Posts Tagged ‘Paddy French’

LABOUR’S LOST OFCOM COMPLAINT

September 2, 2020

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THE BROADCASTING watchdog Ofcom is “assessing” a new complaint about the July 2019 Panorama programme “Is Labour Anti-Semitic?” 

This admission — prompted by a Press Gang investigation — comes more than a year after the programme was broadcast.

And long after Ofcom’s deadline for making a complaint. 

The Press Gang investigation also confirms, for the first time, that the Labour Party submitted a detailed complaint about the programme to Ofcom in February this year.

This was an appeal against the BBC’s rejection of Labour’s complaint in August 2019.

Ofcom rejected the appeal in May this year.

Ofcom declined to say if the complaint currently being assessed has anything to do with the rejected Labour appeal.

The BBC told Press Gang it is unaware of any new complaint about the Panorama programme.

Labour declined to comment.

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AFTER THE Panorama broadcast in July 2019, Labour prepared a detailed complaint about the programme.

This 16 page document — a copy of which Press Gang has seen — was submitted to the BBC’s Head of Editorial Complaints in August.

The BBC’s response was a 35 page letter written by a BBC News Editorial Adviser and dated 2 September 2019. 

Press Gang has also seen this letter.

The BBC rejected all of Labour’s complaints: “Panorama’s research was robust and extensive”.

Labour had 20 working days to complain against the decision to Ofcom, the BBC’s ultimate regulator. 

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This required Labour to submit its complaint to Ofcom by the end of October 2019.

The Press Gang investigation has learnt that the party did not do so.

At the time, the party’s priority was the imminent general election.

After December’s general election defeat, the party prepared its complaint.

Press Gang understands it was submitted in February this year —  and rejected by Ofcom in May.

Press Gang asked Ofcom to confirm it had received and rejected Labour’s complaint.

Ofcom declined to answer the question but then answered a question we had not asked — telling us it was “assessing” a new complaint against the Panorama programme.

The watchdog declined to say who had made the complaint — or if it was connected to Labour’s rejected complaint. 

Labour’s complaint was the most comprehensive Ofcom received about the Panorama broadcast.

In January the watchdog announced that it had rejected 27 complaints from viewers.

A spokesperson said:

We assessed complaints from viewers who felt that this programme was factually inaccurate and biased.

In our view, the programme was duly impartial.

As well as highly critical personal testimonies, it included the Labour Party’s response throughout, including an interview with the Shadow Communities Secretary.

All of these complaints were considered before the leaking of Labour’s dramatic report into how officials at party HQ in London handled anti-Semitism complaints.

This report was called “The Work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit in relation to anti-Semitism, 2014 – 2019”.

On April 10 — six days after Keir Starmer was elected Labour Leader — the result of this inquiry was leaked to Sky News.

The 851 page report blamed party officials for failing to deal with the anti-Semitism issue.

Some of these officials included some of those interviewed in the Panorama “Is Labour Anti-Semitic?” programme.

In the wake of the leak, Labour’s National Executive Committee set up a panel to examine the report’s allegations and how it came to be leaked.

Headed by the QC Martin Forde, it also includes three Labour peers: Baroness Wilcox, Lord Whitty and Baroness Lister.

It is due to report by the end of the year.

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OFCOM IS reluctant to answer questions about the complaint it is now considering. 

Why is it assessing a complaint a year after the Panorama programme went out — and long after both the BBC and Ofcom deadlines had passed?

Ofcom told us:

We have a time limit for receiving BBC complaints based on when the complainant receives their final response from the ECU [the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit]. 

So if there was a delay in a complainant receiving their ECU response, as long as they referred the complaint to Ofcom within 20 working days of receiving it, we will consider the complaint, regardless of whether we have published the outcome of similar complaints and regardless of when the programme was broadcast.

This implies that the complaint currently being assessed has only recently been rejected by the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit.

However, a search of all BBC fortnightly complaints bulletins published this year lists no complaints rejected by the ECU.

Ofcom also declined to explain why it does not include Labour’s rejected complaint in its statistics.

Ofcom’s press office told us it had rejected 27 cases by January this year. 

With the case currently being assessed, the total comes to 28.

If Labour’s complaint was submitted in February and rejected in May, it cannot be included in Ofcom’s total of 28.

The mystery deepens when Ofcom’s own records are examined.

The watchdog’s fortnightly complaints bulletins show that a complaint against the Panorama anti-Semitism programme was rejected in May and another in July this year.

Neither of these rejections is included in Ofcom’s total number of complaints.

Ofcom declined to clear up the confusion.

The BBC’s Communications Manager, Philly Spur, told us: 

“The ECU [BBC Executive Complaints Unit] rejected all complaints and Ofcom didn’t find grounds to investigate.”

“We are not aware of anything further.”

Labour did not reply to our questions.

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ON JULY 22 Labour settled a libel action brought by John Ware, the reporter who presented the Panorama programme, and seven former Labour Party officials who appeared in the broadcast.

Labour had criticised Ware and the former staffers. 

The party agreed to pay undisclosed damages and costs. 

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JOHN WARE
The reporter who presented the controversial Panorama programme “Is Labour Anti-Semitic?” is taking legal action against some of his critics — including Press Gang editor Paddy French.
Photo: BBC

Following the settlement, Jeremy Corbyn said:

The party’s decision to apologise today and make substantial payments to former staff who sued the party in relation to last year’s Panorama programme is a political decision, not a legal one.

Our legal advice was that the party had a strong defence …

The decision to settle these claims in this way is disappointing, and risks giving credibility to misleading and inaccurate allegations about action taken to tackle antisemitism in the Labour Party in recent years.

The same day Mark Lewis, the lawyer who represents John Ware, said his client had instructed him “to pursue claims”. 

At the time this article went to press, no writ had been issued against Jeremy Corbyn.                                                                                                                                                                                                

Jeremy Corbyn High Court ruling

JEREMY CORBYN
THE FORMER Labour Leader is facing a £100,000 libel action over allegedly “false and defamatory” remarks he made about the blogger and Jewish activist Richard Millett on the Andrew Marr Show in September 2018. Corbyn is defending the action which will now go to trial. There has been no crowdfunding for this case.
Photo: PA

A Labour Party member and Corbyn supporter called Carole Morgan then launched an appeal called “Jeremy’s Legal Fund” to raise funds to fight any action.

The appeal has to date raised more than £330,000 from more than 17,000 donors.

Carole Morgan is in the process of converting the appeal into a trust fund.

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LABOUR’S DECISION to settle with Ware means that the key legal action involving the Panorama programme is the one involving Press Gang editor Paddy French.

In December 2019 Press Gang published a 16 page pamphlet which criticised the Panorama programme.

The report — “Is The BBC Anti-Labour?” — was written by French.

In July this year Ware’s lawyer, Mark Lewis, issued a writ asking for £50,000 in damages.

Press Gang is contesting the action and has instructed the London libel specialists Bindmans to represent French.

A fighting fund has been launched to help pay legal costs — to date this has raised more than £20,000 from 800 supporters.

The target is £100,000.

The link is: 

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/fightingfund

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A preliminary hearing is likely to take place in October or November.  

After Ware issued his writ against French, he also launched proceedings against the campaign group Jewish Voice for Labour. 

Ware is claiming a total of £80,000 in damages from the organisation and two of its officials.

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Published: 2 September 2020
© Press Gang
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CORRECTIONS  Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

WARE v FRENCH GOES TO COURT

July 6, 2020

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THE JOURNALIST John Ware has issued a writ for libel against Press Gang editor Paddy French.

Ware seeks £50,000 in damages.

Press Gang is contesting the action and has instructed solicitors to act for Paddy French.

The case will now go to court.

Ware’s action concerns the Press Gang pamphlet “Is The BBC Anti-Labour? — Panorama’s Biased Anti-Semitism Reporting: A Case To Answer” published last December.

This was a critical analysis of last July’s Panorama programme “Is Labour Anti-Semitic?”

John Ware was the reporter and presenter.

Labour called the broadcast an “authored polemic” by Ware and “an overtly one-sided intervention in political controversy by the BBC”.

The Corporation hit back: “the BBC stands by its journalism … we completely reject any accusations of bias or dishonesty”.

The Press Gang pamphlet came down on the side of Labour and was critical of John Ware.

Ware called our reportseriously defamatory”.

Press Gang has instructed the London solicitors Bindmans.

A crowdfunded appeal has been launched to help pay the legal costs of the action.

So far, more than 260 backers have donated over £8,000 to this fighting fund.

The link is here.

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UPDATE

By 14 October, the fighting fund had reached £25,000 from more than 900 supporters.

The target is £100,000.

There will be a preliminary hearing in the next couple of months.

JOHN WARE v PRESS GANG

April 15, 2020

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THE BBC Panorama reporter John Ware has threatened legal proceedings against Press Gang editor Paddy French.

Press Gang is contesting the action.

An appeal been launched to help pay the heavy cost of instructing solicitors to fight these potential libel proceedings.

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REPORT
OUR INVESTIGATION into the Panorama programme was published on December 7 last year — five days before the general election.
It can be read here. 

Readers can back the fighting fund here.

Ware’s action concerns the Press Gang report Is The BBC Anti-Labour? — Panorama’s Biased Anti-Semitism Reporting: A Case To Answer.

John Ware claims this publication is seriously defamatory.

And demands

 a full retraction 

 an apology

 a statement to be read out in open court and

 payment of substantial damages and legal costs.

Mark Lewis of Patron Law, who acts for Ware, has agreed a “conditional fee arrangement” where the firm acts for Ware on a no-win, no-fee basis.

In addition. Patron Law has taken out insurance which limits Ware’s exposure should he lose.

This means that if Press Gang fails to win, the website will also be liable for the cost of the insurance.

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JOHN WARE
JOHN WARE was the reporter and presenter of the controversial Panorama programme “Is Labour Anti-Semitic?” broadcast in July last year. The Labour Party complained about the broadcast but the BBC stood by Ware’s journalism — “we completely reject any accusations of bias or dishonesty.” The television watchdog, Ofcom, also rejected complaints about the programme.
Photo: BBC

Press Gang has instructed the London solicitors Bindmans to act for Paddy French.

In a statement, issued today (April 15) Paddy French said

“It’s clear John Ware feels our report is an attack on his professional integrity.”

Press Gang feels equally strongly that the report met the highest standards of ethical journalism — and we’ll be defending it strongly.”

“We’re confident it was a fair criticism of a contentious piece of broadcasting and that a court will agree with us.”

“But we cannot get to that point without your help.”

Press Gang asked the BBC if it was supporting John Ware’s action.

A spokesperson told us “the BBC won’t be commenting.”

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Published: 15April 2020
© Press Gang
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UPDATE
21 April 2020 

YESTERDAY OUR lawyers, Bindmans, replied to the letter from John Ware’s solicitor claiming the Press Gang pamphlet “Is The BBC Anti-Labour?” is “seriously defamatory”.

The five page Bindmans letter says editor Paddy French has “complete defences” under section 2 (Truth), section 3 (Honest Opinion) and section 4 (Public Interest) of the Defamation Act 2013.

Bindmans conclude:

“The defamatory allegations against your client are matters of opinion, based on the facts set out in the …. report.”

“Mr French is surprised that an experienced journalist like your client has threatened libel proceedings rather than joining in public debate and we invite you to withdraw the threat forthwith.”

“In the event that your client commences legal proceedings then the matter will be vigorously defended.”

John Ware’s solicitor, Mark Lewis of Patron Law, has acknowledged receipt of the letter and says he will reply by the end of the month.

The Press Gang appeal has now passed its initial £5,000 target.

“It’s often said that libel is a rich man’s game,” said Paddy French.

“In this case, the support of 200 people is helping to level the playing field.”

“It’s also a vote of confidence in the integrity of Press Gang journalism.”

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CORRECTIONS  Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.

BBC v Ofcom

November 2, 2019

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THE BBC have officially rejected all complaints against the Panorama programme Is Labour Anti-Semitic?

A spokeswomen told Press Gang yesterday: 

… the BBC Executive Complaints unit have now concluded their findings and have not upheld any complaints against the programme.

The Executive Complaints Unit (ECU) considered 49 cases, including one from the Labour Party.

In our last article Enter Ofcom that figure stood at 46.

On Friday, the BBC published its fortnightly bulletin which revealed that a further three cases had been rejected.

One of these is the Labour Party complaint. 

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ROGUE JOURNALISM
THIS IS the cover of the planned Press Gang report on the BBC’s rogue journalism. It’s similar to the one written by Press Gang editor Paddy French and Professor Brian Cathcart (a co-founder of Hacked Off) and published in June — Unmasked: Andrew Norfolk, The Times Newspaper And Anti-Muslim Reporting: A Case To Answer. Is The BBC Anti-Labour? will be published by Unmasked Books, price £10, at the end of November. Supporters are being asked to buy a copy in advance so it can appear before election day on December 12 — here’s the crowdfunder link. The plan is to have a demonstration outside the BBC and enough spare copies of the report to hand out to staff as they arrive for work.

Labour had branded the programme an “authored polemic” by veteran reporter John Ware.

It was “an overtly one-sided intervention in political controversy by the BBC,” the party said.

The BBC does not publish its findings but has previously said it “stands by its journalism and we completely reject any accusations of bias or dishonesty.”

A Press Gang investigation has found the programme biased and dishonest.

It was rogue journalism.

So serious a piece of rogue journalism that Press Gang is planning a crowdfunded report (see panel, left).

For nearly a century the BBC was the sole arbiter of whether it lived up to its lofty ideals.

But in April 2017 this self-regulation came to an end when the statutory broadcasting regulator Ofcom took over the role.

In our last article we revealed that 17 complainants have now taken their case to Ofcom.

They will be joined by the Labour Party. 

It’s Ofcom — one of the UK’s most powerful watchdogs — that will ultimately decide whether the Panorama programme lived up to the BBC’s high standards.

Ofcom also has its own Broadcasting Code  — a code based on the provisions of the 2003 Communications Act.

Ofcom will be a more rigorous judge than the BBC.

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THE BBC prides itself on its commitment to editorial integrity and accuracy.

In June 2019 — just one month before the Panorama programme — it published a new set of Editorial Guidelines.

This was the 7th edition of the key document that shapes the BBC’s approach to its journalism.

Chairman Sir David Clementi, a former banker, was emphatic:

… nothing is more important than the BBC’s reputation for independence, impartiality and editorial integrity … 

Director General Tony Hall was even more forthright:

It’s just a few short years since the term “fake news” entered our lexicon.

It’s now a weapon of choice used worldwide.

In a world of misinformation, our values have never been more important.

That’s why accuracy, impartiality and fairness are given such prominence in these Guidelines.

So, how was it that the BBC produced one of the most biased programmes in its entire history just a few weeks later?

