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Former Sun journalist found guilty of tampering with evidence in Tulisa drugs case

By | Published on Thursday 6 October 2016

Tulisa

Former Sun and News Of The World journalist Mazher Mahmood – aka the Fake Sheikh – has been found guilty of tampering with evidence in the collapsed drugs case that was pursued against one time N-Dubz and ‘X-Factor’ star Tulisa Contostavlos.

He will be sentenced later this month and could now face a flood of civil action from celebrities who were on the receiving end of his sting operations over the years while he was working for the tabloids.

As previously reported, Contostavlos found herself in court in 2014 following one of Mahmood’s classic stings, the “let’s see if we can trick a celebrity into getting us some drugs” sting, that being the sort of thing that constitutes news for his former employer. But the case collapsed after the judge presiding accused the journalist of “serious misconduct to the point that the integrity of the court would be compromised by allowing the trial to go ahead”.

It was alleged that Mahmood had urged his long-time driver to alter his police statement. Said driver, Alan Smith, had initially told police that he overheard Contostavlos discussing her distain for hard drugs, but he later asked for those comments to be removed from his witness statement.

At a pre-trial hearing under oath, Mahmood said he had had no involvement in that change to Smith’s statement. But he later admitted that he had indeed seen a copy of what Smith had originally said to the police and had spoken to his driver about it. Nevertheless, Mahmood denied tampering with any evidence, arguing that the changes to Smith’s statement didn’t greatly alter the criminal case against Contostavlos anyway.

However, both Mahmood and Smith were found guilty of the charge yesterday, and will now be sentenced on 21 Oct. Mahmood declined to comment to journalists outside the court, though none of them had thought to attend in fancy dress and offer him a lucrative movie career if he dished the dirt, so more fool them I guess. His former employer, Sun owner News UK, simply said it was “disappointed” with the verdict.

Ben Rose, the lawyer who led Contostavlos’s defence in the drugs case, welcomed the ruling. According to The Guardian, he said: “The real scandal in this case is that Mahmood was allowed to operate as a wholly unregulated police force, ‘investigating’ crimes without the safeguards which apply to the police. It was obvious from the outset that Tulisa should never have had to go to court. If Mahmood’s evidence had been properly stress-tested instead of accepted wholesale by the Crown Prosecution Service, we are confident it would have come to the same conclusion”.

The legal man added: “Investigative journalists do important work, but Mahmood clearly went too far. That he and his driver have now been convicted of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice will hopefully deter other journalists from using entrapment to drive celebrity gossip stories. Mahmood’s actions brought his profession into disrepute and ruined hundreds of lives in pursuit of better circulation figures. The Crown Prosecution Service should not be so credulous in future”.

Meanwhile another lawyer, Mark Lewis, says he has been instructed by eighteen people to now pursue civil damages against Mahmood now that his tactics as an investigative journalist have been put under the spotlight.

Lewis: “Over the last 25 years, innumerable lives have been ruined by the dishonest actions of Mazher Mahmood. People have lost their livelihoods, their homes and relationships, with some spending time in prison. Following today’s verdict, there will be a significant number of civil claims made against Mazher Mahmood. We anticipate the total sums involved could easily reach £800 million, with some awards dwarfing those seen in the phone-hacking scandal”.

So, fun times ahead.



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