The Leveson police are coming to silence their critics
BE afraid. The desperate-to-be-liked police are coming after your freedoms. Scotland Yard wants powers to search newsrooms. This will prove to everyone how much better the police is than what went before. No collusion with phone hacking, see. No need to hack things and get media to do your dirty work when you can just seize everything legally.
They told Leveson that police should have been free to search the News of the World offices during the 2006 phone-hacking inquiry. The Times says “Senior Metropolitan Police officers are known to have been furious that their efforts to seize material from The Guardian, relating to leaks from the current hacking investigation, were thwarted in 2011.”
Lord Justice Leveson agrees. He says the Police and Criminal Evidence Act should be amended to give coppers more powers to police the news.
The Home Office says it will “specifically consider the potential impact of the recommended change on the protection of journalistic sources”.
The elite are conspiring to police the media. Anyone seeking to expose police failings will be silenced. A concerned copper can tell his superiors, but if they do nothing, or are implicated in the wrongdoing, then what? All the police need do to silence the whistleblower is claim the information provided was illegal. The reporter must reveal all sources. Things the elite want hidden will remain hidden, the truth protected by the State’s enforcers.
Since the News of the World phone-hacking scandal exploded in 2011, the Met has been running three big investigations into the alleged crimes of the tabloid press. Taken together, these have become the biggest investigation in British criminal history…
According to the Press Gazette website, this means that ‘more than 55 UK journalists have been arrested over the last two years as a result of the various police inquiries stemming from the News of the World hacking scandal’. No fewer than 20 Sun journalists have been arrested so far as a result of the Elveden Inquiry into alleged illegal payments to police and public officials. None of those 20 has been charged with any offence, instead being left in limbo on police bail…
last week the Met arrested one of its own superintendents in a 6am raid. A police statement confirmed that this arrest marked a further expansion of Operation Elveden’s net; ‘[Elveden’s] remit to date has been into allegations of inappropriate payments to police and public officials. Today’s arrest, however, relates to the suspected release of confidential information but not alleged payment.’
In other words, that superintendent was arrested not for taking bribes but for allegedly having contact with journalists – something that has long been a central part of the job for the police and the press alike.
Lord Justice Leveson’s report into the ‘culture, practice and ethics’ of the UK press makes various proposals that would criminalise aspects of investigative journalism. He wants to change the 1998 Data Protection Act to give journalists less protection when acquiring information through backdoor methods – and suggests that those who break the tightened rules should be jailed for up to two years. Leveson also suggests that the 1984 Police and Criminal Evidence Act should be amended to give less protection to journalists’ confidential sources of information. Leveson wants to remove the ‘journalistic exemption’ for material that has been ‘stolen’ – which would mean most leaked information – and let the police or even the Financial Services Authority go into newspaper offices and seize it, without the sort of special court orders required now. On top of all that, the good lord justice also wants to outlaw the age-old practice of ‘off-the-record’ briefings between police and the press, so that information could only be released through ‘official’ channels.
What we are witnessing looks increasingly like a police campaign to make a public example of the tabloid press. The press and journalists should, of course, be accountable to the criminal law, but no more than anybody else – and sometimes, if the search for the truth demands it, less.
Investigative journalism always involves the use of underhand and sometimes ‘unethical’ methods, since it is a struggle to reveal what somebody else – usually somebody with power – wants to keep hidden from public view. It is a basically a dirty business in which all kinds of tricks might be justified.
The investigative journalists works to publish things the powerful don’t want published. The elite want to make that harder…
Photo: John Wilkes. To learn more about him and the fight for press freedom, read Miick Hume’s book. Anyone interested in Leveson and a free press should read it.