Urged over the top one more time by an editor who is beginning to make Douglas Haig look like a half decent soldier, the assembled hacks of the Daily Mail have once again gone after Lord Justice Leveson. And once again they have been rumbled so rapidly that they might as well not have bothered. “Police gave Leveson a dossier on hacking by big firms and lawyers... but he dismissed it in 18 minutes” they plead.
“A senior officer submitted documents outlining how a little-known three-year inquiry uncovered a nationwide network of corruption. The multi-million-pound investigation found law firms, debt collectors and insurers were behind the thriving underground trade. But despite holding eight months of gruelling public hearings at a huge cost to the taxpayer, Leveson dismissed the officer’s evidence in less than 18 minutes”.
Don’t you love the “less than 18 minutes”? But do go on – what is the inquiry of which you speak? “The inquiry, known as Operation Reproof, began after a member of public uncovered a building contractor’s criminal record during a planning dispute”. Well, we already know about this inquiry, as the meticulously researched Brown Moses blog has given us chapter and verse on it.
Reproof is described as “A 2002 to 2004 Devon and Cornwall Police operation examining how confidential information was being leaked and obtained by various individuals and groups. It discovered [confidential information] being passed on by current and retired police officers to a number of individuals”, which is more or less corroborated by the Mail article.
But Brown Moses also says of Operation Motorman – and we’ve all heard of that one – “It led on from Operation Reproof”. And Motorman is the inquiry that led all the way to the door of the Fourth Estate, and especially Associated Newspapers, whose editor in chief just happens to be the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre, the man who ordered today’s hatchet job on Leveson.
And, as Martin Moore has pointed out at the Staggers, the behaviour of private investigators, whether on behalf of the press or corporate clients, is something that the press aggressively lobbied to keep away from the hands of regulators. Now the impression is given that the same press is asking why private investigators, er, haven’t been subjected to more scrutiny and regulation.
The Mail admits at the very end of their piece that this was outside Leveson’s terms of reference. But like a dog returning to its vomit, they keep suggesting otherwise, often cheered on by the more easily persuaded and softer-headed elements of their own profession. Had Reproof been investigated more thoroughly, and prosecutions mounted, it is the Fourth Estate who would once again be in the dock.
Be careful what you wish for, Paul “no peerage” Dacre. No change there, then.