Sky News Admits to Email Hacking, But Claims Public Interest Defense

The news of the email hacking comes two days after James Murdoch resigns as chairman of BSkyB

Sky News admitted Thursday that it had been involved in two instances of email hacking, but claims that it did so in the public interest.  

The acknowledgement will provide fresh ammunition to critics of News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch, who was forced to abandon his bid to take full control of the British satellite broadcaster last summer in the wake of a hacking and bribery scandal at his U.K. tabloids. 

However, Sky News claims that unlike the hacking that took place at News Corp.-owned papers, like the News of the World, its journalists only accessed the email of criminal suspects and then passed the information on to the police.

Also read: James Murdoch Out at BSkyB: News Corp. Succession Slips Away

"We stand by these actions as editorially justified and in the public interest," John Ryley, head of Sky News, said in a statement. "We do not take such decisions lightly or frequently."

The news comes two days after James Murdoch stepped down as chairman of Sky News' parent company BSkyB. At the time, James Murdoch said he did not want BSkyB to be swept up in the phone hacking scandals at the U.K. tabloids he oversaw as  executive chairman of News International.

"I believe that my resignation will help to ensure that there is no false conflation with events at a separate organization," he said in a statement. 

Ryley said Thursday that one instance of hacking involved the 2008 Anne Darwin case. Darwin's husband, John, faked a canoeing death so the couple could collect hundreds of thousands of pounds from insurance and pension plans.

Ryley did not elaborate on the circumstances surrounding the other hacking incident. 

He said that in the insurance fraud case, material provided to the police by Sky News was used to prosecute Anne Darwin.

"Sky News is committed to the highest editorial standards," Ryley added. "Like other news organizations, we are acutely aware of the tensions that can arise between the law and responsible investigative journalism. 

Despite Ryley's public interest claim, The Guardian notes that It is illegal to hack into emails under the country's Computer Misuse Act.