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December 11, 2015

News Corp and Trinity Mirror need to address betrayal of sources if industry is to move on from hacking scandal

By Dominic Ponsford

Around five years after the Met Police first re-opened its investigation into historic allegations of phone-hacking at newspapers the Crown Prosecution Service has finally signaled that the case is closed.

By my reckoning at least 28 journalists were arrested and/or charged on suspicion of phone-hacking (see table below). Many more were questioned under caution.

Only one journalist was found guilty at trial, former News of the World editor Andy Coulson. Seven others pleaded guilty.

It is true that many journalists have needlessly had their lives turned upside down by what has been a heavy-handed and fantastically expensive investigation into what were essentially invasions of privacy.

But some Mirror journalists will today count themselves fortunate not to have gone the same way as their colleagues at the News of the World. The evidence in the civil damages trial suggested that phone-hacking was as widespread at the Mirror titles as it was at the News of the World.

Trinity Mirror (HQ and hacking victims pictured above) and News International/News UK can also count themselves lucky not to face corporate prosecutions. There was a clearly cavalier approach to ethics among some staff at certain red-top tabloids in the early years of this century and publishers were responsible for that.

It is now time to turn the page on a dark chapter in our industry’s history.

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Was their widespread wrongdoing at the Mirror national titles and News of the World? Yes.

Has it stopped? Yes.

Have many journalists paid an extremely heavy price? Yes.

Has the industry learned its lessons?

Up to a point.

I have only seen evidence that one individual hacked phones after the 2007 convictions of the News of the World’s Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire. That was Dan Evans of the Mirror and News of the World, who pleaded guilty and gave evidence against colleagues.

The illegal interception of voicemail messages as a way of finding stories has undoubtedly been eliminated from our industry.

But one big unresolved issue remains. In the wake of the closure of the News of the World, News Corporation shared confidential emails which resulted in dozens of journalists and their public sector sources being arrested over payments.

More than 30 public officials have been convicted, with many sent to jail. My understanding is that Trinity Mirror, to a lesser extent, has also shared this sort of information with police.

Both companies have so far been silent on this issue. If we are to move on as an industry they need to reassert the fact that sources are sacrosanct and reveal what measures have been taken to ensure that such a betrayal of the first principle of journalism can never happen again.

Journalists arrested and/or charged on suspicion of phone-hacking

Name Title First arrested (*or charged) Charged Result
Neville Thurlbeck NoW 05/04/2011 Yes Guilty plea
Ian Edmondson NoW 05/04/2011 Yes Guilty plea
James Weatherup NoW 14/04/2011 Yes Guilty plea
Tenia Taras Freelance 27/06/2011 No Cleared
Laura Elston PA 27/06/2011 No Cleared
Andy Coulson NoW 08/07/2011 Yes Guilty verdict 
Neil Wallis NoW 14/07/2011 Yes Not guilty
Rebekah Brooks NoW, Sun 17/07/2011 Yes Not guilty
Stuart Kuttner NoW 02/08/2011 Yes Not guilty
Greg Miskiw NoW 10/08/2011 Yes Guilty plea
James Desborough NoW 18/08/2011 No Cleared
Dan Evans NoW, Mirror 19/08/2011 Yes Guilty plea
Ross Hall NoW 02/09/2011 No Cleared
Raoul Simons NoW 07/09/2011 No Cleared
Bethany Usher NoW 30/11/2011 No Cleared
Douglas Wright NoW 17/08/2012 Yes Cleared
Matt Nixson NoW 13/02/2013 No Cleared
Rav Singh NoW 13/02/2013 No Cleared
Rachel Richardson NoW 13/02/2013 No Cleared
Jane Atkinson NoW 13/02/2013 No Cleared
Polly Graham NoW 13/02/2013 No Cleared
Jules Stenson NoW 13/02/2013 Yes Guilty plea
James Scott Sunday People 14/03/2013 No Cleared
Tina Weaver Sunday Mirror 14/03/2013 No Cleared
Mark Thomas Sunday People 14/03/2013 No Cleared
Nick Buckley Sunday People 14/03/2013 No Cleared
Graham Johnson* Daily Mirror 12/10/2013 Yes Guilty plea
Lee Harpin Daily Mirror 15/07/2015 No Cleared


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