back to article Tabloid hack scum face jail

Journalists and private investigators who illegally obtain and trade in personal information will face jail sentences under planned changes to the Data Protection Act. Ministers want to replace the current maximum sentence of an unlimited fine next April with a spell of up to two years inside. The Information Commissioner's …


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  1. Gordon Pryra

    relatively insignificant compared

    I was going to make some comment data and pub carparks, but data dogging is so last year

  2. Anonymous Coward

    legitimate defence of public interest?

    How will that work? Presumably they'll only know if it's not in the public interest once they've broken the law and acquired the information, by which time it's already too late.

    You can't tap into the information and then discard it if it isn't in the public interest.

    It's a bit like that Phorm crap, saying they'll discard any information which they aren't allowed to have in the first place!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Payback begins

    The government are now looking to payback the journalists who've highlighted all their little scams and schemes which fleeced the taxpayer.

    They'll need to tax us even more to pay for the new jail to store all the jornalists in.... no wait, they've leased a facility from the Americans, one which is no longer required in sunny Cuba.

  4. Daniel Wilkie

    Maybe it's just me

    But I read that as "Tabloid Hacks Cum Face Jail".

    It must be friday :\

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Just Curious...

    Wouldn't this also apply to journos who publish things like, oh, I dunno... leaked ministerial expense records?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Doesn't sound too bad

    It sounds like its intended as a means to stop tabloids publishing infinite reams of personal information for the cult of celebrity, maybe the government intend to try and wake up the populous a bit that the media is misdirecting our attention... Murdoch won't be pleased.

  7. Si 1
    Big Brother

    A harmless and innocuous step towards preventing expenses from being leaked?

    Could this be a deliberately harmless seeming first step towards something more sinister? Much like lie detectors for paedophiles, internet black lists for child porn or certain types of court case with no jury. Take easy first steps that no-one will complain about and then a bit later sneak in the real agenda. Which in this case would probably be preventing journos from publishing how much some lying MP has spent cleaning out his moat.

  8. Christoph Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Public Interest defence

    "in the reasonable belief that the obtaining, disclosing or procuring was in the public interest."

    As we already know from the Ponting case, "the public interest is what the government of the day says it is".

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Presumably expenses information will fall under the remit of these changes?

  10. Chris Malme

    Connected government?

    So in the same month that prison governors call for the scrapping of short sentences to relieve pressure in the prison system, and a Ministry of Justice spokesman acknowledges the inappropriateness of prison for "less serious offenders"; the government wants to introduce jail time for non-violent offenders such as tabloid journalists.

    I am not saying that the offences in question aren't serious - I think they are. But at the same time, given the choice between a mugger and a hack, I know which I would prefer locked inside.

    The prison population is at an all time high, why send more people there, where there are more appropriate options such as community service and home detention and/or curfew. Sentence the hacks to a thousand hours of community education, like teaching English to asylum seekers, in order to help them settle in.

    Lets face it, by locking them up, all we are doing is giving them material for a year's worth of boring articles about it. Make them sit at home, instead, with an electronic tag.

  11. Jimmy Floyd


    "...for the purposes of journalism, art and literature with a view to publishing journalistic, literary or artistic material, in the reasonable belief that the obtaining, disclosing or procuring was in the public interest."

    As much as I will defend art against the Spend It On Hospitals-brigade, I would question a) how breaking data protection laws will be OK, so long as it's done in an artful way; and b) how that art might be in the public interest.

    Or am I, in the words of the great Murray Walker, very much mistaken?

  12. Tom 35 Silver badge

    Just the press?

    How about companies (HP / IRAA / FAST ) that hire scum to dig up dirt on people? Do they face the same?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    See no evil, hear no evil...

    "The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has repeatedly called for tougher penalties for those who blag telephone, medical and other records."

    Or - far more likely - for those who blow the whistle on politicians and senior bureaucrats?

    And what about people like local councils, using personal data and surveillance for purposes it was never intended for?

    A young thug with a record for violence longer than his arm assaulted my disabled wife last year - and was back on the streets before her injuries had healed. Isn't it just great to see this country has a sense of priorities about who to lock up!!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This should piss off some blokes

    Hey maybe what goes around comes around?

  15. Graham Marsden


    ... was this all just a publicity stunt for "Starsuckers"?

  16. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    But of course *only* if we ge re-elected.

    Old ploy. Tried in the last days of the Lib-Lab pact (look it up). Labour promisted to put an FoI bill on the books if the Libs(as they were) keeped them in power. They had however been stiffed once too often on the deal.

    237 days maximum left.

