PART 5: The Mail's Secret Million Pounds Dossier Exposed

4 May 2017

Under the Data Protection Act, it is a criminal offence for companies to process personal data without being registered with the Information Commissioner. Only System Searches and Linx International were on the ICO’s Data Protection Public Register in the period covered by the payment ledgers.

In a submission to the Leveson Inquiry, Mail Editor in Chief, Paul Dacre, said that after the Information Commissioner’s Office’s report ‘What Price Privacy?’ was published in May 2006, ‘on 11 July 2006 Alex Bannister, Group Managing Editor, sent a letter to all heads of department at the Daily Mail which impressed upon them that it is “absolutely essential that we abide by the DPA” and that it is the responsibility of the department heads that where information is sourced from third parties, such enquiries are made by reputable companies and individuals operating within the law.’

The ICO’s report was based on their investigation into Steve Whittamore, named Operation Motorman, which identified the ANL journalists as his most prolific customers.

Byline’s exclusive investigation has already revealed that while he was writing these warning letters to staff, and for many months afterwards, Bannister’s office was busy authorising fees to Whittamore, whose company was far from reputable and who was operating outside the law, while also spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on other firms.

After Bannister sent his warning, The Daily Mail spent at least a further £132,504.61 on private investigators.

Byline reported that Bannister, the Mail’s current Managing Editor, was also on Steve Whittamore’s contact list and had signed off more than £50,000 in fees to the convicted private detective after his arrival in November 2005. We published that story following an initial statement from Bannister’s office dismissing our investigation. 

Byline sent ANL a series of questions about the secret dossier. Last night they responded: ‘Our use of inquiry agents – and the decision in 2007 by the Editor-in-chief to ban all use of them – was covered in our evidence and submissions to the Leveson inquiry and we have nothing further to add.’

Previously, after we asked the Mail to comment on Bannister’s appearance on Whittamore’s list of contacts, the Mail’s lawyers sent a libel threat from Paul Dacre, Peter Wright and legal chief Liz Hartley which demanded we take down our stories and apologise. Bannister himself has not responded.

You can read the response of Byline’s lawyers here.

In response to ANL’s threats, we have obtained free legal help (we are very grateful to Keystone Law for their assistance) and we launched a fund (on the right column of this page) to which readers can donate, to enable us to carry on our investigation into allegations of criminality at Britain’s favourite middle-market paper.

• You can also read and help fund Byline’s investigation into The Sun here.