Wednesday, December 13, 2006

EXCLUSIVE: Press Stand Accused of Illegal Activity

Following up my story yesterday (HERE) on the scandalous conduct of many of our national newspapers and journalists I can now exclusively reveal the contents of a report to be submitted to Parliament tomorrow by the Information Commissioner, which outlines the extent to which our national newspapers - and their journalists - are breaking the law to obtain confidential information illegally.

1. Daily Mail - 952 incidents by 58 different journalists
2. Sunday People - 802 incidents by 50 different journalists
3. Daily Mirror - 681 incidents by 45 different journalists
4. Mail on Sunday - 266 incidents by 33 different journalists
5. News of the World - 182 different incidents by 19 different journalists

Yesterday on Lord it was revealed through a Freedom of Information request that 305 different journalists had been identified during Operation Motorman as using one particular agency to obtain confidential information like telephone records, bank account details and medical records.

I can reveal that following this FOI request from Lord Ashcroft the Information Commissioner has decided that the disclosure of further information is in the public interest and will now be submitting a special report to Parliament tomorrow.

From the 'league table' figures above it would seem that the Daily Mail and the Sunday People are the chief miscreants here. However, it's not quite so simple. Virtually all newspapers used the agency in Hampshire which was raided during Operation Motorman, but we all know there are other similar agencies. So this is clearly the one which was most used by the Mail, but there are no doubt others which its rivals use, possibly just as often.

There are several questions arising from this. If the authorities know the details of which newspapers use these agencies to break the law on their behalf, and if the agencies know which journalists have engaged their services, why are they not all joining News of the World reporter Clive Goodman in the dock this week? Goodman was caught out (and has pleaded guilty) intercepting mobile phone calls of the rich and famous, in particular the Royal Family.

So far as I am aware no charges have been laid against any newspaper or journalist. I am no lawyer and I do not know what the charges would be, but after the report is laid before Parliament tomorrow, do not be surprised if there are some fairly serious repercussions. After all, the Information Commissioner is pressing for a two year jail sentence for any journalist or editor caught soliciting illegal information of this sort.

To me this is a huge story, but for obvious reasons I do not expect to read about it in our national newspapers tomorrow. It is therefore important that the Blogosphere does a viral marketing job on this story and transmits it as widely as possible. Go to it!

UPDATE: The Telegraph are covering this story on their website HERE.


Man in a Shed said...

Done - have a few Technorati tags to be getting by with also BBC , Newsnight , Lord+Ashcroft as this should be a story ideal suited to the BBC - if they can't run with this then whats the point of them ?

Wrinkled Weasel said...

On the subject of illegal acitivity, a primary source told me that certain of the editors of these august rags spend their spare cash stuffing white powder up their noses, whilst at the same time "naming and shaming" celebs for the same offense.

Man in a Shed said...

The Telegraph looks like first in with a report here.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps, the Daily Mail will now refrain from calling law breakers nasty names?

towcestarian said...

The Telegraph have reported it today. Obviously a clear conscience - they are probably too mean to spend money on external investigators.

Anonymous said...

[Michael White, The Guardian]
'Fearful of what moneybags like Lord Ashcroft of Belize, the former party treasurer, can do by targetting cash into winnable seats for several years before polling day - he helped win a dozen or more of the Tories 36 gains last time and may be busy in your constituency now - Labour is threatening to legislate next spring to tighten local as well as national spending caps.'

Anonymous said...

'They don't like it up 'em !!..'

Anonymous said...

"If the authorities know the details of which newspapers use these agencies to break the law on their behalf, and if the agencies know which journalists have engaged their services, why are they not all joining News of the World reporter Clive Goodman in the dock this week?"

Perhaps because all newspapers have some highly sensitive info about our masters that they keep hidden from public view and plan to use it as insurance i.e. blackmail material should such an eventuality occur?

Anonymous said...

I may have the wrong end of the stick, but this isn't a full list. I trust that Thomas's list tomorrow is going to name all of them?

Anonymous said...

But how might this have affected the Jeffrey Archer/Monica Coughlan story ?

Obviously Archole won his libel case against the Daily Star - but if there was more intrusion on press freedom to report, the case might not even have come to court.

Anonymous said...

I thought Operation Motorman was the taking of the Free Derry No Go zone in the seventies- do the government reuse these names ? said...

This is a little off topic, but watching the news conference today regarding the murder of the five prostitutes... the line of questioning some of the press used was a disgrace. Trying to coax the police man into saying something he perhaps wouldn't have meant. They were obviously looking for a shocking headline or what not... It’s a shame that the media in this country feel the urge to work in such a way.

Anonymous said...

Done, I've also posted the story with links to this blog elsewhere.

Rachel said...



Anonymous said...

Quite apart from finally blowing the credibility of the fourth estate out of the water, this case has one other potentially important consequence.

Apparently (see Telegraph article) the Hampshire detective agency acquired a lot of its information from government sources (DVLA, health facilities, Police National Computer etc).

If this all comes out in court it's going to seriously damage the state's case for ID cards and the national identity database. Aren't they forever telling us that the personal information the register will hold will be carefully protected. I'd imagine the information on the Police National Computer would be pretty secure as well.

Stick with this one Iain I suspect it will be BIG. I promise to do my virus impression as soon as my computer returns from the hospital.

neil craig said...

Unfortunately since politicians can be made & broken by newspapers I doubt if many will be prepared to this as seriously as they would if this was, for example, members of the BNP breaking the law.

It is not a good thing for anybody to be above the law.

There have been a number of cases over the years of mail sent to houses with gangs of journalists hanging around outside going missing. I also remember the incident some years ago when the press were hounding some "new age" travellers & a journalist purported to dig up a gun buried close to them. It was quite obvious it had been planted & no charges were made aginst either travellers or journalist.

Anonymous said...

I have posted about this in a privacy and civil liberties blog I am starting up, here.

In particular, the post notes the NUJ's contradiction between condoning this invasion of privacy while also opposing the NIR by joining NO2ID.