Former Mail on Sunday editor Peter Wright (pictured) has rejected a Guardian report claiming that he withheld information about phone-hacking from the PCC.
In his book Hack Attack Guardian journalist Nick Davies notes that four Mail on Sunday journalists were told by police in 2006 that their phones had been hacked by the News of the World.
This was during the initial investigation into phone-hacking which led to the jailing of private investigator Glenn Mulcaire and former News of the World royal reporter Clive Goodman.
Mail on Sunday editor Wright was a member of the PCC from May 2008.
As a result of The Guardian’s reports from 2009 onwards that phone-hacking was more widespread than previously claimed at the News of the World the PCC issued a report in 2009.
It said: "The PCC has seen no new evidence to suggest that the practice of phone message tapping was undertaken by others beyond Goodman and Mulcaire, or evidence that News of the World executives knew about Goodman and Mulcaire's activities…
"Indeed, having reviewed the matter, the Commission could not help but conclude that the Guardian's stories did not quite live up to the dramatic billing they were initially given."
Guardian blogger Roy Greenslade questioned why Wright did not mention the hacking of his own staff in evidence to the Leveson Inquiry: “which was itself suggestive that hacking went beyond Goodman, who was interested only in royal stories”.
Greenslade also questioned why the Mail on Sunday never reported that its staff had been hacked by Mulcaire after his conviction, instead choosing to keep the matter "secret". The 2006 trial only dealt with the hacing of three royal aides plus Elle Macpherson, Max Clifford , MP Simon Hughes, football agent Sky Andrew and PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor.
Wright, who is now editor emeritus of Associated Newspapers, said in a letter to The Guardian published today: "Roy Greenslade is wrong to say I deliberately ‘withheld’ from the Press Complaints Commission and the Leveson inquiry ‘vital information’ about how some Mail on Sunday journalists’ phones were hacked by the News of the World.
“We were contacted by police in October 2006 and told some of our journalists’ phones had been hacked. The police recommended our journalists improve their phone security, but did not want them to make statements, nor suggest the hacking had involved anyone other than Goodman and Mulcaire.
“In fact they said the hacking had ended at the time of Goodman and Mulcaire’s arrests, which strongly suggested they were responsible. We were satisfied the police were dealing with the issue, which was of course sub judice. It was already known that Mulcaire had hacked the phones of people other than the Royal household – he admitted five further offences at his trial in November 2006. It was hardly surprising he should have hacked phones of staff on a rival newspaper. I joined the PCC in May 2008. Had it occurred to me, when the PCC was discussing the fresh allegations made by the Guardian in July 2009, that the hacking of our journalists’ phones was anything other than a minor part of the series of offences for which Goodman and Mulcaire had already been convicted, I would happily have shared it with other commissioners.
"I have never made any secret of it, nor had any reason to – after all, our journalists were victims of these crimes just as much as anyone else. Indeed it was common knowledge in the industry that Mail on Sunday phones had been hacked. As far as Leveson is concerned, it was widely reported in the Guardian and elsewhere in summer 2011 that the police had contacted our journalists again and asked for statements – so much for Greenslade’s claim the hacking 'remained a secret for eight years'. Had Leveson chosen to ask me about it when I gave evidence in January 2012 I would readily have answered any questions."