The stupidity of Scotland Yard
“The latest threat to press freedom comes not as a result of the crimes of News of the World journalists, but from the foolishness of police officers charged with investigating those crimes. They have reached for the blunderbuss of the Official Secrets Act (1989) in a misguided attempt to obtain access to the sources of the information about the hacking of Milly Dowler obtained by Guardian journalists in their coverage of the scandal.
That coverage has exposed not only the hackers but also the incompetence of the police, and it is no doubt for that reason that Scotland Yard is overzealous in its latest attempt to discover their sources.
But it is doing so in a manner unauthorised by law, which requires protection for journalists' sources for the very good reason that they would dry up if informants promised anonymity were to be exposed and prosecuted.
This was established in the leading case of Bill Goodwin v UK, when a young reporter who courageously refused court orders to disclose his source was vindicated by the European court of human rights, which held that the watchdog role of the media would be imperilled if government agencies were able to force disclosure of sources in order to subject them to reprisals. The spectacle of Sarah Tisdall, the defence department clerk cruelly jailed for revealing the date of the arrival of cruise missiles at Greenham Common, should never be allowed to recur.
The journalists may ..... go to jail for contempt of court. That will be an ironic tribute to the stupidity of Scotland Yard – a police service that fails to investigate criminal hackers but puts in jail the journalists who exposed them.” Geoffrey Robertson QC Guardian 17/9/11