Ayesha Vardag has offered her thoughts on the thorny issue of privacy and unlawful surveillance for a recent article in the Times.
In the wake of the hacking scandal and subsequent Leveson inquiry, the public’s right to privacy has been a sensitive and prominent subject in the media. Now, former Information Commissioner Richard Thomas has opened up the debate further by suggesting that lawyers who obtain information illegally should face jail terms.
According to a 2008 paper by the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (Soca), the use of hacking and “blagging” around that time extended far beyond the media and included the legal, insurance and telecoms industries.
Mr Thomas said: “At the time, many of these firms did not realise that obtaining such information was a criminal offence,” he said. “The impression I now have is that the market has very largely cleaned itself up. But the custodial penalties are still needed to send out a message.”
In response to the suggestion that lawyers may have used unlawful methods to obtain information on clients and competitors – knowingly or otherwise – Ayesha Vardag was resolute:
“There was a lot more dodgy dealing in the past. We have never engaged in any such activity. Our inquiries are based in legitimate forensic investigation: if you know what you’re doing you don’t need to play dirty.”