The Trial Ahead: plus Industrial Espionage and Personal Violation

IMG_1099The first week back at the Hacking Trial in 2014 has been focused on allegations of cover-up, and specifically focused on Count 6 of the charges – that Rebekah Brooks and her PA Cheryl Carter conspired to pervert the course of justice by removing seven boxes of Brooks’ notebooks from archives on the day that Andy Coulson was arrested and the closure of the News of the World was announced.

Carter’s defence in a police interview was that she removed her own notebooks during an planned boot camp holiday for Brooks. We have heard evidence from the head of News International archives, Nick Mays, and Carter’s fellow PA Deborah Reagan.

All the defendants deny all the charges.

Anthony Edis QC, counsel for the prosecution, has explained to the jury how his case is likely to last a few more weeks, as he moves onto count 7, and then back to some more witnesses and evidence from the other counts. At this rate it is anticipated the defence won’t start their cases until early February. From existing testimony we know that several of the defendants intend to testify, and the likelihood is all of them will.

So the trial might well last at this rate until June. 

My previous round of fundraising for independent live tweeting was to cover me till Christmas, though people’s generosity meant I overshot the target. But I will have to launch a new appeal in the next week or so.

On Journalist Phone Hacking Victims

I inadvertently set off a bit of a twitter fire storm by commenting in a debate between the director of Hacked Off, Evan Harris, and Dennis Rice, a former Mail on Sunday journalist who – as previous evidence has shown – was hacked multiple times by Mulcaire and the NI landline  when he was covering John Prescott‘s affair with his secretary. Rice and his colleague Sebastian Hamilton were pursuing a perfectly legitimate public interest story by legitimate means.

Twitter is not the ideal place to have a nuanced argument, and Rice has since revealed his family was targeted. This is a privacy violation of the first order. He has, apparently, decided not to make any civil claim against NI. (CORRECTION: he settled with NGN) [SECOND CORRECTION: now he says he hasn’t – I’m confused. Have to go to court now but will correct definitively later today]*

So far new evidence in court has shown that, in addition to Rebekah Brooks being hacked twice, former NOTW editor Andy Coulson was a victim of phone hacking, as was his deputy Neil Wallis  (in Wallis’ case from inside the NI offices). Without minimising this intrusion,  I still think it is worth making a distinction between two types of phone hacking victim.

The essence of phone hacking is that you hack ‘around’ your victim. People rarely leave messages on their own phones, and so its their associates who get targeted. The hundreds of civil claims launched against News International for phone hacking, many of them now settled, do weight damages according to the privacy intrusion.

In this light I think it’s worth making a distinction between the many Mirror, Mail, Sun and NOTW editors and journalists who were targeted for industrial espionage (usually over other people) and members of the public, either celebrities like Charlotte Church and her mother, or people caught up in crime and terrorism stories, whose private lives became the basis of a newspaper story.

There shouldn’t be a ‘victim Olympics’ over this – and to have your phone hacked is bad all round – regardless of the motive. But the civil courts (and indeed the NI/NGN compensation scheme) do recognise different levels of privacy damages according to what was exposed through phone hacking, the impact on private lives and the degree of public exposure and harm.

Since I’m discussing personal connections to phone hacking I ought to be fully transparent.

In the summer of 2012, while I was well into my book (The Fall of the House of Murdoch) and already writing regularly on the phone hacking scandal for Newsweek and the Daily Beast, a very close relative was contacted by Operation Weeting, and told their numbers appeared in Mulcaire’s notebooks.

I can’t say more for legal reasons, and I have made sure it has not affected my coverage in any way. I have no idea of the progress of the claim, whether its been dropped or settled, and have no financial interest in it nor have sought any further information whether I was a target or not – though I think it’s unlikely.

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3 thoughts on “The Trial Ahead: plus Industrial Espionage and Personal Violation

  1. Pingback: UNCENSORED: Beyond Contempt: How Peter Jukes invented a new way of funding court reporting and found himself investigatedss | Live Tweeting the hacking trial

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  3. Pingback: Beneath the Molehill: Dennis Rice, Guido Fawkes, the new Press Regulator IPSO | Live Tweeting the hacking trial

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