New Leveson grilling for Dacre on 'mendacious smears'

Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre is due to be recalled to the Leveson Inquiry to face further questions over Associated Newspapers‘ Hugh Grant coverage and a statement in which it accused the actor of spreading ‘mendacious smears”.

Dacre was questioned on the same subject yesterday afternoon when he stood by the statement, claiming that Grant’s allegation that the Mail on Sunday used phone-hacking for a story about his relationship with Jemima Khan in 2007 risked severely damaging the reputation of Associated Newspapers.

Grant said in November that he could not think of “any conceivable source” for the story other than intercepting his voicemails because the story referred to ‘persistent late-night flirtatious phone calls with a plummy-voiced studio executive from Warner Brothers”.

The phone calls were seen as evidence that his relationship with Khan was on the rocks, the actor told the inquiry.

Dacre is likely to be recalled on Thursday and will be questioned for no more than 30 minutes, Lord Justice Leveson said this morning.

He faces a further grilling on the ‘plummy-voiced executive’story and the ‘mendacious smears’statement, which essentially accused Grant of lying to the inquiry.

Associated Newspapers counsel Jonathan Caplan QC told Leveson that it would be ‘redundant’to recall Dacre.

‘We of course, as you know, fitted into Mr Dacre’s timetable, he was always going to be a very, very important witness to the inquiry,’responded Leveson.

‘The difficulty that I visualise, and I have seen as I reflected upon it last night, is the extent of the significance attached to the mendacious smear, which does link in to the incident involving the American lady.

‘That’s the one that it seems to me has to be addressed. As regards Mr Grant’s child I am less convinced of the need for oral evidence on that topic.”

The counsel for the phone-hacking victims, David Sherborne, said he was not out to pursue a ‘personal vendetta’on behalf of Grant, insisting it was a ‘matter of more importance than purely personal considerations”.

Leveson added: ‘I know that Mr Dacre is busy, we have worked very hard to fit ourselves around his commitments.

‘I cannot believe that in the next three days it is not possible to find a few minutes.’

Yesterday Dacre vehemently denied the Daily Mail or any Associated Newspapers title was involved in hacking, telling the inquiry: ‘I’ve have never placed a story in the Daily Mail as a result of phone-hacking … I know of no cases of phone-hacking, having conducted a major internal inquiry I’m as confident as I can be that there’s no phone-hacking on the Daily Mail… and no editor, not the editor of The Guardian or The Independent, could say otherwise.”

He accused Grant of hijacking the inquiry by making an unfounded hacking allegation against the Mail titles and he said that he had to “rebut such a damaging allegation”.

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