Leading article: Those who eavesdrop hear nothing good about themselves

Share
Related Topics

It is now three years since a News of the World journalist, Clive Goodman, was jailed for hacking into the private mobile phone messages of Prince William.

But there are questions about this affair that have never been satisfactorily answered.

News International, the parent company of the News of the World, claimed at the time of the conviction that Mr Goodman was a single bad apple acting upon his own initiative; it was said that even his editor, Andy Coulson, did not know what he was up to (although Mr Coulson felt the need to resign in the wake of the scandal). And when Parliament's Culture, Media and Sport committee released a report earlier this year suggesting that the practice of phone hacking had, in fact, been widespread at the paper, News International issued a vehement denial.

But this week those denials came under extreme pressure. There have been fresh allegations that Mr Coulson not only knew about the phone hacking, but also that he actively encouraged the practice. The incendiary suggestion has also been made that the decision of the Metropolitan Police not to launch a wider investigation into phone tapping by the News of the World was influenced by the force's close relations with the newspaper – and that information was withheld from the Crown Prosecution Service for the same reason.

Some of the alleged targets of the phone hacking operations (including the former deputy prime minister, Lord Prescott) are now threatening legal action to get to the truth. The former culture secretary Tessa Jowell has revealed to this newspaper that she was told by the police that her phone had been hacked an astonishing 28 times. The Labour MP Tom Watson has written to the Government to request a judicial review of the Metropolitan Police's handling of the whole affair.

A judicial review seems appropriate. The impression that the police are too compromised by their relations with a single newspaper to investigate breaches of the law properly is simply too toxic to be allowed to stand. Public confidence can now be restored only by independent scrutiny.

This affair is also of profound political importance. After his resignation, Mr Coulson was hired by David Cameron as the Conservative leader's press spokesman. And he has been by Mr Cameron's side ever since. Mr Coulson is now director of communications at Downing Street, a publicly funded and powerful position.

Some regard Mr Coulson's behaviour in Downing Street as an improvement on the aggressive media management approach of the Labour years. He is said to be is working in a collegiate manner with the Liberal Democrat press team. That might be true. But if it turns out that Mr Coulson's role in the hacking scandal was different from what he has claimed in public, his present position in public life would surely become untenable.

And the fact that Mr Coulson was hired by Mr Cameron in the first place raises questions about the Prime Minister's judgement. At the time, Mr Cameron brushed aside warnings that Mr Coulson's record made him an inappropriate appointment, claiming "I believe in giving people a second chance". The more that emerges about this affair, the more dangerous Mr Cameron's insouciance appears.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Forget charging by the page - with books, heart matters more than heft

Katy Guest
Nai or Oxi: whether Greece says Yes or No today its citizens will continue to struggle  

Greece crisis: Referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its lack of genuine legitimacy

Rupert Cornwell
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