Tom Watson asks Met to investigate Times email hacking


Tom Watson MP today called on the Metropolitan Police to look into whether the Times newspaper was guilty of hacking emails.

The letter, posted on the MP's blog, noted how chief executive of News International Thomas Mockridge admitted a reporter working for the Times in 2009 had admitted to gaining unauthorised access to a computer.

The journalist used the data from the compromised machine to identify the name of a serving police officer, according to Watson.

It is clear that a crime has been committed illicit hacking of personal emails.

The police officer sought an injunction and at the court hearing, lawyers for the Times claimed the information was obtained legally, much of it from publicly available data online.

"It is clear that a crime has been committed illicit hacking of personal emails. It is almost certain that a judge was misled," Watson claimed in the letter.

"A journalist and unnamed managers failed to report the crime to their proprietor or the police. This runs counter to the assurances of Rupert Murdoch that News International takes a 'zero tolerance approach to wrongdoing.'"

The Times has admitted Patrick Foster had hacked the account of police officer Richard Horton, who had been blogging anonymously under the pseudonym Nightjack before his real name was revealed by the paper.

Watson's letter was sent to Sue Akers, deputy assistant commissioner of the Met.

Viet Dinh, director of News Corp, who Watson claimed had told him he would "get to the bottom of all allegations of computer hacking," was sent a copy of the letter. The Attorney General was also sent a copy.

"I must ask that you investigate computer hacking at The Times. In so doing you will also be able to establish whether perjury and a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice have also occurred," Watson added.

News International told IT Pro it had no response to Watson's letter.

Earlier this month, the Independent reported that police had found evidence private investigators working for newspapers had hacked the email account of former prime minister Gordon Brown whilst he was Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The Leveson inquiry into press culture, practices and ethics continues.

Tom Brewster

Tom Brewster is currently an associate editor at Forbes and an award-winning journalist who covers cyber security, surveillance, and privacy. Starting his career at ITPro as a staff writer and working up to a senior staff writer role, Tom has been covering the tech industry for more than ten years and is considered one of the leading journalists in his specialism.

He is a proud alum of the University of Sheffield where he secured an undergraduate degree in English Literature before undertaking a certification from General Assembly in web development.