New twist over News of the World phone hacking allegations

In an unusual and dramatic turn in the long-running story of the News of the World (editor at the time, Andy Coulson) and the hacking in to the voicemail systems of people in the public eye, a lawyer whose claims were initially dismissed as wrong by the Press Complaints Commission is now sueing for libel.

As The Guardian explains:

Peta Buscombe, the baroness who chairs the Press Complaints Commission, has been sued for libel by a solicitor.

Writs have also been issued against the PCC itself and the Metropolitan Police by a London-based solicitor, Mark Lewis.

He is claiming damages for libel, including aggravated damages, plus an injunction to restrain all three parties from publishing the allegations that allegedly accuse him of lying…

[Giving evidence to a Parliamentary committee, Lewis] told of a conversation with a Met police detective sergeant, Mark Maberly, who had said 6,000 people had been “involved” in the NoW’s hacking activities rather than the “handful” originally claimed to have been victims of phone message interceptions.

When the PCC inquired into this statement by Lewis, a Met police lawyer told the then PCC director, Tim Toulmin, that Maberly had been wrongly quoted by Lewis. In other words, it suggested that Lewis had lied.

In November 2009, armed with this Met police response, Buscombe addressed the Society of Editors’ conference about the affair, saying that Maberly had been misquoted. She told a Guardian reporter: “He didn’t say it. He is said to have said it.”

Lewis was outraged by what he regarded as a slur on his reputation…

In April this year, following the publication of the select committee’s report, Buscombe wrote to the committee “to correct the record.” Her correction appears on the PCC website.

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4 Comments

  • Andrew Suffield 24th Jun '10 - 8:35pm

    Accuse a lawyer of lying, and get a libel suit. I don’t think that’s very unusual.

    I don’t know who’s telling the truth here, but I do know that a libel court is the best way to find out. They will reliably and finally determine the facts from the evidence, and that will be an end to the matter. It’s much better than this trial-by-media that we’ve had so far.

  • Yes, the court is a MUCH more effective fact finding tribunal than a Parliamentary Comittee will ever be.

  • Paul McKeown 25th Jun '10 - 1:12am

    With due respect to the Liberal Democrat’s coalition partners, frankly I don’t believe a word of what Andy Coulson has ever said about the excesses of News of the World journalist’s whilst he was in charge. It wouldn’t surprise me if his presence behind the scenes blows up and leaves egg all over David Cameron’s face.

  • Richard Ian Hill 25th Jun '10 - 9:55am

    I am confused who should I trust more, a newspaper man, a solicitor or a policeman. I am suprised there is not a politician involved. Those libel courts have a tuff job. I don’t think the newspaper people are that exessive, if they did not use what some people class as underhand method we would know very little of what is going on, MPs exspences comes to mind. However, if they brake the law they should be suitably punished.

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