Thursday 24 October 2013

The Argument Hashtag

A humourous post from my regular contributor.

A newbie walks into Twitter.

Mr Newbie: Ah. I'd like to have an argument, please.

Twitter: Certainly sir. that's what we're here for.

Mr Newbie:  This is my first time on Twitter.

Twitter:  I see. Well, do you want to have the full argument?

Mr Newbie:  Umm, what would be the cost?

Twitter:  Well, It's 6 tweets for a five minute tiff, or all day for the 'Full Dacre' as we call it.

Mr Newbie:   I think it's probably best if I start with the tiff and then see how it goes from there, okay?

Twitter:  Fine. I'll see who's free at the moment.


Twitter: (mutters to self) ...he's free, but he's a little bit conciliatory. Ahh yes, Try here, on the Leveson hashtag.

Mr Newbie: Thank you. (wanders into Twitter)


Mr Newbie:  Ummm... Well, I was told that...


Mr Newbie: What?


Mr Newbie: *innocent face*  But I came here for a civilised argument!!

Angry man:  OH! Oh! I'm sorry! This is abuse!

Mr Newbie: Oh! Oh I see!

Angry man:  Aha! No, you want the press Chablis Bar, next door.

Mr Newbie:  Oh...Sorry...

Angry man: Not at all!

Angry man:  (under his breath) Stupid git.

(Mr Newbie goes into #ChilledChablis)

Mr Newbie: Is this the right room for an argument?

Mr Hack1:  I've told you once, you can't come in here.

Mr Newbie  No you haven't!

Mr Hack1: Yes I have.  Members only.

Mr Newbie: Members...?

Mr Hack2: Members ONLY.  Entry only if you've worked on tabloids, man and boy, fifty three years plus, sub-ed, freelance, back bench....

Mr Newbie: No you didn't tell me that!

Mr Hack3: Yes we did!  It's in the Editors' Code, everybody knows that. Ee, those were the days...

Mr Newbie:  Aha!  I see!  I'm in the 3 Yorkshiremen hashtag by mistake, aren't I!

Mr Hack1:  No you're not!

Mr Newbie:  Yes, I am!

Mr Hack2:  No, you're not!

Mr Newbie:  Yes, I AM!

(wanders off to the Leveson hashtag)

Mr Newbie: Is this the Leveson hashtag, please?

Mr Clever-Clogs:  It might be... but we're having an existential crisis of Sartre-ian proportions, so we don't quite....

Mr Newbie:  No you're not!

Mr Clever-Clogs:  Yes we are!

Mr Newbie: No you're not! I can see you're having a civilised debate on press regulation and...

Mr Blackand-Whyte:  That's enough... time's up!

Mr Newbie: Eh?? No, it isn't!

Mr Blackand-Whyte:  Yes, it is!  Unless you commit to the Full Dacre for the rest of the day, you'll have to leave.

Mr Newbie: OH. Oh, I get it... count me in!

Mr Steering-Group:  However, this remains a Charter written by politicians, imposed by politicians and controlled by politicians. It has not been approved by any of the newspapers or magazines it seeks to regulate.

Mr Newbie:  Ah, that's better..... No, it isn't! (smiles)

Mr Steering-Group: Yes it is!

The Right Hon Mr Authority-Figure MP:  A free press was one of the things that distinguished us from authoritarian regimes. Now we abandon it without a shot being fired in anger.

Mr Newbie: No it hasn't!!

Mr Cheesed-Off:  Sick of cries about our “free press” from national newspapers, whose handful of proprietors often don’t even pay UK taxes. #Leveson

Mr Mike Giggler:  He would say that, wouldn't he!!!!

Mr Newbie:  Now look, this isn't an argument!


All:  Yes it is!

Mr Newbie:  No it isn't!


Mr Newbie:  It's just contradiction!

All:  No it ISN'T!

Professor Philosophiser:  Argument is an intellectual process. Contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of anything the other person says.

Mr Blackand-Whyte: Not necessarily... I might be contradicting in my spare time.

Mr Newbie:  (exasperated) No, you aren't!

Lord Justice Leveson:  Don't look at me.  i am not prepared to argue about it -  I'm just an adjective.

Mr Newbie: NO, YOU'RE NOT!


Mr Newbie exits Twitter.  #facepalm

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Express Investigations: What Whittamore Did Next

A guest post by Chris Brace aka Mr Ceebs.

You don’t get to be a tabloid without the police issue cheerleading outfit. Especially if you’re one of the mid-market examples, constantly worried about immigrants and the unemployed.  The Express managed  to spend  money watching a range of terrorist suspects and those in the police who have watched them.

For Abu Quatada, they managed to spend £1075 to investigate over a single days story. This is for someone under house arrest,  so you don’t need a PI to follow someone around. But it’s also someone banned from using phones and computers, so you would question what services were being supplied, unless it’s all the mentioned persons family, or their DWP records being blagged. Interestingly, the Express were willing to spend more on a single hate figure than they spent on investigating the 7/7  bombers, on whom they only managed to spend  £705. One thing that it does suggest is that in the case of Quatada, the attacks have been started by the Newspapers rather than by leaks  from relevant government departments. If it had come from handouts from the home office and DWP then Desmonds troops would have been able to save money by not spending cash on PI’s

Looking further down the list there are a whole range of possible terror suspects who Desmonds troops are willing to throw a few pounds at a PI to find their details. Here are a few examples with the amount paid
Haroon Rashid (Atalah)  £264. (Yassin)Hassan Omar £76 London Bombers £212 London Bombings £705 Girma Yeshi £76 Abdul Muhid £100 abdul rauf £76 Zahoor Iqbal £271 
If you are to look at the people involved, there are several questions to ask. If they are following the same pattern as has elsewhere been employed, then it’s possible that details have been exchanged with co-operating servants of the law. Otherwise, it would involve acquiring friends and family details from a variety of databases (most likely phone companies) none of which can be done legally. After all, these people are all under arrest, or have taken part in terrorist activities that have left them far from this mortal coil. Either situation leaving them at best unlikely to answer a phone that is now in the hands of the police, and possibly leaving you having to answer some very awkward questions from men in uniforms with no sense of humour.

Further inside the list are a variety of current and former police officers probably the most interesting of which is Sir David Veness.  Now Sir David is the former Assistant Commissioner for Specialist Operations at the metropolitan police from 1994 to 2005 and then United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Safety and Security. From 2005 to 2008, When he was transferred out from the met, he was replaced by Andy Hayman so but for the international adventure, he could have been the man facing awkward questions in front of committees and judges. It may be that he will be a witness in Leveson part 2 as some of the alleged criminal activity will have happened at a time when he was the man holding the hot seat, rather than Hayman.

The Quick and the Dead

From talking to both journalists, and those who have encountered them, the most despised part of the Newspaper art is the so called “death knock” were hapless journalists or photographers are sent round to acquire quotes and pictures of the newly grieving relatives, sometimes even before the Police have arrived to tell the victims family that the unfortunate is no longer with us. (that is an apparent  cascade of dawning comprehension as to the situation on both sides of the conversation that cannot be a pleasant experience)

In amongst the lists provided by the express are a large number of names of the recently departed.  Now seeing as finding the individual named in the stories phone number would be at best unproductive, you can only assume that the connections are being trawled for friends and family contacts to add colour to the stories.

If you are remotely well known, or have died in an unusual way then the paper seems to find it open season on your friends and relations  And if  you’re a death that manages to hit the front pages then  there appears to be no limit.

Some days over the last several years it has seemed if the Express isn’t trying to tell you that the cure for cancer hasn’t been discovered, or the weather is going to be how it doesn’t eventually turn out then it’s either still punting spurious stories based on the people’s princess. However on days when that isn’t occurring then it’s working on driving the same old crowd of Bullying McCann conspiracy theorists into a frenzy.

Looking through the document (noted here) in there are a variety of McCann linked stories that have been investigated.

Searchline and System Searches came up with the following billed Items for those investigated

McCann (ref 093/L) £135 published Daily express 04/05/2007

Murat (ref 099/L) £464 published daily express 07/12 2007

Rob Murat (ref 100/L) £464 published daily express 07/12 2007

Kate McCann (ref 132/L) £382 published Daily Express 20/9/2007

Kate McCann (ref 136/L) £499 published Daily Express 9/11/2007

Kate McCann colleague (ref 137/L) £264 published Daily Express 9/11/2007

Kate McCann friends(ref 229/L) £499 published Daily Express 9/11/2007

Gerald McCann (ref 14656) £282 published Daily Express 21/9/2007

And that isn’t including named friends of the McCanns (a no doubt incomplete list from the paperwork)

Dianne Webster  (116/l) £146.88 published Daily Express 31/8/2007

Russell o’Brian (117/s) £146.88 published Daily Express 31/8/2007

Deanne Webster (139/l) £88.13 published Daily Express 21/9/2007

And then much more expensively the following came from JJ services

Murat (ref 6013)  £904 published Sunday express 26/8/2007

McCann (ref 6017) £851 published Sunday express 22/9/2007

Sophia Murat (ref 2169/g) £188 published Daily express 05/06/2007

Now JJ services is  one of the names that popped up in relation to the previous ICO  operation Motorman investigation. And from that we have a price list for their services, published in What Price Privacy

Information required Price paid to Price charged to customer

Occupant search/Electoral roll check  (obtaining or checking an address)  £17.50
Telephone reverse trace* £75
Telephone conversion (mobile)* £75
Friends and Family    £60 – £80 not known
Vehicle check at DVLA   £150 – £200
Criminal records check   £500
Area search (locating a named person across a wide area) £60
Company/Director search  £40
Ex-directory search  £65 – £75
Mobile telephone account enquiries £750
Licence check £250

Now it is noticeable that very few of these services are legal.  But even the most expensive activity that can only  be the result of illegal techniques comes to less than was charged to investigate Kate McCann or Robert Murat. Now it’s possible that they were paid to sit outside the house of Robert Murat. However, half the worlds press, including Express Journalists were there, so it seems unlikely.

You would think that something closely related to the activities on that list were a more likely source of the bill, But even though it was mentioned by DAC Sue Akers at one of her committee appearances that investigations into the paper group were happening as yet we see no signs of Express group journalists feeling the heavy hand of the Met on their collars.

Monday 14 October 2013

10 To Watch From The Home Affairs Select Committee

The latest from my regular contributor.

The Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) is not giving up its pressure on SOCA (Serious Organised Crime Agency, now - like Dr Who - regenerated as the National Crime Agency (NCA).  HASC's probing on 'blue chip' clients using rogue PIs (private investigators) is rigorous and determined. Whilst mainstream media focus on Leveson's committee appearances and gear up for Operation WEETING trials, here's '10 to watch' from HASC:


In response to HASC Chair, Keith Vaz, the Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling is decidely lukewarm on guarantoring the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) actually get the resources needed to investigate 'blue chip' clients.  After sitting on the neglected and dis-organised evidence for years, SOCA's abolition was a great excuse for a priority clearout - swiftly dumping the problem on the ICO at short notice.

The Attorney General told Vaz  "... you will be aware that the ICO's data protection work is funded through notification fees paid by organisations and individuals responsible for the processing of personal data and not through a direct grant from government. However, we will continue to work with the Information Commissioner to monitor any resourcing issues that may arise as a result of this investigation and other funding pressures."

That's just about as non-commital as you can get. (pdf p42)


HASC also asked the Attorney General what action was planned on implementing custodial sentences for breaches of section 55 of the Data Protection Act (DPA).  The enabling legislation is already in place, and more dissuasive penalties have been (over a decade) recommended by the ICO, several Select Committees - and by the Leveson Report.  

"It is the Government's view that the recommendations require careful consideration by a wide audience. We therefore intend to conduct a public consultation on the full range of data protection proposals, including on whether to introducing custodial sentences
... We think it is important that the public get the opportunity to consider the question of whether to introduce custodial penalties for breaches of section 55 in the context of Lord Justice Leveson's wider proposals relating to the data protection framework."  (pdf p42)

And here's the probable Catch 22 - just as 'nothing could be done' whilst the Leveson Inquiry continued, no doubt we shall hear 'nothing can be done' whilst criminal cases are in process, or until any appeals conclude, or until after the general election, or because there is an 'R' in the month...


More information is now available on the charging decisions reached in Operation MILLIPEDE.  A meeting in 2010 of SOCA investigating officers and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) considered a range of unspecified potential offences. The offence strategy decided upon was under the Fraud Act.

For three of four defendants, offences relating to misconduct in public office were ruled out.  Why? Sadly, we don't know as no record of the rationale exists in the CPS file. Gregor McGill - whose name may be familiar from CPS formal charging statements on Operation ELVEDEN - very carefully worded his understanding: "in relation to allegations of misconduct in public office, the CPS was never in possession of sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction for that offence."  Note that he doesn't say no evidence existed... but if SOCA did have any evidence, he carefully points out, the CPS was never in possession of it. (pdf p43)


Two SOCA lists ARE in the public domain, even though they were dragged from SOCA kicking and screaming.  (pdf p22)  The first is a short list of 'categories' of 8 clients (no names, no pack drill) which were used in the Operation MILLIPEDE prosecution.  Bland and uninformative, the 'used in prosecution' list includes 1 'Oil' client, 1 from 'Law', 1 from 'Rail Services' etc.  But the second list of 94 unnamed clients in categories - "judged as potentially relevant to Millipede which was not needed as evidence" - is much more informative.  It shows number and category of those SOCA chose not to use in support of the prosecution; it is an insight into the decision-making process itself.

Comparing the two lists shows the evidence selected for use in the prosecution was emphatically not a representative sample.  Two specific categories of client dominate the full list.  Topping the numbers is the vague category 'Law' - but we are not told if this includes law practices, in-house legal, counsel chambers, law agencies, paralegal, law enforcement agencies and so on.

The second highest category of clients is 'Private Investigators'.  Given that SOCA's own 2008 report (Project Riverside) identified "the harms inflicted on the UK by the rogue element of the private investigation industry", it is surprising no evidence was used in prosecution.  To clarify, Operation MILLIPEDE led to 4 convictions of private investigators - whose second largest client base was other private investigators.  By 2008, let alone charging decisions in 2010, there was ample evidence of PIs operating in connected chains.  Sub-contracting of specialists was a widely known technique - for example, in Operation BARBATUS (2007).

Yet this key characteristic did not feature in the SOCA MILLIPEDE prosecutions of 2011 - even though MILLIPEDE defendants had been on SOCA's radar since at least 2006.  HASC needs to ask more questions about that 2010 - only partly documented - MILLIPEDE charging decisions meeting.


Yes, there's a new op - Operation SPRUCE. (pdf pp 45-45)  It is the new investigation by the ICO into the MILLIPEDE 'blue chip' clients, kindly dumped on them by now-defunct SOCA in the form of 31 lever arch files.  The original plan had been had been to hand over after MET Operation TULETA prosecutions concluded.

"After consulting with SOCA and the Metropolitan Police, I can confirm that none of the 98 clients on the list was contacted during their investigations."  Given the years of delay, it is entirely possible that much corroborating evidence no longer exists.

