Ah, Mazher Mahmood. Time was all we had to identify him were a couple of grainy photos filched from an Albanian newspaper website, obtained by them from who knows where and which also soon disappeared down the memory hole thanks to "Maz's" ever busy legal beavers. It took a long damn time, but the collapse of the Tulisa Constovalos drug trial finally prompted a media organisation to challenge Mahmood's claims his life would be put in danger should his true countenance be widely publicised. The last time Maz tried and failed to prevent the media publishing his fizzog, winning a temporary injunction against among others, this blog, only the Graun went ahead and did so anyway.
Panorama and John Sweeney are thankfully more indefatigable beasts. Twice Mahmood's lawyers forced the BBC to postpone the broadcast, first with the renewed claim he couldn't possibly be unmasked lest those he exposed come after him, always a risible argument considering his victims know his face all too well, and then after that failed with a challenge over the evidence involving John Bryan's procuring, or rather non-procurement of prostitutes. With this last desperate attempt rejected, BBC1 was at last able to show the documentary last night.
And while for those of us who've followed Mahmood's activities down the years there was little we didn't already know included, the exception being the claims of Mahmood's links to corrupt Met officers, you can more than understand why he and News UK tried everything to stop it from airing. Apart from identifying Mahmood, his methods were laid bare, vignettes taken from the secret recordings made by his team which he and the News of the World never wanted you to see. John Alford declaring himself teetotal, with Mahmood then urging him to drink anyway, page 3 model Emma Morgan given cocaine by the person she was then entrapped into "buying" it from to supply to Mahmood, Constovalos made to believe she was being considered for a role in a Hollywood film alongside Leonardo DiCaprio as she was the obvious choice to play a "bad girl"; whoever the source was for the material, and the guess would have to be it came from within News UK, it showed Mahmood in just about the worst possible light.
As contemptible as Mahmood is, this was never about just him. Mahmood could only work as he did for so long with the support of first the News of the Screws, and then following its sad demise, the Sun on Sunday. It should be stressed that on occasion, Mahmood's entrapment tactics produced important, genuinely in the public interest stories, such as the corruption he uncovered involving the Pakistani cricket team. Those kind of targets didn't satisfy either him or his editors though, nor one could say did they NotW readers. No, instead they had to stitch up foolish but otherwise decent people somewhat in the public eye, such as Emma Morgan, Johnnie Walker or the Earl of Hardwicke. At his very worst, he and his team concocted entire fictional plots, whether it be the one to kidnap Victoria Beckham, with the trial of those accused collapsing when it become public Mahmood had paid the man who "informed" him of the nefarious deal, or the "red mercury" plot, with those entrapped thankfully found not guilty.
Yet despite these failures, both the police and the Crown Prosecution Service continued to work with him, going ahead with cases such as the one involving Constolvalos when it was an obvious example of entrapment. They carried on doing so even after the Screws was put out of its misery, and as we now know, 3 further cases have been dropped as Mahmood was to be the key witness. It's possible other previous cases could now be the subject of appeal, especially if Mahmood is charged with perjury and attempting to pervert the course of justice over the collapse of the Constolvalos trial as many expect.
Indeed, as Roy Greenslade writes, this level of protection seems to be continuing, as the attorney general asked the BBC not to screen the docu. Presumably on the basis it could make it more difficult for Mahmood to get a fair trial should he be charged, the real objection is more likely "Maz" and his editors still have friends in high places. Why else would News UK still be providing Mahmood with their largesse for vexatious litigation when he is supposedly on suspension, unless they still have a glimmer of hope that he could still return?
Regardless of that wishful thinking, Mahmood is finished. The real motivation behind his attempts to stop Panorama was not over his safety, but his ability to carry on as before. His methods detailed, his visage shown, few will now make the mistake of being drawn in by the image and boasts of a serial offender. And with him, hopefully, also ends another disgraceful period in British journalism.