Unscrupulous Investigator Under the Spotlight
The relationship between private investigators and the UK press is once again under the spotlight following information uncovered in a television news report.
The new allegations relate to files discovered at the home of private investigator Steve Whittamore in 2003 when police found colour-coded notebooks, dubbed ‘the Motorman files.’
The notebooks logged thousands of illegal requests from newspapers for personal information on hundreds of public figures, including, sport stars, celebrities and the families of crime victims.
Services requested by journalists included criminal record checks and number-plate or telephone number traces obtained through a network of insiders in government departments prepared to illegally search criminal records databases as well as those at the Department for Work of Pensions and DVLA.
Whilst some of the information was obtained through legal means, much of it was acquired through ‘blagging’, or gaining information through deception.
The allegations are nothing new - Whittamore’s involvement with the press has been widely known about since his initial arrest in 2003 for breaches of the Data Protection Act - but the recent report by ITV new suggested that the true extent of Whittamore’s involvement with Fleet Street has been drastically under reported.
Newspapers reportedly spent around £1.2 million with Whittamore in the several years leading up to 2003. The newspaper with by far the biggest appetite for Whittamore’s illicit information was the Daily Mail. Initially they were thought to have made 982 requests for information of one kind or another. However the ITV report puts that figure at 1728 requests, at a cost of £143,150. Its sister paper The Mail on Sunday paid £65,025 to Whittamore for 578 information requests – a figure that had been previously reported as just 275 requests.
Just under half of the total amount received from newspapers in Rupert Murdoch’s News International group of newspapers, which includes the Times, the Sunday Times and the now defunct News of the World.
The Motorman files now form a central part of evidence in the ongoing Leveson enquiry, looking into accusations of phone hacking by journalists, aided by private investigators. The enquiry led to the closure of the News of the World and the imprisonment of private investigator Glenn Mulcaire for hacking into voicemail accounts.
The scale of payments from newspapers has prompted privacy campaign group hacked off to call for the targets of Whittamore’s searches to be notified. Hacked Off founder Brian Cathcart, said: “In the past, the Information Commissioner has revealed that 305 journalists working for 32 publications generated 17,000 purchase orders with Whittamore in the years up to 2003. Many were innocent but several thousand involved prima facie breaches of the law.
“Breaking the Data Protection Act can be justified if it is done in the public interest, to uncover wrongdoing, say, or to prevent crime. Some newspapers say their reporters acted for reasons of that kind but the Information Commissioner said most stories were so trivial they could never qualify as in the public interest. Either way, the newspapers’ sweeping claims that they did nothing illegal have never been tested.”
A good private detective should never take on illegal or morally dubious cases.
Enter your details blow, and an experienced agent will be in touch as soon as possible.
Privatedetective.co.uk investigated a deal I was close to getting involved in. Investigating my potential partner, they found evidence of criminality, helping me to avoid a deal that could have cost me my company. They were professional and efficient throughout.
Company Executive, Kuala Lumpur