These days it seems to be a fairly safe bet that if you want to access some dirt on a celebrity, find out the details of trade union activists so they can be black-listed, or even just fancy borrowing a horse for the weekend - all you have to do is 'phone a bent copper.
Even by the usual standards of Tory insensitivity it's pretty staggering that in a week where all these stories are in the news, plans are revealed to put out certain police functions to tendering from private security firms.
Of course dealing with private firms as well as streamlining the whole business of bribery and corruption will take policing one significant step further away from public scrutiny and accountability. Which I suspect is no accident - it's a process already well-established in the intelligence and security communities where the use of shadowy arms-length private contractors has proved very convenient in the world of covert and 'dirty' operations.
I can't help recalling that even Machiavlli regarded the dependence of any state for its security on mercenary companies or condottieri was symptomatic of it's moral and political decadence. He had a point.