At the height of the phone-hacking scandal, backbench Tory MP Dominic Raab took to the Huffington Post to pen a passionate defence of the freedom of the press:
“Above all, we need to preserve the rule of law, hold those in authority to account and defend free speech… the Press Complaints Commission has been discredited. A stronger mechanism of oversight, at arms-length from politicians and the media, is needed. But, that is not the same as calling for tighter legal restrictions on reporters.”
Given his clearly deep rooted convictions about the ability to scrutinise those in power, you might well ask why Raab is trying to gag a former colleague in the High Court under the guise of suing the Mail on Sunday for libel.
In Court 14 last Thursday, Raab’s lawyers pleaded to Justice Tugendhat that the now MP’s former colleague in the office of David Davis, who can only be named as “Miss E”, should be gagged and banned from passing a Witness Statement about his behaviour, produced for her Industrial Tribunal, to Associated Newspapers. The Mail on Sunday ran a story last year that Raab had been accused of being a “sexist bully” by “Miss E”, resulting in a £20,000 settlement paid to her and a confidentially agreement before an Employment Tribunal hearing in 2007. Ever since then Raab has been on the warpath; he is suing Associated for damages, but crucially he is trying to silence the one person who could determine whether the original story is true. By gagging “Miss E” Raab is essentially preventing the libel aspect of his claim being fairly judged on the evidence of her Witness Statement.
The whole thing smells rather fishy, not least the part about needing the gag because of the “huge emotional hurt” that the black-belt wearing Karate champion and boxing MP says he is going through. Raab’s lawyers claimed that if “Miss E” speaks then the original confidentiality agreement between Davis, Raab and her is null and void so she will have to pay back the money. Her lawyers cited “increasingly threatening emails” in court.
Such is the sensitivity around it all that Guido had to go down to the Royal Courts of Justice himself to get his own Court Order last Thursday in order to get third party access to the papers relating to the case. Justice Tugendhat has reserved judgement to a later date…
Such is the sorry state of the freedom of the press nowadays that the newspapers are cowed by politicians from reporting their murky goings on for fear of statutory repercussions. Guido is still not able to tell you what he was going to tell Lord Justice Leveson in his own evidence to the inquiry because he has been restricted by him from saying what an ass Leveson had made of himself…