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)

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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.

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

Tuesday 6 August 2013

The Daily Mail Needs To Re-Think Reproof

The latest from my regular contributor.

"Police gave Leveson a dossier on hacking by big firms and lawyers... but he dismissed it in 18 minutes... Evidence about the three-year inquiry was given by Russell Middleton, who was then an acting assistant chief constable for Devon and Cornwall Police." Daily Mail (here)

It seems the Mail have finally discovered some evidence given to Leveson over a year ago about a provincial police investigation more than ten years old. And about time too.

Here's the gist of the Mail 'scoop'.

A senior officer submitted documents outlining how a little-known three-year inquiry uncovered a nationwide network of corruption. The multi-million-pound investigation found law firms, debt collectors and insurers were behind the thriving underground trade.
The senior officer, Russell Middleton of Devon and Cornwall Police (here), submitted documents called his "Witness Statement", plus short exhibits - just as everyone else who appeared at the Leveson Inquiry. As for the investigation being "little known", it was reported by David Leigh and Nick Davies in the Guardian, July 2011.
illegal PNC (Police National Computer) information had been primarily passed to respectable insurance companies, finance houses and other detective agencies
Either the Daily Mail overlooked the real significance or they missed the Guardian's story altogether. The case collapsed although evidence of blagged targets "identified two ministers and an MP. (Judge) Darlow specifically referred at a pre-trial hearing to the fact that 'particulars in respect of the [then]"chancellor of the exchequer were sought and obtained.' ... PNC checks were made by detective constable Diss on three Labour politicians, according to police interview transcripts obtained by the Guardian. All were in late 2000."

- "The first, on 13 September 2000, was on Martin Salter, the Labour MP for Reading West. Salter had displeased Rebekah Brooks, then News of the World editor. He refused her request to support her notorious campaign for Sarah's Law to 'protect us from pervs'. Shortly afterwards, on 24 September 2000, NoW readers were urged to pillory him personally in a 'naming and shaming' stunt...Salter says: 'She responded with some foul personal attacks so typical of the bullying style of the former NoW. I remember canvassing that Sunday morning and it was particularly unpleasant.' "

- "A few days later, on 18 September, DC Diss was asked to do another check, this time on Nick Brown, the agriculture minister and Labour MP for Newcastle East who had previously been 'outed' as gay by the News of the World."

- "The third occasion came two months later, on 16 November, when a check was requested on 'James Gordon Brown'. The Murdoch papers were at that point taking Blair's side in his continuing feud with Gordon Brown."

The customer sub-contracting procuring the information was private investigator Glenn Lawson of Abbey Investigations in Tyneside:
"Lawson refuses to identify his customer, but the court was told it was believed to be a newspaper.
Also in 2000, it is alleged that a News International title blagged personal data of Gordon Brown. The calls were recorded, you can listen to them, "Recording of The Sunday Times Conman "Blagging" Gordon Brown's Property Details" (here).  For more background on the blagger, Barry Beardall, see here.

But despite holding eight months of grueling public hearings at a huge cost to the taxpayer, Leveson dismissed the officer’s evidence in less than 18 minutes.

Firstly, the obvious point to note is that.... Middleton gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry - he didn't just wander in off the street. Leveson clearly considered Operation REPROOF evidence was important.

Secondly, Middleton's witness statement was intended to be 'read in' on April 2nd 2012 (as was Brendan Gilmour's evidence on Operation GLADE - more below). However on reflection, Leveson decided the importance to the Inquiry and public knowledge of REPROOF necessitated evidence to be given in person. Middleton was therefore required to appear on May 9th. 'Required to appear' are the operative words - Leveson ensured Operation REPROOF was aired by serving Russell Middleton with a Section 21 notice for compulsory attendance.

Thirdly, far from dismissing REPROOF as the Daily Mail says, there is an entire chapter on it in The Leveson Inquiry Report, together with its progeny Operation GLADE. And the next section is devoted entirely to linked Operation MOTORMAN. (Volume I, Chapter 2 pp251-257)

Fourthly, the crucial nature of REPROOF is also demonstrated by a representative sample of police forces being asked by the Inquiry if and how reflecting on Reproof had contributed to tightening their PNC security. Each was asked
Were changes made to any policies, procedures or systems relating to use of the databases and the security of the same following Operations Motorman, Glade and Reproof? If so, please specify.
Responses were patchy -

- Chief Constable, West Midlands Police: "I don’t believe so."

- Director of Information, Metropolitan Police Service: "No specific changes were made to my knowledge as a direct result of these operations..."

