Hacked Off Campaign Statement about Sky News Email Hacking

“Hacked Off today renews its calls for a public interest defence in law after Sky News confessed to hacking into emails, claiming it did so ‘in the public interest’.

“Yet because there is no public interest defence in law for the Computer Misuse Act, Sky has to rely on the discretion of the prosecution services not to prosecute.

“This is unsatisfactory. If Sky News believes there is a clear public interest to hack into emails then it should have a clear and consistent legal defence for its actions.

“Journalists would feel confident to speak openly about the methods they use to discover stories in the public interest if they knew there was a proper defence for their actions in law.

“Hacked Off hopes that the Leveson Inquiry will recommend the introduction of a formal public interest defence in law for the protection of journalism.”

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Shale Bingreply
April 5, 2012 at 10:35 pm

This seems to be a rather different line to the line taken by Dr Harris on the ITV 6 and 10 o’clock news, where he was arguing in support of Sky hacking emails in BOTH of the two cases on the grounds of a public interest defence. The canoe case still seems to leave hanging issues about whether the sources of the information were disclosed to the defence in the trial, if indeed the evidence was “pivotal”, but the circumstances of the second “suspected paedophile” case seem completely opaque, so I find it rather unsettling that Hacked Off are diving in to support Sky.

Evben in the canoe case, what would be Hacked Off’s interpretation of it if the Sky journalist had not found anything? In the end this was a fishing expedition… is this what you want to encourage?

jan frankreply
April 6, 2012 at 5:25 am

Hacking e-mails is illegal. So is theft.

If a penniless mother were to steal food to feed her child, it would still be theft. There are extenuating circumstances, but the law says it is theft.

So what do we do? Change the law so that theft in some cases is legal – and obviously the community has an interest in keeping mother and child alive. Do we convict the mother but decide not to punish her with jail or a fine? In which case she still has a crime on her blotter, which will cast a long shadow on her future life.

Or do we change the law, so that in certain circumstances it is not theft. Who is to evaluate those circumstances? You, me, a panel of 12 respectable citizens, an unelected commissioner, a gang of politicians cutting a deal, a newspaper proprietor, a doddery old judge? Or perhaps a quick poll using 1,000 citizens carefully manipulated by the way the questions are put?

Pleading public interest? The News of the World certainly had plenty of public interest when it published all the details of a young girl’s murder, but the public also decided that mere prurient interest is insufficient excuse.

I think that journalists should not be able to plead “public interest” as a legal excuse. If it is really important, they can lay their head on the block and “die” for their beliefs. If they’re not prepared to die, it can’t have been that important.

jan frankreply
April 13, 2012 at 5:32 am

Today I read the long and detailed article by David Allen Green in The New Statesman – The Times and NightJack: an anatomy of a failure, of 12 April 2012. Detailed, really detailed. And time and again the editors of the Times considered the story from the point of view whether it was, or was not, in the public interest to publish the story.

The editor of the newspaper decided that it was. Now, do you think that it was really in the public interest to stop a well-written and informative blog?

From this it becomes clear, to me at any rate, that “public interest” = “what serves my purpose” and “my purpose” is not exactly the same as “our purpose”

And here we are asked to consider seriously whether “public interest” is a legal defence?

April 16, 2012 at 5:34 pm

There should be no defence for illegally hacking emails, phones, etc.

If there is a public interest then permission to hack should be requested from a judge.

If the request fails, then an appeal system should be available.

No grey areas.

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