Richard Horton (blogger)

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Richard Horton (born 1964) is a detective constable with Lancashire Constabulary, and former blogger who lives in Lancashire. He is the author of the Orwell Prize-winning anonymous blog NightJack which commented on his work as a police officer.[1][2]

Blog[edit]

In May 2009, the still anonymous 'Jack Night' explained to The Independent why he had begun his blog in February 2008: "I wanted to write about where I think police reform has taken us in the 20 years that I have been in the force [...] because I don't think the changes are always good."[3]

According to Paul Mason in April 2009, the anonymous blog's "value lies in the truthfulness of what's described and the honesty with which the author confronts his own reaction to events."[4] Legal affairs writer David Allen Green wrote in April 2012 that: "NightJack was a perfect example of the value of blogging, providing a means — otherwise unavailable — by which an individual could inform and explain in the public interest."[5]

Controversy over identity[edit]

In a controversial and landmark decision, Justice Eady refused to grant an order to protect the anonymity of Richard Horton.[6][7] The judge ruled any right of privacy on the part of Horton would be likely to be outweighed by a countervailing public interest in revealing that a particular police officer had been making such contributions.[8] In the case of evidence acquired by hacking, however the applicable laws do not contain a public interest defence.[5] That hacking was the means by which evidence had been acquired was not disclosed to the court.[9]

This gave Patrick Foster, Media Correspondent of The Times, the opportunity to expose Horton's identity in the newspaper, leading to disciplinary procedures against Horton by his superior officers and the forced deletion of his blog.[10][11]

Times hacking controversy[edit]

In 2012, it was revealed that Patrick Foster, then a reporter at The Times, had used computer hacking in order to establish Richard Horton's identity.[12][13] Horton's intention to sue The Times for damages was subsequently reported,[14] and in October 2012 The Times settled with the plaintiff for £42,500 plus costs.[15]

On 29 August 2012, the police arrested Patrick Foster as part of Scotland Yard's Operation Tuleta investigation into computer hacking.[16] In December 2013, Alastair Brett, former legal manager of The Times, was suspended from practising his profession for six months by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal after they ruled that Brett had deliberately misled the High Court in Horton's application for an injunction. A disclosure that evidence of Horton's identity had been obtained by hacking his email address had not been made by Brett to counsel for either party or to Mr Justice Eady.[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ nightjack.wordpress.com Original blog (now deleted), nightjack2.wordpress.com (Archive)
  2. ^ Jones, Sam (2009-04-24). "A fair cop: Policeman's 'perfect' blog wins Orwell prize". The Guardian (London). "he had pledged the £3,000 winnings to the Police Dependents' Trust, and is adamant that no one outside his family and friends will learn his true identity" 
  3. ^ Mark Hughes "Online and under cover: The award-winning NightJack blog is a gritty and addictive insider's view of modern-day policing", The Independentt, 21 May 2009
  4. ^ Paul Mason "Congratulations to Night Jack", BBC News (Mason's Idle Scrawl blog) , 24 April 2009
  5. ^ a b David Allen Green "The Times and NightJack: an anatomy of a failure", New Statesman, 12 April 2012
  6. ^ The author of a blog v. Times newspapers Ltd, [2009] EWHC 1358 (QB)
  7. ^ Frances Gibb (June 17, 2009). "Ruling on NightJack author Richard Horton kills blogger anonymity". The Times (London). Retrieved September 7, 2011. "the judge ruled that Mr Horton had no “reasonable expectation” to anonymity because “blogging is essentially a public rather than a private activity”. The judge also said that even if the blogger could have claimed he had a right to anonymity, the judge would have ruled against him on public interest grounds" 
  8. ^ "Police blogger 'to be identified'". BBC. 2009-06-16. Retrieved 9 September 2011. 
  9. ^ a b Lisa O'Carroll "Ex-Times lawyer suspended as solicitor for six months over Nightjack case", theguardian.com, 5 December 2013
  10. ^ Patrick Foster (June 17, 2009). "Writer advised on how to evade long arm of the law". The Times (London). "Mr Horton has deleted the blog and received a written warning for misconduct from his police force." 
  11. ^ Anna Mikhailova (June 21, 2009). "As I found, you take on the bloggers at your peril". The Sunday Times (London). "Mr Horton has deleted the blog and received a written warning for misconduct from his police force... If bloggers were made aware that their anonymity was not always absolutely guaranteed, then arguably they would be just a tiny bit more careful. So perhaps the occasional outing is just the level of control that the blogging community needs." 
  12. ^ "Why the hacking of NightJack matters". New Statesman. Retrieved 2012-04-13. 
  13. ^ Sabbagh, Dan; Leigh, David (2 February 2012). "Times editor faces Leveson inquiry recall over NightJack hacking claim". The Guardian (London). 
  14. ^ Bowcott, Owen (8 February 2012). "NightJack blogger to sue the Times for damages". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 8 February 2012. 
  15. ^ Allen Green, David. "The Times settles Nightjack claim for £42,500 plus costs". The New Statesman. Retrieved 8 October 2012. 
  16. ^ "Former Times Journalist arrested". The Guardian (London). 29 August 2012. Retrieved 30 August 2012. 

External links[edit]