Hundreds of journalists 'allowed to escape trial'
James Cusick is political correspondent of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday. As an experienced member of the lobby, he has previously worked at The Sunday Times and the BBC. His career as a journalist has been split between print and television, including senior positions as producer with Sir David Frost and at BBC Newsnight. He is also an award-winning golf and travel writer, working for over a decade as the UK contributing editor for one of the USA’s leading golf magazines. He broadcasts regularly for the BBC and CNN. He lives in London.
Saturday 10 December 2011
The former head of the organisation responsible for data protection was accused yesterday of avoiding the prosecution of hundreds of journalists involved in illegally paying private investigators for personal information by putting the matter "on ice if not in perma-frost".
Robert Jay QC, counsel to the Leveson Inquiry, told the former Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, that by targeting private investigators in a trade that netted the firm at the centre of the commission's investigation a potential £500,000, he missed the "spider's web" of journalists.
Despite a report published by the Information Commissioner's Office in 2006, which detailed thousands of data transactions and 305 different journalists involved in illegally using the services of a private investigator, Steve Whittamore, to obtain personal information and numbers, no journalist has been prosecuted.
Mr Jay repeatedly asked the former commissioner if the decision to avoid chasing the press was either a "policy decision" or basic "incompetence". Mr Thomas denied backing off from prosecuting journalists during Operation Motorman in 2003 – the probe which uncovered almost industry-wide use of Whittamore's firm.
An ICO investigation found Whittamore was the national press's go-to man for private numbers, ex-directory details, vehicle registrations and the numbers of friends and family' from confidential telephone lists.
Though Mr Thomas eventually agreed it was "theoretical, but not a dead possibility" that journalists may have been prosecuted following a raid on Whittamore's Hampshire offices, Mr Jay told the inquiry it was "as dead as it could possibly be".
Having blamed cost and logistics for not going after reporters and editors, Mr Thomas later said he was "glad he had not prosecuted journalists" because the impact on his office would have been "huge".
Purity balls: Girls in the US making virginity pledges as fathers vow to 'protect purity'
Puerto Rico, island of lost dreams: People are leaving the debt-hit territory in droves as near neighbour Cuba's star rises
Female Muay Thai champion hustles coaches to give them a beating
16-year-old girl beaten and burned alive by lynch mob in Rio Bravo, Guatemala
Warren Buffett thinks the poor should stop blaming inequality on the rich
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
Report finds that Britain's wages are the most unequal in Europe
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
Gay marriage 'Bert and Ernie' cake bakery found guilty of discrimination in Northern Ireland
- 1 New Zealand 'the best country to work as a prostitute', says sex worker advocacy group
- 2 Purity balls: Girls in the US making virginity pledges as fathers vow to 'protect purity'
- 3 Mother 'will allow son's circumcision in return for release from prison'
- 4 Puerto Rico, island of lost dreams: People are leaving the debt-hit territory in droves as near neighbour Cuba's star rises
- 5 Female Muay Thai champion hustles coaches to give them a beating