News Group Newspapers Limited and Others v.v. The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis


The case arose out of the event known as ‘Plebgate’, and the subsequent investigation by the Metropolitan Police as to how there came to be leaks of the contemporaneous police records and a subsequent purported report by a member of the public who turned out to be a police officer, which involved serious allegations both against a member of the Government and members of the Police Force. Such investigations included authorisations under Sections 21-22 of RIPA for the obtaining of call data of three Sun journalists and the Sun news desk, which in the event led to the disclosure of the identity of the officer who had leaked the documents and of the source of the purported report by the alleged member of the public. This led to the convictions of one officer and dismissal from the force of others.

The Tribunal concluded that three of the applications were in accordance with RIPA, but that one was unnecessary and disproportionate. It concluded, however, that the practice adopted of applying under RIPA for disclosure of a journalist’s source did not comply with the Convention, and that the appropriate course now was, save in emergencies, to apply for judicial pre-authorisation pursuant to Section 9 of the Police and Criminal Evidence act 1984 (“PACE”), in accordance with the new 2015 code. As the three authorisations were made lawfully at the time in compliance with RIPA, the Respondent was protected by s.6 (2) (b) of the Human Rights Act, but the Fourth Complainant’s authorisation should be quashed, and he was entitled to a remedy.

By a further judgment, dated 4 February 2016, the Tribunal concluded, by reference to its own authorities and those of the European Court of Human Rights, that the remedy of a declaration and a quashing order amounted to due satisfaction, and that it was not necessary to award any compensation.

Judgment dated : 17 Dec 15

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