Barrister calls on inquiry to investigate if newspapers still using alleged illegally obtained information

The Leveson Inquiry should investigate whether journalists are still using information allegedly illegally obtained by private investigators, the victim’s barrister has said.

David Sherborne, representing victims of press intrusion, restated his application on information relating to Operation Motorman – the gathering of private information by private investigators – originally made two weeks ago.

He offered to provide the inquiry with the names of several journalists who hired investigator Steve Whittamore.

He said: “I can pass this inquiry and [News International lawyer] Mr White the name of at least one journalist – editor in one of the Sun’s departments – who obtained several ex-directory numbers and we have managed to trace two of the stories through a simple search of the newspapers website for the names of the individuals whose private details were bought in this way.”

He added: “It is hardly, as Mr White suggests, like looking for a needle in a hay stack. And since they know the names, we say it is hardly beyond the wit of someone at News International to identify where those journalists are and to ask them a few simple questions.”

The lawyer said he had found four Trinity Mirror journalists from the Motorman files – all promoted to senior positions – including one “responsible for 250 procurements” from Whittamore and another for obtaining background checks from the Police National Computer, and three journalists still working for Associated Newspapers.

He added: “This is what I might call a silent crime because the victims of it have no idea that their material is being processed and I’m not, as I say and repeat, interested in individual names here. This is not a discovery exercise.”

Lord Justice Leveson said he would continue to consider the application.

He said: “If one looks at what I’m intended to do, which is to reach conclusions as to culture, practices and ethics for the purpose of making recommendations as to the future, I ask whether what would clearly be a very detailed analysis, and far more detailed that I’ve deliberately undertaken in relation to hacking, for obvious reasons, would be appropriate, necessary or indeed appropriate.”

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