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Blogger slammed over Motorman files

The Information Commissioner's Office has strongly condemned a blogger's "irresponsible" decision to publish extracts from the files of a private detective who sold personal data to journalists.

Paul Staines, who runs the Guido Fawkes political blog, has posted online the contents of a notebook seized from Steve Whittamore in an investigation called Operation Motorman.

Covering News International papers including the now-defunct News of the World, the spreadsheet lists the name of the journalist making the request, the information they asked for, and in most cases the name of the target.

Those whose personal details were sold to reporters include soap stars, comedians, politicians, Big Brother contestants and victims of crime. The details provided in response - including addresses and car registration numbers - have been blanked out of the document published by Mr Staines.

The Leveson Inquiry into press standards has heard that Information Commissioner's Office investigators uncovered a "treasure trove" of evidence linking newspapers to the sale of private information when they searched Whittamore's Hampshire home in March 2003.

Mr Staines said he was publishing Whittamore's "Blue Book", containing 1,028 of the 17,000 entries in the private investigator's papers, because there was an "overwhelming public interest" in the victims getting justice.

He wrote on his blog: "It seems to Guido that there is no political will to see this through, the press are by and large keen for their own reasons to suppress the truth and the judiciary are actively suppressing the evidence. In those circumstances it is only by bringing the evidence out into the open that justice will be done."

The Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, condemned the release of the material as "deeply irresponsible and deeply unfair". "The problem is who's to say everything in that list is illegal?" he told the BBC. "Guido Fawkes says that he is publishing in the public interest. Well, no doubt the journalists also said they were doing their work in the public interest. It is a very grey area and just putting this stuff up on the internet doesn't help."

Lord Justice Leveson last month rejected a request for him to release the full Motorman files with personal details redacted. A spokesman for the Leveson Inquiry declined to comment.

Whittamore was charged in February 2004. He was convicted of illegally accessing data and received a conditional discharge at London's Blackfriars Crown Court in April 2005.


From Belfast Telegraph