Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called for a police probe into Rupert Murdoch’s media outlets. It comes after a private investigator employed by the Sunday Times detailed how he accessed Brown’s bank accounts.
John Ford admitted to using subterfuge and deception to ‘blag’ private information from banks, mortgage companies or utility firms. Brown said there were “25 to 40 violations of the law” in a story, published in early 2000, relating to his purchase of a flat.
The article was published in the Sunday paper under the editorship of John Witherow, who now edits the weekday edition of the Times. The purchase of a property by Brown in 1992 was investigated but nothing untoward about the deal, involving controversial former owner of the Daily Mirror Robert Maxwell, was found.
A statement from the ex-PM released on Thursday night said “new evidence” against Murdoch’s News Corporation has emerged. The former MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath said: “I believe that the police should now investigate these criminal acts. We are considering all avenues to expose the wrongdoing.”
“I talked directly to John Witherow about the story on my flat on the night it appeared. He was fully aware of the details of the story,” Brown added. “We now know that under his editorship, at least 25 to 40 violations of the law took place to write the story, with the intention of forcing me out of office.”
Brown also accused the editor of having “misled the Leveson inquiry when he claimed the Sunday Times had not broken into my account.” Ford maintains he did look into Brown’s finances. He said in February: “What right did I have to look at the chancellor’s bank account to stand up a non-story?”
The practice known as blagging is illegal under the Data Protection Act 1998. Newspapers can be exempt if private information is obtained for the purpose of journalism with a reasonable belief that the publication is “in the public interest”.
A spokesperson for the Sunday Times said: “The Leveson inquiry dealt with this matter in a public forum in 2012. We have nothing further to add.”
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