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THE BBC’S Editorial Guidelines are crystal clear about the need for impartiality.

The introduction says the BBC is “committed to achieving due impartiality in all its output.”

The term ‘due’ means that the impartiality must be adequate and appropriate to the output, taking account of the subject and nature of the content, the likely audience expectation and any signposting that may influence that expectation.

It adds:

Due impartiality usually involves more than a simple matter of ‘balance’ between opposing viewpoints.

We must be inclusive, considering the broad perspective and ensuring that the existence of a range of views is appropriately reflected.

The Panorama programme’s view of the Jewish membership of the Labour Party on the issue of anti-Semitism came from one perspective.

This was the position of the Labour-affiliated Jewish Labour Movement (JLM).

At least 9 of the 22 people interviewed in the Panorama programme are, or have been, senior figures in the Jewish Labour Movement.

There may be more — Press Gang is attempting to establish the actual figure.

Reporter John Ware failed to tell viewers that these nine interviewees were JLM members.

WARE SCREENSHOT

JOHN WARE
THE AWARD-WINNING reporter has made no secret of his opposition to Jeremy Corbyn. He wrote in the magazine Standpoint in 2017 that the Labour leader’s “entire political career has been stimulated by disdain for the West, appeasement of extremism, and who would barely understand what fighting for the revival of British values is really all about.” He has strong connections with Britain’s Jewish community and his children were brought up in the Jewish faith. In 2015 he was awarded a Commitment to Media Award by the Women’s International Zionist Organisation for “being sympathetic to Jewish concerns.” 
Photo: BBC 

The Jewish Labour Movement believes anti-Semitism is a serious problem in the Labour Party.

In November 2018 it asked the Equalities and Human Rights Commission to investigate the Labour Party’s “institutional anti-Semitism”.

In April 2019 the group passed a motion of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn over his alleged failure to deal with the crisis.

In the same month, JLM’s chairman Mike Katz made it clear the group would be selective in supporting candidates at the next general election.

“If you’re backing the leadership over the way they have handled anti-Semitism — then you’re absolutely not going to get our support,” he said.

Panorama failed to say that the JLM narrative is not the only one.

In fact, Labour’s Jewish membership is split over the issue of the scale of anti-Semitism in the party.

A different picture is provided by the pressure group Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL).

In a statement, JVL said:

… antisemitism regrettably exists in all areas of society, and needs to be guarded against. But the facts show that there is no more within Labour than outside, probably less.

And, despite the image fostered in the media, no party has been more rigorous than Labour in chasing it down.

The issue has been utilised by pro-Israel advocates, Jewish and otherwise, within the Labour Party and outside, in alliance with those in the media and political establishment who oppose Jeremy Corbyn’s left-wing leadership.

Despite representing several hundred Jewish Labour Party members, no representative of JVL, or any of the other groups which hold similar views, was heard in the Panorama programme.

The Editorial Guidelines go on to state:

Where our content highlights issues on which others campaign, we must take care not to endorse those campaigns, or allow ourselves to be used to campaign to change public policy.

By not revealing the influence of the Jewish Labour Movement in its programme, Panorama was effectively, if secretly, endorsing its campaign.

The Guidelines on impartiality also emphasise that there are particular requirements for what are described as “controversial subjects”.

A “controversial subject” may be a matter of public policy or political or industrial controversy.

The Guidelines advise that:

When dealing with “controversial subjects” we must ensure that a wide range of significant views and perspectives are given due weight and prominence, particularly when the controversy is active.

And the Guidelines go even further — introducing the concept of a “controversial subject” which is also a “major matter”.

The Guidelines say:

“Major matters” are usually matters of public policy … that are of national or international importance …

And they add:

When dealing with ‘major matters’, or when the issues involved are highly controversial and/or a decisive moment in the controversy is expected, it will normally be necessary to ensure that an appropriately wide range of significant views are reflected …

Allegations of widespread anti-Semitism in the Labour Party is clearly both a “controversial subject” and a “major matter”.

Panorama failed to “ensure that an appropriately wide range of significant views” were included in the programme.

In all these circumstances, it seems highly unlikely that the Panorama programme was not referred to senior management.

The fact that permission was given to extend the programme also suggests that senior managers — perhaps even Director General Tony Hall — were involved.

In other words, the Panorama programme was endorsed by the BBC at the highest level.

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The BBC Editorial Guidelines also insist on the need for “due accuracy.”

This commitment is fundamental to our reputation and the trust of audiences.

The term ‘due’ means that the accuracy must be adequate and appropriate to the output, taking account of the subject and nature of the content, the likely audience expectation …

The Guidelines require:

… all BBC output, as appropriate to its subject and nature, must be well sourced, based on sound evidence, and corroborated.

The BBC must not knowingly and materially mislead its audiences. We should not distort known facts, present invented material as fact or otherwise undermine our audiences’ trust in our content.

Did Panorama live up to those high ideals?

Take the allegation that Labour Party disputes investigator Ben Westerman personally encountered anti-Semitism in his inquiry into problems at the Liverpool Riverside constituency party.

Liverpool Riverside’s MP is Louise Ellman.

Panorama makes it clear that she is Jewish.

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LOUISE ELLMAN 
DAME LOUISE Ellman resigned from the Labour Party last month citing worries about anti-Semitism and opposition to Jeremy Corbyn as Leader. In 2019 the Jerusalem Post ranked her the world’s 23rd most influential Jew and the Times of Israel called her an “unabashed friend of Israel.” 
Photo: BBC

After Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader new members joined the party and there was inevitable friction between the old guard and the new members.

One of the newcomers was pensioner Helen Marks who is Jewish.

At the April 2016 constituency meeting there was a discussion about anti-Semitism.

Louise Ellman had said it was on the rise.

Marks suggested that any increase might be due in part to the actions of Israel over the Palestinian issue.

In making this remark, she had in mind a survey by the Community Security Trust which recorded a 500 per cent spike in anti-Semitism incidents following Israel’s actions in Gaza in 2014.

A few days later, an ally of Louise Ellman’s complained that this remark was anti-Semitic.

Labour held an investigation into what was happening in the constituency — and sent Ben Westerman from HQ’s disputes team to investigate.

In November 2016 Westerman interviewed Helen Marks who was accompanied by another elderly Jewish member known only as “R”.

“R” was present as a “silent friend” of Helen Marks.

(Press Gang knows the identity of “R” but has accepted her request to remain anonymous.)

In the Panorama programme reporter John Ware says of Westerman:

While interviewing one member he was confronted with the very anti-Semitism he’d been investigating.

Immediately after Ware’s comment, Ben Westerman told viewers:

WESTERMAN SCREENSHOT

BEN WESTERMAN 
THE LABOUR Party investigator sent to Liverpool to find out what was happening in Louise Ellman’s Riverside constituency. Although he claimed in the Panorama programme to have been the victim of anti-Semitism, his official Labour Party report did not mention the incident. Press Gang has attempted to contact Westerman — but he seems to have disappeared … 
Photo: BBC

We finished the interview, the person got up to leave the room and then turned back to me and said where are you from?

And I said what do you mean, where am I from ?

And she said I asked you where are you from?

And I said I’m not prepared to discuss this.

They said are you from Israel? 

What can you say to that?

You’re assumed to be in cahoots with the Israeli government, it’s this obsession with that that just spills over all the time into anti-Semitism.

Leaving aside the obvious question — how does asking if someone comes from Israel possibly be anti-Semitic? — there’s a more fundamental question.

Did this exchange actually happen?

A transcript of Ben Westerman’s interview with Helen Marks and “R” has since emerged.

There’s a section which is remarkably similar to the version Westerman gave Panorama — but with two important differences. 

One is that the exchange takes place during the interview.

And the other is that Israel is not mentioned. 

This is the exchange from the transcript.

Helen Marks to “R” : Ok. R, do you want to…?

R: No, I’m just curious cos I haven’t been in the Labour Party for very long and I certainly haven’t been to anything like this informal interview before, erm, so I’m just curious, just, like what branch are you in?

Ben Westerman (BW): I don’t think that’s relevant.

R: Oh, ok.

BW: I hope that’s ok — I’m sorry I just don’t think, I don’t think where I’m from is at all relevant to the investigation…

R: Yeah, I just, I just misunderstood, I thought the investigation bit about me not being a silent witness was…

BW: No, no it is, you’re more than welcome to ask questions, but I reserve the right to not answer them and I feel that’s a, that’s a question about my personal situation which I don’t think is relevant to the situation in Liverpool Riverside.

R: Oh. No, it might not be. Just but, it might be interesting.

BW: I’m, I’m not prepared to discuss my, my address, basically.

R: Mmm.

Despite the Editorial Guidelines requiring that reporting should be “well sourced, based on sound evidence, and corroborated,” John Ware accepted Westerman’s evidence at face value.

He doesn’t seem to have felt the need to check the story.

Helen Marks told Press Gang yesterday that no-one from Panorama contacted her to ask for her side of the story.

Ben Westerman was unavailable for comment. 

Yesterday, we asked John Ware, Panorama and the BBC to comment.

A spokeswoman told us: 

We will not be responding further than our statement which we have previously given you:

The BBC stands by its journalism and we completely reject any accusations of bias or dishonesty.

The Panorama programme explored a topic of undoubted public interest, broadcasting powerful and disturbing testimonies from party members who’d suffered anti-Semitic abuse.”

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FURTHER ARTICLES are in preparation. 

Support this campaign by clicking on the crowdfunded link here

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NOTE
1 Paddy French declares an interest in this issue. A life-long Labour voter, he joined the party after Jeremy Corbyn was elected Leader.
2 Much of this article is based on the work of others including The Canary, Electronic Intifada, Vox Political and Jewish Voice for Labour.
3  This article was amended on 8 December 2019 to include a statement from Jewish Voice for Labour. 

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Published: 2 November 2019
© Press Gang
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NEXT
INDICTMENT
PRESS GANG has asked Ofcom for permission to submit a complaint about the Panorama programme. No reply has yet been received. But in this article we lay out the skeleton argument for why we believe this edition of Panorama breached Ofcom’s broadcasting code over and over again.
(This was published on 8 December 2019, read it here.)

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CORRECTIONS  Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.

THE SHAME OF ANDREW NORFOLK — PART 5: A CHAMPION OF FAKE NEWS

May 30, 2019

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IN JULY last year the chief investigative reporter of the Times published another of his sensational exposés from the “dark side” of Britain’s Muslim community.

Andrew Norfolk’s target was a small Rotherham-based racial justice charity, Just Yorkshire, some of whose trustees are Muslims.

The award-winning Norfolk told readers how one of the charity’s reports led to death threats against Rotherham’s Labour MP Sarah Champion.

It wasn’t true.

Three months later, and after Press Gang intervened on behalf of the charity, the Times dramatically withdrew Norfolk’s allegation.

In a letter from one of its lawyers, the paper admitted “no death threats … were attributable to the report”. 

It was fake news — published on the front page of a paper that once claimed to be “Britain’s Most Trusted National Newspaper”.

Before Norfolk and the Times got to work on its reputation, Just Yorkshire had never received abuse on its website.

Now there was a steady stream, including death threats. 

One of these read:

“Filthy inbred Muslim cunts. We’re going to kill you all. Britain first.”  

The charity was forced to close. 

This new scandal follows Norfolk’s now notorious “Christian child forced into Muslim foster care” investigation of 2017. 

Norfolk was exposed as a rogue reporter after the judiciary confronted his false narrative.

The court released documents which revealed that the so-called Christian girl at the centre of the story was the daughter of a woman whose parents are practising Muslims. 

For much of her life, the little girl was brought up by her grandparents — in a Turkish household of practising Muslims.

(This story has been told in the first three parts of The Shame Of Andrew Norfolk: see, for example, Retribution.)

Now comes the fake “death threats” story … 

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On 25 July 2018 the Times launched a campaign claiming the racial justice charity Just Yorkshire had put the life of the MP Sarah Champion in danger.

Over a four day period the paper published seven articles criticising the charity.

It was a typical Andrew Norfolk investigation — the initial front page article was buttressed by two further articles.

An editorial made it clear the Times backed its chief investigative reporter to the hilt. 

The issue was kept alive the next day with another front page article and a comment piece by columnist David Aaronovitch.

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A “SLIP”, AN “ERROR”, A “MISTAKE” …
THE DRAMATIC front page article written by Andrew Norfolk in July 2018 which claimed the Just Yorkshire report led to death threats against the MP Sarah Champion. On Christmas Eve 2018 the Times buried a 69-word paragraph on page 24 admitting there was no truth in the allegation. Lawyers for the paper privately described the allegation as a “slip”, an “error”, a “mistake”.

The campaign came to an end with a front page story on July 29. 

By then the 16-year-old charity’s reputation was in tatters — its funders were backing away and its only employee would soon be made redundant.  

Norfolk’s first article was headed:

Terror police boost MP’s security for MP over criticism of Asian sex gangs

It continued on page 7 under the headline:

Security stepped up after scathing report led to death threats

The first two paragraphs stated:

An MP who received death threats after condemning the sexual abuse of girls by groups of British Pakistani men has been given increased security amid fears that hard-left and Muslim opponents are trying to force her from office.

Sarah Champion was accused by activists in her Rotherham constituency of “industrial-scale racism” for highlighting the “common ethnic heritage” of most of those implicated in the town’s sex-grooming scandal.

There were, in fact, two strands to Norfolk’s “Terror police” story.

The first was the allegation made against Just Yorkshire.

The second was an exposé of an alleged plot by Muslim Labour Party members in Rotherham to unseat Sarah Champion.

This second strand is discussed later in this piece.  

Norfolk attempted to create a link between these two separate elements but was unable to find any evidence.

Instead, he lumped the alleged plotters with Just Yorkshire branding both as critics of the MP. 

In his article, Andrew Norfolk claimed that Just Yorkshire was a major opponent of the MP:

The strongest public attacks on Ms Champion, who campaigns for the victims of child sexual exploitation, have been made by a Rotherham-based racial justice charity, Just Yorkshire.

The charity’s leader has accused the MP of “industrial scale racism” and “inciting and inviting hatred against minorities”. 

Norfolk added that a report co-authored by Nadeem Murtuja, interim director of Just Yorkshire:

… said that British Pakistanis felt “scapegoated, dehumanised and potentially criminalised” by their MP, who had “crossed a point of no return”.

The Just Yorkshire report had examined the impact of a controversial Sun article by Sarah Champion in August 2017 on the town’s 7,600-strong Asian community.

Champion’s article was headed “British Pakistani men ARE raping and exploiting white girls … and it’s time we faced up to it”.

The MP, who was Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities at the time, wrote:

There. I said it. Does that make me a racist? Or am I just prepared to call out this horrifying problem for what it is?

Champion was heavily criticised for the piece and later admitted it “should not have gone out in my name and I apologise that it did.” 

