Ministers to study case for criminal payments law

Home Secretary David Blunkett is threatening to outlaw newspaper payments to criminals following the controversial deal struck between the Daily Mirror and Tony Martin.

He ordered ministers to examine the case for asking Parliament for a fresh crackdown as MPs condemned the payment to the farmer, who was freed on parole after serving twothirds of a five-year sentence for killing a 16-year-old burglar and wounding his accomplice.

Home Office junior minister Caroline Flint said: “We are looking at how the criminal and civil law might be applied to prevent offenders profiting from their crimes by writing or selling stories. We are looking at a range of options at the moment.”

The Home Office said that if ministers concluded the law needed tightening up, they would have to decide whether sanctions should be applied through the criminal or civil law.

The Government has already legislated through the Proceeds of Crime Act to enable offenders’ assets to be seized, but the Home Office said the Act would not apply in Martin’s case.

“We think this is an area we need to look at, and we are looking at it,” Flint said.

The possibility of legislation has been kept under review since a controversy over the publication in The Times of Gitta Sereny’s book Cries Unheard, about the child killer Mary Bell.

An internal review at the time ruled out legislation on the grounds that banning offenders from receiving payments for their stories would breach the European Convention of Human Rights, which allows the right to freedom of expression.

By David Rose

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