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Friday 3 March 2017

Mail Bosses In The Dock

[Update at end of post]

As Nick Davies observed in his go-to book on the workings of the press Flat Earth News, one Daily Mail veteran said of their old paper “If the Mail go for you, they get every phone number you have dialled, every schoolmate, everything on your credit card, every call from your phone and from your mobile. Everything”. To this, Davies added “even if it is against the law”. And thanks to a Byline Media investigation, we know where that all came from.
Before the Leveson Inquiry: The Good (Nick Davies) ...

In an article titled “Daily Mail Faces Fresh Blagging Scandal”, it has been revealed that not only did the Mail titles indulge in gathering information which could only have been acquired through illegal means, they would have known that what they were requesting from one private investigator had to have been illegally obtained. The PI who they were tasking was none other than “Secret” Steve Whittamore.

As is now the stuff of legend, Whittamore was busted by the Information Commissioner’s Office in 2003. The Mail titles, it was discovered, had requested the thick end of a thousand items of information from him, equivalent to more than one every day of the week, and most of it illegally obtained - phone numbers and records, Police records, NHS records, DVLA records, all obtained by blagging and bribes.

That much was bad enough. But after Whittamore got nicked, it was screamingly obvious to all who scrabbled around the dunghill that is Grubstreet that what they had been requesting of Secret Steve was not only illegal - but that it was equally obvious that they and the cops now knew it. So what did the Mail titles do about it?

The Mail titles just kept on tasking Whittamore for more of the information that they now knew had to have been obtained illegally. Worse, that it was obviously illegal was shown in the amounts Whittamore charged for each item of information.
... The Bad (Paul Dacre) ...

As the Byline piece tells, “After he was raided, The Daily Mail tasked Whittamore 155 times and paid him £125,919.10 … This is nearly as much as the £143,150 paid to him by the Daily Mail and its Weekend magazine before he was raided, in connection with 1,700 requests previously for potentially illegal information”.

Moreover, “Whittamore … has confirmed to Byline Investigations that many of the jobs that he did for the Daily Mail after he was busted were against the law”. Why would he charge so much more after he got busted, other than that it was now so much riskier because it was far more widely known that what was being asked was illegal?

It gets worse: “At Leveson, the papers' executives admitted to paying Whittamore the invoices seized by the Information Commissioner's Office in their raid on March 8th 2003.
But in their oral evidence and written statements, they did not speak about the subsequent incriminating invoices held by the company”. Who did that include?

Peter Wright, formerly editor of the Mail on Sunday and more recently a commissioner at both the now-defunct PCC and IPSO, and …

Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail for over 25 years, and the Mail titles’ editor-in-chief. Yes, the Vagina Monologue himself.
... and The Ugly (Tony Gallagher)

Dacre was particularly righteous in his evidence to the Leveson Inquiry: his paper, he asserted, did not get up to the kinds of things the late and not at all lamented Screws did. He was particularly severe on actor and campaigner Hugh Grant, after the latter had suggested the Mail may have hacked his phone. Maybe the Mail titles did not join the hacking spree. But their use of Whittamore after he was busted is telling.

And there is one more name to add to Wright and Dacre: among Secret Steve’s list of contacts was the then News Editor of the Mail, who later became Assistant Editor of the paper and is now one of the inmates of the Baby Shard bunker: step forward the deeply unpleasant Tony Gallagher - the current editor of the Murdoch Sun.

As News Editor of the Mail, Gallagher was running the Mail’s News Desk. So either he managed not to notice that all the information from Whittamore that must have been illegally obtained - especially after the 2003 bust - or he did know it was dodgy.

This raises the question of what kind of due diligence News UK did during the hiring process. The Murdoch titles used Secret Steve - did they not ask Gallagher about the possibility that he had been using illegally gathered information? Or did they just not care about such mere trivia in the darker recesses of his CV?

What Byline has already revealed is enough to kick away the defence being mounted by the press establishment in opposing Leveson Part 2. And it gets yet worse for them: there are more revelations on the way, and soon. The idea put around by the press that there is nothing more to see has been proved to be totally untrue. Worse, the impression is given that rather a lot of those in the press establishment knew it to be untrue.

Leveson Part 2 is now back on the agenda with a vengeance. Senior executives at both the Mail and Sun face questions over their past conduct. As for that Murdoch takeover of Sky … it’s beginning to look that bit shakier. And there will be more tomorrow.

[UPDATE 12 March 1725 hours: the Mail's publishers have made a legal complaint to Byline Media about the article referenced in this post. Byline's response is detailed below.

'Paul Dacre, the Editor of the Daily Mail and Editor-in-Chief of Associated Newspapers Limited (“ANL”), Peter Wright, Editor Emeritus of ANL and Liz Hartley, Head of Editorial Legal Services at ANL and ANL have written to us saying that they take issue with Byline articles (Parts 1-3 including: "Part 1: Daily Mail Faces Fresh Blagging Scandal" dated 3 March 2017, "Part 2: Daily Mail 'must have known' says Blagging Scandal Private Detective" dated 4 March 2017 and "Part 3: Mail Blags Byline Over Illegal Spying" dated 7 March 2017). They have told us that the articles contain a number of allegations that are defamatory and untrue. They have not said what it is they say is false and we have responded to their lawyers’ letter urging them to do so as a matter of urgency so that we can take any appropriate corrective action if required. But in the meantime we want our readers to be aware that the claims in these articles are disputed by Messrs Dacre and Wright, and Ms Hartley. We will update this notice once we receive their response and have considered what they say'.

Any further updates on this complaint will be posted here when available]


Anonymous said...

Aaaannnndddd the corn has popped!

grasmit said...

good work again
they wont like this up them