NUJ accuses police of having 'utter contempt for journalism' after new spying revelation

The National Union of Journalists has condemned Kent Police after it emerged that it used the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act to obtain the phone records of two Mail on Sunday journalists.

Backing Press Gazette's Save Our Sources campaign, the NUJ has called on the Interception of Communications Commissioner to launch an urgent review of RIPA and its use to access journalistic material and sources.

It emerged yesterday that Kent Police had used RIPA to obtain the phone records of Mail on Sunday news editor David Dillon and freelance journalist Andrew Alderson. The information was apparently used to help convict judge Constance Briscoe who was investigated by police over the false claim that she had not spoken to the press about former Cabinet minister Chris Huhne swapping speeding points with his wife, Vicky Pryce.

The news that Kent Police has been spying on journalists who were not under suspicion of breaking the law follows the revelation that London's Met police secretly obtained the phone records of The Sun and of the paper’s political editor Tom Newton Dunn.

The Met obtained the Sun telecoms records in order to find and punish three police constables were accused of leaking information about the Plebgate affair. The Crown Prosecution Service found that the three had acted in the public interest therefore could not face trial.

The Met Police has declined to reveal how many times it has used RIPA against journalists.

When faced with a Freedom of Information Request from Press Gazette the force said it did not keep records of RIPA requests against journalists, even though such requests are a possible breach the European Convention on Human Rights which protects journalists’ sources.

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “It is becoming clear that the misuse of RIPA to snoop on journalists is not an isolated example of bad practice in the Met. The police clearly believe they are above the law they are there to uphold. Their utter contempt for journalism and a free press will be a paralysing impact on whistleblowers who will think twice before ever picking up the phone to a journalist again. Information that deserves to be in the public domain won’t see the light of day. The damage to public trust in journalism is immense.

“That is why the NUJ is calling on Sir Anthony May, the Interception of Communications Commissioner, to conduct an urgent investigation and to review this outrageous snooping by intelligence agencies, police and other public authorities in relation to journalists' sources and material.”

Sign the Save Our Sources petition calling for public authorities to ask a judge before viewing journalists' phone records

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