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Friday 28 June 2013

Murdoch Is Served (96)


Today may have dawned grey and cloudy, but for the twinkle-toed yet domestically combative Rebekah Brooks, her pal Andy Coulson, and former faithful Murdoch retainers James Weatherup, Stuart Kuttner, and Ian Edmondson, there was a little silver lining to look forward to, as they attempted to have their phone hacking cases thrown out on a legal technicality.
This was quite straightforward: their argument was that the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) 2000 did not regard listening to voicemail messages, after the recipient had first listened to them, as hacking, and that it was therefore not an offence under the Act. Thus they applied to have the case against them dismissed. There was also the question of reporting restrictions.

Sadly for the Famous Five, though, there was to be no happy ending, and the appeal was dismissed. The ruling included this comment: “contrary to the submission on behalf of the appellants, the resulting situation is not lacking in legal certainty”. This means that RIPA 2000 does indeed call listening to voicemail messages after they have been read by the recipient an offence.

And any hope that the names of those making the unsuccessful appeal would be kept quiet was also dashed. Allowing the appellants to be named, Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge (for it was he) observed “We can see no possible prejudice to the fairness of the forthcoming trial. We must not be unrealistic - there can hardly be anyone in the country who does not know to whom this case applies”.

So we now know who made the appeal, what the grounds for the appeal were, and that the appeal failed. Moreover, the thought enters that, in putting forward the argument they have, the five may not be exactly enhancing their prospects when the case proceeds further - which it now will. That makes their appeal a Very High Risk Strategy Indeed.

And it is a strategy that has signally failed. Murdoch’s faithful five have been refused leave to take their appeal further – given that the Lord Chief Justice and two other senior judges were in agreement on the decision to reject the appeal, there would have been little point in any case – and they are now looking down the proverbial gun-barrel as their trial proper approaches.

Can anyone have the slightest sympathy for them, considering the sheer shamelessness of their appeal? No doubt there will be the usual suspects in the Fourth Estate dribbling on about how terribly unfair this all is, and what a wonderful editor Coulson was, but the public can now see just how systemically rotten the cheaper end of the press really is. Roll on the trial.

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