Daily Mail columnist Richard Littlejohn has weighed in to attack the police and News Corp executives Will Lewis and Simon Greenberg in the wake of the arrests on Saturday of five Sun journalists.
Attacking News Corp’s Management and Standards Committee, which has been handing over the evidence against journalists to police, Littlejohn said:
Although the committee is overseen by an eminent QC, the donkey work is being done by two former newspapermen, Will Lewis and Simon Greenberg, who will appear to be trawling through expenses sheets and correspondence to detect any whiff of possible impropriety than can then be fed to the police.
The then ferociously ambitious Lewis, when he was editor of the Daily Telegraph, paid £150,000 for a stolen computer disk containing details of MPs’ expenses. He was absolutely right to do so, in the public interest.
But who is to say that some of the other journalists being investigated over alleged payments to public officials were not also acting in the public interest?
They are not being afforded the opportunity to give any explanation before they are handed over to the police, arrested and hauled off to the nick.
Greenberg famously gave up his job as a sports editor to become the official PR spiv for Chelsea’s billionaire Russian owner, Roman Abramovich, at a salary reported to be in the region of £275,000 a year. So the role of poacher-turned-game-keeper comes naturally to him.
In the interest of disclosure, I should reveal that I know Greenberg slightly. He sits near me at Spurs. But don’t expect me to defend him. I’d rather sell the Big Issue than take a job grassing up fellow journalists.
Littlejohn also criticised the new Commissioner of the Metropolitan police, Bernard Hogan-Howe, over the way he has handled dealings with the press:
My colleagues on the crime beat say that since Hyphen-Howe was installed as Commissioner, ahead of the outstanding candidate Sir Hugh Orde, normal relations between the police and the Press have ground to a halt.
The suspicion is that the former Merseyside chief constable was given the nod by Home Secretary Theresa May because he was considered more likely to toe the political line than the outspoken Orde, who is a staunch defender of the flow of mutually beneficial information between journalists and police officers.
Two of the senior Scotland Yard officers who have been involved in running these investigations, Sue Akers and Cressida Dick, have been on the receiving end of Press attention in the past: Akers in relation to the death of Victoria Climbie under the noses of police and social services; and Dick over the fatal shooting of Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes.
The political class is involved in a deranged witch-hunt against the Press, partly to divert attention from the Prime Minister’s own close relations with News International and partly in revenge for the exposÃ© of the parliamentary expenses scandal.
And concluding with a warning about the wider issues at stake, he said:
This is much more serious than the fate of one newspaper or a handful of journalists. The Establishment has declared war on the Press and by extension our very democracy. They want to stifle criticism and suppress stories about wrongdoing in public office.
Last night Scotland Yard insisted that its handling of the Sun arrests “were not in any way disproportionate”.