Saturday 13 December 2008

£50,000 for breaking the law.

A highly curious but also insightful story into how "gotcha!" journalism works on the Sun has emerged:

"A man who plotted to covertly film a "hit list" of stars, including Amy Winehouse, taking drugs so he could sell the footage to newspapers was jailed for two years yesterday.

Johnny Blagrove, 34, and his girlfriend Cara Burton, 22, sold footage of the singer apparently smoking a crack pipe to The Sun for £50,000, but the video was later passed to police.

In the final scene of the tape, which was viewed by a judge at Snaresbrook crown court, east London, Blagrove laughs to himself after telling his reflection in a bathroom mirror: "You have succeeded. You have done it. You are going places. It's taken a while, but I've finally got what I want.""

What the Guardian article doesn't mention is that it seems to have been the Sun itself that turned in its source, having previously paid him £50,000, or far more than the average Sun hack will earn in a year. Having provided the police with the footage secretly shot by Blagrove of Winehouse, apparently smoking a crack pipe, they went on to raid Blagrove's home, where they apparently found additional footage of Peaches Geldof. Rather than keep this evidence for any potential trial, the police, having had their back scratched, seem to have given the video straight back to the Sun, resulting in their article of May the 5th:

"THIS is the video showing SIR BOB GELDOF’s daughter PEACHES buying drugs from AMY WINEHOUSE’s alleged dealer.

Peaches, 19, is seen offering to hand over up to £190 to the pusher – and then blurts out: “I need to get all that stuff off you tonight. Tomorrow I need Valium.”

Valium is often taken by users coming down from drugs.

TV presenter Peaches is now days away from a police quiz over the video obtained by The Sun.


But cops found the clip of her on a computer memory stick also containing scenes of Amy, 24, smoking crack cocaine.

Stills of Amy were published in The Sun four months ago.

Peaches’ dad Sir Bob, 55, said in the past he would “go f*****g ballistic” if she took drugs.

Cops seized the video from the East London home of Jonny Blagrove, 34, and Cara Burton, 22, suspected of running a celebrity drug empire.

Police sources said they believe Blagrove – a pal of Amy’s caged husband BLAKE FIELDER-CIVIL – and his lover wanted to use the Peaches video in a different sting."

Err, yes. Instead they apparently handed the footage over to the Sun for them to do just that, this time without them having to pay Blagrove any money for the privilege. 4 days later, this follow-up appeared:

"DRUG cops want PEACHES GELDOF to help them nail a drug dealer selling cocaine to celebrities.

Peaches, 19, has been quizzed under caution over an allegation of possessing the drug.

Her questioning arose from a video obtained by The Sun featuring her allegedly buying cocaine.

But cops have decided NOT to arrest Peaches — daughter of Live Aid hero Sir Bob Geldof — despite her being seen apparently handing over £190 for cocaine to a dealer.

She will be dealt with as a potential witness instead. Peaches was interviewed at a central London solicitor’s office on Thursday.

A report will now go to the CPS for consideration on charges. But one police source said: “It is hoped that Peaches, in particular, will appear as a witness in the case.

“We believe she was deliberately targeted by a drug supplier.”"

None of the accounts of the conclusion of the trial mention Geldof's involvement, so whether she actually did give evidence or not is uncertain.

To call this a very grey area in the terms of the law is something of an understatement. The Sun has to all intents and purposes paid someone £50,000 for breaking the law. It's not even as if it can fall back on the defence that it's exposing someone in the public eye taking drugs - it was hardly a secret that Winehouse was and still is a drug addict, having been in and out of treatment all year. Moreover, the Sun of course turned to its best friend: sickening hypocrisy. Having paid £50,000 to a man with 28 previous criminal convictions who ostensibly supplied a celebrity with the drugs which he then filmed her taking, their article contained the following platitudes:

"Amy’s spiral of self-destruction was revealed in a harrowing video filmed at her East London home and seen by The Sun.

It will horrify relatives and friends who fear she could soon end up dead.


Amy’s real friends believe she is now at constant risk of an overdose like the one which led to her notorious collapse last August.

One said: “Someone has to turn her around, otherwise a great talent will disappear forever very soon.”"

While on the side-panel "experts" including the Sun columnist Jane Moore call for her to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

Strangely, although the Sun's website carried agency accounts of the trial under the "Staff Reporter" byline, there doesn't appear to have been any report of the trial's conclusion in today's paper. Also strange is that all of the agency accounts appear to have a crucial detail pruned from them: the £50,000 paid to Blagrove.

It's not as if this sort of hackery is anything new - the News of the World's Mazher Mahmood was notorious for entrapping celebrities either with them buying drugs or buying them for others. The difference is that he was employed by the NotW; here they instead turned a blind eye to their source and how exactly he obtained the material. Considering that he has now been jailed for two years, doesn't the Sun have a case to answer as well?


Sim-O said...

The papers sit on their high horses and preach the dangers of drug use, but it's not even as though they are doing it to expose the drug dealers and use the celebs to make it more news worthy. It's just a tool to sell more copies.


Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Big fucking gits.

Unknown said...

The No Rock and Roll blog has a similar report.