Overnight has come the latest attention grabbing stunt by the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines at the Guido Fawkes blog, this time releasing part – and I stress part – of the complete evidence gathered by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) from the raid on the house of Steve Whittamore, former private investigator of choice for those who scrabble around the dunghill that is Grubstreet.
What about the runners and riders, then?
Staines, in association with his tame gofer, the flannelled fool Henry Cole, has published the information as an apparent show of defiance against the establishment that he claims is protecting itself by not allowing the files out into the public domain. But his release does not include the papers at the top of the Motorman charts, the Associated and Trinity Mirror titles.
Moreover, only the Murdoch papers are covered here, and much of their illicit activity went into hacking and tapping phones. So that’s two reasons why this is a less than satisfactory exercise. On top of that, the Information Commissioner (IC), Christopher Graham, has condemned Staines’ behaviour, and the folks at Hacked Off have distanced themselves from the stunt.
Of course I thought about it beforehand ... I think
So why is Staines, who came rather late to the whole business of illegal information gathering by the Fourth Estate, now going ahead? After all, he and Cole spent more time rubbishing the phone hacking business than taking it seriously, and for some months the best either could do was to explain it all away by saying “they were all at it”, which of course they were not.
If this is an attempt to show that the Fawkes blog has influence, it has backfired badly. The Murdoch titles won’t take kindly to being singled out, and Associated and Trinity Mirror are most likely to close ranks and think twice before doing business with Staines again, whatever story he is selling. And if he thinks there will be criminal action resulting in conviction of anyone, he’s having a laugh.
When Steve Whittamore was convicted, he got a conditional discharge. This, admittedly, was a most fortunate coincidence: another of the defendants had been tried previously and was given this sentence in view of his rapidly declining health. Whittamore could not be given a harsher sentence. Nothing Staines has released overnight could result in other than more conditional discharges.
In any case, the papers concerned would fight any criminal action – the prospect of which put the ICO off proceeding in the first place. The more that Staines’ actions are considered, the more the conclusion that he has failed to think through the consequences. The Laurel and Hardy of the blogosphere are going nowhere with this release, except to alienate a major source of their income.
Looks like it’s back to the betting shop, then. Another fine mess.