12 clients are no longer active, 67 are still active but 24 of those are outside ICO jurisdiction, a further 11 are currently of undetermined activity status.  So far, Operation SPRUCE has determined probable offences by 19 'blue chip' clients involving 125 victims.  This is many more than SOCA's (undated) attempts to write to those victims affected.  (pdf p 29)


The unpublished Basu List (pdf pp 34-36) is far and away the most interesting of the submissions to HASC so far.  MET Commander Neil Basu, who leads all Hackgate operations, seems to have taken the opposite strategy to SOCA.  Instead of having information dragged bit by bit from the MET, Basu opted to provide HASC with MORE confidential data than HASC actaullyrequested.  This strategy can be summed up as 'be careful what you wish for - you may get it.'  Basu has submitted to HASC names and data for all MET investigations referencing PIs for 1998-2013.  This includes both closed AND ongoing investigations.

"I have included all investigations (including live investigations), but have redacted the names of the clients themselves to avoid compromising active investigations that are underway. Instead, and again to assist the Committee, I have identified the relevant industry within which they worked."  (pdf p 34)

The confidential Basu list includes:
- The names of clients who have been charged
- The names of clients who have been convicted of criminal offences
- The names of those where was insufficient evidence to justify an investigation by the MET
-  The names of those where No Further Action (NFA) resulted

To date, 7,161 people have been identified as victims (5,500 of those from Operation WEETING alone).  A further 1,250 potential victims are attributable to Operation PINETREE - the probe into a second alleged phone-hacking conspiracy at the News of the World.  Even allowing for some duplication, it is clear that the vast majority of rogue PIs victims accrue from rogue employees of rogue newspapers.

The data collation involved searches of the Police National Database (PND), CrimInt+, Integrated Intelligence Platform (IIP), MET Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS) and a "Confidential Unit".  It is noteworthy that the DPS search also turned up 477 relevant hard-copy documents which have never been scanned into electronic form during 1998-2013.

The scale is staggering.  Known Operations referencing PIs 1998-2013 include Two Bridges, Nigeria, Abelard I, Caryatid, Glade, Barbatus, Abelard II, Weeting, Elveden, Kalmyk, Tuleta, Pinetree.... (for background, see here and here)


On 3 Sept 2013, Keith Vaz asked Stephen Rimmer (Interim Chair of SOCA) about SOCA Board Members declared interests - given that SOCA's Chair had just resigned for failing to declare his company in the Register of Interests (here).
Q82 Chair: ...Have you asked them whether any of their roles—for example, Peter Clarke has an organisation called Peter Clarke Associates; Francis Plowden is a director of Serco plc. This is the premier law enforcement agency as far as organised crime is concerned... we want something precise. Did you say to them, 'Have any of your interests got anything to do with private investigators?'
Stephen Rimmer: Not in those specific terms, but I am absolutely satisfied that there is no conflict of interest. 
Rimmer followed up with a letter to HASC, correcting Vaz: "During the early part of the session you referred to Francis Plowden, a non-executive director of SOCA, by saying that he was a 'director of Serco Plc'. This is incorrect. I understand that Francis is not and never has been a director of Serco Plc. He has held shares in Serco Plc since February 2005. This fact was clearly stated by him on the SOCA Register of Interests upon his appointment to the SOCA Board in August 2009. Since that date, Francis has continued to declare this interest."  (pdf p41)

However, Rimmer was subsequently forced to re-consider (p46) whether there just might be the perception of conflict of interest as, since Plowden the SERCO shareholder has been a Board member:

- SERCO had a SOCA contract as IT supplier till 2011

- SERCO continues to have a SOCA £1million pa contract for "the provision of secure storage and associated services"

- SOCA acts as a facilitator for the City of London Police for the provision of 'Know Fraud' to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau. SOCA is the named party in the contract, but the City of London Police run and pay the contract directly to SERCO

- SOCA does not own but contributes maintenance and support costs to SERCO for a secure communications system of around £2,000 a year.

Stephen Rimmer is though still "satisfied that there is no conflict of interest in relation to these issues and Francis Plowden's shareholding."  (pdf p46)


In his 10 Sept 2013 letter to HASC, Stephen Rimmer promised to provide more information on other declared / undeclared directorships, business interests and consultancy activities of Board Members (such as that of the aforementioned Peter Clarke, former MET Assistant Commissioner in overall command of Operation CARYATID). (pdf p41)

Either that detail of SOCA Board Members' interests has not been published by HASC, or Rimmer has not provided the promised submission.  Either way HASC needs to follow up - and continue to press for the same attention to perceived conflicts amongst Board Members of the new National Crime Agency, SOCA's successor.


As from 7 Oct 2013, the NCA's nine-strong, all male, Board are

•    Keith Bristow – Director General (Chair)
•    Phil Gormley – Deputy Director General
•    David Armond – Director, Border Policing Command
•    Peter Davies – Director, Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command
•    Gordon Meldrum – Director, Organised Crime Command
•    Gary Chatfield – Director of Operations (Temporary)
•    Tim Symington – Director of Intelligence
•    Stephen Webb – Director Corporate Services (Interim)
•    Trevor Pearce – Director, Economic Crime Command (Interim)

There is currently a selection process underway to identify four non-executive members for the Board.  It will be interesting to see if any more familiar old SOCA names appear as Non-Execs, and to scrutinise the new NCA Board 'Register of Interests' when it is made public. (see here)


New NCA Director General, Keith Bristow told HASC: "On 7 October 2013 all information held by SOCA will pass from SOCA to the NCA".

That's good to know.  All SOCA information and evidence on private investigators, serious organised crime etc etc will be safely retained (probably in private industry commissioned 'secure storage' and 'secure communications systems').

And in the interests of transparency, 'being truthful, open and accountable for our actions', it's encouraging that all public domain SOCA documents will continue to be accessible through the SOCA Library - reports such as that of Project Riverside, SOCA Annual Reports, Registers of Interest, not-protectively-marked UK Threat Assessments and so on.  That's admirable.

Errr... no.  All SOCA public domain documents have now disappeared entirely, including the entire SOCA web site.  All SOCA URLs now auto-redirect to the new National Crime Agency home page.

Well played, NCA.... but I don't think HASC will be impressed.

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You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at

Friday 13 September 2013

The Daniel Morgan Independent Panel - Profiles

On 11 September 2013, Home Secretary Theresa May announced the names of the Panel members who will work alongside Chair, Sir Stanley Burnton.  Written ministerial statement on new members for the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel (here)
Further to my Statement of 10 May 2013 announcing the creation of the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel, I can today announce that the Chair, Sir Stanley Burnton, will be joined on the panel by the following panel members:
Silvia Casale: criminologist and independent expert for the Council of Europe.
Michael Kellett: former police officer (Lancashire Constabulary).
Graham Smith: academic and senior researcher at the University of Manchester.
This followed the formal announcement of the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel on May 10th 2013.  At that time, the family of Daniel Morgan said
In 2011, over 24 years after Daniel’s murder, the Metropolitan Police finally admitted that their first investigation of this crime was crippled by police corruption. As Daniel’s family, we were aware of that corruption within three weeks of the murder: we said so then, and we have been saying so ever since.  Through almost three decades of public protests, meetings with police officers at the highest ranks, lobbying of politicians and pleas to the media, we have found ourselves lied to, fobbed off, bullied, degraded and let down time and time again. What we have been required to endure has been nothing less than mental torture. It has changed our relationship with this country forever. 
In the meanwhile, the allegations and evidence of serious corruption within the Metropolitan Police – extending to recent history and the highest ranks – remained unaddressed through five police investigations and a prosecution aborted after 18 months of pre-trial argument.  Over most of this period, we witnessed a complete unwillingness by police and successive government to face up to what was occurring, and ultimately a complete failure by police leadership to deal effectively with serious police criminality. 
“We trust and hope that the Panel, through its examination and publication of all relevant material and information, will assist the authorities to confront and acknowledge this failure for once and for all, so that we may at last be able to get on with our lives. 
The remit of the Panel announced by Theresa May
will be to shine a light on the circumstances of Daniel Morgan’s murder, its background and the handling of the case over the period since 1987. In doing so, the Panel will seek to address the questions arising, including those relating to:
- police involvement in the murder;
- the role played by police corruption in protecting those responsible for the murder from being brought to justice and the failure to confront that corruption;
- the incidence of connections between private investigators, police officers and journalists at the News of the World and other parts of the media and alleged corruption involved in the linkages between them.
For more background on Daniel Morgan's murder see (here) and (here)


Sir Stanley BURNTON

Stanley Burnton was called to the Bar in 1965. He practised initially in general common law, and then from 1976 as a commercial lawyer at One Essex Court. He took silk in 1982. He acted both as advocate and arbitrator in international arbitrations.

