Guardian journalist Amelia Hill and a police officer accused of leaking information to her for stories on the UK phone hacking scandal won’t be prosecuted, UK’s Crown Prosecution Service announced.
The Guardian wrote in early September when Hill was “questioned by police officers investigating alleged leaks of information” about its investigation into phone hacking. As we wrote last September, the UK police also wanted to know who The Guardian’s source was for the report accusing News of the World of hacking the cell phone of murdered teenager Milly Dowler, which Hill co-wrote with David Leigh, as well as sourcing for other articles by Hill.
According to the Associated Press and The Independent, the UK Crown Prosecution Service “Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service” said they could prove a police officer was leaking to her, but not enough so for a trial. The Crown Prosecution Service noted that with respect to Hill and the “public interest served” by her stories, “the public interest outweighs the overall criminality alleged.”
“I am satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to establish that these articles contained confidential information derived from Operation Weeting, including the names of those who had been arrested. I am also satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to establish that the police officer disclosed that information to Ms Hill.
“I have concluded that there is insufficient evidence against either suspect to provide a realistic prospect of conviction for the common law offence of misconduct in a public office or conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office.”
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According to The Independent, the issue was whether police were illegally leaking to Hill, not if she was paying for tips. As the Crown Prosecutor Service statement reads, “there is no evidence” money was exchanged. The prosecutors say she got tips for ten stories “between 4 April 2011 and 18 August 2011,” The Guardian reported.
The Crown Prosecution Service statement noted that the leaked information “would probably have made it into the public domain by some other means, albeit at some later stage.”
The Guardian’s spokesperson issued a statement saying the decision against prosecuting is “sensible” and that the potential prosecution was a “worrying attempt to criminalise legitimate contact between journalists and confidential sources.” Further, the newspaper said it had “no comment on the validity” of whether the police officer tipped off Hill.
The Guardian also noted that Hill defended her work and integrity.
“I have spent the last nine months as the focus of a criminal investigation, under the threat of prosecution. This was not only incredibly difficult for me personally but was a completely disproportionate response by the police, and a sinister attempt to chill public interest journalism,” she is quoted as saying.