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Phone hacking scandal laps at David Cameron’s feet

by Simon Basketter

The latest revelations in the phone hacking scandal have brought it back to the door of Number 10—and prime minister David Cameron.

Cameron’s former spin doctor Andy Coulson was being paid by News International (NI), while employed by the Tories. He had previously edited the News of the World, published by NI.

Coulson has always denied knowing about phone hacking. But an email emerged this week saying that the cops kept NI executive Rebekah Brooks updated on their investigation into phone hacking.

It said they had found evidence of more than £1 million in payments by NI. It was sent by the company’s head lawyer to Andy Coulson.

But Cameron’s pals Brooks and Coulson seem to have forgotten about the email, or the police information about their own newspaper, until now.

Even Rupert Murdoch admitted this week there had been a “culture of illegal payments” at the Sun—though he claimed it was all in the past. But there are still ten serving Sun journalists on police bail after their arrests last month.

In evidence to the Leveson inquiry, Sue Akers of the Metropolitan police said a “network of corrupted officials” had taken cash from the paper.

She revealed that one public official received £80,000 from the Sun. And one journalist alone had spent £150,000 in paying sources, she claimed.

Her intervention came after Sun veteran Trevor Kavanagh slated the police investigation as a “witch-hunt”.

Akers said, “The cases we are investigating are not ones involving the odd drink, or meal, to police officers or other public officials.

“Instead, these are cases in which arrests have been made involving the delivery of regular, frequent and sometimes significant sums of money to small numbers of public officials by journalists.”

She added, “There appears to have been a culture at the Sun of illegal payments, and systems have been created to facilitate such payments whilst hiding the identity of the officials receiving the money.”


Spotlight shone on Morgan murder case

Senior Metropolitan police officers will be named in a House of Commons debate this week on how police corruption undermined the unsolved murder of private detective Daniel Morgan.

The 37 year old, who was killed in a pub car park 25 years ago, is believed to have been poised to expose a circle of corrupt police officers. The south east London officers are accused of working with underworld figures in the drugs business.

Morgan’s business partner Jonathan Rees went on to work for the News of the World while remaining the prime suspect for the murder.

The 30-minute adjournment debate has been tabled in parliament by Labour MP Tom Watson.

The fifth and last investigation into the Morgan case collapsed in March 2011 because of police misconduct in the handling of supergrass witnesses. This meant Rees was acquitted of murdering Morgan.

Former Met assistant commissioner Andy Hayman, who was heavily criticised after leading the original hacking inquiry, was scheduled to give evidence at the Leveson inquiry this week.

Former Metropolitan police commissioners Ian Blair and Paul Stephenson, and former assistant commissioner John Yates are also due to speak at the inquiry.


Hurst, Campbell Smith and the FRU

Philip Campbell Smith was jailed for eight months this week for “blagging”. Campbell Smith and three others pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud by illegally obtaining confidential information.

He is also alleged to have hacked into the computer of former British intelligence officer Ian Hurst.

Smith is a private investigator who was employed by fellow private detective Jonathan Rees. He is said to have been asked to carry out the hacking by Rees.

Rees was working for the News of the World when Andy Coulson was its editor. Hurst recorded Smith saying he was in contact with Coulson. Hurst is currently suing Campbell Smith, Rees and Murdoch’s News International for damages.

Hurst and Campbell Smith both served in Northern Ireland in the 1980s. They were in the Force Research Unit, the most shadowy British intelligence outfit in Northern Ireland.

Among its tasks was supplying names, addresses and photographs of Catholic targets to Loyalist paramilitaries.

For more background see The hacking scandal: the facts they wish you didn’t know


Article information

News
Tue 28 Feb 2012, 18:49 GMT
Issue No. 2292
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