Newspaper 'vindicated' by Mellor investigation: Editor in 'People' libel case says inquiry into possible breach of guidelines justifies articles about minister's holiday with PLO man's daughter

THE EDITOR of the People, when it reported David Mellor's holiday with the daughter of a leader of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, said the account had been vindicated by the news yesterday that the minister was being investigated for possible breaches of ministerial guidelines.

Richard Stott told a High Court libel trial he did not know when he published the story in August 1990 that the travelling expenses of the Secretary of State for National Heritage had been paid by his hostess, Mona Bauwens, 31. That fact emerged from her evidence on the first day of the trial. Yesterday's Independent revealed that Mr Mellor was being investigated to see if he should have declared the gift.

Mr Stott said: 'Stories like this can take a long long time to come to fruition. Quite by chance there is a major development today. For a minister to have his travelling expenses, and that of his family, paid for by somebody else certainly is something worth commenting on, particularly as ministers have a rule book whereby they have to declare any form of gift. Obviously it's done to protect the ministers from any suggestion of impropriety. We would obviously have asked, if we had known, whether Mr Mellor had declared that gift.'

Mr Stott was giving defence evidence for the People, which is fighting a libel action brought by Mrs Bauwens, a film producer and daughter of Jaweed al- Ghussein, over articles on a holiday she spent with Mr Mellor and his family at her rented Marbella villa in Spain at the time of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

She claims the People suggested she was a 'social leper' because of her father's PLO connections and was not fit to be seen with a government minister.

The newspaper denies libel, saying its story was justified and fair comment.

Mr Stott told the court that Mr Mellor's holiday clearly came within the public interest because he was with the daughter of a well-known member of the PLO at a time when Britain was facing the gravest crisis for many years.

Richard Hartley QC, for Mrs Bauwens, asked if Mr Stott's attitude had been that 'it was just too bad' if Mrs Bauwens was harmed by her inclusion. Mr Stott said: 'No, it's not . . . The fact is she was on holiday with him at a particularly sensitive time. You couldn't have done the story any other way. You couldn't put he was with a mystery woman. That would be ridiculous.'

He believed he had taken all the precautions he could to ensure that the story was not unfair to Mrs Bauwens.

'That was when our soldiers were going to be sent to the Gulf; when there were 4,000 British hostages held in Iraq by Saddam Hussein who had clearly shown that he would stop at nothing; when he had invaded Kuwait, and when the PLO, in the shape of Yasser Arafat, had supported that also.'

During questioning of Mr Stott about evidence relating to the friendship between the minister and Mrs Bauwens, the judge, Mr Justice Drake, said: 'I may just say the jurors may have thought there was a suggestion of a bit of hanky panky going on.'

George Carman QC, for the People, said: 'I did not suggest hanky panky, or anything more dignified.'

Mr Stott said: 'I am not suggesting it.'

Mr Stott was later asked by Mr Hartley about an editorial relating to the story. He said that, while it had been written by another member of staff, he had re-written it.

Mr Hartley asked who had written the original editorial.

Mr Stott: 'I don't remember.'

Mr Hartley: 'Not Mr Maxwell?'

'No.'

'He does write some editorials?' The court broke into laughter as Mr Stott replied: 'Not now he doesn't'

The case continues today, when the defence may call Mr Mellor.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
News
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
tech
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Science Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Bristol: Teacher of Science KS3-4 for fixed ter...

Teaching Assistants needed in Salford

£12000 - £14400 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Are you an...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments