Why isn't Sky News Prosecuted for Hacking John Darwin's Emails?

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In an April 2012 press release, Sky News told viewers it had hacked email in its reporting on the Anne and John Darwin case. This month, the UK Crown Prosecution Service said it wouldn't prosecute the hacking. (Credit: Sky Press Office, screenshot)

The UK police decided not to prosecute Sky News’ Gerard Tubb for hacking the email account of John Darwin, a man accused of faking his own death,  The Guardian reported. Darwin faked his death so his wife could get the life insurance money. Darwin later went to the UK police and pretended to have amnesia.

As iMediaEthics has written, Sky News fessed up last year to letting its reporter, Gerard Tubb, hack e-mail for Tubb’s 2008 report about Darwin, defending the hacking as in the “public interest.”

In that report, Tubb said Sky News “discovered an email,” “uncovered documentary evidence,” and cited emails between Darwin and his wife.  But, the report didn’t go so far as to admit Sky News hacked emails to support the scoop. The hacking revelation was only made to the public in a 2012 Sky News press release. But, last year, Sky News said that the police “absolutely knew” that it used hacking to get the information and that the police regarded Sky News’ reporting as “pivotal” to its case against the Darwins, according to the BBC. 

In a March 18 statement published on the Crown Prosecution Service’s website, Malcolm McHaffie, Deputy Head of Special Crime at the Crown Prosecution Service, said it decided it wasn’t going to prosecute Sky News over that hacking. McHaffie is quoted as saying that “the public interest served” by Sky News’ hacking “outweighs the potential overall criminality, should an offence be proved.”  Further, McHaffie commented:

“In reaching this decision, we took into account that the emails were accessed with a view to showing that a criminal offence had been committed and that a number of the same emails were subsequently lawfully obtained by the police and used by the prosecution at the criminal trial of Anne Darwin.”

McHaffie added that the police don’t know if Tubb was in the UK or the United States when he hacked the email.

It should be noted that this ruling is in sharp contrast to Leveson Inquiry’s Judge Brian Leveson’s conclusion that the press should not be able to shield itself from prosecution for hacking using journalism’s legal privilege.

Bloomberg reported that the Leveson Inquiry’s Judge Brian Leveson “said last year that BSkyB, which is 39 percent owned by News Corp., shouldn’t be able to use the public-interest defense for hacking.” (BSkyB is the parent company of Sky News.) Further, Leveson stated during the inquiry that Sky News “committed a crime.”

iMediaEthics wrote to Sky News seeking comment about the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision, but Sky News declined to comment.

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Why isn’t Sky News Prosecuted for Hacking John Darwin’s Emails?

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One Response

  1. a says:

    The decision by the CPS is wrong and should not be allowed. They are simply ignoring the law as it stands and the recommendations of Levison. The evidence (emails) that Sky illegaly obtained were not used in court for the simple reason that Sky had obtained them via hacking. Mr McHaffie’s comments to the effect that that this was in the public interest as it led to a prosecution is completly wrong as the emails were never used by the prosecution because the CPS knew they had been obtained illegally.The emails Sky hacked were only published after the verdict was given and were used for their own personal interest, not the publics.

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