Hames suggests News of the World attempted to derail murder investigation

Former police officer and TV presenter Jacqui Hames, who was put under surveillance in 2002 by the News of the World, gave an emotional account to the Leveson Inquiry today, describing the “great anxiety” caused by the intrusion.

The former police officer, who joined Crimewatch in 1990, explained she could not think of any reason why the News of the World would put her and her then husband under investigation, but suspected that real reason for the surveillance was her police officer husband’s involvement in the investigation of the murder of private investigator Daniel Morgan. Hames suggested that the News of the World wanted to derail the case.

Hames tearfully explained how information obtained by Glenn Mulcaire could only have been gathered from her personnel file, suggesting she had been “sold down the line” by someone in the police force.  Upon seeing the information in Mulcaire’s notebooks including her payroll and warrant numbers, along with previous police accommodation, Hames recalled being “shocked” and “angry”.

She began saying: “As a police officer you learn to compartmentalise, you put your private and public life into two different places.” Lord Justice Leveson encouraged her to stop as she became visibly upset, commenting “the cause of this inquiry is not to aggravate the distress caused.”

She added: “I think sometimes it’s easier to dismiss certain people because they should be able to put up with it, but I don’t believe anyone should have to put up with it and that’s why I came here today and stuck my head above the parapet.”

As a former police officer and with her presenting role on BBC TV programme Crimewatch, Hames felt she had been able to “see the media from the inside”, allowing her to undertake her current role as a media trainer for detectives. In her statement to the inquiry, she suggested enhanced media training for police officers at all levels of the force.

Hames advised the court that it was possible for police officers to have a relationship with journalists, while retaining professional integrity. She added “there’s no reason not to if you are open and honest.”

Liberal Democrat MP and phone-hacking victim Simon Hughes described an “unforgivable” failure by police to investigate the extent of phone hacking during his evidence.

Appearing before the hearing, Hughes told the court it was clear from 2006 that staff at the highest level knew the full extent of News of the World payments to Glennn Mulcaire, and described the lack of investigation from police regarding this as a “completely unacceptable failure”.

Hughes described being “frustrated even now” that action wasn’t taken in 2006. He said: “If there had been robust action in 2006 a lot of the illegal action might have been shut down and a lot of the people who are now known to be victims might not be victims or might not have suffered as much.”

During the prosecution of Glenn Mulcaire, Hughes was not told by the police the private investigator had obtained his phone number and secret office “hotline”, information the MP had tried to keep under wraps, following his involvement as a witness in a murder case.

In 2011, during a meeting with officers from Operation Weeting, Hughes said he was shown pages from Glenn Mulcaire’s notebooks, along with other evidence, including transcripts of telephone calls, his home address and phone numbers. In the notebooks, there were three names of News of the World employees.

“The police showed me the pages [from Mulcaire’s notebooks], they asked me to identify what I could. They indicated there may be in this book some names of other people with whom Mr Mulcaire was working … They opened the issue without leading me to the answer.”

Hughes also explained that during the 2006 Liberal Democrat leadership campaign, his office was contacted by a journalist from The Sun regarding a “private matter”. In a meeting with the journalist, Hughes was advised that the newspaper had acquired records of telephone calls made by the MP, relating to his sexuality. Following an interview with the tabloid, The Sun ran the article “outing” Hughes.

Previous to the media speculation around his sexuality, Hughes described being “odds on favourite” to win the leadership vote, and described a “direct impact between that revelation, press coverage and my political reputation.”

Hughes described complaining to his mobile phone provider of “a systemic failure” with regards to his voicemail, after messages he knew had been left were unavailable, and after occasions when his voicemails were completely inaccessible.

The MP also discussed the “unhealthy relationship” between the press and politicians: “I understood how influential tabloids became, saw the desperate effort of party leaders to gain favour with media. I regarded it increasingly unhealthy.”

Hughes added that he believed scrutiny of politicians in the media is important: “Of course we have to engage with the media, and we should be subject to their scrutiny. I’m not asking for a less robust press and less active engagement, but there shouldn’t be people going in through the back door of Downing Street. We need to have a system which is transparent, and open and we know the score.”

Guardian journalist Nick Davies returned to the hearing to give a lively testimony for the second module of the inquiry.

Davies explained that often official police sources prefer quotes to remain unattributed, his definition of “off the record”. He said: “90 per cent of the work I do is off the record. Certainly that includes officially authorised interviews with police officers. It really isn’t sinister. I think the immediate fear that a police officer has when they sit down with a journalist is that they will be misquoted. Off the record eliminates that.”