She resigned from the shadow cabinet a few days later.

Just Yorkshire’s report on the local impact of her article was published seven months later, in March 2018.

SARAH CHAMPION

SARAH CHAMPION
THE LABOUR MP for Rotherham plays a key role in Andrew Norfolk’s articles on Just Yorkshire. When Norfolk revealed that police increased her security in July 2018 after she received death threats, she declined to comment. But after the Times admitted there were no death threats and Just Yorkshire complained to the press watchdog IPSO, she sent the Times an email confirming that her security had been increased as a result of the charity’s report. She has not responded to requests by Press Gang to provide the evidence for this.

Norfolk wrote:

Its foreword accused her of “fanning the flames of racial hatred” and acting like a “neo-fascist murderer”.

He noted that “Ms Champion apologised to the Rotherham Pakistani community ‘for any hurt or adverse reaction I inadvertently caused’, but said that Just Yorkshire’s findings were ‘based on an extremely limited survey, distributed through networks not made in any way clear in the report’.”

Norfolk added:

The Times understands that the report led to death threats against Ms Champion. Scotland Yard’s counterterrorism unit increased her security risk level and she was advised to accept extra protection. The MP declined to comment.

Readers of the Times will have thought this was a charity run by Muslims whose extreme views had endangered the life of the town’s MP.

Three months later the Times, after the intervention of Press Gang and facing the threat of legal action, backed down.

The paper’s legal department admitted: 

 … the death threats made against Ms Champion since the report was published have not been directly linked to the report …

♦♦♦

FOR INTERIM director Nadeem Murtuja and the trustees of Just Yorkshire, the onslaught from Andrew Norfolk and the Times came as a complete shock.

A week before his first article, Norfolk had rung Murtuja and told him about the alleged plot to unseat Sarah Champion.

“He’d also been told that one of these plotters, a local Labour councillor, had been at the launch of our report,” said Murtuja, a former senior council official in Doncaster.

“I told him this wasn’t true: whoever told him that was mistaken. It’s clear Norfolk was trying to make a connection between the councillor and Just Yorkshire’s report.”

“But Norfolk didn’t mention anything about our report leading to death threats against Sarah Champion — that came as a bolt out of the blue.” 

20190504_194939

NADEEM MURTUJA
THE FORMER council official took over the running of Just Yorkshire in 2017. Andrew Norfolk rang him and asked if he was a practising Muslim (he is) but never told him he was going to write an article claiming the charity’s report had led to death threats against Sarah Champion. 

For several weeks the charity, formed in the wake of the Bradford riots of 2001, watched as its reputation crumbled.

Formally known as Just West Yorkshire, the charity had been set up with the support of the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust in 2003.

Funders distanced themselves and abuse began appearing on its website.

One said: 

“Soon will come a crusade and all Muslims will be butchered. Britain First”

And another:

“Filthy inbred Muslim cunts. We’re going to kill you all. Britain first.”  

On the day the Times campaign against Just Yorkshire drew to a close — 29 July 2018 — Press Gang released the first part of its damning analysis of Norfolk’s Muslim fostering care articles.

This was the first anniversary of Norfolk’s notorious Muslim foster care article .

Norfolk had accused the London borough of Tower Hamlets of forcing a Christian child to live with Muslim foster carers. 

In fact, the mother of the child was the daughter of practising Muslims from Turkey  — and the grandparents had also looked after the little girl for much of her life. 

Press Gang concluded that Andrew Norfolk was a journalist who did not let the facts stand in the way of a sensational story.

The chief investigative reporter of the Times, we noted, had won many awards: 

But among many thoughtful journalists, concerned at the rising tide of Islamophobia in some British newspapers, Norfolk’s role in the “Christian child” saga is chilling.

They cannot understand how a dedicated and courageous reporter could lower his standards to produce a series so one-sided it qualifies as rogue journalism.

When the Times published Norfolk’s sensational “Terror police boost security for MP Sarah Champion over criticism of Asian sex gangs” article, Press Gang was not willing to accept it at face value.

We spoke to Nadeem Murtuja.

He told us Norfolk had twisted the facts to fit what Just Yorkshire considered to be an anti-Muslim narrative. 

He said that when the “Temperature Report” was published on 15 March 2018, it attracted no national publicity and only BBC local radio and the magazine Big Issue North reported its findings.

Press Gang persuaded Nadeem Murtuja and the trustees of Just Yorkshire to join forces with the website.

An alliance was in the interests of both parties.

For Just Yorkshire, Press Gang had expertise: a year-long investigation into the Muslim foster care case meant we had an insight into how Norfolk operated.

We had drafted the only comprehensive complaint to the press watchdog IPSO against the paper’s Muslim foster care coverage.

We also had access to legal advice from leading libel lawyers. 

For Press Gang, Just Yorkshire was an important case study.

Unlike Tower Hamlets, which had been reluctant to take on the Times, Just Yorkshire had nothing to lose. 

Unlike Tower Hamlets, which reluctantly submitted a weak complaint to IPSO, Just Yorkshire were determined to make a full complaint.

Unlike Tower Hamlets, which was extremely nervous about briefing journalists, Just Yorkshire was willing to share everything.

Throughout September and the early part of October, Just Yorkshire and Press Gang carried out a detailed examination of the seven articles which Andrew Norfolk and the Times had published. 

The analysis showed Andrew Norfolk resorted to his tried and tested technique of purgeanddeceive in order to create his sensational campaign … 

♦♦♦

NORFOLK STARTED by leaving out the title of the Just Yorkshire report from his first article on July 25.

It’s called “A Temperature Check Report: understanding and assessing the impact of Rotherham MP, Sarah Champion ‘s comments in the Sun newspaper on 10 August 2017″.

The reason why Norfolk left out the title was because, although the report was critical of Champion, it did so with restraint. 

Norfolk purged the title in order to justify the headline “Security stepped up after scathing report led to death threats” and deceive readers about the measured nature of the report. 

Throughout the entire four days’ coverage of the issue, the Times did not once mention the title of the report. 

Next, Norfolk completely purged his account of a section in the introduction to the report which cautioned readers about the limits of the report.

Just Yorkshire agreed to produce the report “subject to the following provisos”:

A  That this report is nothing more than a temperature check report that is only focusing on one segment of the local community.

B  That the atmosphere that exists in Rotherham cannot be directly attributed to Ms Sarah Champion’s comments; and

C  In that context, it is very difficult to assess if the impact of Ms Sarah Champion’s comments has directly resulted in an increase in racism, Islamophobia or community tensions etc. This can only be determined by South Yorkshire Police and Rotherham Council through their community tensions monitoring processes;

D  Therefore, this report is a temperature check report at best – providing the local Pakistani community a platform to respond directly to Ms. Sarah Champion’s comments and have their voice heard. 

E  To acknowledge that Ms Sarah Champion should be commended for the invaluable support she has provided to some victims of the CSE [Child Sexual Exploitation] scandal.

Norfolk left out these qualifications in order to deceive his readers who might have wondered how a report prepared on this basis could possibly lead to death threats and increased security for Sarah Champion. 

Norfolk used the same techniques when it came to the major charges he levelled against Just Yorkshire: that it accused Champion of “industrial-scale racism”, of “fanning the flames of racial hatred” and of acting like a “neo-fascist murderer”.

Take the charge that Just Yorkshire accused the MP of “industrial scale racism”.

This is what Norfolk wrote:

Sarah Champion was accused by activists in her Rotherham constituency of “industrial-scale racism” for highlighting the “common ethnic heritage” of most of those implicated in the town’s sex-grooming scandal.

Again, Norfolk deceives his readers by saying that Just Yorkshire was criticising Just Yorkshire for “highlighting the ‘common ethnic heritage’ of those involved in the grooming cases”. 

Andrew Norfolk

PURGE AND DECEIVE
ANDREW NORFOLK is one of Britain’s most decorated journalists: his work on Asian sex gangs won him both the Paul Foot Award and a share of the Orwell Prize. But his recent investigations into issues involving Britain’s Muslim community have drawn criticism from many quarters. Press Gang has condemned his purge-and-deceive strategy: purging important facts and twisting others to deceive his readers. Even the press-controlled watchdog, IPSO, has found some of his articles breached the editors’ code of journalistic practice. 
Photo: Graham Turner for the Guardian

This is what the charity actually said:  

To attempt to define the issue of child sexual abuse / grooming along ethnic lines, and to see the Pakistani community through the prism of paedophilia and criminality is frankly racist — or even claiming there is something inherent in their heritage is bordering on industrial scale racism.

The charity wasn’t criticising Champion for pointing out that most of those convicted of child sexual exploitation were of Pakistani-heritage — it was criticising her for saying that all men of a Pakistani background were potential abusers. 

Norfolk then deceives his readers by selecting “industrial scale racism” from the larger quotation and leaving out the words, “bordering on”, in order to make it look more extreme. 

There was an even more serious deception: readers had no way of knowing that the “industrial scale racism” quote doesn’t even appear in the “Temperature Check” report of March 2018. 

It actually comes from the press release Just Yorkshire released on the day after Sarah Champion’s Sun article was published back in August 2017. 

But, while he was selecting what he considered to be a damaging quote, Norfolk purged his account of a highly significant statement in this press release. 

Just Yorkshire said:

“We condemn any form of threat made towards Sarah Champion for speaking out — and we urge local enforcement agencies to provide the maximum protection.”  

And when Norfolk says the charity accuses Sarah Champion of “fanning the flames of racial hatred” he purges his article of the fact that Champion had condemned her own article of doing exactly that.

In the days after her Sun article appeared Champion claimed the paper made “the headline and opening sentences highly inflammatory and they could be taken to vilify an entire community on the basis of race, religion or country of origin”.

The MP said she did not write the headline or opening sentences, which were “stripped of any nuance about the complex issue of grooming gangs, which have exploited thousands in my constituency”.

The Sun hit back, saying “Sarah Champion’s column, as it appeared on Friday, was approved by her team and her adviser twice contacted us thereafter to say she was ‘thrilled’ with the piece and ‘it looked great’.’

A spokesperson added:

Indeed, her only objection after the article appeared was her belief that her picture byline looked unflattering. Her office submitted five new photos.

Champion admitted: “The article should not have gone out in my name and I apologise that it did”.

She resigned as shadow equalities minister.

Norfolk also stated that the foreword of the “Temperature Check” report accused Sarah Champion of “acting like a ‘neo-fascist murderer’.”

But once again, he deceives his readers by stripping this provocative quote of its context.  

The preface — not foreword as Norfolk says — was written by the respected West Indian academic Professor Gus John. 

TEMPERATURE CHECK 2

TEMPERATURE CHECK
THE FRONT cover of Just Yorkshire’s report. Andrew Norfolk did not share with his readers the title for fear it might alert them to the care with which it was prepared.  Although Andrew Norfolk’s articles suggested Just Yorkshire is a Muslim charity, it was in fact run for nearly ten years by a Buddhist: the Singapore-born civil rights activist Ratna Lachman. She died of cancer in 2017 and was replaced as interim director by Nadeem Murtuja. The charity has three trustees, all of them women. Zaiban Alam is a barrister. Zlakha Ahmed, MBE is the chief executive of the organisation Apna Haq which helps domestic violence victims, including those from ethnic communities. Both Alam and Ahmed are practising Muslims. The third trustee, Leila Taleb, a human rights consultant, is an atheist. 
Photo: Just Yorkshire

He wrote that one of the reasons why Sarah Champion’s article was so offensive to Rotherham’s Muslims was that it was published on the second anniversary of a tragedy that shook the town.

In September 2015 two white thugs attacked an 81-year-old Yemeni man Muhsin Ahmed on his way to a local mosque for morning prayers.  

As they set about him, they asked if he was a “groomer” — that is, one of the men who had abused young girls in the town. 

Ahmed was so badly beaten that he later died of his injuries. The two attackers were subsequently gaoled.  

Gus John noted:

Here was a Member of Parliament, a Labour MP, whom the Ahmed family and the Pakistani community had a right to expect to conduct herself differently, effectively doing exactly what the neo-fascist murderers of their loved ones [sic] had done, motivated as they were by hatred of Muslim / Pakistani men, as a collective, for sexual exploitation of white girls.

Andrew Norfolk states that John was accusing Champion of “acting like a ‘neo-fascist murderer’,” when John was actually saying was that she was doing what the two murderers had done — assuming that all Pakistani-heritage men were potential groomers.

And, once again, Norfolk deceived his readers by tampering with the quotation.

He changed the meaning of the words “neo-fascist murderers” by reducing the plural “murderers” to the singular “murderer”.

If he had left the quote as it really was, readers might have wondered how Sarah Champion could possibly act as two murderers at the same time.

Norfolk’s opening report of 25 July 2018 was a classic example of his purge and deceive method of working.

♦♦♦

NORFOLK’S DRAMATIC front page article of July 25 was backed up by two other pieces on the same day.

Norfolk wrote a piece supporting Sarah Champion’s stand on the issue.

It was headlined “MP faced fury for stand on sex gangs”.

Norfolk  wrote:

Sarah Champion incurred the wrath of many on the political left when she told readers of the Sun that the country “has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls”.

He did not mention the fact that Champion had condemned her own article.

He also deceived readers when he claimed:

Nowhere in the [Just Yorkshire] report was it acknowledged that the MP stressed in her [Sun] article that in highlighting the ethnicity factor she was referring to a specific model of child abuse, the grooming and exploitation of “mainly white pubescent girls” by organised groups of men.

This is false. 

On page 11 of the “Temperature Check” report it states that in her Sun article Champion “described the perpetrators of the abuse as predators, working in gangs, and said that their common denominator was their ethnic heritage, namely British Pakistani. She identified their victims as ‘mainly white pubescent girls who were being sexually abused’.”

Another piece criticised the Joseph Rowntree charitable trust for supporting Just Yorkshire for much of its sixteen years existence. 

On August 25, the day that Andrew Norfolk makes the “death threats” accusation, the Times devoted one of its leading articles to the case.

It was headed “True Champion”.

It stated that “Rotherham’s MP deserves support for speaking out on sexual abuse”.  

It began with the role of the Rowntree trust. It acknowledged that it had done good work in social policy and housing but noted: 

That makes it all the more disappointing that it should be implicated in the saga in which the Labour MP for Rotherham, Sarah Champion, has received death threats for condemning the sexual abuse of girls by Pakistani men.

It said that Sarah Champion’s protection “has had to be increased”, adding: 

With the murder of the MP JO Cox still fresh in the memory, it is appalling that a local representative should need police protection.

It ended by saying that:

When Ms Champion told the Sun that Britain “has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls” she was doing no more than stating a truth. And unless the truth is confronted, the danger is that abuse will be repeated. She is, as her name suggests, a champion of her constituents.

