back to article Sky News admits two counts of computer hacking

Sky News, which is partially owned by Rupert Murdoch's News International, has admitted that it twice authorized journalists to hack the email accounts of people it was researching for stories. The first case took place in 2008 and involved the case of John Darwin, who was dubbed "Canoe Man" by the British press after he …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Gannon (J.) Dick


    "The Buzzard of Oz" is having a very bad time of it in the US.

    I think they used The Picture of Dorian Gray in the headlines, no, wait, that's Rupert. Poor guy cannot catch a break ....

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When did the law stop applying to journalists?

    1. There's no public interest defence to the law they broke.

    2. They're clearly lying about the "evidence" they provided being crucial to the case as the "evidence" they provided was obtained illegally.

    3. Using this logic, as long as I'm a journalist, I could murder a drug/arms dealer/lord and claim it was in the public interest and get away with it?

    Complete bollocks!

    1. Gannon (J.) Dick

      Re: When did the law stop applying to journalists?

      "Complete bollocks!"

      Please AC ...

      The Blonde on Fox News* would like you to be more specific, otherwise we'll never know the real truth(tm) here.


      * For those unfamiliar with the merkin pandemic, "The Blonde on Fox News" is a Census Tabulation. Surely the Ordinance Survey has a similar designation.

  3. Chad H.

    Well Well Well...

    The apple indeed does not fall far from the tree. Which Murdoch owned news outlet is next?

  4. David 45

    What's good for the goose......

    Sounds like they're trying to pre-empt some sort of immunity before any case against them gets off the ground. Throw the book at them, I say! The whole outfit has already been exposed for the rogues they are and now the Sky News arm of the Murduck (no typo) empire seems to be no exception.

  5. frank ly

    Extending the argument ....

    My neighbour honestly and truly believes that News International executives have been breaking the law, and has authorised me to break into their houses (but without causing damage to property) and take photographs of any documents I can find and copy any computer hard drives.

    It'll be in the public interest, I'm sure most of the public will agree.

    1. Tom 7

      Re: Extending the argument ....

      And crapping everywhere too would certainly cheer me up.

  6. Big O

    Their own review didn't find any wrong doing? That settles it then...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tainted evidence

    So I wonder if Sky realised that by accessing (read hacked) the email account of our canoe man they realised they tainted the chain of custody for any evidence found. If they passed this data to the police and the police and CPS used this in court as part of their prosecution or used that evidence to then get a search warrant, there is actually a case for illegal search and inadmissability of all evidence stemming from the original tainted event.

    In addition if they hacked the email and then seperately the police sought a search warrant to seize email evidence then the defendant could still prove corruption of their email account and make th evidence inadmissable

    This may not affect this case, but if this happened in a future case then there could be very strong grounds for a mistrial or appeal.

    Thinking you are working for the public interest might actually result in preventing natural justice. But then the chase for ratings and paper sales cares little about that.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Tainted evidence

      Exactly what I thought about the "suspected" paedophile... note not a known one, just someone someone somewhere had decided might be one.

      Imagine if he had been and it had come out in court that Sky had hacked his email:

      "My honour, my client maintains that he never saw any of those images before, he never sent any of them, they were uploaded to his email account and sent by members of Sky News who had hacked into his account"

      Then of course the onus is on the prosecution to prove that they weren't put there by Sky... That could lead to a paedophile walking free because some sad two bit journo working for a scummy organisation thought it would make good news.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If a reporter tromps through a murder scene picking up the knife and smudging finger prints before evidence has been collected, all of that evidence would be potentially inadmissible.

    "there are rare occasions where it is justified for a journalist to commit an offence in the public interest."

    No there isn't.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      The Watergate reporters broke the law - IIRC they illegally obtained bank account information - that was certainly in the public interest.

      NB: I am not condoning what has happened here.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Err...

        IIRC they grabbed bags of shredded documents that had been thrown in the trash and reconstructed them. Which is how they got the bank statements.

  9. Graham Marsden

    Great, more hypocrisy...

    ... Sky claiming a "public interest" defence sounds like them saying "It's ok to break one law if it upholds a different law"!

    Err, no, Sky, that's not how it works. Perhaps you need to hire some lawyers to tell you what is legal *before* you do it, rather than trying to defend what you've done *after* the event.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Slimy toads

    Just repeating what others have said really, but it does piss me off.

    It was not in the public interest to hack the e-mail accounts - if need be the police could have gained access the legal way.

    The reporter's actions were clearly the sort of thing criminalised by the Computer Misuse Act, so I look forward to the Police and the CPS doing what is necessary. If they want the law to have any meaning, that is.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Slimy toads

      You expect the met police, those bastions of truth and justice, to do something.

      Bite the hand that feeds them.... hardly.

