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Last Updated: Monday, 11 June 2007, 16:02 GMT 17:02 UK
MP sues paper for abuse 'libel'
Martyn Jones MP
Martyn Jones says the story has damaged his reputation
A Labour MP has begun a libel action against a Sunday newspaper which claimed he swore at a House of Commons security guard.

Martyn Jones, MP for Clwyd South, claims the Mail on Sunday article, published on 14 May 2006, was a "grotesque distortion of the truth".

Mr Jones is suing Associated Newspapers for damages for defamation at London's High Court.

The company denies defamation claiming the story is, in essence, true.

Mr Jones claimed that the story, published under the headline "Labour MP in foul-mouthed outburst at police guard" and followed up the next week, contained "at least a dozen untrue assertions".

This was a one-off incident - he recognised it, he regretted it and he apologised for it
Ronald Thwaites QC, representing Martyn Jones MP

The story reported that Mr Jones, who has been an MP for 20 years, had twice told a newly-recruited security guard, Christopher Ham, to "f*** off" after being asked to show his Commons security pass on 10 May, 2006.

Mr Jones, 60, claimed the article, by Mail on Sunday political editor Simon Walters, had damaged his reputation.

Ronald Thwaites QC, representing Mr Jones, began his case by outlining the MP's version of events to Mr Justice Eady and a jury.

He said that Mr Jones had worn a bow-tie to work every day for 15 years and was usually a recognisable figure to Commons security.

He said: "On the day in question, Mr Jones had walked into the House of Commons unimpeded and was on an escalator going to Portcullis House where he has his office when he was stopped there by a security guard carrying out random checks.

"Caught unawares, Mr Jones said: 'I'm Martyn Jones, an MP, you should know who MPs are'.

"Mr Jones then said something he regrets. "He said: 'I don't give a s*** who you are, you should know who MPs are'.

"He then produced his pass and went on his way. Shortly afterwards he found the guard and, regretting what he said, apologised to him.

"This was a one-off incident - he recognised it, he regretted it and he apologised for it. You would think that would be the end of it.

"If you tried to tell someone it in a pub they'd tell you to shut up. Its so boring it's not worth telling.

"So how do you spark interest? Someone in the Mail on Sunday spices it up, sexes it up and produces a grotesque distortion of the truth."

'Trivial incident'

Bernard Livesey QC, for Associated Newspapers, denied defamation and said that, in essence, its contents were true. Mr Livesey cross-examined Mr Jones, who denied using the word alleged by the Mail on Sunday.

But Mr Livesey argued that, even if the MP had not used the exact words alleged, the swearing that took place was sufficient to render the essence of the Mail on Sunday article true.

"When you said that, was that not abuse of him? Wasn't it belittling of him to put it in this particular way? Were you bullying him? Had you lost your rag?" the barrister asked.

"I didn't swear at him - I swore in front of him," replied Mr Jones.

"I wasn't abusing anybody or anything. I wasn't abusing him or his position.

"Maybe I shouldn't have said what I said in front of him, and that's why I apologised.

"From my point of view, it was a very trivial incident," the MP added. The case continues.

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