Publication of Motorman files could go ahead

Database of Fleet Street deals with investigator may be as damaging as hacking scandal

The full details of the 2003 "Operation Motorman" inquiry into Fleet Street's widespread use of a private investigator could be published following a request from the Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham.

In a proactive move that would sideline the current restrictions of the Data Protection Act, Mr Graham wants the courts to give his office the legal green light to publish files it has held for almost nine years on Steve Whittamore.

The private investigator was regularly commissioned by national newspapers between 1995 and 2003 to access personal information that included private addresses, phone numbers and car licence plate details.

Professor Brian Cathcart, co-founder of the Hacked Off pressure group, is among those who believe that publishing the full Motorman database can match the revelations of press abuse revealed by the phone hacking scandal at the News of the World.

Notebooks taken from Whittamore's office as part of a police investigation contained the names of more than 300 journalists and 4,000 people targeted in often illegal commissions. Though the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) published two reports in 2006 based on the files, it has never publicly identified the journalists named in Whittamore's files, nor revealed the names of the individuals targeted.

The Motorman files have also been examined by the Leveson Inquiry. Although there have been discussions on opening Whittamore's commissions to full public scrutiny, inquiry sources have argued that ownership of the files is part of Mr Graham's domain.

Pressure to end the legal stand-off between Lord Justice Leveson and the ICO increased substantially after Paul Staines, who blogs under the name of Guido Fawkes, published a redacted selection of the Motorman files late on Monday night. The blog's contents were restricted to Whittamore's blue notebook that itemises commissions taken from News International titles.

Although Mr Staines claims to hold all the Motorman files, his blog does not include all the 1,027 entries from the blue book. It also omits listing all the commissions that might be seen as overtly criminal, such as searches for criminal records. However, the redactions Mr Staines carried out indicate that the editing process, which the ICO insists is complex, may not be as difficult as it claims.

Whittamore was charged in 2004 and convicted of illegally accessing data. He received a conditional discharge in April 2005.

The ICO "strongly condemned" the blog publication which it branded "irresponsible". A formal statement said: "Putting these [details] into the public domain in this way is a serious violation of many people's privacy and raises more questions that it answers."

The Hacked Off campaign said the publication should now mean Lord Justice Leveson "promptly" publishes the full evidence it holds from the Motorman investigation.

Professor Cathcart said: "Leaks were inevitable. Fairly detailed reports have appeared in The Independent, on ITN, in The Guardian and elsewhere. And now we have a data dump of the smallest of the four [Whittamore] files. Whether Mr Graham or Lord Justice Leveson wants it to happen or not, piecemeal disclosure is proceeding. This is not satisfactory and they should act swiftly to take charge."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there