      Of course if they don't it will just confirm that unhealthy relationship

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Are jounalists trained to hack thesedays as apposed to paying a 3rd party?

    "twice authorized journalists to hack the email accounts" - what as apposed to paying somebody to break the law for them. Are jounalist school realy teaching them to hack or is this some Sky News internal training they go thru?

    Me I suspect they contracted somebody else and that would of made them even more open to a law bashing on many levels as well as quash there crazy defence. Seriously the public interest - not like the police couldn't of already been monitoring this. Also I'm sure the insurance company would of looked at this option if it was say legal.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sky News partially owned News International?

    You mean like Murdoch doesn't control Sky News ...

  13. oldredlion

    Public interest defence

    might be covered regarding the Curious Case of the Cunning Canoeist (and his missus) but it falls flat on its face regarding the second one, the suspected paedophilia, so there is no defence.

    So AFAIC the only question is "What is their punishment likely to be?"

    1. LawLessLessLaw

      Re: Public interest defence

      The Computer Misuse Act doesn't contain *any* defenses, let alone Public Interest.

      The best you can do is say you didn't know you were unauthorised.

  14. andreas koch
    Black Helicopters

    This is just preemptive privatising

    of the coming up universal communication snooping law here in the UK.

    The government loves outsourcing anyway, so they'll be glad if some professional body volunteers to do it for free. Could actually save us a few pounds in the next tax rise (no, just kidding, it won't).

  15. LinkOfHyrule

    If there is a public interest in Sky News hacking a 'dead' canoe bloke's email, dose that mean it's in the public interest for The Register to hack my adult hook-up website accounts to see who I'm banging? Exacty, NO!

    If Sky had reason to think it worth hacking his emails, why not call the police and relay their suspicions to them to do it legally?


    1. Dr. Mouse

      "dose that mean it's in the public interest for The Register to hack my adult hook-up website accounts to see who I'm banging?"

      That depends. If you are banging a celeb or public figure, or are a celeb or public figure, the public would be interested. I wouldn't, but the "public" would be.

      Personally, I don't think the public being interested is the same as "the public interest", but Sky News would probably agrue they mean the same.

      By the way, which adult hook-up website? You've got me interested now. LOL

      1. LinkOfHyrule


        "By the way, which adult hook-up website? You've got me interested now. LOL"

        Seems like the Register is turning into a hook-up site at this rate!

        Yeah, that's an idea - a lot of newspaper websites having dating services - how about "Register Fuck Finder"! You enter details like your age, location, operating system of choice and sexual preference and get matched up with a suitable partner!

        Though I have a feeling the straight guys will be out of luck to be honest. Maybe I am wrongly assuming this place don't get many female readers though.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: LOL

          > how about "Register Fuck Finder"! You enter details like your age, location,

          > operating system of choice and sexual preference and get matched up with

          > a suitable partner!

          What's the relevance of age, location, or sexual preference in finding a suitable partner?

  16. Chad H.

    Just thinking

    Maybe there's public interest in hacking Rupe's personal email to see what he knew.

    This is El Reg, surely someone knows a guy that knows a guy...

    1. Dr. Mouse

      Re: Just thinking

      Well, that depends. I know several.

      Maybe I should post this AC... Nah. Never have yet, if I don't want someone to know it's me posting, I don't post it.

  17. Maty

    I can't see this one working. If it's 'in the public interest' to hack private communications on an editor's say-so, then its open season on the inboxes of every MP, public servant and member of the judiciary.

    After all, misdeeds on the part of any of the above affect the public interest, so journos are entitled to root around for what they can find, no?

    I look forward to Murdoch explaining that to a judge.

  18. Mike Judge

    Errm, what I don't get..

    Surely it's the job of the Police to look into Yahoo accounts, not the job of hacks.

  19. john devoy

    anyone surprised?

    Just another case of someone with power and money convinced he's above the laws the rest of us peasants live under; and he's probably right.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "We do not tolerate wrong-doing. That's why we commissioned, at our own initiative, reviews of payments and email records at Sky News," a company spokesman said. "I'm pleased to say those reviews did not reveal any illegal or unethical behavior."

    Didn't News International say something very similar when it investigated its own actions regarding the News of the World?

    1. John Bailey

      And you believe ANYTHING they report? This is just them upholding their usual journalistic standards. Truth would make heads explode.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Guardian has never done anything like that - much. Why else are they making so much noise and finger pointing, apart from diverting people from taking a good hard look at their practices.

    1. Francis Irving

      Because for years they've lost traffic and revenue through not having juicy stories, by not breaking the law? Goodies always get pissed off when others cheat without punishment, so naturally gloat when a naughty kid gets found out.

  22. Winkypop Silver badge

    In the publics interest my arse!