The campaign against Just Yorkshire continued the next day with another front page article by Norfolk.

This time it concerned a private, undated letter Tory Home Secretary Sajid Javid had written to Champion and which she published on her website.

The headline was “Javid orders research into ethnic origin of sex grooming gangs”. 

In fact, the letter outlined research that was already on-going.

Buried deep in the article was the statement that if “there is a need for further research, we will take it forward.”

It was another example of Andrew Norfolk’s purge and deceive technique.

He was trying to give readers the impression that Javid had ordered research, perhaps as a result of his articles. 

The columnist David Aaronovitch also joined the fray with a piece headed “Criticising Muslims doesn’t make you a racist: activists who have denounced Rotherham’s MP are trying to shut down debate about real problems in their community.”  

Screen Shot 2019-04-25 at 10.08.34

RAMPED
TIMES COLUMNIST David Aaronovitch joined in the attack on Just Yorkshire. On 26 July 2018 he wrote that “accusations of racism against Ms Champion and consequent threats to her on social media had been ramped up” by Just Yorkshire’s report. Press Gang wrote to Aaronovitch and asked him for the social media evidence that backed up this claim. He did not reply …

Aaronovitch wrote:

Yesterday we revealed that accusations of racism against Ms Champion and consequent threats to her on social media had been ramped up by a report published by a so-called racial justice charity [Just Yorkshire].

Two days later the campaign came to an end when Just Yorkshire was mentioned in a front page article by Norfolk. 

This was another attack on the Joseph Rowntree charitable trust for funding peace groups in Northern Ireland which allegedly had links to terrorists.

There were two paragraphs about the charity’s funding of Just Yorkshire.

The Times reported this week that the trust, a Quaker organisation, had given £550,000 to a group that accused a Labour MP of “industrial-scale racism” for highlighting the sexual abuse of girls by gangs of British Pakistani men.

Norfolk did not tell his readers that this sum had been spread over many years. 

Michelle Russell, the Charity Commission’s director of investigations and enforcement, said yesterday that it had opened an investigation into Just Yorkshire for its attack on Sarah Champion, the MP for Rotherham. “We are examining the administration of the charity and scrutinising some of its activities,” she said.

This was misleading.

The Charity Commission told Press Gang it had received complaints about Just Yorkshire — including one about the “Temperature Check” report — but that these had been received before Norfolk’s articles were published.

The Charity Commission also confirmed that it had not used the word “attack” in its press statement.

The Commission added that it had asked Just Yorkshire for its comments on the Times coverage.

A spokesman told Press Gang it was still considering the issue.

The result of the campaign by Andrew Norfolk and the Times against Just Yorkshire was devastating.

Funders pulled back and income dried up. 

The charity made its only employee, the interim director Nadeem Murtuja, redundant in January this year and told the Charities Commission it has decided to close.

♦♦♦

BY MID-OCTOBER last year, Just Yorkshire and Press Gang were ready to hit back at Andrew Norfolk and the Times

A nine page letter was sent to the editor of the Times, John Witherow, to say that the  articles about the charity were defamatory.

The letter, dated 16 October 2018, challenged the paper to provide the evidence that proved the “Temperature Check” report had led to death threats against Sarah Champion.

WITHEROW

JOHN WITHEROW
THIS ISN’T the first time Times editor John Witherow has been investigated by Press Gang over his attitude to Muslim issues. In 2012, when he was editor of the Sunday Times, the paper published a front page article written by the now-disgraced News of the World investigations editor Mazher Mahmood and reporter Eleanor Mills. The piece accused a Muslim dentist of being willing to perform female genital mutilation (FGM). The police investigation collapsed when it turned out that an undercover associate of Mahmood’s may have “prostituted” herself in order to persuade the dentist to carry out the procedure. Police founded no evidence the dentist was involved in FGM. See Withering Heights for the full, sordid story. 
Photo: PA

The response from the Times could not have been more dramatic. 

On November 5, Kirsty Howarth, a senior editorial lawyer at Times Newspapers Ltd which owns the Times, wrote to say:

 … the death threats made against Ms Champion since the report was published have not been directly linked to the report …

The Times was admitting that the allegation about death threats — the single most important element of Andrew Norfolk’s front page of July 25 — was false.

This was a major retreat.

The lawyer did not, however, admit that this was a mistake, nor did she offer an apology.

Indeed, she tried to argue that Norfolk’s first article was not misleading.

“What we in fact understand to be the case is that the publication of the report increased counter-terrorism police’s already significant concerns about Ms Champion’s security ie to a level beyond that which had existed when her life was previously threatened. 

“In light of the severity of those concerns … we do not consider that the article is misleading, but as the Times is a newspaper of record which aims for complete accuracy at all times, it has amended the article online and intends to publish following wording in its Corrections and clarifications column both in the paper and online subject to any reasonable comments you may have …” 

Kirsty Howarth did not provide the evidence which showed Champion’s security was increased as a result of the Just Yorkshire report.

The paragraph the Times was proposing to publish was as follows

Our article about Sarah Champion MP’s security protection being increased (News, 25 July) suggested that a report by the charity Just Yorkshire had led to death threats against Ms Champion. In fact, as was made clear elsewhere in our coverage, whilst the report led police to increase her security protection, no death threats made at that time were attributable to the report. We are happy to make that clear.

Just Yorkshire replied to this letter on November 13.

The charity said the proposed paragraph “is not acceptable, either in terms of content or prominence”.

The letter continued:

When you use the word “suggested” you know full well it is a weasel word.

The article stated bluntly: “The Times understands that the report led to death threats against Ms Champion.”

When this first article continued on page 7, the headline was even blunter: “Security stepped up after scathing report led to death threats”.

The letter noted that proposed paragraph now claimed Andrew Norfolk made it clear “elsewhere” in the article that no death threats were “attributable” to the report. 

Just Yorkshire said “we cannot find any such assertion”.  

The Times did not answer this letter — instead there was a series of phone calls and emails.

TIMES 5 NOV 2018

BOMBSHELL
THE DRAMATIC letter from Times lawyer Kirsty Howarth admitting that neither Andrew Norfolk nor the newspaper had any evidence to back up the sensational allegation that Just Yorkshire’s report had led to death threats against Sarah Champion.

On December 3 Kirsty Howarth emailed to ask:

Are you able to set out for me in concrete terms what the remedy package you consider appropriate would consist of in order that I may instructions?

On December 11, Just Yorkshire submitted two articles for publication — one a short front page apology and an inside news article setting out the charity’s criticism of Andrew Norfolk’s articles. 

The charity also asked for compensation and a letter from editor John Witherow to its principal funders explaining that there had been no death threats as a result of the report. 

On December 21 Howarth emailed to say this proposal had been rejected: 

… the Times editorial independence is sacrosanct and is never used as a bargaining chip in resolving complaints.

She then suggested Just Yorkshire might submit a letter for publication in the paper’s letters page: 

 … but I should warn you that the time that has passed since the articles were published is likely to be relevant here.

On Christmas Eve last year the Times published its 69 word paragraph on the bottom left hand corner of page 24 … 

♦♦♦

MEANWHILE LEGAL advice had been sought about whether Just Yorkshire could sue the Times for defamation.

A libel lawyer told Press Gang it would be risky to bring an action: 

The Times will argue that the article did not say that the report incited people to make threats against Sarah Champion, or that JY [Just Yorkshire] intended or was negligent as to that consequence. It simply says that there was a causal connection.  They will argue that there is no serious criticism of JY, certainly not one which would cause serious harm, in saying that the report led to people doing unintended things …

Since libel actions are expensive, Just Yorkshire decided to put the issue of litigation on hold.

Instead, the charity turned to the Independent Press Standards Organisation, IPSO.

Although it claims to be “independent”, IPSO is funded by Britain’s major newspaper publishers.

One of the most powerful of these groups is Rupert Murdoch’s News UK, owners of the Times, the Sun and the Sunday Times

On January 8 Nadeem Murtuja and the trustees of Just Yorkshire made an official complaint to the watchdog.

Just Yorkshire’s complaint was that the Times had breached the accuracy clause of the Editors’ Code which newspapers sign up to.

image

FAKE NEWS
“IN AN age when world leaders routinely dismiss unwelcome reports a as ‘fake news’, readers need a source they can trust for honest journalism that informs, entertains and analyses without bias. …”
Source: The Times annual IPSO statement, 2017

This states: 

The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.

A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator. 

A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.

Just Yorkshire also claimed that the paper’s coverage broke the discrimination clause which states:

The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s, race, colour, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.

IPSO has few powers and the best Just Yorkshire could hope for was a adjudication that the Times had breached the Editors’ Code

There is no financial redress, the main “punishment” is that the paper might be forced to publish a judgment setting out the breaches. 

IPSO now asked the Times to respond to Just Yorkshire’s complaint. 

When the paper replied on January 25, it had changed its position.

Previously the paper argued that the first Andrew Norfolk article only “suggested” Just Yorkshire’s report led to death threats.

Now its position was that: 

The Times has openly accepted that it was not correct to say … the report ‘led’ to death threats. It regrets the error …

The letter added that the “error” was a “slip”.

However, the paper insisted that there were many other references to death threats in its coverage of Just Yorkshire, the two most important of which “clearly linked the death threats to Ms Champion’s own comments, not to the report”.

It added:

In the light of this, the Times considers it appropriate for the wording [of the paragraph published on 24 December 2018] to have said the article ‘suggested’ that the report led to the death threats and did not consider that the error, though unfortunate, was significant or that it required an apology, though clearly a correction was needed.” 

The paper also gave IPSO more information about its sources for the allegation that concerns about the “Temperature Check” report had contributed to counter-terrorism police providing extra security for Sarah Champion.

The paper: 

… is able to confirm that the information came from trusted and highly reliable and credible sources and it was accurate. The Times has since spoken to Ms Champion who has confirmed that these statements are correct. 

This was another change from the original article which had stated

 The MP declined to comment.

image

MYSTERY AT THE YARD 
METROPOLITAN POLICE Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu is in charge of counter-terrorism policing in England and Wales. His staff officer Nick Bonomini told Just Yorkshire that the Met’s Parliamentary Liaison & Investigation Team “… are not, nor have they, conducted a formal investigation into the report published by [Just Yorkshire].” Another officer later confirmed that the force knew of no death threats which were linked to the report. However, the Met also confirmed that “action had been to safeguard” the MP as a result of the report. Sarah Champion later claimed that the report had led police, who already had “significant concerns” for her safety, to increase her security. Press Gang has been unable to reconcile the contradiction between these two positions. Sarah Champion has declined to answer any of our questions.
Photo: MPS

Now the MP had come out into the open on behalf of Andrew Norfolk and the newspaper. 

The Times denied its coverage discriminated against Nadeem Murtuja and the trustees of Just Yorkshire.The charity’s response to the Times letter was withering.In a letter, dated February 8, it noted that the Times letter only discussed one occasion when the paper said the report “led” to death threats. The charity said: 

It seems to us that whoever wrote this letter is suffering from amnesia. 

The Times was ignoring the fact that when Norfolk’s front page article of July 25 continued to an inside page it carried the headline:

Security stepped up after scathing report led to death threats.

 

Nor was Just Yorkshire impressed with the Times sources who said its report had led to increased security for Sarah Champion:

The obvious riposte to this assertion is that, presumably, these were exactly the same “trusted and highly reliable and credible sources” that told Andrew Norfolk about the death threats. 

Just Yorkshire said these sources were “evidentially worthless”. 

The charity had also cited a previous IPSO ruling, called Solash v The Times, where a complaint against the paper was upheld because it wouldn’t reveal the documentary evidence to back up its source.

Just Yorkshire invited IPSO “to make a similar ruling in this case”.

The charity also welcomed the emergence of Sarah Champion, adding:

… Sarah Champion can now furnish the evidence of increased security that Andrew Norfolk and the Times have failed to provide so far.

Just Yorkshire asked for “tangible evidence (social media records, emails, anonymous letters)” and for details of the discussions with counter-terrorism police “which led to them advising, and her accepting, increased security”. 

The letter continued:

In the circumstances, we cannot see any reason why Sarah Champion should decline to provide the documentary evidence necessary to prove that our report contributed to her being given greater security.
On its own, we are not prepared to accept that Sarah Champion’s word alone is sufficient to prove the Times position that our report contributed to increased security.
We note that Andrew Norfolk and Sarah Champion have been fellow campaigners on the issue of Asian sex gangs for several years.
We further note that Andrew Norfolk has written many articles that feature the MP all of them, as far as we know, supportive of her stand on the Asian sex gangs issue. 


The Times responded to these points in a letter dated February 20.

On Just Yorkshire’s point that the paper had ignored the existence of the headline “Security stepped up after scathing report led to death threats”, the Times was  … completely silent.

The letter now made the highly revealing statement that none of Andrew Norfolk’s sources actually told him about the death threats:

We were not told that the report led to death threats …. That sentence in one of the seven articles was a mistake, as we have acknowledged from the very beginning …

Just Yorkshire responded to these revelations in a letter dated March 1.

The letter asked: 

… how on earth did Andrew Norfolk come to make the “mistake” that led him to declare that “the Times understands that the report led to death threats against Ms Champion”?

What the Times now seems to be suggesting is that he conjured the “mistake” out of thin air ..

 

Screen Shot 2019-02-25 at 17.14.50

MORE HYSTERIA, LESS ANALYSIS? 
THE TIMES is currently running TV ads extolling the virtues of its journalism. The ad shows hyenas dominating the benches of the House of Commons, suggesting that MPs are full of hot air — and in need of the calm, analytical approach of the Times

The letter invited IPSO 

… to come to the conclusion that the “death threats” allegation was a deliberate decision by both Andrew Norfolk (who wrote the sentence beginning “The Times understands …”) and the Times (whose sub-editor wrote the page 7 headline) in order to create a damning, malicious and sensational … article …

 

IPSO asked the Times to make any final comments before referring the Just Yorkshire complaint to its Complaints Committee.

When the Times replied, on March 7, it did not provide the evidence Just Yorkshire had asked for which proved that the “Temperature Check” report led to increased security for Sarah Champion.

The letter did, however, include an email from Sarah Champion to the Times.

The MP confirmed that her life had been threatened both before and after the “Temperature Check” report was published.

She added:

… the report’s publication (and its contents) increased counter-terrorism police’s already significant concerns about my security and led to their advice that I should increase my security protection, which duly happened.

I hereby confirm that everything that was stated by the newspaper … is true and entirely accurate.

The Times also added some further information about Andrew Norfolk’s two sources:

The Times journalist involved is an experienced, award-winning journalist. He had multiple conversations with two sources for the point regarding Ms Champion, the report, the threats she had received and her police security.

Both sources are known to the journalist as people of integrity and credibility. The newspaper only knows the identity of one of the sources who it can confirm is of some standing and who it knows to be reliable. 

