Rupert Murdoch's news channel Sky News has admitted to hacking the e-mail accounts of the "canoe couple" John Darwin and his wife Anne, as well as a suspected pedophile, BBC News reported.
Sky News' head John Ryley said in a statement on Thursday admitting that the broadcaster's Managing Editor Simon Cole had "authorized a journalist (Gerard Tubb, the broadcaster's northern England correspondent) to access the emails of individuals suspected of criminal activity," The Guardian reported.
"We stand by these actions as editorially justified and in the public interest. We do not take such decisions lightly or frequently," Ryley said in the statement.
Anne and John Darwin became notorious in Britain after John faked his own death in a canoe accident as part of an insurance scheme, the Associated Press reported. Anne collected over 800,000 dollars in life insurance payments while her husband hid in their home, allowing their two sons to think he was dead. He resurfaced in 2007 claiming to be a missing person with amnesia, but the couple's plan was revealed by media and investigators.
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Sky News said its executives met Cleveland police officials and handed over "pertinent" emails in July of 2008, shortly before the couple was found guilty of deception, according to BBC News.
Sky also admitted to hacking the accounts of a suspected pedophile and his wife, though few other details of that case were given, BBC News reported.
The hackings both breached Britain's Computer Misuse Act, under which hacking e-mail accounts is illegal, according to BBC.
"It is not possible for the editor of any news organization to authorize criminal acts," said David Allen Green, media lawyer at Preiskel & Co., who has been a frequent critic Murdoch's News Corporation, the AP reported.
However, it is up to police and Britain's Crown Prosecution Service to decide whether or not it serves the public interest to file charges against Sky News, according to the AP.
Sky News is part-owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, the Telegraph reported. Sky's owner, BSkyB, is currently under investigation in connection to the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.
39-year-old James Murdoch, Rupert's son and the former Chairman of News International, stepped down as chair of BSkyB on Tuesday in a move that some say is an attempt to isolate the company from the hacking scandal, the AP reported.
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