Charlotte Harris: This affair is about more than media practices

Sunday 23 January 2011 01:00

Was Andy Coulson's resignation – as well as a failed attempt to bury bad news – the result of a lefty, media-village obsession, or does it really matter?

The questions raised in Parliament by Labour ministers were dismissed as muck-raking. The New York Times's interview with a former News of the World journalist was dismissed as an ill-disguised attack on the Wall Street Journal, the rival Murdoch publication. The whole scandal was shrugged off as being the sort of subterfuge one would expect. "Everyone knows journalists cut a few corners," has been the attitude of some. And the celebrities and politicians going through the civil courts are, according to this logic, simply headline grabbers, an uprising against the Murdocracy to scupper its attempts at the BSkyB takeover.

These arguments only wash if you think it doesn't matter that there might be an unhealthily close relationship between No 10, News International and the Met. Or that there was a near-systemic culture of questionable practices. Or that the police failed to inform a large number of apparent victims that their phones may have been hacked. Or that senior politicians were having their private conversations listened to. Or that the PM is a frequent guest of Rebekah Wade, Andy Coulson's former boss at the NoW, when she and her bosses were trying to secure a major media deal as well as facing an investigation by the DPP's office.

Evidence in the Sienna Miller case directly contradicts the "lone rogue" defence Wapping has so doggedly stuck to. Did it occur to no one at the Met that phone-hacking may have been widespread? Did no one think to ask the news editors and senior journalists what they knew, particularly when the police had the evidence now proving to be so explosive in the celebrities' court cases? This story is not going to go away.

Charlotte Harris, a media lawyer for JMW Solicitors, represents phone-hacking victims

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