Leading article: This grubby scandal takes on a dark new significance

This was not only a disgusting intrusion – it interfered with an urgent police investigation

Share
Related Topics

Before this week, those with a vested interest in downplaying the phone-hacking story felt able to argue that it was not a matter of great concern to the general public. A few celebrities and politicians who had their voicemails accessed by journalists, we were informed, was of little significance in the great scheme of things.

This was always a disingenuous argument. Illegal hacking does not become less serious simply because the victims happen to be in the public eye. But the allegation that an investigator, working on behalf of the News of the World, hacked into (and deleted) the voicemails of the missing Surrey schoolgirl Milly Dowler in 2002 – and also the private messages of the parents of the murdered Soham children, Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, in the same year – blows this argument away entirely. This was not only a disgusting intrusion into the privacy of anxious private families; in the Dowler case it interfered with an urgent police investigation.

Even if it is true that the phone hacking investigation was once an arcane obsession of certain newspapers and politicians, that is emphatically not the case now. The fact that both the Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, felt the need to come out in condemnation of the alleged offence yesterday reflected the extent of the public significance this saga has now taken on.

The latest allegations throw the spotlight, once again, on the two organisations which have been at the centre of this grubby drama all along: Rupert Murdoch's News International group and the Metropolitan Police. The alleged hacking of the Dowler phones took place when Rebekah Brooks was editor of the News of the World. Ms Brooks has since been promoted by Rupert Murdoch to chief executive of News International. Andy Coulson resigned as editor of the same newspaper in 2007 when a journalist he employed was convicted of hacking Prince William's voice messages. It is therefore hard to see how Ms Brooks can remain in her present position, even if it is true that she was unaware of the hacking of the Dowler phones (as she claimed yesterday) when she was editor.

There must also be a response from the Metropolitan Police to this latest twist. The force apparently found evidence of the Dowler hack in the notes of the private investigator Glen Mulcaire, which were seized as far back as 2006. Why did it take so long to investigate whether the Dowler family might have been targeted? Why did representatives of the force repeatedly fail to investigate the hacking when the evidence was apparently under their noses?

The Metropolitan Police's Operation Weeting unit, established in January, is now said to be taking the phone hacking affair extremely seriously. But we are still plainly some distance from a conclusion to this business. There are rumours of even more shocking revelations of malfeasance and illegality to come. What the public needs is some reassurance that the Dowler case is as bad as it gets. And if there is worse to come, we need to know about it sooner rather than later. And those responsible for such violations must be forced to face the consequences in a swift manner. This disgraceful affair has already gone on for far too long.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
George Osborne appearing on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, 5 July 2015  

George Osborne says benefits should be capped at £20,000 to meet average earnings – but working families take home £31,500

Ellie Mae O'Hagan
The BBC has agreed to fund the £650m annual cost of providing free television licences for the over-75s  

Osborne’s assault on the BBC is doing Murdoch’s dirty work

James Cusick James Cusick
Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high