The founder of the political blog Guido Fawkes yesterday alleged that the Sunday Mirror editor, Tina Weaver, had personally authorised her staff to obtain information by hacking and blagging.
The blogger, whose real name is Paul Staines, told Lord Justice Leveson's public inquiry into media standards that Ms Weaver, who is also a senior figure in the Press Complaints Commission, had sanctioned "dark arts" journalistic practices. "Tina Weaver, somebody who two journalists have told me has personally authorised and told them to hack, blag and do all that kind of stuff, sits on not just the PCC, but on the ethics committee, the editorial standards committee," he said. "She knows all the bad things that have gone on under her rule. It's ridiculous."
In her own evidence, Ms Weaver – editor since 2001 – could give "no guarantee" that phone hacking had not taken place during her reign but said she was not aware of it.
The right-of-centre Guido Fawkes blog has a reputation for baiting the political and media establishment and is run offshore, which places it beyond the British legislative system and media regulators. Mr Staines's comments were also covered by privilege, so he cannot be sued.
He claimed that the Daily Telegraph reporter Gordon Rayner – responsible for a 2009 story that exposed Staines's identity and described him as "the journalistic equivalent of an arsonist" – of being a prolific client of convicted private detective Steve Whittamore and of having obtained information on the blogger from the Land Registry by dubious means.
The Telegraph story was written after Guido Fawkes published emails that led to the downfall of Labour spin doctor Damian McBride. Yesterday Staines claimed he had been paid £20,000 by the News of the World for photographs taken in a gay bar of a political adviser of the Foreign Secretary, William Hague. Staines, who had revealed on his blog that Mr Hague – a former NOTW columnist – shared a room on a trip with the adviser, said: "It's clear the News of the World was in regular contact with Downing Street and perhaps to curry favour they chose to buy up those pictures and took them off the market."
Staines added that the inquiry would be a failure if it did not lead to the prosecution of journalists identified in files seized during the investigation into Whittamore.
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