Colin Myler grilled over Mosley sex party 'blackmail' bid

Lord Justice Leveson this afternoon condemned as outrageous an incident in which the News of the World threatened to expose one of the dominatrices involved in the Max Mosley sex party if they didn’t cooperate with the paper.

The incident came up in evidence on Monday when former News of the World chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck admitted to sending two emails to the woman concerned in April 2008 – but in which he said they were dictated to him by a newsdesk executive.

In the judgment following Max Mosley’s successful privacy action against the News of the World later that year – Mr Justice Eady suggested that the approach amounted to blackmail.

The woman was told that she would be identified and her photograph put in the paper unless she cooperated with the News of the World.

Asked about the incident by the counsel for the inquiry Robert Jay QC, Myler said: “It was unnecessary to have written in those terms.”

Jay: “What Mr Thurlbeck did was clearly in breach of the PCC code. Did you not think you should have been taking this somewhat further?”

Myler: “With hindsight, probably yes.”

Jay: “Why didn’t you do that?”

Myler: “…I did repremand a certain executive. Looking back I probably should have done the same thing with Mr Thurlbeck.”

Shortly afterwards Leveson interjected saying: “You said it was unnecessary to have writtin in those terms, quite frankly it was outrageous wasn’t it?”

Myler: “It was totally inappropriate…”

Leveson: “What concerns me…I’m looking at this in detail not because I’m going to make some ruling…it’s for what it tells me about the thinking among extremely senior journalists working on the largest selling newspaper in the country.”

Myler: “It was particularly disappointing to me, certain people should have known better.”

Leveson later said: ” Your chief reporter with somebody else being prepared to engage in conduct which is outrageous and demonstrates that although experienced, they were certainly not professional…The question arises what you did about it?”

Myler: “With hindsight I should have reprimanded them and they should have received a letter that probably should have been on their personnel file.”

Asked whether he accepted Mr Justice Eady’s 2008 judgment stating that the News of the World had invaded Mosley’s privacy by publishing details of his extra-marital sexual exploits, Myler said: “The News of the World was humiliated by Mr Mosley’s court victory. I was humiliated.”

Myler said that it changed the way that tabloid newspapers approached such stories and later said: “I respected and accepted the decision, but I didn’t totally agree with it – no.”

But defending publication of the Mosley story, he said that Mosley’s actions were “brutal and depraved and involved paying women for sex and were not of the ethical standards that the membership of the FIA could expect”.

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