Dewsbury Press and MP call it quits on libel battle

The long-running libel battle between independent weekly the Dewsbury Press and local MP and development minister Shahid Malik was settled this week with both sides agreeing not to sue for costs or damages.

Press director and founder Danny Lockwood and Malik mutually agreed to end proceedings and to cancel a High Court case scheduled for next month, following a trial in December in which the jury failed to reach a verdict.

The Press had spent thousands on the December trial, raised from local supporters and a fundraising night at Dewsbury Town Hall, and Lockwood was planning to represent himself in July.

Lockwood told Press Gazette: ‘It’s a sensible result for everyone concerned. It had got to the point where there were losers and no winners financially and personally.

‘Malik felt the same: that it was an incredible amount of grief and stress to go through for a very uncertain outcome.

‘The only people who would have ended up with anything were the lawyers.”

Malik had claimed that the paper’s editor and its publisher Newspost Ltd had libelled him by publishing a letter from Conservative councillor Jonathan Scott in the paper after the 2006 local elections, accusing the MP of illegal electoral activity. In a meeting with Malik, Lockwood agreed not to repeat the allegations.

In a jointly-agreed statement, Lockwood said: ‘Having printed Mr Scott’s letter and subsequent interview in 2006, we stood by what we felt was our responsibility as a newspaper. Shahid robustly pressed his claim and we respect his decision.’

Malik said in a statement: ‘After a discussion with Danny Lockwood he has been able to give me the assurances that I require and there will be no need for another trial in July.

‘I have always said that I respect the right of the media to print what it likes no matter how distasteful it seems as long as it is within the law.”

During the dispute, Malik had declined to be interviewed in the Press, something Lockwood hoped might change. He said: ‘To represent the whole readership area you can’t have a vendetta with the local MP. Mr Malik chose to be absent from our pages because he didn’t think he would get fair representation, which was never the case.

‘We will be able to do our job better as a result of this. But Mr Malik will be as robustly tested as every other political figure.”

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