Former director of prosecutions Keir Starmer has declined to apologise or comment on his role in the prosecution of 34 journalists under Operation Elveden.
The Labour MP and shadow secretary for exiting the European Union was quizzed about his responsibility for Operation Elveden by Robert Peston on ITV yesterday.
He said: “Well most of the prosecutions took place when I ceased to be DPP, I’m not the DPP, I didn’t handle those cases and it’s really not for me to comment on them.”
He also said: “I obviously have not had anything to do with those cases for three years now so I’m not in a position to comment one way or the other.”
Starmer was DPP when 30 of the 34 journalist arrested and/or charged under Operation Elveden were first arrested or questioned. Most of those worked for The Sun.
Last week, Sun reporter Anthony France won an appeal against his conviction meaning that Operation Elveden itself achieved no convictions of journalists. Former News of the World and Mirror journalist Dan Evans, arrested under Operation Weeting (hacking), also admitted to an Operation Elveden (payments to public officials) offence.
Many of the arrested Operation Elveden journalists spent years on police bail. Some careers have never recovered. At least two attempted to commit suicide because of the strain prosecutions placed them under.
Former Culture Secretary Former Culture Secretary John Whittingdale told The Sun: “It does seem extraordinary that prosecutions have gone on this length of time and at such a considerable cost, yet resulted in no convictions of journalists.”
He added: “I hope that lessons will be learned from this.”
Former Labour minister and MP for Vauxhall Kate Hoey told the paper: “A lot of decent journalists and decent policeman have been put under huge stress and there needs to be some kind of examination it was ever started in the first place.
“I hope lessons will be learnt so this can never happen again.”
Operation Elveden began in July 2011 after News Corp’s Management and Standards Committee handed over to police confidential internal emails which indicated that Sun journalists had paid public officials for stories.
Trinity Mirror also decided to conduct a search of its emails and handed over information which incriminated its journalists and sources.
While no journalists convictions were secured as a result of these disclosures, more than 30 journalistic sources (mostly policemen and prison officers) were convicted – with the majority sent to jail.
Trinity Mirror and News Corp have both declined to comment on their role in Operation Elveden.
The Met Police has also declined to apologise for the needless arrests of journalists.
Asked for a comment on the news that Anthony France had won his appeal, the Met said: “Elveden started as a result of documents voluntarily supplied by News International that revealed payments to police officers and public officials by some journalists.
“This followed revelations of phone hacking during parliamentary committees and the Leveson Inquiry.
“News International chose to disclose its sources to the MPS and having received what appeared to be prima facie evidence that crimes had been committed, by public officials and potentially by those involved in paying them, we were duty bound to investigate and followed the evidence where it took us without fear or favour.
“Operation Elveden has resulted in 33 convictions, with evidence that over £300,000 was paid to public officials for confidential information they held.”