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  1. Media Law
June 21, 2010

Former MP sues Sunday Telegraph over expenses story

By Sarah Limbrick

Former Labour backbench MP Frank Cook has filed a libel writ against the Sunday Telegraph over a front-page story from May 2009 about his expenses.

He is demanding damages of up to £50,000 from publishers Telegraph Media Group over a front page story and two inside pieces in May 2009 in the Sunday Telegraph.

The stories, which he claims were defamatory, were headed ‘MP claimed £5 for church collection’and ‘I’m sorry church claim was unfair.”

Cook, who represents Stockton North, is also suing over a comment headed: ‘Now it is the people’s turn to be heard.”

He says the articles meant he represented low ‘value-for-money’as a parliamentarian, and that his £5 claim, which was refused, was an extraordinary abuse of MPs expenses, and was particularly embarrassing and hypocritical because of his support for the campaign to commemorate a Battle of Britain hero.

Cook says his reputation has been gravely injured, and that he has been embarrassed and upset, and been brought into public scandal, odium and contempt.

He says the allegations were given ‘disproportionate and excessive prominence’in the newspaper and online, and that by mentioning his former job as a gravedigger, the paper hoped to ridicule him.

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When speaking to a reporter, he had denied he did not represent value-for-money, but says the paper failed to report that he was ineligible to vote on bills he had chaired, which gave a false impression of his voting record.

He accuses the paper of ignoring a letter he wrote after the stories appeared, and is now seeking damages and an injunction banning republication of the allegations at the centre of his claim.

The Daily Telegraph won six prizes the British Press Awards in March for a series of revelations about MPs’ expenses which were also published last May and June in sister paper the Sunday Telegraph.

The Telegraph published its expenses revelations after paying a source £110,000 for a disc containing all the expenses claims for every MP in the Commons.

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