Phone hacking has been a topic of news coverage and inquiry ever since it was discovered that the News of the World had intercepted the voicemails of some prominent figures. Royal Columnist Clive Goodman was jailed and Andy Coulson subsequently resigned from not one but two senior positions as a result of his connection to what was referred to as the ‘phone hacking scandal’.
Whilst I have little time for this kind of behaviour, my feeling at the time was that a) people believe that tabloids will rake through sewage with their bare hands if it means getting a story. It’s no surprise that they stooped to this level and b) if you are in the public spotlight, surely you have to expect this sort of treatment from the tabloids: it’s what sells their newspapers. These people were all celebrities, in the public eye, and fully aware of the kind of press intrusion that such a position brings.
I am, of course, sorry for those who have had their phones tapped, since it is an invasion of privacy, whichever way you colour it. The News of the World clearly agree, as they have both apologised and paid damages to some of those figures.
What, I wonder, will they pay the parents of Milly Dowler? What sum of money could possibly make up for the fact that, whilst they were worried out of their minds for the wellbeing of their little girl, they had hope that she was alive and well because her phone messages had been checked? Yet, it was reported this morning that a private investigator working for the News of the World had hacked into the teenager’s phone shortly after she was abducted and, in some cases, deleted the messages. What possible justification can there be for such behaviour? As their lawyer, Mark Lewis, said:
"It is distress heaped upon tragedy to learn that the News of the World had no humanity at such a terrible time. The fact that they were prepared to act in such a heinous way that could have jeopardised the police investigation and give them false hope is despicable."
There is no doubt that the NOTW has crossed a line with this case. It’s not enough for someone to fall on their sword for the good of the newspaper and resign. There has to be an investigation into who knew about this and who sanctioned such appalling behaviour. I cannot imagine what heartache Milly’s family must suffer on a daily basis, nine years after their daughter’s death: today’s revelations can only compound their grief.