CANOE conman John Darwin was a victim of an email hack that saw information handed on to police.
Sky News authorised a journalist to hack into the emails of back-from-the-dead canoeist after ruling the action was in the public interest.
The broadcaster said the evidence it discovered was handed to police and used in the successful prosecution of Darwin’s wife Anne for insurance and pension fraud.
Darwin, 61, faked his own death in a canoeing accident in 2002 so his wife, 60, could claim hundreds of thousands of pounds from insurance policies and pension schemes.
Former Sky News managing editor Simon Cole agreed that North of England correspondent Gerard Tubb could hack into Darwin’s Yahoo! email account.
Mr Tubb uncovered messages which cast doubt on Mrs Darwin’s claim during her criminal trial that her “domineering” husband forced her to go through with the fraud plan.
The Darwins, formerly of The Cliff, Seaton Carew, were jailed at Teesside Crown Court in 2008 for the swindle, which deceived the police, a coroner, financial institutions and even their sons, Mark and Anthony.
In a separate case, Mr Tubb was authorised to access the emails of a suspected paedophile and his wife, although this investigation did not result in any material being published or broadcast.
John Ryley, the head of Sky News, said in a statement: “Sky News is committed to the highest editorial standards.
“Like other news organisations, we are acutely aware of the tensions that can arise between the law and responsible investigative journalism.
“On two occasions, we have authorised a journalist to access the email of individuals suspected of criminal activity.
“In the 2008 case of Anne Darwin, Sky News met with Cleveland Police and provided them with emails offering new information relevant to Mrs Darwin’s defence.
“Material provided by Sky News was used in the successful prosecution and the police made clear after the trial that this information was pivotal to the case.
“We stand by these actions as editorially justified and in the public interest. We do not take such decisions lightly or frequently.
“They require finely balanced judgment based on individual circumstances and must always be subjected to the proper editorial controls.”
Cleveland Police said in a statement: “Cleveland Police has conducted an initial review into these matters and can confirm that inquiries are ongoing into how the emails were obtained.”