The paper added:

We can say no more than that the source whose identity is known to the both the paper and journalist has direct knowledge of the security concerns raised by the police in light of the report and the measures implemented as a consequence.

Just Yorkshire also complained about the paragraph the Times had published on Christmas Eve last year.

This stated

Our article about Sarah Champion MP’s security protection being increased (News, 25 July) suggested that a report by the charity Just Yorkshire had led to death threats against Ms Champion. In fact, as was made clear elsewhere in our coverage, whilst the report led police to increase her security protection, no death threats made at that time were attributable to the report. We are happy to make that clear.

The charity argued that this paragraph was inaccurate on three grounds:

— the paper had not “suggested” its report had led to death threats. On two occasions it is stated it as a fact, first when the Times “understands” there were death threats and the second, the headline which stated the “scathing report” led to death threats

— the paper argued that it had made it clear elsewhere in its coverage that the report did not lead to death threats. Just Yorkshire said that the only source of any death threats cited by the paper was its report

—  although the paper acknowledged the “death threats” was a “mistake” and that it “regrets the error”, the paragraph did not apologise.

image

FOR ROTHERHAM … 
WHEN A right wing fascist murdered 50 Muslims at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in March, he plastered his magazines with slogans. One of these was marked “For Rotherham”, a reference to the Asian sex gang stories. 

The Times maintained that its paragraph was accurate.

At this point, IPSO concluded its inquiries and complaints and arbitration officer Madelaine Palacz prepared a report which was submitted to IPSO’s Complaints Committee hearing on March 13.

♦♦♦

JUST YORKSHIRE’S complaint was considered by IPSO at a time when the organisation was under fire for not protecting minorities.

On February 28, the campaign group Hacked Off issued an open letter to IPSO calling on it to stop “condoning religious and race-based hate”. 

The letter stated: 

Racist and faith-based attacks against communities are so common in parts of the press that they have become a dangerous normality. It is clear that these attacks encourage the discrimination, harassment and violence suffered by members of minority communities every day.

Yet you have taken no action. In respect of each of the examples cited in this letter, you have not upheld a single complaint. In one entire year, of over 8,000 discrimination complaints, you upheld only one.

By allowing these abuses to go on without sanction you are turning a blind eye to the continuing incitement of hatred.

We write to express our deep dismay and to ask you to address this problem urgently and publicly. While the press must be free to do its job, your implicit condoning of religious and race-based hate must stop.

Among the signatories were the charity War on Want, and cross-party politicians including Baroness Warsi, Keith Vaz, Lord David Alton and Caroline Lucas.

More than 40 others added their names: Steve Coogan, the broadcaster James O’Brien, the barrister Helena Kennedy and the Bishop of St Albans. 

The chair of IPSO, Sir Alan Moses replied:

IPSO rejects the accusation that it condones religious and race-based hate or in any way approves of offensive attacks on groups on the grounds of their beliefs or identity.

Our decisions on discrimination and accuracy make it clear that a finding that there has been no breach of the Editors’ Code does not in any way imply that IPSO approves of what has been written.

The real issue, with which the letter fails to grapple, is how to strike a balance between the freedom of a journalist or newspaper to offend a group while protecting individuals.

As well as making its complaint, Just Yorkshire also wrote to Sir Alan Moses asking the IPSO board to carry out a broad-ranging inquiry into anti-Muslim journalism at the paper. 

This is called a “standards investigation” and IPSO can order one in cases where there is a “serious and systemic” problem.

image

IPSO
IN 2014 the Independent Press Standards Organisation — IPSO — replaced the disgraced Press Complaints Commission (PCC).  The PCC had been swept away by the public revulsion over the hacking of the mobile phone of the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler. It was the Times stablemate, the News of the World, which had been responsible — and the brand became so toxic that Rupert Murdoch closed it. But despite claims that it is a new and improved press regulator, IPSO remains firmly under the yoke of a mainstream press owned in large part by foreign-based billionaires like Murdoch. Its weakness is demonstrated by the fact that it has not been able to prevent Andrew Norfolk and the Times from publishing distorted articles about Britain’s 2.7 million Muslims.

If found guilty, the newspaper can be fined up to £1 million. 

There have been no standards investigations since IPSO started operations in 2014.

Just Yorkshire pointed out that there were broad similarities between the Muslim foster care case and false allegation that its report led to death threats against Sarah Champion.

Moses wrote back to say that the complaints investigation had not been completed but added:

“I have passed your letter to Charlotte Unwin, Head of Standards, so that the concerns you have raised can be flagged up for our ongoing standards monitoring.”

The Just Yorkshire complaint was considered at a meeting of IPSO’s complaints committee on February 13. 

Two members were unable to attend — former CPS official Nazit Afzal and the black barrister Helyn Mensah. 

As a result, there were no representatives of the Asian community — and no representative of any of the UK’s ethnic minorities. 

♦♦♦

WHEN IPSO sent Just Yorkshire its ruling on March 28, it was clear its complaints committee had bent over backwards to protect the Times.

There was little the committee could do to mitigate the impact of the headline which appeared on July 25:

Security stepped up after scathing report led to death threats

It found that this was a breach of the accuracy clause of the Editors’ Code:

The print headline to the first article on page 7, had made the categorical claim that the March 2018 report had “led” to the MP receiving death threats. This was a significant claim given its seriousness; it established a causal link between the actions of the complainant and the threats which the MP had received against her life. The newspaper had produced no evidence to support the claim made in the headline on page 7.

But it took a different view of Andrew Norfolk’s comment, again in the first article, that “the Times understands that the report led to death threats against Ms Champion.” 

The complaints committee’s argument was tortuous:

The MP had confirmed that her life had been threatened both before and after the publication of the March 2018 report. She had also confirmed that the report’s publication — and its contents — had increased counter-terrorism police’s already significant concerns about the potential risk to her security, and led to their advice that her security protection be increased, which subsequently happened.

The Committee considered the claim made in the first article, that the newspaper “understood” that the March 2018 report had led to death threats, in that context. Unlike the headline’s categorical claim, the article had made clear the basis for the newspaper’s belief that the report had led to death threats against MP, namely that police had increased the her security risk level and had advised that she accept extra protection. There was no further breach … 

In other words, IPSO found it was perfectly reasonable that Norfolk “understood” that increased security had led to death threats. 

What is astonishing about IPSO’s justification is that the Times, when it was discussing exactly the same remark, stated: 

The Times has openly accepted that it was not correct to say … the report ‘led’ to death threats. It regrets the error …

So IPSO actually found the paper was not inaccurate when the Times had not only admitted its comment was “not correct” but also “regrets the error”. 

In fact, the newspaper only argued that it was not a “significant inaccuracy”.

Norfolk_cover_with_spine_g.indd

NORFOLK UNMASKED 
PRESS GANG is not the only critic of Andrew Norfolk. Brian Cathcart, professor of journalism at Kingston University and a founder member of the pressure group Hacked Off, has been analysing Andrew Norfolk’s journalism for more than eighteen months. Earlier this year he and Press Gang editor Paddy French joined forces to produce a 72 page report exposing Andrew Norfolk. The report examined the Just Yorkshire affair and the notorious “Christian child forced into Muslim foster care” case. The report also analysed a third example of Norfolk’s distorted reporting — a November 2018 article that claimed Rotherham council had favoured a convicted rapist in family court proceedings concerning the child he’d fathered on one of its victims. Official sources later revealed that the council had merely obeyed the rules of the family court. Click here to read the report and see below for the extraordinary response of the Times.

The Times pleads guilty, IPSO finds it innocent … 

For the breach over the “Security stepped up after scathing report led to death threats’ headline, IPSO acknowledged that a correction was needed but concluded that the single paragraph the Times published on 24 December 2018 was adequate.

The Committee expressed some concern at the wording of the correction which was published, particularly the use of the word “suggested”; the headline of the first article had stated, as fact, that the March 2018 report had led to death threats. However it did make clear the correct position that no death threats made at that time were attributable to the March 2018 report.

Just Yorkshire had argued that a 69 word paragraph buried on the letters page did nothing to counter the impact of a front page article.

IPSO’s complaints committee did not agree:

The Committee considered that the publication of this wording in the newspaper’s established Corrections and Clarifications column as well as online, represented due prominence.

The committee found the Times analysis of the “Temperature Check” report was not inaccurate.

The committee also found there had been no discrimination against Nadeem Murtuja and the trustees of Just Yorkshire. 

Just Yorkshire appealed against the ruling.

The letter pointed out that News UK, the ultimate owners of the Times, makes considerable claims for the quality of its journalism:

All News UK titles strive for the highest standards of accuracy and all editorial staff are expected to follow standard journalistic best practice in verifying stories. When reporting events not witnessed at first hand all possible steps should be taken to establish the credibility and reliability of any sources, and to corroborate their accounts.

Just Yorskhire said the paper had fallen short of its own standards. 

The charity also reminded IPSO that it also set high standards for its own deliberations.

The advice given in the preamble to the guidance which accompanies the Editors’ Code emphasises that the code:

… goes beyond a narrow, legal interpretation of the rules, which could provide loopholes, and instead talks about the Code being honoured “not only to the letter but in the full spirit”. That means that instead of legalistic quibbling, the Code should be honoured in what we might perhaps all recognise as the spirit of “fair play” and “doing the right thing”.

Just Yorkshire said that IPSO’s complaints committee had failed its own test. 

It asked the Independent Complaints Reviewer to “reconsider the complaints committee’s verdict on this matter and apply the principles of ‘fair play’ ….”

 IPSO’s “independent complaints reviewer”, former local government chief executive Trish Haines, submitted her report on May 10.  

She stated:

” … the question for the Complaints Reviewer is whether there was a substantial flaw in the decision making process. In my view, there was not.”

This was the end of the regulatory road for Just Yorkshire.

Although IPSO had proved to be a toothless watchdog, its process had revealed important information about the failings at the Times.  

Nadeem Murtuja and the trustees of Just Yorskhire are now considering whether to proceed with an action for defamation … 

♦♦♦

SARAH CHAMPION is a key figure in this story.

She now makes it clear — mostly, it has to be said, through her silence — that she does not support Andrew Norfolk and the Times in their assertion that the Just Yorkshire report led to death threats against her.

However, it is also clear that she did nothing to correct the falsehood as Andrew Norfolk and the Times assault on Just Yorkshire continued over several days

She also did nothing to dissuade Andrew Norfolk from running the second strand of July 25 story — the alleged plot by “hard-left and Muslim opponents” to topple her as Rotherham’s MP.

She would only say she had no “comment” to make.

Press Gang has evidence that she knew about this element of the story before it was published.

Her silence on the matter suggests that she was prepared to see it published.

In fact, Andrew Norfolk’s evidence for the plot was painfully thin.

Only two politicians were actually named as potential plotters and one of these, former Labour deputy leader Jahangir Akhtar, was no longer on the council.

The only evidence against him was correspondence — Norfolk gave no date for it — in which he called Champion an “ogre” and “if Labour wants to keep her seat, they need to get rid of her pretty quick”. 

UNMASKED UPDATE COVER

THE TIMES HITS BACK
THE DAY after the Unmasked report was published, the Times hit back with an article defending Andrew Norfolk — and an angry editorial attacking the authors as “politically motivated campaigners”.  Read the update here.

The other alleged plotter was councillor Taiba Yasseen who had been dropped from the Labour-controlled cabinet.

Norfolk said that this was “for reasons the party has declined to reveal, but supporters of Ms Champion say that the decision was prompted by concerns that she was trying to discredit the MP.”

No evidence was advanced to support this assertion.

Nor did Norfolk gave any details of actual plotting. 

The evidence for his claim that “far-left activists” were involved appears to be that Yasseen is a membership of Momentum.

Norfolk noted that Yasseen, who has ambitions to become an MP, said the allegation was “categorically untrue”.

Yasseen is a supporter of Sarah Champion — and Sarah Champion has supported Yasseen’s bid to become a Labour candidate in other northern constituencies.

Any plot by Rotherham’s Muslim community to unseat the MP also runs up against some powerful demographics.

The town’s 7,600-strong Pakistani community makes up just over 3 per cent of the 257,000 population.

They elect three out of 61 councillors, all of them Labour.

In the 2012 by-election and the 2015 general election UKIP were the second largest party.

The town has a strong, right-wing element — in the 2012 by-election, the BNP came third to UKIP.

Press Gang asked Sarah Champion if her involvement in Andrew Norfolk’s anti-Muslim journalism is designed to keep right-wing Labour voters from switching to UKIP and the BNP.

She did not reply. 

Andrew Norfolk and Times editor John Witherow also declined to comment. 

♦♦♦

Published: 26 June 2019
© Press Gang 

♦♦♦ 

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RIGHT OF REPLY  
If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.

 

CITIZEN SMITH

September 7, 2016

 

Owen_Smith_head_citizen

ONE OF the most common criticisms of Jeremy Corbyn is that he’s unelectable.

Critics point to the poll ratings, with Labour currently trailing the Tories.

But little attention has been paid to challenger Owen Smith’s electoral record.

In the past decade he and his wife have stood in four elections — all in traditional Labour strongholds.

They’ve lost two of them.

Even when Owen Smith wins, he does so with a reduced majority.

Some voters are not impressed with his style: he was nicknamed “Oily” in one election and arrogant in another.

Is there something toxic about “brand Smith”?

♦♦♦

THREE YEARS ago Owen Smith was the driving force behind a political manifesto.

He co-edited a series of essays called One Nation: power, hope, community.

The Guardian said:

” … a group of the party’s rising stars call for it to end the lockout of local communities from power and to bury top-down statist solutions that have failed in the past.”

It was a time when Labour was searching for a way to appeal to the middle ground of British politics.

Labour Leader Ed Miliband summed it up in the preface:

“… a One Nation Labour Party is a party of the national interest, not one part of the country or any sectional interest.”

In the opening chapter Owen Smith was candid about the problems he faced in his own constituency, Pontypridd in south Wales.

“Membership and majorities are counted carefully now, when once they were weighed. Belief in our mission is dwindling.”

He was also clear about the solution:

“I believe the answer comes in two parts: we need both bottom-up participation and leadership from the top; to simultaneously cultivate our roots and command the heights.”

But he admits his attempt to regenerate Labour grass-roots in Pontypridd isn’t working:

“ … in the three years since I was elected the means to galvanise that engagement has proved elusive and frustrating.”

“This is undoubtedly partly a result of the many previous false dawns that have promised progress but failed to deliver: it’s hard to feel progressive when there seems so little sign of progress for you and yours.”

But he was still confident things could be turned around.

“Slowly but surely, Labour is re-engaging with dialogue in our communities, and developing new common objectives and solutions that will prove the real foundations for our rebuilding.”

Part of the strategy was a move to bring greater democracy to the party:

“Iain McNicol [Labour’s General Secretary] has been leading reforms in the party aimed at building a more open and inclusive movement.”

Labour leadership challenge
BACK TO THE FUTURE?  
THREE YEARS ago Owen Smith was praising Labour for “… leading reforms in the party aimed at building a more open and inclusive movement.” But it was not until Jeremy Corbyn stood for leader that membership began to rocket — from under 300,000 to more than 500,000. Ironically, the party’s National Executive Committee have now barred some 130,000 recently joined members — most of them believed to be Corbyn supporters — from voting in the leadership election.
Photo: Ben Birchall / PA

In Pontypridd Smith thought he’d found a way to galvanise the community:

“Pontypridd Citizens, which will bring together churches and parties, unions and residents, in order to determine local needs and empower local leaders, is launching this year, taking its cue and its form from similar schemes that are energising communities across Britain.”

“It will mark a new beginning in the politics of Pontypridd, and Labour will be at its heart.”

The organisation should be three years old by now.

But Press Gang could find no evidence of Pontypridd Citizens — and when we asked people in the constituency, no-one had never heard of it.

We asked Owen Smith for an explanation.

He didn’t reply.

♦♦♦

WHEN OWEN SMITH was chosen to be the Labour candidate for the 2006 Blaenau Gwent election, he had no experience of grass-roots politics. 

The seat had a troubled past but the party was expecting it to revert to being a Labour stronghold.

Owen Smith probably thought he had a safe seat for the rest of his political career.

In 2005 popular local politician Peter Law stood as an independent.

A former Labour member of the Welsh Assembly, he’d been barred from standing as a candidate for the general election because the party had imposed an all-woman short-list.

Labour nominated trade union leader Maggie Jones.

Many Labour voters deserted the official candidate and chose the independent.

But Law — already diagnosed with brain cancer — died the following year.

His agent, Dai Davies, decided to stand in the by-election that followed.

Labour strategists felt Law’s death had taken the sting out of the rebellion — and that the faithful would return to the fold.

In the early days of the campaign a poll gave Owen a massive 12 per cent lead.

Labour mounted a huge campaign to retake the seat — spending £56,000 to Davies’ £7,000.

But Smith’s organisation was cack-handed.

Telephone canvassers angered voters when they began calling within days of Law’s death.

Activists were bussed in from all over Britain but they knew nothing about Blaenau Gwent.

Smith himself acquired the nickname “Oily”.

Dai Davies was a well-known political figure who outgunned Smith on many fronts.

One of them was Nye Bevan, the political midwife of the NHS, whose old Tredegar constituency was now part of Blaenau Gwent

Smith claimed Nye Bevan as his hero.

But Dai Davies could trump that.

He was a trustee of the Bevan Foundation, a left-wing think tank formed in his memory.

Smith did not become a trustee of the Foundation until after the by-election.

The result was Dai Davies won a narrow victory — by just 2,488 just votes.

It was a bruising experience for Smith and he decided not to seek the nomination again.

Labour regained the seat in 2010.

♦♦♦

THE LIKELIHOOD is that plans were already afoot to shoehorn Owen Smith into the Pontypridd constituency.

Just before Christmas 2009 the sitting MP, Kim Howells, announced he was standing down as the MP.

Soon after, there were press reports that Owen Smith was ringing members of the constituency Labour Party to make his pitch to replace Howells.

Howells is, of course, an old friend of Owen Smith’s father, Dai Smith but Owen Smith denies that the Howells played any part in his selection.

Smith gained the nomination.

IMG_1090
NEPOTISM HOUSE?
OWEN SMITH’S home in his Pontypridd constituency has an intriguing past. Shortly after he was elected in 2010, the MP paid £285,000 for the north wing of the listed building in Llantrisant. It was previously owned by the sister of former BBC boss Menna Richards who bought the property shortly after she formed an independent production company. She won millions of pounds worth of contracts from the Corporation. It was under Menna Richards that Owen Smith made his breakthrough into television — as producer of the politics series Dragon’s Eye in 2000.
Photo: Press Gang

In Pontypridd Labour was united — but there were other problems.

The Lib Dems, led by Nick Clegg, were riding high in the polls — and they had a well-known local candidate in Mike Powell.

When Labour councillor Glynne Holmes had his picture taken with Powell as part of a campaign to save the Post Office in Llantrisant, he found himself the subject of a disciplinary hearing.

He was cleared but it was a sign of how anxious Labour officials were.

In the end, Smith won by just 2,791 votes.

The Western Mail noted:

“There were relieved faces as Labour held on to the Pontypridd seat.”

Smith polled 14,200 votes — a drop of more than 6,000 on Howells’ figure in 2005.

In the 2015 election, when Lib Dem support collapsed, Smith was able to clawback less than 1,400 of the lost votes.

In the ten years from 2005 to 2015, Labour has lost a quarter of its support in Pontypridd.

♦♦♦

EARLY THIS year Owen Smith’s wife, primary school teacher Liz, decided to stand for election to the Llantrisant town council.

There was a vacancy in the Llantrisant ward where she and Owen Smith had lived for five years.

The Labour Party ticket plus the fact that her husband was the MP were expected to secure her election.

But there was another candidate who was far more active in the town.

Louisa Mills, an independent, had started a local charity and was campaigning for a community garden.

She beat Liz Smith by 320 votes to 273.

Owen Smith may not have been as asset in the poll.

Some residents find him arrogant.

One said:

“He’s risen quickly … due to his PR skills and actually believes his own hype.”

“In my view he cares more about power than he does about using that power to help people.

All of this means Owen Smith and his wife have now contested four elections between them.

They’ve lost two.

In the two elections Owen Smith has won, he has presided over a decline in the Labour vote.

What will happen when the right-wing press goes to work on him?

♦♦♦
Published: 7 September 2016
© Press Gang
♦♦♦

Notes
1
The statistics for Owen Smith’s Pontypridd constituency make disturbing reading for Labour. These are are the number of votes cast for Owen Smith’s predecessor Kim Howells and the share of the poll:
1989   20,500   53%
1992   29,700   61%
1997   29,290   64%
2001   23,000   60%
2005   20,900   53%
From a peak of 64% of the vote in 1997 — the landslide year when Tony Blair became Prime Minister — it was down to 53% by 2005.
Owen Smith hasn’t arrested the decline. The result for the two elections he’s fought are:
2010   14,200   39%
2015   15,600   41%
In the face of a Lib Dem resurgence in 2010 he was lucky to hold on to the seat. And even with the collapse of the Lib Dems in 2015 he was able to retrieve only a small proportion of the Labour vote he’d lost in 2010.
2
This the fourth instalment of this investigation. The other articles are:
Owen Smith: Forged By Patronage and Nepotism?
Owen Smith: A Man For All Seasons
BBC Forced To Correct Owen Smith Profile.
Click on a title to read it.
3
Press Gang editor Paddy French declares personal interests in this story:
— in the 1980s he was the editor of Rebecca magazine which was in competition for a substantial Welsh Arts Council grant. One of the competitors was Arcade magazine and Dai Smith, Owen Smith’s father, was one of its supporters. The council’s literature committee chose Rebecca but the full council overturned the decision — and gave the grant to Arcade
— French is one of the thousands of traditional Labour voters who have joined the party following Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Leader. He will be voting for Corbyn in the Leadership election.
4
The Rebecca investigation into nepotism and patronage at BBC Wales is explored in the articles:
The Son Of The Man From Uncle
In The Name Of The Father?
5
The cover block pic is by Gareth Fuller / PA.

♦♦♦

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ROGUE JOURNALISTS & BENT COPPERS

February 19, 2015

corrupt_header_02

IN JULY last year, Home Secretary Theresa May set up an independent panel to investigate the unsolved murder of Daniel Morgan.

She appointed Baroness Nuala O’Loan, former Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman from 2000 to 2007, to head the inquiry.

The Home Secretary said:

“The remit of the Panel is to shine a light on the circumstances of Daniel Morgan’s murder, its background and the handling of the case over the period since 1987.”

“Serious allegations of police corruption have surrounded the investigations into the murder of Daniel Morgan.”

THE STORY SO FAR ... JONATHAN REES (left) the partner of the murdered Daniel Morgan — found with an axe buried in his face in a pub car park in 1987 —has long been a suspect in the case. The previous article, An Axe To Grind, told of the dispute between the two men over Rees' claim that he had been mugged of £18,000. One of the first police officers on the murder investigation was detective sergeant Sid Fillery (right) who did not tell his superiors he was a personal friend of Rees. At the inquest, a witness sensationally claimed Rees told him he was looking for someone to murder his partner. It was also revealed that Sid Fillery had retired from Scotland Yard — and stepped into the dead Daniel Morgan's shoes as Rees' new partner. In 2008 Rees and three other men were charged with the murder and Fillery with perverting the course of justice but the case never reached a jury, finally collapsing in March 2011. Although the judge, Mr Justice Maddison, noted that police had "ample grounds to justify the arrest and prosecution of the accused", all five defendants have launched a £4 million compensation case against the Metropolitan Police Service. Photos: PA

THE STORY SO FAR …
JONATHAN REES (left) the partner of the murdered Daniel Morgan — found with an axe buried in his face in a pub car park in 1987 — has long been a suspect in the case. The previous article, An Axe To Grind, told of the dispute between the two men over Rees’ claim that he had been mugged of £18,000. One of the first police officers on the murder investigation was detective sergeant Sid Fillery (right) who did not tell his superiors he was a personal friend of Rees. At the inquest, a witness sensationally claimed Rees told him he was looking for someone to murder his partner. It was also revealed that Sid Fillery had retired from Scotland Yard — and stepped into the dead Daniel Morgan’s shoes as Rees’ new partner. In 2008 Rees and three other men were charged with the murder and Fillery with perverting the course of justice but the case never reached a jury, finally collapsing in March 2011. Although the judge, Mr Justice Maddison, noted that police had “ample grounds to justify the arrest and prosecution of the accused”, all five defendants have since launched a £4 million compensation case against the Metropolitan Police Service.
Photos: PA

“I have made it clear that the Independent Panel should leave no stone unturned in its pursuit of the truth.”

This was, in fact, Theresa May’s second attempt to get the process under way.

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THIS 3,800 word article is the second instalment of an investigation that started more than a decade ago.
For 30 years the Daniel Morgan murder was largely ignored by the UK newspapers and broadcasters.
In part, this was because the News of the World was in a commercial relationship with Southern Investigations.
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She’d originally set up the inquiry in May 2013 but the judge she chose to head it — Sir Stanley Burnton — controversially stepped down six months later for what were described as “personal reasons”.

In fact, he lost the confidence of some of his fellow panel members because he took decisions without consulting them.

One of the areas Baroness O’Loan will be examining is the relationship between tabloid journalists and police detectives.

In this second part of The No 1 Corrupt Detective Agency, Press Gang charts the rise of Southern Investigations as one of the market leaders in the illegal sale of valuable confidential Scotland Yard information.

Some of this story is already in the public domain.

But Press Gang has also obtained dramatic new material from police sources.

These contacts received no payment.

♦♦

AFTER THE sensational events surrounding Daniel Morgan’s murder died away, Southern Investigations began to expand a profitable part of the business.

The dead man’s former partner Jonathan Rees and retired police detective sergeant Sid Fillery became one of the major clearing houses of confidential information provided by corrupt police officers.

They sold the information to Britain’s tabloid press, especially the News of the World.

DANIEL MORGAN THE UNSOLVED murder of Daniel Morgan has cast a long shadow on the reputation of Scotland Yard. As Tory MP Tracey Crouch has said: "There is something about the Daniel Morgan murder that makes the Establishment very nervous ... it is important we find out what it is and get justice for Daniel and his family." Photo: Morgan Family

DANIEL MORGAN
THE UNSOLVED murder of Daniel Morgan casts a dark shadow on the reputation of Scotland Yard. As Tory MP Tracey Crouch has said: “There is something about the Daniel Morgan murder that makes the Establishment very nervous … it is important we find out what it is and get justice for Daniel and his family.”
Photo: Morgan Family

Guardian reporter Nick Davies, in his book Hack Attack, stated:

“In a single year, 1996-97, the News of the World paid Southern a total of more than £160,000.”

Fillery later gave a revealing interview about the agency’s activities for the 2004 book Untouchables.

“Sid Fillery,” wrote authors Michael Gillard and Laurie Flynn, “is a big jovial, Toby jug of a man.”

“With sad spaniel’s eyes and a laugh as large as the London Palladium, he seems on first impressions as if he could have stepped out of an episode of Dixon of Dock Green.”

Fillery said one of the agency’s key contacts was News of the World reporter Alex Marunchak.

In 1989, two years after the murder of Daniel Morgan, Marunchak came to the Victory pub in Thornton Heath to talk to the partners about doing business with the paper.

Rees and Fillery quickly built up a profitable business selling information to News of the World reporters.

They were even involved with the paper’s now-disgraced investigative reporter Mahzer Mahmood.

On one occasion, Fillery dressed up as an English private secretary while Mahmood played his role of the ‘fake sheik’.

They were also involved in the story about Paddy Ashdown’s affair with a House of Commons secretary.

Documents stolen from the office of the Liberal politician’s solicitor were being touted around Fleet Street.

Southern Investigations were asked by Alex Marunchak to meet the man who was trying to sell them.

But a corrupt Scotland Yard detective, Duncan Hanrahan, who was in the Southern Investigations office at the time, sabotaged the meeting.

Hanrahan had been one of the detectives who “investigated” the robbery of Jonathan Rees back in 1986 when muggers allegedly took £18,000 off him.

(See Part One: An Axe To Grind for more on this.)

CORRUPT COPPER DUNCAN HANRAHAN came to grief when he was caught red-handed trying to corrupt a member of Scotland Yard's anti-corruption team. In 1999 he was gaoled for eight years and four months after pleading guilty to 11 offences, including conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Photo: PA

CORRUPT COPPER
DUNCAN HANRAHAN came to grief when he was caught red-handed trying to corrupt a member of Scotland Yard’s anti-corruption team. In 1999 he was gaoled for eight years and four months after pleading guilty to 11 offences, including conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
Photo: PA

Authors Gillard and Flynn say Hanrahan told them he had a grudge against Marunchak after he gave him information which turned up in another newspaper.

Hanrahan believed Marunchak, instead of using the story in the News of the World and paying him, had given the information to a rival newspaper and pocketed the proceeds himself.

In retaliation, Hanrahan tipped off the City of London police who got to the rendezvous with the man selling the Ashdown documents before Southern Investigation’s man could get there.

♦♦♦

IN THE 1990s, Southern Investigations were asked to investigate allegations that some Murdoch journalists were moonlighting and selling information to rivals.

At the same time, the News of the World had spies on its main tabloid rivals.

