Detectives ran criminal record checks on Labour politicians
Following stints with Reuters and the Press Association, Martin Hickman joined The Independent as a news editor in 2001. He became the Consumer Affairs Correspondent in September 2005 and has run the paper's trenchant campaigns on packaging, bank charges and factory-farmed chicken. He writes on subjects as diverse as food, finance, energy and fashion. With Tom Watson, he is author of a new book on the phone hacking scandal, Dial M for Murdoch - News Corporation and the Corruption of Britain.
Tuesday 08 May 2012
Covert checks by private detectives on the background of Labour politicians are expected to take centre stage at the Leveson Inquiry tomorrow.
At the start of what looks likely to be an explosive week of evidence at the inquiry into press ethics, Russell Middleton, temporary Assistant Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall, will explain how his force stumbled across a network of private detectives buying private data on a range of targets, including cabinet ministers.
In 2000, one contractor used the Police National Computer illicitly to obtain criminal records checks relating to the then-Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, his ally Nick Brown, the then-Agriculture Minister, and another Labour politician, the backbencher Martin Salter. The checks are believed to have been supplied to a national newspaper. The paper has never been named.
At the time Rupert Murdoch's newspaper group News International was strongly supporting Tony Blair, with whom Gordon Brown was clashing. A police source later told the Western Morning News: "Between 2002 and 2006, Devon and Cornwall Police were right at the heart of what we now know was going on at the News of the World."
Rebekah Brooks, who was editing the NOTW at the time, will give evidence to the inquiry on Friday, when text messages between her and the Conservative leader David Cameron are expected to be made public, potentially showing that the Prime Minister enjoyed a close relationship with a woman later arrested in connection with phone hacking, corruption and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. Given the inquiry's wish to avoid prejudicing any future trials, she is not likely to be asked about wrongdoing during her time at NI's headquarters in Wapping, east London.
On Thursday, the inquiry will hear from Mr Cameron's former director of communications, Andy Coulson, who succeeded Ms Brooks as NOTW editor in 2003. Mr Coulson resigned four years later over the jailing of the paper's royal editor Clive Goodman for eavesdropping phone messages.
Yesterday, the Daily Mail columnist Andrew Pierce suggested that Mr Coulson had kept a detailed diary of his time working for the Tories. "It provides a graphic account of the battles between Coulson, who was brought up on an Essex council estate and went to a comprehensive school, and Cameron's privileged public school-educated inner circle," he wrote.
Adding that Mr Coulson had earned nothing since leaving Downing Street in January 2011, but had racked up legal expenses after his arrest over phone hacking and corruption allegations, Mr Pierce added: "A kiss-and-tell memoir of his Downing Street days would generate a sum well into six figures, providing security for his family."
- 1 'He was lucky he didn't die' - George Michael fell out of speeding car onto M1 motorway, according to eye witness
- 2 Gay couple beaten in park urge MPs to moderate language on gay marriage
- 3 After woman sells virginity for $780,000, here are the results of our prostitution survey
- 4 Far-right French historian, 78-year-old Dominique Venner, commits suicide in Notre Dame in protest against gay marriage
- 5 'It was just like the movie Twister': Man survives Oklahoma tornado by taking refuge in horse stall
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.
Excellent Salary Package - £60K to £120K: Austen Lloyd: We have an exciting op...
£200 - £250 per day: Progressive Recruitment: Java Developer - Urgent Requirem...
£70000 - £95000 per annum + Bonus, flexible working hours, remote work: Progre...
£50000 - £56000 per annum + Benefits package, flexible working hours: Progress...