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Author Topic: Murdoch papers paid over £1m to silence phone-tap victims  (Read 3696 times)

Offline the dude abides

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Murdoch papers paid over £1m to silence phone-tap victims
« on: July 09, 2009, 03:07:46 PM »
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)
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Offline the dude abides

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Re: Murdoch papers paid over £1m to silence phone-tap victims
« Reply #1 on: July 09, 2009, 03:13:16 PM »
One of Rupert Murdoch's former leading editors said last night the Guardian's revelations of the News of the World's phone hacking represented one of the "most significant media stories of modern times".

Andrew Neil, who edited the Sunday Times, said the News of the World did not have a public interest defence for its practices, exposed by the Guardian.

Neil said: "I think it is one of the most significant media stories of modern times. It suggests that rather than being a one off journalist or rogue private investigator, it was systemic throughout the News of the World, and to a lesser extent the Sun.

"Particularly in the News of the World, this was a newsroom out of control … Everyone who knows the News of the World, everybody knows this was going on. But it did no good to talk about it. One News of the World journalist said to me … it was dangerous to talk about it."

Neil was one of Murdoch's closest aides for over a decade. He edited the Sunday Times from 1983-94, then became chairman of Sky Television from 1988-90, and was entrusted by the media tycoon to be the executive editor of Fox Television News in 1994.

Neil said he saw no public interest in the methods used against any of the politicians or celebrities targeted by the Murdoch owned newspapers: "It is illegal. That doesn't mean it should never be done, you may have a public interest defence. But that's not the case in any of this, it was a fishing expedition; let's listen to who we can. It was corrupt."

"If you imagine there was something of real major importance, you could have a public interest defence. But breaking into Gwyneth Paltrow's voicemail after she's just had a baby is not in the public interest. I'm at a loss to know what the public interest might be."

He also said the police had to explain why they failed to tell top politicians that their phones had been hacked into.

Neil said the story raised serious questions for Scotland Yard, top prosecutors and for judges: "It's not just a media story, it raises serious questions about the police.

"The police learn that the deputy prime minister has had his mobile phone compromised and they don't tell him. I just don't understand that.

"The police investigation unearthed evidence of clear wrongdoing and the Crown Prosecution Service does nothing."

He added: "The court is faced with evidence of conspiracy and systemic illegal actions and agrees to seal the evidence. All that is completely wrong, I just don't understand it."

Speaking earlier, on the BBC's Newsnight programme: "This is our criminal justice system in the dock."

Neil also said News International may face legal action from those who were victims of the phone hacking, a so called class action: "News International could face a class action by people who want to mount a class action to unseal those documents. There could be the most almighty class action, you're talking about multimillion pound losses. That gets scary.

"If this was in the US, shares in News International would collapse tonight."
Neil said that former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, now director of communcations at the Conservative party, had questions to answer: "If a journalist comes to you with a great story, one of the first questions you ask is how did you get it. How you got it is relevant to judging its accuracy and preparing yourself for any legal challenge.

"If this behaviour was systemic in the newsroom, why would you not know about it, why would you of all people, not know about it? Either you're incompetent or complicit."

Asked if Murdoch himself knew of the practice, Neil, formerly one of his closest lieutenants, said: "That we will never know."
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Offline the dude abides

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Re: Murdoch papers paid over £1m to silence phone-tap victims
« Reply #2 on: July 09, 2009, 03:21:34 PM »
We, i.e. those with brains, have long since known that The Shun and News of the World were evil entities. 

NOW, for the first time ever, we are seeing how the cxnts operated.

As Andrew Neil suggests, a class action suit by a of Murdoch's many thousands of victims in Britain is very possible.

Such an action would be a first (to my knowledge) and would financially cripple both newspapers.   

It's delicious though to hear the bleating today of people like John Prescott.  His evil regime, new labour, were happy to side with Murdoch's evil empire......and were happy to take away all our freedoms and rights to privacy.  But now the shoe is on the other foot, and our leaders are crying about breaches of their own privacy.  The delicious irony. 

But the story also raises another issue.  It seems our judicial system (both the courts and the police) took no action, despite knowing of this abuse of privacy. 

Basically, from what I have seen over recent years, our politicians, our police, our media, are crooks.

In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was, in me, an invincible summer.

There’s no next time. It’s now or never.