The Metropolitan Police investigated 38 press leaks over a five-year period – and according to one well-placed source the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act would have been used to seize phone records in the “vast majority” of cases.
Met commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe referred to the leak enquiries in his submission to the Leveson Inquiry, when he also revealed his force is “one of the few organisations which has established an independent command to deal exclusively with both overt and covert complaints and investigations”.
His predecessors, Sir Paul Stephenson and Lord Ian Blair, also described the systems in place in their submissions, with the latter describing “examination of telephone records” as “the only proper way to deal with” press leak investigations.
Last month the Met admitted to secretly obtaining the phone records of The Sun newsdesk and political editor, Tom Newton Dunn, in order to find the source of the paper’s Plebgate story. The action – first revealed by Press Gazette – has been widely criticised and prompted the Home Affairs Select Committee and Interception of Communications Commissioner’s Office to launch inquiries. The Home Office has promised new protections for journalists in a revised RIPA code of practice and today the Liberal Democrats tabled a change in the law to make police forces obtain the approval of a judge for RIPA requests involving journalistic material.
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