Ian Burrell: Lawyers could be the winners in Fleet Street hacks' 'blagging' game

Share
Related Topics

It was in Portcullis House that Rebekah Wade first let the cat out of the bag. "We have paid the police for information in the past," the editor of The Sun brazenly stated to MPs on the Culture, Media and Sport committee.

Since then, six years ago, the committee has been trying to uncover the extent of Wapping's culture of paying for confidential data. Meanwhile, Wade has been promoted to chief executive of Rupert Murdoch's News International, and her friend Andy Coulson has risen to communications director at the Conservative Party.

At the time of Wade's astonishing admission, Coulson was alongside her as editor of the News of the World, and promised MPs: "We have always operated within the code and within the law." Four years later he quit after Clive Goodman, his royal editor, was jailed for phone-tapping.

Yesterday the heat was back on both of them. Allegations that as many as 3,000 people were targeted (the police said only a "much smaller pool" had been tapped) by 31 journalists from the News of the World and The Sun mean that the same Commons committee will reopen its inquiries. Wade and Coulson will face the MPs anew.

The Fleet Street practice of paying investigators for the provision of ex-directory telephone numbers, criminal records and other confidential information has been widely documented. Known as "blagging", it was once widespread, but – officially – is no longer deployed. In 2006, after a raid on a firm of Hampshire private investigators, the Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, published a report, What Price Privacy Now? It revealed that blagging was prevalent not only at Wapping, but at the Mirror titles, at The Guardian's sister title, The Observer, and women's magazines such as Best and Closer. The investigation firm's biggest clients were the Daily Mail, which made at least 952 requests for secret information, according to seized documents. The Independent was one of the few national newspapers where such activities did not take place, the report found.

The winners in all this could be the lawyers. The Guardian's claim that News International paid £700,000 out of court to Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association, along with £300,000 to other victims of the royal editor's phone-hacking, raises the possibility of more civil claims from those targeted. The financial ramifications for Murdoch's empire could yet be enormous.

React Now

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

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The law is too hard on sexting teenagers

Memphis Barker
 

Obama must speak out – Americans are worried no one is listening to them

David Usborne
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements