NightJack – resource page

This is the resource page for anyone following the NightJack story.  This resource page ends with the Leveson Inquiry.

My detailed narrative of what happened is now at the New Statesman.


NightJack archive

The original NightJack blog (February 2008 to April 2009) was pulled down when the Times threatened to out its author.  Thankfully, the NightJack archive was collected together by Salted Slug, and it was re-published on or about 12 October 2009.


Winning the Orwell prize, 22 April 2009

Guardian report

Sean O’Neill at the Times (£)

Interview with NightJack blogger at the Independent, 21 May 2009


The litigation

4 June 2009 – case report: THE AUTHOR OF A BLOG v TIMES NEWSPAPERS LIMITED [2009] EWHC 1358 (QB)


The publication of Nightjack’s identity

Times articles by Patrick Foster and Frances Gibb (both £).

Times article by Richard Horton (£)

Other newspaper coverage: Guardian


The aftermath

Richard Horton given written warning, BBC, 17 June 2009

Post by Jean Seaton, director of the Orwell Prize, 17 June 2009

Other blog reaction: Graeme Archer, Carl Gardner, Charon QC, People’s Republic of Mortimer, Iain Dale, Old Holborn – many pertinent comments at these posts.


Paul Waugh is sceptical of the Times here and here

Interesting (and downbeat) post by Times crime editor and fan of police blogging  Sean O’Neill (£)

Posts at Times (£) supportive of outing: Danny Finkelstein (here and here) and Oliver Kamm (here, here, here, and here)




Alastair Brett leaves the Times, 16 July 2010

Patrick Foster leaves the Times, May 2011


The initial Leveson witness statements, October to December 2011

First witness statement of James Harding, Editor of the Times, 14 October 2011

Witness statement of Simon Toms, interim director of legal affairs at News International, 14 October 2011

Witness statement of Tom Mockridge, Chief executive officer of News International, 14 October 2011

Second Witness statement of Tom Mockridge, Chief executive officer of News International, 16 December 2011


How the story begins to emerge in early 2012

The above four Leveson witness statements are published on the Leveson website after 10 January 2012; first the one by Simon Toms, and then the others


Firts press mention is the report that a Times journalist was disciplined for computer hacking, Press Gazette, 10 January 2012 – this is based just on the Toms witness statement.


I see the Press Gazette story and because of the 2009 date, I suspect it is about NightJack;  I mention this to Old Holborn (who I recalled had posted at the time) and he tweets the journalist to ask him directly, 12 January 2012.  There is no response.


The other three witness statements are then published, and I piece together what the four published witness statements say at Jack of Kent on 16 and 17 January 2012.  In essence, one could deduce from the witness statements the following facts:

–  the incident was in 2009;

–  the reporter was male (“he”);

–  the computer hacking was in the form of unauthorised access to an email account;

–  a disciplinary process was commenced after concerns from the newsroom (not entirely correct, as it turns out);

–  the reporter admitted the unauthorised access during the disciplinary process (also not correct, as it was admitted before publication, let alone the disciplinary process);

–  the incident was held to be “professional misconduct” and the reporter was disciplined;


–  the reporter is no longer with the business having been dismissed on an unrelated matter.


On 17 January 2012, Times editor James Harding gives evidence to Leveson inquiry. He is not asked about the computer hacking incident


In the meantime…


Was the Times computer hack used in a published story, I ask at New Statesman, 17 January 2012

The Times and computer hacking, by Paul Waugh at Politics Home, 17 January 2012


Which Times journalist was caught computer hacking, asks Fleet Street Blues, on 17 January 2012


Then that evening it is confirmed that a Times journalist hacked into NightJack account, David Leigh at the Guardian, 17 January 2012


What did the Times know about computer hacking and when,  I ask at New Statesman, 18 January 2012  – this is where I first explicitly identify misleading the High Court as the key issue

The Times admit the computer hacking was in respect of NightJack, 19 January 2012 (£)


James Harding sends a letter about NightJack to the Leveson Inquiry dated 19 January 2012 (not revealed until 25 January 2012)

Why the hacking of NightJack matters, me at New Statesman, 20 January 2012


I set out why the Times should apologise over NightJack – me at New Statesman, 22 January 2012

Tom Watson demands Times editor be recalled to Leveson – James Hanning at Independent on Sunday, 22 January 2012

I tell the Leveson Inquiry that the email hacking should have been told to the High Court, 25 January 2012 – reported by the Times (£)


Times editor finally apologises for the email hack –  Times (£), 7 February 2012


Richard Horton to sue the Times, me at New Statesman, 9 February 2012



The real story comes out

Second witness statement of James Harding , Editor of the Times, 6 February 2012

James Harding recalled to give oral evidence to the Leveson Inquiry on 7 February 2012 – watch here

Alastair Brett witness statement to the Leveson Inquiry dated 5 March 2012

Alastair Brett gives oral evidence to the Leveson Inquiry on 15 March 2012 – watch here





8 thoughts on “NightJack – resource page”

  1. Thanks, David. You work on this has been first class and – hopefully – apart from exposing abuse of power by the paper of record, will set some kind of benchmark to protect future bloggers not only from censorship by the state, but also by censorship from large corporations.

    On that subject, I was tracking your work very closely when this was exposed, and wrote a very popular diary about it on the US liberal blog Daily Kos. I paid particular attention to the wider implications, and how our concept of free speech needs updating beyond the simple individual versus State or Church opposition which most the the founding fathers/mothers of civil liberties were concerned with.

    I don’t know if you want to link to it – but here’s the diary, which coincided with the SOPA bill which attempted to censor the internet. The comments from the US are fascinating in itself. (My longtime US blog name is Brit – but I voluntarily outed my real identity there years ago)

    Wednesday January 18th: How Newscorp Blacked Out Prize Winning Blog by Hacking

  2. In the outrage over the lies that Brett/Foster/The Times told to the
    court, it seems to be generally overlooked that their original
    justification for publication is maddeningly contradictory compared to
    the stance of journalists at News International papers (and most other
    papers as well) on police sources in general. The supposed public
    interest justification for revealing Nightjack’s identity was that he
    was “a serving police officer, [and] appeared to be disclosing
    confidential information in breach of his duties.” (That is Harding’s
    summary of Eady’s opinion, from paragraph 23 of his second statement).

    But journalists are now loudly insisting to Leveson that if he clamps
    down too much on police contact with the media it will be dangerous
    because then officers couldn’t reveal information the police
    authorities didn’t want revealed. The Times’s position was (is?) that
    they were right to reveal Nightjack’s identity because no police
    officer should disclose information he or she’s not authorized to
    disclose. But when Michael Sullivan of the Sun testified to the
    inquiry, he took the common position that “if somebody wants to come
    forward to a journalist and tell a true story, something that is in
    the public interest that needs to be known about, then guidelines such
    as ones we’re talking about would make that very difficult, if not

    This is a classic example of heads I win, tails you lose.

  3. Great point Noah.

    Just for the record, I spoke directly to The Times leader writer, Daniel Finkelstein, about the Nightjack case, and he outlined some of their reasoning at the time (before he knew the identifying info on Nightjack had been illegally obtained).

    Finkelstein’s justification for the ‘public interest’ of outing Nightjack was that he was a public servant, and some of the victims of crime he described could be identified.

    As I pointed out, by identifying Nightjack’s real identity, they made sure the identify of his victims could be more easily identified too. Finkelstein – a nice and open bloke in my experience – couldn’t argue with that.

    A case of frying pan to fire for the public interest defence

  4. I have never understood why the original judgement stayed after it was revealed (in the memorable Leveson exchange) that judge Eady had been hoodwinked by the Times legal, Alistair Brett. Surely that should have required a review, and, perhaps, a retrial leading to a change of judgement?

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