Checking story cost Mail its 'Dirty Deayton' scoop

MoS argued it wanted to publish sex revelations in the "public interest"

Once again, checking a story has cost The Mail on Sunday a scoop.

Last weekend it was faced with an injunction banning it from publishing new revelations about Have I Got News for You presenter Angus Deayton after the paper had sought to put the allegations to him.

Only a month before, the MoS had seen its story about the £100,000 donation by Express Newspapers boss Richard Desmond to Labour leaked to other papers when it went to party HQ to check its facts.

Reporter Fiona Wingett contacted Deayton’s PR organisation, Matthew Freud, last Thursday afternoon to say the the MoS had certain information it needed to put to them. The response the next day came not from Deayton or his advisers but from lawyers Schilling and Lom.

A meeting between Wingett and the solicitors on Friday afternoon ended with Schilling and Lom demanding an undertaking from the MoS that it would not publish certain information in its possession.

The paper said it could not give the undertaking because it had not yet decided what it was going to do with the information.

The comeback was a message from the lawyers at 1pm on Saturday calling the paper’s representatives to a meeting at the home of Mr Justice Ouseley two hours later.

The MoS’s lawyers were in another part of the country so the hearing before the judge was conducted as a conference call.

Just before 6pm, the judge granted an interim injunction on the grounds of breach of confidentiality, which gagged the MoS.

This week, editor Peter Wright and his lawyers decided to challenge that injunction on the grounds of public interest.

"I do think we have a very strong case on public interest grounds," said Wright.

His reporters had been working on the story for three weeks. The story that appeared instead was a modified version of the original. Deayton’s relations with his former partner Stephanie de Sykes featured strongly.

Caroline Martin, the call girl who first revealed to the News of the World for £10,000 that she’d had cocaine-fuelled sex with Deayton, has since been taken under the wing of PR man Max Clifford and has talked to the MoS’s sister paper, the Daily Mail, about the affair.

 

Jean Morgan

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