PCC's Buscombe settles phone-hack lawyer libel claim

The Press Complaints Commission has reached a settlement with News of the World phone-hacking lawyer Mark Lewis after he sued the press watchdog for libel.

Buscombe issued a statement of regret, and Press Gazette understands that the PCC has paid Lewis damages, but the terms of any settlement are bound by a confidentiality agreement.

Lewis, who has acted for a number of those who claim their mobile phone messages were hacked by the News of the World, sued over comments made by chairman of the PCC Baroness Peta Buscombe at the Society of Editors Conference in November 2009.

In evidence to MPs last year, Lewis said he had been told by Met police officer DS Mark Maberly that some 6,000 people may have had their phones hacked by the News of the World.

In her Society of Editors speech, Buscombe said Maberly had been wrongly quoted by Lewis, and that the Metropolitan Police had said the correct figure on the number of phones hacked – only a handful – was given to the select committee by assistant commissioner John Yates and detective chief superintendent Philip Williams.

She said: ‘Any suggestion that a parliamentary inquiry has been misled is of course an extremely serious matter.”

Lewis sued over this and over a statement Buscombe then made to a Media Guardian, when she told him: “Maberly has been wrongly quoted in saying that 6,000 people were involved. He didn’t say it. He is said to have said it.”

Lewis claimed that these statements amounted to allegations that he lied to the media select committee about what DS Maberly told him.

Solicitor Keith Ashby, appearing for Buscombe and the Press Complaints Commission, was due tell the High Court this morning: ‘The commission and Baroness Buscombe regret that the statement may have been misunderstood and that this has caused concern to Mr Lews.

“They make this statement in open court to ensure that the position is entirely clear.”

The PCC declined to comment.

Lewis told Press Gazette: ‘I am very satisfied that Baroness Buscombe and the PCC have accepted my claim and expressed regret for the consequences of what she said. My case continues against the Metropolitan Police who still defend the claim. Eventually the truth will come out from the Met and I will be vindicated.”

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