The blogging police detective whose identity was exposed after a journalist from The Times hacked into his email account is suing Times Newspapers for damages.
Richard Horton, a Lancashire detective constable and author of the blog Night Jack – an English Detective, is seeking aggravated and exemplary damages for breach of confidence, misuse of private information and deceit. He is being represented by Taylor Hampton, the legal firm which has represented many victims in phone-hacking claims against Rupert Murdoch's News International.
The legal action follows evidence heard at the Leveson inquiry into media standards, where The Times was compelled to submit details of its internal correspondence on the matter. Those emails, which acknowledged that the hacking could be in breach of the Computer Misuse Act 1990 for which there is no public interest defence, showed that The Times identified Horton by accessing his email account. But the newspaper told a High Court judge that it obtained the information by a legal "process of deduction and elimination". The court refused Horton an injunction that would have protected his identity.
In his evidence to Leveson, James Harding, the editor of The Times, denied that he had read the internal correspondence which described how Horton's name had been obtained. He said: "I can see now that we gave insufficient consideration to the fact of the unauthorised email access in deciding whether or not to publish."
After he was outed, Horton was made the subject of an internal investigation by Lancashire Police which issued a statement saying that the officer accepted that "parts of his public commentary have fallen short of the standards of professional behaviour we expect of our police officers".
Within the blogging community, Horton's treatment by The Times caused outrage. The quality of his writing had won him the Orwell Prize in 2009. Horton was not the only police blogger but he wrote with rare eloquence on the experience of policing broken estates.
When he won the prize his anonymity prevented him from collecting it in person. But Patrick Foster, then media correspondent of The Times, determined to unmask him and hacked into the Night Jack hotmail account that Horton had posted for followers of his blog. When the newspaper confronted the detective, Horton made his failed legal attempt to block publication. His exposure meant the end of Night Jack.
At his inquiry last month, Lord Justice Leveson described The Times' account as "misleading".