Phone taps: NoW accuses Guardian of 'misleading public'

News International has issued a detailed statement rejecting many of the Guardian’s allegations about a culture of phone-tapping at the News of the World.

On Wednesday last week The Guardian reported that News International had made legal payouts totalling £1m to suppress evidence that NoW journalists had illegally hacked into mobile phone messages and used other illegal methods to obtain private information.

After issuing a detailed statement on Friday over the claims, the NoW printed a full-page editorial yesterday responding to The Guardian story.

In it, the NoW says it has been “the subject of some ferocious and, at times, hysterical attacks on its credibility, integrity and journalistic standards”.

It accuses The Guardain of being “inaccurate, selective and purposely misleading”.

In January 2007 NoW royal editor Clive Goodman was jailed for hacking mobile phone calls. Then editor Andy Coulson resigned and he, and other executives, have always claimed that Goodman acted alone and without the knowledge of those above him.

The NoW says it has now completed a “horough investigation into the various allegations”made since the Guardian story broke on Wednesday.

It says that the police investigation into Clive Goodman and private investigator Glen Mulcaire, who was also jailed over the affair, was “incredibly thorough”

The NoW statement says: “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.

“Neither this information nor any story arising from it was ever published. Once senior executives became aware of this, immediate steps were taken to resolve Mr Taylor’s complaint.”

The Guardian reported last week that the NoW paid chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association Taylor £400,000 in damages last year after he sued them for intercepting his mobile phone messages.

In its statement the NoW now says: “When Les Hinton [former executive chairman of News International] gave evidence to the Select Committee in March 2007, the evidence which emerged during the Gordon Taylor litigation in April 2008 was not known to Mr Hinton or any other senior executive within News International.”

The NoW statement says: “From our own investigation, but more importantly that of the police, we can state with confidence that, apart from the matters referred to above, there is not and never has been evidence to support allegations that:

  • “News of the World journalists have accessed the voicemails of any individual.
  • “News of the World or its journalists have instructed private investigators or other third parties to access the voicemails of any individuals.
  • “There was systemic corporate illegality by News International to suppress evidence.”

The statement goes on: “Based on the above, we can state categorically in relation to the following allegations which have been made primarily by the Guardian and widely reported as fact by Sky News, BBC, ITN and others this week:

  • “It is untrue that officers found evidence of News Group staff, either themselves or using private investigators, hacking into ‘thousands’ of mobile phones.
  • “It is untrue that apart from Goodman, officers found evidence that other members of News Group staff hacked into mobile phones or accessed individuals’ voicemails.
  • “It is untrue that there is evidence that News Group reporters, or indeed anyone, hacked into the telephone voicemails of John Prescott.
  • “It is untrue that ‘Murdoch journalists’ used private investigators to illegally hack into the mobile phone messages of numerous public figures to gain unlawful access to confidential personal data, including: tax records, social security files, bank statements and itemised phone bills.
  • “It is untrue that News Group reporters have hacked into telephone voicemail services of various footballers, politicians and celebrities named in reports this week.
  • “It is untrue that News of the World executives knowingly sanctioned payment for illegal phone intercepts.”

The NoW says: “All of these irresponsible and unsubstantiated allegations against News of the World and other News International titles and its journalists are false.

“The Guardian has been selective and misleading in its coverage of the report and investigation by the Information Commissioner.”

The NoW has particular taken issue with the link made in The Guadian over phone-tapping and a separate report by the Information Commissioner into a private investigator who, between 2001 and 2003, provided 32 newspapers with information.

Last Wednesday’s Guardian report notes that private investigator Steve Whittamore carried out more than 1,000 information searches for The Sun and News of the World.

The NoW notes in its statement that The Guardian report makes no mention of the other papers mentioned in the Information Commissioner’s report, such as The Observer.

The NoW has said that the departure of its managing editor Stuart Kuttner, announced the same day that the Guardian story broke, “has no connection whatsoever” with the phone-hacking allegations, “despite the Guardian suggesting otherwise”.

The NoW said: “The Guardian were informed of this position from the outset and chose to mislead the British public.”

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