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."
BBC told new political editor must be 'impartial' with Nick Robinson reportedly stepping down
Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response yet from Ellen DeGeneres
Isis propaganda video shows 25 Syrian soldiers executed by teenage militants in Palmyra
Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Budget 2015: George Osborne to axe subsidies for higher income earners in social housing
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
- 1 BBC told new political editor must be 'impartial' with Nick Robinson reportedly stepping down
- 2 Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
- 3 The map showing the most dangerous tourist destinations in Europe, according to the Foreign Office
- 4 The biggest first date turnoff has been revealed
- 5 German man found living with 300 rats in tiny apartment