- FORMER MAIL group Editor-in-Chief’s phone hacking denial has been questioned by Byline Investigates
- NEW CLAIMS come from businessman smeared by Mail on Sunday
- THEY POUR scorn on Dacre’s pledge that reporters abided by the law and the Editors’ Code
- SENIOR REPORTER and the paper had been prosecuted for Contempt of Court
- ASSOCIATED NEWSPAPERS‘ libel admission appears to contradict Dacre’s promises to Leveson
By Chris Allen & Graham Johnson
FORMER MAIL GROUP Editor-in-Chief Paul Dacre is facing fresh claims that he gave misleading information to the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics.
Byline Investigates has already poked holes in Dacre’s insistence under oath that phone hacking never took place at his papers.
Now a former businessman smeared by the Mail on Sunday (MoS) has poured fuel on the fire surrounding Dacre’s evidence to the 2012 probe.
Michael Ward’s complaint to Dacre in late 2011 detailed how MoS reporters had stolen documents from his home, paid prosecution witnesses and ‘prepared false witness statements’ in his fraud trial in the early 90s.
But Dacre told Leveson that Mail group journalists were law-abiding.
He pledged that new procedures were in place to ensure reporters’ payments for information were in line with the newly-introduced Bribery Act, which came into force in 2011.
And he promised: “I have no reason to think that the more informal systems we used previously permitted journalists to make payments for news and information otherwise than in accordance with the law and the requirements of the Editors’ Code.”
Clause 15 of the Code outlaws payments or offers of payments to trial witnesses.
Yet Dacre had been told explicitly how Mail on Sunday City Editor Clive Wolman had offered a ‘conviction bonus’ to a witness in Mr Ward’s prosecution.
The move had been slammed by the Court of Appeal as “quite repugnant to our system of criminal justice”.
And the paper’s actions had been branded “thoroughly unsavoury” and “deplorable” in a 2005 review of Mr Ward’s case by the Criminal Case Review Commission (CCRC).
The CCRC noted: “Mr Wolman was also the ultimate recipient of a number of documents stolen from Mr Ward. These stolen documents were used, in part, to corroborate the articles published in the Mail on Sunday.”
None of this evidence – which had been raised in Mr Ward’s trial – was made available by Dacre to the Leveson Inquiry.
Nor were details of Clive Wolman’s 1992 prosecution for contempt of court.
Wolman and the MoS had been fined a total of £70k over their story on the year-long ‘Blue Arrow’ fraud trial.
The House of Lords upheld the prosecution, brought by the Attorney General.
The CCRC later noted: “The House of Lords was extremely critical of the investigative methods used to trick jurors into disclosing details of their confidential deliberations.”
Mr Ward had asked to give evidence to the Leveson inquiry but was told his complex case was better suited to Leveson part 2.
His bid to expose the MoS at Leveson 2 fell apart when the follow-up inquiry – which would have scrutinised the relationship between the press and the police – was controversially shelved.
But his allegations were heard in the High Court In 2019 as he sought a judicial review of the decision to abandon the probe.
He sued MoS publisher Associated Newspapers Ltd (ANL) for libel after it rubbished his claims in a press statement. The paper settled out of court in May.
In a seeming contradiction of Dacre’s evidence to Leveson, ANL admitted as part of settlement: “It is a matter of public record and true that potential witnesses were paid and documents removed from Mr Ward’s home without his permission by or on behalf of Mail on Sunday journalists.”
Giving wrong or distorted evidence to a public inquiry is punishable by 51 weeks in jail under the Inquiries Act 2005, and is easier to prove than perjury.
Mr Ward’s complaint to ANL was dismissed by group legal director Martin Wood in June 2012.
He was also told by MoS Managing Editor John Wellington that his complaint that Wolman had given a false witness statement in his fraud case was “unimportant”.
Mr Ward commented: “They’ve assumed all along that my conviction whitewashed all their past behaviour. That is obvious nonsense, and they know it.”