Mail rejects celebrities' claims of intrusion

Mail rejects celebrities’ claims of intrusion

  • Lawyers alleged that Associated Newspapers had engaged in phone tapping
  • The press release also alleged there was car bugging and other illegal activities
  • Claims are by Sir Elton John, Prince Harry and Baroness Doreen Lawrence 
  • The group also includes Elizabeth Hurley, Sadie Frost and David Furnish

The publisher of the Daily Mail last night unambiguously rejected ‘groundless’ and ‘preposterous smears’ after legal claims were lodged by a group including Sir Elton John, Prince Harry and Baroness Doreen Lawrence.

Lawyers for the group issued a press release alleging that Associated Newspapers, which also publishes the Mail on Sunday and MailOnline, had engaged in phone tapping, bugging cars and other illegal activities.

Baroness Lawrence has also recently issued a legal claim against News Group Newspapers Ltd, publisher of The Sun newspaper.

Associated Newspapers vowed to contest the ‘appalling and utterly groundless’ claims with the ‘utmost vigour’ and said that, in Baroness Lawrence’s case, they appeared to be based on the word of Jonathan Rees, a discredited liar convicted of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The publisher said: ‘We utterly and unambiguously refute these preposterous smears which appear to be nothing more than a pre-planned and orchestrated attempt to drag the Mail titles into the phone-hacking scandal concerning articles up to 30 years old.

‘These unsubstantiated and highly defamatory claims – based on no credible evidence – appear to be simply a fishing expedition by claimants and their lawyers, some of whom have already pursued cases elsewhere.’

The publisher of the Daily Mail last night unambiguously rejected ‘groundless’ and ‘preposterous smears’ after legal claims were lodged by a group including Sir Elton John, Prince Harry and Baroness Doreen Lawrence (Pictured: His Majesty’s High Court of Justice)

The group also includes the actresses Elizabeth Hurley and Sadie Frost, and Sir Elton’s husband David Furnish.

The Mail successfully campaigned to bring to justice the killers of Stephen Lawrence, Baroness Lawrence’s son, who was murdered in a racist attack in 1993.

Our famous 1997 front page, with the headline ‘Murderers’ above pictures of five men accused of killing Stephen, was a key moment in British race relations history, kick-starting a campaign which ultimately led to the Macpherson Inquiry.

Two of the thugs identified – Gary Dobson and David Norris – were later convicted of Stephen’s murder.

Last night Associated Newspapers said: ‘In Doreen Lawrence’s case, not only are these appalling and utterly groundless smears, they appear to rely on the word of Jonathan Rees, a man jailed for seven years for attempting to pervert the course of justice by conspiring to plant cocaine on an innocent mother in a child custody battle. As such they are, at once, totally untrue and highly defamatory.

‘According to a recent article by investigative journalist Michael Gillard, Jonathan Rees was paid an unknown sum of money to make these allegations by private investigator and self-confessed phone hacker Gavin Burrows.

‘He was, in turn, being instructed by “a group of lawyers with a pot of money to buy dirt about the Mail”.

‘The Daily Mail has campaigned tirelessly for 25 years to obtain justice for Stephen Lawrence and other victims of injustice. The paper is known throughout Fleet Street for its work exposing corruption and incompetence in the police.

‘It is not without significance that the Daily Mail published a three-part major investigative series into Rees’s corruption and alleged crimes.

‘It is deeply saddening that whoever is cynically and unscrupulously orchestrating these claims appears to have persuaded Baroness Lawrence – for whom the Mail has the greatest respect and admiration – to endorse the word of someone who is such a manifestly discredited and untrustworthy liar. Associated Newspapers will contest these claims with the utmost vigour.’

The two law firms involved, Hamlins and Gunnercooke, have not yet provided details about when the alleged illegal activity supposedly took place.

They have started High Court actions, and now have a period of time before being required to submit particulars of the claims setting out their case.

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