February 1

Crime and the media

We thought it was over when the  journalists who hacked into the message banks of members of the Royal Family and other prominent people were tried and found guilty. (“Crime and punishment,” 27 January 2007).

Until then, there was an attitude among some journalists that in the Royal Family codes of ethics and even the law did not apply.   


The trial ended with the gaoling of a journalist and an investigator engaged by the Sunday newspaper, the News of The World.  This is a Sunday tabloid which has become the UK’s biggest-selling newspaper with a circulation of around 3.3 million copies. 

According to The Guardian of 26 January, 2007, the News of the World “royal editor” Clive Goodman was sentenced to four months in gaol after pleading guilty to intercepting phone messages. His co-accused, private investigator Glenn Mulcaire was sentenced to six months.

…not about press freedom…




The judge, Mr Justice Gross, described their behaviour as "low conduct, reprehensible in the extreme.  Neither journalist nor private security consultants are above the law. 

This case was not about press freedom; it was about a grave, inexcusable and illegal invasion of privacy.  It was not pushing at the limits, or at the cusp: it was plainly on the wrong side of the line.

It is essential for the decency of our public life that conduct of this kind is clearly marked as unacceptable. 

This was serious criminal conduct to which we must not become numbed.  It is to my mind [of] the very first importance to the fabric of our public life that such intrusive, sustained criminal conduct should be marked by immediate loss of liberty."


The exposure of this criminal activity was followed by what seems to have been an enhanced media campaign against the Royal Family ("News of the World revenge on the Royal Family").  

In 2006 another Murdoch newspaper, The Sun, published three year old photographs of Prince Harry in an obvious, underhand and vicious attempt to create problems for him with his current lady friend.

That fabrication went around the world, but when the true story emerged – that these were old photographs – The Sun refused to apologise for its appalling conduct.

Then in 2009 the News of the World  found – we suspect bought – a video which showed Prince Harry engaging in the sort of banter young men in the army typically engage in. It was three years old.

Some people who have obviously had no military experience complained.

….from News of the World to 10 Downing Street…


[Continued below]

Immediately afterwards the editor, Andy Coulson, announced his resignation. He denied any knowledge of the crimes.

Controversially the then Leader of the Oppositionand and now Prime Minister, David Cameron, then appointed Mr. Coulson as his communication chief.

Mr. Coulson has recently resigned because of stories associated with his time as editor of the News of the World. He continues to assert his innocence.  There have been calls for further investigations of the breaches.


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