Corruption allegations: The Sun in deep trouble


5:44 pm - February 27th 2012

by Sunny Hundal    


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I said last week that Trevor Kavanagh’s attack on the police investigation into possible corruption at the Sun would force them to be even more diligent.

That fairly obvious prediction seems to have come true.

At the Leveson inquiry today this is what happened, as the NY Times reports:

The officer, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers, said that e-mail records obtained by the police showed that there was a “culture at The Sun of illegal payments” that were authorized “at a very senior level within the newspaper” and involved “frequent and sometimes significant sums of money” paid to public officials in the Health Ministry and the prison service, among other places.

Ms. Akers said that the payments from The Sun went far beyond the occasional lunch or dinner, with one public official receiving more than $125,000 over several years, and a single journalist being allocated more than $238,000 in cash to pay sources, including government officials.

It was clear from references in the e-mails — to staff members’ “risking losing their pension or job” and to the need for “tradecraft” like keeping the payments secret or making payments to friends or relatives of the officials — that the journalists in question knew that the payments were illegal, Ms. Akers said.

Given that the Met is under immense pressure to get this right and justify their tough action on the Sun – they will pursue this aggressively.

It looks like Trevor Kavanagh shot himself and his paper in the foot with his angry editorial.

The Daily Mail summarises today’s events as:

- Payments to public officials were part of a ‘trade craft’ within the Sun
– One public employee ‘received £80,000 in return for stories’
– Member of the MOD and another from the armed forces have been arrested
– U.S. investigators could look at News Corporation activities in America
– ‘Revolving door’ between the Metropolitan Police and News International
– Lord Prescott says the police were ‘hiding things, not telling me the truth’
– Inquiry will become a ‘bloodbath’ as officers battle to defend their actions
– Sir Ian Blair defends decision not to expand original hacking probe

Bloodbath is the right word.

Rather than back down, the Met is left with no alternative but to justify their actions. Under Sue Akers it’s unlikely the Met will turn a blind eye as it did in the past.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


And I used to think that “The Sun” was at the forefront of human rights: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2011/02/09/human-rights-with-hollie/

This has also affected ‘ordinary’ people, with stories being leaked to press when they can’t afford to sue. Paying for access to medical records is vile. And what’s that about hacking: when we have a new system about to start (supposedly) where records are stored online? What could possibly go wrong?

The lingering resentment among politicians who have had to kow tow to the Sun now shows as they queue up to put the boot in.

I can only hope that a Murdoch has to answer at some point, and not just be allowed to get away with obvious lies.

Shouldn’t Cameron sack Gove because of Gove’s recent ill-judged comments on this matter?

Rupert must be ever so pleased with the way James has been keeping an oversight on NI operations in Britain.

I missed the new Sun on Sunday but then no one was kind enough to leave a copy on the bus I travelled on to get to the supermarket to buy groceries. There was a man in the store wearing a special Sun red T-shirt trying to promote the paper. I tactfully explained that I didn’t buy a Sunday paper and made do with the Weekend edition of the FT instead.

Shouldn’t Cameron sack Gove because of Gove’s recent ill-judged comments on this matter?

QTWTAIN

How appropriate that Rebekah Brooks was given a horse by the MET. It is usual for the Mafia to put horses heads in the beds of their victims, not the other way round.

Murdoch/Gambino crime family.

I think that the police horse story is a desparate bit of flack to distract attention from some of the other things said at Inquiry today.

“Jacqui Hames said that it was impossible not to conclude that there was collusion between people at the News of the World and people who were suspected of killing Daniel Morgan.”

This is serious stuff, which is also why it was highly inappropriate for a Minister to be joining in the “it’s a witch-hunt” narrative.

Gove, and Boris (1bus) should resign their posts immediately. Boris was on ITV last night demanding an end to the enquiry so that London could have 200 police officers back. Baring in mind he said this was all a Labour dirty trick he has been wrong from the start. Gove is Muroch weasel, who can not be trusted.

The police horse seems to be a bit of a red herring a distraction from some of the startling parts of the statement by Jacqui Hames.

“I believe that the real reason for the News of the World placing us under surveillance was that suspects in the Daniel Morgan murder inquiry were using their association with a powerful and well-resourced newspaper to try to intimidate us and so attempt to subvert the investigation.”

Ministers shouldn’t be making statements about “witch-hunts” in these circumstances.

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, became the first senior Government figure to warn of the dangers of the Leveson Inquiry which he said could prescribe a “cure worse than the original disease”.

Mr Gove, a former journalist at the Times newspaper [and married to a Times journalist], said: “The big picture is that there is a chilling atmosphere towards freedom of expression which emanates from the debate around Leveson.”

The minister questioned the need for new media laws or regulations, adding: “There are laws against the interception of messages, there are laws against bribery, there are laws that prevent journalists like any other professional, going rogue. Those laws should be vigorously upheld, vigorously policed.
“However, there is a danger at the moment that what we may see are judges, celebrities, and the establishment, all of whom have an interest in taking over from the press as arbiters of what a free press should be, imposing either soft or hard regulation.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9096479/Hacking-scandal-has-created-chilling-atmosphere-towards-free-speech-warns-Michael-Gove.html

What some critics of the Leveson Inquiry appear to assume is that Leveson has made firm suggestions about what to do – that the Inquiry has in effect finished.

Of course, it hasn’t. Leveson occasionally ‘floats’ an idea to a witness but no more than that. The Inquiry continues to hear evidence and it will be some time before makes a report.

But a very pertinent point here is that Leveson has made clear time and again the importance of freedom of speech. And much of the furore is not about “freedom of speech” it is about what people have done in pursuit of a story, in that some of the things they have done are prima facie criminal, and that the people who should have prevented / punished this prima facie criminality did not do so (line managers, editors, newspaper proprietors, the PCC, the police, the ICO for example). The laws against “the interception of messages … against bribery” were not enforced.

“freedom of speech” does not entail being free to do what you like in pursuit of a story.

News update in case readers miss this:

Ex-News International chief Rebekah Brooks loaned horse by Met police

The Metropolitan police loaned a horse to phone hacking suspect Rebekah Brooks for two years, it has emerged.
http://www.metro.co.uk/news/891625-ex-news-international-chief-rebekah-brooks-loaned-horse-by-met-police

Very wise of the Mail to report on this.

Their coverage of Leveson started out snarky or completely silent-until Ian Hislop recommended that Leveson read the coverage of his own inquiry to judge who was taking it seriously and considering mending their ways…

@12. Bob B: “The Metropolitan police loaned a horse to phone hacking suspect Rebekah Brooks for two years, it has emerged.
http://www.metro.co.uk/news/891625-ex-news-international-chief-rebekah-brooks-loaned-horse-by-met-police

From other sources, it is clear that this is not really a story. Retired police horses are offered to horse owners living in the south of England. Ownership is retained by the Met and the horse is not to be used for riding (ie the horse is retired and is not used for sport). As a wealthy person married(?) to a racing stable owner, it is unsurprising that Rebekah Brooks provided B&B to a retired police horse.

If this story has any meat on it, I haven’t seen it.

Try this news report in Tuesday’s Telegraph:

Loan of police horse to Rebekah Brooks is more evidence that Met and NI were ‘intensely close’ says MP
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/phone-hacking/9111800/Loan-of-police-horse-to-Rebekah-Brooks-is-more-evidence-that-Met-and-NI-were-intensely-close-says-MP.html

16. Chaise Guevara

@ 11 ukliberty

“And much of the furore is not about “freedom of speech” it is about what people have done in pursuit of a story, in that some of the things they have done are prima facie criminal, and that the people who should have prevented / punished this prima facie criminality did not do so ”

Agreed, but there is a free-speech-ish angle to this. Basically, should it be legal to do certain things that are normally illegal in the pursuit of a public-interest story? Say that phone-hacking had exposed some kind of massive political stitch-up, like MPs being blackmailed into backing certain bills, and that all recordings not pertinent to this issue had been destroyed. Should the journos who investigated be punished?

If not, should that be because they’re cleared by law to use certain illicit tactics if they can satisfy a court that they were pursuing a public-interest story? Or should it be done on discretion, or by a kind of “If you’re breaking the law to look for corruption, you better hope you find it” system? None of the obvious systems seem ideal to me.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. amanda elliot

    Corruption allegations: The Sun in deep trouble http://t.co/Gt79Lgzy

  2. Karen

    #UK : Corruption allegations: The Sun in deep trouble http://t.co/NXEfxvxZ

  3. sunny hundal

    On today's extraordinary Leveson session: Trevor Kavanagh's angry column defending the Sun backfired http://t.co/AdeS8gQW

  4. Andy Hicks

    On today's extraordinary Leveson session: Trevor Kavanagh's angry column defending the Sun backfired http://t.co/AdeS8gQW

  5. Ian Clark

    On today's extraordinary Leveson session: Trevor Kavanagh's angry column defending the Sun backfired http://t.co/AdeS8gQW

  6. Roger Bliss

    On today's extraordinary Leveson session: Trevor Kavanagh's angry column defending the Sun backfired http://t.co/AdeS8gQW

  7. Keiran Macintosh

    On today's extraordinary Leveson session: Trevor Kavanagh's angry column defending the Sun backfired http://t.co/AdeS8gQW

  8. HullRePublic

    On today's extraordinary Leveson session: Trevor Kavanagh's angry column defending the Sun backfired http://t.co/AdeS8gQW

  9. John Broggio

    On today's extraordinary Leveson session: Trevor Kavanagh's angry column defending the Sun backfired http://t.co/AdeS8gQW

  10. Hayley Moseley

    RT @sunny_hundal: On today's extraordinary Leveson session: Trevor Kavanagh's angry column defending the Sun backfired http://t.co/4pN86CGG





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