News of the World jeopardised Ipswich murder investigation, Leveson told

A retired criminal investigator has accused the News of the World of jeopardising the investigation into murder of five women in Ipswich in 2006.

Testifying before the Leveson Inquiry this morning, Dave Harrison was part of a Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) team deployed to the Ipswich murder inquiry, in which five women were killed between October and December 2006. His team’s objective was to put any suspect under surveillance.

He said he was told that the News of the World had employed their own surveillance team made up of “ex-special forces soldiers, whose objectives were to identify any suspects we were working on, and to identify us and our operation base.”

“Someone in the police had found out that SOCA was being deployed and passed this information to the media,” Harrison wrote in his witness statement.

Harrison added that a surveillance team from the Sunday Mirror was also employed to “pick up and interview” the first suspect in the inquiry. In his witness statement, Harrison wrote that colleagues watched the suspect “being picked up and driven round by a team that carried out anti-surveillance manoeuvres before dropping him off at a hotel to be interviewed.”

Harrison said he believed the News of the World surveillance jeopardised the murder investigation by potentially hindering SOCA’s own surveillance. He told the Inquiry that  a murder suspect, revisiting the scene of the crime, might halt or change his movements if they believed they were being followed. “The evidence would be lost and the prosecution case weakened.”

“If our surveillance had been weakened by having to try and avoid other surveillance teams looking for us, if we had lost the suspect he may have gone on and committed further murders,” Harrison added.

“If we had lost the suspect because of their actions there could have been tragic consequences.”

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Sly Bailey rejects Mirror phonehacking claims

The CEO of Trinity Mirror, Sly Bailey, told the Leveson Inquiry today that she has seen no evidence of phone hacking at Trinity Mirror, only “unsubstantiated allegations”.

When pressed by counsel David Barr why the group had not conducted a detailed investigation, Bailey argued that by investigating claims without evidence of hacking was not a way to run a healthy organisation.

She called claims made by a BBC Newsnight programme that the practice took place at the Sunday Mirror a “terrible piece of journalism”.

Bailey said she had heard the evidence of ex-Mirror reporter James Hipwell, who told the Inquiry that phone hacking was a “bog-standard journalistic tool” used by the paper, but added she was “not sure” whether she knew of his allegations at the time.

In her testimony Bailey also detailed the “intense cyclical pressure” facing her company. “It’s like a falling knife that is getting sharper on the way down,” she said, noting the collapse in recruitment advertising and increasing pressure from digital news platforms. “Our strategy is to build a growing multi-platform business,” she said.

Also speaking today, Tina Weaver, editor of the Sunday Mirror, said privacy injunctions brought by rich, powerful men “rained down on us like confetti” a year ago.

Weaver said she “wrestled with competing tensions” over a kiss and tell story published in the paper involving Rio Ferdinand in April 2010. She said editors now spend a “disproportionate” amount of time balancing Article 8 (private life) and Article 10 (freedom of expression), to which Leveson asked, “isn’t that exactly what you should be doing?” Weaver agreed it was.

“It’s where the line is being drawn that concerns me,” Weaver told the Inquiry.

Weaver added that she felt the perception of public interest was at times too narrow. “I think what readers deem to be in the public interest is deemed by judges to be private,” she said.

The Mirror’s investigations editor Andrew Penman discussed his reservations about prior notification. He told the Inquiry he feared the policy becoming compulsory, leading to crooks and fraudsters becoming “the ones you can’t write about.”

He added he believed in a right to “publicity”.

“If the press are stifled, the public is stifled,” he said.

Editor of the People Lloyd Embley told the Inquiry that the varied nature of stories meant he could not see prior notification working in practice.

Follow Index on Censorship’s coverage of the Leveson Inquiry on Twitter – @IndexLeveson

UK: Rio Ferdinand loses privacy case over Sunday Mirror kiss and tell

Footballer Rio Ferdinand has lost his privacy case over a “kiss and tell” story.

Ferdinand was taking action for “misuse of private information” following an article in the Sunday Mirror newspaper in April 2010, in which Carly Storey detailed their 13-year relationship for a sum of £16,000. Mr Justice Nicol said that the “balancing exercise favours the defendant’s right of freedom of expression over the claimant’s right of privacy.”

MGN said it was in the public interest to run the story, following Ferdinand’s replacement of John Terry as England skipper after stories of Terry’s alleged affairs were revealed.

Index on Censorship news editor Padraig Reidy said the free speech group was “greatly heartened  by the judge’s recognition of free expression in his ruling”.

“Kiss and tell stories can be controversial,” he said. “But this is a case where public interest can be argued. Ferdinand’s claim that he was ’embarrassed’ by the revelations is clearly not enough to restrict Ms Storey’s right to free speech”.