Union's 'completely ambivalent' attitude to Clive Goodman jailing

NUJ members have voted to continue consulting the Department for Constitutional Affairs over privacy, in light of Clive Goodman's arrest and imprisonment.

Editor of The Journalist, Tim Gopsill, acknowledged that the union had mixed feelings and had not taken an active stance on campaigning for the release of Goodman, the News of the World royal correspondent who was sentenced in January to four months'

imprisonment for intercepting royal telephone messages.

Gopsill told the conference: "Clive Goodman is the first journalist to be sentenced to prison in Britain for 44 years. You would have expected that this imprisonment would have led to a fantastic outcry from the NUJ.

"He was jailed under a law called the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.

When it was passed in 2000, the NUJ and others warned that it would lead to the jailing of journalists when they obtained information the state did not want them to obtain.

"We were very righteous about that, but when Goodman was jailed neither the NUJ or anyone else was able to mount a free Clive Goodman campaign.

The truth is we have a completely ambivalent attitude to this."We ran a feature in The Journalist saying journalists should not enter this filthy business of stealing people's private information. Then at the same time, I ran another article asking what else journalists could do if the state won't give them any information. Whatchoice do they have but to go snooping around for it?

"I totally agree with both of the arguments.

Incidentally there is an answer — it is the concept of public interest.

When they use surreptitious means, is it in the public interest?

"Let's keep that debate going. It is an important debate at a time [when we face] the possible introduction of a privacy law and the question of regulation of the press by the PCC."

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