In 1994, for example, Piers Morgan was News of the World editor.

In his book The Insider, Morgan wrote:

“… we have one of the Sunday Mirror’s journalists on our pay roll, bunging him £250 a week for a rundown of their stories, and more if he gives us a big one.”

“It’s a disgrace, of course, and totally unethical.”

“But very handy.”

“To make it even more amusing, he’s their crime correspondent.”

“We also, unbelievably, have a similar source on the Sunday People, a secretary who does the same for a bit less money.”

“So for under £500 a week we always know what our competitors are doing.”

In November 1995, when Piers Morgan became editor of the Daily Mirror, he moved against the spies.

“The Sunday Mirror journalist and the Sunday People secretary have been fired.”

“I’d given them a month to stop and incredibly they had just carried on.”

“So I fired them.”

TABLOID SPIES PIERS MORGAN was editor of the News of the World when the paper was paying spies on rival Mirror group papers.  Photo: PA

TABLOID SPIES
PIERS MORGAN was editor of the News of the World when the paper was spying on rival Mirror group papers.
Photo: PA

As the 1990s progressed, the links between the News of the World reporters and Southern Investigations deepened.

In 1996, Alex Marunchak and Greg Miskiw, another News of the World reporter, became directors of an import / export company called Abbeycover.

Abbeycover, which apparently imported alcohol from eastern Europe, had its registered address at Southern Investigations’ Thornton Heath offices.

(In July 2014 Greg Miskiw was given a six months prison sentence after pleading guilty to phone hacking in the same trial that saw the conviction of Andy Coulson.)

And the money wasn’t just flowing from the News of the World — Southern Investigations were also paying Marunchak for what it called “consultancy services”.

In 1998, for example, the News of the World reporter was allegedly paid hundreds of pounds.

No-one is prepared to say what the reporter did in return for these “consultancy services”.

There have also been allegations that his children’s school fees were occasionally paid by the agency and that his credit card was cleared by Rees and Fillery.

Marunchak denies all these allegations (see note 4).

♦♦♦

IN THE late 1990s Scotland Yard made a determined bid to stop tabloid reporters corrupting serving officers to get their hands on confidential police information.

Its secret anti-corruption team, CIB3, targeted Southern Investigations in Operation Two Bridges (originally called Operation Nigeria).

There was evidence that a group of corrupt serving and retired police officers were passing valuable information from inside Scotland Yard to the agency.

BUGGED JONATHAN REES caught by secret police cameras outside the offices of Southern Investigations. The premises had also been broken into and bugs planted ...  Photo: PA

BUGGED
JONATHAN REES caught by secret police cameras outside the offices of Southern Investigations. The premises had also been broken into and bugged …
Photo: PA

At the same time, the murder of Daniel Morgan remained unsolved and the family’s campaign against the Metropolitan Police was embarrassing the force.

“I find it incredible that it took ten years for the Met to install a bug in their offices — why wasn’t it done years earlier?” asks Alastair Morgan.

In his book, Bent Coppers, former BBC reporter Graeme McLagan noted:

“Southern [Investigations] were also starting to try and undermine the Yard’s crackdown on corruption by spreading stories and rumours about some of those involved with it…”

In June 1999 CIB3, the Met’s anti-corruption unit, launched Operation Two Bridges.

They installed a bug in the offices of Southern Investigations in the south London suburb of Thornton Heath.

Documents written by anti-corruption detectives were later leaked to McLagan.

One of these stated:

“For a considerable period of time, there has been much spoken about DS Sid Fillery and his business partner … Rees being involved in corrupt activities involving serving police officers.”

Another stated:

” … the intelligence indicates that Fillery and Rees are corrupters of police officers and participants in organised crime.”

Rees and Fillery, the report went on:

“… are alert, cunning and devious individuals who have current knowledge of investigative methods and techniques which may be used against them.”

“They use some of the techniques in their own daily activities.”

Between June and September 1999, anti-corruption detectives monitored the day-to-day business of the detective agency.

Officers listened as Southern Investigations obtained information about the royal family from police officers to sell to newspapers.

Transcripts revealed that News of the World reporter Alex Marunchak was one of the agency’s major clients.

In one phone conversation, in July, Rees said the paper owed Southern Investigations £7,555.

In this period the agency sent 66 invoices to the News of the World — worth £13,000 — all but one of them addressed to Alex Marunchak.

ALEX MARUNCHAK A KEY News of the World executive for several decades, Marunchak was an important customer for Southern Investigations.  Photo: BBC

ALEX MARUNCHAK
A KEY News of the World executive for several decades, Marunchak was an important customer for Southern Investigations. Marunchak comes from a Ukrainian family and for many years acted as an interpreter for Scotland Yard.
Photo: BBC

In September 2002, Graeme McLagan wrote an article for the Guardian.

He revealed that Rees had sold information to News of the World reporter Alex Marunchak about the criminal Kenneth Noye, convicted of the M25 road rage murder.

When McLagan asked Marunchak if he disputed that he had bought information from Rees, Marunchak said:

“You haven’t heard me admit it.”

♦♦♦

ONE OF the corrupt police officers who was bugged talking to Southern Investigations was a detective constable called Tom Kingston.

He was later gaoled for three and a half years for stealing and selling amphetamines.

The bugs revealed Kingston had a police contact who was prepared to sell information.

“It took anti-corruption detectives little effort,” wrote McLagan in his book Bent Coppers, “to work out that Kingston’s contact was one of his best friends, and that he was passing, through the suspended detective, sensitive information from a confidential police publication called the Police Gazette.”

“Kingston was then selling it to a reporter with a Sunday tabloid newspaper, a regular visitor to Southern Investigations.”

McLagan did not name this journalist but Press Gang has established it was Doug Kempster, then a reporter on the Mirror-owned Sunday Mirror.

Before joining the Mirror stable in 1996, Kempster had worked for the News of the World.

McLagan did not name the police officer but Press Gang understands it was Paul Valentine, at the time attached to the Special Escort Group based in Barnes.

In 2002 McLagan asked Kempster, who was working as a government press officer by then, about his links with Southern.

Kempster told him:

“It’s something we just don’t comment on.”

Some of the information obtained by Kempster also found its way to another journalist, Gary Jones on the Daily Mirror.

Jones also bought information directly from the agency.

(Jones will be familiar to Press Gang readers from the Whodunnit? article in the series about Piers Morgan, A Pretty Despicable Man.

Jones was the News of the World crime reporter whose contacts gave him access to a confidential Scotland Yard report in 1994.

This sensationally revealed that Princess Diana had been making anonymous phone calls to London art dealer Oliver Hoare.

GARY JONES A FORMER News of the World crime reporter, Jones followed Piers Morgan to the Daily Mirror. Today, he's a senior executive editor at the Mirror Group. He's always declined to talk to Press Gang.  Photo: Rebecca Television

GARY JONES
A FORMER News of the World crime reporter, Jones followed Piers Morgan to the Daily Mirror. He was one of the most important customers of Southern Investigations. Currently a senior executive editor at the Mirror Group, he’s always declined to talk to Press Gang
Photo: Rebecca Television

It is not known if Southern Investigations were involved in this tale.)

In July 1999 Rees and Kingston were overheard discussing an officer in the diplomatic protection squad whose firearms certificate was withdrawn because he was taking steroids.

The information led to an article written by Gary Jones.

In March 2011 the BBC Panorama programme uncovered another extract from the transcripts generated in the bugging operation at Southern Investigations.

The programme revealed that, in July 1999, there was an angry exchange between Rees and Gary Jones of the Daily Mirror.

The reporter was under pressure from his accounts department to give more details about the payments he was authorising to Southern Investigations.

Rees insisted that he wasn’t going to provide any more details:

“What we’re doing is illegal, isn’t it?” he said.

“You know I don’t want people coming in and nicking us for criminal offences.”

♦♦♦

JONATHAN REES was given the codename “Avon” during the bugging operation of Southern Investigations.

The transcripts show the relationship between Alex Marunchak of the News of the World and the agency was deep but troubled.

On one occasion, in 1999, Marunchak demanded to know what information the agency were selling to his rival, Doug Kempster of the Sunday Mirror.

In a conversation with Sid Fillery, Rees said he told the News of the World reporter it was none of his business.

When Marunchak hinted that if Southern were engaged in illegal activity, the firm risked being raided by the police, Rees took this as a threat.

He told Fillery that, if Southern or any of its contacts were raided by the police, he would tell the News of the World the names of its reporters who were taking backhanders from Southern Investigations:

“I’ll say your fucking paper will get fucking tipped off about who gets backhanders.”

♦♦♦

AS OPERATION Two Bridges unfolded, anti-corruption detectives felt a successful prosecution against Rees and some of his sources would send a powerful shot across the bows of the tabloids.

One report noted:

“It is likely that journalists and private investigators who actively corrupt serving officers would receive a long custodial sentence if convicted.”

“There will be a high level of media interest in this particular investigation, especially when involving journalists.”

“The Metropolitan Police will undoubtedly benefit if a journalist is convicted of corrupting serving police officers.”

“This will send a clear message to members of the media to consider their own ethical and illegal involvement with employees of the Met in the future.”

Operation Two Bridges came to a dramatic but early close because detectives were forced to deal with Jonathan Rees’ attempts to plant drugs on an innocent woman. 

Even so, detectives still felt they had enough to question four suspects about the illegal sale of confidential Scotland Yard information.

Doug Kempster was arrested at his parents’ home, where a page from the Police Gazette was found.

During the later search of Kempster’s own home:

” … the postman delivered a letter in a large brown envelope addressed to Douglas Kempster … containing a short letter from JR [Jonathan Rees] … also containing an original issue of the copy of the Police Gazette …”

Kempster’s response to all questions put to him was:

“No comment”.

Rees was arrested.

RAIDS ANTI-CORRUPTION DETECTIVES from the Met arrested two serving police officers  suspected of selling confidential information to Jonathan Rees and Mirror group journalist Doug Kempster. Photo: Rebecca Television

RAIDS
ANTI-CORRUPTION DETECTIVES from the Met arrested two serving police officers suspected of selling confidential information to Jonathan Rees and Mirror group journalist Doug Kempster.
Photo: Rebecca Television

Rees claimed that the bug in Southern Investigations violated his human rights.

Kingston was arrested at his home.

He later read out a prepared statement denying his involvement in any illegal activity.

The Met officer, Paul Valentine from the Special Escort Group, was also arrested.

He had no comment to make when he was questioned about the corruption allegations.

♦♦♦

IN 2000, the anti-corruption team submitted an advice file to the Crown Prosecution Service.

The report sought advice about whether there was enough evidence to charge the four men — Jonathan Rees, Doug Kempster and serving police officers Tom Kingston and Paul Valentine — with offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The evidence was based mainly on the bugs installed in Southern Investigations in 1999 as part of Operation Two bridges.

In the transcripts, all four suspects were given codenames based on rivers:

Rees is “Avon”

Kempster: “Dart”

Kingston: “Ganges” 

Valentine: “Severn”.

One of the incidents highlighted was the loss of a copy of the Police Gazette in July 1999.

Southern Investigations had given it to Doug Kempster who then gave it to a senior executive on the paper who’d taken it home to read.

Kempster rang Rees to say:

"AVON" CALLING JONATHAN REES: when police searched his his home and office, they found copies of a confidential internal police magazine ... Rees claimed his human rights had been violated. Photo: PA

“AVON” CALLING
JONATHAN REES: when police searched his home and office, they found copies of a confidential internal police magazine. Rees claimed the search violated his human rights …
Photo: PA

“I can’t believe it— he’s fucking thrown it out — the fucking wanker — why did he take it home?”

For legal reasons Press Gang can’t name this executive.

Detective constable Tom Kingston, who was in the office, told Rees that Kempster had to get it back:

” … or else he won’t get any more.”

A couple of hours later, Kempster himself arrived at Southern Investigations.

He agreed to pay £200 to make up for the lost edition of the Police Gazette.

Rees and Kingston then moved on to discuss an identity parade where the M25 road rage murderer Kenneth Noye was due to appear.

They had given this information to Kempster who had published an article in the Sunday Mirror about it.

The price for the information, allegedly, was £400 split £100 for an unnamed police officer with the remaining £300 to be shared between Kingston and Rees.

Other transcripts indicate that the police officer Paul Valentine may have been receiving a monthly retainer of £150 from Southern Investigations.

On another occasion, Kempster visited Southern Investigations and he and Rees discussed the contents of an edition of Police Gazette.

Kempster responds to one article by saying:

“Asians look a lot better dead” and he and Rees joke about a “one-legged nigger.”

The report from the anti-corruption team concludes:

“sensitive police documents have been obtained without authority and passed to journalists for a financial consideration by Rees and Kingston.”

The Crown Prosecution Service decided not to prosecute.

♦♦♦
Published: 19 February 2015
© Press Gang
♦♦♦

 

NOTES
1
There have been recent developments in this affair — see Daniel Morgan page here 
for more details.
2
This article is part two of a series first published on the Rebecca Television website in September 2011.
To view part one, click on An Axe To Grind.
Back in 2011, Rees and Fillery were sent letters outlining the article and asking for their comments. 

Fillery never replied but Rees’ solicitor said:
“Mr Rees has not the spare time to reply to the many questions that have been raised, often on the basis of ill-informed or malicious allegations.”
“Defamation claims are being pursued … in respect of some past publications; and the police have been asked to investigate any use by journalists or others of confidential or forged material improperly released by police officers or other.”
No legal action was taken.
Jonathan Rees’ position has been explored in a Mail on Sunday article which can be read here.
3

This article draws on material provided by the Morgan family as well as by other journalists, including Nick Davies of the Guardian. Former BBC journalist Graeme McLagan devoted a detailed chapter on the murder as early as 2003 in his book Bent Coppers.  It also featured in Laurie Flynn & Michael Gillard’s Untouchables. Several books on the phone hacking scandal have highlighted the key role the murder plays in the saga: Nick Davies’ Hack Attack, Tom Watson MP & Martin Hickman’s Dial M For Murdoch and Peter Jukes’ The Fall Of The House Of Murdoch.
4
Alex Marunchak gave a detailed rebuttal of the allegations made against him in an interview with the Press Gazette website. Read it here.
5
The current Daniel Morgan Independent Panel comprises Baroness Nuala O’Loan (chair), Professor Rodney Morgan (ex HM Chief Inspector of Probation for England and Wales) and Samuel Pollock OBE (chief executive of the Northern Ireland Policing Board).
6

Press Gang editor Paddy French made several programmes on the murder while a current affairs producer at ITV Wales. 

 ♦♦♦

NEXT
THE NO 1 Corrupt Detective Agency continues with Porridge. Jonathan Rees was acquitted of murder and Sid Fillery of attempting to pervert the course of justice. But the Daniel Morgan murder investigation brought them to book for other crimes — Rees for conspiring to plant cocaine on an innocent mother and Fillery of making indecent images of children being sexually abused.

