'Theresa May did not order the police to muzzle the Press over the row about leaked diplomatic cables, Whitehall sources said last night.
Scotland Yard sparked a furious backlash over the weekend after issuing an aggressive warning that journalists who published leaked documents could face jail.
The warning came after Sir Kim Darroch resigned as Britain’s ambassador to Washington last week in the wake of the row over leaked diplomatic cables in which he described Donald Trump as ‘inept’.
Human rights lawyers claimed yesterday that the police had acted in order to ‘protect the Government from embarrassment’.
But a senior Whitehall source insisted the police were responsible for the controversial statement in which Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu warned journalists that publishing material from leaked cables ‘may be a criminal matter’.
The source said the involvement of Scotland Yard in the hunt for the mole whose leaks brought down Sir Kim followed an independent assessment by the police and Crown Prosecution Service of whether the Official Secrets Act had potentially been breached.
He added: ‘The idea that No 10 fancy a row over Press freedom at this point in time is a little far-fetched.’
The leaking of the cables provoked fury in Whitehall and led to a major inquiry, which culminated in the Metropolitan Police’s Counter- Terror Command taking charge on Friday evening.
Mr Basu was accused of trying to curb the freedom of the Press after issuing a warning in which he said: ‘The publication of leaked communications, knowing the damage they have caused or are likely to cause, may be a criminal matter.
‘I would advise all owners, editors and publishers of social and mainstream media not to publish leaked government documents that may already be in their possession, or which may be offered to them, and to turn them over to the police or give them back to their rightful owner, Her Majesty’s Government.’
Boris Johnson led criticism of the comments, saying: ‘It can’t be right that papers publishing material face prosecution. There’s no threat to national security.’'
Read more: No 10 insists it did NOT order police probe into leaked diplomatic cables amid furious backlash at Scotland Yard's attempt to muzzle the Press
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11 July 2019
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