Stanley Burnton sat as a deputy High Court judge in the Chancery Division from 1994 until he was appointed to the High Court Bench (Queen’s Bench Division) in July 2000. He was nominated to the Administrative Court shortly after his appointment. He was subsequently the Judge in charge of Modernisation, IT and the Court Estate and one of the original three judicial members of the Board of Her Majesty’s Court Service. He also served as a member of the Civil Justice Council.

In April 2008 he was promoted to the Court of Appeal, and sat in both the civil and criminal divisions of the Court of Appeal. He has given judgments in a number of arbitration-related cases,

He retired as a Judge of the Court of Appeal on 25 October 2012, when he reached the age of 70, and has returned to One Essex Court to sit as an arbitrator.  He is a trustee of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law, and a member of its audit committee.  He is an Honorary Fellow of St Edmund Hall, Oxford and a Visiting Professor at Queen Mary College, London.

Stanley Burnton is chairman of the Board of Trustees of the British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII) which is a non-profit making charitable trust building and operating an interactive database of full text primary legal materials available without charge on the Internet. (source: BAILLI in a Nutshell)


Dr Silvia Casale is a British criminologist who has lived and worked in the USA, Sweden and the UK (source):
She works as independent adviser to the Council of Europe on training Parliamentarians in immigration detention monitoring and on capacity-building programmes for national preventive mechanisms.  She was the member in respect of the United Kingdom of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment from 1997 to 2009, and its President from 2000 to 2007. In 2007, she became the first Chairperson of the newly established United Nations treaty body the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, serving as the member in respect of the United Kingdom from 2007 to 2009.
From 1998 until July 2012, she worked as a Northern Ireland Sentence Review Commissioner (re: release and recall of terrorist prisoners under the Good Friday Agreement) and has been a member of the International Contact Group (peace initiative in the Basque Country) since 2009. Previously, she was a member of the Parole Board for England and Wales (1988-1990) and an independent consultant to HM Prisons Inspectorate, England and Wales (1991-2005).
She is a long-standing trustee of the Prison Reform Trust, and from 1991 to 2012 was a trustee of the Prisoners Advice and Care Trust. She is a patron of UNLOCK (the national association of reformed prisoners in the UK) and of the Writers in Prison Foundation, and serves on the Advisory Board of the Association for the Prevention of Torture in Geneva.

Michael Kellett retired from the police service in the United Kingdom in 2006 on completion of thirty years service. During that time he carried out a variety of roles, mainly as a criminal investigator. From 2001 to 2003 he was seconded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg where he acted as police advisor to the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and also worked with the Police and Human Rights Programme.

He has extensive experience, both in his ‘human rights’ role and as an operational police officer, of working in Europe, throughout the former Soviet Union, in the Balkans and in Asia and North America and since leaving the police has worked as a consultant on behalf of the FCO, OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe), EU, Council of Europe, UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) and d the APT ( Association for the Prevention of Torture).  His a member of the FCO’s  Human Rights Sub-Group on Torture Prevention.  (here)

He has undertaken several human rights and prison visits for the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), including to Kosovo (here), the Russian Federation (here), and Turkey. (here)

Michael Kellett - by virtue of strange coincidence - also has other relevant experience.

'Operation Rectangle (Historical Child Abuse Enquiry) - review of the efficient and effective use of resources'

In March 2009 he was engaged by the Acting Chief Officer of the States of Jersey Police to undertake a 
‘Review of the Efficient and Effective Use of Resources' (Operation Rectangle). Rectangle was the investigation into historic cases of alleged child abuse at Haut de la Garenne children's home.  The Review was into investigation resource management and was not an operational evaluation.  

Amongst financial issues was scrutiny of alleged excessive expenses claimed for consultations with Scotland Yard.  The Haut de la Garenne child abuse scandal in Jersey needed a mainland, ACPO-nominated authority to oversee the investigation. Former MET Homicide Commander, Andre Baker took up the role in addition to his Deputy Director of SOCA duties. This necessitated liaison with Jersey States police and several visits to Jersey.

The States of Jersey investigation team were criticised for the amount of expenses claimed for their London visits.  On one occasion (dinner at an expensive restaurant) it was said that Jersey SIO (Senior Investigating Officer) had "also invited a News of the World reporter as his guest.  Her presence clearly made some of the participants feel uncomfortable".  In addition, a draft of the Review report was leaked to the Mail on Sunday despite Mike Kellett having had absolutely no contact, formal or informal, with any journalist.  Kellett was able to ascertain that the leak to the MoS had in fact come from the replacement Senior Investigating Officer for Operation Rectangle.

Graham SMITH

Graham Smith is a Senior academic in the School of Law at the University of Manchester. (here)  This role demands balancing the needs of research, teaching, policy, quality assurance and administration. His principal research interests are a) Police misconduct and legal remedies, b) Police accountability . He has an extensive and influential publications profile in his field of expertise (here)

In 2011 he was commissioned to undertake a study of 'Disproportionality in Police Professional Standards' for Greater Manchester Police (GMP), West Midlands Police and British Transport Police.  It involved an investigation of internally raised misconduct proceedings in GMP and analyses of Counter-Corruption data in the three services. (Executive Summary here)

Sir Peter Fahey, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, said the report would help GMP “understand some of the underlying causes, which are complex and wrapped up in a host of cultural issues”.  (here)


One crucial indicator of how the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel means to proceed is the explicit centrality of the family - the need for consultation, transparency and staying informed throughout.

A recent model will no doubt be the "Report of the Independent External Review of the IPCC Investigation into the death of Sean Rigg" (May 2013 here)

One of the Sean Rigg Review team was Silvia Casale who said, "...the perspective of the family must be recognised as important."
The Review considers that the family are fellow travellers in the search for the truth
The family of Daniel Morgan need and deserve no less.

Friday 6 September 2013

Blue Chips And The New SOCA Dossier - What The Media Missed

The latest from my regular contributor.

Yes, it is quite clear that getting information from SOCA is like pulling teeth.

So many questions and loose ends. Wouldn't it be interesting to know more about what offences are in dispute? have SOCA really been liaising with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) or not? Who's been sitting on what information, for how long, and why? Wouldn't some more clarity on Project Riverside (here) be informative? Who knew what when about Operation Millipede and the 'blue chip' list? What was the sequence of contacts between SOCA and Metropolitan Police Service (MET) about Millipede? And also Operation Tuleta? (For background on Millpede and Tuleta see here).

Considering the recent press 'revelations' and 'outrage' over blue chips, it is remarkable that there is so little interest in the detail of these key questions. Or, in many cases, bothering with accuracy.

What would help, presumably, is if SOCA were to release into the public domain its answers to these key questions. Say, a 14 page dossier of responses to criticisms with detailed timelines etc etc.

