The CIoJ has welcomed Sir Anthony May’s call for judicial authorisation to be sought before a journalist’s communication data can be accessed by the police. But, the Institute asks, can those in charge be trusted to act responsibly?
In recent months there have been numerous examples of a vociferous tightening grip, by legal and criminal chiefs in London, which is undermining the way journalists work. All of this has left eyewitnesses and whistleblowers out in the cold, says CIoJ President Paul Leighton.
Bernard Hogan-Howe, Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Alison Saunders, Director of Public Prosecutions, and Peter Lewis, Chief Executive of the Crown Prosecution Service, have all said that they will continue using undercover surveillance on journalists’ phone records and will continue prosecuting journalists on the basis of the information obtained through this surveillance.
“Bitter arguments keep being used against journalists, but with little justification,” says Paul Leighton. “Multi-million pound court cases have failed to seal a conviction against journalists who have had their lives turned inside out for years. Now, with no sense of humility, the CPS is seeking to spend many more millions on a re-trail. There is no justification!
“Bernard Hogan-Howe has defended the use of RIPA to secretly seize journalists’ phone records, and to what end? So that the police may sack their own staff; not for counter-terrorism measures, which is what the law was allegedly bought in to protect. With no hint of irony, Hogan-Howe revealed to the Police & Crime Committee that the Met is in talks with news organisations about ensuring live coverage does not undermine their response to a future terrorist siege. Now we see that he wants co-operation from media outlets as he does his best to undermine them.
Welcome to our world
“Hogan-Howe has said that when police and security services respond to incidents ‘we want to make sure our ability to respond is not restricted by [media] coverage.’ Welcome to our world, Mr Hogan-Howe, because the media need to know that when we respond to an incident, or anything else in the public interest, we will not be hounded by law enforcement agencies fulfilling a political vendetta. When the legal services start behaving in this way, it starts to ring alarm bells.”