- Chief Constable, Durham Constabulary: "Durham Constabulary reviewed and replaced our policy for Notifiable Associations. This policy advises staff on when they need to notify the organisation of an association or friendship with someone who could pose a risk of compromise to that individual. Of particular note is the application of the current policy to private detectives.
The recommendations from the Information Commissioners Office were also the catalyst for the streamlining of an online internal confidential reporting system called ’Bad Apple’, as well as the procurement of an improved covert audit and monitoring system."

- National Service Manager for National Strategy for Police Information Systems (NSPI): "I am unable to answer this question for two reasons. I was not in post at this time and therefore have no personal knowledge of any system changes. I have also looked for references within the change control system that records all system changes to PNC that have been made or are awaiting implementation but none were identified that referred to these operations."

- Assistant Chief Constable, Surrey Police: "I am not aware of any changes made after these operations."

He told Leveson he ‘never found any direct evidence or indirect evidence linking that information being requested by or for any part of the media or journalists’.
Technically true - but not quite the whole story.
A. I think I need to make clear they weren't out of scope.The whole inquiry right from the outset was extremely open, an open-minded approach as to what we would discover.
Q There was a link -- and this brings in, I suppose, the nexus with other operations -- with a company called Data Research based in Surrey; is that right?
A. That's correct, yes.
... (We)"actually briefed the Information Commissioner's office as to what we were doing, we were aware of an interest they had in that company, we came to an agreement with the Information Commissioner that they would come along with us on the search...their investigation, Operation Motorman, then led to Operation Glade, so you could track it back and say that the seizure of that document at Data Research subsequently led to those two investigations
So REPROOF was the genesis of MOTORMAN and thence GLADE. Devon and Cornwall Police drew up a contract with the ICO which enabled D&C Police able to focus on their own investigation into an Exmouth private investigations company sub-contracted by a variety of corporate clients. That is not to say that the mass of undisclosed material from REPROOF would not be very revealing, but it explains how it was that the ICO contracted to follow on investigating press 'dark arts' specifically. For more detail on the enmeshment of Operations REPROOF, MOTORMAN, GLADE and SOCA report Project RIVERSIDE see (here).


The ICO's Operation MOTORMAN in turn briefed both SOCA and the Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS) at the MET - the latter launched their Operation GLADE into four specific individuals suspected of conspiracy to misconduct in public office. The MET investigation was deemed senior to ICO's MOTORMAN and thus took precedence. This was because the ICO could only bring 'lesser' charges under the Data Protection Act (DPA) which lacks custodial sentences.

Two of GLADE'S four defendants (a civilian police worker and a retired MET office) pleaded guilty. However, the two private investigators - John BOYALL and Steve WHITTAMORE - did not. It seems that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) made a bit of a hash of the prosecutions. (ICO Leveson Exhibit)
the ICO has liaised properly with the other prosecuting authorities in this case so as to enable them to know what the position is in relation to our proceedings. However it would appear that others have not liaised properly... information that had been passed [to ICO] by the CPS in relation to Operation Glade [shows]... that their Counsel had not carried out the appropriate exercise in relation to disclosure that should have been carried out and as such the CPS in Operation Glade were under intense pressure to seek a conclusion to their case that did not attract undue criticism, thereby leaving them open to offers in relation to specific Data Protection offences...
The decision to downgrade their case from misconduct to simple data protection act offences may be for a number of reasons however it is clear that the CPS did not do the disclosure exercise which placed them under intolerable pressure and therefore it seemed that they would take whatever Whittamore would offer and they accepted a basis of plea on a reckless basis. The manner in which the basis of plea was drafted was indicative of Defence Counsel being given a free reign to draft whatever basis of plea he wanted.
In other words, their bungled evidence disclosure left the CPS forced to agree the lesser DPA offences anyway, in order to avoid reputational damage. BOYALL and WHITTAMORE then pleaded guilty to the lesser offences and received small fines.

(And Whittamore received a character reference from a London Silk, Jerome Lynch QC, to use in his sentence mitigation argument.)


It's quite astonishing really how, flying in the face of the evidence, the Mail's report on REPROOF avoids any reference to its links to MOTORMAN and the bigger Hackgate picture. But then the Mail has a history with MOTORMAN, doesn't it? You can read an explanation 'The Motorman Files and Dacre's Dilemma' (here)

If there is a current clamouring for naming and shaming corporate clients of private investigators then those arguments hold equally true for releasing the MOTORMAN files into the public domain.

Recent Articles
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
The Met - Red Flags And Red Tops
Hackgate - Issues For The Burnton Inquiry Into The Murder Of Daniel Morgan

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

Thursday 1 August 2013

Gloxinia And Flandria - Digging Over The Dirt

The latest from my regular contributor.

Maybe someone at SOCA must grabbed a gardening book. Police investigations are usually given approved names in sequence - sometimes themed, often alphabetical. In fact, each name is first and foremost a cost code. So when you see Operation Plymouth, Operation Two Bridges, for example - someone has delved into their Ordnance Survey Guide to Devon. Weeting, Elveden - East Anglia villages. Flandria, Gloxinia - botanical terms, alphabetically consecutive. 'F' and 'G' - simultaneously allocated.


The contentious 2008 SOCA Report (Project Riverside), finally published unredacted by Exaro News (here) was a strategic assessment of extant intelligence in five investigations which were 'live' during 2006-07 relating to rogue private investigators. It appears these were not a representative sample or wide range of rogue private investigators though, but a very specific nexus. At the core of Project Riverside are discernible links to Operation ABELARD II and the barbarous execution of Daniel Morgan. Each of the five law enforcement operations evidence a chain of associations with Daniel's private investigations company.


  • ABELARD II was the MET's fifth investigation into the murder of Daniel Morgan, co-owner of Southern Investigations (see here)
  • CARYATID was the original Metropolitan Police Service (MET) investigation into phone hacking by News of the World's Clive Goodman and PI Glenn Mulcaire. Mulcaire had previously been sub-contracted by Southern Investigations. (see here)
  • BARBATUS was a MET investigation into blagging, corruption and database illegal accessing by a network with associative modus operandi links to them. (see here)
But what of FLANDRIA and GLOXINIA? All that is public domain is what can be gleaned from SOCA's Project Riverside report itself. As SOCA itself said to the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) in July 2013, the five Riverside investigations have now concluded and none now are under judicial review.


FLANDRIA was a SOCA investigation examining the criminal activities of one particular investigator. FLANDRIA and ABELARD II both involved use of computer email trojans, voice-over-internet (VOIP), dead letter e-boxes, corruption of communication company employees and serving police officers, deployment of anti-surveillance strategies, accessing DVLC databases. Perhaps even more sinister, they also share techniques aimed at deliberate perverting the course of justice through illegal access to the Police National Computer (PNC) to delete or subvert,law enforcement intelligence, criminal records, live investigations, surveillance operations and attempting to access witness protection identities with a view to intimidation. The FLANDRIA focus on one "particular investigator" is its raison d'être - the sub-contracting of an ex-military 'private investigator' with the specialist IT skills to deploy and utilise e-blaster trojan computer malware. The ensuing ABELARD II prosecutions subsequently failed, partly due to subversion, police corruption and evidential disclosure hurdles.

It seems fairly certain then that FLANDRIA was the SOCA arm of the MET's interlinked Operation ABELARD II into the murder of Daniel Morgan and focused on a single corrupt, ex-military IT specialist. As such, FLANDRIA is the pre-cursor to Operation Millipede - itself a pre-cursor to the MET's Operation Kalmyk/Tuleta.


GLOXINIA pre-dates the founding of SOCA in April 2006, but not by much as it still falls within the Riverside declared parameters of 2006-Sept 07. It was a National Crime Squad (NCS) operation inherited by SOCA concerning corruption and private investigators. SOCA expalined to HASC,  p 7 (here)
(SOCA Chair) Sir Ian Andrews: My understanding is that Gloxia (sic) which was a former National Crime Squad investigation, actually involved organised crime groups targeting associates. Arrests were not made. The judgment was there was insufficient evidence to arrest or charge the subjects of that operation. Nonetheless, our understanding of what we believe to have happened reflected the content of that 2008 report.
Sir Ian was clearly anxious to curtail HASC's questions on GLOXINIA. He continued,
Sir Ian Andrews: That one is closed and I don’t think it is appropriate to go there because there was not sufficient evidence to charge.
Chair: Well, we will decide whether it is appropriate. 
GLOXINIA may be linked to both FLANDRIA and ABELARD II through the MET deployment of a Covert Human Intelligence Source (CHIS). Following a CHIS cover being blown, some (though not all) CHIS may be offered entry into the MET Witness Protection programme. Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe told HASC, "We do take that very seriously. The witness protection scheme does suffer from an inherent risk. Many of the people that we protect often are involved in criminality themselves. There are obviously the innocent, who are victims normally. And then there are people involved in serious organised crime, the very people who have very good information: if they choose to change their ways, then obviously they are a very interesting group, and they are most at risk." (Q112, p24 here).

His highlighting of amplified risks to generic poacher-turned-gamekeeper witnesses resonates with the Project Riverside alarm-bells ringing of PIs attempting to discover the identity of CHISes". Key CHIS in ABELARD II was "Joe Poulton" - for background see (here).

