Ex-Pakistan cricket captain Salman Butt and fast bowler Mohammad Asif were yesterday found guilty of plotting to fix Test Match cricket. Another cricketer had already admitted his part in the scam. The police investigation began after their criminal activity was exposed by the News of the World. They will be sentenced shortly and could go to prison for up to seven years.
After the verdict Mazher Mahmood, the former News of the World journalist who uncovered the betting scam, said: "It is a sad day for cricket but a good day for investigative journalism." I couldn't agree more.
I was sometimes critical of the tactics the newspaper deployed in undertaking its investigations as well as some of its targets. However, its sting operations, as this case demonstrates, were very successful in preventing criminal activity and exposing wrong-doing over many years.
Its name will forever be tarnished by the phone-hacking scandal but the News of the World was a true campaigning newspaper and one which invested hundreds of thousands of pounds in its investigations. When the News of the World closed this was lost from our national life forever. While other Sunday papers have been happy to reap the rewards of their rivals demise, with increased cicirculation, they have failed to step into the shoes of 'The Screws' and provide a public service through in-depth investigations. This is a great shame and something I hope will be rectified.
The father and son owners of the Independent and the Evening Standard, Alexander and Evgeny Lebedev, have talked of starting a school for investigative journalism but none has materialised. Meanwhile how many criminals, who might have been exposed through a News of the World investigation, continue with their activities today? For now, let's look on the bright side and remember all the good work the News of the World did, some of the brilliant journalists who worked there, and hope that someone picks up its mantle to continue investigative journalism sooner rather than later.