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

Senior Marine / Shipping Solicitor - South Coast

Highly Competitive Package: Austen Lloyd: SOUTH COAST - MARINE / SHIPPING Th...

SAP GRC Architect

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I am currently looking for a PERMANENT S...

BI Develop/Analyst - £35,000 ~ £40,000 - Sheffield

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Supply Teachers Would you ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Are we politely looking the other way when it comes to Kate, the ever-shrinking Duchess?

Grace Dent
 

The daily catch-up: art of the unapology, a bet on UKIP and printer ink molecules

John Rentoul
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game