News International broke law on huge scale, says ex-PM

 

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The Independent Online

The head of the civil service blocked a judicial review into phone hacking at the News of the World before the last election, the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown claimed yesterday.

Accusing News International of "law-breaking on an industrial scale", Mr Brown claimed there were more victims to be revealed and suggested the scandal could have been uncovered earlier if he had not been blocked by Whitehall.

But Conservative MPs pointed out that Mr Brown had attended Rebekah Brooks' wedding, held many meetings with Rupert Murdoch and his wife Sarah and had even hosted a "sleep-over" at Chequers for Ms Brooks and Rupert Murdoch's daughter Elizabeth

Mr Brown said he had asked Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell to agree to launch a judicial inquiry into the News of the World after a damning culture select committee report in 2009. "Far from the so-called cosy relationship with News International that would have meant doing nothing, my answer to what appeared to be News International's abuse of press freedom was a full judge-led inquiry to meet growing public concern," he told MPs.

Mr Brown said the revelations of the last 10 days had given rise to "new crimes with new names", such as blagging, hacking and Trojan emails which can break in to computers and not just phones.

He branded News International "a criminal media nexus" which "claimed to be on the side of the law-abiding citizen" but in fact stood "side-by-side with criminals against our citizens".

He went on: "Others have said that in the behaviour towards those without a voice of their own, News International descended from the gutter to the sewer. The tragedy is that they let the rats out of the sewer."

Mr Brown, who volunteered to give evidence to any inquiry investigating hacking, denied that the relationship between his Government and News International broke down during the Labour Party conference in autumn 2009 when The Sun ditched support for the party.

He quoted a string of negative headlines such as "Brown Killed My Son", "Doctor Evil" and "The Betrayer of Britain" to show that he was not in league with News International's executives.

"The relationship between News International and the Labour administration I led was from start to finish neither cosy nor comfortable," he said.

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