The following published by Byline Investigations on 7 July 2018, outs senior figured in Murdoch’s media empire in the U.K., who have been named as being involved in unlawful news gathering activities. Evidence provided in the High Court in London is the source of the information. This exposure is important, because it provides a window into the modus operandi of the media giant, which is not confined to only one country. There have been calls for an investigation into whether similar methods have been used in Australia. Perhaps this will contribute to bringing more pressure for this to come about.
Fifty serving or former Rupert Murdoch journalists – many very senior – allegedly used a private investigator to unlawfully gather information, the High Court in London has heard.
Many of those said to have used the services of Steve Whittamore, who was convicted of data theft in 2005, have gone on to become some of the most powerful people in the British media landscape.
The list includes Rebekah Brooks, the current chief executive (CEO) of Murdoch’s British publishing arm News UK and serving Sun on Sunday editor Victoria Newton
Also named are former editor of The Sun Dominic Mohan, and the paper’s former showbiz reporter James Scott, who today run some of the most influential public relations businesses in the country.
Others listed have gone on to senior jobs in broadcast media and corporate public affairs. A trial of the facts in the current round of claims is scheduled at the High Court for October.
The journalists include some from other Fleet Street papers, such as the Daily Express and The Mail on Sunday, who either had worked, or went on to work, at The Sun or News of the World.
According to court documents, the names were contained in hand-written notebooks used by Whittamore to record the jobs journalists allegedly commissioned from him.
In April 2005, Whittamore appeared at Blackfriars Crown Court and pleaded guilty to procuring confidential police data from the police national computer to sell to various newspapers. The News of the World was named in court as one of the buyers of this information.
His books were seized by investigators from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in raids on Whittamore’s business JJ Services in Hampshire in 2003 in an operation called ‘Motorman’.
He recorded his taskings in colour-coded pads, with each newspaper group having a different colour. Red, for example, was used for Mirror Group Newspapes (MGN) titles.
The lawyers for the claimants allege that some journalists used Whittamore on other national newspapers before moving to the News of The World, where they carried on requesting data.
The legal document states: “These books also contain occasional names of journalists from other newspapers, but who later went on to work for NGN, such as Dennis Rice, and presumably – as pleaded by the Claimants – carried on the same practice of unlawful information gathering they had practised at their previous titles.”
Mr Rice did not address the suggestion he used Whittamore either before or after his time at the News of the World.
The ICO disclosure included further notebooks – Yellow and Green – previously known to include taskings mainly from Associated Newspapers, owner of the Mail on Sunday and Daily Mail (and former owner of the London Evening Standard), and the Express Group.
The legal document states: “The same pattern of unlawful activity, well known from the original Blue Book and admitted to in Mr Whittamore’s witness statement, is shown in this book.”
The names emerged as claimants’ lawyers argued NGN was failing in its duty to disclose information on all the private investigators it employed and the tasks they were commissioned to carry out.
NGN unsuccessfully argued it would cost too much to disclose the new documents – having already handed 25,000 relating to the use of PIs and alleged blaggers.
Lawyer Roger Best, for NGN, had said the existence of the document store was already in the public domain and that the claimants could and should have asked for more disclosure from it earlier.