Former News of the World investigations editor Mazher Mahmood has defended the use of 'unreliable'sources, telling the Leveson Inquiry: 'I've had front page splashes from crack addicts.'
Mahmood, making his second appearance at the Inquiry, revealed that he continued using Kosovan asylum-seeker Florim Gashi after the collapse of the trial of five Eastern Europeans charged with a plot to kidnap Victoria Beckham and her children, a story first covered by the NoW in 2002.
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The CPS said the NoW informant, Kosovan Florim Gashi, had been paid £10,000 and was not a reliable witness.
Asked why he continued using Gashi after he had been discredited as a witness, Mahmood replied: 'Most of the people I deal with would be regarded as unreliable witnesses. I've had front page splashes from crack addicts.
'The story I did about a footballer's father who was running a crack den in Nottingham, that came from a crack addict, who even stole my tape recorder.
'We do use unreliable people all the time but it's information that is important, that we vet and check thoroughly.
'It can't be said that because Gashi had been described as unreliable by police that we thought he was unreliable.'
But he also described Gashi as 'mentally unstable", and told the inquiry that since he was deported from the UK he had made a series of 'bizarre and ludicrous allegations" about Mahmood.
When he joined the Sunday Times after the closure of the News of the World last year Mahmood was asked to confirm he would no longer use Gashi, something he 'absolutely'agreed to.
'This is a man who's made allegations against me to the police. The question didn't arise, really
'We fell out after he was deported so I haven't spoken to him or dealt with him since. In fact, he was ringing me up threatening me from Albania.
Mahmood added: 'We get stories from crack addicts, prostitutes, all kinds of sources.'
His job was to 'test the tip that they're providing'and 'gather information".
Asked by Leveson whether using unreliable sources was essentially a 'fishing expedition", Mahmood said: this was 'not true at all".
'With Gashi all the information he provided me at the time was accurate . I didn't regard him as an unreliable witness even after the Beckham case. I believe, and still do, the information he provided at the time was correct.
'The nature of the work is, as I explained, you have to deal with people who are simply unreliable, untrustworthy."
Mahmood was also asked about allegations made in the latest issue of British Journalism Review by the former news editor of the Sunday Times, Michael Williams.
He alleged that he 'summarily dismissed'a reporter – understood to be Mahmood – from the newspaper in 1988 because he was 'caught trying to cover his mistakes by offering a financial bribe to the staff in the newspaper computer room to falsify his copy".
Mahmood said this was a 'completely untrue allegation'and claimed that Williams had left the Sunday Times 'under something of a cloud".
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