UK

Tim Yeo Loses Libel Case Against Sunday Times After Judge Says His Evidence Is False

25/11/2015 14:55 GMT | Updated 25/11/2015 14:59 GMT

A former Tory MP's attempt to defend himself in court has been called dishonest by a judge, who said he was "wriggling like a fish on a hook" while trying to deny he offered advocacy for cash.

Tim Yeo took legal action over articles in The Sunday Times, which followed a lunch with two journalists posing as representatives for a solar energy concern in the Far East.

The stories alleged that he was prepared to, and offered to, act in a way that was in breach of the Commons code of conduct by acting as a paid parliamentary advocate who would push for new laws to benefit the business of a client for a daily fee of £7,000 and approach ministers, civil servants and other MPs to promote a client's private agenda in return for cash.

They also contained comment to the effect that he had shown willing to abuse his position to further his own financial and business interests.

Mr Justice Warby dismissed Mr Yeo's case at London's High Court, saying the evidence he gave in his defence was "unreliable and untruthful".

The judge said Mr Yeo had twisted and turned in his attempt to escape the obvious, The Press Association reports.

tim yeo

Tim Yeo's evidence was described as 'utterly implausible' by the judge

"When a fish wriggles on a hook, it goes deeper into the mouth and guarantees that the fish will not escape," the judge said.

Times Newspapers said the June 2013 publications were true, fair comment and responsible journalism on matters of public interest.

Sunday Times editor Martin Ivens said: "This is a victory for investigative journalism. It vindicates the role of the press in exposing the clandestine advocacy by MPs for undisclosed interests."

He added: "The Sunday Times's Insight team has a long history of reporting on the conduct of politicians and is proud to have forced reform of standards in public life.

"This case has emphasised the essential role of newspapers in disclosing wrongdoing. It is good to see the courts recognise that journalism carried out in good faith is vital to a healthy democracy."

Mr Yeo, 70, represented South Suffolk for more than 30 years until the last election and was chairman of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee.

He was not in court to hear the judge say that some of his evidence was "utterly implausible" and he did not present "convincingly".

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The judge said he did not accept Mr Yeo's evidence that he had forgotten a reference in an email to a "generous remuneration package".

He said: "I accept that Mr Yeo is genuinely interested in green technology, and that he has given advice and help to some in this field without seeking or accepting any material reward.

"However, the May 13 email was short and clear. It was plainly suggesting a consultancy with generous remuneration. It is not credible that this was not present to Mr Yeo's mind at all.

"Experience suggests that in general those who are not interested in money tend not to get much. I can think of none who convincingly claim to have no interest in money, yet end up with an annual income in excess of £200,000.

"I do not consider that Mr Yeo is such a person. In my judgment this evidence was untrue. I am not persuaded that it was honest either."

He said Mr Yeo went to the meeting knowing that its purpose was to discuss the prospect of a consultancy, involving work for which the client was prepared to pay generously.

It was a preliminary meeting but the important point is what it was preliminary to, the judge said.

"To a man as intelligent as Mr Yeo that cannot have been in doubt. It was preliminary to a job, for payment," the judge said.