Met drops legal fight to reveal Dowler sources


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The Metropolitan Police has postponed legal action against The Guardian after facing widespread criticism for what was deemed an attack on press freedom.

Scotland Yard had planned to use the Official Secrets Act at the Old Bailey on Friday to force the newspaper to reveal its sources in their investigations into phone hacking.

Two Guardian reporters were suspected of receiving leaks from police officers involved in Operation Weeting, the Met's probe into the News of the World's use of phone intercepts.

The attempt to force the paper to reveal its sources was condemned by the National Union of Journalists as "a very serious threat to journalists".

In a sign that the statement was a postponement, rather than a legal retreat, a Met spokesman said: "The CPS has today asked that more information be provided to its lawyers and for appropriate time to consider the matter. In addition the MPS has taken further legal advice this afternoon and as a result has decided not to pursue, at this time, the application for production orders scheduled for hearing on Friday 23 September. We have agreed with the CPS that we will work jointly with them in considering the next steps."

An officer working on Operation Weeting was arrested last month on suspicion of misconduct in public office relating to the unauthorised disclosure of information. He has been suspended and is on bail.

Scotland Yard said the probe into the alleged leaks had not concluded and stressed their investigation was "about establishing whether a police officer has leaked information and gathering any evidence that proves or disproves that". The spokesman added: "Despite recent media reports, there was no intention to target journalists or disregard journalists' obligations to protect their sources. It is not acceptable for police officers to leak information about any investigation, let alone one as sensitive and high profile as Operation Weeting."

The Met said the application for production orders – contrary to The Guardian's own reporting of the action – had been made under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act rather than the Official Secrets Act.

Civil rights and freedom of speech groups had condemned the request.