Cambs MP calls for stories about Whitemoor Prison to be included in phone hacking inquiry

PUBLISHED: 14:12 28 July 2011 | UPDATED: 14:20 28 July 2011

Screengrabs from The Sun's website of stories about Whitemoor Prison

Screengrabs from The Sun's website of stories about Whitemoor Prison

Archant

SOME of the biggest stories of recent years about Whitemoor Prison – with the common denominator that they all appeared first in The Sun – could form part of the inquiry into News International.

COMMENT

By John Elworthy, Editor

IN 10 years of working at the Cambs Times and Wisbech Standard I have long admired The Sun, in particular, for being first with the news from the top security prison on our doorstep.

Time and again the paper has beaten us to exclusives and we’ve been left to pick up the crumbs from their investigations. How did they do it?

Successive governors have always believed insiders were paid by Fleet Street journalists for information but, so far as we know, no-one has ever been caught and, just as important, nothing has ever been proven.

So paranoid has the prison service become over the years that contact with the local press has been kept at arms length and 18 months ago we were subject to a probe into relatively innocuous news items appearing about the prison.

By comparison with The Sun, however, we came nowhere near to their supremacy in Whitemoor stories – I will always be envious that stories such as ‘Killers given jail karaoke’ never appeared in our papers first.

Headlines such as ‘Governor’s wife in jail romp with lag’, ‘£3k curry treat for jail’s Muslims’ and ‘Triple killer sues prison warders for hurting his feelings’ have all helped to make The Sun the UK’s top selling paper.

But now Steve Barclay, the MP for NE Cambs, has focused on the ethics of owners News International to ensure all these stories, and many more like them, were obtained fairly.

Mr Barclay is anxious that the investigation into corruption and phone hacking should extend beyond the Metropolitan Police and be widened to all public bodies to see if money has been exchanged for information.

And that, says Mr Barclay, must include prison officials.

In a question to the Prime Minister, he asked whether paramedics, doctors and prison governors will be investigated during the inquiry into corruption and phone hacking.

Sparked by the News of the World phone hacking scandal, Prime Minister David Cameron announced his intention to hold an independent public inquiry into the “illegal practices in the British press”.

The inquiry will cover ethics in the police service and its relationship with the press, amidst allegations that some corrupt officers may have taken payments from newspapers.

But during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, Mr Barclay asked whether the investigation would also consider “other parties”.

Mr Barclay said: “Will the Prime Minister confirm that the police investigation will include payments made to connected parties, such as relatives of police officers, including payments not made in cash, such as electronic transfers to shell companies, vouchers or travellers cheques?

“In due course, will it also consider others who provide stories, such as paramedics, accident and emergency doctors and prison governors, and who might also be subject to corruption?”

Mr Cameron replied: “The inquiry must follow the evidence wherever it leads and if it finds malpractice in any of the services my hon. Friend mentioned, it must clearly investigate.”

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