In another of his series of interesting “Metgate” posts on the “Index on Censorship” blog, Professor Brian Cathcart asks “Is Murdoch ready for a long war in the courts?” He begins with a question, “If, as seems more and more likely, Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World hacked into the voicemail messages of the deputy prime minister of this country, what should be done about it?” He suggests that although people may have shrugged off the bugging of celebrities “bugging the country’s elected leaders is a gross affront to democracy and a threat to national security“.
He draws attention to a recent parliamentary question asked by the former Conservative Chairman and Cabinet Minister Lord (Norman) Fowler to a recent House of Lords “To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to prevent telephone hacking”. To the Minister’s response that the police and the CPS were responsible for dealing with the matter Lord Fowler said
“Does he remember the Watergate scandal, in which one brave newspaper protected the public interest? Has not exactly the opposite happened in the phone hacking scandal, in which one newspaper-and possibly others-has not exposed injustice but instead directly conspired against the public? Does he agree that after any further criminal proceedings there will be a need for a full-scale inquiry to ascertain what happened and how the public can be protected?”
The Minister did not promise a public inquiry. There were interesting follow up questions from Lord Soley and Lord Prescott.
Professor Cathcart asks what is going to happen the the various legal cases which have been commenced or threatened against the “News of the World”
“At the moment Glenn Mulcaire and the News of the World give every impression of wishing to fight them all the way, but the sand is shifting under their feet. First, the Met’s change of position — from obstructing possible claimants to assisting them — removes the first line of defence and means the disclosure of damaging documents is likely to speed up. Second, the courts are expected in due course to tell Mulcaire he must answer questions about who told him to do the hacking — something he has resisted on the grounds he risks incriminating himself”.
He suggests that, unless the “News of the World” has a change of heart – which he thinks is unlikely
“a long, squalid and extremely expensive series of civil cases is in prospect which will steadily erode what remains of the group’s public standing. And in the meantime, we still have the problem of a media organisation at the heart of our public life whose activities are, to say the least, a matter of grave public concern”.
The full post is on the Index on Censorship “Free Speech Blog”
Meanwhile, the High Court list for Monday 14 February 2011 shows the following applications listed before Mr Justice Vos (who made the disclosure orders in Clifford v News Group  EWHC 221 (Ch)).
IHC 40/11 Gray & anr v Newsgroup Newspapers Ltd
IHC 41/11 Coogan & anr v Same
IHC 72/11 Same v Same
IHC 73/11 Same v Same
These concern the “phone hacking” cases of Andy Gray and Steve Coogan and are applications for disclosure against Glenn Mulcaire which were adjourned from 18 January 2011. The original hearing was reported in the Guardian.
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