Maxwell cleared of contempt of court

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The Independent Online
KEVIN MAXWELL, son of the disgraced media tycoon Robert Maxwell, was yesterday cleared of allegations of contempt of court over his refusal to be interrogated by inspectors investigating the Mirror Group.

The decision, by a High Court judge, represents a considerable victory for Mr Maxwell after an eight-year saga of ongoing inquiries.

Mr Maxwell had argued that because he had been refused legal aid to appoint a solicitor while being questioned, he had no duty to agree to meet the investigators. As a result of this he was charged with contempt.

While yesterday's decision will not keep Mr Maxwell away from the investigators, it means they will have to inform him of their questions in advance and abide by other formalities.

Yesterday Vice-Chancellor Sir Richard Scott said that the potential burden the questioning could place on Mr Maxwell was "at risk of going beyond that which an unrepresented individual can reasonably be required to accept". Sir Richard said the inspectors - appointed by the Department of Trade and Industry - should keep their questions to a minimum and tell Mr Maxwell in advance what they wanted to ask him about.

If this was done, Mr Maxwell would have no further excuse for refusing to answer.

Later, Mr Maxwell, eldest son of the former owner of Mirror Group Newspapers, emerged from court saying he thought the decision was a victory for common sense. "Unless they change their procedures, there is no obligation on me to answer questions," he said. "I have always said I would answer if they created a set of fair procedures and a fair regime. Now the court has decided to protect me as an individual."

Two inspectors, Sir Roger Thomas and Raymond Turner, were appointed by the DTI in June 1992 to investigate the affairs of MGN, with particular regard to the pounds 500m flotation of the company in 1991.

The investigation was suspended when Mr Maxwell and others stood trial on charges brought by the Serious Fraud Office over his father's business dealings. It resumed after hewas acquitted on all counts.

A spokesman for the DTI said after yesterday's ruling that it was now hoping for a speedy conclusion to the investigation. "We are hopeful that this decision will have broken the impasse and that the inspectors will now be able to question Mr Maxwell," he said.