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David Davis MP writes a letter to The Times arguing Neil Basu was straying well beyond his brief when he suggested journalists could be held criminally responsible for publishing leaked government documents.

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As published in The Times:

Sir, Neil Basu should have known that he was straying well beyond his brief when he suggested that journalists could be held criminally responsible for publishing leaked government documents. Any competent senior police officer should have been aware that only a matter of weeks ago the lord chief justice of Northern Ireland struck down the search warrants and, implicitly, the case against two journalists arrested for receiving stolen property and breaching the Official Secrets Act. Their “crime” was broadcasting a leaked document detailing the scandalous failure by police to solve a UVF murder in Loughinisland 25 years ago. Had the lord chief justice not struck down the case, investigative journalism in the UK would have been crippled.

The action should have telegraphed to senior police officers like Mr Basu that prosecuting journalists for embarrassing the state is not what we do in the UK. Furthermore, while I deplore the release of diplomatic telegrams, it is seriously debatable whether this is a criminal act. If so, why did the Foreign Office not engage the DA notice procedure on being notified of the leak, and prevent publication?

During the Brexit negotiation process there were deliberate leaks of material that undermined our position. There were leak inquiries, but never a suggestion that there should be criminal prosecutions of the leakers, let alone the press! The British establishment seems to lose its sense of proportion when either Trump or Brexit is concerned. I now see the leaker being described as a “Brexiteer Philby”. Really? Do these people remember the (literally) lethal harm that Philby and his clique did? Let us get a sense of balance back into this annoying, but essentially temporary, diplomatic spat. Mr Basu should not resign. But Cressida Dick should consider transferring the investigation to an officer who puts preservation of our free press ahead of protection of the state’s reputation.