Scotland Yard

The Metropolitan Police's plan to obtain a court order to force source disclosure was widely criticised in the national press

Credit: Alberto OG on Flickr. Some rights reserved

The Metropolitan Police will not pursue its application for a court order to force the Guardian newspaper and one of its journalists to reveal confidential sources of phone hacking coverage.

The police force came under criticism by the press after confirming it planned to apply for a production order on Friday (23 September), to secure the handover of documents relating to source for articles published by the newspaper, such as the alleged hacking of Milly Dowler's phone.

But late yesterday the force released a statement to say this had been dropped following consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service.

In the statement the police said that the CPS has asked that more information be provided to its lawyers and for "appropriate time to consider the matter".

"In addition the MPS has taken further legal advice this afternoon and as a result has decided not to pursue, at this time, the application for production orders scheduled for hearing on Friday, 23 September.

"We have agreed with the CPS that we will work jointly with them in considering the next steps."

In its own report on the news the Guardian added that its lawyers have been told police have dropped the application and that a police source said "it's off the agenda".

Guardian's editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, is also quoted as saying "we greatly welcome the Met's decision to withdraw this ill-judged order".

"Threatening reporters with the Official Secrets Act was a sinister new device to get round the protection of journalists' confidential sources.

"We would have fought this assault on public interest journalism all the way. We're happy that good sense has prevailed."

But the MPS added in its statement that the decision not to pursue the court order "does not mean that the investigation has been concluded".

"This investigation, led by the DPS - not Operation Weeting, has always been about establishing whether a police officer has leaked information, and gathering any evidence that proves or disproves that. Despite recent media reports there was no intention to target journalists or disregard journalists' obligations to protect their sources.

"It is not acceptable for police officers to leak information about any investigation, let alone one as sensitive and high profile as Operation Weeting.

"Notwithstanding the decision made this afternoon it should be noted that the application for production orders was made under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE), not the Official Secrets Act (OSA).

"The Official Secrets Act was only mentioned in the application in relation to possible offences in connection with the officer from Operation Weeting, who was arrested on August 18 2011 on suspicion of misconduct in a public office relating to unauthorised disclosure of information."

When the police force originally confirmed its plans to apply for a court order it received criticism across the national press.

The Telegraph called it "a direct attack on the freedom of the press", while the Independent called the decision "a travesty".

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