Alastair Mutch recalls working on Granada’s legal issues

Gradually, I moved on to the legal side if you like, which was fascinating. And I think my first case, as it were, was quite interesting. It concerned a local chap who lived in Chorlton, and there was a stream running through his garden, and quite a bit of land and he wanted to develop the land, which adjoined a school. He applied twice to the council, Manchester City Council, and twice he was refused. So he sold the house and moved on. The house was bought by a chap called Harold Tucker, who went on to be Lord Mayor of Manchester, Cecil Ellison, a well-known solicitor, and Tucker’s wife. They applied for planning permission, and lo, and behold, they got it, Tucker being on the Council, his wife being on the Schools Committee. So we suggested that perhaps, or it was Richard Bellfield on local programmes, suggested maybe there was a bit of naughtiness going on. So we put the programme out, and they duly sued us for libel.

It was a local programme, Granada Reports I guess. So we were sued, by both the former owner of the house and Granada. So we had two counsel; Richard Rampton, who was our regular man, and a young politician called Leon Brittan. And I have to say Brittan, at that point, that’s probably the most impressive brain I’ve ever met. Obviously I knew all about the case and had studied it endlessly. He’d probably only read the papers once, and you’d make a point, and he’d say, “Ah, yes. But if you turn to such a page, you’ll see that it says…” Yes. I mean, he just absorbed information, but I have to say that counsel said, “You’re not going to win this. You’ve got no evidence.” We said, “Well, you know, things speak for themselves”. Anyway, we kept at it, and in the end, they withdrew. So that was one up to Granada, which was good. But I remember going home and saying to my wife, “I’ve met the future Prime Minister.” He didn’t quite make it.

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