Daily Mail publisher Associated Newspapers has been accused of adopting “intimidatory” tactics after it issued a statment saying Hugh Grant was guilt of of spreading ‘mendacious smears’at the Leveson Inquiry yesterday.
Grant claimed that a story published by the Mail on Sunday in 2007 about his late-night phone-calls with a ‘plummy-voiced woman’during his break-up with Jemima Khan could have been the result of phone-hacking.
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Today the Leveson Inquiry was told how Associated replied by claiming: ‘Mr Grant’s allegations are mendacious smears driven by his hatred of the media.”
The QC for the Met, Neil Garnham, warned Leveson that witnesses could fear giving evidence to the inquiry if they were accused of lying by the national press the following morning.
The counsel for phone-hacking victims, David Sherborne, accused Associated Newspapers of launching a ‘personal attack’on Grant.
‘This wasn’t comment – this was an allegation of fact,’said Sherborne, who also claimed the tone of the Mail’s rebuttal had an ‘intimidatory nature to it”.
In response Leveson said: ‘I’m extremely concerned about ensuring that the arguments relating to this inquiry are conducted here, not elsewhere. Consideration ought to be given to that sentence and I will wait to see.”
He added: ‘I’m anxious not to reach any inappropriate conclusions but I would be unhappy if it was felt that the best form of defence was always attack.”
Leveson told Associated’s QC Jonathan Caplan that he wanted to know what was meant by the phrase ‘mendacious smears”. Caplan had earlier said that Grant’s allegations were ‘extremely serious’and made without any evidence, and that the statement was released because he had no opportunity to cross-examine the witness.
He said he would need to discuss yesterday’s statement with Associated before he could provide further comment.