It has. You can read it (here).

But apparently there's no interest from the mainstream press, despite them calling for answers for weeks. Baffling, isn't it?


Firstly, SOCA reports there is NO blue chip 'hacking' scandal as yet uncovered. And the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) is at pains to agree. This flies in the face of what has been reported in the Telegraph, Daily Mail, Independent, Daily Mirror etc - and even the Financial Times. Reasons for this lack of accuracy might be speculated upon - ranging from inaccurate research or wishful thinking to sheer bloody minded ideological obstinancy. A wilful assertion of blue chip 'hacking' doesn't make it fact, but does mobilise a narrative skewed towards journalists being picked on and victimised.

The SOCA report to HASC says:
There has been some confused reporting over these matters in the media over the past few weeks...the clients of the private investigators convicted as a result of Operation Millipede have been characterised by some sections of the media as 'blue chip hacking'. However, it is important to note that the main focus of Operation Millipede was around the use of 'blagging'. There are different legislative penalties available to investigators and a lack of particularly dissuasive penalties for 'blagging' under the Data Protection Act, as opposed to 'hacking'.
Offences to do with 'hacking' are different to those associated with 'blagging', and different to those convictions for Operation Millipede which were for 'fraud' - which is why accuracy is preferable to muddle.


SOCA denies Riverside has "suppressed" blue chip 'hacking' and provide a detailed timeline (Annex B) which includes the dates that the Riverside intelligence report was shared with The MET, Home Office ICO and Leveson Inquiry. Operations Flandria and Gloxinia were focused on intelligence other than 'blue chip', and it is fair to assume some sections of the press were already well aware of the associated trajectories of Operation Abelard II and Operation Caryatid (the original 06-07 News of the World phone-hacking investigation). Press characterising "suppression" must therefore emanate from Operation Millipede rather than Project Riverside?


Operation Millipede was widely reported at the time of convictions, including both identified blue chip names and further alleged links to News international - itself a blue chip corporate. Undoubtedly, where SOCA can be criticised is for its tardiness in collating a structured list of corporate Millipede clients. 

The ICO appear to have been formally involved and informed early in Millipede, even before arrests were made. There were consultations on offences to be prosecuted with both ICO and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) particularly bearing in mind lack of public interest defence and the history of paltry sentences for Data Protection Act offences per se. There seems to have been a formal understanding and division of labour on Millipede: SOCA would progress Private Investigators prosecutions then provide ICO with the Millipede evidence to follow up and evaluate potential CLIENT prosecutions. Client prosecutions have never been ruled out - this is confirmed by ICO evidence in the public domain (see here).

And, with the imminent publication of the blue chip list by HASC, the ICO may be best placed to use that precedent to release the Motorman Files too.


Where both SOCA and MET can be criticised is perhaps in their failures to be clear about their division of labour, and why Millipede evidence was not passed to the ICO sooner. SOCA's intentions to pass Millpede to the ICO were altered in light of the launch of Operation TULETA. Tuleta (and sub-operation Kalmyk) involve very serious alleged offences - these were perceived as having precedence over lesser DPA infringements. That should have been made explicit to ICO and indeed Home Affairs Select Committee. This understandable but badly communicated decision has led to perceptions of cover up.

  • Kick-started by HASC, SOCA has belatedly drawn up a structured list of Millipede clients.
  • The ICO has now received Millipede evidence and will begin evaluating whether or not there is sufficient evidence that Millipede private investigator corporate 'blue chip' clients were aware of illegalities used on their behalf.
  • The MET continues to investigate alleged email hacking and other offences under Operation Tuleta.
  • There were 107 corporate clients on the 'blue chip' Millipede list given to HASC. Keith Vaz (HASC Chair) proposes 102 of those corporate clients be publicly named
The discrepancy in the numbers? That is because 5 client company identities have been redacted and witheld at the insistence of the MET for operational reasons. Those 5 are currently under investigation by Operation Tuleta which may potentially lead to serious corporate prosecutions. Those are the 5 to watch.

The latest news is that SOCA is still refusing to publish the blue chip list, and is supported in that stance by the MET. SOCA and MET reiterate the potential damage to on-going operations in a fluid and changing context. For example, "since SOCA provided the lists of 102 clients to the Committee on 22 July 2013, the MPS have identified a further four crossovers with MPS operations other than Operation Tuleta." (here)

None of which excuses the press itself for failing to cover the 14 page public dossier already presented to HASC. Why the deafening silence? Like Ouroboros eating its own tail, will the mainstream press now accuse itself of "suppression" and cover-up?

Wednesday 28 August 2013

A Quiet Word In Your Northern And Shell-Like....

The latest from my regular contributor.

January 12th 2012 was Northern and Shell day at the Leveson inquiry. Northern and Shell is the parent company of Express Newspapers comprising the Daily Express, Sunday Express, Daily Star and the Daily Star Sunday. Amongst questions asked were some about the use of private investigators, 'search agencies', payments, protocols and audit trails.


First to give evidence was Nicole Patterson, barrister, Head of Legal of Express Newspapers. She was then leading an on-going internal investigation into legal compliance 2005-2012, following the News International phone hacking scandal. Her enquiries established the use of 'search agents' and that Express Newspapers journalists
would ask for details of how to contact people or addresses or whatever it was, but I -- at the time that we were looking at, I don't think anybody had really asked, 'How do you do this? How do you find your information?' They were -- as far as we were -- well, I can't say as far as we were aware because until we started having a look at this, I didn't even know that we used these search agencies.
More accurately, there weren't just the five 'search agencies' mentioned in Patterson's evidence which included Express Locate International; Longmere Consultants; Searchline; and SystemsSearches. Passing unmentioned in oral evidence were also AV Legal Services (Leeds) Ltd, AJK Research, BDI (UK) Consultancy and other sources. There is a mass of detailed and informative supporting data in the Patterson Exhibits [NP 2-6] which were not published on the Leveson Inquiry web site until many weeks afterwards thus avoiding much scrutiny (save Reuters, see below).

Oral questioning of Patterson focused in on one particular company used extensively - JJ Services - whose owner Steven Whittamore had been convicted for Data Protection offences early in 2004. Indeed much of the Patterson Exhibits take the form of dense spreadsheets highly reminiscent of the Operation Motorman files.
Q. Right... JJ Services, is that Mr Whittamore's company?
A. I believe it is.
Q. It's clear from documents we are going to look at that your company was engaging JJ Services in 2004 and 2005; is that right?
A. Mm.
Q. Is JJ Services still being used?
A. I don't know the answer to that.
Q Okay. You presumably had in mind the two reports from the Information Commissioner, ""What price privacy?" and "What price privacy now?"
A. Mm-hm.
Q. The papers in the Express Group do feature in the Information Commissioner's table in the second report.
A. Yes.
Q. And we know that JJ Services was really the focus of both reports?
Q. Did you carry out more detailed enquiries in relation to the activities of JJ Services in 2004 and 2005 of both the financial records and the journalists?
A. No, we didn't...
...the accounts department would have been searching under the name of Whittamore or JJ Services.
Q. What's quite interesting, though, is the dates. The earliest date, at least on this search, is 31 January 2005. He's still carrying out services last year. If you go to 01560 --
A. Mm.
Q. -- you can see the last item there is 30 July 2010 - "Natasha Murat."
A That's a day rate, so £240 would have been a day rate. I don't know what that really means. But the accounts department then prepared this -- the managing editor's office actually prepared this
sheet for me: "Search for possible connection to Robert Murat." What type of search that would have been I really can't tell you. A computer search? I just -- I don't know.
Q. It looks as if your internal inquiry is not getting very far thus far; is that right? 

