Saturday, 4 September 2010
When I first read the New York Times article on Wednesday evening, I realised that it was a potentially significant story (see blogpost here).
So whilst many others in the political blogosphere were obsessing on William Hague's special adviser, I helped Labour bloggers and politicians to promote the story.
(I never expected to ever help Labour politicians, and I am fully aware that some may be seeking party advantage here, but the New York Times story clearly seemed to have wider implications.)
But, although there were some named sources, and although the New York Times has a good reputation for investigative journalism, there needed to be further documentary (rather than witness) evidence.
And now there are invoices: see tonight's Guardian website.
Invoices are, in my experience, the most common documents to feature in litigation; almost every commercial dispute involves an invoice.
An invoice will always be presumed by a court to be valid; unless those disputing its validity can show it to be a fraud.
Once its validity is accepted, the question usually becomes what the invoice actually says.
Here the Guardian states:
"The invoices are both dated May 2006, at a time when Prescott was the subject of intense media scrutiny following revelations that he had had an affair with his secretary, Tracey Temple. There is also a piece of paper obtained from Mulcaire on which the name "John Prescott" is written. The only other legible word on this document is "Hull".
"The name "Prescott" appears on two "self-billing tax invoices" from News International Supply Company Ltd to Mulcaire's company, Nine Consultancy.
"The Yard's letter, obtained by the Observer, states: "One appears to be for a single payment of £250 on 7/5/2006 labelled 'Story: other Prescott Assist -txt.' The second, also for £250, on 21/5/2006 contains the words 'Story: Other Prescott Assist -txt urgent'.""
Unless these invoices are fake (and that would be for News International to prove should the matter ever go to a court), the question becomes what would such statements on invoices mean?
There now appears to be a steady stream of new evidence on the key question raised in Thursday's blog: has there been a failure by the Metropolitan Police to properly investigate alleged criminal activity by those working for the mainstream media?
And, to repeat the conclusion of that blogpost:
"Serious allegations always just remain allegations; and so a due process needs to be followed in investigating them: a process fair to those involved, but also a process open to public scrutiny.
"As the New York Times allegations go to the relationship between the police and the press, it is not appropriate or possible that it should just be left to their respective supervisory bodies (even if one had any confidence in such bodies).
"There instead needs to be an open judicial inquiry, and the Deputy Prime Minister (a Liberal Democrat) and the Home Secretary (a Conservative) should appoint one immediately.
"Public confidence in the press and the police is crucial to a modern liberal and democratic society; any without an inquiry into these serious allegations, it is difficult to see how such confidence can exist".
There should be no rush to any conclusion; but neither should these serious allegations just be closed down by skilful political-media management.
Open scrutiny of these serious allegation by an independent body is required, and one with a process fair to all those involved.
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