♦♦♦

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LYING TO LEVESON

November 10, 2014

LYING TO LEVESON

THE LEVESON Inquiry refused to hear serious allegations against Mazher Mahmood.

The claims were made in a Press Gang statement which presented evidence 

 — that Mahmood committed perjury in some of the criminal cases he generated.

—  lied about his connections to a notorious firm of private detectives

— employed a convicted criminal as a key member of his team.

The Leveson Inquiry wouldn’t accept the evidence because there wasn’t time to consider it properly.

Even so, the Inquiry was a bruising experience for Mahmood.

Decades of telling lies suddenly caught up with “Fake Sheik”.

When he told Leveson he left the Sunday Times in 1988 because of a “disagreement”, it wasn’t true.

He was about to be sacked.

And when he claimed his News of the World articles had secured 253 convictions, he was exposed again.

A Press Gang investigation forced him to concede lawyers could only find 94.

But it could have been much, much worse …

♦♦♦

AFTER THE closure of the News of the World in July 2011, Mazher Mahmood enjoyed the protection and patronage of Rupert Murdoch.

While hundreds of people lost their jobs, Mahmood was kept on the payroll.

He was destined to join the planned Sun on Sunday.

But when Murdoch decided to delay the launch until the hacking scandal cooled down, Mahmood was assigned to the Sunday Times.

The paper’s editor was John Witherow.

This meant that the “Fake Sheik” was a Sunday Times reporter when he gave evidence to Leveson in December 2011.

When the Press Gang investigation concluded that Mahmood had lied about the number of convictions he’d secured at the News of the World, we wrote to John Witherow.

Initially, he didn’t answer.

It wasn’t until after Channel 4 News took an interest in the story that Witherow finally replied:

WITHEROW

JOHN WITHEROW
THE EDITOR of the Sunday Times on his way to give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry in January 2012. He was happy to answer questions at the Inquiry but reluctant to discuss Press Gang allegations about Mazher Mahmood. Today, he’s editor of The Times.
Photo: PA

“We are indeed doing a thorough investigation into the number that Mazher supplied,” he told us.

“I will examine the results and decide what to do when I know the outcome.”

Channel 4 News didn’t pursue the story and Witherow never came back to us.

However, by that time Press Gang had submitted a statement to Leveson about Mahmood’s fake convictions.

The Inquiry asked Mahmood to respond.

His employers commissioned the law-firm Linklaters to carry out an independent investigation. 

Their report has never been made public.

Instead, Mahmood was allowed to summarise it in a further statement to the Inquiry.

He said Linklaters “verified” only 94 of the 253 people he claimed had been convicted.

He then came up with three reasons to explain the discrepancy.

First, he claimed that he was counting the number of offences rather individual defendants.

Second, he included “over 140” illegal immigrants in the total who he claimed were deported.

But Linklaters wouldn’t accept these as criminal convictions.

“I apologise for my error in including these individuals …” Mahmood told the Inquiry.

Third, he included 13 people disciplined by their professional body.

“Again, I understand from Linklaters that such actions do not amount to prosecutions or convictions and so I apologise to the Inquiry …”

He insisted, though, that:

“I am personally confident that my work as a journalist has led to substantially more convictions than the 94 individuals …”

Press Gang submitted a second statement pointing out that the News of the World always talked of Mahmood’s score in terms of individuals.

SIR JOHN STEVENS THE FAKE SHEIK enjoyed exceptionally good relations with Scotland Yard. In 2003 he and then News of the World editor Andy Coulson were invited to the Commissioner's offices at New Photo: PA OF the Metropolitan Police invited Mazher Mahmood and Andy Coulson to his office in Scotland Yard following the CPS decision to abandon charges in the Beckham kidnap affair Photo: PA

SIR JOHN STEVENS
 METROPOLITAN POLICE Commissioner from 2000 to 2005, Sir John Stevens— now Lord Stevens — was on good terms with the “Fake Sheik”. In his 2008 autobiography, Mahmood tells the story of how he and then News of the World editor Andy Coulson were invited to have drinks with Stevens at New Scotland Yard in 2003. It was shortly after the Crown Prosecution Service decision to abandon charges in the Beckham kidnap affair because one of Mahmood’s informants was considered an unreliable witness …
Photo: PA

For example, in March 1996, the paper reported that the conviction of a solicitor

“brings the total number of victims successfully prosecuted after being exposed by Mazher to a staggering EIGHTY in four years.”

This part of our statement was accepted — and can be found in the evidence section of the official record of the Leveson Inquiry.

(See the Notes for details.)

But Press Gang also submitted new, equally damaging allegations.

It was this new material which the Inquiry declined to accept.

One of its legal team told us the material:

“is not amenable to written evidence: it relates to matters which the Inquiry is not taking detailed evidence … and/or cannot now be fairly examined at this stage in the Inquiry’s proceedings.” 

♦♦♦

THE NEW material suggested Mahmood’s lie to Leveson wasn’t an isolated incident.

There were other occasions where it was also possible he’d lied in the witness-box.

Press Gang cited the case of the actor John Alford, a star of the TV series London’s Burning.

He was gaoled for nine months in 1999 after supplying cocaine to Mahmood during a “sting” operation.

At his appeal, the judgment noted that Mahmood:

“described himself … as an investigative reporter with 89 successful criminal prosecutions to his name.”

That figure could not possibly be true.

By that time, our assessment was just 28.

Mahmood had been inflating the figure to increase his credibility as a witness and strengthen the prosecution case.

In September 2012 Press Gang wrote to John Witherow.

We asked him to arrange for Linklaters to:

“carry out a survey of Mazher Mahmood’s witness statements in the many criminal cases where he has given evidence” because of concerns “that he may have committed perjury …”

Witherow did not reply.

The rest, of course, is history.

When the Sun on Sunday was launched in February 2012, Mahmood was its star reporter.

In July 2014 he was caught red-handed lying to the judge in the Tulisa Contostavlos trial.

TULISA CONTOSTAVLOS THE SINGER"S trial collapsed in July after the judge found that mazher Mahmood had lied under oath.  Photo: PA                                                              THE SINGER walked free after Sun on Sunday undercover reporter Mazher Mahmood was caught lying in the witness box ...    Photo: PA

TULISA CONTOSTAVLOS
THE SINGER walked free after Sun on Sunday undercover reporter Mahmood was caught lying in the witness-box …
Photo: PA

(See The Sting in the Singer’s Tale for the full story.)

News UK  — owners of the Sunday Times and the Sun on Sunday — announced a full investigation into the allegation that Mahmood had committed perjury.

This was nearly two years after we warned them Mahmood was potentially a serial perjuror … 

♦♦♦

BUT ALLEGATIONS of serial perjury weren’t the only revelation in the Press Gang statement. 

We also returned to the question of Mahmood’s bodyguard “Jaws”.

“Jaws” is Mahmood’s second cousin Mahmood Quereshi who, until a serious accident in 2006, acted as his bodyguard.

He gets the nickname from his diamond-studded gold teeth.

In the first Press Gang statement, we pointed out that one of the villains in a Mahmood exposé in 1996 bore a remarkable similarity to “Jaws”.

In his response, Mahmood admits the villain is, indeed, his second cousin.

He says Quereshi was the source of the story — Mahmod exaggerated his role in the gang in order to protect him …

By the time of the second Press Gang statement we also pointed out there was a possibility that “Jaws” was, in fact, an active criminal during the period he was employed by Mahmood.

"JAWS" Mahmmod Quereshi — known as Jaws for his diamond-studded gold teeth — is a key figure in the Mazher Mahmood story. A former criminal, he became a minder and a fixer for Mazher Mahmood.

“JAWS”
MAHMOOD QUERESHI  — known as “Jaws” — is a key figure in the Mazher Mahmood story. A criminal, he became a minder and a fixer for Mazher Mahmood. 

In 2005, during a libel action against the News of the World, lawyer David Price produced a list of convictions against Quereshi dating from a theft case at Bradford Crown Court to a case in Leeds in 1999.

In other words, when “Jaws” was acting as the source of one of Mahmood’s stories in 1996, his criminal career was still in progress.

Another of Mahmood’s paid informants, Florim Gashi, claims Quereshi had “been in prison a number of times … “

He also acted as an informant in many of Mahmood’s stories, including the alleged plot to kidnap Victoria Beckham.

♦♦♦

THERE WAS one final piece of information Leveson was not prepared to consider.

This involved Mahmood’s links with a firm of private detectives called Southern Investigations.

One of the partners was a former Metropolitan Police detective sergeant, Sid Fillery.

Fillery had retired and joined Southern Investigations, taking the place of Daniel Morgan, a private detective brutally murdered in 1987.

The other partner was Jonathan Rees, who was arrested several times on suspicion of being involved in the murder.

He was never convicted.

SID FILLERY A FORMER detective sergeant in south London, Fillery became one of the partners in Southern Investigations. In 2003 he was convicted of making indcent images of children. Photo: PA

SID FILLERY
A FORMER detective sergeant in south London, Fillery became one of the partners in Southern Investigations. In 2003 he was convicted of making indecent images of children.
Photo: PA

However, Rees was gaoled for 7 years in 2000 after he was caught planning a conspiracy with corrupt police detectives to plant drugs on an innocent woman to prove she was an unfit mother.

Fillery was convicted in 2003 of making fifteen indecent images of children.

His computer included photographs of two naked boys engaged in oral sex and another showing the anal penetration of a young girl.

Southern Investigations acted as brokers between corrupt police officers who wanted to sell sensitive information to newspapers, including the News of the World.

In his evidence to Leveson, Mahmood doesn’t name the firm but it appears to be Southern Investigations.

He told the Inquiry:

” … I stopped working with them at the end of 1992 or early 1993 …”

However, in our statement we told the Leveson Inquiry we had seen documents seized during anti-corruption inquiries which suggested this also wasn’t true.

These documents revealed that in 1999 Rees and Fillery carried out “confidential inquiries” into “illegal immigration” after receiving a “request” from “Maz Mahmood”.

The invoice for this work, submitted in July 1999, was for £1,488.72 — one of the largest the firm raised in that year.

Again, we told the Inquiry we had written to Sunday Times editor John Witherow and asked him to investigate.

He never replied.

For this article, we once again contacted Witherow — now editor of The Times.

He didn’t respond.

We also asked Mahmood for a comment.

There was no reply.

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NOTES
1  The Press Gang statements to Leveson were originally submitted by editor Paddy French in the name of Rebecca Television. In October all national media-related material from this site was transferred to Press Gang. The first statement is here: the second here.
2  Mazher Mahmood made four statements to the Leveson Inquiry. Two are relevant to this article: the first which includes his claim to have secured 253 successful prosecutions and the fourth where he admits that the figure is false.
3  See also the other articles in this series: Fake Convictions and The Sting In The Singer’s Tale.

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COMING UP
“A PRETTY DESPICABLE MAN”
PART TWO: ASSAULT ON THE BANK OF ENGLAND

THE “DARK ARTS” were practised on an industrial scale at the Daily Mirror when Piers Morgan was  editor. An extraordinary example took place in 1998 when the paper ordered private eyes to break into the mortgage accounts of every member of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee. A Pretty Despicable Man continues with a revealing analysis of the paper’s cynical bank jobs…

CORRECTIONS  Please let us know if there are any mistakes in this article — they’ll be corrected as soon as possible.

RIGHT OF REPLY  If you have been mentioned in this article and disagree with it, please let us have your comments. Provided your response is not defamatory we’ll add it to the article.

TWEETING FOR JUSTICE

October 25, 2014
 
BEYOND CONTEMPT:
THE INSIDE STORY OF THE PHONE HACKING TRIAL

Peter Jukes
(Canbury Press, £15.99)

THIS BOOK is that rare beast — a ground-breaking volume that’s also entertaining and informative.

A writer’s eye view of what went on during the 130 day Old Bailey trial of Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, it’s based on Jukes’ experiences as he reported live via Twitter.

Note the word writer in that last sentence.

PETER JUKES PHOTOGRAPHED OUTSIDE the Old Bailey — his workplace for nearly four months — Peter Jukes covered the trial in thousands of live tweets.  Photo: Olivia Beasley / oliviabeasley.com

PETER JUKES
PHOTOGRAPHED OUTSIDE the Old Bailey — his workplace for nearly four months — Peter Jukes covered the trial in thousands of live tweets.
Photo: Olivia Beasley / oliviabeasley.com

Jukes isn’t a professional journalist, he’s a dramatist and novelist.

He follows Peter Burden, the writer and entrepreneur whose 2008 book News of the World? was the first to expose the dark heart of the News of the World.

But Jukes’ tweets were only made possible by an enlightened judge.

Sir John Saunders is another rare breed — a judge concerned that justice in this country isn’t being reported as it used to be.

As newspapers decline, press reporting of court proceedings is fading away.

By permitting Jukes to live tweet, Saunders was allowing a fascinating experiment to take place.

Generally speaking, it’s been accepted as a valuable addition to the proceedings.

Jukes also pioneered crowd-funding — where followers underwrite the cost of the reporting — in British court reporting.

BROOKS & BROOKS THE LOVELETTER that revealed  of Rebekah Brooks' long-standing affair was one of the

MR & MRS BROOKS
THE SENSATIONAL love letter that revealed Rebekah Brooks’ long-standing affair with Andy Coulson was one of the battlegrounds of the trial.   Photo: PA

And, by adding this book to the tweets, he’s brought another dimension to his coverage of the trial.

The book doesn’t repeat (retweet) the tweets.

Instead, it goes behind the scenes and shows what, normally, only court reporters get to experience.

There’s a little of Dickens’ sharp observational eye in his accounts of the David v Goliath battle that took place in Court 12.

Naturally, this being the underlings of billionaire Rupert Murdoch versus The Crown, the normal rules were suspended.

In this trial, it’s the Crown that’s David.

The formidably talented and fantastically expensive battery of QCs acting for the defendants is Goliath.

The Crown’s two QCs were outgunned by the magnificent seven of the defence.

Jukes’ account of their battle over the love letter Rebekah Brooks wrote in 2004 — but never sent — to her lover Andy Coulson is fascinating.

Initially, although it’s hard to believe, the defence tried to argue that bringing it into the trial would infringe Rebekah Brooks’ … privacy.

Then they tried to keep it out of the prosecution opening because it would generate adverse publicity …

Both attempts failed but many reporters felt the defence overwhelmed the prosecution.

The book isn’t perfect — in the haste to get it out, there are typos and the index is spartan and sometimes unhelpful.

But these are small quibbles.

The book is a triumph and begins to show the internet, as well as hammering the viability of newspapers and magazines, is starting to throw up new forms of writing and journalism.

Paddy French