Another week, another claimant paid off
One of the latest to settle has been Evan Harris, who you can call as he’s a doctor, and who had a statement read out in open court earlier this week which makes for most interesting reading. He backed that up with a further statement made outside the court, and which has been captured on video. He is sure It Was The Sun Wot Done It.
The information ponied up as part of the disclosure process showed that, in early 2006, “there were several short calls from the Wapping HQ ‘hub’ telephone to his mobile number”. And what might that indicate? “Dr Harris believed these calls were suspicious of phone-hacking because he did not recall ever being called at that time by any journalist working for The Sun or the News of the World”. Voicemail interception. Potentially.
There was more. “Dr Harris believes the disclosed material shows that [Steve] Whittamore was commissioned to ‘turn’ the ex-directory number of Dr Harris’s London flat and to carry out credit traces on some of Dr Harris’ former addresses and at least two relating to his ex-wife’s family … Further disclosure led Dr Harris to believe that, around the same time, he was the target of surveillance by Mazher Mahmood and his team”.
So far, so unsavoury, and so much par for the Murdoch newsgathering course. But then came the dead giveaway. “Disclosure provided by NGN in 2020 showed that 384 calls were made from NGN’s Wapping HQ to Dr Harris’ mobile number between 5 September 2003 and 9 December 2011. Twenty of these were made after the closure of the News of the World in 2011”. But the Sun still didn’t hack phones, honestly.
Moreover, there were very few stories about him published by the Sun or Screws: it seems that he was targeted because of who he knew. Back in 2006, that meant the Murdoch tabloids pursuing Simon Hughes. In 2011, it meant the pursuit of Dr Harris’ fellow participants to the Leveson Inquiry - like actor and campaigner Hugh Grant.
So was this misbehaviour merely a few bad apples, the result of a little al fresco waywardness? That isn’t how Evan Harris sees it: he is sure that Rebekah Brooks, former editor of both Screws and Sun, and now CEO of News UK, has been intimately involved, despite her claims during the hacking trial, and at Leveson, that she had no knowledge of illegal activity. It is also suggested she was involved in destroying evidence.
But, once again, this is a case which will not go to a full trial: as Dr Harris has pointed out, were he to be awarded a lesser sum in damages than the offer made by News UK, he would then be liable for all costs, which would most likely bankrupt him. So all we know is that he “will be paid substantial damages (the quantum of which is confidential, though not at Dr Harris’ request) and his legal costs”. The pretence that the Sun didn’t hack goes on.
And the Murdoch mafiosi are prepared to stump up tens of millions a year to make sure it stays that way. They say they didn’t do it, even though the evidence suggests they did.
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