Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The Story of Hackgate, Part 1

The story of the current hacking scandal must begin with Clive Goodman.

That is not to say that the broad chronology of all the relevant events to do with telephone hacking and similar tabloid misconduct begins with his fateful arrest on 8 August 2006.

For example, any hacking by or on behalf of other News of the World journalists after the abductions of Sarah Payne (July 2000) and Milly Dowler (March 2002) was well before the arrest of Goodman. And there is no reason to believe Goodman was involved in this.

The open teasing of Dominic Mohan (now editor of The Sun) about The Mirror's use of Vodafone's lack of security for show business exclusives was back in early 2002.

(By the way, we still do not know how The Mirror's then editor Piers Morgan reacted to that.)

Furthermore, Operation Motorman of the Information Commissioner, an investigation into the unlawful trade in personal information involving newspapers, had commenced in 2003. The Information Commissioner's significant - but at the time widely ignored - first report on that investigation was even published in May 2006, two months before the unconnected arrest of Goodman.

So the broader story of tabloid telephone hacking, and of the other unlawful practices in respect of obtaining information, was already old by the summer of 2006.

But it is the arrest of Goodman which is the start of the story of the current scandal, for almost everything which has happened since so as to engage public and political concern flows from that one event, and why it ever happened.

Goodman was royal editor of the News of the World.

One means by which he got stories was by intercepting voicemails. According to reports of his conviction, he made at least 487 calls to royal household telephones for this purpose.

And in November 2005 there appeared a story in the News of the World which prompted serious suspicions that royal household telephone messages were being intercepted.

It is a curiosity of our domestic political system that it was only when the royal household's telephones were being interfered with that the Metropolitan Police had to act.

This means that had Goodman not been so cack-handed so as to use the information from the hacking of the royal household's telephones in a suspicious manner, there may never have been any police investigation.

And when the police did act, they sought to narrow the investigation to the royal household's telephones, even though they had seized substantial evidence from Goodman's accomplice Glenn Mulcaire of hundreds of other interceptions, not related to the royal household.

This collection of evidence from Mulcaire was to be crucial in the events which then followed; but without Goodman's clumsiness, all this information would never have been seized, and it doubtless would not now exist.

Both Goodman and Mulcaire were arrested in August 2006, pleaded guilty on 29 November 2006, and were sentenced to terms of imprisonment on 26 January 2007.

Given the guilty pleas, there was no trial, though there were sentencing remarks of the judge, Mr Justice Gross.

During this time Goodman continued to be employed (though suspended) on the News of the World. He was not dismissed until 5 February 2007, when his contract was terminated with immediate effect.

It is not clear why such instant dismissal was delayed to 5 February 2007.

Goodman had pleaded guilty over three months before, and it appears he had indicated a guilty plea well in advance of November 2006; but it was not until 5 February 2007 that he was sacked

The dismissal letter, dated 5 February 2007, is included in this pdf.

It is worth reading carefully, as what then happens over the following five months in 2007 determines a great deal of the shape of the current scandal.

Part 2 of the Story of Hackgate to follow here at Jack of Kent, but next will be a post at New Statesman on something very interesting which happened at the sentencing of Goodman and Mulcaire on 26 January 2007.


No purely anonymous comments will be published; always use a name for ease of reference by other commenters.


Sandrine Lopez said...

As you point out, it is very disturbing that the police took little or no action until the Royal Household was hacked. Surely this almost complete lack of 'protecting the innocent' (e.g. the public) should be subject of another investigation into police force responsibility & morality, not just the press who abused the system? Though I doubt that would get very far, if anywhere at all...

Steven Nott said...

The Mirror's use of Vodafone's lack of security for show business exclusives was back in early 2002. That's 3 years of phonehacking knowledge. I know this because I was there in 1999. A person calling herself Oonagh Blackman from the Daily Mirror was given the method how to hack in 1999 and she was a special employee of Piers Morgan, hired for her investigative qualities and Metropolitan police contacts. She then went on to become Political Editor and then a special adviser to an MP ! I understand your emphasis on Clive Goodman here but this phone hacking shenanigans seems to go back even further. Why isn't Piers Morgan in prison yet ? He could still talk to Shugs from the cell using his Blackberry unless someone switches off the Social Media because it incites riots and nastiness. Ooh what a terrible state of affairs it has all become. Anyway, there's a lot more to this story than people know and I urge you to take a look at a real well documented blog called where you will see 100% proof that Piers Morgan's paper was involved in this phone hacking story in the very early days.

Steven Nott said...

As been pointed out, the police taking no notice until the Royal household get's hacked. Well, there's lovely, as we say in Wales. I have a copy of a letter that I sent to New Scotland Yard, The Home Office and DTI back in 1999 only warning them of impending phonehacking doom if they didn't act. I've contacted these offices recently and they can't seem to find any trace of it. Well, there's a surprise, as we say in Wales. ( welsh accent needed there ) My letter only warns them about the future implications of voicemail interception, nothing important really. Not as if it's going to cause a real national even global security risk eh ? Where was Vodafone when all of this was happening ? Raking it in and rubbing hands with much slyness. I've always believed in the saying 'You reap what you sow' and I think a lot of reaping has been going on and will turn into a lot of weeping soon when the public get to find out exactly what's been going on behind everyone's back.

Ann Kittenplan said...

Excellent post. Setting out events clearly. Thanks.

An incidental point: This only became a big issue after the revelations about Milly Dowler's phone.

The mass public outrage is not in reaction to industrial scale invasion of privacy (perhaps it should be, but it's not) but rather to the merciless amoral exploitation of murder victims and their bereaved relatives.

The post mentions, for instance, that the police only began investigating when the Royal Family were involved, and even then they tried to restrict the investigation so as not to involve the public/celebrities.

Are these the priorities of the police because by and large these are the priorities of the public?

In some sense it's fortunate that the behaviour of the main players seems to be so arrogant and corrupt. This means the story will run.

Running alongside are posts like the one above dealing with fundamental but abstract issues like privacy, deference, and discrimination. I suggest these fundamental issues have an audience because, eg the post above runs parallel to the latest revelation which could be seen as Coulson working as a paid mole at the heart of government.

The fundamental abstract philosophical points are in a kind of three-legged race with concrete revelations.

AndyJ said...

Running in parallel, maybe, to all this is another story which indicates at the very least police indifference if not outright complicity with the NoTW: BBC Radio 4 - The Report - Thurs 18th Aug 2011 (.pdf)

Sandrine Lopez said...

AndyJ said...
"Running in parallel, maybe, to all this is another story which indicates at the very least police indifference if not outright complicity with the NoTW: BBC Radio 4 - The Report - Thurs 18th Aug 2011 (.pdf)"

So how many police officers are going to be in the dock after this 'outright complicity'? It can be very difficult to have faith in our police force when they themselves are not only breaking the law, but every reason to trust them on a very very basic level. Of course, I would like to think not *all* police are like that & some do a sterling & even dangerous job protecting us, but until we know for certain...?

RichieRich said...


Excellent summary. Look forward to Part 2.

@ Steven Nott

Your story is fascinating. Enjoyed browsing your website.