Guido condemned over 'irresponsible' Motorman files

The Information Commissioner's Office has strongly condemned a blogger's "irresponsible" decision to publish extracts from the files of a private detective who sold personal data to journalists.

Paul Staines, who runs the Guido Fawkes political blog, today posted online the contents of a notebook seized from Steve Whittamore in an investigation called Operation Motorman.

Covering News International papers including the now-defunct News of the World, the spreadsheet lists the name of the journalist making the request, the information they asked for, and in most cases the name of the target.

Those whose personal details were sold to reporters include soap stars, comedians, politicians, Big Brother contestants and victims of crime.

The details provided in response – including addresses and car registration numbers – have been blanked out of the document published by Staines.

The Leveson Inquiry into press standards has heard that Information Commissioner's Office investigators uncovered a "treasure trove" of evidence linking newspapers to the sale of private information when they searched Whittamore's Hampshire home in March 2003.

Lord Justice Leveson last month rejected a request for him to release the full Motorman files with personal details redacted.

Staines said he was publishing Whittamore's "Blue Book", containing 1,028 of the 17,000 entries in the private investigator's papers, because there was an "overwhelming public interest" in the victims getting justice.

He wrote on his blog: "It seems to Guido that there is no political will to see this through, the press are by and large keen for their own reasons to suppress the truth and the judiciary are actively suppressing the evidence.

"In those circumstances it is only by bringing the evidence out into the open that justice will be done."

An Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) spokeswoman said: "We strongly condemn the irresponsible publication of material from the Motorman files.

"Putting these into the public domain in this way is a serious violation of many people's privacy and raises more questions than it answers.

"People who are concerned that their personal data may have been included in the Motorman files are able to contact the ICO via our website to make a 'fast-tracked' subject access request under the Data Protection Act (DPA).

"The issue of publication is being considered by the Leveson Inquiry and it's most unfortunate that Guido Fawkes has chosen to jump the gun.

"The ICO will now consider what further steps it should take in the face of this apparent breach of the DPA."

Staines said that 'to understand how to interpret the files'people should contact the Hacked Off campaign.

In a statement this morning the organisation insisted it had no involvement in the publication of the files.

'Though we have been campaigning for full disclosure of these important documents we were not involved in this initiative. We are not in possession of the Motorman files.'

It added: 'Our view is that the full files should be professionally redacted and published in as clear a manner as possible by either the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) or the Leveson Inquiry, and the ICO should proactively contact the victims.'

It is unclear what, if any, action, could be taken against the Guido Fawkes website. Staines does not host the site in the UK and has spread assets across different jurisdictions – the URL is in one jurisdiction, the hosting in a second jurisdiction, the publishing company in a third and the back-up site in a fourth, while Staines is based in Ireland.

A spokesman for the Leveson Inquiry declined to comment. Whittamore was charged in February 2004. He was convicted of illegally accessing data and received a conditional discharge at London's Blackfriars Crown Court in April 2005.

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