Patterson told the Inquiry that the company's internal trawl had showed "more often than not," the amounts paid were neglible: "75 pounds, 80 pounds, 100 pounds. It's very little money." Arguably, even those amounts are quite a lot to pay for mere "...details of how to contact people or addresses or whatever...".

Here are just a sample of the hundreds of 'targets' in the Northern and Shell spreadsheets (Exhibits NP 2-6)

Maxine Carr
R Branson
Mark Thompson (Director General BBC)
London Bombers
London Bombings
Millie Dowler (murder victim 2002, Surrey)
David Cameron
Sally Anne Bowman (murder victim 2005, Croydon)
(Tracey) Temple (linked to John Prescott)
(Clive) Bolden (Tracey Temple's ex-husband)
Paul Farrelly (Member of Parliament, Labour, Member of Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee 2005-present)
Ken McDonald (former Director of Public Prosecutions)
Sophia Murat
Rob(ert) Murat
Jacqui Smith (Home Secretary)
Clarence Mitchell (spokesman for McCanns)
Kate McCann
Kate McCann
Kate McCann colleague
Kate McCann friends
Ken Livingstone (then Mayor of London)
Sharon Shoesmith (Head of Haringey children's services at the time of the death of 'Baby P')
(Carina) Trimingham (partner of Chris Huhne)
David Veness (former Assistant Commissioner, Specialist Operations, Metropolitan Police)
I Puddick
Kelly Hoppen
R(osie) Wintterton (Member of Parliament, Labour)
T(racy) Temple
(Professor John) Tulloch (7/7 London bombing survivor)
C Middleton
Natasha Murat (no relation to Robert Murat)
Rhys Jones (11yr old murder victim, Liverpool)
Vincent Tabak (killer of Joanna Yeates, Bristol)
Jorge Mendonca (former Commanding Officer, Queens Lancashire Regiment, cleared of negligence re Baha Mousa murder)
Stephen Bigby (Oxford St murder victim May 2008)
David Kelly enquiries
Gerald McCann

Just how many times do Northern and Shell need to pay to know the McCann's address?


When Steve Whittamore's services come under scrutiny, it becomes very clear that most of the high value invoices are from his company. JJ Services has a near-monopoly of high-end commissions, well above the average. The mundane sums of £70-£80 simply do not feature - most of his commissions cost Northern and Shell hundreds, sometimes a thousand or two. Whatever specialist, high-value tasks he was undertaking must have been extraordinarily labour intensive, high risk, sensitive, complex or all of the above.

Here are a sample of Whittamore's 'targets', together with invoice dates and amounts paid. (Exhibit NP2 pp1-3)
* a witchalls 4/24/05 ref 5824 £284,94
* rothermere 2/27/05 ref5797 £2.150,25
* bbc 3/27/05 ref5809 £837.19
* john birt 4/10/05 ref5818 £710,88
* terror bombing enquiry 7/17/05 £1,098,63
* bowman murder 10/2/05 ref5884 £846.00
* oaten 2/2/06 ref5922 £446.50
* alan sugar 3/26/06 ref594 ,£558.13
* temple bolden 4/23/06 ref5951 £1 380.63
* mark thompson 4/30/08 ref16377 £232.65
* farage 6/11/06 ref 5970 £99.88
* middleton 11/5/06 ref 6032 £246.75
* suffolk murders 12/21/06 ref 6053 £ 1,445.25
* murat 8/26/07 ref 6103 £940.00
* mccann 9/22/07 ref 6107 £851.88
* Blankett 8/22 04 ref5707 £2,687.81 (confirmed as transcription error for 'Blunkett' Exhibit NP3 p36)
and see (here).


Also adduced into evidence to Leveson were some 'taken as read'. Martin Ellice, Group Joint Managing Director of the Northern & Shell Group of Companies, exhibited samples of 3 journalists' expenses claims. Most claims were for takeaways, taxis and tipsters. But one of those journalists detailed some other routine entertaining expenses:
Exhibit MSE-1 (here)

27/04/2007 £37.50
- Entertaining computer expert contact Steve Whittamore

15/05/2008 £9.55
- Entertaining computer contact re telephone numbers

02/05/2009 £93.71
- Entertaining computer expert re special enquiries - name available to desk

15/05/10 £5.55
- Entertaining computer expert re addresses

All perfectly innocent no doubt, but demonstrating sustained contact with Steve Whittamore and associates long after his conviction (and after the convictions of NOTW Goodman and Mulcaire).


At least all the transactions, admin, VAT payable and invoices appear all accountable - even though the exact details of each task brief are not entirely transparent. Clearly Northern and Shell run a tight ship as Paul Ashford (Group Editorial Director) was able to assure the Leveson Inquiry (Paul Ashford Witness Statement here).

Q2: How you understand the system of financial governance to work in principle and in practice at the newspapers owned by your company with particular emphasis on systems to ensure that the newspapers funds are not used to pay bribes or to fund the
gathering of information by illegal methods?
A: The system of financial governance at Express Newspapers, in relation to editorial costs, is as follows: department heads and commissioning editors will commission editorial content. At the end of each month a list of all payments is signed by lan Parrott, Group Managing Editor, and me. lan Parrott and I will query any item which looks out of the ordinary... If a journalist makes a cash payment, they have to reclaim it on expenses, lan Parrott queries all such payments. I understand that they are rare and for relatively small sums.
Strange then that one particular cash expense claim escaped their controlling eyes. The journalist's claim (20/09/2007 p5 here) was for costs incurred for foreign currency exchange. The reason detailed was
Given 1500 euros by office as cash advance to be converted to sterling for cash payment to private eye.
Ian Parrott left Northern and Shell "abruptly" in August 2012. (see here)

Recent Articles
Met And Murdoch - Covert Deals And Registered Concerns
The Daily Mail Needs To Re-Think Reproof
Gloxinia And Flandria - Digging Over The Dirt
Witness Protection, Anyone?
Mayor Boris And The Met Payoffs
Project Riverside And The SOCA Report
All Rise - Justice Saunders At Southwark

You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Schrödinger's Royal Charter

Something more lighthearted from my regular contributor.

A constituent enters the PM's office...

Mr Constituent: 'Ello, I wish to register a complaint.

(no response.)

Mr. Constituent: 'Ello, Ed Balls?

PM: What do you mean "Ed Balls"?

Mr. Constituent: I'm sorry, I have a bad back. I wish to make a complaint.

PM: We're closed for summer recess and the silly season.

Mr. Constituent: Never mind that, my lad. I wish to complain about that there Royal Charter what I was promised not a year ago from this very cross-party agreement.

PM: Oh yes, the, uh, the Red, Yellow and Blue Charter...What's, uh...What's wrong with it?

Mr. Constituent: I'll tell you what's wrong with it, my lad. It's dead, that's what's wrong with it!

PM: No, no, 'e's uh,'s resting.

Mr. Constituent: Look, matey, I know a dead Charter when I see one, and I'm looking at one right now.

PM: No no it's not dead, it's, it's restin'! Remarkable thing, the Royal Charter idn'it, ay? Beautiful vellum!

Mr. Constituent: The vellum don't enter into it. It's stone dead.

PM: Nononono, no, no! It's resting!

Mr. Constituent: All right then, if it's restin', let's wake it up! 
(shouts at the vellum) 'ELLO, Royal Charter! 'ELLO? I've got a lovely fresh red wax seal for you if you ...

(PM hits the shelf)

PM: There, it bounced!

Mr. Constituent: No, it didn't, that was you hitting the shelf!

PM: I never!!

Mr. Constituent: Yes, you did!

PM: I never, never did anything...

Mr. Constituent: (yelling and hitting the shelf repeatedly) 'ELLO, ROYAL CHARTER!!!!! Testing! Testing! Testing! This is your one year on alarm call!

