Mail's private eye 'may have used criminal methods'

Editor says paper hired convicted investigator hundreds of times to get personal information

Paul Dacre, the editor-in-chief of the Daily Mail, yesterday conceded that a private detective the paper commissioned hundreds of times may have been engaging in criminal activity.

Challenged at the Leveson Inquiry into media standards over the paper's prolonged use of Steve Whittamore to obtain personal information, Mr Dacre said: "There was a prima facie case that Whittamore could have been acting illegally." But he said there was no evidence that the newspaper's journalists had broken the law in commissioning the detective.

The editor had been invited by Lord Justice Leveson to consult a lawyer before responding to further questioning over the paper's use of Whittamore, who was convicted of data protection offences in 2005 after the Operation Motorman inquiry.

Lord Justice Leveson told the hearing he was not convinced that all the illicit searches were in the public interest: "It seems to me that it's extremely difficult to justify some of the requests that were made."

Robert Jay, QC, counsel to the Leveson Inquiry, told the hearing that the Motorman files showed that the Mail had paid £500 for the details of 10 "friends and family" numbers of the subject of one of its stories. Mr Dacre argued that such searches were necessary to "corroborate" news stories.

During three-and-a-half hours of evidence, Mr Dacre was forced to listen to repeated criticisms of his newspaper. He was most clearly offended when Mr Jay suggested that the Daily Mail had only campaigned for the family of the murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence because the victim's father had once done plastering work at the editor's house.

"Are you really telling me that I would risk going to jail, risk destroying my career, I would put my proprietor and my paper in that position, and that I couldn't take a principled stand against something I felt very strongly, and that was only because this man at some stage many years previously had done some plastering work for me?" Mr Dacre asked. "I really do find that insulting."

Angered by a line of questioning he at one point denounced as "preposterous", Mr Dacre was obliged to defend his paper and "a company I love" over repeated attacks on its journalistic standards. Answering criticisms of his columnist Jan Moir's piece on the death of the singer Stephen Gately, he said: "I think the piece, the column, could have benefited from a little judicious sub-editing." But he maintained that "there is not a homophobic bone in Jan Moir's body".

He also stood by his organisation for accusing Hugh Grant of a "mendacious smear" after the actor told Lord Justice Leveson that the Mail and the Mail on Sunday had been involved in phone hacking. "I have never placed a story in the Daily Mail as a result of phone hacking, that I know came from phone hacking," he said.

Earlier in his evidence, Mr Dacre called for a new system of accrediting journalists; he said they should run the risk of having their press cards removed in the way that doctors are subject to being struck off by the General Medical Council. "I do believe there is an opportunity to build on the existing haphazard press card system," he said. "There are 17 bodies at the moment providing these cards. By transforming it into an essential kitemark for ethical and proper journalism, the key would be to make the cards available only to members of print newsgathering organisations or magazines who have signed up to the new body and its code."

Mr Dacre suggested that journalists not carrying such a card would be barred from covering events such as key government briefings or interviews relating to sporting fixtures. "The public at large would know the journalists carrying such cards are bona fide operators, committed to a set of standards and a body to whom complaints can be made."

He also argued that there should be a new self-regulatory body, standing alongside the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), to deal with press standards.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Voices
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron appeal to the audience during the Question Time special
voices
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
News
Michelle Dockery plays Lady Mary in Downton Abbey
peopleBut who comes top of the wish list?
News
Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, right, with Lib Dem candidate Jane Dodds in Newtown, Powys, as part of her tour in support of the party’s female candidates
general electionNick Clegg's wife has impressed during the campaign
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Database Executive - Leading Events Marketing Company - London

£23000 - £25000 per annum + 25 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: Databas...

Recruitment Genius: Publishing Assistant

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for a...

Guru Careers: Graduate Account Executive / Digital Account Executive

£20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Digital Account Exec ...

Guru Careers: Print Project Manager

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: A Print Project Manager is needed to join one...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living