NoW ruling backs reporter's right to work undercover

McGee: spent months undercover

The right to go undercover to expose security failings was upheld this week as a judge threw out the case against the News of the World’s David McGee.

He was charged with bringing a camera into a prison and a conviction could have ended his career as an undercover reporter. His June 2003 exposé of security failings at Woodhill Prison – where Ian Huntley was being held – was named British Press Awards’ front page of the year.

Judge Terry English said the prison regulations were absurd and too broad to be enforced. He said that, technically, they could prevent a person from entering a prison with any item – even a packet of cigarettes.

Although the case fell down on a legal technicality, the judge acknowledged there “must be a huge public concern about the fact that he was able to get where he did”.

NoW editor Andy Coulson said: “This prosecution has served no public interest whatsoever. Shooting the messenger may give perverse satisfaction to those embarrassed by the NoW investigation. But, as the judge ruled, it was neither just nor fair.

“It’s been a real distraction for Dave, who after all gave up several months of his life to live and work as a prison officer on this investigation. That was a tough thing to do and also a brave thing to do.

“This is good news for all those involved in investigative journalism.”

The Crown Prosecution Service hinted it could appeal against the decision.

A CPS lawyer said: “We are currently considering our position”

By Dominic Ponsford

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