Don Hale's anger at Sunday Times

By Sarah Lagan

Former Matlock Mercury editor Don Hale says he is considering taking legal action against The Sunday Times over claims that he "invented facts" in his campaign to free convicted murderer Stephen Downing.

Downing served 27 years in jail for murdering Wendy Sewell and was freed in 2002 after the Appeal Court ruled his conviction was "unsafe".

Daniel Foggo’s article on 5 March claimed there were discrepancies between the documents that Hale handed to police and Hale’s own account of his investigations in his book Town Without Pity.

It reported allegations that Hale suppressed evidence, including the fact that Downing had allegedly attacked another girl prior to Sewell’s murder, and said that the CPS had considered reprosecuting Downing under new ‘double jeopardy’ legislation, but that this had been rejected.

Hale said: "It’s dragging up old stuff that was discussed and debated four years ago. There’s absolutely nothing new there. He’s just going on the fact a letter which had been allegedly leaked to him by the police told him something he didn’t know about the possibility of the double jeopardy claim against Downing, and that was discussed three to four years ago.

"I will consult with the NUJ and see what the legal team says there. He is making the accusation that I have made up facts to clear this man, which is a serious allegation and unfounded."

Sunday Times managing editor Richard Caseby said: "It is a fascinating story, especially since the police tried to have Stephen Downing retried under the new law allowing double jeopardy prosecutions.

The story has a long history and we needed to give a context to the story."

Hale says he didn’t answer Foggo’s calls because he was out of the office for the best part of two days.

Hale has challenged Foggo to outline the facts he allegedly "invented" or resign. He has also asked the paper to run a letter from him.

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