    A criminal act is what it sounds like.

    Plain and simple.

  23. Jonathan Walsh
    Big Brother

    Remember folks

    These are just the cases they are telling you about. If there's no more to this story than the public interest defence then why did someone step down?

  24. Jeebus

    Ivan 4 and Francis Irving resorting to the last bastion of all Right leaning "patriots".


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Of course

      Anybody who disagrees with guardian and/or the BBC must be an homophobic, islamophobe right wing nut job.

      Just as anybody who read the Guardian is a left wing liberal nut job who thinks everybody in prison was either wrongly convicted or it was society's fault for them committing the crime. Unless of course they read the Daily Mail in which case they are guilty and should never be released or heard from again.

  25. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    Don't like a "public interest" defense?

    Well say good bye to any new story based around revealing unethical or illegal behavior of *any* corporation.

    Information stored in company files (duty of confidentiality during and when you leave a firm plus specific contract clauses, theft of company documents etc)

    Information on computers (Computer Misuse Act. Data Protection Act etc in the UK).

    *none* of that would be an option to report. Not to mention the Draconian UK libel laws that Robert Maxwell ofter used to muzzle claims he was a large stale thief and fraudster (which turns out to be exactly the case. Although it remains libelous to suggest he stashed the £400m in the family trust).

    The PI defense may well be misused but that's up tot he *courts* to decide.

    I could not give a s**t which celebrity is hoovering up huge quantities of drugs (because someone got their the texts to their dealer) but I definitely want to know if some banker was sleeping with a colleague who *happens* to be a bank auditor and is giving him a clean bill of health.

    In the UK it's one of the few *defenses* against being thrown under the wheels of a large corporations legal team.

    So thumbs up for the Public Interest defense. But perhaps a bit of tightening up from the judges.

    1. MissingSecurity

      Re: Don't like a "public interest" defense?

      I'm, from the USA, but I don't think your law was ever intended for hacking crimes. I cannot imagine how any court, or police force would accept evidence from a third party without a chain of custody, or any assurance the data wasn't tampered with.

      With digital media I think it would be foolish for a system that allowed companies interested in "breaking stories" the freedom to be absolved of crime. The only public interest I could see exposing wrong doing of the government (which your example might fall under), because its the "peoples government" or so its said in the US.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't like a "public interest" defense?

      The Public Disclosure Act 1998 protects workers who reveal information about illegal behaviour in the workplace. It protects them against the likes of the Data Protection Act.

      What the Public Disclosure Act does not do is make it legal for a journalist to commit a crime in order to find information that might or might not be in the public interest to disclose.

      If there is enough evidence for the journalist to believe that something illegal is going on then they can pass it on to the police who will then have to convince a judge to issue a search warrant. Do you really want the Police to be able to have an end run around obtaining search warrants by getting a tame journalist to do it for them? Because if it becomes acceptable for journalists to commit crimes to obtain evidence then it wont be long before some unscrupulous Police Officer starts hiring journalists to do just that.

  26. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Since they admitted to hacking into a yahoo account which from my recollection is a web only service so they would have had to access yahoos email servers rather than the suspects computer then surely Yahoo can sue them also for unauthorised access to its systems.

    If journalists are allowed to break the law if a story is in the public interest then that should mean there is a direct physical, financial or political risk to the general public. An escaped psychopath on the loose or a corrupt financial institute covering up misdoings are in the general public interest. But I fail to see how one bloke who faked is death is in the public interest unless any story that the public is interested in is now in the public interest, in which case hacking every celebs email to see if they are having an affair would be in the public interest also.

    Makes me wonder if Sky news haven't deliberately confessed to this story because the journalist who did the hacking has already left or is going to be fired so they can blame it and the other hacking stories which are bound to come out now all on one rouge journalist.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Isnt Hacking For Financial Gain ILLEGAL ????

    as thats what they have done, by hacking the (dead) persons accounts and then publishing news articles based from such hacks. they made headlines and increased sales. thereby making money from such criminal activity.

    the CPS should jail all those involved and drop huge financial penalties at least double the income generated on sales they made whilst using such criminally gained information.

    there is no defense that they can use to shield themselves from such actions they took.

    the same is true about the FBI or other agencies or journalists, you shouldnt be allowed to break the law to catch or intice a person to commit criminal acts for financial or political gain.

  28. andreas koch

    What a wonderous country the UK is.

    Where companies can, on a suspicion, break the law unpunished*, and people who are paid to help uphold the law can behave like this:

    without having to answer for it.

    That they find evidence during their -couchcough- 'search' is neither here nor there; as far as I remember evidence acquired unlawfully isn't valid anyway and if they have a substantial suspicion then they should pass that on to the appropriate authorities, shouldn't they?

