David Leigh, investigations editor at the Guardian, has been told that he will not be prosecuted for intercepting phone messages in 2006.
Leigh admitted to phone hacking in an article in 2006 in which he was investigating an allegedly corrupt arms deal. The Crown Prosecution Service, which was conducting an investigation into the crime, ruled that there was no public interest in pursuing the case.
Leigh, who was not aware of the investigation, told the Press Gazette that he had not been aware of the investigation until it was dropped: “The comical thing was that everybody was saying, ‘We didn’t know you had this hanging over you, poor you’. The fact is I didn’t know that I had it hanging over me either.”
Leigh suspects that journalists at News International sparked the investigation; he was unhappy with the way that he had been treated by fellow journalists from the Times and the News of the World at the time.
Considering hacking as a wider issue, Leigh claimed “At the time I was not conscious that it was a criminal offence.
“Since then it’s been made plain that it is a crime. I don’t like the idea of going about committing criminal offences, so I wouldn’t do it [hacking] again for that reason.”
He defended his actions in 2006: “The reason we do things on the edge of the law is we don’t have police powers to go around arresting people and we have to often use ingenious and undercover methods.
“It’s only justified, as a last resort, when it’s in the public interest.”
However, he condemns use of hacking in instances where it lies outside of the public interest, citing the Millie Dowler case: “If there was a way in which you could help find Milly Dowler by listening to her voicemails then that’s what the police could do. You don’t need News of the World to do it.”
Leigh, who at the time admitted to a “voyeuristic thrill in hearing another person’s private messages”, when asked over Twitter if he would be defending of the News International journalists who had found themselves accused of phone hacking replied: “I’ll back any arrested genuine ‘public interest’ NI journalist. But shame NI tried to have me arrested, isn’t it?”
Read the full story at the Press Gazette.