Ofcom to investigate Sky News over email hacking


The broadcasting watchdog, Ofcom, is to investigate Sky News’s admission that it broke the law by hacking into the email account of the “canoe man” who faked his own death.

The  head of Sky News, John Ryley, told  the Leveson Inquiry yesterday that an assurance given by the broadcaster last year that there was  no wrongdoing  and that no-one at Sky News had engaged in illegal interception of communications was not true.

Mr Ryley said the statement, issued by a lawyer representing the broadcaster , was “very regrettable”.

The media regulator will now look at whether Sky News broke broadcasting rules which relate to privacy.

 The broadcasting code is specific on unwarranted infringements of privacy. A statement from the regulator said “Ofcom is investigating the fairness issues raised by Sky News’ statement that it had accessed, without prior authorisation, private email accounts during the course of its investigations. We will make the outcome known in due course.”

The inquiry heard yesterday that one of its reporters, Gerard Tubb, had hacked into emails belonging to the “canoe man” John Darwin.  The email hacking in 2008  had been given full approval by senior Sky News executives.

Although Darwin had already pleaded guilty to charges of deception and a passport offence following his faked death and fleeing to Panama, Mr Tubb learned that the prosecution lawyers would not be accessing email accounts belonging to Darwin and his wife Anne as part of their case.  Aware of Mr Tubb effectively taking on a quasi police role, Sky executives joked about him winning the “Queens Police Medal” and referring to him as “inspector”. The information Sky news obtained from the email hacking was passed to the police and was only broadcast after the trial had finished.

Mr Ryley also described a further case of illegal access by Mr Tubb which related to a woman, Lianne Smith,  who had killed her own children.  She was the partner of a suspected paedophile, Martin Smith, who was on the run from the law and living in Spain. Lianne Smith smothered her two children after the arrest of her partner.

Mr Ryley told the inquiry that Mr Tubb believed his investigations had thrown up failings by the care authorities centred on the couple’s daughter, Rebecca, who had already been the subject of a protection order. Mr Tubb was given permission to hack into the mother’s account by his boss, Simon Cole.  The green light for the hacking was delivered with the words “legitimate public interest. Good hunting.”

However the inquiry heard from Mr Ryley that Sky News did not find enough information to warrant criticism that the authorities had failed in the care of the daughter.

As the head of Sky News, Mr Ryley was direct in his apologies. He told the inquiry that Sky News had broken the criminal law and added it was “ highly unlikely “ that the news broadcaster – which is partly owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp empire – would ever authorise email hacking or other subterfuge in the future.

In mitigation, Mr Ryley said Sky news was a “non-stop” instant broadcaster. He said journalism was “at times a tough business and at times we need to shed light on wrong-doing”.

Following the evidence given to Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry into the ethics and practices of the press, a  spokeswoman for Sky News said “As the head of Sky News, John Ryley, said earlier this month, we stand by these actions as editorially justified. The Crown Prosecution service acknowledges that there are rare occasions where it is justified for a journalist to commit an offence in the public interest. The Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, told the Leveson Inquiry that ‘considerable public interest weight’ is given to journalistic conduct which discloses that a criminal offence has been committed and or concealed.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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