Government staff called a Buzzfeed UK news reporter a “bitch” and “crazy” in internal communications released under a data request by the journalist.
Emily Dugan exposed the abusive messages, which were sent between Ministry of Justice staff, after she published a leaked report that the department had claimed did not exist.
In the leaked report, judges raised concerns about the increase in the numbers of defendants appearing in court without lawyers following legal aid cuts.
However, these comments had not been included in the version of the report made public by the MoJ.
Online messages between MoJ staffers, which contained a number of typos, read: “Yeah she’s a real bitch” and “a but crazy reallt [sic]”.
Dugan’s article on the leaked report included a chat with an MoJ press officer denying its existence. In an online chat between MoJ staff, obtained by Buzzfeed, one person said it was “shitty of her to quote the emails”.
The press office also told staff not to speak with Dugan in detail over-the-phone and to turn down any offers to meet with her.
A lot of the internal correspondence about Dugan was redacted, even after mentions of her name.
In one conversation about Dugan from May last year, an MoJ staffer said he was starting to “warm up” the reporter saying he was giving her his “best lines”.
The boasted of “best lines” included: “This doesn’t have to be an adversarial relationship”, and: “Do you call here often?”
Writing about her story on Twitter, Dugan said: “Wouldn’t let the MoJ get away with calling a reporter a bitch for doing their job.
“But the more important story is that thousands of people face court without a lawyer because of legal aid cuts, even when the charges are criminal.”
Speaking to Buzzfeed News, an MoJ spokesperson said: “All relevant information has been disclosed under data protection rules in a sizeable release which confirms over multiple internal emails that there has been no deliberate attempt to withhold information — information that is not personal data is not in scope and has been redacted.
“We were extremely disappointed to see that some of the language used in a small number of internal conversations was unprofessional. We take this seriously —appropriate internal action is being taken and a personal apology was extended to Ms Dugan.
“Two senior members of the press team have met with Ms Dugan over the last few months and we continue to answer her queries as efficiently and fully as we are able, as we do all the journalists we work with.”
Picture: Reuters/James Boardman