Thank God for the non-Murdoch press because without them we would never have known about the ongoing scandal at the News of the World. Ethics at News Limited?
Somewhere in the offices of the Crown Prosecution Service, there is a file that will be of great interest to any independent inquiry that attempts to tell the truth about the behaviour of the Metropolitan police in the phone hacking scandal at the News of the World. The Guardian has read it.
The police were dragged into the centre of the scandal last week when the New York Times quoted unnamed detectives claiming that Scotland Yard’s “close relationship” with the News of the World had hampered the inquiry. Essentially, the Met is charged on two counts: first, that it cut short its investigation; second, that it then failed to tell the truth to the press, public and parliament. The police insist that they are innocent on both counts.
The unpublished CPS file shows the inquiry started well. In December 2005, Buckingham Palace complained that someone seemed to be listening to royal household voicemails. Five months later, detectives had tracked the activity to the News of the World’s royal reporter, Clive Goodman, and, beyond, to the paper’s contracted private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire. The detectives had analysed a mass of telephone data and, in a briefing paper dated 30 May 2006, they presented the results to prosecutors.
They wrote: “A vast number of unique voicemail numbers belonging to high-profile individuals (politicians, celebrities) have been identified as being accessed without authority. These may be the subject of a wider investigation in due course. A number of the targets of this unauthorised access have been informed.”
That day, there was a case conference between prosecutors and police, and a file note records an interesting suggestion: “The appropriate strategy is to ringfence the case to minimise the risk of extraneous matters being included.” The file makes it clear that this was a reference to suppressing the names of particularly “sensitive” hacking victims, and that it was the police who were suggesting this unusual tactic.
We still do not know which victims were to be concealed. We do now know that Prince William and Prince Harry had their voicemail intercepted, and that this was never mentioned when the case came to court. We now know that members of the military, the government and the police also were victims.
None of those was mentioned in court. Scotland Yard has refused to name them, or even to say how many there were in each category.
UPDATE: Charlie Brooker wonders in the Guardian why most of the British press have ignored this scandal.