LETTER: When one must sue `Scallywag'

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The Independent Online
From Dr Julian Lewis

Sir: Last November, Scallywag magazine published an article which accused me of blackmail, criminality and sexual deviation. Its contents were directly defamatory of me and, I believe, indirectly defamatory of Tony Blair.

Now its author, Angus James - his nom de plume for Angus James Wilson - claims that the article was "simply maintaining that [I] was masterminding a covert information-gathering operation aimed at unseating various front- bench opposition MPs" (Another View, 15 February). If that were so, I would not dream of instituting libel proceedings.

Mr James complains that no writ has yet been served. There is a simple explanation, as he knows full well: Scallywag and its two editors constantly proclaim that they are financially destitute. This means that anyone suing them could never recover the enormous costs incurred in taking them to court and obtaining a judgment against them. As Mr James's step-brother and co-editor, Simon Regan, has declared in the Guardian (14 May): "At the moment, all someone could do is bankrupt us personally... there's no way we've got enough [money] to spare for a big legal battle."

Consequently, if I am to clear my name without going bankrupt when I win, I have to take action against only those involved in the Scallywag operation who can afford to pay my costs. It has taken months to find out who several of these firms are, because Scallywag seeks to cloak its affairs behind a network of worthless shell companies, while concealing the identities of the real printers and distributors.

Characteristically, Angus James likens me to a "Fhrer" or a "stormtrooper" for taking action against them. As it is no secret that most of my family were murdered by the Nazis, I suppose that Scallywag sees this sort of abuse as appropriately "impish" satire.

Yours faithfully,

JULIAN LEWIS

Deputy Director

Conservative Research

Department

London, SW1

15 February

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