AddThis SmartLayers

Weekly refuses to reveal sources over PCC’s expenses

A weekly newspaper has refused to disclose its sources after it published leaked information about the expenses of a Police and Crime Commissioner.

The Cumberland and Westmorland Herald published details of Richard Rhodes spending almost £700 on a chauffeur-driven Mercedes after receiving details of it in leaked documents.

But since then, three people have been arrested on suspicion of whistle-blowing and the paper has been visited twice by Cumbria Police and asked to reveal its sources, which it refused to do.

The arrests have now been raised at Prime Minister’s Questions and David Cameron has pledged to look into the issue.

In a comment piece, the independent paper has written about the fall-out after it published the details of Mr Rhodes’ car hire, who has since apologised and paid back the cost.

The article said: “The frenzy that has been whipped up in the national media could have been avoided if the commissioner and Cumbria Constabulary had reacted appropriately after the story was first published.

“Mr Rhodes, who has acknowledged that the hiring of the luxury car was a mistake by paying back the cost — but not until the expenditure was revealed in leaked documents — should have held up his hands and apologised, emphasising that the practice had been stopped, and Cumbria police should have dealt with the alleged breach of its whistleblowing procedures internally and imposed appropriate penalties.

“Instead, there is a furore over what is seen as a threat to free speech and the operation of double standards in how whistleblowers should be treated.

“This newspaper has been portrayed in certain sections of the national media as courageous.

“It is not, it is simply doing its job – and should not be compared with the truly courageous people who have put their careers in jeopardy by making public details of extravagant spending by the commissioner in a time of austerity.

“Those who have suffered the trauma of arrest and/or suspension under the heavy-handed tactics of the police deserve better treatment. These disproportionate investigations should be dropped before public confidence in the commissioner is driven even lower.”

At PMQs, the issue was raised by Liberal Democrat party president Tim Farron who said it was “a threat to freedom of speech and an outrage in a democratic society”.

Mr Cameron told him: “I will look carefully at that case. In general we should support whistleblowers and what they do to help improve the provision of public services, and I will have a look at this case and get back to the hon. Gentleman.”

One comment

You can follow all replies to this entry through the comments feed.