  17. Anomalous Cowherd Silver badge

    Don't panic, Reg writers

    We'll try to visit.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    How will they define...

    confidential personal information?

    The gov is really trying to curtail any kind of effective journalism, aren't they?

  19. wsm

    Responsible investigative journalism?

    Is that the kind that tells on anyone but my friends in the department? Can't tell anymore--I've read The Guardian too often.

  20. James O'Brien

    @Daniel Wilkie

    Remind me not to ask what you read something as on a Monday :P

  21. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    I hate to burst your bubble...

    ... but privacy is only worth the effort that you put into it - a legislated privacy is an illusion as "privacy" becomes simply something that the government of the day declares it to be.

    Stop living in a fools world - many things in your life are public but you have choices about what you are willing to share:

    If you don't like your credit data being public (and for a very small fee it is) then use cash - for everything.

    If you don't like your driving record being public (ditto) then use public transport ... and pay cash.

    Otherwise - your privacy is simply worth what you sell it for.

  22. MarkMac

    Public interest

    "How will that work? Presumably they'll only know if it's not in the public interest once they've broken the law and acquired the information, by which time it's already too late."

    It seems to work pretty well in other countries with similar legislation: newspaper editors are expected to use their brains and work out whether there's a genuine need for the public to know. Watergate springs to mind as a good example; Fergie's toe springs to mind as a bad one.

    As for the comments of others - the Govt of the day always has a strong hand, both as to deciding what privacy is and deciding what public interest is. Both can, and have succesfully been, challenged in law. If NotW and co are upset by some ruling they can always appeal. But if the hacks and paparzzi knew they risked jailtime by unjustified spying on people, and the editors knew they faced financial ruin, perhaps there'd be less carp* in the papers..

    *yes, I know, its a fish.

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Brilliant Headline

    Meaningless until one sees the story, then it all falls into place and makes perfect sense.

  24. The Metal Cod

    ICO Has No Balls At All

    Remember that this is the ICO which did jack shit to prevent Phorm & BT from carrying out its illegal interception of BT customers' internet activity data. This is the ICO which admits it does not employ Information Security qualified staff. This is the ICO which has no balls at all and is completely unfit for purpose.

    I'd like to see newspaper editors do time as well as the journalists and other specimens who break the law. But it won't happen. Waste of time spin headline which won't result in anyone being brought to account.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture


    a case of pot/kettle here.

    The media is the media regardless of which particular redtop they work for - oh look El Reg has a red top.....

  26. Chris Williams (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: definitely

    Please see here:

  27. The BigYin

    Labour scum

    So now Labour want to gag journalists under threat of jail AND they want to block the public from recovering costs when they challenge illegally issued penalties (e.g. speeding tickets and the like)?

    So never question a Labour MP and never try to challenge any fines issued by the Labour state (you may win, but you'll be paying more than the fine would have cost).

    Labour - You WILL obey the machine!

  28. VulcanV5

    Bloody disgraceful!

    Aw fer Gawd's sake, how's anyone going to earn a decent living now? (£45k plus £30k expenses per annum).

    That's what the 'Royal Correspondents' of posh newspapers like News of The Screws get for their journalistic experience (sic) and insights gleaned via sleazy private defectives (not a misspelling.)

    Celebrity reports by people Who Know The Stars (though rarely, the English language) earn even more, and embark on a heady career that, like that doyen of British journalism, Piers Morgan, leads them first into the Editor's chair and thence the lucrative world of high quality British television.

    Actually, it gets even better than that: the Editor's chair, of a world renowned, influential and responsible newspaper even gets you £100k a year job with a political party. Like, er, the Conservatives.

    I have just invested in all kinds of spy equipment as well as a raincoat and sunglasses so as to satisfy the requirements of British newspapers seeking to appoint journalists to positions on their celebrity news pages (that's, er, 50% of the news content) and Royal news pages (that's the other 50%.)

    This proposed change in legislation is a vicious attack on freedom of speech and an individual's right to work, and I do not expect El Reg to be so sanguine about this. I shall write to Norman Lamont forthwith.

  29. MinionZero
    Big Brother

    Our scum bag elite gaming the legal system...

    "who illegally obtain and trade in personal information"

    So in other words, MP expenses. Which is what this is really about. Protecting their personal information, just sold to us with a pack of lies and misinformation as usual, about how its all for us. Rubbish, its all for them, to help them silence anyone speaking out against them with evidence to back it up.

    So once again, the scum bag elite in power change the law to help them clamp down on everyone.

    They treat us like we are to be seen and not heard. Proles don't have any rights. How dare anyone even think of showing decent against our ruling elite.

    They are openly gaming the legal system, to help them once again clamp down on us all even more.

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