For the police to hack the Mail on Sunday is a national disgrace and an affront to the freedom of the press

5 Oct 2014 at 10:24

Apart from the appalling news of the savage and senseless murder of a thoroughly decent man and the more encouraging reportage of British Imams speaking with one voice in condemnation, there is a worrying news story which is not being picked up. It is the Mail on Sunday splash that during the investigation of Chris Huhne’s perversion of the course of justice and against the order of a judge the police hacked into a Mail on Sunday telephone. ‘So what?’ Some might say. ’What’s the big deal?’ Enquire others.

Well, the deal is very big indeed. It is an affront to the freedom of the press that the police use legislation (the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act) designed to combat terrorism and organised crime to trawl through contact numbers and hack phone calls to worm out a source that a judge ordered should be protected. Sensibly, Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select committee is equally outraged and will investigate. Keith is nobody’s fool. He knows when to smell a rat and will run it to ground.

But do the general public care? Probably not. We live in an age where we imagine a paedophile on every corner and a terrorist in every mosque. But they should be very worried indeed. An election is looming. Politicians throw common sense to the wind and surf on a tsunami of hyperbole. And it will get worse as the polls narrow and the parties become more panicked and jittery. And desperate.

Theresa May is a great Home Secretary and a shrewd politician who deserves credit for keeping us safe. She has deservedly become a Big Beast. But I do worry about the the resurrection of the Data and Communications Bill dubbed the snoopers charter. We are told that it is vital for national security that our guardians are able collect all of our emails, our texts, our phone calls and our web browsing. They won’t be able to use them, of course, unless a judge rules that they should be. Nothing to worry about then.

Well if you believe that you might as well prepare a note for Father Christmas and a carrot for the Easter Bunny. Just look at what has happened to the Mail on Sunday. Just look at the actions of some local authorities who have used anti terrorist legislation to spy on those wicked parents who may have told a few porkies about where they live to get their kids into a better school. Hardly matters of national security and these abuses were not by the shadowy figures who run our security services.

The Mail on Sunday hacking story should send alarm bells ringing for anyone who believes that our love of freedom and democracy gives us the moral high ground over those who are dedicated to destroying our way of life. I hope a few other papers pick it up tomorrow.

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