As Zelo Street regulars will recall, two former Murdoch servants, former editor of the late and not at all lamented Screws Colin Myler, and legal man Tom Crone, were last month found to have been in contempt of Parliament - they lied to MPs. It now appears that this was not the only media organisation affected. A third name is about to be added to this particular roll of shame, after recent phone hacking developments.
The behaviour of the Murdoch Screws has been established and is well-known; what is also becoming clear is that Mirror group titles, certainly the Sunday Mirror if not others, were indulging in a little hacking of their own, perhaps feeling the need to keep up with their more wealthy neighbours. Their legal man Paul Vickers was later hauled before MPs on the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee to give evidence.
What Vickers said was unequivocal when he, among others, was asked this by the chair: “Can I also just follow up another of Mr [Paul] Farrelly’s questions? On behalf of each of your respective newspaper groups, can you tell the Committee that you have carried out inquiries into the practices within your news organisations and it remains the case that each of your newspaper groups does not believe that you indulged in phone hacking?”
This was on Tuesday 11th June 2013, by which time it was clear that the Mirror titles had indeed been indulging in phone hacking. Vickers, though, was having none of it: “I think I should probably preface my answer by saying some of our current journalists have recently been arrested on charges that relate to phone hacking. We have done huge investigations and, to date, we have not found any proof that phone hacking took place”.
Fast forward to the latest Mirror Group hearing, and the transcript which has been made available to Zelo Street records Master Gordon-Saker telling the court “Well, if we go a few pages on in the same tab to the Select Committee transcript, page 16, so the last page of this tab, fourth last paragraph from Mr Vickers, who I'm told is an executive of Mirror Group: ‘We have done huge investigations and to date we have not found any proof that phone-hacking took place’. This is, I think, 2013. I mean, it's not, ‘We refute these claims and we're going to contest them completely’, this is, ‘We have investigated it and there is no evidence’”. He then draws a clear conclusion.
“Well, my knowledge of Parliamentary law is probably not as it should be, but I think there is, is there not, contempt of Parliament if you lie to a Select Committee?” There then followed some argument as to what “huge investigations” meant, but the most likely conclusion is crystal clear. Either they didn’t investigate or someone lied about it.
Given that around £25 million in damages has already been awarded in the first round of claims against the Mirror titles, and that it took very little investigation to demonstrate that there was hacking on an industrial scale at the titles, Vickers’ premise that there had been “huge investigations” looks increasingly like a backside-covering pack of lies.
Those MPs who were, and are, on the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee might like to consider that the concept of equal opportunities should be extended from Colin Myler and Tom Crone to Paul Vickers. And find him in contempt as well.