LONDON -- Police arrested a former London Times journalist, named by the British press as 28-year-old Patrick Foster, Wednesday morning on suspicion of illegal computer hacking.
The arrest is the latest in ongoing investigations into phone hacking-related crimes which began last July, after revelations of illegal hacking into the cellphone of a murdered teenager by the popular tabloid the News of World caused public outrage.
Police said the arrest “for suspected offenses under the Computer Misuse Act 1990 and suspected conspiracy to pervert the course of justice,” was part of their “investigation into criminal breaches
of privacy, including computer hacking which is being carried out in conjunction with MPS [Metropolitan Police Service] phone-hacking inquiries.”
One of several arrests following the News of the World exposure and subsequent judicial investigations among employees of News International, the British subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., and other tabloid papers, it is the first to strike the Murdoch's flagship daily, The Times.
Press reports said ex-Times home affairs writer Foster was arrested on suspicion of using illegal email hacking to expose the identity of a police blogger known as Night Jack in 2009. The police statement says the arrested man "is being questioned at a North London police station about alleged computer hacking relating to the identification of a previously anonymous blogger in 2009."
In a court case brought against the Times by Richard Horton, a police officer revealed
by Foster as the author of the award-winning Night Jack blog, which recounted the day-to-day realities of police work, Foster’s evidence disguised the fact he originally discovered Horton’s identity by hacking into his email.
Before his exposure, Horton lost a plea for an injunction to protect his identity resulting in his outing by the Times, the judge ruling he had been exposed by legitimate means.
The Leveson inquiry, a judge-led civil investigation that is one of the several probes into media practices opened last summer, heard from Times editorial and legal representatives this year that they were aware of but ignored the real origins of Foster’s disclosure of Horton’s identity.
The Leveson inquiry is expected to file its findings in coming weeks, after a year’s questioning of
media and media-related figures.
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-- Janet Stobart