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LONDON – The Leveson Inquiry was warned Tuesday that Hugh Grant has been “punished” by newspapers for his decision to speak out on Monday on press intrusion.
Barristers representing the Metropolitan Police and hacking victims have said that the actor’s treatment after giving evidence under oath would likely prove “intimidating” to other witnesses.
The warning came after Associated Newspapers – the publisher of the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday – responded to Grant’s allegation that his phone had been hacked by the Mail on Sunday by accusing him of lying under oath.
“Mr Grant’s allegations are mendacious smears driven by his hatred of the media,” the publisher said in a statement that went on to say it “utterly refutes” Grant’s claims that his phone had been hacked by the Mail on Sunday.
In response to an accusation that The Daily Mail had paid off a hospital source to secure information about the recent birth of his child, the paper said it “unequivocally denies” the charge.
But Robert Sherborne, the legal counsel representing the victims said the newspaper was using its power to bully the star of Four Weddings and A Funeral and Love Actually.
What was filed in the pages of the Daily Mail and the website was not a denial but a personal attack on Mr Grant as a witness…what they suggested is that he was deliberately lying….”mendacious means lying.”
The statement came after the actor accused the Mail on Sunday of hacking his phone in 2007 during his evidence session to the Leveson Inquiry on Monday in what proved an emotional and occasionally stormy evidence session.
“There is a difference between a right of reply and a right of attack – if those you have been brave enough to come and give evidence receive this kind of treatment then witnesses will be unwilling to be that brave any longer,” Sherborne added.
Metropolitan Police QC Neil Garman echoed the concerns said he was concerned that Grant’s treatment would impact on other witnesses due to give evidence at the Inquiry.
“Witnesses will be very cautious, we fear, if the likelihood is that they will face that kind of treatment the day after.
Jonathan Caplan QC, representing Associated Newspapers, said that the newspapers had made the statement “under pressure” to respond to allegations of serious criminal misconduct, which it refutes.
When asked about the personal nature of the attack on Grant, Caplan told Lord Justice Leveson:”I accept everything you say.”
The lawyers are expected to discuss ways to give relevant parties the right to reply during the hearing sessions.
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