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
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
The Met - Red Flags And Red Tops

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


  1. iParrot Post is a global read and reporting news platform that enable users to post their account of events witnessed, worthy local and International news. iParrot Post is a breaking news portal.
    iParrot Post exists to provide independent news and information to the masses, comprised of news feeds from around the world. We enable our users and subscribers to submit local News that they see as important. It is also a portal to allow users and subscribers to comment and contribute to the News events of the day. Worldwide News | English UK News | Local UK News | UK Political News | English British Sports News | Business UK News | Breaking UK News | Technology UK News |


    دينا نقل عفش خارج جدةنقل-اثاث-بالاحساء/
    شركة الرائد هى ارخص شركة نقل عفش بالدمام متطورة تستخم احدث سيارات النقل وتعمل على اتباع الاساليب الحديث في نقل العفش ولذلك تعتبر افضل :

    شركة شحن عفش من جدة الى دبي افضل

    ونتميز باننا نقدم افضل نقل عفش بالدمام نقل في المنطقة الشرقية كلها اتصل الان
    تكلفة نقل العفش من جده الي الرياض

  3. Background Removal Services (BRS) is one of the best Clipping path service provider around the world. We offer our global customers: Raster to Vector Services, Photo Restoration Services Prices, Photo Neck Joint Service, Exposure Color Correction Service, Jewelry Photo, Retouching Services, Photo Color Correction Service, Image Mirror Effect Service, Cheap Retouching Services, Deep Etching Service,

  4. أفضل شركة نقل في المدينة المنورة والنجارين المبهرين في تفكيك وتركيب الأثاث والمفروشات.

  5. Turbo Steam is a powerful, yet portable, fabric and clothes steamer for all of your steaming needs. Our Turbo Steam takes only 45 seconds to heat up and to start generating steam and its steam delivery system evenly distributes steam across fabrics to remove even the worst wrinkles.

  6. In other sense, the clipping path is like creating a path that will remove the bars from the photo. As the name suggests, it clips a path. It points that the path that you not need gets clipped. The ClippingPath Service Provider is able to bring the change in the photos. Applying the Photoshop tool, the provider does the task.

  7. Read the Best Massager Reviews of 2019 Find out which is the best model on the market and the health benefits of using a Best Massager Reviews.

  8. Prom Dress Hut is a prom dresses company. If you are looking for a prom dress, check out our Latest Prom Dress Collection. You can order from Prom Dresses USA, Prom Dresses UK, Prom Dresses Australia, Prom Dresses Canada, and Prom Dresses Germany.

  9. Read the best Foot Massager Reviews of 2019 Inthe following article, we present the top 8 models available today and revealtheir pros and cons.

  10. Clipping path is a must for any kinds of product images. Clipping Path Service can provide you with your desired product with a high-end view which will help you to attract both the organic customers and paid to add customers. Do clipping path for your business growth and show your customers what you have!

  11. Photo editing price list value on the images editing requirements. The exact price of you use can vary greatly. Depending on the vendor/contractor, the complexity of the image editing volume of images and how quickly you need the edited photos back Forget an idea about our pricing you can check our Photo editing pricing

  12. Banner Design Service is a focusing fact for any kinds of business institutions. Banner show your products identity which is provided by you. Manage your banner design service creatively by any professional designer to highlight your products. Creative banner grabs your customer’s attention.

  13. Photo Restoration Services is a complex editing job. So, you have to be confirmed to give your desired photo in the hand of an expert photo editor. Experts do feel the alike you feel about your old photos. We can proudly ensure you that we have a huge team of editing experts! they can easily meet your photo editing demand. Do visit to test our photo restoration service quality.

  14. Resize Image Without Losing Quality is a unique process to adjust the height and width of an image. We have bunch of experts to make your image resize without losing any quality. The key intention of image resizing is to make it fit any screen. As a result, they look good and smart. The most crucial factor is to satisfy the audience. Do visit to test our quality.

  15. Photo Retouching is one of the most impressive services in photo editing. It helps to bring a positive vibe and look on the photos. Most of the end-level users are in great needs of Photo Retouching Services. But you need to be careful while selecting the best one.
    Chat conversation end
    Type a message...


  16. Creative Banner is a focusing fact for any kinds of business institutions. Banner show your products identity which is provided by you. Manage your banner design service creatively by any professional designer to highlight your products. Cr eative banner grabs your customer’s attention.

  17. Image Retouching is a standout amongst the most noteworthy administrations in Image altering. It expedites a positive vibe and look the Image. The majority of the end-level clients are in extraordinary necessities of image retouching Services. Be that as it may, you should be cautious while choosing the best one.Chat discussion end Type a message....


  18. Image Retouching is a standout amongst the most noteworthy administrations in Image altering. It expedites a positive vibe and look the Image. The majority of the end-level clients are in extraordinary necessities of image retouching Services. Be that as it may, you should be cautious while choosing the best one.Chat discussion end Type a message....


  19. Photo Background Editor plays a key role in removing the background of the photo. The editor needs to remain highly careful while removing the background. The service is an essential one for the online business community.

  20. Logo is the the symbol or representation of an Organization or company that identify that organization. Logo designing is to create that symbol..Logo Desging Adobe illustrator or photoshop is a powerful tool for logo designing. A suitable logo represents the activities, motive, aim of that organization in a visual way simply.


  21. Image Retouching is a standout amongst the most noteworthy administrations in Image altering. It expedites a positive vibe and look the Image. The majority of the end-level clients are in extraordinary necessities of image retouching Services. Be that as it may, you should be cautious while choosing the best one.Chat discussion end Type a message....

  22. Shadow Creation is the process to change the color of an image or video..Shadow Creation It means correcting the lighting, white color balance, red or blue color balance, so that the image looks more clear or natural

  23. Image Retouching is a standout amongst the most noteworthy administrations in Image altering. It expedites a positive vibe and look the Image. The majority of the end-level clients are in extraordinary necessities of image retouching Services. Be that as it may, you should be cautious while choosing the best one.Chat discussion end Type a message....

  24. Image editing service Image Editing service. suppliers around the globe and modest rates, the work is submitted by the conveyance time. We offer our worldwide customers: Background Removal, Multiple Path, Clipping Path, Photo Restoration, Photo Neck Joint, Jewelry Photo Retouching, Product modifying, Color Correction, Image Mirror Effect, Deep Etching, Logo Design, flag configuration services.Zenith IT is one of the best image editing service provider company. We work all over the world. We mainly work in USA, UK, UAE, Australia, Denmark, Germany, France, Poland, Switzerland, Canada & Norway.

  25. Image retouching service is on of the great services of Adobe Photoshop service. Removing spots or blemishes from images, as well as more advanced color correction work. We can remove unsightly marks, stain,Image retouching fold from any surface and ensure that your images are perfect in every way. We can eliminate the irregularities from the skin and also adjust the image color shades or erase it. We do this by creating an additional selection (path or a mask) of the model’s skin (face, hands, legs, etc.) Our designers can measure and correct the color values. Clone and Spot Healing tools remove irregularities. We can reduce and eliminate bags under the eyes, pimples, tattoos, birthmarks, etc

  26. Image masking is a powerful background changer while clipping method does not work.Image Masking This process is used to change or remove the background of an image of a target object which has hairy, fuzzy or soft edge like a dog or curly hair of a girl or transparent background like glass.

  27. Clipping path service is one kind of image editing Process where we select a important portion of an image and cut the unimportant part Clipping path We can delete the background or change background color to make it more attractive.