A former Director of Public Prosecutions called for the protection of whistleblowers during the Leveson Inquiry today.
Lord Ken Macdonald QC, who served as DPP between 2003 and 2008, spoke of his ‘fundamental difficulty’with whistleblowers speaking internally to a company instead of directly to journalists.
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“My fear is that if the internal remedy is the only option, too often that would result in suppression,’he said. He went on to say it would be difficult to design a system wherby whistleblowers can report directly to journalists but insisted that the practice was in the public interest.
He added: ‘It would be a matter of significant regret if this inquiry stopped this. There should not be further legal impediment to whistle-blowing.’
Also appearing at the inquiry today was David Perry QC, who prosecuted former News of the World royal correspondent Clive Goodman in 2006. He said police has assured him there was no evidence against any of the paper’s other journalists.
Perry said he raised the question of whether other journalists were also involved in phone-hacking at a case conference with Scotland Yard detectives on 21 August 2006.
“My recollection of this is that I asked whether there was any evidence implicating any other individual employed by News International in the criminality that we were looking at in this particular case,” he said via a videolink from Northern Ireland.
“I was concerned to discover whether this went further than just the particular individuals with which we were concerned, and I think I was conscious in my own mind that the question had to be whether it was journalists to the extent of the editor.” He added: “We were informed there was no such evidence. I cannot recall which officer gave that reply.”
Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire were jailed in January 2007 after they admitted intercepting voicemail messages left on royal aides’ phones.
The Met was widely criticised for failing to reopen its phone-hacking investigation after the Guardian published an article on July 9 2009 alleging there were more journalists and many more victims involved.
Perry was asked to prepare a short note for the Crown Prosecution Service on July 14 2009 setting out the advice he was given by detectives in 2006. He said: “We did inquire of the police at a conference whether there was any evidence that the editor of the News of the World was involved in the Goodman-Mulcaire offences.
‘We were told that there was not (and we never saw any such evidence). We also inquired whether there was any evidence connecting Mulcaire to other News of the World journalists. Again we were told that there was not (and we never saw any such evidence).”
Robert Jay QC, counsel to the inquiry, asked whether police and lawyers had discussions at the case conference about any circumstantial evidence against other journalists.
Perry replied: “It is certainly possible, although I have no recollection of it. I think from my point of view I would have been looking to see whether there was a possibility of a case rather than whether there was something that was speculative. We can all speculate…I certainly don’t think I saw anything that would have enabled me to present a case on the basis of any inference or circumstantial evidence.”