Police investigating phone-hacking and corruption allegations at News International have been seconded from ‘sensitive terrorist units”, according to The Sun’s associate editor Trevor Kavanagh.
The Sun columnist has also claimed there are ‘people who will stop at nothing to destroy News International’and that ‘they will not be satisfied until The Sun is closed”.
In an interview on BBC Radio Four’s World at One Kavanagh stood by claims made in today’s Sun that there was a witch-hunt against News International, saying: ‘When you have 171 police, some of them taken off extremely sensitive duties in relation to counter-terrorism, the biggest squad of police ever mobilised in any crime investigation in the history of Britain, including the Lockerbie bombing,’he said.
‘When you have 30 journalists arrested at dawn, arrested, put on police bail with indefinite limits on what they can do in terms of earning a living, I think that you have to wonder what’s behind it all. I think that witch-hunt is not an unreasonable definition of this exercise.”
Kavanagh added: “So far no one has been charged with paying police officers and as far as I know no evidence points to a potential charge on that basis. So I think we’re jumping the gun here.”
He suggested that some of the officers involved in the police investigations into News International ‘are being seconded from sensitive terrorist units at a time when we’re preparing for the Olympic Games and potential of a mass suicide attack”.
The Met said it was preparing a response to Kavanagh’s comments.
He later suggested that if charges were brought against journalists then their likely defence would be that they acted in the public interest, arguing that “they are acting in the interests of the public, in the interests of their readers and, indeed, in the interests of journalism and newspapers generally”.
If the police were focusing on payments for stories their investigation would ‘spread and involve every single newspaper in Fleet Street, tabloid or otherwise”, said Kavanagh.
There are reporters on papers, including those who were ‘leading the charge against’The Sun, who ‘deploy exactly the same methods and procedures of trying to unearth stories which are in the public interest”.
Asked if there was any possibility the paper could close, he replied: ‘No, absolutely not.”
There was ‘no justification’for such a move, which would be ‘catastrophe for the British media, for the newspaper world and even possibly for the BBC… if an action which at this stage suggests no actual guilt should be regarded as grounds for closing newspapers”.