Mazher Mahmood, the undercover reporter for the UK Sun and the shuttered-News of the World known as the the “fake sheikh,” was found guilty today of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
As iMediaEthics has reported, Mahmood and his driver Alan Smith, who was also found guilty today, were charged last year after Mahmood’s undercover sting on UK pop star Tulisa Contostavlos, who he said obtained drugs for him. Tulisa faced drug charges due to Mahmood’s reporting, which was published in the UK Sun, but denied the claims, saying she was acting and auditioning for a role. (Mahmood was posing as a producer looking to cast her in a movie.) Tulisa’s trial fell apart when the judge accused Mahmood of lying after he admitted on the stand to talking to his driver about what to say to the police.
Lawyer Mark Smith told the Guardian that many people who have been targeted by Mahmood’s undercover work will sue now that he has been convicted in the Tulisa case.
“Over the last 25 years, innumerable lives have been ruined by the dishonest actions of Mazher Mahmood. People have lost their livelihoods, their homes and relationships, with some spending time in prison,” the Guardian quoted him as saying. “Following today’s verdict, there will be a significant number of civil claims made against Mazher Mahmood. We anticipate the total sums involved could easily reach 800 million, with some awards dwarfing those seen in the phone-hacking scandal.”
Tulisa’s lawyer Ben Rose said, according to the BBC:
“The real scandal in this case is that Mahmood was allowed to operate as a wholly unregulated police force, ‘investigating’ crimes without the safeguards which apply to the police.
“It was obvious from the outset that Tulisa should never have had to go to court. If Mahmood’s evidence had been properly stress-tested instead of accepted wholesale by the CPS, we are confident it would have come to the same conclusion.”
In a statement sent to iMediaEthics, Dr. Evan Harris, the director of the press abuse victims group Hacked Off, said:
“The implications of this verdict are far-reaching. Many of those who were convicted or accused of criminal offences on the basis of Mazher Mahmood ‘sting’ stories published by News of the World working with the Met Police are appealing their convictions, or considering other legal action. Hacked Off is also aware of other very serious allegations against Mahmood which are likely to now surface.
“It must be remembered that Mahmood and his bosses, who included Rebekah Brooks, gave evidence at the first part of the Leveson Inquiry – evidence which this verdict now calls into question. This verdict underscores yet again the need for the second part of the Leveson Inquiry, which was postponed pending criminal trials like this, to proceed as planned in order to explore the extent of corporate cover-ups in the press industry and any corrupt links between journalists like Mahmood, his newspapers and the police.”