2014 in Review: Guess the most popular pieces on my hacking trial blog

Was it key pieces of evidence from the Hacking Trial? The revealing messages between Tony Blair and Rebekah Brooks? Or the electrifying evidence of former News of the World reporter and supergrass/whistleblower Dan Evans? Or was it the near disastrous intervention of David Cameron over the partial verdicts on his former head of communications Andy Coulson.

No. The two most popular posts were…. wait for the fireworks….

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What you Won’t Read in the Papers: James Doleman’s Smart Summation of three Sun trials so Far.

After reporting from the Old Bailey for over 15 months now, covering various hacking and misconduct trials, James Doleman provides an insight which you might not see in mainstream media coverage

If you only read Britain’s best selling tabloid newspaper you would think that the last 6 months of Sun journalists appearing in the criminal courts have led to a total vindication for the paper and its version of journalistic ethics.

It is true that since August 2014 three separate  trials at London’s Old Bailey have found Sun reporters not guilty on various charges. Each acquittal was greeted with banner headlines in the paper proclaiming that the ordinary people on the jury had chosen to defend free speech against the police and the courts unjustly trying to silence the press. Yet a closer look at how each reporter defended themselves in court suggests there may have been other reasons for those jurys making their decisions.

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Contrast the treatment of Mazher Mahmood to that of Tulisa Constavlos: via Press Gang

THE GOVERNMENT has declined to answer questions about a legal bid to stop the BBC Panorama exposé of Sun reporter Mazher Mahmood.

Attorney General Jeremy Wright tried to persuade the Corporation not to broadcast the investigation.

Wright is a political appointee and attends Cabinet.

No. 10 said it didn’t “comment on legal advice provided by law officers.”

The BBC ignored the pressure and transmitted the “Fake Sheik: Exposed” programme on November 12.

Another public body, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is refusing to answer an allegation that it gave out false information about the case.

Sources claim CPS officials said at the end of October that a charging decision on Mahmood was due within two weeks.

Today, two months later, no decision has been announced …

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police have been treating Mahmood himself with kid gloves.

Press Gang has learnt detectives from Operation Silverhawk — the investigation into Mahmood’s false testimony in the Tulisa Contostavlos trial last July — decided not to arrest him.

Instead, officers arranged an appointment with him and his lawyer.

He was interviewed under caution.

No warrant was sought to search his home in West London.

Mahmood’s “kid glove” treatment is in stark contrast to the “iron fist” used for Contostavlos.

She was arrested just two days after he published an article accusing her of conspiracy to supply drugs.

Her arrest — based solely on Mahmood’s evidence — took place by appointment at a police station.

Police also obtained a warrant and searched her home.

via NUMBER 10 SILENT ON “FAKE SHEIK” INTERVENTION | PRESS GANG.

Mahmood investigation – more than uncanny echoes of the original limited Coulson hacking inquiries

Important piece from Bellingcat about Operation Silverhawk – the inquiry into Mazher Mahmood‘s alleged role in the Tulisa trial. It has more than uncanny echoes to the original limited phone hacking investigation in 2010.

Metropolitan police’s Operation Silverhawk, an investigation into Sunday on Sunday’s Fake Sheikh Mazher Mahmood is being led by Commander Martin Hewitt – who was one of the senior investigators in Operation Varec which was part of John Yates discredited investigation into phone hacking at Mahmood’s News of the World in 2010. Minutes from ‘Gold’ Group meeting which was chaired by Yates shows Commander Hewitt present as one the more senior investigators in the team at a meeting in September that year.

Operation Varec was criticised for interviewing whistleblower ex-News of the World showbiz reporter Sean Hoare under caution – effectively meaning that his statements could be used against him for prosecution. Hoare a former friend of Andy Coulson had given an interview to The New York Times weeks earlier claiming Coulson had “actively encouraged” him to hack phones but was left with no choice but to give No Comment answers in his police interview. This was at the time Andy Coulson was Director of Communications for the government at 10 Downing Street.

Read the whole piece bellingcat – Mazher Mahmood: Just Like Phone Hacking, the Met Narrows the Investigation.

WITHERING HEIGHTS | PRESS GANG

LAST NIGHT Press Gang finally clarified the exact nature of the police investigation into Mazher Mahmood.

In a statement the Met told us its inquiry into Mahmood — known as Operation Silverhawk — was concerned only with the Tulisa Contostavlos trial.

The investigation, by the Special Enquiry Team of the Specialist Crime and Operations division, is not looking at any other cases:

” … at this stage the MPS [Metropolitan Police Service] has not been asked to investigate any further matters.”

Asked if Mahmood had been questioned, the spokesperson added:

“We do not discuss the identity of people interviewed under caution.”

Yesterday the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) confirmed that three planned criminal trials with Mahmood as a key witness had been abandoned.

The CPS also identified a further historical 25 cases where criminal convictions secured as a result of evidence provided by Mahmood were open to challenge.

However, the Met statement makes it clear that Mahmood’s role is not being investigated in any of these cases.

In November 2012 we wrote to the Met to ask them to investigate our allegation of serial perjury by Mahmood in many of the criminal cases he gave evidence in.

The Met acknowledged the letter but never responded.

The Press Gang investigation into Mazher Mahmood continues …

via WITHERING HEIGHTS | PRESS GANG.

A Tale of the Fake Sheikh and Two Attorney Generals: Limited Police Inquiries and Damage Limitation

Yesterday, the CPS announced it has dropped three cases and is re-investigating another 25 after a BBC Panorama documentary detailed the potentially questionable ways one of News UK’s most senior and prolific reporters, Mazher Mahmood, obtained his stories using his famous Fake Sheikh identity.

The night before, at the second Leveson memorial lecture delivered by Tom Watson, the BBC reporter John Sweeney, who presented the Panorama documentary, revealed that the current Attorney General, Jeremy Wright, intervened not once but twice to try to get his Fake Sheikh documentary stopped.

This is unprecedented. Normally, the Attorney General can only intervene when charges have been brought and the Contempt of Court Act locks in.

The first question therefore is: who put pressure on the Attorney General to intervene in a BBC documentary, which was delayed twice under legal pressures? Was it the CPS? The Police? Mahmood’s lawyers at Kingsley Napley? Or News UK? Or a combination of those above?

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