in the back
Issue 1242
DESPITE having no influence whatever over what his newspapers print, the proprietor of the Daily Express and Daily Star, Richard “Dirty” Desmond, must have been delighted by their assiduous coverage of his recent libel battle with the author Tom Bower before Mr Justice Eady.

“Richard Desmond was last night proud to have ‘set the record straight’ in a high court battle over claims he abused his position,” the Star told its readers. The Express also skipped nimbly over the small embarrassment of Desmond’s humiliating defeat (and likely £1.25m costs bill), presenting the outcome as a veritable triumph for its owner.

Dirty Des must have been pretty pleased too with the coverage in the Daily Telegraph. Having previously ignored the trial altogether, on the day after the verdict it ran a report by Andrew Pierce (who hadn’t been in court once) which gave such disproportionate space to Desmond’s comments one might almost think he had won, or at least forced a draw. But then thirsty Telegraph supremo Will Lewis is an old friend and admirer of Dirty Des – and dined with him during the trial.

A ‘mutant smut and defamation company’
Desmond hasn’t always been on such openly friendly terms with the Telegraph of course. Back in 2003, for example, when its former proprietor Conrad Black was suing the Sunday Express for saying that his business was on the skids, Dirty Des countersued over Black’s remark, reported in the Telegraph, that the Express was “published by a mutant smut and defamation company, run by a pornographer and a couple of ex-convicts”.

Naturally Desmond couldn’t sue over the p-word, since he was and is a pornographer; but, as he told the jury during his recent libel action in the high court, he had been grievously offended by the “very damaging” suggestion that he would ever consort with convicts.

With friends like these…
So whom did Desmond call as witnesses to help furnish and burnish his reputation in the recent Bower case? Aside from two paid lackeys (his finance director and the current Sunday Express editor), there were three.

Dirty Des himself was the main attraction; then came financial hack Anil Bhoyrul, who in 2006 was sentenced to 180 hours of community service for conspiracy to breach the financial services act; and finally Lord Black of Crossharbour, whose evidence came in the form of an emailed statement because “he is overseas”, as the court document charmingly put it.

In short: a pornographer and a couple of convicts!

* Desmond decked and Eady rapped: To read the full court report of Desmond v. Bower, buy the latest issue of Private Eye – out now.

More top stories in the latest issue:

Amid much mud-slinging as a former friend sues the property-developer Candy brothers, more light is thrown on Nick and Christian’s improbable tax set-up.

People with dementia and learning difficulties are being detained improperly because deprivation of liberty safeguards (DoLS) are in crisis, says the Law Commission.

The growing row over bilingual education in Wales now spreads to Brecon High School in Powys.

Education secretary Justine Greening is pushing schools into multi-academy trusts (MATs) even though MPs say there is no proof this will do any good.

A vulnerable inmate at a jail in Kent hanged himself after prison staff ignored his pleas to be moved to safety after he received repeated death threats.

UK Export Finance is still in danger of using British taxpayers’ cash to guarantee exports on which dodgy commissions have been paid.

Brilliant Capita dreams up a new ruse to put unpaid and untrained supervisors in charge of classrooms. What can go wrong?

To read more from issue 1242 you can order a copy from our archive of back issues here. For all the latest news you can subscribe here and have the magazine delivered to your home every fortnight.

Next issue on sale: 4th April 2017.
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- Street of Shame: St George lowers the Standard (again)
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Private Eye Issue 1439