Bugs, strip-searches and gagging orders – The bizarre story of Her Majesty versus Sally Murrer… (and some even more bizarre claims from Private Eye)
The press freedom organisation Reporters Sans Frontieres doesn’t usually have too much to say about abuses against media workers here in Britain, but their latest report details some worrying cases – none stranger than the ongoing trial of the Milton Keynes local journalist Sally Murrer.
In May last year, Murrer was arrested by eight police officers, strip-searched and charged with “aiding and abetting misconduct in public office”. She was then accused of paying police officers to supply her with information for stories she could then sell on to the national press, a charge which she firmly denies. The police told her that she had been under surveillance for weeks, and played her recordings of telephone conversations she had had with her friend Mark Kearney, a Thames Valley police officer, which they said proved the case. Murrer was told that they already had enough information to send her to prison for life, and that the police need only show that she had heard information deemed ‘sensitive’ in order to convict her. Kearney and a former police officer Derek Webb (now a private investigator), have also been charged in the same case.
Then in February this year, it was revealed that Mark Kearney had been involved in the secret bugging of the Labour MP and lawyer, Sadiq Khan, during his visits to a childhood friend, Babar Ahmad, who has been detained without charge for several years, pending extradition to the United States (where he is accused of involvement in terrorism). Kearney claims that he repeatedly raised ethical and legal concerns about the work he had been asked to do. He and Murrer believe that the case being brought against him – and Murrer – was a somewhat clumsy attempt to prevent him from blowing the whistle.
Now the print edition of the magazine Private Eye reports an even more bizarre twist. The Eye claims that the detective-turned-private-investigator Derek Webb had been carrying out surveillance operations for the tabloid press against a number of high-profile public figures suspected of having affairs. These reportedly include two un-named (due to the usual legal gagging orders) cabinet ministers, together with the infamous former Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, and the director of public prosecutions Ken Macdonald – the man in charge of the department overseeing the case against Webb, Kearney and Murrer. The police seized Derek Webb’s diaries (in which he details his surveillance work) as evidence to be used in the case case against him. Now the crown prosecution service has reportedly declined requests by Webb’s defence team for access to the diaries, claiming that it no longer has them…