My Subject Access request to Leveson has resulted in virtually no material being released and an admission that they are withholding information on the grounds of legal privilege. I am challenging this with the Information Commissioner – details below. The course of my request can be found at http://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/leveson-inquiry-data-protection-act-request-for-information/.
In addition to my submission to the Information Commissioner, I include in this post (1) the substantive reply to my Subject Access request and (2) the only information released other than copies of my correspondence with the Inquiry.
Mr Christopher Graham
Information Commissioner’s Office
25 5 2012
Dear Mr Graham,
The Leveson Inquiry
I made a subject access request to the Leveson Inquiry on 29 2 2012. The Inquiry has refused to release all the information they hold on me citing legal privilege – see email dated 23/4/2012 sent under the aegis of The Leveson Inquiry Team.
As you will see from my unanswered emails of 30th April and 13th May, I have asked the Inquiry legal team to spell out exactly what legal privilege arises, bearing in mind that I am not a lawyer, a client, a witness, a defendant or a party to a civil law suit. The fact that the Inquiry has failed to answer such a simple question after a month suggests strongly that no legal privilege exists in this instance.
The information the Inquiry has released is slight, merely my own submissions, there responses to me and one email which was sent to them, unbeknown to me, by a third party Roger Dewhurst. I will not supply you every email or letter the Inquiry and I have exchanged because it is a voluminous correspondence and I do not think it would add anything to my complaint. Should you feel it necessary, I shall of course be happy to supply all the documents. For the present I enclose copies of my subject access request, my subsequent correspondence with the Inquiry relating to the subject access request and the information the Inquiry initially released, which is the Dewhurst’s email and a list of my correspondence with the Inquiry.
There are extremely strong reasons to suspect that the Inquiry holds information on me which is being withheld simply because it would be at best very embarrassing for them to release and at worst something far more damaging, for example, a conspiracy to protect the powerful and influential. I have supplied the Inquiry with a great deal of important material including a letter from Piers Morgan to the PCC when he was editor of the Mirror in which he admits to receiving information from the police about me in circumstances which can only be illegal. (I enclose a facsimile copy of the letter). From it you will also see that the story in the Mirror of which I complained to the PCC concerned the failed attempt by Tony and Cherie Blair to have me prosecuted during the General Election campaign of 1997. The final document I send you is a copy of my original submission to appear as a witness before the Inquiry. This provides you with a brief summary of the dangerous (for them) territory I have asked the Inquiry to tread upon.
Leveson has refused to use any of my evidence including the letter from Piers Morgan to the PCC or to investigate the prima facie perjury Morgan committed regarding the illicit receipt of information of information from the police whilst under oath before the tribunal.
I ask you to rule on whether Leveson can claim legal privilege and if they cannot make such a claim, to instruct them to release the withheld material. If you find that legal privilege does apply, please let me have your detailed reasons for judging that it does apply.
The Inquiry’s substantive reply to my Subject Access request
The Leveson Inquiry
culture, practices and ethics of the press
R Henderson Esq
3 April 2012
Dear Mr Henderson,
Subject Access Request
Thank you for your email of 29 February 2O12, in which you made a Subject Access Request (SAR) asking for all information on you held by the Leveson inquiry. Your request has been handled under the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA).
We have now completed a search of our records and can confirm that the inquiry Team does hold personal data within the scope of your request. That personal data is being processed for the purposes of the requests and enquiries you had made of the Leveson inquiry.
The attached schedule shows the personal data that you are entitled to under section 7 of the DPA; as you are a recipient or the originator of each of these emails or communications, I do not propose to send you a further copy. However, if you would like to see any particular documents then I will arrange for copies to be sent to you.
You can find out more about the right of access to personal data under section 7, by reading the extract from the Act attached at the end of this letter.
You can also find more information by reading the full text of the Act, (available at http://www.lesislation.gov.uk/ukpsa/1998/29lsection/7) and further guidance http://www.ico.gov.uk/for organisations/data protection/subject access requests.
You have the right to appeal our decision if you think it is incorrect. Details of how to appeal are annexed to this letter.
Request for Further information
You have also requested certain other information from the Inquiry. As you are aware, the Inquiry is not covered by the Freedom of Information Act, but Lord Justice Leveson has indicated that the Inquiry will be conducted in an open and transparent manner. With that in mind I can answer your questions as follows:
1. The number of people who have submitted evidence to the Inquiry: we do not have an absolute number of submissions that we have received, as the inquiry is still inviting and accepting submissions to the Inquiry and so the number is constantly changing. I can tell you, however, that the Inquiry has heard oral evidence from 258 witnesses, and has published their witness statements on the inquiry website. The evidence of a number of other people has also been read into the inquiry and, again, their submissions have all been published on our website. Finally, we publish monthly updates of the number of emails, submissions and other enquiries that have come in; you will find this information in the “About the Inquiry” section of the website.
2. The number of people who have been or will be called to give oral evidence: by close of play on Wednesday 4th April, the Inquiry will have taken oral evidence from 258 witnesses. It is not possible for us, at this point, to know how many witnesses will be asked to give evidence during the remainder of the inquiry.
3. The number of people who have supplied the Inquiry with a letter from a Fleet Street editor in which the editor admits to receiving information from the police in circumstances which can only be illegal: the inquiry does not specifically record information in this way. It is, of course, open to you to review the statements that have been published on our website.
4. The number of people who supplied the inquiry with evidence of the police failing to investigate complaints of police officers supplying information illegally to the press: the inquiry does not specifically record information in this way.
5.The number of people who have supplied the inquiry with evidence of the PCC failing to adjudicate on complaints: again, the inquiry does not specifically record information in this way.
(PP by N Mossally)
Josephine Norris [Josephine.Norris@39essex.com]
Sent: 29 February 2012 20:37
Leveson inquiry Solicitors Team
Subject: Fw: Smelling like a dead mullet.
Follow Up Flag: Follow up
Flag Status: Yellow
—-Original Message -.
From: Roger Dewhurst
To: Robert Jay; Josephine Norris; firstname.lastname@example.org <wirwin@tgcha m bers.com>;
clerks@landmarkchambers’co.uk <email@example.com>; firstname.lastname@example.org <email@example.com>; firstname.lastname@example.org <email@example.com>;
Sent: Wed Feb 29 20:30:30 2Ot2
Subject: Smelling like a dead mullet.
This is looking more and more like a whitewash to which you are a party.
Robert Jay QC
Lead Counsel to the Leveson inquiry
Royal Courts of Justice
29 2 2012
Dear Mr Jay,
When questioning press witnesses about payments to the police for information you and your fellow counsel are consistently asking the wrong initial question.
The question you and your colleagues are putting is along these very bald lines: “Did you pay policemen for information?” what you should asking as your initial question is something like this “Did you or your staff ever receive information from the police.” which only you or your paper received?”
If they have that is almost certainly a breach of the law. You can then move to a line of questioning which further illustrates the illicit nature of the receipt of the information to which the person has admitted receiving or knowing has been received. The question about payment should come later.
The reason you should proceed in this manner is simple. By limiting the question to payment you allow the witness to escape questioning about other offences. Whether or not payment or other material reward is given to the police for information , the passing of information illicitly by the police to the press necessarily breaches the Official Secrets Act and most probably the Data Protection Act. In those instances both giver and receiver commit corresponding offences. Conspiracy charges could also arise. In addition, the police officer would be guilty of misconduct in a public office.
I find it difficult to believe that a barrister of your experience will not realise all that. So why are you and your colleagues not pressing the matter of the receipt of information illicitly regardless of whether money or payment in kind has occurred?