Charlotte seemed to have gained access to a huge amount of information relating to Rangers and to the takeover shenanigans of the last couple of years, including tape recordings of various discussions between the parties.
Despite a great deal of discussion online, the mainstream media has devoted little or no attention to the documents themselves, or to the “revelations” contained in them.
As I wrote in May:-
the source of the documents themselves, if genuine, is important. Are they being leaked by a party or someone close to the issue? Were they found by legitimate investigation or discovered abandoned in a bin? Has someone hacked a computer, or broken in to a filing cabinet?
I have no idea and therefore, until the provenance is established, I won’t devote the time to detailed analysis, simply to avoid wasting my efforts should the documents turn out to be as genuine as the Zinoviev Letter or the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
I have read suggestions since then that there is a “conspiracy of silence” about what Charlotte has been releasing, and that, in some way, people have been “nobbled” to stop them commenting.
There have also been suggestions that an interdict or injunction has been granted preventing the media discussing the information produced.
So I thought I would do what I can to shed a little light on this.
First of all, it is possible that there is a court order preventing wider publication of these items. However I have no knowledge of one. It should also be said that the “super injunction” which prevents publication even of the fact that an injunction has been granted (a device which suddenyl became popular, or at least notorious, a couple of years ago) has no direct equivalent in Scotland. To obtain an interdict against the Scottish media as a whole, whilst at the same time preventing any discussion at all about the granting of the order, would not be easy.
So, on balance, I do not think that the media has been gagged (though I accept I could well be wrong!)
Secondly, why, in the absence of a court order, has nobody in the mainstream made any fuss about the relevations?
There are two reasons for this – Lord Justice Leveson is one, and doubts about the material itself is the other.
Dealing with the latter point, I believe that the material in question is “genuine”. The information I have heard, from various sources (although always, to be fair, second or third hand) leads me to accept that the documents etc have not been concocted by Charlotte. That is not to say that they might not have been created by a participant in the saga for their own purposes, but I believe that Charlotte is being only the messenger, not the creator, of any of the items.
Now the media have far greater resources than me to check these things, and I am sure that they would be happy to publicise any attempt to use “fake” documents to damage Rangers, or Mr Whyte or Mr Green or Mr Stockbridge. Indeed, if the material was false, and had apparently been created for such a purpose, then this would be a front page story.
In the same way as Sherlock Holmes noted that the key to unravelling one of his mysteries was the dog that did not bark, I think that the absence of media reports of any effort to damage Rangers by false information is itself circumstantial proof of the documents being genuine.
I should make clear that, even if the documents are genuine, the content of them might not be accepted by all parties as being correct.
We then come to Leveson.
The media has been shocked to the core by the phone-hacking revelations and then by the backlash, including Lord Justice Leveson’s report. A result has been that it is clear that the press and broadcasters are far more wary of using or referring to documents and material where they have any doubt about the provenance of it. So unless they are satisfied that the information has been obtained legitimately, and that there are no issues of confidentiality, then we won’t see media comment. In addition, if documents come into one’s possession which expressly state that they are confidential and privileged, then it is very hard to see how legitimately they can be published.
That is qualified however by what the material is about. Should Wikileaks produce several million more pages of diplomatic documents, as with the revelations by Mr Snowden about internet monitoring etc, then there is no doubt that these would be publicised, despite them clearly being obtained illegally.
Leaks of government information will also still be published.
I suspect that media organisations and their lawyers are debating the legality of the information having been obtained and then the “public interest” in disclosure.
When it comes to Rangers, where lies the public interest?
Bizarrely the arguments of Rangers fans about the importance of their team, which has been dubbed “the second most important institution in Scotland” by some of them, make the “public interest” argument more compelling.
If we are dealing with solely a commercial enterprise and boardroom machinations, that might be relevant to shareholders and investors, but is essentially a private matter.
However, should we be dealing with an “institution” which plays as important a role in Scottish society as some of its supporters claim, and as recognised by First Minister Alex Salmond, then clearly there is a “public interest”. (And of course the “public interest” is NOT the same as what the public is interested in.)
If there was, for example, clear and unequivocal evidence of criminality, then that would be open for publication, subject to the normal issues of defamation etc. However, from what I have seen of Charlotte’s documents (and I have not completed a detailed analysis for reasons mentioned in my post in May) whilst they would be very relevant evidence in the threatened court action by Craig Whyte against the Green consortium over Sevco, they do not disclose crime.
I am sure that there will be further developments and as soon as one media organisation puts its head over the parapet the rest will follow.
Posted by Paul McConville