On Brooks Newmark and the Sunday Mirror
29 September 2014
For me one of the saddest news stories of 2013 was of a 17 year old young man in Fife who killed himself by jumping from the Forth Road Bridge. Investigations found that he had sent explicit pictures of himself to someone he believed was a girl of his own age.
In fact he'd been communicating with fraudsters based (it was later determined) in the Philippines. They had blackmailed him using the pictures. It's heartbreaking to think of the turmoil he must have gone through, imagining the shame he and his family would feel, exaggerated to the point where he felt that taking his own life was his only option.
The fraudsters had entrapped him purely for their own personal gain.
The press at the time was scathing about the behaviour of these fraudsters. The Mirror for instance called it a "blackmail scam".
Yesterday we learnt that the Tory minister, Brooks Newmark, resigned from his post when he was entrapped in exactly the same way by an undercover reporter using the same methods as the Philippino blackmailers. It's hard to imagine why this was in the public interest, and not, as with the fraudsters, simply for personal gain.
The Sunday Mirror took up the story, presumably paying this reporter for it.
I struggle to see any difference between the two acts, other than that the first ended far more tragically. The publication of this story is disgraceful and the Mirror Group should be utterly ashamed.
The anonymous reporter tried the same scam on other MPs, without succeeding. One of those MPs, Mark Pritchard, has stated that he will make a formal complaint to the newspaper regulator, IPSO. I have pointed out to him my feelings about the similarities between these two cases and his reply thanked me for the encouragement. This may well be the first big test for the new press regulator, IPSO.
I wish Mark Pritchard MP every success in taking the Mirror to task for this.