Thurlbeck: Why isn't Mirror investigated over admission that police and hospital staff were paid for stories?

Former News of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck asks today on his blog why the Daily Mirror hasn’t faced investigation from police over revelations that it has paid public employees for stories.

He quotes from evidence in Mirror editor Richard Wallace’s witness statement to the Leveson Inquiry. In it Wallace said:

To the best of my knowledge, I have never made, authorised or been privy to any payments to members of the police or those with access to the police, or received payments in kind from them for stories or information. I am not aware of the Daily Mirror having done so.

This applies also to employees of mobile phone companies and those with access to the police and mobile phone companies. However, on occasion we have paid public sector employees (connected with the health and prison services) for information about prisoners or prison conditions, or conditions in health facilities.

There is no set protocol and decisions are made on the merits of each story. I would not be involved directly in the nuts and bolts of those payments. I only become involved to the extent that my authorisation is required.

Thurlbeck, who himself remains on police bail after being questioned as part of the phone-hacking inquiry, writes:

“Why is it that Rebekah Brooks’ select committee mention that police had been paid in the past is being played on a loop? And yet the Mirror group’s bold admission that they have paid public officials, on oath and in writing, should be ignored? Both are illegal under the terms of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906.

“Is it because the agenda being set by policicians and the media is to demonise News International?

“Are the police choosing to ignore this admission and focus only on News International because it won’t find Trinity Mirror as accommodating and as willing to betray their own staff? If this is the case, then News International has only itself to blame.

“Or would a full assault on the rest of Fleet St, or at least the Mirror titles, have the unpalatable air of a Stalinist purge of the press and all its treasured freedoms?

“In both cases, the demonisation of News International is the convenient solution. And that is what appears to be happening.”

Thurlbeck adds:

“Some of our industry’s finest professionals are facing three years in jail for carrying out what police will discover was an industry-wide practice.

“They are not widening their investigation to other titles because they realise it would grow like topsy, involve hundreds more officers and require years to complete. It would be mission impossible.

“Even faced with Wallace’s public confession, Operation Elvedon continues to take the easy route and turn a blind eye to offences carried out by other newspapers. But justice must be seen to be fair and even handed.

“The easy route is the one so shamefully opened by the obsequious Management and Standards Committee at News International. Not because the MSC thinks it is the right thing to do. But to offer mitigation to the FBI as it investigates offences by News Corp in the US under the Foreign and Corrupt Practices Act.

“So to prevent the corruption infecting News Corp assets in the US, the MSC is busily heaping the corpses of its most loyal servants onto a funeral pyre.”

So far 11 Sun journalists have been arrested and questioned as part of the Operation Elveden investigation into corruption. The most recent was Sun defence editor Virginia Wheeler last week.
No-one has been charged with anything yet.
Not mentioned by Thurlbeck, but worth noting, is the case of former Sun features editor Matt Nixson. Sacked without notice pay on the orders of the News Corp management and standards committee back in July.
While those Sun journalists arrested as part of the police bribes are now mostly back at work – Nixson, who’s alleged actions do no interest the police, remains out in the cold.
Nixson is understood to have been accused of authorising payment to a prison employee for information special treatment for Soham murderer Ian Huntley.



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