Patrick Foster spared trial over Nightjack
Saturday 16 August
The former Times media reporter Patrick Foster has been cautioned for hacking into an email account as part of his efforts to unmask the police blogger Nightjack in 2009.
Foster had been on police bail for two years after being arrested by officers from Operation Tuleta, an offshoot of the phone hacking investigation that is concerned with computer hacking.
A second person arrested on suspicion of perjury and perverting the course of justice has also been told that they will face no further action.
The CPS did not name either, but Foster identified himself in a tweet yesterday:
Foster was arrested in August 2012, seven months after police began investigating the Nightjack case as a result of disclosures at the Leveson inquiry.
In 2009 Foster had hacked into an email account belonging to Robert Horton, whom the paper later identified as the author of the Orwell-prizewinning Nightjack blog.
Horton sought to prevent publication of his name with an injunction claiming breach of privacy. But The Times successfully challenged the injunction in the High Court, where the paper's legal manager Alistair Brett gave the impression that the story was based on information in the public domain and that it had been largely a matter of deduction to discover the blogger's identity.The story was published in June 2009.
The Leveson inquiry, however, was told in 2012 that Brett had been aware of the email hacking before the High Court hearing and that he had told Foster to stand up the story "by proper journalistic endeavour". It was only when he had done so that the story was used.
Yesterday Foster said in a Twitlonger statement:
I was acting on the understanding, common across Fleet Street and amongst journalists and lawyers, that I would be able to rely on a public interest defence. That understanding was wrong.
He added that the police investigation had been heavy-handed and seemingly never-ending. He had been unemployable and had to pay substantial legal fees, so he had accepted the caution rather than put his family through further heartache and face further legal costs.
No one should ever have to suffer the extra-judicial punishment of two years on police bail, and my sympathies are with others still languishing in this invidious position.
The Nightjack case, along with the decision to turn down the MPs' expenses story, has been seen as a key factor in Rupert Murdoch's sacking of James Harding (now head of news at the BBC) as editor of The Times. The paper paid Horton £42,500 damages in October 2012.
Brett, who left Times Newspapers after more than 30 years in July 2010, was fined £30,000 and suspended for six months by the Solicitors' Disciplinary Tribunal for misleading the High Court. He is appealing against the finding.
Foster was given a warning for gross professional misconduct over Nightjack in 2009, but was sacked two years later after the paper received a formal complaint about a remark he made during a conference call with BBC chiefs.
Sun reporter cleared over stolen iPhone
Wednesday 13 August
The police and CPS have come under fire for pursuing journalists with excessive zeal after a jury cleared Ben Ashford of handling a stolen iPhone.
Ashford had checked the phone for "flirty" messages between a PR woman and a TV personality before returning it to its owner on orders from the Sun.
He told the Old Bailey that he was not aware the phone had been stolen and thought he had been given it as part of a deal between a contact and the PR woman.
Sameena Rashid, who had contacted the paper with a potential story, was cautioned for theft.
The charges were the first under Operation Tuleta, which is investigating computer hacking. The iPhone is regarded as a computer.
Seven journalists have been arrested under Operation Tuleta.
The first case to go to court ended with the acquittal of the former Sun journalist Ben Ashford, who had been charged with handling stolen goods and illegally accessing computer data.
Sun reporters Rhodri Phillips and Chris Pollard were both cleared last year, and a 37-year-old journalist was told in October that they would face no further action.
Patrick Foster, former media reporter at The Times, has been cautioned.
The remaining two still on bail are Alex Marunchak, former News of the World Ireland editor, and Nick Parker, the Sun's chief foreign correspondent.
Thirteen non-journalists have been arrested as part of Tuleta. They are believed to include the private investigator Jonathan Rees.
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