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Huw L. Hopkins traces the long and winding history of Hackgate from
its beginnings way back in 2000. After jailings there came silence. But
then a constant stream of revelations, arrests, and resignations have all hit
the headlines since those heady days in July 2011. Where will it all end?

The question is not: ‘How far back does it go?’ it is, in fact: ‘Who knows
how far back this thing has gone?’ The phone hacking saga turned from
journalists doing something dodgy to get a story to complete public
outrage on 4 July 2011. Then it was revealed by the Guardian that 13-year-old
Milly Dowler, who went missing in 2002, had her phone hacked. At the time
this caused the parents to believe their child was still alive and it led the police
up a non-existent path.
There had been rumblings of a hacking nature when the News of the World
published some trivial but private details about a royal in 2005. In the end, a
NoW journalist and a private detective went to jail in 2007. But it was the
Dowler revelation in July 2011 that caused national outcry. No longer did it
seem the press focused only on the self-obsessed celebrities, or the discredited
politicians or royals. Phone hacking now affected ‘ordinary’ members of the
public.
Over the next six-months the hacked victims came out thick and fast. Each
story piled more pressure on the media and politicians – particularly as links
between the press and David Cameron’s government were revealed. Calls for
action from the public and lobbying groups intensified. The result – Prime
Minister David Cameron announced a judge-led investigation into the ethics of
the press. But let us now return to the start of the scandal – in the year 2000.

2000 – Rebekah Wade (later Brooks) became Editor of News of the World.

The News of the World was one of the biggest papers in the world well before
the turn of the millennium. In 1950, it had a weekly sale of 8,441,000. By May
2011, its circulation figure had dropped to just 2, 660, 000. In 2000, Rebekah
Brooks took over from Phil Hall as Editor and immediately her presence had an
impact. Her three years in charge brought about the hugely controversial but
highly marketable ‘Sarah’s Law’ campaign, with the tabloid carrying the names
of paedophiles in an attempt to gain public access to the Sex Offenders Register.
There were misnamings, mistaken identities and protesters holding ‘PEADO’
signs outside the homes of paediatricians. During this time Brooks befriended
the mother of the Sarah Payne, (of Sarah’s Law) and gained her trust.

2002 – Milly Dowler disappears.

The 13-year-old girl who would ultimately be the NoW’s undoing was
reported missing in March. Her body was discovered six months later, on 18
September.

Andy Coulson, Editor of News of the World

2003 – Andy Coulson took over as Editor of the NoW; Brooks flies closer to the
Sun.

Despite the controversy, Brooks left her mark on the NoW by the time she
had left in July 2003. While she moved next door as Editor of the Sun, her
Deputy Editor, Andy Coulson, took her place. They sat together at a select
committee shortly after the swap and Brooks stated boldly: ‘We have paid the
police for information in the past.’ Coulson interjected quickly assuring the
world that it was ‘within the confines of the law’. There was little follow-up by
both the press and police.

2005 – Clive Goodman writes about Prince William in the NoW.

Somehow Clive Goodman, the NoW royal correspondent, became the best
investigative reporter the world had ever seen. He managed to convince the
otherwise private and respected royal family to tell him about personal
conversations they had had as a family. Not only that, they allowed him to print
these private stories in one of the biggest selling newspapers in the world. A
fantastic achievement. But the truth is Goodman used underhand and illegal
methods to discover a knee injury to the future king.

2006 – Goodman arrested, along with private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.

2007 – Jail terms handed out but Editors move on to bigger and better things.

Whether the two events are linked does not matter. Andy Coulson left the
newspaper at the end of January and a few weeks later the two men arrested in
the royal phone hacking scandal were jailed. Rupert Murdoch seemingly ordered
a ‘rigorous internal investigation’ of the News of the World. Les Hinton, News
International Chief Executive, confirmed that there was no widespread hacking
taking place at the newspaper and the Press Complaints Commission later
confirmed this in May. Coulson, the ex-Editor who fell from grace several
months earlier, was appointed Director of Communications and Planning for
the Conservative Party. To top off the year, the head honchos have a shuffle.
Rupert Murdoch steps down as Sky’s non-executive chairman and his son,
James, takes over the running of News Corp’s UK newspapers, Asian TV and
Star TV.

2008 –News International pays Gordon Taylor £700,000.

Testing period for James Murdoch
Under a bus. In the deep end. Pick your metaphor. The first few months at the
helm of News Corp’s European and Asian operations proved a testing period
for James Murdoch. In April, News International paid the chief executive of the
Professional Footballers Association £700,000 in legal costs and damages on the
condition that Gordon Taylor signed a gagging clause to prevent him speaking
about the case.

2009 – As Brooks became CEO of News International, the Guardian revealed
new levels of illegality.

Brooks took over ‘Fortress Wapping’ in September as she was appointed
CEO of News International. The company manages the three subsidiaries;
Times Newspapers Ltd, News Group Newspapers (NGN) and NI Free
Newspapers on a large site in Wapping, East London. In July, the hefty payment
made in the previous year to the PFA executive became public knowledge. The
Guardian also revealed several other illegal activities by NGN, including the
hacking of more than 3,000 phones, misleading the PCC, the police and the
public. Coulson told the Commons culture, media and sport committee that he
had ‘never condoned the use of phone hacking, nor do I have any recollection
of the incidences where phone hacking took place’. The PCC released a
statement confirming that there was no evidence that phone hacking was
continuing.

2010 – Coulson feels the heat and the hacking spreads.

The Commons culture, media and sport committee released the report of
their findings in February stating it was ‘inconceivable that Goodman acted
alone’. A month later Nick Davies, of the Guardian, continued his long list of
Hackgate scoops. One involved Max Clifford’s acceptance of more than
£1million to keep quiet about the interception of his voicemail whilst Coulson
was the Editor of the NoW. In May, the Conservative Party formed a coalition
government with the Liberal-Democrats after failing to secure an overall
majority. The leader of the Lib-Dems, Nick Clegg, was reported giving advice to
Cameron over his choice of press secretary, Andy Coulson. When autumn fell,
an ex-NoW reporter revealed in an interview with The New York Times that
phone hacking was ‘encouraged’ at the Sunday tabloid. The interviewee, Sean
Hoare, also later said that Coulson helped spread the practice which had become
‘endemic’. This led to Coulson being interviewed by the police in November,
but only as a witness.

2011 – Inquiries begin and the spotlight turns on the Murdoch family.

Media Rolling Stone Gathering Moss and Other Disgusting Forms of Life

This is the year when the media rolling stone really began gathering moss,
stones, dirt and all other disgusting forms of life, as the Hackgate scandal simply
refused to go away. The year began with three high profile claims of hacking
which led to Operation Weeting being set up by the police: Ian Edmondson;
news editor the NoW, was suspended on 5 January over allegations of phone hacking in 2005-6. And Andy Coulson resigned from his position as Director of
Communications at No. 10 on 21 January, blaming the coverage of the hacking
scandal.
February saw Glenn Mulcaire being called to reveal the names of who
commissioned him to hack phones. From one rogue reporter to one rogue
newsroom. The News of the World had three journalists arrested in April: Ian
Edmondson, James Weatherup and Neville Thurlbeck. The paper then set up a
compensation scheme for those affected. The following month actor Sienna
Miller and sports commentator Andy Gray received damages after their voice
mails were intercepted.
July was the knockout month for the News of the World. On 4 July, Rebekah
Brooks said it was ‘inconceivable’ that she knew about the hacking of Milly
Dowler’s phone as she was on holiday when it was carried out. The following
day, evidence showed the victims of the London 7/7 bombings, the families of
the murdered Soham schoolgirls and the parents of Madeleine McCann
(snatched while on holiday in Portugal in May 2007) were all targeted over
phone hacking. The Guardian reported ‘messages were deleted by NoW
journalists in the first few days after Milly’s disappearance…As a result friends
and relatives concluded wrongly that she might be alive’. This quickly put
pressure on the Murdoch’s to make a bold decision about their newspaper. On 6
July, the Hacked Off campaign, calling for a full public inquiry into the hacking
scandal, was launched (headed by Professor Brian Cathcart, of Kingston
University) and finally James Murdoch announced the closure of the 168-yearold
News of the World on the following day.
On 10 July, the newspaper apologised in its final edition (with its front page
declaring: ‘Thank you & goodbye’). But the closure of the tabloid did not mean
the end of the problem at hand. Two days earlier, the Prime Minister announced
that a judge-led inquiry into press standards would take place. On 13 July,
Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation withdrew its bid to take over the rest of
BSkyB, just as MPs were to vote on a motion, with cross-party support, calling
on Murdoch to scrap the bid.
Then Rebekah Brooks resigned. Les Hinton resigned. And so the bricks of
Murdoch’s empire started toppling. Then Sir Paul Stephenson, the most senior
police officer in the country, resigned (after criticism of his links to former News
of the World Deputy Editor Neil Wallis). Even Met Police Assistant
Commissioner John Yates resigned.
Sean Hoare, the first NoW journalist to come forward bravely and speak on
the record about hacking, was found dead at his home (though the police
indicated there were no suspicious circumstances).

Gotcha! Rupert Murdoch eats ‘Humble Pie’

What happened on 19 July has gone down in the annals of history. How
Jonathan May-Bowles managed to walk into the select committee hearing with a
paper plate and shaving foam, completely unnoticed, is bizarre. How he managed to make the foam pie, walk out of the public seating area, in front of
the cameras and the desk where the Murdochs sat, and launch the pie at
Rupert’s face before being tackled, is totally baffling. During the ruckus, his
wife, Wendi Deng, managed to strike a blow to May-Bowles. But pictures of
Murdoch with ‘humble pie’ on his face and the caption ‘Gotcha!’ went
worldwide.
During this turbulent select committee hearing (watched live on television by
millions) both Murdochs claimed they knew nothing of phone hacking. Several
days later, NoW staff, including the senior legal adviser, Tom Crone, and the last
editor, Colin Myler, claimed they had told James about the hacking in an email
marked ‘For Neville’. On the 28th, the close friend of Rebekah Brooks, Sara
Payne, was told by investigators that a phone that Brooks had given to her had
been hacked into. This announcement came less than a month after Payne had
written a column in the final ever edition of News of the World thanking the
tabloid for its support through the traumatic time of the loss of her daughter.
The next day found Baroness Buscombe, chair of the PCC, resigning. The
PCC’s failures to investigate the phone hacking allegations adequately ultimately
made her position untenable. Glenn Mulcaire also defended himself by saying he
was merely working ‘on the instructions of others’.
From 2 August, arrests began taking place left, right and centre, each one
being NoW staff or former employee. Interestingly, a Guardian reporter, David
Leigh admitted to phone hacking on 5 August. But he claimed that when it took
place in 2006 he was investigating bribery and corruption, not ‘tittle tattle’.
On 17 August, the Guardian revealed an explosive letter written by Clive
Goodman to Les Hinton. Dating from March 2007, it stated Coulson knew of
the hacking and that the practice was ‘widely discussed’.
As the saga entered September, Tom Crone, the former NoW legal manager,
and the former editor, Colin Myler, were called to the select committee. They
stated that an email titled ‘for Neville‘ was seen by James Murdoch. The email
was meant for Neville Thurlbeck and should have led him to knowing about the
illegal practices.
On 17 September, it was reported that policeman John Yates secured a job at
Scotland Yard for the daughter of NoW executive Neil Wallis. He was later
cleared of improper behaviour on this action. On the same day, James Murdoch
finally admitted the £700k payout to Gordon Taylor of the PFA.
Two days later, Rupert Murdoch paid £2million to the Dowler family and a
personal donation of £1m to their chosen charity. Later, a Scotland Yard
detective was arrested for leaking phone hacking evidence to the Guardian. And
on the 26 September Glenn Mulcaire revealed the full list of people that paid
him for illegally sourced information.
Over the next month a number of further and re-arrests were made. Tom
Crone told the select committee that one of the reasons Murdoch had for
settling one case was because he knew of the ‘for Neville’ email. Operation Weeting also increased the amount of police officers assigned to 200 to assist
with the investigation.
On 25 October, a third of News Corporation’s investors voted against the
Murdoch sons being re-elected to the board. The following day the
Metropolitan Police find a phone that was used for more than 1,000 instances of
illegal hacking.

Rogue Newsroom becomes Rogue News Company

Entering November, one rogue newsroom became a rogue news company as
the Sun had its first journalist arrested for paying police officers. Jamie Pyatt was
released on bail until March 2012 – as have all the others arrested. The
Metropolitan Police calculated that 5,795 people had been victims of phone
hacking but this figure could actually increase. One of these cases is the father of
Josie Russell who survived an attack in which her mother and sister were killed.
Shaun Russell, the father, sued News International.
On 5 November, reports surfaced that a former police officer was hired to
spy on the lawyers representing phone hacking victims. Shortly after a second
private detective claimed that he had followed more than 90 people under
orders from NoW. Derek Webb continued to work for them right up until the
close of the newspaper.
The following morning, James Murdoch was questioned again by the select
committee since his previous appearance was considered misleading by some.
Tom Watson, a Labour MP, accused him of being ‘the worst Mafia boss in the
world’.
On 14 November, the Leveson Inquiry officially started. This inquiry over the
next few weeks would see celebrities, witnesses, victims and journalists all give
evidence. Some of the high profile cases involved Hugh Grant and Charlotte
Church, along with comedian Steve Coogan. It became clear that the scandal
was no longer just about phone hacking. Lord Justice Leveson is now looking at
the ethics of journalism as a whole. Certain newspapers, such as the Daily Mail,
are being asked to write apologies and are coming under severe pressure.
Whether or not any more newspapers will close, no one knows but one thing for
sure is that no newspaper is safe. The News of the World is shut, the Sun is trying
to distance itself from the scandal, the Mail and Daily Mirror are facing all sorts
of pressures –and the Guardian has also admitted being involved in hacking –
but ‘in the public interest’. The latter newspaper has been instrumental in the
revelations and is largely responsible for the campaign building up such
momentum.
On the 12 December, the Metropolitan police made a statement to the
Leveson Inquiry saying it was ‘unlikely’ Glenn Mulcaire, whilst working on
behalf of the News of the World, deleted any of Dowler’s voicemail messages. The
Guardian had reported this as fact, having been briefed to that effect by the
Surrey police. It apologised and amended the relevant reports online.

Leveson: Allowing the Public see the Damage after a Car Crash

Lord Leveson is effectively allowing the public see the damage caused after a car
crash. The victims can air their grievances. Not only has Leveson interviewed
celebrities, but also affected members of the public. ‘We’re just ordinary people,’
said Milly Dowler’s mother. The lack of journalism ethics isn’t just affecting the
rich and famous, it’s hurting the people who want no part of it.
The fishing for stories, rummaging of bins and the hacking of phones will
undoubtedly be very hard to do in the near future. Next year, Leveson will
recommend a path to take. One of many. Together they could bring about a
monumental change in how journalism is conducted and regulated in the UK.
As Jon Snow, the Channel 4 news presenter, said in a Coventry Conversation:
‘There are many people with great integrity in the media, there are also some
rotten apples.’ It’s time to throw the rotten apples out and focus on the fruit that
is still healthy and does some good for the public.

Extract taken from: THE PHONE HACKING SCANDAL; JOURNALISM ON TRIAL. Arima: Bury St Edmunds. Feb 7th 2012

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