The journalist described the risks of closing down all communication between journalists and police, comparing it to saying “I got food poisoning last night, I am never going to eat again,” but stressed the importance of “getting to the bottom of  what went wrong with official flow of information” relating to phone hacking, describing it as “catastrophic.”

He added: “it isn’t that official sources are inherently good or that unofficial sources are inherently bad. Don’t identify unidentified sources as the cause of the problem. It would be a mistake to say off the record is the source of the problem, it’s not sinister, it helps people to tell the truth.”

Branding the self regulation and media law in this country as “useless”, Davies suggested taking the Freedom of Information act as a theoretical model: “all info should be disclosed unless it is covered by the following exemptions. I’d like to see the same model for the police. Why not be open? It helps avoid abuse.”

Davies added that it was not an ethical worry for a police commissioner to meet with newspaper editors to talk about policy, or specific cases, but that it became an issue if “we now discover it was an active ingredient in the subsequent failure to investigate News of the World.”

Chris Jefferies also appeared before the hearing for a second time. Jefferies, who was wrongly arrested on suspicion of murdering his tenant Joanna Yeates in 2010, described a pique in media interest following his second statement to the police in December  of that year.

He said: “until then I had not been the subject of any particular media attention but that suddenly changed. A Sky news team were extremely anxious to talk to me, a large number of reporters and photographer’s appeared at the address where I lived. They had somehow got to hear about that second statement, and they were extremely anxious to hear if I believed I had seen Jo Yeates leaving the property on the 17th December with one or other people.”

He added: “There was feverish interest in talking to me and fact it happened day before arrest was remarkable to me.”

In a very measured response, Jefferies added that reports that police had said he was “their man”, was “not be beyond the bounds of possibility that the police might want to give the impression of considerable confidence, that a considerable step forward had been taken in the investigation.”

Jefferies suggested that it should be a “far more serious offence” for police who disclose inappropriate information to the press.

In his witness statement, Jefferies said: “It is my very firm view that it must be considered a far more serious offence than it currently is for police to disclose inappropriate information to members of the press and that to do so should be an imprisonable offence, subject to a public interest defence.”

Brooks and Coulson "scum of journalism", Leveson Inquiry told

The former deputy features editor of the News of the World told the Leveson Inquiry today the paper’s editors knew that phone hacking was taking place.

In his explosive testimony, Paul McMullan accused former News of the World editor Andy Coulson of having “brought the practice wholesale” to the paper. He added that ex-News International CEO Rebekah Brooks was well aware of hacking, saying “we did all these things [hacking phones] for our editors.”

He went on to call the pair “scum” for denying any knowledge of the practice and “trying to drop me and my colleagues in it”.

In his two-hour account, McMullan said phone hacking was a “perfectly acceptable tool…if all we’re trying to do is get to the truth.” He went on to say the hacking of abducted schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s phone was “not a bad thing for a well-meaning journalist to do”, adding that the reporters involved were “doing their best” to find her.

McMullan admitted he had attempted to hack the phone of footballer David Beckham, but failed once Beckham answered the call. He also said he had swapped Sylvester Stallone’s mother’s number for Beckham’s with a fellow reporter.

McMullan painted a vivid picture of life at the now-defunct News of the World. He described giving chase to celebrities as “such good fun”, adding that he would be told by the features desk to “take a fast car and see what you can get.” He recalled one of Princess Diana’s security guards offering to tell the paper when she was landing at Helsinki airport in exchange for £30,000. In another instance he recounted, former editor Piers Morgan congratulated him for stealing photos of a former lover of John Major. He earlier quoted Morgan as saying, “I don’t care what it costs, I just want to get the defining stories of the week”.

McMullan repeatedly defended his trade, saying he “used any means necessary” to “catch people who rule over us.” He recounted pretending to be “Brad the rent boy” to get a photo of a priest spanking a young man. “I was either a drug user, a drug dealer or a millionaire from Cambridge,” he added.

When asked about his views on privacy, McMullan was blunt: “Privacy is evil…[it] is the space bad people need to do bad things in.” He added, “Privacy is for paedos” and claimed that “in 21 years of invading people’s privacy, I’ve never actually come across anyone who’s been doing any good.”

He added that public interest was defined by circulation. “I don’t see it’s our job to force the public to choose, ‘you must read this and you can’t read that’,” he said.

Also speaking today was The Guardian’s Nick Davies, who uncovered the phone hacking scandal that led to the closure of the News of the World this year.

He told the Inquiry that Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator hired by the paper, had only “facilitated” the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone in 2002, and that it was reporters at the paper who listened to and deleted her voicemails.

