A private investigator who was found guilty of illegally obtaining information about public figures for a number of newspapers has claimed it was “unfair” that journalists who paid him to carry out the work were not prosecuted alongside him.
Steve Whittamore was given a two-year conditional discharge in 2005 after pleading guilty to obtaining and disclosing information under the Data Protection Act. Speaking on the BBC’s PM radio programme yesterday, Whittamore said that the journalists involved “should have stood up and been counted”.
They actually asked me to do this on their behalf. I suppose you could view it as my Oliver Twist to the press’ Fagin (…) Requests were asked of me by people who I viewed as really being above reproach. They were huge corporations. I assumed they knew what they were asking for.
According to the programme, Whittamore acted on about 13,000 requests, many of which would have been legal but some of which weren’t. He told the PM programme that he had refused certain requests, including requests from journalists to obtain health records.
“Towards the end it got more and more personal (…) telephone account details, that sort of thing, maybe bank account details”. Whittamore admitted that the practice had got “quite a bit out of hand”.
More on phone hacking from Journalism.co.uk:
- The Guardian: Met asks News of the World for new phone-hacking evidence
- Tapping/hacking/blagging – the terminology
- Phone-hacking: Dispatches source claims Coulson listened to recordings
- Media Guardian: Fresh phone hacking investigation into John Terry affair stories
- Observer: Readers’ editor defends paper’s use of private investigator