Tulisa demands police investigation of ‘Fake Sheikh’ Mazher Mahmood after drugs trial collapses
Judge Alistair McCreath’s comments raise the prospect of Mahmood being investigated for perjury or perverting the course of justice
Tulisa Contostavlos, the singer and former judge on television show The X-Factor, has demanded a police investigation of the undercover reporter Mazher Mahmood after a judge sensationally ended a trial in which she was encouraged to obtain drugs for the so-called “Fake Sheikh”.
Mahmood, who works for the Sun on Sunday, has been suspended by his employer News UK, pending an internal investigation after a judge at Southwark Crown Court said there were “strong grounds for believing” that the journalist “told me lies when he gave evidence”.
Calling an end to the proceedings, Judge Alistair McCreath, who also suggested the reporter may have been “manipulating the evidence”, said: “It should not be forgotten that Mr Mahmood is: the sole progenitor of this case; the sole investigator; the sole prosecution witness.”
The judge’s comments raise the prospect of Mahmood being investigated for perjury or perverting the course of justice.
Video: The Independent's Adam Sherwin on the Tulisa trial
The case was based on a sting by The Sun on Sunday in which Contostavlos was approached by journalists posing as film producers and flown to Los Angeles and Las Vegas on the promise of a lead role in a film with Leonardo DiCaprio. The paper published its findings in a front page “World Exclusive” under the headline “Tulisa’s Cocaine Deal Shame” on 2 June.
“This case only happened because Mahmood and his team tricked me into believing I was auditioning for a major movie role,” said the singer in a statement.
“They targeted me at a time when things were going badly for me and they had no mercy. Mahmood got me and my team completely intoxicated and persuaded me to act the part of a bad, rough, ghetto girl. They recorded this and produced it as evidence when I thought it was an audition. It was a terrible thing to do.”
She called for police action against the journalist. “I urge both police and News UK to investigate Mazher Mahmood and his team and to put an end to his deceit in pursuit of sensational stories for commercial gain.”
Ms Contostavlos’s lawyer Ben Rose said the Crown Prosecution Service should not have brought the case. “I’m disappointed that they failed to listen to the many representations we made to them that this was not a proper use of the Criminal Justice System.”
The judge’s decision meant that her friend, the musician Michael Coombs, known as Mike GLC, was also cleared by the court despite having pleading guilty to supplying cocaine.
Contostavlos came to fame in the London group N-Dubz, which she formed with her cousin Dappy. Helped by her TV success, she signed a publishing deal in 2012 for an autobiography in which told how she was drugged and sexually abused when she was 16 and involved in a girl gang. She said she has not been able to work for a year because of the Sun on Sunday sting.
READ MORE: FAKE SHEIKH DENIES SPIKING TULISA'S DRINK
FAKE SHEIKH' GIVEN COURT PRIVACY BEHIND SCREEN
RAPPER MIKE GLC ADMITS TO SUPPLYING COCAINE
The damning criticism of the high-profile tabloid reporter’s behaviour in court could have repercussions for press regulation as the new Independent Press Standards Organisation, under former Appeal Court judge Sir Alan Moses, prepares to start operating in September.
Press reformers group seized on the collapsed trial to suggest that the newspaper publishers could not be trusted to set up their own regulatory system. Joan Smith, Hacked Off’s Executive Director, said: “What has happened in this case explodes the self-serving myth propagated by some in the press industry that, when the News of the World closed, newspaper malpractice was ended.”
The case collapsed on the basis of evidence provided on oath by Mahmood in June in relation to discussions the reporter may have had with his driver Alan Smith, who gave a police statement saying Ms Contostavlos had told him that a member of her family had a drug problem and she “disapproved of drugs”.
Mahmood told the judge he had no discussion with the driver about this.
But as the judge halted proceedings today he said: “When [Mahmood] gave evidence last week, he was asked questions on the same topic and gave answers which were entirely inconsistent with his earlier evidence.”
Discussing Mahmood’s behaviour, the judge said: “There are also strong grounds for believing that the underlying purpose of these lies was to conceal the fact that he had been manipulating the evidence in this case by getting Mr Smith to change his account.”
A spokesman for The Sun said: “We are very disappointed with this outcome, but do believe the original investigation was conducted within the bounds of the law and the industry's code. This was demonstrated by the CPS decision to prosecute. The Sun, of course, takes the judge’s remarks very seriously. Mr Mahmood has been suspended pending an immediate internal investigation.”
It is understood that there is at least one further case based on a Mahmood sting due to come before the courts. Mr Rose, of London solicitor Hickman & Rose, said he had already been contacted by several people who claim they were unfairly convicted on the basis of investigations by Mahmood.
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