Guidance will cover whether action should be taken against reporters using illicit methods such as email hacking and bribery
The Crown Prosecution Service is to draw up new guidance on the prosecution of journalists, the director of public prosecutions has told the Leveson inquiry.
Keir Starmer told the inquiry on Wednesday that the CPS will shortly release an interim policy on the factors to consider when deciding whether to prosecute journalists over illicit newsgathering methods.
The new policy on the prosecution of journalists will include a public interest defence for journalism that uncovers a miscarriage of justice, the CPS confirmed. The CPS said that the potential public interest defence of revealing miscarriages of justice would be balanced against considerations including whether the journalist used threats or intimidation, or put criminal proceedings in jeopardy.
Under the guidance, the CPS added that the Sun journalist who covertly exposed cash bribes to a court clerk would not face prosecution because the investigation uncovered an offence under the Bribery Act. Munir Patel, a clerk at Redbridge magistrates' court, was jailed in November last year after being covertly filmed by the Sun taking bribes.
This is the first time the CPS has drawn up a formal policy on the prosecution of journalists over activities including email hacking, bribery and perverting the course of justice.
Starmer told the inquiry that it would be "prudent" to release an interim policy that is set out the proposals "in one place" before unveiling formal guidelines later in the year. The CPS sets out legal guidance on a range of issues, from domestic violence to drugs offences.
"It seems to me that it would be prudent to have a policy that sets out in one place the factors that prosecutors will take into account when considering whether or not to prosecute journalists acting in the course of their work as journalists," Starmer said.
"Therefore what I propose is that an interim policy will be drafted. That interim policy will draw on the existing principles and reflect the existing approach but put it in one place. That will make things clearer."
Separately, the Guido Fawkes blogger Paul Staines, who also gave evidence to the Leveson inquiry on Wednesday, said he understood that the editor of the Sunday Mirror, Tina Weaver, had personally authorised hacking and blagging. Staines said he was told by two journalists that Weaver "personally authorised and told them to hack, blag and do all that kind of stuff". Staines added: "She knows all the bad things that have gone on under her rule. It's ridiculous."
Trinity Mirror had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.
The political blogger also claimed that the News of the World paid him ?20,000 for photographs of a political adviser who shared a hotel room with the foreign secretary William Hague during the 2010 election campaign.
Staines suggested that the now-defunct tabloid bought the photos to "take them off the market" as a favour to its former editor Andy Coulson, who at the time was No 10 director of communications.
The blogger also told the inquiry that his home address had been discovered by the Daily Telegraph reporter, Gordon Rayner, and claimed that could only have been achieved by his details being leaked by a Land Registry employee.
He claimed that Rayner had used Steve Whittamore, the private investigator convicted of illegally accessing data in 2005. Staines said that Rayner appeared in the information commissioner's Operation Motorman report into trade of data by newspapers 335 times.
"If this inquiry does not act as a catalyst for criminal prosecution for those journalists who have invaded people's privacy, on an industrial scale, I think you have failed," Staines told Lord Justice Leveson.
A Telegraph Media Group spokesperson said: "Mr Staines appears to have something of a preoccupation with the Telegraph's Chief Reporter Gordon Rayner. They have never met and we don't propose to be drawn into any dispute with him. However, as any journalist will know, the Land Registry is a public resource, available to all."
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