Tuesday 10 July 2012

Operation Motorman - Leveson Hearings In August?

The latest piece from a regular contributor.

Lord Justice Leveson delivered a new Ruling this morning regarding Operation Motorman and Associated Newspapers.  In this new Ruling, Leveson gives a glimpse of representations made in private on how the inquiry should interpret the Motorman Files - the Ruling itself gives a good background summary of the Motorman investigation and Steve Whittamore's documentation in relation to his business of 'enquiries' undertaken for national newspapers via named journalists.  Many of these commissions include criminal records checks, Police National Computer checks - on the face of it, data procurement which was illegal. No journalists were arrested, charged or prosecuted.

In order to address concerns on the level of detail that the Inquiry might make public, Leveson held private hearings to receive Core Participant views.  He understood from those private meetings that there was a general acceptance that breaches of data protection laws by some journalists were acknowledged. Given that understanding, Leveson ruled that he did not intend tp make public any or all information in the Motorman Files.  This decision drew criticism from those wanting all the information released into the public domain and, presumably, some relief was felt by the named journalists and the national newspapers who had employed them.

Then Paul Dacre decided to take umbrage at Lord Justice Leveson's understanding of the private hearings' consensus on Motorman.

Dacre's titles came top of Motorman league of journalists commissioning of Steve Whittamore so, arguably, Dacre has most to fear from any release or leak of the Motorman Files. For an analysis of Dacre's dilemma, see here.

During Paul Dacre's evidence to the Inquiry, he appeared to accept (prompted by Leveson's prompting to consult with Associted Newspapers counsel) that there was prima facie evidence in the Motorman Files that journalists in his employ had commissioned data procurement, obtained illegally by Whittamore.  This grudging and graceless acceptance was given by Dacre amid his defensive opinions on the accuracy and validity of the Motorman evidence.

However, Dacre now seems to be challenging Leveson's understanding of prima facie acknowledgement of illegality by Associated Newspaper journalists.  Associated Newspapers defensive actions may have been, in part, prompted by Core Participant victims' counsel, Mr Sherborne, making successful argument to Lord Justice Leveson for partial and redacted release of some Motorman Files evidence - that which relates to journalists still continuously employed by relevant newspapers. Even in redacted form - letter ciphers standing in for journalists' names - this represents the first Motoman evidence released which relates to non-News International titles.  (Whittamore's 'Blue Book' detailing named News International journalists commissions has been leaked by GuidoFawkes.)

Associated Newspapers representations to Leveson firstly take issue with his assumption that Dacre accepted strong prima facie evidence of illegality. Counsel have complained about Leveson's characterisation as "strong" prima facie evidence. Lord Justice Leveson's opening remarks this morning included an apology to Associated for mis-representing their understanding through his use of the word "strong".

Notwithstanding, should Associated Newspapers additionally be back-pedalling on any acknowledgement of bad practice, Lord Justice Leveson IS now prepared to address the Motorman Files (as they relate to Associated titles) - IN PUBLIC and over the summer:
If necessary I shall sit during August to deal with it
His intention seems to be to make public as many examples of illegal data requests as it takes for Associated Newspapers to finally and unequivocably accept prima facie evidence of wrong-doing, "strong" or otherwise.

Say goodbye to your summer.....

You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at brownmoses@gmail.com

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