Supplementary written evidence from Nick Davies, The Guardian (PS 120)


The immediate source of the invoices which I passed to the committee on July 14th was my Guardian colleague Rob Evans. In October 2007, he gave me a collection of some 60 sheets of paper, made up of claims submitted by Steve Whittamore to various media groups and also of invoices recording payments by some of those groups to Whittamore. All of the sheets had been redacted to remove the names and any other details of any individual who was mentioned. The News International invoices which I passed to the committee were among them.


Rob Evans is the Guardian's specialist in the use of the Freedom of Information Act to obtain internal documents from public bodies, and I understood that he had obtained this redacted paperwork by using the Act.


Since receiving your letter, I have spoken to him and established that what actually happened was that he did not have to use the Act: the ICO press office volunteered to supply him with this collection of redacted paperwork in December 2006 when he was preparing a news story about What Price Privacy Now? He recalls being invited to the ICO for a briefing with the then commissioner, Richard Thomas, and then the press office biking the material to him at the Guardian office on the following day. He says there is no suggestion that this was an unauthorised move by the press office: on the contrary, he says, this was what the ICO wanted.


I am sorry if my assumption about the use of the Act caused any confusion. The important point, I think, is that Rob is clear and certain that the ICO was the source of the paperwork.


It is interesting that the ICO now take the view that it could be unlawful to release this paperwork. I know there has been a lot of debate within the ICO about whether to publish more Motorman paperwork and it may be that the supposed legal obstacles are not quite as great as they are sometimes perceived to be.


August 2009