Leading article: Saying sorry is not enough. Only a full inquiry will suffice

Share
Related Topics

It is unprecedented for a newspaper to publish as abject an admission of wrongdoing as the News of the World did yesterday, apologising "publicly and unreservedly" for having breached the privacy of an unnamed "number of individuals" and expressing its willingness to compensate the victims.

No one should be fooled by the News of the World's bathetic pose or effusion of crocodile tears. News International's "mea culpa" may sound contrite but it is nothing more than an attempt to draw a line under a story that won't go away. What the company executives have done is not nearly enough, and the limited nature of their admissions raises more questions than it does answers.

Peel away the lachrymose wording of the newspaper's apology and one soon comes across the bare bones of the same containment strategy that the company has pursued ever since the phone hacking scandal came to light in 2007. This is that the offences were the work and sole responsibility of a "rogue reporter" – since expanded to several, operating on their own initiative during a limited time, from 2004 to 2006, a period that coincided with the editorship of Andy Coulson, who resigned as David Cameron's director of communications in January. James Murdoch, the number three at News International's parent, News Corporation, admitted as such recently, telling a US broadcaster with evident satisfaction that the company had "really put this problem into a box".

This is manifestly not the case. The box keeps bursting open. Last week saw the arrests of the News of the World's chief reporter and its former head of news, Neville Thurlbeck and Ian Edmondson. Meanwhile, public figures keep coming forward with fresh allegations that the newspaper bugged their private conversations. As they do so, claims that these offences all took place within the period 2004 to 2006 appear questionable. The Independent on Sunday reported yesterday that the Duke of York believes the newspaper bugged princesses Beatrice and Eugenie only two years ago. George Galloway, the former independent MP, claims the newspaper hacked his phone back in 2003.

As the scandal continues to unfold amid a welter of fresh claims and revelations, News International's bottom line, which is that the illegal hacking of phones formed no part of the newspaper's "culture", looks increasingly threadbare. This, in turn, is bound to add to the pressure on the Metropolitan Police to explain why they were so dilatory in pursuing the case to start with. It may also have a knock-on effect on the deliberations over the future ownership of BSkyB, which News Corporation hopes to acquire. After the brief for handling this takeover was taken from the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, and handed to the Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, News Corporation received a green light to take full control of BSkyB in March. Last week, Mr Hunt's department was maintaining that the phone hacking scandal at the News of the World had no connection with the question of media plurality – the heart of the matter at BSkyB. This may start to sound hollow if it becomes clear that wrongdoing in the newspaper was much more widespread than the company admits.

As the lines of its defence crumble, News International is falling back on claims that calls for a more thorough investigation into its workings are a witch hunt by an establishment bent on keeping the Third Estate out of its affairs. But no newspaper has the right to break the law in a calculated and systematic fashion in pursuit of juicy stories. The cause of investigative journalism is not served by underhand, illegal, conduct, and when Labour leader Ed Miliband says we need to "get to the bottom" of what was going on at the News at the World, he is right to do so.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour and the Liberal Democrats would both end winter fuel allowances for pensioners with enough income to pay the 40p tax rate  

Politicians court the grey vote because pensioners, unlike the young, vote

Andrew Grice
US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping have a drink after agreeing a deal on carbon emissions  

Beijing must face down the perils of being big and powerful – or boom may turn to bust

Peter Popham
Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable