Met Police case against Guardian baffles grammarians as well as media and politicians

Coalition government attorney general Dominic Grieve, himself a lawyer, says that he, in conjunction with the Crown Prosecution Service, will have to approve any Metropolitan Police prosecution of the Guardian for being in receipt of leaks pertaining to the News of the World phone hacking affair.

The Met is proposing to charge the Guardian under the Official Secrets Act (usually used for dealing with spies and stuff) for a leak about the Milly Dowler murder inquiry unless reporters Amelia Hill and Nick Davies reveal their sources. It was this ‘leak’ that sparked the phone hacking fire into a conflagration, resulting in the resignation and subsequent charging by the police of News International CEO Rebekah Brooks.

In the public interest then, n’est-ce pas?

This is the Met’s utterly baffling public announcement of the action.

The MPS (Metropolitan Police Service) has applied for a production order against the Guardian and one of its reporters in order to seek evidence of offences connected to potential breaches relating to Misconduct in Public Office and the Official Secrets Act.

The application is about the MPS seeking to identify evidence of potential offences resulting from unauthorised leaking of information.

Operation Weeting is one of the MPS’s most high profile and sensitive investigations so of course we should take concerns of leaks seriously to ensure that public interest is protected by ensuring there is no further potential compromise. The production order is sought in that context.

The MPS can’t respond to the significant public and political concern regarding leaks from the police to any part of the media if we aren’t more robust in our investigations and make all attempts to obtain best evidence of the leaks.

We pay tribute to the Guardian’s unwavering determination to expose the hacking scandal and their challenge around the initial police response. We also recognise the important public interest of whistle blowing and investigative reporting, however neither is apparent in this case. This is an investigation into the alleged gratuitous release of information that is not in the public interest.

The MPS does not seek to use legislation to undermine Article 10 of anyone’s human rights and is not seeking to prevent whistle blowing or investigative journalism that is in the public interest, including the Guardian’s involvement in the exposure of phone hacking.

Yes, but what does it mean?

On the face of it it looks like a paean of praise to the Guardian except that it’s trying to bang up reporters Hill (pictured) and Davies (if you break the Official Secrets Act you don’t get let off with a caution.

Grieve himself has no reason to be fond of the Met having spoken out strongly as shadow home secretary when his colleague shadow immigration minister Damian Green had his Parliamentary office searched by clumsy rozzers in 2008, in clear breach of their authority.

New Met Police commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe needs to have a word with his lads. Unless he approved the action, but he can’t be that daft surely?

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.