Sunday 20 August 2017

Use of entrapment may be facing increased scrutiny, but it is here to stay

'Mahmood was convicted of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice for tampering with evidence in relation to the prosecution of Tulisa Contostavlos.' Photo: Getty Images
'Mahmood was convicted of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice for tampering with evidence in relation to the prosecution of Tulisa Contostavlos.' Photo: Getty Images

James McDermott

There is only one thing worse than a Fake Sheikh - and that is a fake Fake Sheikh. The recent conviction of undercover journalist Mazher Mahmood, the self-styled 'Fake Sheikh' and 'King of the Sting', has once again highlighted the dangers that arise when entrapment is used.

So-called entrapment has become a staple part of investigative journalism. Recent examples include 'Prime Time Investigates' testing the honesty of local politicians, and the downfall of England manager Sam Allardyce in a 'Daily Telegraph' sting. Often targets protest that their privacy has been interfered with and they have been tricked into doing something they would not normally do. The conviction of the Fake Sheikh has given rise to another potential problem for journalists to worry about, which is the integrity of the person who is actually conducting the sting.

Mahmood was convicted of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice for tampering with evidence in relation to the prosecution of Tulisa Contostavlos. The former pop star was approached by Mahmood, who was posing as a Bollywood film producer. It was later claimed Tulisa arranged for one of her associates to sell Mahmood cocaine and she was subsequently charged with being involved in the supply of a class-A drug. Her trial collapsed when it was discovered Mahmood's driver altered his original police statement to remove comments Tulisa made to him expressing disapproval of hard drugs because a family member had a problem with them.

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