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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Could the City become an unwitting funder of Putin's terror?

Martin Nunn
 

In Syria, rebel attacks in the north reflect a number of important changes

Patrick Cockburn
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
Taunton's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success

Education: Secret of Taunton's success

Taunton School, in Somerset, is one of the country's leading independent schools, says Richard Garner
10 best smartphones

10 best smartphones

With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal