The journalist whose allegations sparked the inquiry which led to Damian Green being sacked as First Secretary of State is considering legal action or complaining to the press regulator after “inaccurate” text messages between her and the former Cabinet minister were leaked.
Kate Maltby said she was “forced to consider all recourse” after the Mail on Sunday published messages between her and Mr Green, sent after the Conservative MP had allegedly acted inappropriately towards her.
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In a series of tweets, the journalist said that “for technical reasons”some of the texts could “only have been released by Damian Green” and they had been “crudely edited” to suit the former First Secretary of State.
Green has reportedly denied any involvement in leaking the messages.
Maltby sparked a Cabinet Office inquiry into Green, her senior by three decades, when she claimed that he “fleetingly” touched her knee during a meeting in a pub in 2015, and that a year later he sent her a “suggestive” text message after a newspaper carried a picture of her wearing a corset.
That led to Theresa May sacking her de facto deputy after he made “misleading” statements about subsequent and separate allegations that police had found pornography on computers in his parliamentary office in 2008.
Reporting the probe’s findings, Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood said that with “competing and contradictory accounts of what were private meetings” it was “not possible to reach a definitive conclusion on the appropriateness of Mr Green’s behaviour with Kate Maltby in early 2015, though the investigation found Ms Maltby’s account to be plausible”.
Text messages seen by the Mail on Sunday suggest that Ms Maltby sent texts to Mr Green this year, which appeared friendly in tone and included one in February which said “hope to catch up when things calm down”.
Green reportedly replied: “they never do so let’s fix a date soon”, to which Maltby is said to have replied: “Great. Night night.”
Maltby alleged the original messages passed to the newspaper had left out Green’s invitation to “fix a date”, and that this was only included after she was asked to respond to the story before publication.
In another message on July 13 after the Spectator magazine’s summer party, Maltby reportedly tells Mr Green that one of his aides had been “smooching the room” on his behalf.
But Ms Maltby claimed she had “never, ever used the word ‘smooching’. That is a lie.”
She also accused the newspaper of failing to publish her response to the story in full, adding in a series of tweets: “I had really, really wanted to switch off for Christmas and make no further comment on the matter of Green. But the Mail on Sunday have printed text messages today purporting to be from me that are inaccurate and attribute words I have not used.”
Maltby added: “I keep being asked if the answer is more press regulation. As a libertarian, I say no. I wrote this to a newspaper yesterday who asked me about Leveson. But after declining all legal & IPSO (Independent Press Standards Organisation) options on principle for the last 8 weeks, I am now forced to consider all recourse.”
Green’s allies were accused of launching a “dirty tricks” campaign after the messages were leaked.
Tory former minister Anna Soubry told the Sunday Times: “It appears that Green’s allies barely paused for breath after he apologised for the distress caused to Kate Maltby before launching an attack.
“It smacks of a dirty ticks campaign and is unhelpful to the Government when it is still dealing with the fallout of the Westminster scandal.”
On Friday, May said the first she knew about allegations of inappropriate conduct by Green was when she read about them in the press in October.
It came after the Daily Telegraph reported that Maltby told a Downing Street aide about her allegations against Green in September 2016, and she was informed it was part of a pattern of behaviour, and that “the Prime Minister knows”.
The Mail on Sunday said: “We invited Ms Maltby to check the accuracy of the text exchanges we were shown. We made the changes she requested.”
The title has also added the following correction to its original piece: “The above article has been amended since publication. It originally said Ms Maltby had texted to Mr Green that one of her aides was ‘smooching the room’ on his behalf at a Spectator party. In fact she wrote that the aide was ‘working the room smoothly’. The article also said Ms Maltby had interviewed Mr Green for her school magazine when she was 16. In fact she was an editor of a magazine and another person did the interview”