Times admits it 'misled' High Court over email hacking case
Former legal chief says paper made a 'mistake' when giving evidence in 'Nightjack' hearing
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.
Friday 16 March 2012
The Times misled the High Court during its attempt to name a detective as the writer of an anonymous blog, the newspaper's then legal manager admitted yesterday.
The witness statement that The Times submitted to the court in 2009 was described as an "utterly misleading" and deliberately inaccurate legal defence, during questioning of the newspaper's former legal manager, Alastair Brett, which was largely conducted by Lord Justice Leveson himself. The statement was intended to help the former Times journalist Patrick Foster prepare for his defence. But Lord Justice Leveson said it hid the fact that he had illegally hacked into the email account of the Nightjack blog's author, detective constable Richard Horton. At an earlier inquiry hearing, Times editor James Harding publicly apologised to DC Horton for the paper's actions.
In 2009, The Times successfully fought DC Horton's attempt to keep his identity secret. At the time the newspaper's lawyers insisted that the blogger's identity had been uncovered through legitimate public sources, hiding details of the illegal access of an email account.
But Mr Brett told the Leveson Inquiry yesterday that Mr Foster had admitted hacking the email account before the court case, and that other senior executives at The Times knew the "legitimate access" defence was untrue. Details of other hacking attempts by Mr Foster, one when he was a student at Oxford, were also uncovered by Mr Brett. But he told Mr Horton's lawyers prior to the High Court case that any history of hacking was "baseless".
Mr Brett told the inquiry that Mr Foster had eventually found a "legitimate" way of unmasking Nightjack, butLord Justice Leveson attacked this description, telling him: "That's not accurate is it?" The former legal manager replied: "It's not entirely accurate, no."
When Mr Brett suggested Lord Justice Leveson was being "fantastically precise" in his analysis of the statement, he was told: "Oh, I'm being precise, because this is a statement being presented to a court."
Another part of Mr Foster's statement read: "At this stage I felt the blog was written by a real police officer." Again Lord Justice Leveson said "This is actually misleading, isn't it?" Mr Brett admitted it did not give the full story.
The inquiry chairman said that if Mr Justice Eady had been told the truth, The Times might not have won its case. He also reminded Mr Brett of the purpose of his inquiry, saying "The press rightly holds all of us to account: who is holding the press to account? That's the point."
A News International spokesperson said: "Today's testimony by The Times's former lawyer Alastair Brett was a painful reminder of an occasion when The Times's conduct failed to meet the high standards expected of this newspaper. As has been previously stated, the handling of the Nightjack case was deeply unsatisfactory. News International has changed governance and compliance procedures, including formalised guidance to the in-house legal team, to ensure that rigorous internal processes are adhered to in future."
Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'
Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'
Thought you'd seen it all after the Jeremy Paxman interview?
Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent
"History is violent," says the US Army tank commander Don "Wardaddy" Collier
Striker's four-month ban for biting an opponent expires on Friday
Argentinian scored 'rabona' wonder goal for Tottenham in Europa League – see it here
Isis releases first video showing the stoning of woman accused of committing adultery as her father shouts 'don't call me Dad'
This 'woman calls police to order pizza' story isn't going where you're expecting
FCKH8: YouTube reinstates provocative anti-sexism video showing young girls swearing
Diwali: What is the festival of lights – and how is it celebrated around the world?
Jimmy Carr's controversial Oscar Pistorius joke goes a bit too far at the Q Awards
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Attacks on 'Ukip Calypso' show how skewed people’s priorities are
- 1 This 'woman calls police to order pizza' story isn't going where you're expecting
- 2 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 3 Jimmy Carr's controversial Oscar Pistorius joke goes a bit too far at the Q Awards
- 4 Ottawa shootings: Bruce MacKinnon's cartoon is the perfect tribute to soldier Nathan Cirillo
- 5 Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella