Intercepting mobile messages and accessing phone records have been commonplace practice among tabloid journalist in recent years, according to a former red-top journalist.
In the wake of the jailing of News of the World Royal editor Clive Goodman, a journalist who worked on several national newspapers and left the industry last year, told Press Gazette, on the condition of anonymity, that national newspapers often pay for illegally obtained information.
The ex-reporter said: ‘Basically most of the tabloids are under pressure like never before to get big scoops which will sell. Because of this, they have for years been tapping people’s phones, listening in on private messages and ripping people’s phone numbers off (accessing someone’s private phone records and finding out who they have been ringing).’
He continued: ‘Sunday papers are generally at it more than most in the red-top market with the dailies taking away a lot of stories leaving the Sundays with just one day to come up with the big one.
‘When I was working on a Sunday tabloid, any big story anyone was involved with would nine times out of 10 involve paying people to find out mobile numbers and intercepting messages, at the very least finding out who the person involved in the story had been calling in recent months.’He cited one particular story of a high-profile romantic liaison which made front-page news and was discovered by journalists listening in on the pair’s mobile phone messages to each other.
Private detectives like Glenn Mulcaire, who was tried alongside Goodman and jailed for six months for intercepting hundreds of mobile phone messages, are widely used according to our whistleblower.
He said: ‘There is one man who makes a small fortune out of ringing up phone companies pretending to be the man responsible for the phone bill. He gets copies of the bills sent to him then is paid by tabloids to reveal that information.
‘Other companies are paid fortunes to trace information they are not supposed to. If you have a vague idea of where someone is from and when they are born, tabloids pay these people vast sums of money to track down lots more personal information about them, their families and other associates.
‘You saw the list of papers a few months ago who Scotland Yard discovered were paying third parties to obtain this sort of information and several highbrow papers made the list, too.
‘But the tabloids are the worst at it. If there is a juicy bit of information to uncover, they will pay large sums of money to get it – usually by all means necessary.”