Hacked Off responds to acquittals in trial of Sun journalists

Press Release

20th March 2015


Four senior journalists from The Sun were today cleared at the Old Bailey on all charges relating to paying public officials for information.

Chief reporter John Kay and royal editor Duncan Larcombe were cleared of making payments. Executive editor Fergus Shanahan and deputy editor Geoff Webster were cleared over allegations that they signed off payments.

The criminal process has taken its course, and the accused have been acquitted of all charges. The jury’s verdicts are clear and must be respected.

What has been revealed through the evidence given at the trials, however, is another appalling catalogue of bad practice, weak management and legal failures at The Sun. Not for the first time, we have seen journalists dragged through the courts because they have not been properly trained, supervised or managed by their bosses at News UK. This case, once again, demonstrates the pressing need for proper and effective regulation of the press.

We will now hear calls from media corporations for an end to any further legal cases. The proper course of criminal justice cannot be influenced by this kind of pressure. Each case must be decided on its merits and by a jury which has heard all the evidence. The rule of law requires criminal cases to be decided by the courts; not by the press.

Joan Smith, Executive Director of Hacked Off, said: “What this case highlights is the need for proper regulation to ensure, among other things, that journalists are not carrying out their duties in a culture that could later lead them to court. An independently audited self-regulation system would force the big media corporates to put their houses in order, which would be good for the media, good for readers and good for journalists.”


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Colin Randallreply
March 20, 2015 at 5:25 pm

Gloomy times for Hacked Off, I know. What the outcome actually shows is that this whole, disproportionate, wasteful process is also a complete lottery. One person, and it is just one so far so despite the vast legal arsenal deployed against working journalists, can be convicted on the same essential facts that the others are cleared or encounter hung juries. I salute the courage of several juries who have risen above anti-press hysteria and judges’ summings up that read like prosecution closing speeches. It is not necessary to approve of bad practices – by the press or anyone else – to see the inherent injustice. I’d support a corporate prosecution as it happens but deplore the persecution of employees and their shafting, along with confidential sources, by the odious Murdoch MSC.

Colin Randallreply
March 25, 2015 at 2:42 pm
– In reply to: Colin Randall

In the several days that have passed since I tried to post the above comment, I have seen that one other journalist has been convicted of this “lunatic” offence, as one defence barrister called it, and am reminded that another pleaded guilty at a much earlier stage (though his case was exceptional since he was being treated as a star prosecution witness). That corrected, I stand by all else I have said, here and at my own site francesalut where I have consistently criticised both press malpractices (or, rather, all media wrongdoing, since I do not share Hacked Off’s selective approach targeting newspapers alone) and authority’s irrational, unjust approach to the apportionment of criminal blame.

Roy Stockdillreply
March 25, 2015 at 3:01 pm
– In reply to: Colin Randall

Interesting that you say you tried for several days to post your comments, Colin. I too encountered initial difficulties in trying to post to Hacked Off, so much so that in the end I rang them and complained about the fact that they apparently didn’t wish to hear views that were opposed to their own and it was only after my complaint that they posted my comments, which had been held “pending review” for quite a long time.

I have only been posting without opposition after subscribing to the website. So much for Hacked Off’s “democratic” campaign for a free and accountable press! I rather think the democracy is a bit lacking at their end.

Roy Stockdillreply
March 20, 2015 at 5:27 pm

The wording of your release indicates a clear feeling of dismay on the part of Hacked Off that the Sun journalists have been acquitted of all charges. When you say “The jury’s verdicts are clear and must be respected” I can almost feel the sense of disappointment and frustration in your offices! No doubt the same feelings will pervade the offices of The sanctimonious Guardian and BBC and in the minds of the precious, self righteous showbiz luvvies like Hugh Grant who arrogantly demand the right to control what the press publishes about them.

There is another case still pending of Sun journalists from the failure of a jury to agree in an earlier trial. Is there any point in the CPS going on with this case when a number of voices, including in parliament and the police, have pointed out that a conviction is unlikely? How much more public money are you prepared to sanction spending when the figure is said to be somewhere between £30 million and £35 million already and the number of journalists and public employees convicted is relatively tiny?

I have been following comments on Facebook today and I can assure you that there is much rejoicing among current and retired journalists that the spiteful and vindictive war against the press by the Metropolitan Police, CPS and yourselves is collapsing.

Why is it you have so little to say about the effect of this pernicious attack on press freedom on whistle blowers and genuine investigative journalism? Why is it that you have nothing to say about the scandals of the years of cover-ups of the paedophile rings at the highest levels of society, scandals which are only now being uncovered by the press and which your meddling interference would seek to prevent?

The entire concept of the Leveson Inquiry and subsequent events is now coming to be seen as an anti-press charade on the part of the political Establishment, politicians thirsting for blood and revenge over the exposure of their expenses fiddles, the aforesaid luvvies filled with their own self importance and a few obscure, provincial Marxist academics who want press control of which a totalitarian dictatorship would be proud.

John Smithreply
March 20, 2015 at 6:35 pm

Perhaps those reporters who feel rightly relieved at the verdicts and feel hard done by might take the time to think about the feelings of people like Neil Kinnock and Ed Milliband. It is perfectly right and proper for newspapers to disagree with politicians and even to ridicule their policies. But no newspaper should engage in character assassinations and monstering. The Sun has an excellent track record in both.

Roy Stockdillreply
March 25, 2015 at 1:16 pm
– In reply to: John Smith

No-one has yet answered my question as to why there has been no Leveson-type inquiry or police investigations into phone hacking and spying by private detectives working for crooked lawyers, banks, councils and big multinational companies. Odd that! Presumably the people at Hacked Off are only interested in demonising the press because of their left-wing bias and obsessive hatred of Murdoch, Associated Newspapers and other tabloid proprietors.

Might I remind you that Murdoch has kept The Times going for years despite its losing millions? And of course he must have lost millions more when he was forced to close the News of the World – a paper that had been published for over 160 years – because it was a major money spinner. Perhaps you should ask him to take over your favourite paper, The Guardian, and turn it into a proper newspaper instead of the pretentious, sanctimonious lib-left propaganda sheet it is currently, read only by the metropolitan chattering classes, champagne socialists in their £2 million Islington dens, Lefty teachers and useless social workers riddled with political correctness.

As for Neil Kinnock, I wouldn’t feel sorry for him because he was arguably the most incompetent leader Labour ever had – well, after Michael Foot – known as the “Welsh windbag”, and he and his wife have made themselves a tidy sum out of having their snouts firmly in the European trough. Miliband? What is there to say about yet another millionaire Islington socialist who has never had a proper job in his life but was destined for the Westminster goldfish bowl ever since he left university. It is perfectly right and acceptable for the press to monster useless and inept politicians of ALL parties.

Alan Plumptonreply
March 20, 2015 at 7:02 pm

Keep up the pressure “Hacked Off” we cannot release the pressure on these so called journalists from the tabloids. I emphasis the tabloid reference since its this group of individuals who need to be held to account. Anyone who has sympathy for this group of people has obviously not been hounded by them. We all want to keep a free press but not at the expense of letting these individuals wrecking people’s lives when they are totally innocent of any crime. Remember Christopher Jefferies in Bristol. Not a celebrity and someone totally innocent. What a long time before justice was seen to be done. Keep it up Hacked off, Hugh Grant etc.

March 21, 2015 at 2:07 am

Oh dear, Roy, you’ve simply swallowed all the hysterical Dacre/Murdoch lies and scaremongering. No one is trying to “control” what is published about anyone, least of all Hugh Grant – that’s a Dacre/Murdoch lie and you’ve fallen for it hook, line and sinker. Try reading the Leveson recommendations – by which I mean the words that Leveson actually wrote, not the wilful misinterpretation of his words by Dacre/Murdoch and their cronies.

If the “spiteful and vindictive war against the press” is “collapsing,” why do charged parties, both journalists and those in public office, continue to plead guilty? Naturally The Sun shouts its approval when its own journalists are acquitted, but, unsurprisingly, you never hear a word from The Sun about those who plead guilty or those who are found guilty, nor of their corrupt contacts among public officals who plead guilty or are found guilty. Why? Are you really suggesting that in future no journalists should ever be prosecuted for anything, ever, should be entitled to break the law with impunity, provided they stand up and say they thought the story could be in the public interest?

And what of the “spiteful and vindictive war” against ordinary blameless individuals (such as Christopher Jefferies had to suffer) that certain newspapers continue to conduct? Hacked Off is not conducting any kind of war, nor is Hacked Off trying to “control” what can be published in newspapers (again, you’d know this if you bothered to research it for yourself instead of swallowing Dacre/Murdoch lies and being blinded by the Facebook’s mob mentality where high emotions and well-rehearsed prejudice always hold sway over facts). The important issue here is one of responsibility and redress. When Dacre, Murdoch, the Barclay Brothers et al sanctimoniously paint themselves as champions of press freedom, it’s a risible charade. What they really mean is the freedom to exercise power with impunity which they seem to believe is their divine right. And this means the power to bully and harass entirely innocent people caught up in newsworthy events, the refusal to apologise for mistakes made, the power to bully and harass those who legitimately demand redress but cannot afford the cost of legal action, etc etc.

There’s an interesting piece on the front page of today’s Telegraph (21/03/13) – the heading reads “Questions about CPS as links emerge between its head and the man appointed to oversee it”. The press always demands answers and/or tough new regulations when they identify incestuous links like this – but what of the incestuous links between PCC/IPSO and those who write the Editors Code, sit on PressBoF, edit the newspapers? There needs to be an effective means of guaranteeing that whichever self-regulatory body (yes – self-regulation, not government regulation as Dacre/Murdoch frequently warn their readers) dealing with complaints against the press is entirely independent and free from the involvement of and manipulation by the likes of Dacre, Murdoch and their lackeys. It’s indefensibly hypocritical for the press to vociferously attack incestuous connections, corruption and criminality in every other walk of life, to demand tough new independent regulators in every other walk of life, but then to expect to be afforded the freedom to police their own conduct and investigate (and frequently dismiss) their own complaints. If your house was broken into, how confident would you feel about securing justice if the investigating police officers, the prosecution and defence counsels and the judge all turned out to be friends and relatives of the burglar?

Seriously Roy, if recent history has shown us anything, it’s that we can’t look to the Mail, The Sun or Facebook for objective facts. Try researching the issues from their original sources rather than swallowing the hysterical, scaremongering interpretations of the deliberate liars and the ill-informed.

March 21, 2015 at 2:21 am

The sex scandals of actors and the expenses-fiddling politicians were never the issue here – that’s another deliberate lie perpetrated by Dacre/Murdoch et al. If you check the facts, you’ll see that the Leveson Inquiry was set up in the wake of allegations that Murdoch journalists had hacked the mobile phone of a murdered schoolgirl – that was the act which revolted the nation. As a consequence, the Murdoch “spell” was broken and many politicians then spoke out against him and the behind-the-scenes political influence he enjoyed.

Those are the facts, Roy. It was the hacked phone of a murdered schoolgirl. Nothing to do with bed-hopping entertainers or expenses-fiddling politicians. That’s just the desperate barrel-scraping of a disingenuous tabloid press determined to rewrite history and portray itself as a victim.

And again, if you check your facts, you’ll find that the press has been regularly subjected to severe political scrutiny following public demands for more effective self-regulation (the history of it goes back seventy years or so). Even Paul Dacre would be hard pushed to blame Steve Coogan for what was going on back then…

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