    I would really like to try and run a red light and tell the police officer afterwards that I was trying to follow a car that I suspected was involved in a robbery. That would be OK, wouldn't it? Nope.

  29. h3

    There is no such thing as the public interest really (As it is more accurately described as the priivate interest's of those in power - whether it is going to be accepted can more accurately be judged if you treat it in this way).

  30. Bob McBob

    Funny how this wasn't a 'BREAKING NEWS' story on Sky NEWS yesterday....I wonder why!

    Sky news....Impartial my arse. I'd rather watch the Chinese CCTV NEWS, at least there I know the content has been screened...unlike $ky who claim their content is up there with the best of them!

    The sooner OFCOM revoke their broadcasting licence the better.

  31. Hairy Airey

    No - the Public Interest Disclosure Act doesn't protect anyone

    First of all, the decision of what's in the public interest is down to tribunal Judges who invariably represent companies as barristers.

    Second, even when you do blow the whistle it's only the beginning. Paradoxically most sensible companies will settle for money than go to tribunal, so it is potentially a way to make money but not keep your job.

    I blew the whistle on the lack of First Aid cover for a major charity, their auditor verifiably lied to the tribunal and she still hasn't been charged with perjury. Instead they concentrated on attacking me, and waited till tribunal to raise the issue of good faith. Companies are supposed to raise this at the time, not wait until after they've started their (in this case, dishonest) investigation. I am fairly certain that I was sacked on the instructions of a director who didn't want to go to prison for Corporate Mansalughter (someone collapsed, was refused an ambulance, there was no first aid cover and died later).

    It still amazes me that these organisations would hack phones rather than cover stories of genuine interest. Even El Reg won't cover my other story how I was sacked from another charity because I "would not fit in". I have Asperger's Syndrome and that is exactly the problem I have. One of the HR staff where I work now says I'm weird, and she's right!

  32. TkH11

    @mark12 sueing for unauthorised access

    >Yahoo can sue them also for unauthorised access to its systems.

    No, I don't think they can sue. If they want to sue there would have to be a contractual arrangement in place between Yahoo and News International, and Yahoo would have to demonstrate that a) there was a breach of that contract and b) that Yahoo incurred a financial loss as a result.

    Neither are true.

    However, unauthorised access is a criminal offence, and it could be down to Yahoo to carry out a private prosecution for the criminal offence - in the even the British Police and Crown Prosecution Service dont' do it.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So, exactly which offences can be committed by journalist in a "public interest" defence?

    How about they kidnap and torture a suspect for information, just ion case it gives them useful information to pass to the "ever so grateful" police. Surely that's justified...

    I sincerely believe that said journalists should be arrested, charged and tried before a jury of their peers who can then decide if they are "justified".. no exceptions...

  34. bobbles31

    IMHO the only way that the public interest defence could possibly work is to treat it as exactly that. When the journo brings the evidence obtained illegally, bring the prosecution and test the evidence, the story, the outcome and present your arguments for a public interest defence. If the public (as represented by a jury) disagrees then justice will be seen to be done.

    Of course, journalists would probably be a bit more cautious when using this form of defence and that is right and proper.

    MPs should make this clear and from this point on that is the process.

  35. Kwac

    I'm a member of the public and I couldn't give a toss about (apparently) dead men in canoes.

    There, that should screw the great Australian patriot, Roop.

    (Sorry, that should read 'that great American patriot Roop')

  36. Malmesbury


    So if there is no public interest defence, should the following be prosecuted?

    1) Everyone involved in Wikileak?

    2) The Telegraph be prosecuted for releasing details of the MPs expenses.

    3) The Guardian - they admited phone hacking an Evul Oligarch a while back. They also released the Assad emails....

    4) Any MP who has received leaked government documents?

    5) Amnesty International often releases documents that aren't theirs.

    All of the above have either carried out, encouraged or been complicit in technical breaches of these laws.

    1. bobbles31

      Re: Hmmmm

      1) So far as I can tell, the only person guilty in the Wikileaks saga was the person that leaked the information. IIRC, Wikileaks didn't pay for the information so technically have no charges to answer.

      2) Yes - though if I were on the Jury there I vote not guilty.

      3) Yes

      4) Not as such, but the leak should be.

      5) Depends on how they come about them.

      In almost all these cases there is a possible public interest defence, I guess that when you are faced with the moral dilemma of whether to break the law or not you should ask yourself very carefully, is this really an act that is being taken in the public interest. Or is it just something sensational that the public's insatiable appetite for the salacious would be interested in.

      I fear that the Murdoch's empire for tat is more weighted towards the latter.

      Considering some of the things that haven't been reported in the Tabloids that really are in the public interest I find myself not giving them the benefit of the doubt.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like