At the Rally for Media Reform, Hugh Grant urged further investigation into the Motorman files to ensure all illegal activities are brought to light. The following is a transcript of Mr. Grant’s speech, used with permission.
Well I’ve only got 5 minutes so I really want to take those 5 minutes to stress a lot of the positive things. I think that a lot of progress has been made since last July. I think that the first two modules of Leveson have shed a lot of disinfecting sunlight into a lot of very infected corners. I think that as a result people around the country are aware that this is about more than just phone hacking, but it is about corruption of police, corruption of public officials, the intimidation of elected politicians, and basically about the emasculation of 5 consecutive governments, so in effect it is really about the corruption of democracy here in England, in Britain, the so called crucible of democracy.
However abhorrent the idea of a state-run media is, and it is utterly abhorrent, it is nevertheless increasingly obvious that we have been living for about 30 years in a media controlled state, and that is equally abhorrent, and it is a disgrace that nothing has been done about it until now.
So as I say I wanted to use these 5 minutes to stress the positive things. Unfortunately that is completely against my nature. I’d much rather dwell on the negative. I’ll be quick. I think that the big negative for me, the big worry is that in all the flurry of pyjama parties and police horses and dodgy texts and dodgy emails the people may come to think that this whole business, this whole scandal, is confined to one media organisation, and that simply isn’t true. It is an impression that is very much being promoted and promulgated by non-News International news organisations but as I say, it simply isn’t true.
All the evidence shows that unethical, illegal, criminal behaviour was widespread throughout the entire tabloid end of Fleet Street. And for evidence of that you don’t need to listen to some of the anecdotal evidence from Leveson. You just have to look at the database containing the Motorman files. Motorman, for those of you who have forgotten this particular inquiry, was the Information Commissioner’s inquiry into the activities of a private investigator named Steve Whittamore back in 2003. Steve Whittamore’s business, he ran a lot of conmen and blaggers, who in return for money were able to obtain personal data on individuals from the police national computer, from the DVLA, from British Telecom and from various mobile phone companies. And when the Information Commissioner published his report into this in 2006 he set out a “league table” showing which papers had used him the most, had used this convicted criminal the most. Oddly enough, News International is nowhere near the top. Way above that are the Associated News, the Mail and the Mail on Sunday, and the Mirror Group papers. So there is this great stack of unexposed, unpublished evidence about widespread illegal activity going on in papers outside News International – activity which the Information Commissioner himself described as “as serious as phone hacking if not more serious”.
So, why is it not coming up more at Leveson? Why, when victims groups there or Hacked Off ask the Inquiry to spend more time on it do they get a “no”? Well the Inquiry keeps saying this is historical.
Well, it is hard to see really how it can be historical when it was going on more recently actually than the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone. It is hard to see why it is historical when there was a cover-up and still is a cover-up. It is hard to see why it’s historical when as far as anyone can see these newspapers still have all this personal data on all these victims, and may indeed still be using it. It is hard to see why it is historical when, even after Steve Whittamore’s conviction in 2005, two newspaper groups for sure went on using him. The Daily Mail went on using him until 2007, the Express until 2010. So for a lot of us it’s astonishing that this material is regarded as historical.
I think I’ve gone on too long, but there’s a bunch of ranty questions I want asked about this, let me just do a couple of them before I sit down.
- During the investigation into Steve Whittamore and his prosecution, why was not a single journalist who commissioned this illegal activity ever prosecuted? Why were they never even investigated? Does that mean that despite the written law in the data protection act, journalists have some defacto immunity from prosecution? Are they under resourced at the Information Commissioner, are they scared of journalists? What exactly is going on?
- Given that it was managing editors of newspaper who actually wrote the cheques to Steve Whittamore – or in the case of say the Daily Mail, put them down in accounts as travel and expenses – why is it that the Leveson Inquiry has not asked a single managing editor to come to the Inquiry and explain what happened?
- Was it the fact that when various newspaper groups lobbied the then Home Secretary Jack Straw very hard to NOT enact what the Information Commissioner suggested, which was much tougher penalties for breaches of section 55 of the Data Protection Act including custodial sentences – Was it the fact that they lobbied very hard and won, he caved in, to do with the fact that: a) they’d all been at it; and b) it was an essential part of their business model?
I think that’s a question that really needs to be asked more vociferously than it has been asked. I think this is important because if questions like these go unanswered, I believe that there is a danger that Lord Leveson will come to the end of his inquiry and in the face of his recommendations a bunch of non-Murdoch newspapers will say “well we didn’t do anything, gov,” and there are a lot of politicians who will either believe that or try to use that to get the recommendations of Leveson watered down.