Colin Myler admits 'discomfort' over extent of NOTW hacking


A former News of the World editor said today that he feared there were "bombs under the newsroom floor" in the form of a history of illegal practices at the paper.

Colin Myler told the Leveson Inquiry into press standards he felt "discomfort" over the extent of phone hacking among the now-defunct Sunday tabloid's journalists.

He became News of the World editor in January 2007 after Andy Coulson resigned following the jailing of the paper's royal editor Clive Goodman and private detective Glenn Mulcaire.

Mr Myler told the inquiry: "It's fair to say that I always had some discomfort and at the time I phrased it as that I felt that there could have been bombs under the newsroom floor.

"And I didn't know where they were and I didn't know when they were going to go off.

"That was my own view. But trying to get the evidence or establishing the evidence that sadly the police already had was another matter."

Mr Myler stressed that he did not believe phone hacking went on at the News of the World while he was editor.

He said he assumed that the police inquiry into the illegal interception of voicemail messages by the paper, which resulted in the convictions of Goodman and Mulcaire, had not uncovered evidence against other journalists.

Noting that detectives took away three black bin liners of material when they raided Mulcaire's home in August 2006, he said he initially accepted the line that hacking was restricted to one "rogue reporter".

The former editor said: "Given what I believed to be a thorough police investigation throughout that period, and the fact that the police had not interviewed any other member of staff from the News of the World other than Mr Goodman, I think that weighed heavily on my mind.

"I assumed that they would have done so if they had any kind of evidence or reason to speak to somebody else."

But Mr Myler said he changed his view after seeing the "For Neville" email, which contained transcripts of illegally intercepted voicemail messages and was apparently destined for the News of the World's chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck.

He told the inquiry: "It (the rogue reporter defence) couldn't be correct in as much as the 'For Neville' email indicated that at least another reporter had transcribed it and it named another reporter."

Mr Myler denied that the News of the World carried out a "cover-up" by paying Professional Footballers' Association chief executive Gordon Taylor £425,000 plus costs to settle his claim over the hacking of his phone by the paper.

But he accepted that the company wanted to avoid the embarrassing publicity that could have resulted if the case had gone to trial.

Robert Jay QC, counsel to the inquiry, suggested: "You mentioned the bombs under the newsroom floor, but this was creating a tendency for one or more of those bombs to explode if there were a trial."

Mr Myler replied: "Possibly that would have been the case... The company, not unreasonably or unsurprisingly, wanted to try to get things back on track after Mr Mulcaire and Mr Goodman went to jail.

"And it was a significant process to do that. So there was no appetite to go back to that place."

He said he did not subscribe to the stance taken on fact-checking stories by former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie, who told a Leveson Inquiry seminar in October: "My view was that if it sounded right it was probably right and therefore we should lob it in."

Mr Myler told the inquiry: "I have never been of the 'lob it in' school of journalism.

"I may have been accused of being negligent, but I haven't gone into a situation intending to be negligent."

He added: "Most journalists that I know today, and certainly editors that I know, have incredibly high standards of ethics, of professional ability and total understanding and respect for the law and certainly the PCC (Press Complaints Commission)...

"The manner in which we are perhaps all being tainted as being reckless and negligent, 'it's a Wild West out there' and 'if it sounds right, lo' it i" - it's just not there, in my experience."

Mr Myler was critical of harassment by paparazzi and called for the industry to "reflect on certain matters of decency".

He said: "The saddest thing is that the collective brain power amongst those who produce newspapers, it's pretty magnificent, and if only they could drop some of that commercial rivalry, understand and face the problems and issues that affect all of them.

"This is not about broadsheet, broadcast media against the red tops...

"Unless the industry really does come together and unite and engage with courts, with the judiciary, with politicians and agree that things do have to change from both sides and all sides, not just on ours, I think it's a pretty gloomy and grim future.

"But I hope that doesn't happen and I hope that through this inquiry they will be able to unite and come together on common ground."

Meanwhile, former News of the World reporter Daniel Sanderson said he understood the paper would not publish the personal diary of missing Madeleine McCann's mother without her express permission.

Kate McCann told the inquiry last month that she felt "violated" when the intensely private journal appeared in print in September 2008.

Mr Sanderson arranged to buy a Portuguese translation of the diary from a journalist in Portugal, had it translated back into English, and wrote up a story about it, the inquiry heard.

But he said it was left to Ian Edmondson, the News of the World's head of news, to clear its publication with Mrs McCann.

"I was told at the time that we would not be publishing the diary unless we had specific, express permission from the McCanns," he said.

Mr Sanderson said he would apologise to Mrs McCann after giving evidence to the inquiry, adding: "I did feel very bad that my involvement in the story had made Mrs McCann feel the way that it had."

Private investigator Derek Webb told the inquiry that he placed about 150 people under surveillance while working for the News of the World between 2003 and July this year, when the paper closed.

Mr Webb, a former Hertfordshire Police detective, said 85% of them were celebrities or MPs and the remaining 15% were lawyers or people connected to crime or drug-taking.

He said the targets he was commissioned to follow included Labour MP Tom Watson and former celebrity couple Sienna Miller and Jude Law.

The investigator told the hearing he was also tasked with carrying out surveillance on two lawyers - Charlotte Harris and an unnamed man - to see if they were having an affair.

He said he followed and filmed a woman during this assignment, but was told by the News of the World that it was the wrong person.

Mr Webb said the paper's chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck, contacted him in early 2009 and told him to join the National Union of Journalists, terminate his private investigator's licence and change his firm's name from Shadow Watch to Derek Webb Media.

"He told me it's in relation to the Clive Goodman affair, that because of the use of previous investigators - ie Glenn Mulcaire - that they didn't want to be tied up with private investigators," he said.

Prime Minister David Cameron set up the Leveson Inquiry in July in response to allegations that the News of the World commissioned Mulcaire to hack murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's phone after she disappeared in 2002.

The first part of the inquiry, sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, is looking at the culture, practices and ethics of the press in general and is due to produce a report by next September.

The second part, examining the extent of unlawful activities by journalists, will not begin until detectives have completed their investigation into alleged phone hacking and corrupt payments to police, and any prosecutions have been concluded.

The inquiry was adjourned until Monday.


Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Web Developer - London - £40K plus benefits - Salary negotiable

£38000 - £40000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: A leading consu...

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

£12 - £15 Hourly Rate: Sheridan Maine: Are you an experienced Accounts Assista...

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Payable Clerk

£21,000 - £24,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a new opportunit...

Sheridan Maine: Finance Manager

£55,000 - £65,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accountant with ...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat