing, that he hadn’t spoken to him.

Press Gang can now reveal that Smith has a criminal record.

And it’s not the first time he’s played a devious role in one of the undercover reporter’s stories.

The judge in the Tulisa Contostavlos case concluded Mahmood deliberately lied to the court.

The case was dismissed.

Mahmood has now been suspended by The Sun and the Metropolitan Police are investigating the allegation that he committed perjury.

But the extraordinary sequence of events which led to the singer walking free has not been revealed — even though reporters were well aware of it.

The case also calls into question the willingness of Scotland Yard to base criminal cases on the work of a journalist with a long history of perjury allegations.

Long before Tulisa Contostavlos was charged, the editor of this website wrote to the Metropolitan Police asking them to investigate Mahmood for perjury.

We pointed out that Mahmood had not only lied to the Leveson Inquiry about the number of convictions he’d secured but may also have lied about the issue in several of the criminal prosecutions he generated.

The Met did not reply.

This article tells the inside story of how one of Rupert Murdoch’s favourite reporters fell from grace …

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

♦♦♦

ON MAY 10 last year a gang practiced in the arts of entrapment prepared for another session with one of their victims.

The group had rented a suite at the 5 star Metropolitan Hotel just off Park Lane in the centre of London.

The target was the singer Tulisa Contostavlos.

She’d enjoyed a successful career with the hip hop band N’Dubz and had been a judge in the TV series The X Factor for two years running.

The man after her scalp was Mazher Mahmood.

In a controversial career spanning more than three decades, Mahmood had chalked up a reputation as one of the most dangerous adversaries in Fleet Street.

As the “Fake Sheik” he’d humiliated the rich and the powerful — including Prince Edward’s wife, the former Sophie Rhys-Jones, and the Duchess of Kent.

But he’d also seen famous celebrities and sportsmen gaoled after his elaborate stings.

This time it was to be a battle between the experienced Mahmood and a young woman from a broken family in North London.

The odds were stacked against the singer.

Tulisa Contostavlos was just 25.

At 50, Mahmood was twice her age.

She was the only child of musician parents who broke up when she was young.

She lived with her mother who had a long history of mental health problems.

Mazher-Mahmood
STRAIGHT STALKING
MAZHER MAHMOOD targeted the singer because she held out the promise of a “gold standard” sting — a huge story with criminal convictions at the end of it. Tulisa was young, beautiful and had taken her career in a successful hip hop band to a new level when she became an X Factor judge. But Mahmood also thought she was likely to be a cocaine user — one of the million or so British people who regularly use the drug with a heavy concentration in the entertainment business. By early 2013 she’d made it plain she wanted a career in Hollywood — and was therefore ripe for a classic Mahmood sting … In her autobiography Honest (2012) she revealed she’d self-harmed as a teenager.
Photo: BBC

She joined the hip hop band N’Dubz — named after the London district NW1 where she grew up — when she was 12.

The band had its first chart success in May 2007.

In November of that year — when she was 18 — she appeared in the Channel 4 programme Dubplate Drama.

She played a cocaine addict.

In 2011 and 2012 she was one of the judges on Simon Cowell’s The X Factor series.

In May 2012 her solo single “Young” went to No 1.

But a few months earlier her ex-boyfriend Justin Edwards posted online a sex video of the couple.

She took him to court and won damages against him.

By early 2013, she was disillusioned with the music business in Britain.

“I wanted to get out. I wanted to go into acting and piss off to America,” she said later.

She went to Los Angeles to audition for parts.

That’s where Mazher Mahmood and his gang targeted her.

He created a sting based on her public comment that she was a big fan of the actor Leonardo DiCaprio..

He pretended to be a Bollywood producer called Samir Khan and offered her a £3.5 million role in a movie starring alongside DiCaprio.

He flew her to Las Vegas in March 2013 and gave her and her entourage two suites at one of the city’s top hotels, the Venetian.

During her stay, she was given bodyguards and the best tables at nightclubs.

By the time the Las Vegas trip was over, she was convinced she was in line for a major movie that would transform her life.

“I was like a lost puppy,” she later recalled, “because I wanted it so badly to be true.”

♦♦♦

WHEN TULISA and her team arrived at the Metropolitan on May 10, Mahmood and his gang were ready.

The reporter and his entourage were armed with hidden cameras and microphones.

But the singer proved a tough nut to crack.

Throughout the long, six-hour session — and the constant flow of alcohol — she kept a cool head.

She clearly didn’t take drugs.

Tulisa Contostavlos court case
TABLES TURNED
ON THE journey home from a six-hour session where she was plied with drink by Mazher Mahmood’s gang, the singer made it clear she disapproved of drugs. It was a statement that was to save her from a criminal conviction — and dramatically turn the tables on her accuser. Mahmood is now being investigated for perjury … a far more serious offence than the one she was charged with.
Photo: PA

She was also discreet.

She was careful not to badmouth the famous people she knew — like Simon Cowell, the man behind X Factor.

Mahmood had brought up the subject of “celebrity prostitution”.

When it was suggested that she go to Mahmood’s bedroom, she refused.

She was going to land the part on the basis of her acting ability alone.

But Mahmood had a trick up his sleeve.

He didn’t believe in formal auditions, he said.

He preferred “social auditioning” and urged her to demonstrate that she could play the character of a young London druggie in order to get the part.

She played the part, pretending to be a member of a drug gang in her past.

Mahmood said he was coming back to London later that month and planning a night out for his friends at a strip club.

Could she help set up the evening?

Still in character, she said it would be no problem.

At the end of the evening, Mahmood’s driver took the singer and her team home.

The driver was a long-standing associate of Mahmood’s called Alan Smith.

During the journey Tulisa and her associates talked about the evening.

The singer said that a member of her family had a drug problem — and that she personally disapproved of them.

At this point she was revealing her real views on drugs …

♦♦♦

ON MAY 21 Tulisa spoke to Mazher Mahmood on the phone about the proposed evening at the night club.

He challenged her to prove her street credentials by giving him the name of a cocaine dealer.

She didn’t know any — but thought that her rapper friend Michael Coombs might pretend to be one.

He’d acted alongside her in the Channel 4 programme “Dubplate Drama” back in 2007 — Coombs had played the dealer to her character.

She thought he’d be able to string the producer along.

On May 22 Mahmood rang Coombs who agreed to supply cocaine.

At a meeting at the Dorchester in the early hours of the next day, Coombs sold the reporter just under half an ounce — 13.9 grams — of cocaine for £820.

Tulisa Contostavlos court case
MICHAEL COOMBS
The 36-year-old rapper friend of Tulisa C, known as Mike GLC, pleaded guilty to selling Mazher Mahmood 13.9 grams of cocaine for £820. The case against him was also dropped when the judge realised that Mahmood had lied under oath.
Photo: PA

The exchange was filmed.

On June 2 [2013] the Sun on Sunday “World Exclusive” front page proclaimed “Tulisa’s Cocaine Deal Shame”.

She was arrested two days later.

By the time the trial began on July 14 this year, the omens were not good for the singer.

Mike Coombs pleaded guilty to supplying the drug — and was likely to face a prison sentence.

The singer pleaded not guilty to being involved in the supply of cocaine.

Her defence team had earlier failed to have the case struck out.

Her barrister said that the offer of a £3.5 million role in a film alongside DiCaprio was an “exceptional inducement”.

He also argued that the evidence Mahmood supplied was invalid because it broke the Police and Criminal Evidence Act — it was tainted by the amounts of alcohol the singer had consumed.

Judge Alistair McCreath rejected both applications.

He also refused to allow the defence to introduce details of other criminal cases involving Mahmood which had collapsed.

And he would not allow the defence to bring evidence of Mahmood’s bad character.

The defence team were still confident that they had a strong defence.

But Tulisa later said she was 100 per cent certain she was going to be convicted:

“I was preparing for prison.”

♦♦♦

BUT A miracle was about to happen.

When Mahmood handed over the sting material to the police, there was nothing from the driver Alan Smith.

The defence had a hunch that his vehicle had been bugged on the night he took her home from the Metropolitan.

A few weeks before the trial, the defence insisted police take a statement from him.

On June 23 a detective constable rang Smith and took notes of the conversation.

Smith told the detective that the subject of drugs came up and Tulisa had been very negative about them.

The detective prepared a statement and rang Smith to check it.

He made sure that the driver understood his obligations as a potential witness.

Smith said he was happy with the statement and would sign it.

The detective emailed the statement.

The next day, Smith rang the detective.

He said he was no longer sure it was the singer who had made the comment — it might have been another woman in the car.

The statement was changed and Smith signed it.

The next day, June 25, both statements were provided to the defence.

Here, they thought, was a ray of hope.

Smith’s initial statement gave credibility to the singer’s story that she was only playing a part when she was talking to Mahmood.

On June 27 — three days after Smith signed his changed statement — Mazher Mahmood was giving evidence under oath at a pre-trial hearing.

He was questioned by Tulisa’s barrister Jeremy Dein, QC about Alan Smith’s comment.

First, he was asked if the conversation between Alan Smith and the singer had been recorded.

“No”, answered Mahmood.

“But did you subsequently ask or find out, discuss with Mr Smith anything that was said in the car?

The answer was again “No”.

“Because I just want to see whether you were aware of this.”

“Mr Smith made a statement to the police saying that in the car Ms Contostavlos was talking about drugs and saying that a member of her family had a drug problem and she disapproved of drugs.”

“All I want to know from you is whether you discussed that with Mr Smith at any stage?”

The answer from Mahmood was clear and emphatic:

“No.”

Mahmood’s answers intrigued the defence team.

Lawyers from Hickman Rose, who represented the singer, began to make inquiries about Alan Smith.

They quickly discovered he’d been a long-term member of Mahmood’s team.

And he had a criminal record.

He’s also been involved in some of the reporter’s stories.

In May 1997, while he was Investigations Editor at the News of the World, Mahmood published an exposé of  a centre in Hayes where the courts sent prisoners to do community service.

One of the people he exposed was an unemployed chauffeur called Alan Graham who was photographed sleeping in the back of a Rolls Royce Silver Spirit.

The caption read “Snooze a Naughty Boy?”

What Mahmood did not tell News of the World readers was that Graham was actually one of his drivers, Alan Smith.

Mahmood calls him “Smithy” and describes him as a “bald-headed burly” and said he was a “wide boy”.

The Rolls Royce had been hired by the paper.

Smith had been sentenced to 100 hours community service by Uxbridge magistrates for fraud.

Mahmood later said that Smith had been included in the article under an alias to disguise the fact that he was the informant for the story …

♦♦♦

THE WEEK before the trial opened, the defence asked the Crown Prosecution Service to bring Alan Smith to the court as a potential witness.

On July 16, the third day of the trial, Smith was interviewed by defence solicitors in the presence of a Metropolitan Police detective.

This took place while Mahmood was on the stand, giving evidence for the prosecution.

_DSC9278
BEN ROSE
THE LAWYER headed the legal team representing Tulisa Contostavlos. Solicitors suspected there was something fishy about the evidence given by Mazher Mahmood’s driver.
Photo: Hickman Rose

Smith confirmed that the original version of his statement stated that the subject of drugs had come up.

The singer had been very negative about them.

But he’d become unhappy about the statement.

He told the defence he’d sent a copy of the initial statement to Mahmood and then spoke to him about what he should do.

He said that Mahmood told him that, if he was unhappy with his statement, he should ring the police and change it.

The defence team were stunned.

Mahmood had said, on oath on June 27, that he hadn’t discussed anything with Smith.

Now the driver was saying the exact opposite.

One of the two men was lying…

♦♦♦

THE NEXT day, Thursday, was the fourth day of the trial.

It was to be a day of high drama.

Mazher Mahmood was back in the witness-box to be cross-examined by defence QC Jeremy Dein.

Overnight, Mahmood had learned what Smith had told the defence — and realised he now faced a serious dilemma.

Once again, Dein asked him if he’d discussed with Smith what was said in the car.

Mahmood now changed his story.

He admitted he had talked to the driver two weeks earlier.

He said that Smith had rung him and said he wasn’t happy with his statement.

Mahmood told the court Smith had emailed the statement and the two men then had a conversation about it.

Mahmood told him that he should ring the police and change it if he was not sure Tulisa had made the remark.

Dein put it to Mahmood that he had lied when he gave evidence at the earlier hearing.

“I disagree with you,” was Mahmood’s answer.

The barrister put it to him that it was he, Mahmood, who had persuaded Smith to change his statement.

“I did not,” replied Mahmood.

Mahmood added that the change made no difference.

Smith, he said, was sensitive about drugs because his son had recently died of a drugs overdose.

After Mahmood left the box, Judge Alistair McCreath sent the jury out.

He then addressed both the prosecution and the defence.

He made it clear that he felt Mahmood had told a “knowing lie” when he gave evidence on June 27.

And that he did so, in his opinion, to conceal “improper conduct”: he had interfered with evidence that would have been to Tulisa’s advantage.

In circumstances where a key witness was guilty of “gross misconduct”, he added, it would be an abuse for the state to rely on him.

It would also compromise judicial integrity — “it would be on the court’s conscience,” he said.

He then adjourned the court.

Throughout these proceedings, the press gallery was packed.

Reporters cannot report what’s said when the jury is out but the judge’s comments would have made it clear that Mahmood’s earlier dramatic climb-down was not only sensational — it now threatened the entire case.

Yet not a word of what had happened was reported by that evening’s radio and television news.

The next morning, the press were also silent.

The Daily Mail, for example, led with the story that one of Tulisa’s aides told Mahmood that he believed Simon Cowell was gay.

The defence team were disappointed.

They’d hoped press reports of the sensational developments might generate other material helpful to their case.

♦♦♦

FRIDAY WAS the fifth day of the trial.

By now it was clear that the judge was proposing to reopen the abuse application he had turned down the previous month.

The prosecution, though, were unable to get advice from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) about contesting it.

So the matter was left to the following Monday.

By then, the CPS had thrown in the towel and made no objection to the judge re-opening the defence application to stop the proceedings.

Judge McCreath not only halted the trial — he also dismissed the case against Michael Coombs, who had already pleaded guilty to supplying the cocaine.

He said that if he had thrown out the case earlier, Coombs would not have had to stand trial.

In his judgment, McCreath was scathing about Mahmood’s evidence about Alan Smith’s statements:

“When he gave evidence last week, he was asked questions on the same topic and gave answers which were entirely inconsistent with his earlier evidence.”

“And it certainly appears that the contact he had with Mr Smith was not unconnected with a fundamental change in the evidence which it was anticipated Mr Smith was going to give.”

“He was, as you will have understood, expected to be able to give evidence supportive of Ms Contostavlos — that she told him she disapproves of hard drugs.”

RUPERT MURDOCH - PICASA POSTERIZED
RUPERT MURDOCH
WHY DOES one of the world’s most powerful men continue to support the discredited Mahmood — a man accused by a judge of lying in the witness-box?
Photo: PA

“But after his conversation with Mr Mahmood, he had changed his mind.”

“It should not be forgotten that Mr Mahmood is

– the sole progenitor of this case

– the sole investigator

– the sole prosecution witness

– a man who has exercised his journalistic privilege to create a situation where the identities of others involved in the investigation are unknown to the defence (or the prosecution or even to me)

– someone who appears to have gone to considerable lengths to get Ms Contostavlos to agree to involve herself in criminal conduct, certainly to far greater lengths that would have been regarded as appropriate had he been a police investigator.”

He concluded:

“there are strong grounds for believing that Mr Mahmood told me lies when he gave evidence to me on June 27”.

And he added:

“there are also strong grounds for believing that the underlying purpose of these lies was to conceal the fact that he had been manipulating the evidence in this case by getting Mr Smith to change his account.”

He ended by saying, ominously for Mahmood:

“My view of the evidence cannot bind any other court which may (or may not) be called on to consider this matter in a different context.”

The fall-out from the collapse of the case was instant.

The Sun suspended Mahmood until an “immediate internal investigation” was complete.

The paper issued a statement:

“We are very disappointed with this outcome, but do believe the original investigation was conducted within the bounds of the law and the industry’s code.”

But it added:

The Sun, of course, takes the judge’s remarks very seriously.”

A spokesman for The Sun told us this week Mahmood remains suspended and that “the internal investigation is ongoing.”

“I will not divulge further details of an internal investigation.”

He added that Alan Smith “worked on an ad-hoc basis with Mr Mahmood.”

The Met said:

” … the Metropolitan Police Service have been able to consider the judgment issued by the trial Judge along with other material supplied by the Prosecution Counsel …”.

“As a consequence of the information supplied officers from Specialist Crime and Operations are now investigating whether any of the matters highlighted amount to the commission of any criminal offences.”

The CPS said it “has no investigative powers and therefore any criminal investigations following the conclusion of this case are a matter for the Metropolitan Police Service.”

On September 30 lawyers for Tulisa Contostavlos will be in court for a hearing to determine if the Sun on Sunday should pay her legal costs.

They have still not decided if she will sue the newspaper.

♦♦♦

THE COLLAPSE of the trial raises many questions.

There’s no doubt the Metropolitan Police had no choice but to investigate when presented with clear evidence that Michael Coombs had sold drugs to Mahmood.

But the force was well aware that Mahmood, throughout his career, has come in for sustained criticism about his methods, some of it from judges.

They should have subjected his evidence to a forensic investigation of their own.

It should have been the force that interviewed Alan Smith and not have left it to the defence to force them to do it.

If Smith had not been interviewed, it’s possible Tulisa Contostavlos would now have a criminal record.

NEW SCOTLAND YARD
NEW SCOTLAND YARD
IN 2012 Press Gang editor Paddy French wrote and asked the force to investigate allegations that Mazher Mahmood may have committed perjury in many of the cases where he gave evidence. There was no reply.
Photo: Rebecca

The force can’t say it wasn’t warned about the possibility of Mahmood committing perjury.

In November 2012 the editor of this website, Paddy French, wrote to Sue Akers, the Met’s deputy assistant commissioner, asking her to investigate allegations that Mahmood was a serial perjurer.

The letter cited the claim he made to the Leveson Inquiry, under oath, that he had more than 250 criminal convictions to his credit while he was Investigations Editor at the News of the World.

This was untrue.

Paddy French and researcher Chris Nichols had examined the News of the World throughout Mahmood’s career — and could find reports of only 70 convictions.

The full story is contained in the article Fake Convictions.

In the wake of this investigation, the Leveson Inquiry put the allegation to Mahmood.

What was then called News International called in the lawfirm Linklaters to carry out a proper audit.

In a subsequent statement to Leveson, Mahmood admitted that Linklaters could only find 94.

The letter also drew attention to the case against the London’s Burning actor John Alford who was gaoled in 1999 for supplying cocaine to Mahmood.

“In the September 2000 judgment refusing the actor known as John Alford leave to appeal against a nine month sentence for supplying cocaine to Mazher Mahmood’s undercover team in 1999, the court noted that Mahmood claimed 89 SCPs [successful criminal prosecutions]”.

At that point, Press Gang had found only 28.

The letter concluded by asking the Met “to examine Mr Mahmood’s testimony in all the court cases he gave evidence in to see if he has potentially committed perjury …”

A press officer told us Akers had retired and “the letter has been forwarded to deputy assistant commissioner Steve Kavanagh for consideration.”

“You will be contacted in due course.”

Kavanagh never replied.

♦♦♦
Published: 4 October 2016
© Press Gang
♦♦♦

NOTES
1
This the sixth article in the Press Gang series “The Life & Times Of A Serial Perjurer”. The previous articles and their links are:

Fake Convictions 
http://wp.me/p3kXx7-3
The Sting In The Singer’s Tale
http://wp.me/p3kXx7-12
Lying to Leveson
http://wp.me/p3kXx7-5O
Withering Heights 
No 10 Silent On “Fake Sheik” Intervention
2
The relevant statements about Mazher Mahmood’s claims about the convictions he secured to the Leveson Inquiry were made by Rebecca Television:
FIRST STATEMENT
http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Witness-statement-of-Paddy-French-including-exhibits.pdf
SECOND STATEMENT
http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Second-witness-statement-of-Paddy-French2.pdf
FIRST WITNESS STATEMENT – MAZHER MAHMOOD
http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20140122145147/http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Witness-Statement-of-Mazher-Mahmood.pdf
FOURTH WITNESS STATEMENT – MAZHER MAHMOOD
http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Fourth-ws-of-Mazher-Mahmood.pdf

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NUMBER 10 SILENT ON “FAKE SHEIK” INTERVENTION

December 22, 2014
SERIAL PART 5
 THE GOVERNMENT has declined to answer questions about a legal bid to stop the BBC Panorama exposé of Sun reporter Mazher Mahmood.

Attorney General Jeremy Wright tried to persuade the Corporation not to broadcast the investigation.

Wright is a political appointee and attends Cabinet.

No. 10 said it didn’t “comment on legal advice provided by law officers.” 

The BBC ignored the pressure and transmitted the “Fake Sheik: Exposed” programme on November 12.

Another public body, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is refusing to answer an allegation that it gave out false information about the case.

Sources claim CPS officials said at the end of October that a charging decision on Mahmood was due within two weeks.

Today, two months later, no decision has been announced … 

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police have been treating Mahmood himself with kid gloves. 

Press Gang has learnt detectives from Operation Silverhawk — the investigation into Mahmood’s false testimony in the Tulisa Contostavlos trial last July — decided not to arrest him.

Instead, officers arranged an appointment with him and his lawyer.

He was interviewed under caution. 

No warrant was sought to search his home in West London.

Mahmood’s “kid glove” treatment is in stark contrast to the “iron fist” used for Contostavlos.

She was arrested just two days after he published an article accusing her of conspiracy to supply drugs.

Her arrest — based solely on Mahmood’s evidence — took place by appointment at a police station.

Police also obtained a warrant and searched her home.

♦♦♦

THE FULL story behind the twice-delayed Panorama programme “Fake Sheik: Exposed” has not been told. 

By the time the piece was finally shown, on Wednesday, November 12, the BBC had beaten off a determined bid to have it stopped or at least watered down.

MAZHER MAHMOOD Lawyers acting for the "fake sheik" tried to persuade the court not to allow the BBC to show this recent picture of Mahmood. The judge rejected the argument that it would put him and his family at risk of potential violence from victims he'd exposed in the past. In fact, no-one bent on harming Mahmood would have any difficulty tracking him down — it took Press Gang fifteen minutes to do so. He and his wife Sadaf own two flats in a 1930s mansion block in the Kensington area of London: he lives in one while she occupies the other along with their young son. Photo: BBC

MAZHER MAHMOOD
LAWYERS ACTING for the “fake sheik” tried to persuade the court to ban the BBC from showing this recent picture of Mahmood. The judge rejected the argument that it would put him and his family at risk of potential violence from victims he’d exposed in the past. In fact, anyone seriously bent on harming Mahmood would have little difficulty tracking him down — it took Press Gang fifteen minutes to do so. He and his wife Sadaf own two flats in a 1930s mansion block in the London borough of Kensington & Chelsea: he lives in one while she occupies the other with their young son.
Photo: BBC

The campaign started on October 31, Halloween.

The BBC had just written to Mahmood telling him the thrust of the Panorama investigation and inviting him to respond.

Lawyers from Kingsley Napley, acting for Mahmood, quickly swung into action.

Their strategy was to attack on the programme on several fronts.

The first was an approach to the Attorney General, Jeremy Wright, a barrister and Tory MP who attends Cabinet.

Their argument was that because Mahmood was under investigation and might be charged the programme not in the public interest. 

That approach led to the Attorney General writing to the BBC warning that the programme: 

“may have the potential to prejudice any trial, should Mr Mahmood be charged.”

In a later email Wright added:

” … IF the Contempt of Court Act does come into play — by Mr Mahmood being arrested or charged — the position would be different.”

JEREMY WRIGHT QC, MP THE COALITION'S senior law official tried to per Photo: Attorney General's Office

JEREMY WRIGHT QC, MP
THE COALITION’S senior law official tried to persuade Panorama not to show the exposé of the “fake sheilk”. Last week his press office denied that Wright had discussed the issue with David Cameron: “He did not consult the Prime Minister.” 
Photo: Attorney General’s Office

Some observers believe this was a coded reference to signals coming from another government department — the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

At the end of October CPS officials were informally telling journalists a decision on whether or not to charge Mahmood was likely to be made within a couple of weeks.

This was obviously untrue — today, nearly two months later, Operation Silverhawk is still active and no charges have been brought.

The CPS press office would not answer questions:

“we are a very small team, and have simply not had the time to deal with your query properly yet“.

Some BBC staff felt the combination of the false CPS briefing and the warnings from the Attorney General were part of a concerted attempt by pro-Murdoch forces to “spook” Director General Tony Hall and chairwoman Rona Fairchild into axing the programme.

Last week the Attorney General’s office told Press Gang:

“In matters of contempt, the Attorney General acts in his role as guardian of the public interest, independent of government.”

“He did not consult the Prime Minister.”

A spokeswoman for No. 10 told us:

“We don’t comment on legal advice provided by law officers.”

♦♦♦

WHILE THE government’s legal wing was trying to prevent the programme altogether, Mahmood’s lawyers were in court trying to water it down.

They applied for an injunction preventing the BBC from showing up-to-date footage of the “fake sheik”.

The hearing, before Sir David Eady, took place at an all-day session at the Royal Courts of Justice on Halloween, October 31.

Mahmood was represented by a barrister instructed by Kingsley Napley.

Press Gang asked News UK if it was paying Mahmood’s legal bills.

The company didn’t answer the question. 

SILVERHAWK CONTINUES LAST WEEK the Met told Press Gang that a file on the Mahmood case has now been submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service. The file presents the evidence against Mahmood and asks  advice about whether the reporter can be charged with perjury and attempting to pervert the course of justice in the Tulisa Contostavlos case.  Photo: Rebecca Television

SILVERHAWK CONTINUES …
LAST WEEK the Met told Press Gang that a file on the Mahmood case has now been submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service. The file presents the evidence against Mahmood and asks advice about whether the reporter can be charged with perjury and attempting to pervert the course of justice. The Met also confirmed that the investigation is on-going …
Photo: Rebecca Television

In court, Mahmood’s team argued the programme should not show new images of him because he and his family would be at risk.

During the presentation, they revealed that police had interviewed Mahmood and pointed out that the programme might prejudice any trial.

They also claimed Panorama’s investigation was flawed because it relied on the testimony of former members of Mahmood’s “sting gang” who were motivated by revenge.

The injunction was not granted.

But Mahmood’s team were given leave to appeal and the hearing was listed for Monday, November 3.

That was the day the programme was scheduled to go out.

The BBC decided to postpone it.

On Monday, November 3 the appeal was refused.

The postponed programme was then re-scheduled for the following Monday, November 10.

But hours before this transmission lawyers acting for Mahmood submitted a tape which, they claimed, undermined the credibility of one of Panorama’s key witnesses.

The BBC decided to hold back the programme to assess the new material.

By Wednesday, November 12 they’d done so — and decided the programme would go ahead.

Normally, it would have gone out in the next available Panorama slot — Monday, November 17.

Now, however the Corporation faced a dilemma.

If the Crown Prosecution Service rumours were correct — and a decision on charging Mahmood was imminent — then he might be charged before the Monday.

A decision was taken to amend that day’s schedules.

The programme finally aired at 7.30 that night, November 12.

There were two reasons why the BBC was determined to show the Panorama investigation into Mahmood.

The first was that it was determined to demonstrate  its investigative credibility.

RUPERT MURDOCH WHY DOES one of the world's most powerful men continue to support the discredited Mahmood — a man accused by a judge of lying in the witness box?     Photo: PA

RUPERT MURDOCH
WHY DOES one of the world’s most powerful men continue to support the discredited Mahmood — a man accused by a judge of lying in the witness-box?
Photo: PA

This had been damaged by the Newsnight child abuse scandals.

The Corporation was severely criticised for censoring a Newsnight item in 2011 alleging that Jimmy Savile was a child abuser.

Newsnight then falsely accused Lord McAlpine of child abuse in November 2012.

The second was that the Corporation’s new Director of News & Current Affairs, James Harding, is a former editor of Rupert Murdoch’s Times newspaper.

Harding had endured a fractious relationship with the tycoon in his last few years as editor and was determined to demonstrate his independence.

♦♦♦

THE ROLE of the Metropolitan Police has raised questions about its impartiality. 

Critics say the force has bent over backwards to try to shield the “fake sheik”.

The decision by Operation Silverhawk not to arrest him is a key criticism.

Another is the length of time it’s taken detectives to send a file to the Crown Prosecution Service for a decision on charging.

The case against Mahmood is a relatively simple affair.

There is no denying Mahmood lied when he gave evidence at the trial.

The only issues are:

— did the lie amount to perjury ?

— and was it designed to pervert the course of justice?

Normally, a police investigation would have been completed within a matter of weeks.

The second charge against the Met is that it has decided not to widen the investigation to other cases where Mahmood was the principal witness.

As early as November 2012 — long before the Tulisa Contostavlos case — Press Gang asked the Met to investigate Mahmood for “serial perjury”.

In a letter to then Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers, we pointed out that Mahmood had lied under oath at the Leveson Inquiry about the number of criminal convictions he had to his name.

He claimed more than 250 — our investigation found only 70.

Our investigation prompted lawyers acting for Rupert Murdoch to carry out their own investigation.

Their report — which has never been released — found just 94.

The Press Gang letter to Akers pointed out that, in the course of our investigation, we found indications that Mahmood might also have lied on oath about his convictions in some of the criminal cases he gave evidence in.

The letter detailed one case — the gaoling of the TV actor John Alford for nine months in 1999 after a Mahmood sting.

That sting was remarkably similar to the operation mounted against Tulisa Contostavlos. 

At Alford’s unsuccessful appeal, the court noted Mahmood’s claim that he had 89 successful criminal prosecutions to his name.

That statement — which added credibility to Mahmood’s evidence — cannot be true.

By 1999, our analysis of Mahmood’s convictions showed only 28. 

Our letter asked the Met “to examine Mr Mahmood’s testimony in all the court cases he gave evidence in to see if he has potentially committed perjury …”  

JOHN ALFORD THE ACTOR'S acting carreer was destroyed after he was gaoled in 1999 for drugs offences following a "fake sheik" sting. Press Gang told the Met more than two years ago that there was evidence Mahmood also lied in this trial ... Photo: PA

JOHN ALFORD
THE ACTOR’S acting career was destroyed after he was gaoled in 1999 for drugs offences following a “fake sheik” sting. Press Gang told the Met more than two years ago that there was evidence Mahmood lied in Alford’s trial …
Photo: PA

The Met acknowledged the letter and promised a reply from a senior officer.

It never came.

Last week we raised this issue with the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), the police watchdog.

We asked them to explore the reasons behind the Met’s failure to answer the letter we sent to Sue Akers.

And we requested an examination of the failure to investigate the allegation of perjury in the Alford  case.

An IPCC spokesman said the complaint was being considered.

♦♦♦

ONE REASON why Rupert Murdoch’s News UK may have fought so hard to stop the Panorama programme is the fear of civil actions.

In the phone hacking scandal, much of the damage done to the News of the World came from revelations generated by individuals suing the newspaper.

There are signs that this is beginning to happen in the Mahmood scandal.

The CPS has now written to 25 of Mahmood’s victims warning them that they may have grounds to challenge their criminal convictions.

One of these is John Alford.

His solicitor Siobhain Egan has also been contacted by three other individuals with convictions as a result of Mahmood’s stings.

Another 18 people affected by Mahmood’s undercover operations have contacted the lawyer Mark Lewis.

Lewis played a key role in the civil litigation that helped unravel the industrial scale of phone-hacking at the Murdoch tabloids.

The Press Gang investigation into Mazher Mahmood continues … 

♦♦♦
Published: 22 December 2014
© Press Gang (part of Re
becca Television)
♦♦♦

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COMING UP IN THE NEW YEAR
“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.

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 1988 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 her 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
© Press Gang

♦♦♦

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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.

THE STING IN THE SINGER’S TALE

August 29, 2014

STING IN THE SINGER'S TALE

THE FULL story behind the dramatic collapse of the trial of singer Tulisa Contostavlos — and the unscrupulous role of Sun on Sunday reporter Mazher Mahmood — has not been told.

During the trial in July it became clear that one of Mahmood’s associates, a driver called Alan Smith, changed his witness statement after a discussion with the reporter.

Mahmood had claimed, at an earlier hearing, that he hadn’t spoken to him.

Press Gang can now reveal that Smith has a criminal record.

And it’s not the first time he’s played a devious role in one of the undercover reporter’s stories.

The judge in the Tulisa Contostavlos case concluded Mahmood deliberately lied to the court.

The case was dismissed.

Mahmood has now been suspended by The Sun and the Metropolitan Police are investigating the allegation that he committed perjury.

But the extraordinary sequence of events which led to the singer walking free has not been revealed — even though reporters were well aware of it.

The case also calls into question the willingness of Scotland Yard to base criminal cases on the work of a journalist with a long history of perjury allegations.

Long before Tulisa Contostavlos was charged, the editor of this website wrote to the Metropolitan Police asking them to investigate Mahmood for perjury.

We pointed out that Mahmood had not only lied to the Leveson Inquiry about the number of convictions he’d secured but may also have lied about the issue in several of the criminal prosecutions he generated.

The Met did not reply.

This article tells the inside story of how one of Rupert Murdoch’s favourite reporters fell from grace …

TULISA CONTOSTAVLOS The singer called Mazher Mahmood a liar as the case against her was sensationally dropped. Photo: PA

TULISA CONTOSTAVLOS
THE SINGER speaking outside Southwark Crown Court after the charge that she had been involved in the supply of cocaine was sensationally dropped.  Photo: PA

♦♦♦

ON MAY 10 last year a gang practiced in the arts of entrapment prepared for another session with one of their victims.

The group had rented a suite at the 5 star Metropolitan Hotel just off Park Lane in the centre of London.

The target was the singer Tulisa Contostavlos.

She’d enjoyed a successful career with the hip hop band N’Dubz and had been a judge in the TV series The X Factor for two years running.

The man after her scalp was Mazher Mahmood.

In a controversial career spanning more than three decades, Mahmood had chalked up a reputation as one of the most dangerous adversaries in Fleet Street.

As the “Fake Sheik” he’d humiliated the rich and the powerful — including Prince Edward’s wife, the former Sophie Rhys-Jones, and the Duchess of Kent.

But he’d also seen famous celebrities and sportsmen gaoled after his elaborate stings.

This time it was to be a battle between the experienced Mahmood and a young woman from a broken family in North London.

The odds were stacked against the singer.

Tulisa Contostavlos was just 25.

At 50, Mahmood was twice her age.

She was the only child of musician parents who broke up when she was young.

She lived with her mother who had a long history of mental health problems.

STRAIGHT STALKING  Mazher Mahmood targeted the singer because she held out the promise of a "gold standard" sting — a huge story with criminal convictions at the end of it. Tulisa was young, beautiful and had taken her career in a successful hip hop band to a new level when she became an X Factor judge. But Mahmood also thought she was likely to be a cocaine user — one of the million or so British people who regularly use the drug with a heavy concentration in the entertainment business. She'd also played the part of an addict in a Channel 4 drama and came from a broken family. By early 2013 she'd made it plain she wanted a career in Hollywood — and was therefore ripe for a classic Mahmood sting.

STRAIGHT STALKING
MAZHER MAHMOOD targeted the singer because she held out the promise of a “gold standard” sting — a huge story with criminal convictions at the end of it. Tulisa was young, beautiful and had taken her career in a successful hip hop band to a new level when she became an X Factor judge. But Mahmood also thought she was likely to be a cocaine user — one of the million or so British people who regularly use the drug with a heavy concentration in the entertainment business. By early 2013 she’d made it plain she wanted a career in Hollywood — and was therefore ripe for a classic Mahmood sting …

In her autobiography Honest (2012) she revealed she’d self-harmed as a teenager.

She joined the hip hop band N’Dubz — named after the London district NW1 where she grew up — when she was 12.

The band had its first chart success in May 2007.

In November of that year — when she was 18 — she appeared in the Channel 4 programme Dubplate Drama.

She played a cocaine addict.

In 2011 and 2012 she was one of the judges on Simon Cowell’s The X Factor series.

In May 2012 her solo single “Young” went to No 1.

But a few months earlier her ex-boyfriend Justin Edwards posted online a sex video of the couple.

She took him to court and won damages against him.

By early 2013, she was disillusioned with the music business in Britain.

“I wanted to get out. I wanted to go into acting and piss off to America,” she said later.

She went to Los Angeles to audition for parts.

That’s where Mazher Mahmood and his gang targeted her.

He created a sting based on her public comment that she was a big fan of the actor Leonardo DiCaprio..

He pretended to be a Bollywood producer called Samir Khan and offered her a £3.5 million role in a movie starring alongside DiCaprio.

He flew her to Las Vegas in March 2013 and gave her and her entourage two suites at one of the city’s top hotels, the Venetian.

During her stay, she was given bodyguards and the best tables at nightclubs.

By the time the Las Vegas trip was over, she was convinced she was in line for a major movie that would transform her life.

“I was like a lost puppy,” she later recalled, “because I wanted it so badly to be true.”

♦♦♦

WHEN TULISA and her team arrived at the Metropolitan on May 10, Mahmood and his gang were ready.

The reporter and his entourage were armed with hidden cameras and microphones.

But the singer proved a tough nut to crack.

Throughout the long, six-hour session — and the constant flow of alcohol — she kept a cool head.

She clearly didn’t take drugs.

TABLES TURNED  ON THE journey home from a six hour session where she was plied with drink by Mazher Mahmood's gang, the singer made it clear she disapproved of drugs. It was a statement that was to save her from a criminal conviction — and dramatically turn the tables on her accuser. Mahmood is now being investigated for perjury ... a far more serious offence than the one she was charged with. Photo: PA

TABLES TURNED
ON THE journey home from a six hour session where she was plied with drink by Mazher Mahmood’s gang, the singer made it clear she disapproved of drugs. It was a statement that was to help save her from a criminal conviction — and dramatically turn the tables on her accuser. Mahmood is now being investigated for perjury … a far more serious offence than the one she was charged with.  Photo: PA

She was also discreet.

She was careful not to badmouth the famous people she knew — like Simon Cowell, the man behind X Factor.

Mahmood had brought up the subject of “celebrity prostitution”.

When it was suggested that she go to Mahmood’s bedroom, she refused.

She was going to land the part on the basis of her acting ability alone.

But Mahmood had a trick up his sleeve.

He didn’t believe in formal auditions, he said.

He preferred “social auditioning” and urged her to demonstrate that she could play the character of a young London druggie in order to get the part.

She played the part, pretending to be a member of a drug gang in her past.

Mahmood said he was coming back to London later that month and planning a night out for his friends at a strip club.

Could she help set up the evening?

Still in character, she said it would be no problem.

At the end of the evening, Mahmood’s driver took the singer and her team home.

The driver was a long-standing associate of Mahmood’s called Alan Smith.

During the journey Tulisa and her associates talked about the evening.

The singer said that a member of her family had a drug problem — and that she personally disapproved of them.

At this point she was revealing her real views on drugs …

♦♦♦

ON MAY 21 Tulisa spoke to Mazher Mahmood on the phone about the proposed evening at the night club.

He challenged her to prove her street credentials by giving him the name of a cocaine dealer.

She didn’t know any — but thought that her rapper friend Michael Coombs might pretend to be one.

He’d acted alongside her in the Channel 4 programme Dubplate Drama back in 2007 — Coombs had played the dealer to her character.

She thought he’d be able to string the producer along.

On May 22 Mahmood rang Coombs who agreed to supply cocaine.

At a meeting at the Dorchester in the early hours of the next day, Coombs sold the reporter just under half an ounce — 13.9 grams — of cocaine for £820.

MICHAEL COOMBS The 36-year-old rapper friend of Tulisa C, known as Mike GLC, pleaded guilty to selling Mazher Mahmood 13.9 grams of cocaine for £860. The case against him was also dropped when the judge realised that Mahmood had lied under oath. Photo: PA

MICHAEL COOMBS
THE RAPPER friend of Tulisa C, known as Mike GLC, pleaded guilty to selling Mazher Mahmood 13.9 grams of cocaine for £820. The case against him was also dropped when the judge realised that Mahmood had lied under oath.    Photo: PA

Coombs made it clear to Mahmood that he was only supplying the drugs as a favour to Tulisa.

The exchange was filmed.

On June 2 the Sun on Sunday “World Exclusive” front page proclaimed “Tulisa’s Cocaine Deal Shame”.

She was arrested two days later.

By the time the trial began on July 14 this year, the omens were not good for the singer.

Mike Coombs pleaded guilty to supplying the drug — and was likely to face a prison sentence.

The singer pleaded not guilty to being involved in the supply of cocaine.

Her defence team had earlier failed to have the case struck out.

Her barrister said that the offer of a £3.5 million role in a film alongside DiCaprio was an “exceptional inducement”.

He also argued that the evidence Mahmood supplied was invalid because it broke the Police and Criminal Evidence Act — it was tainted by the amounts of alcohol the singer had consumed.

Judge Alistair McCreath rejected both applications.

He also refused to allow the defence to introduce details of other criminal cases involving Mahmood which had collapsed.

And he would not allow the defence to bring evidence of Mahmood’s bad character.

The defence team were still confident that they had a strong defence.

But Tulisa later said she was 100 per cent certain she was going to be convicted:

“I was preparing for prison.”

♦♦♦ 

BUT A miracle was about to happen.

When Mahmood handed over the sting material to the police, there was nothing from the driver Alan Smith.

The defence had a hunch that his vehicle had been bugged on the night he took her home from the Metropolitan.

A few weeks before the trial, the defence insisted police take a statement from him.

On June 23 a detective constable rang Smith and took notes of the conversation.

Smith told the detective that the subject of drugs came up and Tulisa had been very negative about them.

The detective prepared a statement and rang Smith to check it.

Tulisa_-_The_Sun_-_02.06.13__1__.jpg(2000660001.310.0FEF6)

He made sure that the driver understood his obligations as a potential witness.

Smith said he was happy with the statement and would sign it.

The detective emailed the statement.

The next day, Smith rang the detective.

He said he was no longer sure it was the singer who had made the comment — it might have been another woman in the car.

The statement was changed and Smith signed it.

The next day, June 25, both statements were provided to the defence.

Here, they thought, was a ray of hope.

Smith’s initial statement gave credibility to the singer’s story that she was only playing a part when she was talking to Mahmood.

On June 27 — three days after Smith signed his changed statement — Mazher Mahmood was giving evidence under oath at a pre-trial hearing.

He was questioned by Tulisa’s barrister Jeremy Dein, QC about Alan Smith’s comment.

First, he was asked if the conversation between Alan Smith and the singer had been recorded.

“No”, answered Mahmood.

“But did you subsequently ask or find out, discuss with Mr Smith anything that was said in the car?

The answer was again “No”.

“Because I just want to see whether you were aware of this.”

“Mr Smith made a statement to the police saying that in the car Ms Contostavlos was talking about drugs and saying that a member of her family had a drug problem and she disapproved of drugs.”

“All I want to know from you is whether you discussed that with Mr Smith at any stage?”

The answer from Mahmood was clear and emphatic:

“No.”

Mahmood’s answers intrigued the defence team.

Lawyers from Hickman Rose, who represented the singer, began to make inquiries about Alan Smith.

They quickly discovered he’d been a long-term member of Mahmood’s team.

And he had a criminal record.

He’s also been involved in some of the reporter’s stories.

In May 1997, while he was Investigations Editor at the News of the World, Mahmood published an exposé of  a centre in Hayes where the courts sent prisoners to do community service.

One of the people he exposed was an unemployed chauffeur called Alan Graham who was photographed sleeping in the back of a Rolls Royce Silver Spirit.

The caption read “Snooze a Naughty Boy?”

What Mahmood did not tell News of the World readers was that Graham was actually one of his drivers, Alan Smith.

Mahmood calls him “Smithy” and describes him as a “bald-headed burly” and said he was a “wide boy”.

The Rolls Royce had been hired by the paper.

Smith had been sentenced to 100 hours community service by Uxbridge magistrates for fraud.

Mahmood later said that Smith had been included in the article under an alias to disguise the fact that he was the informant for the story …

♦♦♦

THE WEEK before the trial opened, the defence asked the Crown Prosecution Service to bring Alan Smith to the court as a potential witness.

On July 16, the third day of the trial, Smith was interviewed by defence solicitors in the presence of a Metropolitan Police detective.

This took place while Mahmood was on the stand, giving evidence for the prosecution.

BEN ROSE The lawyer headed the legal team representing Tulisa Contostavlos. They suspected

BEN ROSE
THE LAWYER headed the legal team representing Tulisa Contostavlos. Solicitors suspected there was something fishy about the evidence given by Mazher Mahmood’s driver … Photo: Hickman Rose

Smith confirmed that the original version of his statement stated that the subject of drugs had come up.

The singer had been very negative about them.

But he’d become unhappy about the statement.

He told the defence he’d sent a copy of the initial statement to Mahmood and then spoke to him about what he should do.

He said that Mahmood told him that, if he was unhappy with his statement, he should ring the police and change it.

The defence team were stunned.

Mahmood had said, on oath on June 27, that he hadn’t discussed anything with Smith.

Now the driver was saying the exact opposite.

One of the two men was lying…

♦♦♦

THE NEXT day, Thursday, was the fourth day of the trial.

It was to be a day of high drama.

Mazher Mahmood was back in the witness-box to be cross-examined by defence QC Jeremy Dein.

Overnight, Mahmood had learned what Smith had told the defence — and realised he now faced a serious dilemma.

Once again, Dein asked him if he’d discussed with Smith what was said in the car.

Mahmood now changed his story.

He admitted he had talked to the driver two weeks earlier.

He said that Smith had rung him and said he wasn’t happy with his statement.

Mahmood told the court Smith had emailed the statement and the two men then had a conversation about it.

Mahmood told him that he should ring the police and change it if he was not sure Tulisa had made the remark.

Dein put it to Mahmood that he had lied when he gave evidence at the earlier hearing.

“I disagree with you,” was Mahmood’s answer.

The barrister put it to him that it was he, Mahmood, who had persuaded Smith to change his statement.

“I did not,” replied Mahmood.

Mahmood added that the change made no difference.

Smith, he said, was sensitive about drugs because his son had recently died of a drugs overdose.

After Mahmood left the box, Judge Alistair McCreath sent the jury out.

He then addressed both the prosecution and the defence.

He made it clear that he felt Mahmood had told a “knowing lie” when he gave evidence on June 27.

And that he did so, in his opinion, to conceal “improper conduct”: he had interfered with evidence that would have been to Tulisa’s advantage.

In circumstances where a key witness was guilty of “gross misconduct”, he added, it would be an abuse for the state to rely on him.

