Rotten apples in rotten barrels: Police corruption exposed! Press corruption? Never heard of it...

… and Priti Patel lies about Leveson II, the inquiry into press/police complicity shut down by the Tories.

It is appropriate for the panel to state that the demonstrated links between personnel at the highest levels of the Metropolitan police and people working for a news organisation linked to criminality associated with the murder of Daniel Morgan, are of serious and legitimate public concern.

You will not find that line quoted in The Times report on the findings of the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel whose report was finally published yesterday. The news story in The Sun was similarly sparse, making no mention of its Sunday sibling The News of the World — which was closed with unseemly haste by Rupert Murdoch in 2011 — and its connections to the Morgan case and wider questions about police officers selling confidential information to tabloid newspapers.

According to a bookkeeper who gave evidence to the Daniel Morgan Independent Panel, The News of the World was the biggest client of Southern Investigations — the detective agency Morgan had co-founded — from shortly after his death in 1987 through to 1989. Sid Fillery, who had been a Metropolitan Police officer assigned to the first investigation into Morgan’s murder went on to replace him at Southern, became the business partner of the other co-founder, Jonathan Rees.

Rees, who was tried and acquitted of Morgan’s murder at a trial that began in 2009 and collapsed in 2011, was jailed in 2000 for attempting to pervert the course of justice after conspiring to plant cocaine on an innocent woman in order to discredit her in a child custody battle. After he was released, he was hired by The News of the World on a retainer of £150,000 a year to supply it with illegally acquired information on public figures. That information only emerged as a result of the failed murder trial.

In June 2002, after Detective Chief Superintendent David Cook — who was heading up the Met’s fifth and final investigation into Morgan’s murder — appeared on CrimeWatch to appeal for information, he and his then-wife Jacqui Hames (herself a Met officer and regular presenter on CrimeWatch) were told by the force that Southern Investigations intended “to make life difficult” for them.

The following month, Glen Mulcaire — a private investigator working for the News of the World, who was later jailed for his role in the phone-hacking scandals — procured a large amount of private information about Hames. It included her payroll number, warrant number, the name of the police section house she had briefly lived in when she joined the force in 1977, home and work telephone numbers, and many other personal details. Vans were parked outside her home and Cook was trailed as he took their daughter to school. You can read the full ugly details here.

Rebekah Brooks, then editor of The News of the World, now CEO of News UK, claimed in meetings with the Met that the paper has suspected that Hames and Cook were having an affair. They had been together for 11 years and were married.

Hames told the Leveson Inquiry in 2012:

I cannot think of one reason why that would be in any way, shape or form a valid reason for putting us under surveillance… we'd been together for 11 years. He was a detective chief superintendent in the Metropolitan Police, who had investigated quite a number of high-profile murders himself. We were well-known as a couple within the police service. We'd appeared I'd done some publicity, I think it was a year or so before, where I'd been in Hello! magazine talking about Crimewatch and various other things, and we'd appeared together. There was a picture of us with the family. It wouldn't have taken much to have completely refuted that allegation, if that's what had happened, and it obviously wasn't. 

Asked why she felt the surveillance had been conducted, she continued:

… I think any reasonable person would find it very difficult not to put them together and feel that there was in some way there was some collusion between people at the News of the World and the people who were suspected of committing the murder of Daniel Morgan. I can't put it any clearer than that. 

The Daniel Morgan Independent Panel report agrees with Hames’ conclusion.

But The Sun talks only of the stinging criticisms of Cressida Dick, the current Met Commissioner, who was found by the Panel to have been unhelpful and obstructive during its investigations. The Times too writes only of institutional corruption within the Met and says nothing of how that corruption links directly to its own parent company. The picture painted for readers of The Sun and The Times — the so-called paper of record — is deliberately incomplete.

The Times does, it must be said, find space for a single reference to The News of the World link in its leader column, which says:

It also found evidence of corrupt links between police officers and private investigators who were selling sensitive police information to the now defunct News of the World

But it swiftly moves on without mentioning who owned that paper, why he made it ‘defunct’, and what exactly those ‘links’ were between the tabloid and those connected to the murder of Morgan and the concerted cover-ups that followed.

The Metropolitan Police has not suffered from a few bad apples, it was and remains a rotten barrel full of rotten apples. And the juice of those apples has often been used by British newspapers to make the most rotten cider.

The Times’ reporting on the panel’s findings also fails to mention the report’s special criticisms for Lord Stevens, the former Met Commissioner, who authorised the use of a listening device in the offices of Southern Investigations in the late-90s but went on to claim during the Leveson Inquiry that he had no knowledge of the News of the World’s extensive use of the firm to obtain information illegally. Stevens later became a News of the World columnist on a healthy piece rate of £7,000 per article.

