Trainee exposes flaw in Passport Service

Lewis’s investigation led the Passport Service to change its procedures

A five-month investigation by a trainee reporter on a free weekly paper has led to a change in Government procedures.

Craig Lewis, a reporter for Milton Keynes paper MK News, obtained a fake passport to expose the problems of identity fraud.

The trainee and his editor David Gale were interviewed under caution by police, but the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to proceed, deeming the investigation to be in the public interest.

The Passport Service has since admitted it made mistakes and has introduced changes to tighten up the issuing department.

Gale said: “This investigation and its final outcome is a feather in Craig’s cap. It is not every journalist who can say so early in their career that they have changed Government procedures.”

Lewis described how the investigation was based on techniques used in the Frederick Forsyth novel, Day of the Jackal, but with 21st century technology.

In the book an assassin steals an identity from a gravestone. Lewis used the internet to find an identity.

Once he had this information he was then able to get a birth certificate, which he used to make the bogus claim for the passport.

The passport was issued within two weeks. It would have enabled Lewis to secure a driving licence, open bank accounts and obtain a national insurance number.

Lewis joined MK News 18 months ago. It is the first newspaper he has worked for. He said: “I had a lot of support and a lot of freedom. It’s great to work for a paper that values investigative journalism.

“I’m really proud of the outcome; we had a major effect in the end and it was good to see it through.” Gale added: “It shows that if a local newspaper is given the editorial freedom, it can still punch well above its expected weight.”

Brian White, MP for Milton Keynes North East, who raised the matter in the House of Commons following Lewis’s investigation, also praised the probe: “The investigation helped to highlight what needed to be done.

Craig’s only young and I think he’s done a really good job.”

By Gareth Bethell

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