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Thursday 19 January 2012

Murdoch Is Served (64)

[Update: the hacking of Jude Law in the US is as yet unconfirmed. Post amended]

Just to make a change from having Rupe’s troops appearing before the Leveson Inquiry, their lifetime contribution to the UK’s journalistic tradition was being tested today in Court 16 at the High Court, as 19 victims of Phonehackgate settled for varying amounts in damages, plus their legal costs. And there were two potentially very damaging revelations concerning actor Jude Law.

Those in and around the Screws had, it was conceded, probably known what was going on – right up to executive and director level – and destroyed evidence, or ordered its destruction: it was on this basis that settlement was made. And it should be borne in mind that the legal costs – which News International (NI) is paying in full – may significantly exceed the amount of damages.

But it is the case of Jude Law that could hurt Murdoch most: Law is also reported to be taking action against the Super Soaraway Currant Bun. Thus far, NI have managed to keep the Screws’ daily stablemate out of the mire, but if this case proceeds and they have to settle, it could bring more actions in its wake. The flow of NI staff willing to go on air and call out the Guardian may be about to dry up.

And, as if the Sun being caught up were not bad enough, comes the news that Law possibly had his phone hacked on US soil. This last is what the Murdochs must have been dreading: wiretapping and interception are taken very seriously by the authorities there. One only has to look at the case of Anthony Pellicano, former “PI to the stars”, to see that law enforcement agencies take a dim view.

As I pointed out last year – and thanks are due once again to the serially tenacious Tim Ireland of Bloggerheads fame here – the Screws’ revelations of the breakdown of Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston’s marriage, which the paper ran in January 2005, gave every indication of wiretap, interception, or both. Pellicano, who had done business previously with Pitt, is now serving time for the former.

But then, by the time the Screws splashed its revelations, Pellicano had been removed from the scene, but as I pointed out, those with whom he had done business would still have been around and more than likely willing to do business with whoever inherited Pellicano’s patch. Now that it has been established that Rupe’s troops hacked on US soil, identifying that person is getting nearer.

Or perhaps there is more than one person involved, but this will not concern US authorities unduly: they now have an a potential interception in New York to consider, plus what looks like a wiretap in California. This has the potential to be an even bigger story than the UK version of Phonehackgate, and Zelo Street will continue to follow events as they unfold.

This may be the endgame for the House of Murdoch.

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