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Times chiefs 'aware of hacking bid'

Managers at the Times knew one of their reporters had tried to hack into an anonymous blogger's email before they fought a High Court battle to unmask him as a serving policeman, the Leveson Inquiry has been told.

Lawyer and blogger David Allen Green said the newspaper should have disclosed this information to Mr Justice Eady, the judge in the case.

He told the hearing: "If you have used an email hack as part of an investigation, you cannot artificially pretend you never did that. You will use that information as part of solving the puzzle which you have set yourself... My concern is this should have been put before the court at the injunction application."

The Times named Lancashire detective Richard Horton as the author of the award-winning NightJack blog in June 2009 after Mr Justice Eady refused to grant him anonymity.

James Harding, the paper's editor, told the inquiry earlier this month that one of his reporters - separately named in The Times as Patrick Foster - was issued with a formal written warning for professional misconduct for gaining unauthorised access to an email account.

In a further letter to the inquiry released on Wednesday, Mr Harding said: "When the reporter informed his managers that, in the course of his investigation, he had on his own initiative sought unauthorised access to an email account, he was told that if he wanted to pursue the story he had to use legitimate means to do so.

"He did, identifying the person at the heart of the story using his own sources and information publicly available on the internet. On that basis we made the case in the High Court that the newspaper should be allowed to publish in the public interest. After the judge ruled that we could publish in the public interest, we did.

"We also addressed the concern that had emerged about the reporter's conduct, namely that he had used a highly intrusive method to seek information without prior approval. He was formally disciplined."

Undercover journalist Mazher Mahmood - known for disguising himself as a "fake sheikh" while working for the News of the World - admitted to the inquiry that he once "foolishly" changed electronic records to cover up a mistake.

Mr Mahmood resigned from the Sunday Times in 1989 after executives discovered he had tampered with a file in the newspaper's computer room, the inquiry into press standards heard. He told the hearing: "I acknowledge it was wrong. I was young, I was naive, it was a foolish thing to do, I acknowledge that."


From Belfast Telegraph