News International responds to phone tapping claims

The publisher of the News of the World today defended its journalists and said it would not “shirk from vigorously defending our right and proper role to expose wrongdoing”.

The newspaper is embroiled in allegations that thousands of public figures had their phones tapped.

In a statement News International said it was prevented by “confidentiality obligations from discussing certain allegations made in the Guardian newspaper today”.

But the statement stressed its staff have been told clearly that they must operate within the law and the industry’s code of conduct.

In 2007, News of the World journalist Clive Goodman and private investigator Glen Mulcaire were jailed for phone tapping.

Following their conviction, the tabloid’s new editor Colin Myler wrote to all staff saying they must operate within the law, abide by the industry code of conduct, behave professionally and have regular legal training.

The following month Les Hinton, then executive chairman of News International, testified to a committee of MPs that Goodman had been acting alone.

The statement added: “Since February 2007, News International has continued to work with its journalists and its industry partners to ensure that its journalists fully comply with both the relevant legislation and the rigorous requirements of the PCC‘s Code of Conduct.

“At the same time, we will not shirk from vigorously defending our right and proper role to expose wrongdoing in the public interest.”

The Information Commissioner identified 31 newspapers and magazines said to have used private investigators in 2006, the company said, and reaffirmed their right to expose confidential information in the public interest.

News International publishes The Times, The Sunday Times, The Sun, News of the World and thelondonpaper.

The Guardian said in a statement: “We note that News International has not contested any part of the Guardian coverage – including the central assertion that the company had paid a record £1 million to ensure secrecy over damages paid to victims of illegal phone-hacking.

“After briefly reviewing the evidence Assistant Commissioner John Yates has confirmed that Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire, who went to jail for phone tapping, had hundreds of potential targets – though the police and phone companies struggled to prove how many times they had succeeded in the face of ‘very, very significant’ technical difficulties in establishing criminal proof.

“Clive Goodman was not the reporter involved in hacking into Gordon Taylor’s phone. That was carried out by other News of the World reporters, whose names are known to the police. A senior colleague of Mr Yates at Scotland Yard has told the Guardian that thousands of targets were identified by the paperwork the police obtained.

“Mr Mulcaire could doubtless confirm that he targeted John Prescott in May 2006; Tessa Jowell in March 2006 and Boris Johnson in April 2006. There is no evidence that the police ever investigated Mr Mulcaire’s success in hacking into these senior politicians’ messages.

“The most open way of dealing with the matter would be for the police to share the evidence they gathered from News International with the Commons Culture and Media Committee.”

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