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Saturday, 14 September, 2002, 21:07 GMT 22:07 UK
Barrymore lawyer attacks tabloids
Michael Mansfield QC
Mansfield called for changes to press conduct
Michael Barrymore's lawyer has criticised the conduct of tabloid newspapers during the inquest into the death of a man at the entertainer's home.

A coroner on Friday returned an open verdict on the death of Stuart Lubbock, found floating in Michael Barrymore's pool in March last year.

Michael Mansfield QC accused sections of the press of misreporting the evidence presented at the hearing.

And he said the practice of cheque-book journalism ran the risk of prejudicing statements given by witnesses.


The tabloids have vast sums of money and resources, and I think they don't really care

Michael Mansfield QC
The lawyer has written to the Attorney General to protest about the way the inquest was reported.

He told BBC News "lurid and inaccurate headlines" could influence witnesses and had concerned the coroner.

Meanwhile, Mr Barrymore has denied an allegation by his former wife Cheryl Barrymore that he lied when he told the inquest he couldn't swim.

His solicitor, David Corker, said: "He cannot swim. He says he couldn't swim yesterday and he cannot swim today."

Essex police said the coroner would "consider whether or not there is anything arising from the inquest which she considers worthy of investigation".

Mr Mansfield said the biggest issue was the money paid to witnesses prior to a judicial hearing.

"One witness admitted he had been paid 30,000. It seems to me that the Attorney General or someone, certainly the government, has to get a grip on this situation."

'Self-regulation best'

Mr Mansfield said recent trials had been aborted or retried, costing millions of pounds, because tabloid newspapers published prejudicial material.

"Something has to change. I've been in the job for 30 years and it's worse now than it's ever been, because the tabloids have vast sums of money and resources, and I think they don't really care."

Michael Barrymore
The Barrymore inquest was followed closely
But Bob Satchwell, director of the Society of Editors, said the Lord Chancellor agreed that the best way to deal with the problem was through self-regulation.

Responding to Mr Mansfield's belief that the tabloids did not care about prejudice, Mr Satchwell said: "Nothing could be further from the truth."

And he added:"Editors take great care not to interfere with the administration of justice."

Without wanting to comment on the Lubbock case, Mr Satchwell said lawyers sometimes tried to protect their client by not revealing facts that could harm their interest.

He added: "The job of the media is to seek the facts.

"Journalists always strive to answer unanswered questions. That is their job. The public has a right to know."

Father-of-two Stuart Lubbock, 31, of Harlow, Essex, died after a party at Mr Barrymore's Roydon home on 31 March last year.

Essex and Thurrock coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray said a five-day inquest had been unable to say for definite what caused his death.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Nick Higham reports
"This was just the latest case to get saturation coverage"
See also:

13 Sep 02 | England
13 Sep 02 | Entertainment
13 Sep 02 | England
12 Sep 02 | England
12 Sep 02 | England
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