The Guardian’s in-house legal team went straight to Doughty Street last night to fend off the Attorney-General’s threat to gag the newspaper’s story on cash for honours affair.
Lawyer Nuala Cosgrove, soon to be The Guardian’s director of editorial legal services, and Andrew Nicol QC of Doughty Street successfully resisted Lord Goldsmith’s attempt to prevent the publication of the article.
The story in question was that detectives were investigating whether Lord Levy, the Labour party’s chief fundraiser, urged one of Tony Blair’s most senior aides Ruth Turner to shape the evidence she gave to Scotland Yard.
The Attorney-General’s lawyer Philip Havers QC of One Crown Office Row, instructed by the Treasury solicitors, called for a stop to the paper running the article.
Havers argued it similar to the BBC story which Mr Justice Wilkie gagged last Friday after representations by Andrew Caldecott QC and Manuel Barca of One Brick Court who were instructed by BBC’s head of litigation Sarah Jones.
Nicol, last night however, successfully argued to Lady Justice Swift that it would be unusual to allow an injunction to be granted when no charges had been brought.
He also pointed out that she could not allow an injunction unless satisfied that there was a substantial risk of serious prejudice to any future court case.
Lord Levy’s solicitor Neil O’May of Bindman & Partners earlier today issued a statement in relation to the content of The Guardian article and subsequently the BBC’s coverage after the broadcaster’s injunction was lifted at 2pm today (6 March).
The statement said that its client categorically denies any wrongdoing and that the media coverage said to be based on leaked material under consideration by the police, are “partial, contradictory, confused and inaccurate”.
It continued: “There has been a regular stream of leaks to the media during this year-long investigation, all of which have presented a prejudiced and distorted view. Cumulatively, these leaks and reports have created a climate which does not allow for any fair assessment of the investigation.”