A date has been set for a £100,000 lawsuit against the Dewsbury Press and a former councillor, launched by the paper’s local MP.
Shahid Malik, the Labour MP for Dewsbury and Mirfield, is suing over a letter written by former Conservative councillor Jonathan Scott which the paper printed last October. The letter referred to an alleged incident outside a polling station during the 2006 local elections.
Scott, who was a candidate for the Kirklees council elections but lost his seat, made various allegations about Malik’s conduct.
After the MP threatened legal action, The Press, an independent newspaper set up in 2002, ran a story headed ‘Malik tries to silence The Press”.
The letter was also printed in the Johnston Press-owned Dewsbury Reporter, but Malik is taking no action against it.
Malik told Press Gazette: “Some very serious allegations were made about me personally. These allegations are completely untrue, and are deeply hurtful and offensive. Unfortunately, the local newspaper refused to withdraw the remarks and instead they continued to repeat the allegations thus leaving me with no option but to defend my reputation in the courts.”
The case will be heard at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on 12 November and the paper has said it will ‘vigorously’defend the case.
Press editor and managing director Martin Shaw said in an article on the paper’s website: ‘We are ready for this trial, we are ready to win and we decided to get it on. This is not something we have entered into lightly and there are serious issues at stake.
‘Our defence is very strong, we have some respected and high profile witnesses and we will see Mr Malik in court in eight weeks.”
The Press has been fundraising to pay for their defence and last week Lockwood, the paper’s publisher, organised a black tie ball at Dewsbury Town Hall which raised £8,000.
Lockwood told Press Gazette the legal defence could cost up to £400,000.
He said: “We have had pensioners and local people come in off the street to give us cheques…it has been that constant flow of emotional support that has sustained us as well.”