Harold Evans: A free press has always had to contend with police officers waving the Official Secrets Act
In his long career on Fleet Street, the former Sunday Times editor often tangled with the courts when stories became troublesome for those in power
A farce featuring Scotland Yard, the Guardian and a hacking victim.
ENTER RIGHT PC PLOD
Constable: Hello, hello, what have we here?
Female victim: It’s horrible, officer, my phone was hacked and all my personal information is being used by someone else. Credit cards I can stop, but there’s private stuff on there too…
Constable: Rum story, ma’am, very rum. May I ask where you got this strange idea that your phone may have been hacked? Never heard of such a thing. We need evidence, you know, before we can move at our customary lightning speed.
Victim: Well, I got a call from a newspaper – the Guardian, I think. They told me. They said I wasn’t alone and they were going to expose a lot of crimes like this.
Constable: Can’t have that. Exposing crime is our job. That’s not work for a newspaper. I can tell you we in the force, ma’am, have many friends in the fourth estate and none of them is reporting anything like this. They’d come straight to us if they did, and that would be the end of it.
You look rather pale, ma’am. Have you had a fall recently – banged your head, perhaps?
Victim: How dare you suggest I am off my head? Why don’t you try and find who’s been hacking my phone?
Constable: Hold on, hold on, ma’am – my beeper just beeped. Ah! Yes, yes – one of my detective colleagues says the Met has already nailed the suspect. Round there in a jiffy, given those snoopers a writ under the Official Secrets Act.
Victim: Gosh, didn’t know my personal details came under the Official Secrets Act. I’m impressed, I’m impressed.
Constable: No, ma’am, not your personal details. They are no concern of the Met. We are already at the offices of this Guardian newspaper you mentioned. And thank you for the clue. We want to know how they know what we should know, if you follow my meaning. Can’t be made to look foolish by these inky wretches.
The above, with apologies to any half-way decent playwright, is ridiculous, but less ridiculous than the Met calling in aid the Official Secrets Act to force Guardian reporters to reveal their sources in the phone-hacking scandal. Read More…