After Coulson, now is the time for robust self-regulation along Leveson lines

A criminal culture at the News of the World has finally been exposed

Share

Something remarkable has just happened at the Old Bailey. The former editor of one of this country's biggest-selling newspapers, the News of the World, has been convicted of conspiring to hack phones. The jury decided this was no flash in the pan, no moment of madness, but something that Andy Coulson was involved in from 2000 to 2006.

Another former NoW editor, Rebekah Brooks, has been cleared of all charges against her. But even before Coulson was convicted, three senior journalists at the paper had pleaded guilty to phone hacking charges. One of the things that the trial has established beyond doubt is that there was a longstanding criminal culture at the paper as far as hacking was concerned, and it went on for years.

In the immediate aftermath of Coulson's conviction, David Cameron is taking heat for employing the ex- editor as his press secretary when he left the paper in 2007, after the original phone hacking trial. No doubt the prime minister has been preparing his public apology, which arrived very fast, for days if not weeks.

But in the longer run, it is not just Cameron who has questions to answer about this dreadful saga. It began, don't forget, with the Guardian's revelation three years ago that the NoW hacked the phone of a murdered girl, Milly Dowler, in 2002.

That was 12 years ago. It is only now, after a trial lasting eight months, that the criminal culture at the NoW has been exposed in forensic detail. Where were the checks and balances which should have prevented it happening - or at least brought it to light long before now? What does it say about corporate governance at News International, the company which owned the paper, that top executives didn't suspect a thing? That they stuck doggedly to the 'one rogue reporter' defence even when it had lost all credibility?

The jury has decided that one former editor was involved in the conspiracy, while another knew nothing about it. Three years ago, Rupert Murdoch appeared before MPs and talked about the 'most humble day' of his life. How much worse it all looks now, and what is he going to do to about it?

Then there is the question of regulation. The Press Complaints Commission, set up and run by the industry, failed to notice criminal conduct at the NoW on an industrial scale. Its successor, IPSO, is another fake regulator which fails to comply with the reasonable proposals set out by Lord Justice Leveson after a very thorough public inquiry.

READ MORE: Andy Coulson profile: The consummate tabloid hack who went too far
Rupert Murdoch should bear some responsibility for the crimes that the phone-hacking trial uncovered  

I believe passionately in a free press. I've been a journalist all my working life and I don't want state regulation, even though my phone was hacked by the NoW in 2004 when it became interested in my private life.

What I want - and the public wants it as well - is a system that offers effective redress for individuals who have been abused by the press. For that, we need robust self-regulation along the lines set out in the Leveson report, not the PCC under a different name. If we don't get it, there will be more cases of ordinary people, grieving families and victims of terrorism, whose lives will be made hell at a time of intense anxiety and grief.

At its heart, this scandal is about power. It's about what happens when a section of the press stops exposing abuses of power and commits them itself, breaking the law and trampling on journalistic ethics. A paper which prided itself on exposing criminals has been revealed to have broken the law on a massive scale.

It should never be allowed to happen again. The press matters too much in democracies to have its reputation tarnished like this.

Joan Smith is a victim of phone hacking and Executive Director of Hacked Off

READ NEXT:
The Primark ‘cry for help’ won't change my shopping habits  
Commuters, take time and embrace the boredom
Commuters, take time and embrace the boredom

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Rafael Nadal is down and out, beaten by Dustin Brown at Wimbledon – but an era is not thereby ended  

Sad as it is, Rafael Nadal's decline does not mark the end of tennis's golden era

Tom Peck
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test