It would also compromise judicial integrity — “it would be on the court’s conscience,” he said.

He then adjourned the court.

Throughout these proceedings, the press gallery was packed.

Reporters cannot report what’s said when the jury is out but the judge’s comments would have made it clear that Mahmood’s earlier dramatic climb-down was not only sensational — it now threatened the entire case.

Yet not a word of what had happened was reported by that evening’s radio and television news.

The next morning, the press were also silent.

The Daily Mail, for example, led with the story that one of Tulisa’s aides told Mahmood that he believed Simon Cowell was gay.

The defence team were disappointed.

They’d hoped press reports of the sensational developments might generate other material helpful to their case.

♦♦♦

FRIDAY WAS the fifth day of the trial.

By now it was clear that the judge was proposing to reopen the abuse application he had turned down the previous month.

The prosecution, though, were unable to get advice from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) about contesting it.

So the matter was left to the following Monday.

By then, the CPS had thrown in the towel and made no objection to the judge re-opening the defence application to stop the proceedings.

Judge McCreath not only halted the trial — he also dismissed the case against Michael Coombs, who had already pleaded guilty to supplying the cocaine.

He said that if he had thrown out the case earlier, Coombs would not have had to stand trial.

In his judgment, McCreath was scathing about Mahmood’s evidence about Alan Smith’s statements:

“When he gave evidence last week, he was asked questions on the same topic and gave answers which were entirely inconsistent with his earlier evidence.”

“And it certainly appears that the contact he had with Mr Smith was not unconnected with a fundamental change in the evidence which it was anticipated Mr Smith was going to give.”

“He was, as you will have understood, expected to be able to give evidence supportive of Ms Contostavlos — that she told him she disapproves of hard drugs.”

RUPERT MURDOCH THE BILLIONAIRE media tycoon has always had a soft spot for Mazher Mahmood. Is he now beginning to wonder if the "Fake Sheikh" has outlived his usefulness? Photo: PA

RUPERT MURDOCH
THE BILLIONAIRE media tycoon has always had a soft spot for Mazher Mahmood…    Photo: PA

“But after his conversation with Mr Mahmood, he had changed his mind.”

“It should not be forgotten that Mr Mahmood is

– the sole progenitor of this case

– the sole investigator

– the sole prosecution witness

– a man who has exercised his journalistic privilege to create a situation where the identities of others involved in the investigation are unknown to the defence (or the prosecution or even to me)

– someone who appears to have gone to considerable lengths to get Ms Contostavlos to agree to involve herself in criminal conduct, certainly to far greater lengths that would have been regarded as appropriate had he been a police investigator.”

He concluded:

 “there are strong grounds for believing that Mr Mahmood told me lies when he gave evidence to me on June 27”.

And he added:

“there are also strong grounds for believing that the underlying purpose of these lies was to conceal the fact that he had been manipulating the evidence in this case by getting Mr Smith to change his account.”

He ended by saying, ominously for Mahmood:

“My view of the evidence cannot bind any other court which may (or may not) be called on to consider this matter in a different context.”

The fall-out from the collapse of the case was instant.

The Sun suspended Mahmood until an “immediate internal investigation” was complete.

The paper issued a statement:

“We are very disappointed with this outcome, but do believe the original investigation was conducted within the bounds of the law and the industry’s code.”

But it added:

The Sun, of course, takes the judge’s remarks very seriously.”

A spokesman for The Sun told us this week Mahmood remains suspended and that “the internal investigation is ongoing.”

“I will not divulge further details of an internal investigation.”

He added that Alan Smith “worked on an ad-hoc basis with Mr Mahmood.”

The Met said:

” … the Metropolitan Police Service have been able to consider the judgment issued by the trial Judge along with other material supplied by the Prosecution Counsel …”.

“As a consequence of the information supplied officers from Specialist Crime and Operations are now investigating whether any of the matters highlighted amount to the commission of any criminal offences.”

The CPS said it “has no investigative powers and therefore any criminal investigations following the conclusion of this case are a matter for the Metropolitan Police Service.”

On September 30 lawyers for Tulisa Contostavlos will be in court for a hearing to determine if the Sun on Sunday should pay her legal costs.

They have still not decided if she will sue the newspaper.

♦♦♦

THE COLLAPSE of the trial raises many questions.

There’s no doubt the Metropolitan Police had no choice but to investigate when presented with clear evidence that Michael Coombs had sold drugs to Mahmood.

But the force was well aware that Mahmood, throughout his career, has come in for sustained criticism about his methods, some of it from judges.

They should have subjected his evidence to a forensic investigation of their own.

It should have been the force that interviewed Alan Smith and not have left it to the defence to force them to do it.

If Smith had not been interviewed, it’s possible Tulisa Contostavlos would now have a criminal record.

NEW SCOTLAND YARD When Press Gang editor wrote and asked the force to investigate  allegations that Mazher Mahmood may have committed perjury in many of the cases where he gave evidence, there was no reply. Photo: Rebecca Television

NEW SCOTLAND YARD
IN 2012 Press Gang editor Paddy French wrote and asked the force to investigate allegations that Mazher Mahmood may have committed perjury in many of the cases where he gave evidence. There was no reply.                    Photo: Rebecca Television

The force can’t say it wasn’t warned about the possibility of Mahmood committing perjury.

InNovember 2012 the editor of this website, Paddy French, wrote to Sue Akers, the Met’s deputy assistant commissioner, asking her to investigate allegations that Mahmood was a serial perjurer.

The letter cited the claim he made to the Leveson Inquiry, under oath, that he had more than 250 criminal convictions to his credit while he was Investigations Editor at the News of the World.

This was untrue.

Paddy French and researcher Chris Nichols had examined the News of the World throughout Mahmood’s career — and could find reports of only 70 convictions.

The full story is contained in the article The Life And Times Of A Serial Perjurer.

In the wake of this investigation, the Leveson Inquiry put the allegation to Mahmood.

What was then called News International called in the lawfirm Linklaters to carry out a proper audit.

In a subsequent statement to Leveson, Mahmood admitted that Linklaters could only find 94.

The letter also drew attention to the case against the London’s Burning actor John Alford who was gaoled in 1999 for supplying cocaine to Mahmood.

“In the September 2000 judgment refusing the actor known as John Alford leave to appeal against a nine month sentence for supplying cocaine to Mazher Mahmood’s undercover team in 1999, the court noted that Mahmood claimed 89 SCPs [successful criminal prosecutions”.

At that point, French and Nichols had found only 28.

The letter concluded by asking the Met “to examine Mr Mahmood’s testimony in all the court cases he gave evidence in to see if he has potentially committed perjury …”

A press officer told us Akers had retired and “the letter has been forwarded to deputy assistant commissioner Steve Kavanagh for consideration.”

“You will be contacted in due course.”

Kavanagh never replied.

♦♦♦

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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

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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 …

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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.”

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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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