British police have backed off their attempt to force The Guardian to reveal its confidential sources who helped uncover the News Of The World phone hacking scandal.
An unnamed senior Scotland Yard source told The Guardian: “It’s off the agenda. There will be some hard reflection. This was a decision made in good faith, but with no appreciation for the wider consequences.”
“Obviously the last thing we want to do is to get into a big fight with the media. We do not want to interfere with journalists,” the source said. “In hindsight the view is that certain things that should have been done, were not done, and that is regrettable.”
“The [Metropolitan Police’s Directorate of Professional Standards] has taken further legal advice this afternoon and as a result has decided not to pursue, at this time, the application for production orders scheduled for hearing on Friday 23 September,” a Scotland Yard spokesman said in a statement Tuesday.
Earlier this week, the Met said it was seeking a court order to force The Guardian to disclose its sources under the Official Secrets Act, which is usually used to protect sensitive information related to national security or espionage. The Met claimed that the paper could have violated the Act in July when reporters Amelia Hill and Nick Davies revealed that murder victim Milly Dowler’s phone had been hacked.
The Guardian investigation into the phone hacking further revealed that Scotland Yard may have botched he initial investigation into the revelations when they first came to light in 2006. Only reporter Clive Goodman and P.I. Glenn Mulcaire were convicted of phone hacking then, but the Dowler revelations suggested that the practice had been more widespread.
Scotland Yard faced a slew of criticism, particularly from other British papers, over the attempt to get at The Guardian’s sources.
The Guardian’s editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, said in a statement Tuesday: “We greatly welcome the Met’s decision to withdraw this ill-judged order. Threatening reporters with the Official Secrets Act was a sinister new device to get round the protection of journalists’ confidential sources.”