29 Aug 2012

Journalists arrested in separate hacking inquiries

Two more journalists are arrested by police forces investigating allegations of phone hacking.

A 28-year-old man, understood to be former Times journalist Patrick Foster, was arrested by Scotland Yard officers on suspicion of computer hacking.

And Bob Bird, a former editor of the News of the World Scotland, has been charged by Strathclyde police in connection with the defamation action brought by Tommy Sheridan, a former member of the Scottish parliament.

Both journalists were detained early on Wednesday. Mr Bird was released after being charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice, while Mr Foster was still being questioned about alleged offences under the Computer Misuse Act and suspected conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Mr Foster, 28, who was arrested at his north London home, is the 11th person to be arrested by detectives from Operation Tuleta, the investigation into breaches of privacy, which is running in parallel with the phone-hacking investigation, Operation Weeting.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said he was arrested at his home address at 7am. He was still being questioned more than ten hours later.

It is understood the arrest relates to a Scotland Yard investigation into the hacking of the email account of Lancashire detective Richard Horton in 2009, which unmasked him as the author of the anonymous NightJack blog.

Mr Foster left the paper in 2011.

£200,000 damages

Mr Bird’s arrest relates to stories run by the News of the World Scotland when he was editor.

Mr Sheridan, a former socialist MSP, won a civil case for defamation against the paper in 2006, and was awarded £200,000 in damages over claims about his private life.

But he was subsequently jailed for three years after being convicted of lying about the paper’s claims. He was released after serving a year of his sentence.

Mr Bird gave evidence at the original defamation trial brought by Mr Sheridan and at his subsequent perjury trial in 2010.

He is the third News of the World person to be questioned by officers from Operation Rubicon, which is investigating phone hacking and alleged data-protection breaches in Scotland, as well as the evidence presented at Mr Sheridan’s perjury trial.

Earlier this month, a former news editor at the News of the World Scotland, Douglas Wight, was arrested and charged in connection with the same trial.

And in May former News of the World editor Andy Coulson was also charged in connection with the evidence he gave.

After his release Mr Bird said: “I just want to say I’m really sad and disappointed that things have come to this today. I have always tried to do the right thing throughout my 30-40-odd years in journalism, and I will be denying the charge that has been made against me today.”