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November 30, 2016updated 01 Dec 2016 9:19am

George Galloway sues News UK over Mazher Mahmood’s failed 2006 sting attempt

By PA Media Lawyer

Former MP George Galloway is set to sue News UK for breach of privacy over the actions of jailed investigative journalist Mazher Mahmood.

Solicitor Kevin Winters, a partner with Belfast-based law firm KRW Law, said the former Respect MP had instructed him to issue proceedings against the newspaper publisher for breach of his right to privacy.

Mahmood was jailed for 15 months in October after an Old Bailey jury convicted him and his drive, 67-year-old Alan Smith, of plotting to pervert the course of justice by tampering with evidence in the collapsed drugs trial of pop star Tulisa Contostavlos.

Smith was given a 12-month sentence, suspended for two years.

The privacy claim by Galloway follows an encounter he had with
Mahmood – known as the “Fake Sheikh” – in March 2006.

The meeting between Mahmood and Galloway, who was at the time MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, came at a dinner at The Dorchester during which the journalist made what he said was a covert attempt to trick him into discreditable conduct during the event.

Galloway joins more than 20 people who are now bringing cases against News UK – formerly News International – over Mahmood’s activities at the News of the World, the Sun on Sunday and the Sunday Times.

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Winters said in an announcement on his firm’s website after a meeting with Mr Galloway on Monday: “George not only caught this person out, but he also went out of his way to warn as many people as possible of the dangers in engaging in any way with this individual.

“We have written to News Corp asking them to supply us with a copy of the offending video.

“It’s possible non-availability or confirmation of its destruction will lead us into other potential litigation but we will reserve on our
position until we hear back.”

The encounter at The Dorchester led to a legal battle between  Galloway and Mahmood, who obtained a temporary injunction to stop the MP posting photographs of him on the internet, arguing that their publication posed a threat to the his and his family’s wellbeing.

The journalist, whose stories were often bylined with a silhouette
image, said his activities had made him a target for threats because he had helped put more than 130 criminals behind bars.

But at a hearing on Wednesday 5 April, 2006, Mr Justice Mitting refused to renew the injunction on the grounds that Mahmood’s claim was more likely than not to fail at trial.

Mr Justice Mitting said he disagreed that publishing the photographs posed a risk to Mr Mahmood and said he was satisfied that the true purpose of the application was not to protect his life but to safeguard his earning capacity and his position as an investigative journalist for the newspaper.

The temporary injunction expired the following afternoon, at which point Galloway posted two pictures of Mahmood on his Respect party’s website.

Others suing News UK over Mahmood’s activities include the Duchess of York, who is reportedly seeking damages of up to £25m, and American financier John Bryan, who once dated Prince Andrew’s ex-wife, and who has launched a case in Los Angeles claiming damages of 150 million dollars (£118 million).

Former actor John Stafford, also known as John Alford, who lost a
leading role in the TV series London’s Burning when he was jailed in 1999 after being caught in one of Mahmood’s stings, and former Page 3 model Emma Morgan are also bringing claims.

In December 2014, the Crown Prosecution Service said it was reviewing 25 convictions and had offered no evidence in three live cases for which Mahmood was to be a prosecution witness.

In January last year, prosecutors dropped the case against 13
footballers investigated over alleged match-fixing, with the CPS saying there was “insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction” in light of what happened in the Tulisa Contostavlos trial.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) has confirmed it was reviewing six cases involving celebrities who were convicted following involvement with Mahmood.

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