Thames Valley Police ordered to come clean over spying on journalists
The information commissioner has ordered Thames Valley Police to divulge whether it has snooped on journalists in an attempt to identify their sources following its rejection of several freedom of information requests from the Oxford Mail newspaper on the matter.
Thames Valley Police had dismissed the requests as ‘vexatious’ but, in the first action of its kind, Christopher Graham has chosen to intervene directly by ordering the force to divulge whether it was indeed one of 19 forces which had made use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA).
Outlining his decision Graham said there was a ‘public interest in revealing information about the use of Ripa in relation to journalists’ and as a result Thames Valley Police now have 35 days to comply with the order, or find new excuses to refuse.
Commenting on the decision Oxford Mail editor Simon O’Neill said: “Mr O’Neill added: “We really have to guard against the steady creep of authoritarian powers and the state secrecy that goes with it. It makes an absolute mockery of any claims that we live in a truly open society when these powers are targeted against the very people they are meant to protect.”