Leveson: Ken Clarke says journalists entitled to bribe in extreme cases
Justice secretary tells Leveson inquiry bribery can be justified to substantiate a major public story such as MPs’ expenses
The justice secretary, Ken Clarke, has said journalists “are entitled to bribe” in extreme cases as he revealed he once had to move his bank account because journalists were trying to pay staff for information about his finances.
Clarke told the Leveson inquiry on Wednesday afternoon that there were instances where bribery might be the only way to substantiate a story and would therefore be justified.
“I do think journalists are entitled to bribe in an extreme case if it’s the only way in which they can get information about some major public scandal,” he said.
“For example, if the Daily Telegraph used bribery to obtain evidence of MPs cheating on their parliamentary expenses, I will be deeply shocked if anybody had prosecuted the journalist for using bribery,” he said.
“I would protect the journalist who disclosed criminal wrongdoing by MPs but not I’m quite sure I feel the public interest is so strong if it’s the sex life of a footballer that is being obtained by some illegal means.”
The article goes on to say -
A new Bribery Act came into force last summer but has no “public interest” defence for paying for stories, which has been causing great concern among newspapers who fear prosecution.
Clarke revealed that the director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, is currently drawing up new guidelines in relation to “when journalists who paid for stories could be prosecuted under the Bribery Act”. He told Leveson: “The DPP will not prosecute unless there is a public interest in prosecuting.”
So we will see how that is applied to any police officer who tries it..
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See also: Legal experts criticise justice secretary’s new powers to select judges
The enhanced role of the justice secretary in the selection of England and Wales’s most senior judges has come under fierce attack from a leading advocate for judicial reform.
Lady Neuberger, who chaired the last government’s advisory panel on judicial diversity, has described the inclusion on the panel of Ken Clarke, who is also the lord chancellor, as a “disgrace”.
Allowing the lord chancellor to take part in selection meetings, as proposed by the government’s crime and courts bill, would breach the constitutional division of powers between the political executive and the judiciary, Neuberger warned.
“The government have put one thing [in the bill] that I think is a true disgrace,” Neuberger said. “Against what the constitution committee in the House of Lords had to say, they have put in a provision for the lord chancellor to be a member of the selection panel for the most senior judges …
“We set up the Judicial Appointments Commission because it was important to separate powers. This is a constitutional issue. I think the lord chancellor is trying to fudge it.
“If you have the lord chancellor as a member and not chairing it, how [is he] going to feel about that if they vote down [the lord chancellor's favourite]? So I feel very strongly. This is clearly wrong.”
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