Matt Sprake, the head of Newspics photo agency, whose website was exposed by me on the Exaro News website (http:// www.exaronews.com) and with Oliver Wright on the Independent, put on a bravura show at the Leveson inquiry this week.
He insisted that the wording on his website offering thousands of pounds to police staff, prison officers, doormen and nurses, for years for stuff on celebrity’s private lives had been a “mistake” and had only not been taken down until the exposure by Exaro because his website was ” broken.”
During the rest of the questioning by Robert Jay, the Leveson counsel, and Lord Leveson himself, he tried to portray himself as a ” White knight” fervently checking that any of these informers had not obtained salacious gossip by breaking the law and making sure that our great tabloids from The People to the News of the World were not so foolish to indict innocent people on their front pages. Unauthorised snatch photography with morals, so to speak.
He even provided a detailed example where an innocent referee who had engaged the wrath of Alex Ferguson was saved by Sprake’s due diligence from an exposure at a late night party that never took place.
But he has probably dished himself with Leveson over his explanation of the 330 surveillance jobs he has done, mainly for The People and the News of the World and his amoral view that whatever the scandal was – his sole interest was whether it was true or not and ” morality and ethics” was something left to the editors. I don’t do ethics that’s for someone else, to put it simply .All this has been more eloquently covered today by Roy Greenslade in his Guardian blog – see http://bit.ly/MpYH81 .
What emerged in detail was his treatment of two stories for The People – the chasing up the McCanns on their first private holiday in Canada without Madeline. Evidently it was fine for The People to spend thousands of pounds sending a team of snatch photographers and a reporter to Canada because in Mr Sprake’s word he was a ” celebrity” and wanted “to keep Madeline’s name in the public mind.” Now I would think Gerry McCann is the last person to want to be a celebrity, more a diligent father trying to get to the bottom of his daughter’s tragic disappearance – and if he wanted the publicity, he could have organised a photocall in Heathrow before he went away. Obviously he didn’t and that wasn’t good enough for Sprate or The People. They were happy enough to invade their privacy on a well-earned holiday for loadsa dosh.
Similarly the ” ethical ” treatment of Andy Hayman, the Met Police chief who is alleged to have had an affair with someone from the Independent Police Complaints Commsision was considered fair game just because there was an inquiry. Did the People or anyone else have a shred of evidence that the inquiry was compromised or that Hayman was after illicit information? No. But it was worth £10,000 to Sprake for the pics. Hayman did resign but there seem to far more serious allegations about him over the first hacking inquiry years later.
I am backing Roy Greenslade on this one. Mr Embley needs to be summoned by Leveson for further questioning. The need for this is made more compelling now Roy Greenslade has revealed that the People’s picture editor, Mark Moylan, forgot to tell Leveson that he did ANY business with Matt Sprake – now revealed as enormous by Sprake himself. See his new post at http://bit.ly/PqViXw.
Meanwhile just 15 or so minutes after I had finished covering the Leveson inquiry myself I had a phone call on my mobile.
An anonymous friend of Mr ” Ethical , never done anything wrong, guvnor” Sprake warned me to lay off any further inquiries. They named some person they think is supplying me with information that led to Mr Sprake’s appearance before Leveson. Sorry mate, the steer came from someone else.
They signed off with a cordial affectionate greeting: ” You fucking geek “. Nice circles you move in , ex police snapper Matt Sprake.