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Who Would Have Thought It?


Snookie
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I particularly like the photo that accompanies the story in the Irish Times.

 

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Murdoch papers paid over £1m to silence phone-tap victims

Rupert Murdoch: cases involve News of the World and the S*n

 

 

 

RUPERT MURDOCH’S News Group newspapers in Britain have paid out more than £1 million (€1.16 million) to settle legal cases that threatened to reveal evidence of his journalists’ repeated involvement in the use of criminal methods to get stories.

 

The payments secured secrecy over out-of-court settlements in three cases that threatened to expose evidence of Murdoch journalists using private investigators who illegally hacked into the mobile phone messages of public figures and to gain unlawful access to confidential personal data including tax records, social security files, bank statements and itemised phone bills.

 

Cabinet ministers, members of parliament, actors and sports stars were all targets of the private investigators.

 

The suppressed evidence may open the door to hundreds more legal actions by victims of News Group, the Murdoch company that publishes the News of the World and the Sun , as well as provoking police inquiries into reporters who were involved and the senior executives responsible for them. The evidence also poses difficult questions for:

 

- opposition Conservative party leader David Cameron’s director of communications, Andy Coulson, who was deputy editor and then editor of the News of the World when journalists for whom he was responsible were engaging in apparently illegal acts;

 

- Murdoch executives who, albeit in good faith, misled a parliamentary select committee, the UK Press Complaints Commission and the public;

 

- the London Metropolitan police, who did not alert all those whose phones were targeted, and the crown prosecution service, which did not pursue all possible charges against News Group personnel; and

 

- the Press Complaints Commission, which claimed to have conducted an investigation but failed to uncover any evidence of illegal activity.

 

The suppressed legal cases are linked to the jailing in January 2007 of News of the World reporter Clive Goodman for hacking into the mobile phones of three royal staff, an offence under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. At the time, News International said it knew of no other journalist who was involved in hacking phones and that Goodman had been acting without their knowledge.

 

However, one senior source at the Met said that during the Goodman inquiry, officers had found evidence of News Group staff using private investigators who hacked into “thousands” of mobile phones.

 

Another source with direct knowledge of the police findings put the figure at “two or three thousand” mobiles.

 

They suggest that MPs from all three UK parties and cabinet ministers, including former deputy prime minister John Prescott and former culture secretary Tessa Jowell, were among the targets.

 

News International has always maintained that it has no knowledge of phone hacking by anybody acting on its behalf.

 

A private investigator who had been working for News Group, Glenn Mulcaire, was also jailed in January 2007.

 

He admitted hacking into the phones of five other targets, including Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association. Among the phones he hacked into were those of the Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes, celebrity PR Max Clifford, model Elle MacPherson and football agent Sky Andrew.

 

News Group denied all knowledge of the hacking, but Mr Taylor last year sued on the basis that it must have known about it.

 

In documents initially submitted to the UK high court, News Group executives said the company had not been involved in any way in Mulcaire’s hacking of Mr Taylor’s phone. They specifically denied keeping any recording or notes of intercepted messages and claimed they had not even been aware of the hacking.

 

But at the request of Mr Taylor’s lawyers, the court ordered the production of evidence from Scotland Yard’s inquiry in the Goodman case and from a separate inquiry by the UK Information Commissioner into journalists who dishonestly obtain confidential personal records.

 

The Scotland Yard files included paperwork which revealed that, contrary to News Group’s initial denial, Mulcaire had provided a recording of the messages on Mr Taylor’s phone to a News of the World journalist who had transcribed and e-mailed them to a senior reporter; and a News of the World executive had offered Mulcaire a substantial bonus for a story related to the intercepted messages.

 

Several famous figures in football are among those whose messages were intercepted. Coulson was editing the paper at this time. He said this week he knew nothing about Mr Taylor’s action, which began after he left the paper.

 

The paperwork from the UK Information Commission revealed the names of 31 journalists working for the News of the World and the Sun , together with the details of government agencies, banks, phone companies and others who were conned into handing over confidential information on politicians, actors, sportsmen and women, musicians and television presenters, all of whom are named.

 

This is an offence under the UK Data Protection Act unless it is justified by public interest.

 

Senior editors are among those implicated. This activity occurred before the mobile phone hacking, when Coulson was deputy and the editor was Rebekah Wade, now due to become chief executive of News International. The extent of their personal knowledge, if any, is not clear.

 

Faced with this evidence, News International changed its position, started offering cash payments to settle the case out of court, and paid out £700,000 in legal costs and damages on the condition Mr Taylor signed a gagging clause.

 

News Group then persuaded the court to seal the file on Mr Taylor’s case, even though it contained prima facie evidence of criminal activity.

 

At least two other football figures filed complaints, which were settled earlier this year when News International paid more than £300,000 in damages and costs on condition they signed gagging clauses. – (Guardian service)

 

 

Sources: here and here

Edited by Snookie
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