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

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nicola Sturgeon could have considerable influence over David Cameron in a hung parliament  

General Election 2015: What if Cameron were to end up in hock to the SNP?

Steve Richards
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before