Operation Motorman (ICO investigation)

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Operation Motorman was a 2003 investigation by the Information Commissioner's Office into allegations of offences under the Data Protection Act by the British press.[1][2][3]

The ICO first became aware of the scale of the problem in November 2002, when an ICO investigator attended a search under warrant of John Boyall,[4] a private investigator in Surrey. Documents found on the premises revealed the misuse of data from the Police National Computer. This discovery led to two investigations: Operation Motorman, conducted by the ICO and led by ICO Senior Investigator Alec Owens, who prior to joining the ICO had been a Merseyside Police Inspector; and Operation Glade, conducted by the Metropolitan Police.[3]

The ICO later obtained search warrants for the Hampshire office of a private detective Steve Whittamore.[5] A huge cache of documents revealed, in precise detail, a network of police and public employees illegally selling personal information obtained from government computer systems. The personal information that Whittamore obtained from his network was passed on to journalists working for various newspapers including the News of the World, the Sunday Times, the Observer, the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror.[5] At least 305 different reporters have been identified as customers of the network.[6]

In February 2004, four suspects pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit misconduct in public office: Whittamore and Boyall, retired police officer Alan King, and Paul Marshall, a police communications officer.[7] The four were given conditional discharges. Other members of Whittamore's network were due to stand trial but the case collapsed.[8]

In September 2011, former policeman Alec Owens, the original lead investigator of Operation Motorman, criticised the senior management of the ICO for the way in which the investigation was handled. He stated that investigators were prohibited from interviewing journalists and alleged that this was because the management "were frightened". He said that had the team been allowed to question journalists the use of phone hacking might have been uncovered earlier.[9] In November 2011, just a few days before Owens was due to give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry, his home was raided under warrant by Cheshire Police. Before leaving under police caution for an interview at Wilmslow police station, Owens informed Lord Leveson by phone of the raid.[10]

On 9 April 2012 political blogger Paul Staines released the "Blue Book" section from the Operation Motorman files, covering 1,028 News International related entries out of a total of 17,000.[11] The day before the files were released The Guardians' "Media Monkey" column had reported rumours that Staines was going to release the files, and was preparing to fly to Ireland to escape British jurisdiction.[12]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Rachel McAthy (February 4, 2011). "Observer seeks to distinguish ‘Operation Motorman’ from the phone-hacking scandal". journalism.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-07-06. 
  2. ^ Laura Tyler and Phil Hartley (8 March 2011). "Fleet Street phone-hacking scandal: a legal perspective". The In-House Lawyer. Retrieved 2011-07-06. 
  3. ^ a b "What Price Privacy?". Information Commissioner's Office. 10 May 2006. Retrieved 2011-07-06. 
  4. ^ "What Price Privacy Now?". Information Commissioner's Office. December 2006. Retrieved 20 August 2011. 
  5. ^ a b James Robinson (21 September 2010). "Newspapers used me as fall guy, says convicted private eye". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 13 September 2011. 
  6. ^ Brian Brady and James Hanning (12 September 2010). "Read all about it: The secret dossier of lawbreaking that spells trouble for Rupert Murdoch...and David Cameron". The Independent on Sunday (London). Retrieved 13 September 2011. 
  7. ^ Nick Davies (11 March 2011). "Jonathan Rees: private investigator who ran empire of tabloid corruption". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 13 September 2011. 
  8. ^ Nick Davies (31 August 2009). "Operation Motorman: the full story revealed". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 13 September 2011. 
  9. ^ Burrell, Ian; Olden, Mark (14 September 2011). "Exposed after eight years: a private eye's dirty work for Fleet Street". The Independent (London). Retrieved 14 September 2011. 
  10. ^ "News of the World journalists' computers were destroyed by 'putting them through a grinder and smashing them up'". Daily Mail (London). 19 November 2011. 
  11. ^ "Motorman: Britain's Biggest Establishment Cover-Up". Order Order. 2012-04-09. Retrieved 2012-04-09. 
  12. ^ "Media Monkey: Sands slow to start at Standard, and what has Samantha Brick been up to?". The Guardian. 2012-04-08. Retrieved 2012-04-09.