First alerted by Press Gazette story on 10 January 2012
Followed up by David Allen Green at Jack of Kent on 16 January 2012
Paul Waugh makes possible link with NightJack case
Noticed by Fleet Street Blues
David Allen Green asks at New Statesman whether this used in a published story
A source tells David Leigh that it was the NightJack case
David Allen Green raises serious questions based on this revelation
The Telegraph news story identifies the dramatic significance of the admission
The Times admission (see below)
David Allen Green’s post establishing that senior managers knew but did not tell High court
The High Court judgment – crucial paragraph is 3
The Telegraph report that John Whittingdale does not rule out bringing back James Murdoch to the DCMS Select Committee
Times admission in full:
The Times and the NightJack case
The Times published a report exposing the identity of an anonymous police blogger after a journalist at the newspaper had hacked into his e-mail account.
The report in 2009 revealed the identity of the author of NightJack, a popular blog by a police officer who gave behind-the-scenes insights into frontline policing.
The Times’s decision to expose the Lancashire detective Richard Horton was widely criticised at the time but the newspaper said there was a public interest in doing so because his blog contained details that could be traced back to actual prosecutions. A High Court judge agreed that there was a public interest in naming him and overturned an injunction Mr Horton had obtained against The Times.
The e-mail hacking has come to light because James Harding, Editor of The Times, and Tom Mockridge, Chief Executive of the paper’s parent company, News International, were asked questions by the Leveson inquiry about computer hacking.
Mr Harding referred to the incident in his statement, dated October 14 last year: ?The Times has never used or commissioned anyone who used computer hacking to source stories. There was an incident where the newsroom was concerned that a reporter had gained unauthorised access to an e-mail account.
“When it was brought to my attention, the journalist faced disciplinary action. The reporter believed he was seeking to gain information in the public interest but we took the view he had fallen short of what was expected of a Times journalist. He was issued with a formal written warning for professional misconduct.”
The witness statement was made public after Mr Harding’s appearance at the inquiry on Tuesday.
Mr Mockridge made two witness statements, the second correcting what he had said in the first about the computer-hacking incident. His first statement, also dated October 14, said there had been a “suspicion” that a reporter from The Times “might have gained unauthorised access to a computer”. The statement added that the reporter had denied doing so but had been given a formal written warning.
However, the reporter, Patrick Foster, who has since left the paper, had in fact informed his managers before the story was published that he had, on his own initiative, hacked into Mr Horton?s e-mail account. The incident raised issues about the approval process for newsgathering at the newspaper.
The role the hacking played in Mr Foster’s investigation remains unclear. Mr Foster identified Mr Horton using a legitimate process of deduction based on sources and information publicly available on the internet.
Mr Mockridge?s second witness statement, dated December 16, said: “Following further enquiries, I now understand that the reporter in fact admitted the conduct during disciplinary proceedings, although he claimed that he was acting in the public interest. The journalist was disciplined as a result. He was later dismissed from the business for an unrelated matter.”
In his original injunction application, Mr Horton said his identity had been disclosed to The Times “in a breach of confidence”. In his ruling overturning Mr Horton’s injunction, Mr Justice Eady said that Mr Horton’s barrister “was prepared to proceed on the basis that the evidence relied upon from Mr Patrick Foster was correct; that is to say, that he had been able to arrive at the identification by a process of deduction and detective work, mainly using information available on the internet.”
Mr Harding said: “The newspaper published the story in the strong belief that it was in the public interest even though concerns emerged about the conduct of the reporter. After the judge handed down his judgment overturning the injunction on the grounds of public interest, we published. We also took the decision to look into the reporter’s conduct and he was subsequently disciplined.”