Davies said Mulcaire was “a brilliant blagger, so he could gather information [and] data from the mobile phone company.”

Earlier this month Mulcaire denied deleting Dowler’s messages.

Davies also said the journalism industry was not “interested in or capable of” self-regulation, citing the Press Complaints Commission’s failure to properly investigate the extent of phone hacking in 2009. He said that the PCC did not take into account getting remedy for victims of the press, adding that apologies should be published as prominently as the stories that had contained incorrect or damaging information.

He cited libel as the “worst burden” facing journalism, advocating a system of arbitration so libel cases could be dealt with outside the courts.

He spoke in favour of an advisory body to guide reporters on whether they were operating in the public interest, noting how it was often difficult to know what the public interest boundaries were.

Former Daily Star reporter Richard Peppiatt was also in the witness box, describing the atmosphere of the tabloid press as one of “you toe the line or you get punished.” He added that the paper was ideologically driven, and that a reporter’s job was “simply to write the story how they [the paper] want it written”.

When asking editors if he should meet an anonymous caller who phoned the paper and made sensational claims about the death of actor Matt Lucas’ husband, Peppiatt said he was told to “just write it up.”  He added that he invented a story about model and actress Kelly Brook seeing a hypnotist. He said the news editor had offered £150 to the first person to come up with a page 3 story at 6pm on a Sunday.

Reading out a stream of fabricated headlines and recounting a trip to Scotland to stage a mock proposal to Britain’s Got Talent star Susan Boyle, Peppiatt said at the forefront of tabloids’ minds was questioning how far to push boundaries. He added that much of the Star’s content was based on stories taken from the Daily Mail, and that if a reporter found a Mail story was based on poor evidence, “you would be kicked back to your seat fairly robustly”.

Peppiatt labelled the redtops’ practice as “free speech Darwinism…[they] will shut up voices contrary to theirs.” He noted how one freelance reporter at the Star expressed unhappiness over the tone of the paper’s coverage, and was then given “every anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant” story for the next fortnight.

He added that he was “sick” of editors “stepping forward saying ‘moral considerations are at the forefront of our minds’,” saying it was “certainly not true.”

However, he highlighted the economic pressures facing newspapers, citing financial reasons behind why he stayed at the Star. “There are so few jobs for journalists in current climate,” he said, “I couldn’t afford not to be working.”

Peppiatt, who resigned from the tabloid in March 2011 after two years at the paper, also said he had received threats after his departure, including a message that said “you’re a marked man until you die”. He said he was the victim of a “campaign of harassment”, and told the Inquiry he was taking legal action against an unnamed person in the tabloid world who he says threatened him for speaking out.

The Inquiry continues tomorrow, with evidence from former Number 10 director of communications Alastair Campbell, and Alec Owens, an ex-policeman who worked on the Information Commissioner’s Operation Motorman inquiry.

Follow Index on Censorship’s coverage of the Leveson Inquiry on Twitter – @IndexLeveson.

Phone hacking: Coulson meets the committee

This is a guest post by Lily Ash Sakula

News of the World editors past and present were called before the parliamentary Culture Media and Sport Committee to defend themselves against allegations of widespread illegal practices today [Tuesday 21 July].

Current NotW editor Colin Myler and former editor Andy Coulson insisted jailed reporter Clive Goodman was a rogue operator and had acted alone in hacking the phones of celebrities and royals. Myler also insisted that senior NotW reporter Neville Thurlbeck had “no recollection” of receiving an email of the a transcript of Professional Footballer’s Association chief Gordon Taylor’s voicemail messages (revealed to the committee by Guardian journalist Nick Davies last week) despite the fact the email stated that it was “for Neville”.

Pressed on whether he had ever thought stories at News of the World had been obtained illegally, Myler answered “not really”.

Adam Price MP highlighted the fact that in a story from News of the World “Chelsy tears strip off Harry” a voicemail message between the Princes William and Harry had been quoted verbatim, and asked how the editors could not have been aware of phone hacking when reviewing it. Coulson said he had ‘no recollection’ of this particular story.

Andy Coulson made a short opening statement to the effect that he had “no recollection” of phone tapping occurring while he was editor, that the PCC code was rigorously upheld during his time, and that “he made no apology” for the fact that the News of the World sometimes did pay out large sums of money to get a story. He said he took responsibility for what had gone on under his leadership “without my knowledge” and this had caused his resignation. He also admitted that “mistakes were made” and that “the system could have been better”. At the end of the session Coulson revealed that he had recently been approached by Scotland Yard because there was evidence his own phone was being tapped.