Actor Hugh Grant has secretly recorded a meeting with a former News of the World executive in which he discusses the extent of alleged phone hacking.
Paul McMullan, a former News of the World investigative journalist who now runs a pub in Dover, has been one of the leading whistleblowers on tabloid practices and has helped the Guardian and Channel 4’s Dispatches in their coverage of the matter.
Grant met McMullan when his car broke down in Kent shortly before Christmas. The actor agreed to visit his pub some months later, where he secretly taped the conversation.
In the interview, published in this week’s New Statesman, McMullan said: “Historically, the way it went was, in the early days of mobiles, we all had analogue mobiles and that was an absolute joy. You just sat outside Buckingham Palace with a £59 scanner you bought at Argos and get Prince Charles and everything he said.
“It started off as fun – you know, it wasn’t against the law, so why wouldn’t you? And it was only because the MPs who were fiddling their expenses and generally being corrupt kept getting caught so much they changed the law in 2001 to make it illegal to buy and sell a scanner.
“So all we were left with was finding a blag to get your mobile [records] out of someone at Vodafone.”
He also told Grant: “If you don’t like it, you’ve just got to get off the stage. It’ll do wonders. If you live off your image, you can’t really complain.”
The full interview appears in this week’s New Statesman, which has been guest-edited by Jemima Khan and also includes a piece by Wikileaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange.