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."

News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz