The Sunday Times has hailed its landmark libel win against a notorious East End “crime lord” as a victory for “investigative journalism and the public interest”.
In a leader following a High Court judgment last week that revealed that David Hunt was the head of a vast criminal organisation, involved in murder, drug trafficking and fraud, the paper said it had “needed deep pockets” to fight the three-year case.
Comparing reporter Michael Gillard’s investigation into Hunt with its 1970s Thalidomide campaign, the Sunday Times leader said the police and Government had missed chances to expose his criminality.
The paper said it had hired bodyguards to protect its witnesses during the High Court libel trial, but they quit after a day, with another security firm refusing to take on the job.
“Such is the fear that Mr Hunt’s name engenders,” said the leader.
It also revealed that another reporter, Peter Wilson, then with the Sunday Mirror, had been assaulted by Hunt when he had gone to question him in 1992.
Describing the case as “a high stakes legal battle,” the leader added: “This newspaper has needed deep pockets to fill the vacuum left by those who should have taken on Mr Hunt long ago. We have not shied away from the task, just as in the past we took on the distributors of Thalidomide and the quarter-master general of the Provisional IRA. This is what we do.”
It labelled the failure of the authorities to bring Hunt to task “a disgrace” and “deeply disturbing”.
In its front page lead, The Sunday Times ran a series of further revelations about Hunt, including that he had paid Scotland Yard detectives to help him escape justice.