Mail editor settles dismissal claim

Sacked Hartlepool Mail editor Harry Blackwood and Johnston Press have settled his claim for unfair dismissal ahead of an employment tribunal hearing scheduled for later this year.

Blackwood left the Mail in March after an acrimonious investigation into his three-year editorship of the paper. He claimed complaints by Hartlepool MP Peter Mandelson were the real reason for his sacking.

Johnston Press strongly denied pressure from Mandelson, listing poor editorial judgement and journalism among its reasons for dismissing Blackwood.

The former editor, who worked for the Mail for 30 years, is believed to have received a compensatory payment as part of the settlement, but told Press Gazette he could make no comment on the outcome. His solicitor, Kit Ward of Directline Insurance, also refused to comment.

Johnston Press chief executive Tim Bowdler confirmed a settlement had been reached, but would make no further statement.

Blackwood is now writing a weekly column for the northern edition of The Mail on Sunday, on a six-month contract that finishes at the end of the year. Colleagues said he has “never been happier than he is now”.

His initial three-month contract with The Mail on Sunday was extended and his fee increased by £300 after the column, over three-quarters of a page, attracted good feedback from readers.

Since Blackwood left the Hartlepool Mail seven other members of his former staff have departed, including deputy editor Neil Hunter, now with the Northern Echo. The latest is picture editor Dirk van der Werff, who had worked for the Mail for 27 years.

By Jean Morgan

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