Yesterday, former journalist John Ford came forward to blow the whistle on illegality he says he committed on behalf of The Sunday Times newspaper.
Following these revelations, an Urgent Question was asked in the House of Commons today about what the implications of the revelations are for finishing the Leveson Inquiry. Secretary of State Matt Hancock defended his decision to cancel the Inquiry (which would have looked into these matters) by arguing that these matters were not “current” but “historical” and also that they were matters only for the police.
But during and after a press conference today, John Ford contradicted Mr Hancock’s remarks.
Asked whether this conduct was all in the past, Mr Ford said,
I know a community of blaggers still exists… I know it still goes on. I fear that it still goes on for newspapers.
He later added that “the blagging industry” would meet a market demand and the newspapers’ appetite had not been removed either by the police or the ICO or by effective regulation.
He also said that since the Sunday Times were denying they knew what he was doing, despite paying him £40,000 a year for 15 years, there was a cover up and that was very much “current”.
Asked whether the police had ever investigated him and found the newspaper’s involvement, he said he had been arrested in 2010 and had been subject to a 2-year police investigation which either failed to find the Sunday Times involvement (despite documentary evidence in his bank statements and on his hard drive) or which decided to look the other way.
I do not think any Sunday Times journalists were even questioned, let alone charged. This cannot be solved by the police – it needs the Public Inquiry.
Commenting, Hacked Off Director Dr Evan Harris said,
Today’s revelations show that what we know in terms of illegal conduct at or on behalf of newspapers is just the tip of the iceberg. Not only are The Times and Sunday Times now embr
oiled in the press data theft scandal, but Trinity Mirror have made extensive admissions and allegations have been made concerning the Express, Sun, Telegraph and Mail as well.
Commenting on how the revelations affect the need for Leveson Part Two, Dr Harris added,
The Government’s decision to cancel Leveson Part Two appears less tenable by the day.
Defending their decision to suppress the Inquiry, the Government claimed ‘those in the press who were found culpable for the most egregious behaviour… have bee
n held to account’ [i]. Today’s revelations show that couldn’t be further from the truth, as Mr Ford’s employers and minders have never faced justice for the thousands of illegal acts they commissioned.
Notes: Hacked Off is the campaign for a free and accountable press, and we work with the victims of press abuse to achieve those aims.
Photo credit: Byline Investigations and Untold Murder
[i] Quote taken from p3 of the Government Consultation response.