A SENIOR broadcaster has defended hacking into the email account of back-from-the-dead canoeist John Darwin at a high-profile inquiry.
John Ryley, head of Sky News, told the Leveson Inquiry into press standards there may be occasions when journalists have to consider breaking the law to “shed light” on wrongdoing.
But he said that such occasions would be “very, very rare”.
A media watchdog has announced it is to investigate Sky News following their admissions about hacking of John Darwin and others.
Mr Ryley was probed about the occasion when one of his reporters hacked the email account of John Darwin, from Seaton Carew, in 2008.
He told the inquiry in London: “Journalism is at times a tough business. And we need at times to shed light into wrongdoing.
“There may be an occasion. It would be very, very rare.”
Darwin, 61, faked his own death in a canoeing accident in 2002 so his wife Anne could claim hundreds of thousands of pounds from insurance policies and pension schemes.
Sky News accessed the account in June 2008 while working on a court backgrounder to go out at the conclusion of the trial.
The evidence discovered by Sky News’ North of England correspondent Gerard Tubb was handed to police and used in the prosecution of Anne, 60, for insurance and pension fraud.
The inquiry heard the detail was “pivotal” in the case against the fraudsters,
John Darwin was jailed for six years and three months, and Anne, 60, for six and a half years at Teesside Crown Court in 2008 for the swindle.
Ofcom is investigating the hacking of private email accounts by Sky News.
It said it is to examine “fairness and privacy issues” raised by the hacking of Darwin and also of a suspected paedophile.
A spokesman for the regulator said: “Ofcom is investigating the fairness and privacy issues raised by Sky News’ statement that it had accessed without prior authorisation private email accounts during the course of its news investigations.
“We will make the outcome known in due course.”
In a statement, Sky News said: “We stand by these actions as editorially justified and in the public interest.”