The Ropey Report: Devil of findings is in the detail

Politicians profess their enthusiasm for implementing the Leveson recommendations ‘in full’. Yet a closer reading of his blockbuster report is revealing some  awkward anomalies. Martin Hickman reports

Investigative journalism and new rules for police

While recognising that police officers sometimes legitimately contact the press to air grievances or expose wrongdoing, Lord Justice Leveson recommends forces keep a tighter check on who is speaking to the media.

He backs Association of Chief Police Officers’ guidance that senior officers should record the date and identity of the journalists they meet, and also it would be “good practice” if lowers ranks did likewise. He advises against police officers having an informal drink with journalists, though does not suggest a “blanket ban”.

At the same time, the report acknowledges that police officers have little confidence in existing whistleblowing procedures within forces or the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). To remedy that, he suggests that greater prominence be given to the IPCC’s whistleblowing hotline, that an Assistant Commissioner in each force is designated as a source of guidance on ethics and that HM Inspectorate of Constabulary carry out unannounced inspections on police chiefs.

The problem here is what happens if informal, or unauthorised, contact between police officers and the press is discouraged and enhanced police whistleblowing systems fail. Important stories often only reach the public because insiders blow the whistle.

The Murdoch  mystery: were they cleared or criticised?

In the US, NBC said that Lord Justice Leveson had suggested the possibility of a “determined cover-up” on the part of a senior figure in the Murdoch empire. It claimed that Lord Justice Leveson’s report had concluded that either there was a serious breakdown in governance, or a failure in high places to take appropriate action to allegations of widespread criminality.

The network continued, in a report on its website: “These are words that will concern lawmakers in the US, where News Corporation has many media arms.” Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald also highlighted the criticism of corporate governance inside the Murdoch businesses. According to Le Monde, however, Rupert and James Murdoch were “cleared of all responsibility for the scandals that have tainted the British media” and “Shareholders of US media group News Corp can finally breathe a breath of fresh air”. Perhaps it had read a different part of the report.

Nikhil Kumar

The dodgy detail that was pasted in from the internet

Lord Justice Leveson forgot one of the elementary rules of journalism when he compiled the section of his report that covered the history of this newspaper. Journalism students are taught at college that when researching on the internet, they should not assume that the first site they come to is reliable. In his report the judge warned that inaccuracy in newspapers, “caused significant concern.” He also claimed that “the Independent was founded in 1986 by the journalists Andreas Whittam Smith, Stephen Glover and Brett Straub...”

The first two names are correct, but who is Brett Straub? His name first appeared in the Wikipedia entry on The Independent on 27 October 2011, when someone using the IP address 134.71.143.10 removed the name of Matthew Symonds, genuinely one of this newspaper’s three founding journalists, and inserted “Brett Staub”. This was the only contribution to Wikipedia made from that IP address, which is registered in Pomona, in California. It may or may not be a coincidence that there is a Brett Straub on Facebook who graduated from Cal Poly, in Pomona, and describes himself as “a lazy bum-like person who loves cars and hanging out with friends and family.”

The error stayed on the Wikipedia until it was spotted and corrected on 10 November this year – too late, unfortunately, to spare Lord Justice Leveson from being caught out making the basic error of cutting and pasting from Wikipedia without checking. 

Andy McSmith

It will be easier for detectives to search through journalistic notes

As a result of News International’s obstruction of the police inquiry into phone hacking, Lord Justice Leveson recommends making it easier to search for journalistic material that might assist investigations.

He wants to remove a legal requirement on the police that they have tried “other methods of obtaining the material… without success” before obtaining  a search warrant.

He recommends the Home Office consider amending the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 so journalistic notes and documents can only “be held in confidence” if they are “subject to an enforceable or lawful undertaking, restriction or obligation”. It means news organisations would have to meet a stiffer test to protect sources.

Guidelines threaten police ability to appeal for information

Partly motivated by the appalling treatment of Christopher Jeffries, above, Lord Justice Leveson recommends that, except in certain exceptional circumstances (for example, where there may be an immediate risk to the public), the names or identifying details of those arrested or suspected of a crime “should not be released to the press or the public” by police. But police officers use media appeals to gather information about crimes. Is it right that, once an arrest has been made, the media should not be allowed to report who has been detained?

The new media revolution that barely rated a mention

With the explosion of the electronic media, Lord Justice Leveson might have been expected to pay more attention to blogging, social networks and other forms of digital expression outside of the newspaper industry. Some commentators have wondered whether, by ignoring such phenomena as rogue tweeters (such as Sally Bercow, right), the judge was missing the significance of the rapid rise of the (unregulated) blogosphere – with one likening his role to a “stagecoach inspector in the 1850s”. There are just four pages on the World Wide Web and five on blogging, in a  1987-page report.

New data protection measures could see good journalists jailed

Lord Justice Leveson recommends allowing reporters to hold confidential data for general newsgathering purposes only when it is absolutely necessary for a specific article scheduled for publication. He also recommends introducing a term of up to two years imprisonment for recklessly breaching the Data Protection Act. Newspapers have already suggested this could lead to the jailing of journalists acquiring sensitive data for stories in the public interest. In practice, it is unlikely that prosecutions would be brought in such cases, but increasing the sanctions and breadth of laws that can be used against journalists is a concern to many within journalism who already feel themselves encumbered by strict laws on defamation and contempt of court.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie has made the top spot after a strong Glastonbury performance
musicAnd what's more it's the last Sunday night chart topper - ever!
News
news
Life and Style
The collection displayed Versace’s softer side, with models wearing flowers and chiffon dresses in unusual colourings
fashionVersace haute couture review
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Chris Moyles who claimed to be a second-hand car dealer in a bid to save up to £1 million in tax, a tribunal has found
radio
Arts and Entertainment
'The Leaf'
artYes, it's a leaf, but a potentially very expensive one
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Home Care / Support Workers

£7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Day In a Page

Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate