Law may have to be broken says TV news chief

The head of Sky News said journalists have to consider breaking the law to “shed light” on wrongdoing as it emerged media regulator Ofcom is to investigate hacking of private email accounts by the broadcaster.

Ofcom said it would investigate “fairness and privacy issues” after the news channel admitted it accessed the accounts of back-from-the-dead canoeist John Darwin and his wife Anne, as well as those of a paedophile.

John Ryley, head of Sky News, told the Leveson Inquiry into Press standards yesterday that occasions where a journalist would break the law in pursuit of a story would be “very, very rare”.

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“Journalism is at times a tough business,” he said. “And we need at times to shed light into wrongdoing. There may be an occasion. It would be very, very rare.”

Darwin, 61, faked his death in a canoeing accident in 2002 so his wife could claim from insurance policies and pension schemes.

The broadcaster said evidence discovered by correspondent Gerard Tubb was handed to police and used in the successful prosecution of Mrs Darwin, 60, for insurance and pension fraud.

The inquiry heard how Tubb learned from a “source close to the prosecution” that an email account used by Mr Darwin was not going to be used as evidence.

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Mr Ryley said Tubb had accessed the account in June 2008 while working on a “backgrounder” to be broadcast at the end of the trial.

“It became apparent that the email account would not be used by the prosecution, Mr Ryley said. “John Darwin had been using emails to go about his business in the five years that he had disappeared.

“Sources close to the prosecution made clear that they were not going to be following up on the emails.”

Ten days after accessing the account, the findings were reported to the police. The detail was “pivotal” in the case against the fraudsters, the inquiry heard.

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