Site menu:

Site search

Get Updates

Enter your email address to hear about new posts. (You can view my privacy policy here.)


RSS Recent Posts

Archives (month)


Hasty Copper and the Paper with Secrets

I keep reading expressions of anger that the Metropolitan Police sought a court order under the Official Secrets Act to uncover the Guardian’s source behind the phone hacking story (here, here, here, here, and here, to name but a few). I’m not convinced.

The Guardian, we are told by these writers, are the good guys. It was their revelation that Milly Dowler’s phone had been hacked which made the public aware of what had been going on and led to so much that followed in the public interest. It is even suggested that it was the Guardian’s reporting which led to the arrests that followed under Operation Weeting.

Really? The Guardian’s story about Milly Dowler’s phone was published on 4 July 2011. Operation Weeting began nearly six months earlier.

Was the Guardian the means by which the police became aware that Milly Dowler’s phone had been hacked? Quite the opposite. It seems that what the Guardian published was either a leak from the police or, at best, from another source, but a leak, nonetheless, of information which the police were already in possession of.

So, if the Guardian’s revelations assisted the police with their investigation, how exactly?

There’s no doubt that the Guardian triggered the public revulsion at what had been happening at News of the World. But was anything gained by expediting our revulsion? And who is to decide when the time is right to make that information public? Is it really the Guardian?

The Leveson enquiry has begun some of its work ahead of the criminal investigation being completed because the public outrage demanded that something be done sooner rather than later. But Leveson won’t be able to complete his work until all the prosecutions (if there are to be any) have been concluded. If the Guardian’s source was the police themselves, it seems unlikely that the leak assisted the police with their investigation. The contrary is more likely: the Guardian’s disclosures may even have hampered the police.

See also:  You better (not) knock, knock, knock on wood

The Metropolitan Police Service has dropped its action against the Guardian because, so it seems, the law does not support the police’s position. Rightfully so. There are good reasons for allowing the press to protect their sources.

But this case doesn’t seem to be one of them.

Sign up for updates by Email, Twitter or RSS Feed.

Related articles on this website
What are the chances of being able to write a 2,000 page report on press regulation and walk away with all-party support (or even all-Party support)? Plainly, not very high. ...
Read the complete article
The European Court of Human Rights has decided today that police “kettling” of crowds – holding them within a police cordon for hours at a time – does not deprive ...
Read the complete article
It must be right that the police went looking for a young child when alerted by doctors that his life might be in danger. But when they found him, all ...
Read the complete article
Much has been written about the harrowing cross-examination of Milly Dowler’s family during the trial of Levi Bellfield. One of the strangest remarks was written by Peter Lodder QC, Chairman ...
Read the complete article
A couple of matters caught my attention this morning, from the world of journalism and coffee shops. Part 1 ... Friday the fifteenth The Daily Mail wants us to believe that an ...
Read the complete article
I’m not sure quite how to say this. So I’ll say it twice:Yesterday, a young graduate won her claim against the government’s back-to-work scheme. She argued that the regulations and ...
Read the complete article
The press are against statutory regulation of their activities. That is the message they have been sending to the Leveson Inquiry. But most people fear that, without a legislative underpinning, ...
Read the complete article
In an episode of The West Wing from 2002, the (fictional) US President. Jed Bartlet, prepares for a presidential debate by considering how he should answer a question designed to ...
Read the complete article
Leveson – Is the battle already lost?
Court takes a liberty with our freedom
The search for Ashya is over. Now we search for answers.
Justice under examination
Friday fiascos
Journalists in a tiz at Supreme Court’s win-win decision
Leveson could legislate for a non-statutory regulator
Victim statements: are they having the wrong impact?