(takes Charter off the shelf and thumps it on the desk. throws it up in the air and watches it plummet to the floor in a cloud of dust.)

Mr. Constituent: Now that's what I call a dead Royal Charter.

PM: No, no.....No, 'e's stunned!

Mr. Constituent: STUNNED?!? We're all bleedin' well STUNNED!

PM: Yeah! it got stunned by PressBOF's alternative Charter just as it was wakin' up! Royal Charters stun easily, y'know.

Mr. Constituent: look, mate, I've definitely 'ad enough of this. That Royal Charter is definitely deceased and when I was promised it not but a year ago, you assured me that its total lack of energy was due to it bein' tired and shagged out following a prolonged Leveson Inquiry.

PM: Well, it''s, ah...probably pining for the Privy Council

Mr. Constituent: PINING for the PRIVY COUNCIL?!?!?!? What kind of talk is that? look, why did it start gathering dust the minute that Leveson bloke clocked orf?

PM: Yer Royal Charter process is supposed to gather dust! Remarkable archaic process id'nit, squire? Lovely vellum!

Mr. Constituent: Look, I took the liberty of examining that Royal Charter and I discovered the only reason that it's been sitting on thatm helf gathering dust all this time is that you NAILED it there.


PM: Well, o'course I nailed there! If I hadn't hammered that Charter down, it would have made the Chipping Norton summer fete a bit tense, lit the blue touch paper... quite a temper y'know... VOOOOM!

Mr. Constituent: "VOOOOM"?!? mate, this Charter wouldn't make anybody "voooom" if you poured Andy Hayman's champagne bar bill through it! 'E's bleedin' demised!

PM: No no! 'E's pining!

Mr. Constituent: 'E's not PINING! 'e's hit the skids! This Royal Charter is no more! It has ceased to be! e's been tippexed out! 'e's deleted like a News International email! Bereft of life, 'e's with Benjy the Bin! 'is democratic consensus processes are now 'istory! 'e' off the radar! 'e's kicked into the long grass, 'e's permanently out of print, e's stamped 'return to sender'!! e's gathering dust on the second shelf of an academic's bookcase!! THIS IS AN EX-ROYAL CHARTER!!


PM: Well, I'd better replace it, then. (he takes a quick peek behind the desk) Sorry squire, I've had a look round the back and uh, we're right out of Royal Charters.

Mr. Constituent: I see. I see, I get the picture...

PM: I got a Press Complaints Commission.

(long pause)

Mr. Constituent: Pray, ..... does it bite?

PM: Nnnnnnnot really.


PM: N-no, I guess not. (gets ashamed, looks at his feet)

Mr. Constituent: Well?


PM: (quietly) D'you.... d'you want to share a taxi up the Old Bailey to watch the Andy Coulson trial?

Mr. Constituent: (looks around) Yeah, all right, sure.

Monday 19 August 2013

Met And Murdoch - Covert Deals And Registered Concerns

The latest from my regular contributor.

Home Affairs Select Committee, 19 July 2011, Witness: Siir Paul Stephenson, Commissioner of the Police of the Metropolis - 
Q763 Dr Huppert: The Evening Standard is reporting that the Neville whose name appeared in some of that information was a source, and was providing information to the Met— code name George, I think, source 281—and that in exchange he was given confidential information from the police national computer (PNC). If that is true, it raises even more concerns about what is happening to police information; are they giving it to journalists? 
Of course, Commissioner Stephenson knew nothing about what had been reported in the Standard and there were other things on his mind as he had just tendered his resignation. In any case, the question was slightly flawed as Neville Thurlbeck was not reported as an informant for the MET. But he was, as reported, a registered informant for the National Crime Intelligence Service (NCIS) which was the forerunner of SOCA (Serious Organised Crime Agency).  (Evening Standard here)

The Standard report suggested Thurlbeck's police informant activities date back to 1995 as "an unpaid employee of the National Criminal Intelligence Service, a liaison body between Scotland Yard's Special Branch and MI5." That relationship of collusion had been exposed by a failed 2000 prosecution which lacked evidence of money having changed hands - although prosecution under different charges may have delivered a different outcome.
Stephen Kramer QC, prosecuting, told jurors a substantial number of checks Det Con Farmer made on the Police National Computer bore no relation to any investigations on which he was working. Mr Kramer detailed 36 stories in the News of the World which he said contained information supplied by Det Con Farmer.
On acquittal Thurlbeck said:
When you deal with police officers in 2000, the currency is information not money ... The News of the World crime desk receives a huge amount of information about criminal activity - and the police have always been eager to tap into that resource. In return policemen give information to us. That is our most valuable currency. 
Justice McKinnon said the relationship between Thurlbeck and Farmer was a 'symbiotic one, information passed both ways'
Mr Thurlbeck undoubtedly supplied information to Mr Farmer which was of interest to the police. In return for which Mr Farmer provided to Mr Thurlbeck, not confidential or sensitive information, but information principally about criminals' previous convictions which he obtained from the Police National Computer. 

It is startling that it doesn't sound like a formal arrangement, sanctioned and approved as registered informant for NCIS, it sounds more like a covert deal. If it were official, then 'George' no. 281 would probably never have been charged and prosecuted. Even back then it was best practice to draw up a memorandum of understanding for a formalised police informant agreement, allocated approved handler and controller, counter-signed by an authorising senior officer. Through these procedures, officers and informants are thus protected from allegations of over-cosiness, covert back channel deals - or inappropriate immunity. Technically, it would be possible for someone like 'George' to establish a non-approved, clandestine relationship with one law enforcement officer in NCIS or SOCA whilst maintaining useful 'insurance policy' registered informant status as 'no 281' with a different agency such as the MET.

Fortunately that possibility was foreseen in the establishment of NCIS
A NATIONAL index of several thousand registered police informants is being considered by chief constables to prevent 'grasses' and unscrupulous detectives abusing the system.
The index, which would become one of the most sensitive police databases, would be maintained by the National Criminal Intelligence Service, which is charged with gathering information on major criminals. The NCIS would give each informant a codename so their real identities would only be known to their police contacts and forces. But the central index would contain sufficient information for individuals to be recognised if there was any attempt to register them more than once, as well as details of payments and information supplied.
Setting aside any qualms about the threat to SOCA/NCIS itself of criminal infiltration of such sensitive data, at least the principle is clear and sets out the corruption risks for any journalist (or law enforcement agency) tempted to blur investigative roles for cash, kind, or mutual 'protection'.

BBC Newsnight (13/07/11) included a segment which claimed that blurred relationships could still find ways round to ease the two-way flow of information uninterrupted. Any unauthorised accessing of the Police National Computer (PNC) or other database (eg DVLA vehicle details) leaves an electronic trail which can be audited or dip-sampled. This was how Alex Owens of the Information Commissioner's Office was able to establish that sensitive 'protected numbers' had been targeted in Operation Motorman. Newsnight alleged that the MET had set up NOTW journalists as 'Confidential Informants' - protected intelligence sources. This would automatically take all activity outside standard electronic audit. If this Newsnight allegation has any substance, it should be noted that authorising 'Confidential Informant' status can only be done by accountable senior officers.


It seems that News International were no strangers to blurring the lines. Take, for example, this 'Fake Sheikh' Mahzer Mahmood sting:
The News of the World defended its red mercury investigation - which today failed to secure the conviction of three men on terrorist-related charges - as 'thorough and legitimate'.
The tabloid also pointed to the police involvement in the story from an early stage. 'We are entirely satisfied that the methods used in the investigation were not only wholly proper, but were both authorised and, from an early stage, continued in close liaison with the police.' 
[Mahmood has history of blurring some distinctions such as the use of particular private investigators / ex-police officers as bodyguards. See here an illuminating 1999 report about his use of Two Heavies and Mr Smith.]

Mahmood told the Leveson Inquiry:
I had one meeting with the individuals who I was told wanted to buy the product and then passed the audio recording of my meeting to the anti-terrorisl squad. The police then signed me up as participating informant for that one investigation. The police determined all my actions when I worked with them. One other undercover police operative worked with rne and the police issued a statement confirming it was a proper investigation.
Interviewed in Press Gazette, he said
The entire job I was basically working for Scotland Yard's anti-terrorism squad. I was registered as a participating informant; every single movement I made was on their orders. Quite often, as it came out in court, I didn't agree with what they were doing, but I had to do it as I was working for them.' Mahmood argues that if the Crown Prosecution Service thought there was a case to be put forward and the Attorney General personally signed for that case to go ahead, it must have been a worthy case. 
The defendants were acquitted on July 25th 2006. Two weeks later, on August 8th 2006, NOTW's Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire were arrested. MET Specialist Operations (Counter Terrorism) were commiting resources and collaborating with a protected NOTW journalist 'Participating Informant' investigation at the exact same time that MET Specialist Operations (Counter Terrorism) were investigating NOTW jeopardising national security by targeting the Royal Family?


Peter Clarke (now SOCA Board member) headed MET Operation Caryatid into NOTW phone hacking. At the Leveson Inquiry, he escaped the criticism levelled at other senior ranks for giving or receiving of excessive hospitality from sections of the press. Having retired from the MET late 2008, he was though a little hazy on routine procedures for recording contacts with the press. He volunteered (Witness Statement, papra 25 here)
There were no mechanisms in place that I can now recall for recording meetings with the media, unless the meeting fell into another category - e.g. where hospitality was received or if a journalist was recorded as a registered informant.
That raises some concerns - how many more journalists were registered informants? Who? Why? Which senior officers authorised them? In exchange for what, exactly? Just how routine was this? However relevant these questions are to Hackgate, the answers will probably never be known as it is standard MET practice to neither confirm nor deny informants' use or identities.


There are some variations in terminology to describe formalised police sources - registered, informant, participating informant, CHIS (Covert Human Intelligence Source), HumInt (Human Intelligence) and so on. For brief background and implications for evidence, see here)

What they all share is the potential for reduced sentences or even immunity from prosecution:
(1)If a specified prosecutor thinks that for the purposes of the investigation or prosecution of any offence it is appropriate to offer any person immunity from prosecution he may give the person a written notice under this subsection (an “immunity notice”).
(2)If a person is given an immunity notice, no proceedings for an offence of a description specified in the notice may be brought against that person in England and Wales or Northern Ireland except in circumstances specified in the notice. 
'Specified prosecutors' are strictly limited. as a safeguard, is not open to police alone to decide who may be granted immunity without referring up for authority to an external and extremely high level:
Each of the following is a specified prosecutor—
(a)the Director of Public Prosecutions;
(b)the Director of Revenue and Customs Prosecutions;
(c)the Director of the Serious Fraud Office;
(d)the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland;
(e)a prosecutor designated for the purposes of this section by a prosecutor mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (d).
It is worth remembering there is court guidance too for reducing sentence on conviction for entering a prompt guilty plea. And those pleading guilty who turn 'Queen's Evidence' may also benefit from sentence reduction, even if not previously registered informants - they are known as 'assisting offenders'. A confidential rationale for sentence reduction for 'assistance' may be submitted to Crown Court but reduction is not automatic: "The choice of sentence is a matter for the court alone, not for agreement between the prosecution and defence."
Where a defendant's case is to be listed for consideration of a discounted sentence, due diligence must be exercised to ensure that proper levels of confidentiality are maintained, consistent with the normal requirement for open justice...This is particularly important where the judge is to be asked to exercise his or her power under section 73(4) not to disclose that the sentence is to be discounted.

The question of corporate charges has recently been occupying minds - see The Independent 'Met investigating Rupert Murdoch firm News International as 'corporate suspect' over hacking and bribing offences' (here).

Corporate charges would not normally be brought until after all relevant individuals' prosecutions/convictions have concluded. But first there would be an assessment on whether or not to prosecute. It is striking how the criteria to be met for NOT prosecuting read like a textbook checklist for News Corporation's re-structuring since the launch of Operations Weeting and Elveden:
Additional public interest factors against prosecution:
A genuinely proactive approach adopted by the corporate management team when the offending is brought to their notice, involving self-reporting and remedial actions, including the compensation of victims... This will include making witnesses available and disclosure of the details of any internal investigation... lack of a history of similar conduct involving prior criminal, civil and regulatory enforcement actions... The existence of a genuinely proactive and effective corporate compliance programme... The offending represents isolated actions by individuals, for example by a rogue director... the company in its current form is effectively a different body to that which committed the offences...all of the culpable individuals have left or been dismissed, or corporate structures or processes have been changed...
A company is a legal person, capable of being prosecuted, and should not be treated differently from an individual because of its artificial personality.
Whilst having no legal bearing, it's intriguing to make the analogy of News International acting 'as if' a registered informant 'person'. Hypothetically, you start with a microcosm culture of individual deals between cop and informant like 'George' yet end with the same culture in macrocosm - deals between senior ranks and corporate informants.

For example, the Management and Standards Committee (MSC) happily volunteered an enormous amount of material to the MET which is alleged to implicate journalists from both NOTW and the Sun. Arrested Sun journalists met with Rupert Murdoch last Spring to express their anxiety and perception of the MSC's collaboration in collecting evidence for the MET police:
- Unidentified Sun journalist: “Quite a number of us in this room were selected for an interview with Linklaters, the lawyers, long before any suggestion there would be arrests or there had been any wrongdoing. The interviews were conducted on the basis that Linklaters just wanted to get a feel for how the newspaper was put together, who did what, how it worked, all the rest of it. And then, perhaps not surprisingly now, nearly every single person interviewed by Linklaters found themselves arrested. And, indeed, large chunks of the interviews we gave to Linklaters was produced to us in the police station on our arrest." 
The 'corporate person' of News International - regenerated now as News UK - arguably should not be able to qualify for protected informant status equivalent to that of HumInt ie human intelligence source, In the same way as an individual, the corporate 'person' should not be capable of forming a covert memorandum of agreement solely with MET senior ranks for immunity from prosecution etc etc. Indeed, the MET could not conceivably agree such an understanding without the mandatory referring up to a high-level 'specified prosecutor' for the necessary authority. Such specified prosecutors are extremely limited, such as the outgoing Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Keir Starmer, or in a high profile case involving key public interest issues, perhaps the Attorney General himself.


Neil Chenoweth's excellent article ' How will it end for Rupert Murdoch? This is one way…' (here) posits the endgame - if  "convicted of a corporate charge, it is difficult to imagine that Rupert and James Murdoch, as former directors of News International, could retain their board seats on 21st Century Fox. If they stayed on the board, 21st Century Fox would risk US action against the company and its US broadcasting licenses...If there is 'pandemonium' in News Corp UK management ranks at the possibility of a corporate prosecution, as the Independent reports, it’s the potential effect on Murdoch which is the real issue... It still looks an outside chance. But if the damage control fails, for Rupert Murdoch, after 60 years in newspapers, this is one possible ending."

True, that is one possible ending. But there is another - a way of ensuring no corporate charges, no inconvenient surfacing of back channel deals, questionable understandings, no political fallout for the Attorney General. It is the 'nuclear option' as corporate charging decisions allow that
Dissolution of a company has the same effect as the death of a human defendant inasmuch as the company ceases to exist
That would be game over.

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