Regular readers will know it takes a lot to stagger me. Cynicism comes easily, because it is so easy. Think the worst, and then you won't be let down come the inevitable. There are no heroes only humans, and we are flawed flesh and bone, all with our own prejudices, failings and traits.
Sometimes though you still can't help but be blown away by just how unbelievably stupid supposedly intelligent people are. In fact, in this instance stupid doesn't cover it. The only word that even comes close to accurately describing the Crown Prosecution Service's original decision to prosecute Tulisa Contostavlos is fuckwitted. A lawyer earning no doubt good money looked at the "investigation" carried out by this blog's favourite journalist, hopefully soon to be ex-journalist Mazher Mahmood, and felt, yeah, this isn't the most obvious example I've ever seen of entrapment, and told the CPS there was a realistic chance of conviction. The CPS then reviewed his decision, and went along with it. Then the judge, despite the defence making what has to be one of the most compelling applications for the case to be thrown out on the grounds Mahmood is a lying sack of shit, allowed it to proceed.
Only for Alistair McCreath to days later discharge the jury and find Contostavlos and her friend, Michael Coombs, who had already admitted supplying the cocaine after Mahmood asked Contostavlos to get some for him, not guilty. Why? Because Mahmood it seems put pressure on his driver, Alan Smith, to change his statement, having first told the police Contostavlos had spoken of her opposition to drugs as a family member was an addict as the pair talked in his car. At the legal arguments pre-trial Mahmood denied he spoke to the Smith at all, only for Contostavlos's QC, Jeremy Dein, to winkle the truth out of Mahmood under cross-examination last week. He had indeed discussed the statement with Smith, he just didn't have anything to do with him altering it.
Even now I can't begin to get my head round how Mahmood's latest and clearly for him most disastrous entrapping of a celebrity got to the point of being put before a jury. Back in June last year the People, whether through speaking to Contostavlos and/or her management or a disgruntled source at the Sun wrote up an almost completely accurate blow-by-blow account of how the former X-Factor judge was enticed by Mahmood, although it didn't explicitly state her arrest and the "hoax" were connected. They flew her to Las Vegas (either in first class or by private jet, according to whether you believe Mahmood or the People), telling her she was going to star in a Slumdog Millionaire-type film as a "bad girl" making the journey from London to India, possibly alongside Leonardo DiCaprio. As in previous stings, Contostavlos was plied with alcohol, her defence going so far as to say her drink was spiked on one occasion, before Mahmood then sprang the trap. Desperate to get the part, having been told Keira Knightley was also being considered for the role, she arranged for Coombs to supply Mahmood with his requested "white sweets".
Regardless of what you think about subterfuge by journalists, and the PCC code makes clear it can only be justified in the public interest, the person in this instance commissioning a crime is the hack, not the celebrity. Not only that, unlike in other instances where those involved step back at the last minute, the evidence their target is willing to go along with their request acquired, Mahmood's drug stings have nearly always involved the actual supply of the banned substance. By accepting such a level of skulduggery was permissible, despite the relatively slight nature of the offences committed, both the police and the CPS became complicit in Mahmood's abuse of power, not to forget lies. Nor is this anything like the first time they've been embarrassed by Mahmood's mendacity and the Murdoch tabloid stable's hyperbolics: the Victoria Beckham "kidnap plot" trial collapsed after it emerged the key witness had been paid, while the "red mercury" case ended with all the defendants acquitted.
Indeed, yet again the court system gave in to Mahmood's bullshit, the myth of the man as tabloid investigator extraordinaire. He gave his evidence from behind a screen, to both protect him from enemies and so as not to give away his identity to those he might yet seek to stitch up. No matter that his visage has been available online for years now, or that, err, his victims know all too well what he looks like. Also irrelevant is just how petty and cliche the drug dealer expose is; it's one thing to try and show corruption in sport, although Mahmood failed to do even that with John Higgins, it's another to get a pop star to show they know someone who can get drugs. I mean, who knew they got up to such things? It's not as though most of us have acquaintances whom dabble in illicit substances, and if tempted in the same way as Contostavlos was could just as easily find ourselves helping out a new VIP friend, clearly we're meant to regard this as a terrible indictment of the morals of our heroes. What will the kids who look up to her think? Nor do certain sections of the media encourage ambition and aspiration whatever the cost, oh no.
As well as being suspended by the Sun, Mahmood now faces the possibility of a perjury charge, another former News of the Screws hack accused of lying under oath. This entire affair also gives the lie to the idea Leveson changed anything: still a Murdoch paper was prepared to do whatever it took just to catch out a jumped-up celeb. How delicious then that someone like Tulisa (and admittedly her legal team) should be the one to finally pin the fake sheikh down. This time, surely, there can be no way back for Mazher Mahmood.
Labels: abuses by tabloids, Crown Prosecution Service, dark arts, entrapment, Mazher Mahmood, media analysis, media coverage, News of the World, Scum-watch, Sun on Sunday, Sun-watch, tabloid analysis, Tulisa Contostavlos