Michael Ward v Associated Newspapers Ltd

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtQueen's Bench Division
JudgeMr Justice Nicklin
Judgment Date05 October 2020
Neutral Citation[2020] EWHC 2797 (QB)
Date05 October 2020
Docket NumberClaim No. QB-2019-003661

[2020] EWHC 2797 (QB)

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION

MEDIA & COMMUNICATIONS LIST

Royal Courts of Justice

Strand

London, WC2A 2LL

Before:

Mr Justice Nicklin

(By Telephone Hearing)

Claim No. QB-2019-003661

Between:
Michael Ward
Claimant
and
(1) Associated Newspapers Limited
(2) Mail on Sunday
Defendants

THE CLAIMANT appeared in Person.

Ms C. Evans QC and Ms C. Hamer (instructed by Reynolds Porter Chamberlain LLP) appeared on behalf of Defendants.

This Transcript is Crown Copyright. It may not be reproduced in whole or in part other than in accordance with relevant licence or with the express consent of the Authority. All rights are reserved

Mr Justice Nicklin
1

This is a claim for libel and malicious falsehood. It was commenced by Claim Form dated 16 October 2019 and attached Particulars of Claim. The Claimant is Michael Ward. He complains of a statement published on the website Byline.com on 5 March 2019 (“the Byline Article”). Mr Ward has sued two Defendants, but the Second Defendant is the title of a newspaper published by the First Defendant (“the Defendant”).

2

The Byline Article was a report of a claim for judicial review that had been brought against the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, challenging the government's decision not to proceed with Part 2 of the Leveson Inquiry. On 13 February 2019, May J refused the Claimant permission to bring his claim for judicial review: [2019] EWHC 3493 (Admin). Reference should be made to that decision to understand the claim brought by the Claimant, but it is fair to record, as May J did, that the substantial issue raised in his application for judicial review, that of substantive legitimate expectation, had effectively been decided by the earlier case of R (Jefferies) v The Secretary of State for the Home Department [2018] EWHC 3239 (Admin).

3

The Byline Article was published in the following terms with paragraph numbers added in square brackets.

Mail on Sunday Journalists Accused of Burgling House and Bribing Witnesses, High Court Hears

Ex-Mail on Sunday Finance Editor Lawrence Lever allegedly stole businessman's documents. Alleged victim Michael Ward later convicted of Fraud. But he claims Ex-Mail on Sunday City Editor Clive Wolman allegedly paid prosecution witnesses to lie. Mail on Sunday say allegations have ‘no merit.’

[1] The Mail on Sunday newspaper was involved in a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, the High Court has heard.

[2] One of its journalists was accused of burgling a Belgravia property to steal documents for a story — and then bribing a prosecution witness.

[3] Another editor was alleged to have paid money in a bid to get a witness to lie under oath.

[4] The allegations were made by former businessman Michael Ward, who is campaigning to get the second part of the Leveson Inquiry reinstated.

[5] Mr. Ward said that the Mail on Sunday illegally targeted him in a plot to undermine libel proceedings which he had launched against the Rothermere-owned paper.

[6] A spokesman for the Mail on Sunday said Mr. Ward's claims had no merit, and had been officially rejected by two criminal courts, and separately by an official body.

[7] Leveson Part 2 was cancelled by the government one year ago, in March last year.

[8] However, last month on Wednesday February 13th Mr. Ward asked the High Court for permission to Judicially Review the decision taken by the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

[9] The judge in the hearing, The Hon. Mrs Justice May, refused him permission to take his case forward, but not before Mr. Ward had outlined a series of extraordinary allegations which he claimed amounted to ‘serious press abuse’ which then led to a criminal ‘miscarriage of justice’ which in turn ‘destroyed his career.’

[10] The story started in 1987 when Mr. Ward, a Cambridge university graduate, founded a company called European Leisure.

[11] Between May and July 1991, he said that the Mail on Sunday published a series of articles alleging that he'd been involved in financial misconduct, promising Mr. Ward, who had become Chairman of the company, to sue publishers Associated News for libel.

[12] After reading the articles, Mr. Ward said that in July 1991, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) commenced an inquiry into share dealings, followed by a Serious Fraud Office (SFO) probe nine months later.

[13] Mr Ward told the court that while he was preparing his defence, the then Mail on Sunday's Finance Editor Lawrence Lever got into his house in Chester Square, Belgravia, and stole his files.

[14] In a legal document presented to the court, Mr Ward — who was arguing his own case in the Queen's Bench Division — wrote:

[a] ‘From the earliest days of the SFO investigation, the claimant (Mr. Ward) started to discover evidence of serious criminal and other misconduct being perpetrated by the Mail on Sunday in the shadows of the SFO investigation.

[b] ‘The newspaper was corrupting the SFO investigation in order to ensure the claimant was charged and convicted and, thereby, escape the writs for libel which the claimant had launched.

[c] ‘For example, the claimant's defence documents, including private business and personal records upon which the claimant was intending to rely in the proceedings, were stolen and destroyed by the newspaper.’

[15] The Statement of Facts continued:

[a] ‘On the first occasion, the Finance Editor of the Mail on Sunday Lawrence Lever, broke into the claimant's home when the claimant was abroad, forcing open the claimant's filing cabinet in his study.

[b] ‘On the second occasion, the Mail on Sunday's City Editor, Clive Wolman, paid a decorator working in the claimant's house telling him to bleed the house of every document he could find.’

[16] Neither Mr. Wolman or Mr. Lever, who no longer work for the Mail on Sunday, were in court to dispute what Mr. Ward had written in his Statement of Facts.

[17] This is because Mr Ward's case was being brought against the Government for cancelling Leveson 2, not the Mail on Sunday, which he was claiming was an example of press abuse which should have been investigated by Lord Leveson.

[18] It was for this reason, he claimed, that the Government had conspired to cancel Leveson 2, in a bid to ‘conceal’ his ‘travesty of a case’ from being aired in a public forum.

[19] The Mail on Sunday said Mr Ward's claims had been repeatedly rejected over the last 24 years.

[20] Byline Investigates emailed Mr Wolman and Mr Lever this story, and offered them a right-of-reply.

[21] But no comment from either has yet been received.

[22] Following a three-year investigation by the SFO, the criminal case went to trial in 1995.

[23] However, Mr. Ward claimed he could not adequately defend himself because his paperwork had been stolen by the Mail on Sunday.

[24] In addition, he claimed that key prosecution witnesses were paid by the Mail on Sunday.

[25] A legal document stated:

[a] ‘Wolman and Lever paid money to their agents, telling them to lie under oath.

[b] ‘The claimant discovered that the Mail on Sunday was bribing witnesses with secret payments in cash.

[c] ‘Witnesses were being encouraged by the Mail on Sunday to lie under oath at any future trial.

[d] ‘The Mail on Sunday was feeding false allegations into third party witness statements in return for additional secret cash payments.

[e] ‘It was also offering special ‘conviction bonuses’ to witnesses in return for securing the claimant's conviction.

[f] ‘The newspaper swore a false witness statement of its own for the SFO, making up allegations about the claimant it well knew were untrue as well as devastatingly prejudicial towards the claimant.

[g] ‘The newspaper was leaking unauthorised confidential information about the course of the SFO inquiry to witnesses, encouraging them to turn against the claimant who, the newspaper told the witnesses, was bound to be convicted.

[h] ‘Potential defence witnesses were being harassed and threatened by the newspaper.

[i] ‘In short, the Mail on Sunday was orchestrating a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice against the claimant.’

[26] Mr. Ward produced to the court, a newspaper article from The Independent dated 14th September 1995, which claimed that a principal witness in his fraud trial was paid £4000 by Clive Wolman.

[27] In the article, the witness — a painter and decorator Brook Anderson who allegedly helped the Mail on Sunday — was quoted as saying: ‘He (Clive Wolman) said it (the money) didn't really matter. No one would find out.’

[28] Despite his claims, Mr. Ward was eventually convicted at two different trials at Southwark Crown Court in 1995 of conspiracy to defraud in the course of a takeover bid, and of lying to the SFO and procuring a false receipt.

[29] He served two prison sentences, and claimed that his career was destroyed.

[30] However, in the civil court last month he said that he'd been fighting for 24 years to expose the ‘juggernaut’ of ‘press abuse’ which lead onto a ‘miscarriage of justice.’

[31] But the court heard that he had been unsuccessful to date, losing at the Court of Appeal to overturn his convictions — and later an investigation by the Criminal Cases Review Commission had also not found in his favour.

[32] Mr. Ward had hoped to reboot his campaign for justice at the Leveson Inquiry in 2012, highlighting the Mail on Sunday's alleged conspiracy.

[33] However, he had been advised by that ‘complex’ case maybe better suited to the second part of the Leveson Inquiry, which would concentrate on the relationships between the press...

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2 cases
  • Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin v Secretary of State for the Home Department
    • United Kingdom
    • Queen's Bench Division
    • 15 November 2021
    ...pleaded defence, it was premature to estimate the costs of the claim, as Nicklin J. had warned in Ward v Associated Newspapers Ltd. [2020] EWHC 2797 (QB) at 89 I recognise the points which Mr Dean makes, and, in my judgment, this is not an appropriate occasion for me to rule on whether the......
  • Michael Ward v Associated Newspapers Ltd
    • United Kingdom
    • Queen's Bench Division
    • 18 March 2021
    ...Ward's claim, the statement upon which he sues, and the history to the litigation is set out in the judgment given on 5 October 2020 [2020] EWHC 2797 (QB) (“the First Judgment”). I will adopt the same definitions in this judgment. I dismissed the Defendant's application to strike out Mr Wa......

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