The continuing revelations in the News of the World Phone hacking scandal are uncovering a relationship between the media and the police which is most undesirable. Allegations of corruption within the police is a serious matter and it is one that rightly needs to be thoroughly investigated to establish exactly who was involved and whether this is a case of a few police officers acting in a corrupt way or whether this a more endemic problem within the police. It must be established just how senior the officers involved in this were and indeed how high up the police chain of command there was knowledge of these corrupt practices.
Inquiries are going to be made into the relationship between the police and the media. However some have expressed concern that the inquiries already announced will not look at the situation in Scotland. Questions have already been raised over this issue in Scotland. A practicing Solicitor, Aamer Anwar, handed over to Strathclyde Police a dossier containing more potential victims of voicemail interception and this is currently being investigated by Strathclyde Police. This leaves people wondering whether Scottish police officers have also been involved in the corrupt practices that officers in the Metropolitan Police Service have allegedly been committing. There also remains the question as to how the media obtained a copy of Gail Sheridan’s interview by the Police over alleged perjury at her husband’s successful defamation case against the News of the World. Lothian and Borders police still have not explicitly stated that they were not the source of the leak. Gail Sheridan was cleared of perjury after the Crown no longer sought a conviction against her, but her husband, Tommy Sheridan, was convicted and is currently serving three years in Castle Huntly Prison.
Tom Greatrex MP called for the Cabinet Secretary for Justice in the Scottish Government, Kenny MacAskill MSP to consider setting up an inquiry looking at the relationship between the police and media in similar terms to the one announced by the Home Secretary. It has been announced that Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary are to investigate the situation across all police forces in England and Wales, extending the focus beyond the Metropolitan Police Service in London.
The Cabinet Secretary for Justice in the Scottish Government, Kenny MacAskill MSP, must instigate a review in Scotland of police practices around the media. It is essential that the people of Scotland can have confidence in the police and the work that they carry out. The questions raised by the situation in England and Wales are ones that equally apply to Scotland. It is highly unlikely that any of the many inquiries into this issue in England will cover Scotland in any great depth, if at all. Some sort of independent inquiry in Scotland must be conducted, whether that be a judicial inquiry or one conducted by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland.