To: Bindmans LLP
Your ref: 50784.3/TA/tn
Date: 03 October 2009
After reading your message, I had the strange sensation of going back to the time when the British Empire ruled the world. I even looked through the window, expecting to see the first British warships sailing into the Inner Harbor, side by side with the jet-foils that bring gamblers to the casinos of Macau. It also reminded me of another message, long ago, when Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, 3d Marquess of Salisbury and prime-minister of Great Britain, sent an ultimatum to Lisbon, after the Portuguese Government claimed possession of what was then called Matabeleland.
In your message, you refer that publication of the information describing your client, Mr. Henri Exton, as having been employed by the Security Services is “prohibited in the UK by Standing DA Notice 5” and demand that the information is removed from my blog.
May I remind you that:
- I’m not a British citizen;
- I don’t live in the UK;
- I published nothing in the UK Media;
- I don’t use a UK Internet Service Provider;
- My blog is not hosted by a UK company;
Also, please pay attention to the fact that DA Notices issued by a British joint government/media body are not applicable in the territory of Macao Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, where I live. As a journalist since 1982 and a permanent resident of Macao (holder of a Macao I.D. Card) I know very well the set of laws and codes I must follow and respect, when reporting and publishing news or opinion articles. However, DA Notices issued by a a British joint government/media body are not among those laws and codes.
I must confess that I was greatly surprised with your reference to the fact that publication of the mentioned specific information is “prohibited in the UK by Standing DA Notice 5”. The idea that a DA Notice constitutes a prohibition to publish something, coming from such a prestigious legal firm like Bindmans, is quite strange.
According to the web site of the “Defence Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee (DPBAC)”, a joint government/media body that approves the standing DA Notices and monitors their implementation, “the DA Notice system is a voluntary code that provides guidance to the British media on the publication or broadcasting of national security information”.
“The DA-Notices”, as stated in the DPBAC web site, “are intended to provide to national and provincial newspaper editors, to periodicals editors, to radio and areas of television organisations and to relevant book publishers, general guidance on those national security which the Government considers it has a duty to protect (…) The Notices have no legal standing and advice offered within their framework may be accepted or rejected partly or wholly.”
In the same web site (FAQs Section), is also clearly stated that “matters published on foreign web sites, like matters published in foreign newspapers, are beyond the influence of the DA-Notice system.” Therefore, I am in the difficult position of having to choose whom I should believe: the lawyers and solicitors of the prestigious legal firm Bindmans LLP, who consider that DA Notices have legal standing, from Cairo to Cape Town, or the British Government, which denies that…
Concerning your request about the shoplifting episode referred in the story authored by Mr. Mark Hollingsworth, I will erase it because, as you say in your message,the caution applied to your client was rescinded by order of the Court. However, I would like to see some evidence of that claim and I would like, also, to know the precise terms used by the Court.
About the alleged breach of the right to confidence of your client, due to the reference to his former occupation, I believe that this (and other) details are of public interest and must be revealed, in order to allow readers to exercise what I consider to be their right to be informed and to have access to all relevant informations. Mr. Henri Exton role in the private investigation of Madeleine Mccann disappearance, his association with Kevin Halligen, Oakley International and Red Defence International and his previous working experience are details I consider relevant, from a journalistic point of view, to a full understanding of recent episodes, in a case that is far from being closed.
Mr. Henri Exton was not exactly a model of discretion (as several of my sources told me...) concerning his former occupation, when he advertised his capacity do add very specific skills to the search of Madeleine Mccann, before being hired by the parents of the missing girl. If Mr. Henri Exton wanted to keep his former occupation secret, I wonder why did he mentioned it, when trying to get a work contract, as a private investigator?
Sometimes, freedom of expression and freedom of the Press are in conflict with individual rights, like the privacy rights and the right to confidence. And, as it was clear in Attorney General v Guardian Newspapers (1990), there are circumstances in which confidence would not be protected: once information enters what is usually called the public domain; the right to confidence may also be outweighed by some other countervailing public interest which favours disclosure (which I strongly believe this is the case...)
On August 2008, Mr. Henri Exton was mentioned, by the Daily Mail (daily circulation: 2,171,686) as the "former head of Greater Manchester Police Undercover Unit", who was "one of the main players working on the Mccann contract (...)" So, since August last year the previous working experience of Mr. Henri Exton was on the so-called public domain (with the Daily Mail story reproduced in around 300 hundred web sites!!)
The "Manchester Evening News (MEN has withdrawn from the Audit Bureau of Circulation, but last figures put it-s circulation around 153,000 daily copies) published recently a front-page story, by Steve Panter, detailing Mr. Henri Exton remarkable career and explaining how he managed to infiltrate a gang of violent soccer hooligans called "The Young Guv'nors" in the 1970's. So, when the "Evening Standard" (daily circulation: 250,000) published the story that I reproduced in my blog, Mr. Henri Exton work as a undercover policeman was not exactly confidential...