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Two days after James Murdoch announced he is stepping down from the Chairmanship of BSkyB, we learn that its rolling news station, Sky News has admitted two cases of illegally hacking email accounts.

The broadcaster said it hacked emails from John Darwin, who faked his own death in a canoe, and his wife Anne.

A spokesman for Sky News said police "absolutely knew" the emails - which it passed to officers working on the Darwin case - were obtained by hacking.

Sky News said the action was in the public interest and amounted to "responsible journalism".

The second email hacking incident Sky disclosed targeted the accounts of a suspected paedophile and his wife.

Sky News is broadcast in SD free to air by satellite and is available on the UK terrestrial digital "Freeview" platform. Its HD version is available to Sky subscribers and on Richard Branson's Virginmedia cable system.

This however is not the first time a UK news outlet with News Corp involvement has been implicated in hacking email accounts.

In 2009, the Times revealed the identity of an anonymous blogger as being a serving policeman, DC Horton, after successfully overturning an attempt to obtain an injunction against them publishing it. As a result, Horton closed down his award winning blog about real policing and was internally disciplined.

After being pressed by Lord Leveson during his inquiry last month; the former legal manager at the Times, Alastair Brett, admitted that the evidence given to the hearing about the injunction was err... deficient:

Mr Brett told the inquiry that (Times journalist Patrick) Foster had eventually found a "legitimate" way of unmasking Nightjack, butLord Justice Leveson attacked this description, telling him: "That's not accurate is it?" The former legal manager replied: "It's not entirely accurate, no."

When Mr Brett suggested Lord Justice Leveson was being "fantastically precise" in his analysis of the statement, he was told: "Oh, I'm being precise, because this is a statement being presented to a court."

Another part of Mr Foster's statement read: "At this stage I felt the blog was written by a real police officer." Again Lord Justice Leveson said "This is actually misleading, isn't it?" Mr Brett admitted it did not give the full story.

Despite Sky News claiming a "public interest" defence and them passing information to the police, I understand that there is no such defence in English law against prosecution for this illegal hacking of an email account.


8:37 AM PT: Update: The BBC has just quoted Sky sources as saying the senior executive who authorised the hacking, Simon Cole, the Managing Editor,  will be leaving the organisation in the next few weeks.

Cleveland Police have an "ongoing investigation" on how the fraudster's emails were obtained.

Originally posted to Lib Dem FoP on Thu Apr 05, 2012 at 08:22 AM PDT.

Also republished by Murdochgate Investigators.

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