Time to speak up for the journalists who may have joined the list of phone-hacking victims

In the past Press Gazette has created a huge fuss when journalists have been arrested – but in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal we, like everyone else, have become rather numb to it.

But I’m increasingly coming to the view that some journalists may be unfairly caught up in something of a witch hunt. It feels like open season on the press – with devastating consequences for individuals.

Neville Thurbeck told a convincing tale yesterday in Press Gazette. I don’t know the truth of exactly what happened at the News of the World, but I sense that the idea a vast criminal conspiracy was embedded at the paper is wide of mark.

I suspect that there were far more individuals guilty of cock-ups, and making some serious mistakes,  at the News of the World than there were conspirators.

On Monday, the Leveson Inquiry’s own counsel suggested – rather cavalierly I think – that Mulcaire’s notebooks implied 28 individuals at the News of the World were involved in phone-hacking.  The Met Police has now said you can’t draw that inference at all from the fact that 28 different individuals were apparently identified in Mulcaire’s corner notes.

Yesterday we reported that former Sun features editor Matt Nixson is going to the High Court to sue News International for damages after he was sacked four months ago. He has not been questioned by police and is somehow having to survive on no income, and no prospect of having an income, while this hangs over him.

Last week, hard-working Sun district reporter Jamie Pyatt was arrested by police investigating inappropriate payments. The fact that he has been suspended on full-pay makes it clear that his employers – News International – remain unconvinced of his guilt. It’s worth noting that there is no suggestion that Pyatt had anything to do with hacking, but it feels like his arrest was a consequence of the current furore.

Some 15 individuals have been arrested in connection with hacking. Some have been on police bail for seven months. No-one has yet been charged with anything.

I don’t want to under play the pain which Glenn Mulcaire and other individuals at the News of the World put the Dowler family through.

But there is a growing suspicion among many well-placed sources that some News International journalists have also become victims of all this.

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