A councillor dismissed from his job after a city daily’s investigation has accused local newspapers of being “corrupt” – and backed proposals for a fresh Leveson inquiry into the industry.
Cllr Mike Sparling, who sits on Plymouth City Council, hit out after the recent House of Lords vote in favour of a clause which would see publishers not signed up to a state-approved watchdog pay both sides’ costs in data protection cases.
Back in 2015, the Plymouth Herald’s then political reporter Patrick Daly revealed how Cllr Sparling was sacked from his job as a police call handler after being accused of calling in sick to go canvassing in that year’s general election, in which he was the Labour candidate for Torridge and West Devon, although Cllr Sparling himself denied this was the case.
In his outburst, Cllr Sparling wrote: “Encouraging to see peers backing Leveson 2. As I can appreciate from personal experience, the relationship between journalists and the police can be unhealthy, damaging, ‘worth a drink’ and even corrupt. [Patrick] might know something about this.”
He added: “Classic example of s***, ill-informed journalism from a very junior journalist trying to make a name for himself. Fine example of integrity and ethics gone awry in journalism.”
In response to the outburst, Patrick, who has since gone to become parliamentary correspondent for several regional newspapers, posted on Twitter: “Boy, oh boy, did I enjoy reading this tweet. Nothing but good source work ratted you out I’m afraid, councillor.”
He added: “Funny that – it is often someone else’s fault when an individual gets caught out. So far you’ve blamed a journalist and the police for simply reporting or responding to your own actions.”
Peers recently voted in favour of a clause which closely mirrored the infamous Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act, which was designed to force publishers to sign up to a ‘recognised’ system of press regulation.