Paul McMullan tried to hack David Beckham's phone

Former News of the World deputy features editor Paul McMullan today claimed he tried and failed to hack the mobile phone of England footballer David Beckham.

Giving evidence to the inquiry today, McMullan claimed that before 2001 as much as 20 per cent of the population were involved in some form of phone-hacking

‘It was a school yard trick practiced by many teenagers across the country,’he claimed.

‘It was simply the act of ringing up a mobile phone, pressing nine to tell the phone that you are the owner and then – in the old days – you just put in four zeros because that was the default code.”

According to McMullan hacking was ‘not uncommon’among rank-and-file journalists at the NoW, who would regularly swap the mobile numbers of celebrities.

‘I think I swapped Sylvester Stallone’s mother for David Beckham, for example,’he told the inquiry.

He went on: ‘The problem came sometimes when you did hit nine when you rang them up and they answered the thing.

‘I can say in all honestly, once I rang up David Beckham expecting his phone to ring because he would never normally answer the phone to me. But he did and it was ‘Hello, who is this, and how did you get my number?’, and I went ‘Oh 9, too late’.

“So I didn’t hack his phone in that instance because he answered really quickly.”

He said he believed hacking was in the public interest, and should not have been limited to “MI5 and MI6”.

“For a brief period of about 20 years we have actually lived in a free society where we can hack back,” he said.

“And if you start jailing journalists for that, then this is going to be a country that is laughed at by Iran and by China, and by Turkey.

“Surely to prove that our politicians are dishonest men and as such may have dishonest motives when they sent our boys to be killed in Iraq and in Afghanistan is more important than jailing me for saying I hacked David Beckham’s phone, for example, if I was going to say that.”

He said all of the interviews he had carried out were recorded, adding:

“All I have ever tried to do is to write truthful articles and to use any means necessary to try to get to the truth.

“There’s so many barriers in the way that sometimes you have to enter a grey area that I think we should sometimes be applauded for entering because it’s a very dangerous area.

“My life has been at risk many times, at home more than in war zones.

“I used to get a death threat at least once a month for 15 years of my career.

“I sacrificed a lot to write truthful articles for the biggest circulation English language paper in the world and I was quite happy and proud to do it which is why I think phone hacking is a perfectly acceptable tool given the sacrifices we made if all we are trying to do it to get to the truth.”

‘In a free society we can hack back’

He said he believed hacking was in the public interest, and should not have been limited to “MI5 and MI6”.

“For a brief period of about 20 years we have actually lived in a free society where we can hack back,” he said.

“And if you start jailing journalists for that, then this is going to be a country that is laughed at by Iran and by China, and by Turkey.

“Surely to prove that our politicians are dishonest men and as such may have dishonest motives when they sent our boys to be killed in Iraq and in Afghanistan is more important than jailing me for saying I hacked David Beckham’s phone, for example, if I was going to say that.”

He said all of the interviews he had carried out were recorded, adding:

“All I have ever tried to do is to write truthful articles and to use any means necessary to try to get to the truth.

“There’s so many barriers in the way that sometimes you have to enter a grey area that I think we should sometimes be applauded for entering because it’s a very dangerous area.

“My life has been at risk many times, at home more than in war zones.

“I used to get a death threat at least once a month for 15 years of my career.

“I sacrificed a lot to write truthful articles for the biggest circulation English language paper in the world and I was quite happy and proud to do it which is why I think phone hacking is a perfectly acceptable tool given the sacrifices we made if all we are trying to do it to get to the truth.”

Hacking ‘in the pubcli interest’

McMullen went on to claim that hacking could be in the public interest and should not have been limited to “MI5 and MI6”.

“For a brief period of about 20 years we have actually lived in a free society where we can hack back,” he said.

“And if you start jailing journalists for that, then this is going to be a country that is laughed at by Iran and by China, and by Turkey.

“Surely to prove that our politicians are dishonest men and as such may have dishonest motives when they sent our boys to be killed in Iraq and in Afghanistan is more important than jailing me for saying I hacked David Beckham’s phone, for example, if I was going to say that.”

He insisted that “all I have ever tried to do is to write truthful articles” but admitted that he would “use any means necessary to try to get to the truth”.

“There’s so many barriers in the way that sometimes you have to enter a grey area that I think we should sometimes be applauded for entering because it’s a very dangerous area,” he said.

“My life has been at risk many times, at home more than in war zones. I used to get a death threat at least once a month for 15 years of my career.

“I sacrificed a lot to write truthful articles for the biggest circulation English language paper in the world and I was quite happy and proud to do it which is why I think phone hacking is a perfectly acceptable tool given the sacrifices we made if all we are trying to do it to get to the truth.”

McMullan also defended his former newspaper and claimed there was “no difference between what the public is interested in and the public interest”.

“Surely they [the readers] are clever enough to make a decision whether or not they want to put their hand in their pocket and bring out a pound and buy it.

“The reason why the News of the World sold five million copies was because there were five million thinking readers and that’s what drove the paper.”

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