The Daily Express has claimed an "important victory for the rights of the press" after it persuaded a judge to hand over a character reference from a London mayor for a convicted fraudster.
The document, from Tower Hamlets mayor Luftur Rahman, was used by the television entrepreneur Mahee Ferdhaus to try to secure a reduced sentence in a fraud trial last month.
The Express says Judge Anthony Pitts at Southwark Crown Court had initially declined its application to disclose the character reference, in written correspondence with the paper.
However, he said in court yesterday that he had "changed his mind" – and also disclosed a second character reference for Ferdhaus from a Tower Hamlets local councillor.
The judge is quoted in the Express saying: "I think that the press are entitled to know these two particular documents. They could easily have been read out and they could have been called as witnesses. For that reason, I am going to disclose both of them."
The Express was represented in court by its barrister Joseph Lewis and journalist Ted Jeory, who has a long record of investigating Tower Hamlets council.
The BBC is also reported to be planning a Panorama documentary soon, investigating the links between the mayor and Bangladeshi television stations.
Ferdhaus was sentenced last month to three years in jail for laundering £500,000 of proceeds from an insurance fraud.
In his reference, Rahman said of Ferdhaus: @He has played a critical role in philanthropy, supporting charity and humanitarian organisations following natural disasters.
“As a prominent media personality, I have always known him to be constructive, critical but impartial as an anchor on community and current affairs.”
A dozen of the UK's leading legal minds will explain what the Defamation Act 2013 means for journalists and the media at a unique conference being organised by Press Gazette in London on 19 June. The cost of defending a libel action at trial can be more than £1m, tickets for Defamation 2014 start from £89+VAT