As the July phone hacking firestorm demonstrated, the story is full of surprises.  It now has so many angles and sub-plots that barely a day goes by without a new development.  This week is no exception. We have already posted about the correspondence released by the Home Affairs Select Committee on 16 August 2011 but this was just the first of a number of developments.  

In relation to the new correspondence, there has been widespread comment about the letters from Clive Goodman to “News International” alleging that other members of staff were carrying out phone hacking and that the practice was widely discussed at the daily editorial conference.  We know that, in response to these allegations, Harbottle & Lewis were asked to examine certain emails.  We do not know what other evidence was gathered by News International – what individuals were, for example, questioned about what took place at editorial conferences.  We do, however, know that Mr Goodman received a full year’s salary and a further payment of £153,000 from News International in late 2007 and it can properly be assumed that such a payment would not have been made if his claims had been found to be baseless.

This issue is discussed on the “Greenslade blog” who asks the obvious question: “Why was Goodman paid £243,000 after being fired for (alleged) gross misconduct?”.  The “Economist” also has an article about this correspondence.

On 18 August 2011, Operation Weeting police officers made their thirteenth arrest, the former “News of the World” US Editor, James Desborough.  It was reported that allegations related to events before Desborough was promoted to be the News of the World’s Los Angeles-based US editor in April 2009.  His solicitor has issued Press Release indicating that Mr Desborough denies acting unlawfully in any way.

On the same day it was announced that actress Leslie Ash and her husband Lee Chapman, theformer footballer, had settled their phone hacking claim against the News of the World. , but claimed the practice was ‘prevalent’ across Fleet Street.  In a statement which was widely reported (for example, in the “Daily Telegraph“) they said

“we remain concerned that the practices complained of against NGN are likely to have been prevalent within a number of other media publishers, and we will be instructing our lawyer, Charlotte Harris of Mishcon De Reya, to take action against other newspapers in due course“.

On 19 August 2011, it was reported that the Court of Appeal had refused Mr Muclaire permission to appeal against an Order of Mr Justice Vos on 25 February 2011 in the action brought by Steve Coogan.  By that order Mr Mulcaire was required to

  • Identify the persons to whom he passed information to that he had accessed from the mobile phones of Max Clifford, Sky Andrew, Gordon Taylor, Simon Hughes MP, Elle McPherson and Jo Armstrong;
  • Identify the persons at News Group who asked him to intercept the mobile phone voicemails of Max Clifford, Sky Andrew, Gordon Taylor, Simon Hughes MP, Elle McPherson and Jo Armstrong.

Permission to appeal was refused by Lord Justice Toulson on 29 July 2011.

Meanwhile, Mr Mulcaire has commenced his own legal action against News International apparently in an attempt to obtain an order for the continuing payment of his legal fees.  Roy Greenslade has been pursuing the quesiton as the payment of Mr Mulcaire’s fees for some time and, on his blog, draws attention to James Murdoch’s evidence that News International has paid £246,000 to Mr Mulcaire for legal fees.

We look forward to next week’s developments.

[Update]  There have been two more phone hacking related arrests in the course of today.  The first, arrest number fourteeen, was of a 35 year old, on suspicion of conspiring to intercept voicemails.  It is reported that this person was a former “News of the World” journalist, Dan Evans.

The second arrest was of a 51 year old police, a detective constable reportedly working on Operation Weeting, for  allegedly passed information about the probe to the “Guardian”. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers, in charge of Operation Weeting, said:

“I made very clear when I took on this investigation the need for operational and information security. It is hugely disappointing that this may not have been adhered to.  The MPS takes the unauthorised disclosure of information extremely seriously and has acted swiftly in making these arrests.”