Andy Hayman, former Assistant Commissioner for Specialist Operations at the Met, oversaw Scotland Yard’s original 2006 investigation into phone hacking at The News of the World. He had a number of private dinners with people employed by News International during that operation.

Hayman retired in April 2008 and agreed to become a Times columnist in July that year. He said it had been his “boyhood dream” to become a journalist. The Morgan report finds that Hayman must have been aware of how serious phone hacking was and the routes which confidential information was taking to end up in the hands of the press. Still, it was his boyhood dream and The Times paid him a £10,000 a year retainer to fulfill it. And only a cynic would suggest there could possibly be any other reason for that generosity.

It’s not just News International titles that are smoothing away press complicity in the institutionalised corruption at the Met. The bookkeeper who told the panel about the News of the World’s spending with Southern Investigations, also gave evidence about the Mirror Group’s use of the firm, suggesting that it was the biggest client from 2000 onwards, accounting for 79% of the confidential data requested and shared.

But that part of the report doesn’t make it into the Daily Mirror’s lengthy story, which follows the same line as The Sun and The Times, closing its eyes for the scary bit that spells out the tabloids’ complicity in and encouragement of rampant illegal data collection. Like its News UK rivals, The Daily Mirror enthusiastically details the police corruption without suggesting even for a sentence that the press were clients and beneficiaries of those bent coppers.

The second part of the Leveson Inquiry — Leveson 2: Electric Corruption Boogaloo — was intended to investigate the links between the press and public officials, especially the police. It was abandoned in 2018, by then-Culture Secretary Matt Hancock, who told the Commons: “We do not believe that reopening this costly and time-consuming public inquiry is the right way forward.”

Yesterday, Priti Patel, the Home Secretary — recipient of friendly lunches with and wedding invitations from Rupert Murdoch — misled parliament about the process of ditching Leveson 2. She told MPs — responding to a question from SNP MP Stuart McDonald — that…

… significant reforms, following Part 1 of the Leveson Inquiry, put forward a number of recommendations concerning the police and the media; this included introducing strong rules to ensure accountability and transparency and those changes obviously led to the introduction of the code of ethics. The government formally consulted Sir Brian on whether to proceed with part 2  and decided it was no longer appropriate, proportionate or in the public interest to proceed given the potential costs and the amount of time that had been spent on part 1 itself

Sir Brian Leveson did not agree with the government that Leveson 2 should not take place. In fact, in a letter published simultaneously with the one signed by Amber Rudd, then-Home Secretary, and Karen Bradley, then-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Leveson said that he “fundamentally disagreed with that conclusion”. He went on to say:

It might have been thought that the civil litigation would resolve the remaining issues by exposing where the truth lies but it is significant that civil settlements have meant no trial involving News International has been contested to judgement… it is also clear (from the fact of these settlements) that, albeit as I understand it ‘without admission’, it has not been challenged that the extent of wrongdoing within News International has been far greater than the Inquiry was informed. By way of example, I am sure that you are aware that the most recent cases against The Sun newspapers (which at the time of Part One, was said by the editor and others in senior management not to have been implicated in unlawful of improper conduct), have settled with substantial payments to claimants.

In May 2019, it was reported that £500 million had been paid out in settlements to claimants in phone hacking cases by News UK and the Mirror Group, with the figure likely to end up closer to £1 billion. That’s the price tag to avoid Leveson 2 and the stone really being turned over to reveal the vile wriggling mass beneath it.

The Sun, The Times, and The Daily Mirror are lying to their readers about the Daniel Morgan case by omission and distortion and Priti Patel told bald-faced lies to parliament, a skill at which she’s a past master. In fact, the previous occasion she stood up and lied in the House was… last week. It’s as easy for her as breathing or having a lovely friendly lunch with her close pal Rupert.

The tabloids and tabloids with more expensive thesauruses (The Times) will concentrate their fire on the police.

They’ll claim that while they used those rotten apples as sources and engaged them as columnists, the rot didn’t really reach the press; the newspapers were just trying to get ‘the truth’ (two words with horrific connotations whenever you’re talking about the Murdoch papers).

But the stench of The News of the World is still seeping through the floorboards, and the rot ran right through The Sun.

And if you see Times journalists pleading that their paper is different, point to that delicious contract given to Andy Hayman, the oldest work-experience boy in newspaper history and the most well-remunerated one too.

The Sun, The Times, and The Daily Mirror alike are all still denying the Morgan family true justice because they continue to deny the truth of their role in this rancid and far-reaching corruption. The haircuts may have changed but the absence of morals remains the same.

Update: Since this newsletter was written, The Times has published a longer story which includes references to the News of the World and the report’s criticisms of Lord Stevens.

Its focus, however, remains on the police corruption, the story it is telling is still extremely partial, and its assessment of News International’s role remains empty — Rebekah Brooks’ name is notably absent from the piece.