It seems apparent then that GLOXINIA too was a SOCA operation arm tasked with investigating the MET's use of a CHIS and his blown cover in Operation ABELARD II.


HASC member Chris Ruane MP asked SOCA a question that elicited a studied and technical response given ABELARD II (Q55):
Did you come across any evidence to suggest that people may have committed suicide or been killed or murdered, as a result of the activities of these rogue investigators?
(SOCA Director General) Trevor Pearce: Not in the five investigations that were the subject of this assessment, sir. 
It fell to Nicola Blackwood to ask SOCA the crucial question on further links to Operation Millipede:
Q45: What about the allegation that, although this evidence was available from 2006-2007, charges were not brought until after the hacking scandal?
Trevor Pearce: On the five investigations that were subject to the assessment—the document that you have—they were all ongoing at that time and arrests and so on took place. The Millipede investigation, which we have talked about, I think must have been in the last three or four years, so it would have been coterminous with some of the issues that we have seen over that period of time.
A masterclass in evasion.

FLANDRIA, GLOXINIA, CARYATID, BARBATUS, ABELARD II - all five linked, full house, the same dramatis personae. Additionally, the SOCA report was 'book-ended' by pre-2006 Operation Motorman and post-2007 Operation Millipede. HASC Chair Keith Vaz MP underlined this with his probing of MET and SOCA into the timeline of any liaison over evidence from Operation Millipede. This prompted a written joint clarification,statement from SOCA and Commander Basu (ACPO Lead for the joint inquiry for Weeting, Elveden and Tuleta. (see here)

It makes clear that Operation Tuleta was not an outcome of ongoing pro-active investigation by MET or SOCA, but was prompted by a complaint from a hacked target in 2011.


SOCA's Project Riverside report was published in Jan 2008 and circulated in February internally to SOCA Board Members and SOCA Enforcement, the Home Office and the MET.

Who might have been well-placed to dust off Project Riverside subsequently?

- Andre BAKER - Previously MET lead in Abelard I and very aware of Dave Cook's alleged surveillance by NOTW when Cook was heading ABELARD I. Baker joined SOCA in 2006 as Deputy Director (see here)

- Andy HAYMAN - MET Specialist Operations, Operation CARYATID was under his Command. The same Andy Hayman who was in receipt of Bob Quick's 2000'report warning of press-PI collusion. Hayman's evidence to the Leveson Inquiry was that he had little knowledge of CARYATID detail and had left it to Peter Clarke.

- Peter CLARKE - in direct command of CARYATID's investigation of NOTW's Goodman. Replaced Hayman in 2008. Appointed to the Board of SOCA as non-executive Director 1st September 2009.

- John YATES - only six weeks before Clarke's appointment as SOCA Board Member, Yates undertook a highly publicised, day-long re-evaluation of CARYATID following Nick Davies' Guardian exposé of the extent of NOTW phone hacking. By that time, Yates had already been in command of Operation ABELARD II for more than three years.


The Project Riverside report clearly demonstrates there is now no more room for misplaced faith in successive law enforcement protestations of ignorance and inability to join the dots. The MET and SOCA must be called to account for their past inaction.

Keith Vaz pointed the way to the right forum p5 (here):
Q17 Chair: In terms of the Daniel Morgan inquiry, is some of this information relevant to that inquiry and has that been placed? Because we are not conducting an inquiry into this. We know there is a judge-led inquiry announced by the Home Secretary. Will this information be made available to the Daniel Morgan inquiry?
Trevor Pearce: If we have material that is relevant to that, we will make that absolutely available to the judge and his inquiry.
Q18 Chair: Will you wait for a request from the judge or will you just give it to him or her?
Trevor Pearce: In fact, pre-empting this, I have already asked for a trawl of our records to take place so we are in the position to have them.
Q19 Chair: When did you ask for that?
Trevor Pearce: About four weeks ago, before, I think, or at the time of the announcement because it is important that we are able to contribute.

The Daniel Morgan Inquiry, led by Sir Stanley Burnton, is due to start in Autumn '13 (see here).

MET and SOCA accountability has to be closely scrutinised by the Burnton Panel - it cannot be allowed to hide in the long grass any longer.

Seriously, enough.

It is utterly futile to try to lead the public up the garden path any more.

Related Articles
Mayor Boris And The Met Payoffs
Project Riverside And The SOCA Report
All Rise - Justice Saunders At Southwark
The Met - Red Flags And Red Tops
Hackgate - Issues For The Burnton Inquiry Into The Murder Of Daniel Morgan
Hackgate - The IPCC and Surrey's "Collective Amnesia"
Hackgate - Alex Marunchak - Presumed Innocent
Hackgate - Springwatch

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