Former News of the World features editor Paul McMullan last night admitted hacking bank and medical records as well as mobile phone messages.
McMullan is one of two former News of the World journalists to come forward and admit they hacked mobile phone messages in recent months. The other is Sean Hoare.
The News of the World has always insisted that Royals reporter Clive Goodman, who was jailed in 2007, was the only staffer on the paper involved in phone-hacking.
Speaking at a City University debate last night, McMullan said that he 'hacked into mobile phones, bank accounts and medical records'when he was investigating a cocaine smuggling ring for the paper.
McMullan worked for the News of the World between 1998 and 2001 – when Andy Coulson was deputy editor. Coulson did not become editor until 2003.
The News of the World phone-hacking story has largely focused on whether Coulson, now Downing Street communications boss, sanctioned such illegal methods. He has always denied any knowledge of them.
McMullan said: 'Privacy is the place where people do bad things. It is where they hide their misdemeanours and embarrassments – the things they don't want their wives to find out about."
He said that police had contacted him three times in the last week, in the wake of his public revelations that he had hacked mobile phones. He said that they want to interview him under caution.
He added: 'I was investigating gun trafficking and people trafficking, it was in the public interest."
Listening to other people's mobile phone messages was made illegal by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. There is no public interest defence.
McMullan said he was originally shown how to hack into voicemail messages by 'a teenage girl who said everyone in the playground was doing it. About a million teenagers were doing it every day...I remember seeing an episode of Friends where somebody did it to Monica's phone."
He added: 'The problem with mobile phone hacking was that it was a third-rate journalistic technique because it got third rate informationâ€¦No-one leaves anything interesting on a message, it's very rare, they save it for the actual phone call."
Former Director of Public Prosecutions Sir Ken Macdonald, also on last night's panel, said that the difference between jailed NoW reporter Clive Goodman and children who hack into each other's phone messages, was the fact that he had published the information.
He said that prosecutors apply two tests when deciding whether or not a case should go to court: 'Whether there is a better than even chance of a conviction and second, whether prosecution is the public interest. There are plenty of cases where crimes don't get prosecuted because it is not in the public interest."