A former chief reporter with the Sunday Mail has claimed that Scottish newspapers have paid cash to corrupt police officers who supplied information for stories.
Charles Lavery, who was at the Sunday Mail until early last year, has alleged that the practice led to an expensive surveillance operation that resulted in one officer appearing in court but the resulting case collapsing.
‘Operation Merlin’, as it was termed, cost £1 million and was one of the most expensive investigations in the history of Strathclyde Police. It probed alleged corruption involving newspaper journalists who allegedly paid serving police officers for information.
Lavery claims that the expensive operation failed as a result of shocking intelligence work that resulted in nothing more than officers involved in it being promoted.
Writing on his blog Mr Lavery makes some astonishing claims, including that one of the senior officers involved in ‘Merlin’ was in fact one of the biggest culprits, tipping off journalists when the operation was underway.
Lavery also claims that the payments to Scottish police officers at several forces is still taking place and that senior newspaper executives in Scotland now face being interviewed as a result of the scandal south of the border.
Lavery writes: “Media executives at papers selling huge quantities in Scotland were routinely paying cops for information. Strathclyde Police, along with Lothian & Borders and various other forces, know this. They still pay them.”
He adds: “There is a ‘scoping exercise’ ongoing at the moment, led by Strathclyde Police, into the allegations surfacing south of the border. There is also talk of senior executives at papers north of the border being interviewed by police. Executives, I know, are already burning out shredders.”
More alarmingly Lavery claims that there are links between an unnamed leading Scottish law firm, certain newspaper editors and the police that he says “does nothing for journalism and everything for those involved in it”.
The newspaper scandal has already led to the closure of the News of the World, and the Sun and Sunday Times are also under scrutiny following new revelations. If it travels north of the border it could decimate a Scottish newspaper industry already reeling from the shock of redundancies at the Daily Record.
This week First Minister Alex Salmond pledged that if anyone was caught breaking the law in Scotland then they would face prosecution. These last few days has already seen former News of the World editor Andy Coulson arrested in London after emails emerged suggesting he may have sanctioned payment to police officers.
There is no suggestion that the titles in the image are involved in payments to police – they are used for illustrative purposes only.