Paul Dacre’s statement to the Leveson Inquiry was unequivocal: “I can be as confident as any editor, having made extensive enquiries into the newspapers’ practices - and held an inquiry - that phone hacking was not practiced by the Mail on Sunday or the Daily Mail. You know that because I gave this inquiry my unequivocal assurances”. The legendarily foul mouthed former editor-in-chief of the Mail titles might be regretting that now.
That is because Byline Media has unearthed evidence that, while the Mail on Sunday might not have hacked phones, they knew a man who did. The name of Glenn Mulcaire is well-known to those who have read up on goings-on at the now defunct Murdoch Screws, but we now know that his expertise was made available, via his handler Greg Miskiw, to other newspapers. One of those, Byline has now shown, was the MoS.
So when Dacre told the Leveson Inquiry “I have carried out a major internal inquiry into our payments and our computers. We have never paid any payments to Mr Mulcaire”, he might wish to reconsider that one, too. Perhaps he is right: maybe the payments were made to a third party who passed them on. But the evidence is now overwhelming.
So overwhelming is the evidence that one well-known name has decided to bring in the lawyers. And that makes matters very difficult indeed for not only the MoS, but the remainder of those who scrabble around the dunghill that is Grubstreet.
Thus far, our free and fearless press - aided and abetted by frightened and distracted broadcasters - has depended on a two-track strategy, the first that Byline Media does not (yet) have enough reach to grab attention, and the second that they and their pals can be depended upon to keep schtum and therefore hope it all goes away. The same approach taken with the original hacking stories - claim it’s all a “non-story”.
What the f***'s this got to do with me, c***?!?!? Er, with the greatest of respect, Mr Jay
Unfortunately, Sadie Frost’s action has blown a hole in that strategy. As she has told Byline, “There was no public interest justification for any of this snooping and hacking, and I will be taking legal advice … I am upset to hear the Mail on Sunday was discussing my private voicemails with phone hackers, with a view to writing a story about me and my family’s personal business”. Non-stories don’t go to court. This one just might.
After all, Byline has already published, in redacted form, email correspondence between Miskiw and Chris Anderson, then third-in-command at the MoS, which quotes directly from Ms Frost’s voicemails, and includes private medical information concerning a young person under the age of 18. Anderson’s response to Miskiw is not at all dismissive; in fact, he confirms that “Of course we are interested in Sadie”.
Anderson could not possibly have not known what he was being offered was the result of phone hacking. This is the Mail’s equivalent of the “For Neville” message that Nick Davies showed the Commons DCMS Committee back in 2009. We know where that led: the Murdoch press has so far shelled out as much as £500 million so far, with an estimated £30 million on the current wave of claims against the Sun.
The Mirror titles have had to pay out around £80 million. Now the Mail titles are looking down the barrel of that same gun, with Paul Dacre’s reputation likely to take a serious shredding in the process. Anyone still wonder why we need Leveson 2?
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