The New European newspaper is planning to sue Baroness Michelle Mone in a bid to recover money spent responding to her legal “threats” over its reporting of her involvement in a PPE procurement scandal.
The weekly publication said it was working with the legal campaign group, Good Law Project, had instructed lawyers, and expected to begin its case against the former Tory peer early in the new year.
In a story on its website on Wednesday, the publisher said: “An action of this sort is highly unusual but The New European and Good Law Project believe it is necessary to put those making baseless defamation claims at risk.
“High net-worth individuals cannot be given a free hit against media organisations or campaigners to silence their reporting.”
The planned legal action follows reporting over PPE Medpro, a firm that allegedly supplied faulty personal protective equipment to the NHS during the pandemic after Lady Mone recommended it to ministers.
Lady Mone has admitted she lied when she denied having connections to the company, a consortium led by her husband, Doug Barrowman, which was awarded contracts worth more than £200 million to supply gowns and face masks.
She stands to benefit from its £60m in profits that have been placed into a trust by her husband.
The New European said it believed other publications and freelance reporters “have also spent time, money or both dealing with defamation threats connected to their reporting of PPE Medpro”.
It added: “The case will seek to establish whether there is a legal mechanism to recover those costs where deceit is proven.”
On Tuesday, The Guardian reported that Jonathan Coad, a media lawyer who represented Lady Mone, said he offered an “unqualified apology” when he had “unintentionally misled” the newspaper by stating she was not connected to PPE Medpro.
Matt Kelly, editor-in-chief of The New European, said: “We were forced to spend several thousand pounds of costs in legal fees responding to her mendacious threats. We want our money back.
“More than that, we want to establish a future deterrent against wealthy individuals willing to lie to stymie honest reporting.
“We look forward to seeing Mone in court in the new year.”
Jolyon Maugham KC, founder and director of Good Law Project, said: “The law must not allow itself to become a tool whereby those with money can bully and silence those with none.
“We aim to create further jeopardy for those who engage in these kinds of egregious breaches.”
A statement provided by Lady Mone’s private office said: “The New European published inaccurate and untrue stories about Baroness Mone.
“It is now laughable that they want to sue her; this is nothing more than a shallow attempt to generate their own publicity and fuel a media furore in a pathetic attempt to boost their poor readership numbers.
“Baroness Mone’s legal team are looking forward to receiving their letter and will seek back from them all legal costs wasted in responding.”
Lady Mone has said ministers knew about her involvement with PPE Medpro “from the very beginning”.
She also accused Cabinet minister Michael Gove of overseeing “huge waste in PPE contracts” as she hit out against the Government earlier this week.
The National Crime Agency is investigating suspected criminal offences in the procurement of contracts by PPE Medpro.
Lady Mone recently told a YouTube documentary that she and her husband would both be cleared, arguing they have “done nothing wrong”.
The film, part of a public fightback, was funded by PPE Medpro.
Last December, the Government issued breach of contract proceedings against the firm over the 2020 deal on the supply of sterile gowns.
The firm is defending the legal action.
Lady Mone, who was made a Conservative peer by David Cameron in 2015, has been on a leave of absence from the Lords and therefore without the Tory whip since December 2022.
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