Lawyers for the “fake sheikh” journalist, Mazher Mahmood, have failed to win a high-court injunction preventing a documentary from revealing his appearance.
A Panorama programme examining the methods of the undercover investigative journalist is due to be shown on BBC1 on Monday night.
After a day-long hearing in London, the judge refused the injunction, which would have prevented the broadcasting of covered any images taken since 5 April 2006 not already in the public domain. Sir David Eady said he did not accept Mahmood’s claims that his family’s safety would be put at risk if his identity became widely known, and that the court had no reason to restrict the BBC’s freedom of speech or editorial discretion.
Adam Speker, Mahmood’s barrister, said his client was considering an appeal. The BBC’s representative, Manuel Barca QC, said if he did appeal, no recent images of him would be broadcast in trailers for the programme until 6pm on Monday, giving time for the case to be heard.
The methods used by Mahmood, who spent most of his career at the now defunct News of the World, were thrown in the spotlight after the drug trial of pop star Tulisa Contostavlos collapsed when a judge accused Mahmood of lying.
The hearing heard the attorney general had asked the BBC to consider delaying the programme while it was decided whether Mahmood was going to be charged with an offence. Jeremy Wright, the chief legal adviser of the crown and its government in England and Wales, made the request in a letter on 3 November to Meirion Jones, producer of Panorama, on behalf of the attorney general. In the letter, produced during the hearing, Wright asked if Jones and the BBC “would consider delaying the decision to broadcast the programme until such a time as a decision whether or not to charge Mr Mahmood has been made”.
The correspondence read out in court said that “the attorney general recognises that as Mr Mahmood has not been arrested, the provisions of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 do not apply”.
But, Wright went on: “I do ask you to consider whether it’s in the public interest for the BBC to broadcast a programme at this time. The proposed broadcast may have the potential to prejudice any trial, should Mr Mahmood be charged. Should there be a trial, it would almost certainly form the basis of, or support, an abuse of process argument by the defence. Thereby potentially undermining the ability of the crown to progress to trial.”
The attorney general intervened after an approach by Mahmood’s legal team.
Eady said that while the attorney general was “entitled to point out the problem that might arise if he’s prosecuted, it’s not grounds for the injunction as such”.
The programme, which has already been delayed once, includes interviews with his targets, and the men who helped him expose them.
Dismissing the Contostavlos case in July, Judge Alistair McCreath said there were strong grounds to believe Mahmood “told me lies” and had been “manipulating the evidence”.
Mahmood claims to have helped secure more than 90 criminal convictions in a career spanning 30 years.
Speker told the hearing the journalist was not seeking an injunction to prevent the screening its investigation on Monday, but was fighting to not have his appearance broadcast… see more
source: Guardian UK