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30 Nov 2015

Robert Brown comments on potential consequences of judge comments in libel case involving Yeo in The Sunday Times

Yeo risks Yard inquiry into ‘untruthful’ libel evidence

There is an irony that, although politicians write the law, some think themselves above it. This weekend the former MP and minister Tim Yeo, 70, faces ignominy after being found to have given untruthful evidence on oath in a libel trial.

Prompted by a complaint from a member of the public, police are looking into whether Yeo — like another former Conservative minister, Jonathan Aitken, and the former Tory deputy chairman Lord Archer — committed perjury while attempting to win substantial amounts of money in a defamation action.

In his judgment, Warby noted: “He took on an air of exasperation if not anger, which struck me as created or at least exaggerated for effect.

“This in my view was a deliberate use of a hot- tempered counter-attack as a diversionary tactic. Overall, I did not find that Mr Yeo presented convincingly.”

The judge found Yeo’s claims that he had forgotten he was attending the lunch to discuss a remunerated job as “untrue”.

Similarly, Yeo’s evidence that he did not realise he was being asked to lobby government was deemed “unreliable and untruthful” by the judge.

He found Yeo was prepared and willing “to act as a parliamentary advocate who would push for new laws to benefit the business of CGG’s [the reporters’ fake company] client, and approach ministers and civil servants to benefit that business.”

He went on: “He was prepared to do these things as part of a paid consultancy role, for which he was willing to accept £7,000 a day or more, if he felt it was justified and could negotiate it.

“His expressions of willingness reflected a preparedness to do things which, if they had been done, would clearly have involved breaches of the code.”

Robert Brown, a criminal lawyer from Corker Binning, said the judge’s comments might initiate an inquiry but police would have to gather their own evidence.

Brown said: “Although the judge’s comments should not be taken as meaning that someone is guilty of a criminal offence, the fact that a senior judge has gone out of his way to give this opinion suggests that it might be matter that the Crown Prosecution Service or the police ought to look into.”

Read the full article on The Sunday Times here.