The News of the World has hit back at critics with its undercover scoop revealing lapses in security at the prison where Soham murder suspect Ian Huntley is being held.
In recent weeks the paper’s investigative style has been called into question following the collapse of the Beckham kidnap trial and the drug dealing case against Brian Harvey. It was also criticised for making a payment of £50,000 to Nadine Milroy-Sloane, who was last week jailed for three years for making false rape claims against the Hamiltons.
On Sunday the paper ran the results of a nine-month investigation by David McGee in which he obtained a job at Woodhill prison and was assigned to guard Huntley.
The story revealed lapses in the vetting procedures for staff and was widely followed up. Managing editor Stuart Kuttner said: “In my experience, from time to time the NoW sets the news agenda. Our reports, with astonishing photographs, are an historic, old-fashioned scoop.”
McGee faces possible prosecution by Thames Valley Police, which announced on Sunday it was in talks with the prison service. In a similar case, Evening Standard reporter Wayne Veysey was charged with attempting to obtain pecuniary advantage after he tried to get a job as a cleaner at Heathrow Airport to observe security methods. That case was dismissed after a judge ruled journalists were allowed to use subterfuge when it was in the public interest.
The NoW has sought to avoid such a charge by returning McGee’s £7,500 earnings as a prison warder.
A spokesman for the police said there were were no immediate plans to take action against McGee.
Kuttner said: “It’s never easy to go undercover and David McGee has done an outstanding job. He produced a spectacular and memorable scoop which dominated the news agenda. Time and again he thought he would be unmasked and time and again he was not rumbled.”