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Last Updated: Saturday, 14 June, 2003, 03:02 GMT 04:02 UK
Tabloid's tactics attacked by judges
Brian Harvey
A relieved Brian Harvey leaves court after being cleared
A renewed attack on the methods of the News of the World newspaper has been launched by judges, following the end of two high-profile cases.

The Sunday tabloid's owners were told they had received a "salutary lesson" after pop star Brian Harvey was cleared of drugs charges by Chelmsford Crown Court on Friday.

The case against the East 17 singer collapsed after the key witness - who had been paid 15,000 by the paper - refused to give evidence.

A second judge criticised the paper after he sentenced the woman who falsely accused Neil and Christine Hamilton of rape to three years in prison.

Nadine Milroy-Sloan had sold her story to the News of the World for 50,000, prompting the judge to say: "It is becoming all too easy for people to sell allegations about well-known people to the press."

The judges' warnings came less than two weeks after the trial of five men accused of plotting to kidnap pop star Victoria Beckham collapsed amid strong criticism of the paper.

The prosecution's key witness, convicted criminal Florim Gashi, was declared unreliable after the judge was told the News of the World had paid him 10,000 for his story.

On Monday MPs will discuss press intrusion, with the Commons Select Committee on Culture and Media set to recommend an end to self-regulation, according to the Independent.

'No evidence'

Brian Harvey, 27, was charged with supplying and possessing cocaine, following an investigation by the News of the World.

Nadine Milroy-Sloan

Appearing in court a year after his arrest, Mr Harvey was told by Judge Gareth Hawkesworth: "You leave this court without a stain on your character."

Not guilty verdicts were recorded after the prosecution's key witness, Kemal Zorba, refused to attend court to give any evidence.

Barry Gilbert, prosecuting, said: "Everything has been considered not the least of which was the position and attitude of the witness Zorba.

"The whole matter has been reviewed and the prosecution took the view that the right thing to do is offer no evidence against Mr Harvey."

'Disturbing'

The judge criticised the News of the World after being told Mr Zorba had left the country with the money it had paid him.

"May this be a salutary lesson to the proprietors of that newspaper," he said.

Stephen Ferguson, for Mr Harvey, said his client had been arrested 12-months ago solely because of the article in the News of the World.

He said: "We invite the Crown Prosecution Service locally and beyond to conduct a root and branch investigation into why this matter was prosecuted in the first place."

Outside court, Mr Harvey said: "I have maintained my innocence for the last 12 months and still do today."

The News of the World said the CPS decision to drop the case against Mr Harvey was "disturbing".

It said: "The News of the World is bewildered to have been blamed for the collapse of this trial when it is clear neither the CPS or the police were able to keep track of their own witness."

'Sensational'

After 29-year-old trainee lecturer Milroy-Sloan was sentenced at London's Middlesex Guildhall Crown Court for perverting the course of justice, the Hamilton's also criticised the paper's tactics.

Mr Hamilton called on the Press Complaints Commission to look at the issue of people being paid for stories containing sensational, but unproven, allegations.

He told the BBC he hoped the sentence would serve as a deterrent to anyone tempted to try to make money by inventing allegations and selling them to the tabloid press.

His wife Christine said: "She deliberately set out to tell lies about us and to cash in on it. She sold her invention to the newspapers."


SEE ALSO:
Beckham 'kidnap' case collapses
02 Jun 03  |  England
Paper defends 'kidnap' coverage
03 Jun 03  |  England


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