Whenever the Fourth Estate talks of the Leveson Inquiry, the line so often taken is that it has been the very presence of its hearings and report that somehow constrains, “chills”, or gags the press. So to see the Evening Standard bravely splash the news that, on one significant occasion, the Leveson Inquiry was itself gagged, by the order of the Metropolitan Police, should cause concern.
Moreover, the news that the Met applied for a “public interest immunity certificate”, to stop Leveson considering the case of a very senior officer in the force, is worrying. What is yet worse is that this officer was close to then Commissioner Ian Blair, and apparently passed information to the now defunct Murdoch Screws in exchange for money. And the force stopped Leveson from considering the case.
The thought then occurs that not only do we not get to know who this is, but also that we also don’t find out how much money changed hands, the identities of the Screws hacks involved, and who else in Rupe’s empire might have had their fingers in this singularly unsavoury pie. Did, for instance, this affair have any bearing on Murdoch’s decision to close the Screws?
Meanwhile, Labour MP Tom Watson has ensured that he continues to be persona non grata with Rupe and his troops by noting “I’m sure the current Commissioner would wish to urgently review what happened and I will be writing to the Home Secretary Theresa May to ask that she satisfies herself that all seemingly vital documents from the Yard were not withheld from Lord Justice Leveson”.
He might get further that way than the Standard did when contacting Leveson’s senior counsel Robert Jay, who asserted that he and Leveson were not shown the information until well after it could have been useful to the Inquiry, adding “The Met is claiming public interest immunity in relation to any police intelligence report, the contents of which are neither confirmed nor denied”.
So where are the usual Leveson bashing suspects right now? As has been pointed out to Zelo Street, Reading East MP Rob Wilson, usually so eager to wind up Leveson, has thus far been silent. And so have the usual suspects in the press. Why so coy? We’re talking about a senior Police officer flogging stories to the Screws here. This is about the basics of public trust – and very basic corruption.
As with the Daniel Morgan case – which was also about very basic corruption, and abuse of public trust – the supposed champions of press freedom seem unable, or unwilling, to report. Could this be because their view of press freedom is the freedom not only to be highly selective in what they tell their readers, but also because there is the possibility they have been doing something similar?
Come on, press freedom campaigners, don’t be shy. We’re listening. And waiting.