Phone-hacking at the News of the World: From one 'rogue reporter' to seven more criminal convictions

Six years after The Guardian fired the starting gun on the hacking scandal, the last News of the World journalist convicted of conspiracy to intercept voicemail messages – Jules Stenson – was today sentenced.

One other former NoW editorial executive, Alex Marunchak, awaits a decision from the Crown Prosecution Service as to whether he will be charged with involvement in computer-hacking.

On 8 July 2009, The Guardian reported that News International had paid Gordon Taylor and two others £1m in order to cover up evidence that phone-hacking was more widespread than previously admitted.

Back then, News International was still insisting that Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire were the only News of the World staff involved in phone-hacking.

At the time, it wasn’t particularly surprising or shocking to read that other journalists were involved in the practice.

Following Goodman and Mulcaire’s arrest in 2006, Press Gazette did some digging and found sources who said phone-hacking (or screwing as it used to be called) was “extremely prevalent” not just on the News of the World – but on other titles.

The scandal didn't go away mainly because News International decided to respond to the new Guardian allegations by engaging in one of the most damaging cover-ups in corporate history.

In July 2009 the News of the World accused The Guardian of “hysterical attacks” which were “inaccurate, selective and purposely misleading”.

It said: “Apart from matters raised in the Mulcaire and Goodman proceedings, the only other evidence connecting News of the World reporters to information gained as a result of accessing a person's voicemail emerged in April 2008, during the course of the Gordon Taylor litigation.”

The Clive Goodman ‘rogue reporter’ theory had been News International’s public stance since Goodman and Mulcaire were arrested.

In February 2008, News of the World managing editor Stuart Kuttner said about phone-hacking: “It happened once at the News of the World. The reporter was fired, he went to prison. The editor resigned."

We know, of course, that this was very far from the truth.

To date a further seven News of the World journalists have been convicted of conspiracy to intercept voicemail messages (in addition to Goodman and Mulcaire).

They are: Former news editors Neville Thurlbeck, James Weatherup, Greg Miskiw and Ian Edmondson; former features editor Jules Stenson; former editor Andy Coulson; and former reporter Dan Evans.

Far from phone-hacking being confined to the six people Mulcaire admitted targeting when he faced trial in 2006, nearly 600 victims have now accepted phone-hacking payouts from News Corp.

And while the phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World has finally run its course, problems for Trinity Mirror are only just beginning.

Disclosures as a result of civil litigation at the High Court suggest that hacking at the national Mirror titles may have been as widespread as wrongdoing at the News of the World.

Four former People and Sunday Mirror journalists arrested on suspicion of phone-hacking have yet to be told whether or not they will be charged. Many more are understood to have been questioned by police.

Picture: Press Gazette magazine front page from July 2009.

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