Sky News admits hacking email for 'canoe man' report

Published Apr 5 2012, 14:11 BST  |  By

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Sky News has admitted that one of its journalists hacked the email of John Darwin, the "canoe man" accused of faking his own death, but claimed that it was "in the public interest".

A senior executive at Sky News authorised Gerard Tubb, the correspondent for the North of England, to access the Yahoo email account belonging to Darwin when his wife Anne was due to stand trial for deception in July 2008.

Tubb was then able to draw together evidence from the email that he felt would knock down Anne Darwin's legal case, after her husband had already admitted to seven charges of deception.

According to a statement issued to The Guardian by Sky News, the same reporter also accessed the email account of a suspected paedophile and his wife, but no material was ever broadcast or published.

Simon Cole, the managing editor of Sky News, is understood to have approved both instances of email hacking, despite it being in breach of the Computer Misuse Act.

Sky News, which is part owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, defended the action.

John Ryley, the head of Sky News, admitted that the broadcaster had "authorised a journalist to access the emails of individuals suspected of criminal activity", but added that it was "justified and in the public interest".

Ryley told The Guardian that Cole had used "finely balanced judgment" in reaching his decision, and insisted that it was "subjected to the proper editorial controls".

Sky News said that it would stand by Tubb and claimed that there are times when breaking the law was justified as it brings a news story that is in the public interest.

This latest email hacking revelation follows a scandal last year after it emerged a reporter for The Times had intercepted an email account for a story unmasking the identity of anonymous police blogger Nightjack.

It also comes just days after embattled News Corp executive James Murdoch stepped down as chairman of satellite broadcaster Sky following criticism of his handling of the phone hacking scandal at publisher News International.

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