Reporter who outed police blogger cautioned
Newspaper claimed it had unmasked 'NightJack' via legal means - but his identity was later found to have been revealed via hacking.
A former Times journalist who admitted illegally hacking into the email account of pseudonymous police blogger NightJack has been given a police caution.
Patrick Foster hacked into the Yahoo account of the highly acclaimed blogger in 2009 to establish that he was Lancashire detective Richard Horton.
Detective Constable Horton went to the High Court to try and prevent the paper from outing him. At the time lawyers for The Times claimed the officer's identify had been uncovered via legal means, and the newspaper subsequently unmasked the detective - leading his force to take disciplinary action against him.
In 2012 Foster was arrested at his home.
Police cautionIn a statement released via Twitter, he said: "The past two years of this unnecessarily heavy-handed police investigation have been a nightmare. I have been unemployable, but have had to bear the cost of substantial legal fees.
"I have co-operated with the seemingly never-ending investigation at all times. In order to bring this regrettable episode to an end I have accepted the offer of a police caution for committing a technical breach of the Computer Misuse Act 1990.
"I cannot say how likely it is that I would have been charged, had I rejected the caution. In 2009, when I committed this technical breach, I was acting on the understanding, common across Fleet Street and amongst journalists and lawyers, that I would be able to rely on a public interest defence. That understanding was wrong."
Operation TuletaGregor McGill, a senior lawyer at the Crown Prosecution Service, said, “In April 2014 the CPS received a file as part of Operation Tuleta. The file concerned allegations against two individuals of perverting the course of justice and perjury, and an additional allegation of unauthorised access to computer material against the second individual.
"In relation to the allegations of perjury and perverting the course of justice, it has been decided that no further action should be taken, as there was insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction for any offence.
“Any decision by the CPS does not imply any finding concerning guilt or criminal conduct; the CPS makes decisions only according to the test set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors and it is applied in all decisions on whether or not to prosecute.
“In relation to the allegation of unauthorised computer access, that individual has been cautioned for an offence contrary to Section 1 of the Computer Misuse Act 1989.
“The evidence was considered carefully in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors and the DPP’s guidelines on the public interest in cases affecting the media.
“In accepting a caution an individual accepts responsibility for the offending set out.”
Thin Blue Line Comment:-
One of the first and most visited police blogs was authored by a Lancashire Detective, Richard Horton, who in 2008 started blogging under the pseudonym "Nightjack". Recognition for his writings came in the form of the Orwell Prize in February 2009. Richard is the first to admit that some of his posts had taken on a harshly political edge. Winning the award threw him into the spotlight and he lost his cloak of anonymity when the Times newspaper traced him and sent photographers around to his house. The result was that he felt pressured by his force to close the blog and cease his writings.
Pc Stuart Davidson served as an officer in Staffordshire police and his "Coppersblog" site was among the first to expose the problems that had beset UK policing. Blogging as PC David Copperfield, his true identity was discovered by his force and as a result, he felt compelled (or was pushed) to close down the blog and is now a serving police officer in Canada.
In a sad indictment of modern policing, one of the best-known anonymous police bloggers Inspector Gadget quit writing after seven years of sharing an officer's eye view of the world of policing.
This country's police were once the envy of the world; now they struggle to retain the confidence of their own people and have long since lost the support and confidence of the British public. Weighed down by political correctness, burdensome targets, excessive paperwork, non-core police activity and incessant government tinkering, fewer officers than ever are seen on the streets. Everyone knows that policing needs a root and branch overhaul – not the structural reform so beloved of the Labour government, but a cultural rejuvenation that restores to trained professionals the freedom to take their own decisions.
These were the subjects that Gadget, Copperfield & Nightjack focused on. The job they and we loved so much has been eroded so dramatically, it no longer bears any resemblance of the police service that was once so deserving of the world’s respect. Gadget implored the outside world to recognise what was happening to the service in the hope that someone, somewhere, somehow would listen and take steps to returning the service to a world of common sense and justice. He wrote about the malaise affecting the British Justice system, the ridiculous and strangling bureaucracy that pervades in the job to this day, the mindless target driven culture among Chief and senior officers that obstructs frontline and response officers from doing their job moist effectively, the endless fudging of crime statistics and the political interference in the everyday operational duties.
Those close to the Gadget say he grew frustrated at the cuts to the police service and felt he was unable to enact any change through his writing. It is not known whether he was directly warned off by senior officers in his force but he quit at a time when those officers who were tweeting under pseudonyms say they were being intimidated off social media by their bosses.
"I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." François-Marie Arouet a.k.a.Voltaire
Whilst we have not always agreed with everything Inspector Gadget wrote, he made some very relevant, important points. If he was shut down because of paranoia in the upper echelons of policing, this must be seen as a backward step in the honest reforms so badly needed for UK policing.
"All that's necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing." Edmund Burke (British Statesman and Philosopher 1729-1797)"To Quote From Gadget :- My message to the government is this; ignore all the vested interests and the claptrap. Give us some old school traditional police front line leadership and we will deliver where others have failed. Although you might not be able to count it in the same way.
If the leadership of the police cannot bring itself to accept, openly and honestly, that reforms are needed at all levels within the service, then once again, we the British public will be hoodwinked and conned into believing that all in the police garden is rosy, which it clearly is not.
Never has true Leadership been required in the service more than right now. Lord Dear (former Chief Constable of the West Midlands and perhaps one of the last real Leaders in the service) said it so well in his recent Times article.
What the job desperately needs now is Leaders NOT managers. The service doesn't seem to know the difference. Sadly, Leadership is not the only element lacking at the top. Public confidence and that of the troops will never fully return until there is distinct evidence that the Chief Officer standards and qualities are beyond reproach. Over as many months, 18 Chiefs and SMT ranks either disciplined, arrested, or dismissed for unprofessional and even criminal conduct is an indictment of how so many clearly feel they are above the law they are meant to uphold.
How do you instil moral compass values in a hierarchy that doesn't seem to know the difference between crooked and straight?
All Nightjack, Copperfield and Gadget wanted was their beloved police force back to the way it used to be and the public to be the major beneficiaries. Patrick Foster and his ill advised strategy to "out" Nightjack, inadvertently silenced 000's of officers who may have come forward to confirm what we all know is ailing the service. To make matters worse, when Richard Hortons appeal against disclosure case was hear before Justice Eady, no mention was made about how Foster had hacked the e mail account to identify Nightjack. Had this information been disclosed, the outcome for police bloggers may well have been more favourable.
Former PC James Patrick was the first whistle blower to go public shedding any anonymity, exposing the rot in police recorded crime that resulted in PRC losing it's ONS badge of respectability. The met hounded him mercilessly until eventually, he too was forced to leave the job he loved.
Whatever has become of our wonderful service, where some no mark reporter can cause such an avalanche of travesties? The service has always had its issues, but at least the bloggers and whistle blowers act with the best of intentions, to restore the service to its rightfully respected position in society.