Around five years after the Met Police first re-opened its investigation into historic allegations of phone-hacking at newspapers the Crown Prosecution Service has finally signaled that the case is closed.
By my reckoning at least 28 journalists were arrested and/or charged on suspicion of phone-hacking (see table below). Many more were questioned under caution.
Only one journalist was found guilty at trial, former News of the World editor Andy Coulson. Seven others pleaded guilty.
It is true that many journalists have needlessly had their lives turned upside down by what has been a heavy-handed and fantastically expensive investigation into what were essentially invasions of privacy.
But some Mirror journalists will today count themselves fortunate not to have gone the same way as their colleagues at the News of the World. The evidence in the civil damages trial suggested that phone-hacking was as widespread at the Mirror titles as it was at the News of the World.
Trinity Mirror (HQ and hacking victims pictured above) and News International/News UK can also count themselves lucky not to face corporate prosecutions. There was a clearly cavalier approach to ethics among some staff at certain red-top tabloids in the early years of this century and publishers were responsible for that.
It is now time to turn the page on a dark chapter in our industry’s history.
Was their widespread wrongdoing at the Mirror national titles and News of the World? Yes.
Has it stopped? Yes.
Have many journalists paid an extremely heavy price? Yes.
Has the industry learned its lessons?
Up to a point.
I have only seen evidence that one individual hacked phones after the 2007 convictions of the News of the World’s Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire. That was Dan Evans of the Mirror and News of the World, who pleaded guilty and gave evidence against colleagues.
The illegal interception of voicemail messages as a way of finding stories has undoubtedly been eliminated from our industry.
But one big unresolved issue remains. In the wake of the closure of the News of the World, News Corporation shared confidential emails which resulted in dozens of journalists and their public sector sources being arrested over payments.
More than 30 public officials have been convicted, with many sent to jail. My understanding is that Trinity Mirror, to a lesser extent, has also shared this sort of information with police.
Both companies have so far been silent on this issue. If we are to move on as an industry they need to reassert the fact that sources are sacrosanct and reveal what measures have been taken to ensure that such a betrayal of the first principle of journalism can never happen again.
Journalists arrested and/or charged on suspicion of phone-hacking
|Name||Title||First arrested (*or charged)||Charged||Result|
|Neville Thurlbeck||NoW||05/04/2011||Yes||Guilty plea|
|Ian Edmondson||NoW||05/04/2011||Yes||Guilty plea|
|James Weatherup||NoW||14/04/2011||Yes||Guilty plea|
|Andy Coulson||NoW||08/07/2011||Yes||Guilty verdict|
|Neil Wallis||NoW||14/07/2011||Yes||Not guilty|
|Rebekah Brooks||NoW, Sun||17/07/2011||Yes||Not guilty|
|Stuart Kuttner||NoW||02/08/2011||Yes||Not guilty|
|Greg Miskiw||NoW||10/08/2011||Yes||Guilty plea|
|Dan Evans||NoW, Mirror||19/08/2011||Yes||Guilty plea|
|Jules Stenson||NoW||13/02/2013||Yes||Guilty plea|
|James Scott||Sunday People||14/03/2013||No||Cleared|
|Tina Weaver||Sunday Mirror||14/03/2013||No||Cleared|
|Mark Thomas||Sunday People||14/03/2013||No||Cleared|
|Nick Buckley||Sunday People||14/03/2013||No||Cleared|
|Graham Johnson*||Daily Mirror||12/10/2013||Yes||Guilty plea|
|Lee Harpin||Daily Mirror||15/07/2015||No||Cleared|