Actor Hugh Grant has refused Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre's invitation to retract his allegation that the Mail titles have been involved in phone-hacking.
Dacre made his offer last week when he, in turn, refused to retract the statement made last November that Grant had used his testimony before Leveson to level 'mendacious smears'against the Mail titles over hacking.
Interviewed by Evan Davis for the Today Programme, Grant was asked if he still believed the Mail on Sunday hacked his phone in order to report the claim that his relationship with Jemima Khan was "on the rocks" in 2007 because of his late night calls with a 'plummy-voiced'woman.
Grant said: "It's my inference, for a number of reasons, when I did my secret interview with Paul McMullan, ex features of News of when I secretly taped him back in April, I did ask him a couple of questions about the Daily Mail and in particular, my second question, I said, do you think they ever publish stories based on phone-hacking? To which his answer was, 'well for the last four or five years, they've been cleaner than clean but before that they weren't. They were as dirty as anyone, they had the most money.' So obviously from thatâ€¦"
Davis: 'But we don't know if he knows, it's all circumstantial, it's all hearsay."
Grant: 'Well, of course but that's only the first fact. When I was going through my notes before Leveson and reviewing my evidence, I found this article about a 'plummy-voiced woman' and I was thinking, it was full of lies, and they admitted that in an open court that it was full of lies, but I kept thinking, where did they come up with this strange story of a plummy-voiced woman...."
Davis: 'And there were references to telephones in that article, it made you think it could beâ€¦"
Grant: 'Especially because there was a plummy-voiced woman who was ringing me all the time."
Davis: 'Circumstantial. Circumstantial. Circumstantial. Evidence."
Grant: 'Yes, of course."
Davos: 'So you agree it's circumstantial. But what could the Daily Mail do to persuade you, other than 'we didn't hack your phone'?"
Grant: 'That's what Leveson asked, just before they put up the mendacious smears headline about me, he said you'd better come up with this source for the story and they said, we're working on that. And it took them seven weeks to come back with exactly the same story which was that it was a friend of Jemima's, who Jemima had been moaning to about a plummy-voiced woman who I was supposedly flirting with and that this has got back to the Mail.
'And since then Jemima's given sworn evidence that it couldn't have been this because she didn't know anything about a plummy-voiced woman until she read about it at the Mail on Sunday, so their story completely falls to the ground. All we've had is Paul Dacre and his head of legal affairs thumping the table and saying 'we didn't do it'. Well that might work in DM offices but it won't work with the general public."
When asked about the complicated nature of revealing journalistic sources, Grant said: 'This is the newspaper which in my personal experience has many times had to apologise to me for making things up in their newspaper so they don't get a very high mark from me for probity there."
Davis also asked the actor if he can understand why the Mail might be a bit 'cross'about his allegations. Grant replied that he believes the reason was that 'however much they might go on about the freedom speech, no one is allowed freedom of speech to question the Daily Mail, if you do, you will be trashed, that is what has happened with me and others who have questioned them."
Quizzed about the story at the Leveson Inquiry last week, Dacre said: "I can be as confident as any editor, having made extensive enquiries into the newspapers' practices, that phone hacking was not practiced by the Daily Mail or Mail on Sunday. You know that because I gave this inquiry my unequivocal assurances, you had my unequivocal assurances earlier in the week."