An application for scrutiny of the Operation Motorman material was made at the Leveson Inquiry today.
David Sherborne, the barrister acting on behalf of press intrusion victims at the inquiry, asked Lord Justice Leveson to consider information uncovered by the investigation, which examined the mining of private information by private investigator Steve Whittamore.
He told the judge: “Your hands are not tied therefore in relation to what Operation Motorman reveals about the press as a whole, and it’s therefore all the more important, I submit, that this is fully investigated under modules one and two [of the inquiry].
“Let us not forget what Operation Motorman has shown us about the culture, practices and ethics of the press, and that is the endemic use across the boards of unlawfully purchasing information, not just about the rich and famous, but about the members of the public who have found themselves under the attention from newspapers.”
Sherborne said the investigation uncovered a widespread practice of buying information from private investigators and asked the judge to look at steps taken against journalist clients of Whittamore and whether information obtained by the investigator is still being retained and used by newspaper publishers.
He said: “[Whether] this is more or less serious than hacking is irrelevant, because both were the unlawful tricks of a very tawdry trade in people’s private information.. these newspapers continued to use Mr Whittamore after his offices were raided, after he was arrested, after their journalists were interviewed, after Mr Whittamore was convicted and even after [ICO report] ‘What Price Privacy Now’ was published.”
He later added: “I apologise for being colloquial, but the question for you is: was it cover-up or clean-up once Operation Motorman had revealed what it revealed?”
Lord Justice Leveson said he would consider investigating whether information accessed by Whittmore was being held by newspapers as it was relevant to the “here and now” of the inquiry.
DCI Brendan Gilmour told the inquiry this morning how officers working for Operation Glade, investigating police corruption, interviewed seven journalists from national newspapers under caution in 2004. Sherborne said this was done with the “full knowledge and support of the newspaper’s legal departments”.