Editorial: Openness should not be feared

Murdoch’s newspapers were not the only companies using hackers, blaggers and thieves

Share
Related Topics

It is not often that The Independent on Sunday defends Rupert Murdoch. And that is not exactly what we are doing today. Mr Murdoch’s British newspapers were guilty of reprehensible and illegal intrusions into people’s private lives. News International paid a price, not just in cash compensation for their victims, but in the closure of the News of the World and in damage to its corporate reputation. It is not over yet: many journalists and their police contacts are still under investigation.

However, we want to comment on a double standard. We and our sister newspaper, The Independent, have reported that the illegal techniques used by Mr Murdoch’s and other newspapers were also used by law firms, insurance companies and telecoms businesses. The Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) has investigated private detectives engaged in the theft of personal information. But while some of this criminal activity was for media clients, most of it was for other companies.

Yet, while the press was subjected to a public inquiry, headed by Lord Justice Leveson, and to a belated full-scale police investigation, Soca refuses to identify these other alleged customers of hackers, blaggers and thieves.

Sir Ian Andrews, the agency’s chairman, wrote a remarkable letter to Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, this month, in which he explained why Soca would not disclose the information: “Given the lack of certainty over guilty knowledge on the part of [the] clients, and the impact that any publication might have on those named (recognising the requirement for public authorities to have respect for individuals’ private and family life under the Human Rights Act 1998), together with the possible prejudice which any publication might have on ongoing criminal investigations and future regulatory action, the list of … clients which Soca has created following your request has been formally classified.” Later, he wrote that publication might “substantially undermine the financial viability of major organisations by tainting them with public association with criminality”.

Sir Ian’s arguments are unconvincing, and his citing of the Human Rights Act is frankly ludicrous. Of course, it would be damaging to the companies concerned for it to be known that they are being or have been investigated, but if they have not been “associated with criminality”, then let them account for themselves. The privilege of a shroud of secrecy over police investigations to protect the share price has not been extended to newspapers, whether owned by Mr Murdoch or not, as the arrests, investigations and court cases in the hacking scandal proceed.

Openness is an essential principle of the criminal justice system in a free society. The right to anonymity in law is rightly restricted to the victims of certain sexual offences and to cases where a judge has made a specific order. Sir Ian should reconsider his decision, or Parliament might well reconsider it for him. The companies concerned should have nothing to fear from fair reporting of the facts. If they have been investigated by Soca, it is up to them to explain that they have not knowingly employed private investigators to engage in criminal activity on their behalf.

In October, the unloved Soca will be merged into a new National Crime Agency. Let us hope this change of name will signify a change in the organisation’s culture, so that it sees openness as a means of fighting crime and not a distraction from it.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

ICT Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a qualified ...

DT Design and Technology Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We are urgently for ...

Maths Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an experienc...

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

Day In a Page

 

Naturism criminalised: Why not being able to bare all is a bummer

Simon Usborne
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
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
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
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on