From a regular contributor:
In the Battle of Harry's Bum, defiance of Leveson's 'chilling effect' in
defence of freedom of speech is a mere distraction. Whilst it may
allow a public tussle for the high moral ground - with megaphones
brandished in addition to pitchforks - one of its objectives may be to
set up Lord Justice Leveson as a sitting target. Polarised debate simply
allows the agenda to be hijacked and seen only as 'champions of freedom
of expression' v 'authoritarian hand of the state'.
another perspective this skirmish has less to do with Leveson and more
to do with targeting the Royal family itself - however that is dressed
up. Lest it be forgotten, it was News International that hacked Harry's
phone. And it would be a mistake to think that act had one sole
because it had several layers. At one level was a reporter's need for a
scoop, at the next level there was an overbearing, over-competitive
editorial culture. Add to that, News International's corporate
profit-driven motives, plus, at the top level, a motivation to please a
proprietor well known for his hatred of class deference, the British
Establishment, and blue-blood, inherited privilege.
predictable Establishment response to Goodman's actions was to circle
the wagons of Royal protection. Arguably, the Metropolitan Police
Service (MET) has had a patchy history in that respect. They have been
dogged by scandals from Southern Investigations being overheard discussing a story of a Palace fire-arms officer, through News of the World's Sophie Wessex sting,
'Harry's drug shame' story, to the arrest of a female senior Royal Protection officer by Operation ELVEDON.
The MET response to the Royal household' suspicions of phone hacking
needed to be seen to be decisive - and diplomatic. So a decision was
made which would have unforeseen consequences for monarchy, MET and
An investigative strategy was chosen which would give
the Royal princes deferential and preferential treatment over all other
victims. The prime motivator was to prevent any Royal having to
appear as a witness in court, and avoidance of any charges which might
reveal the content of any voicemails which might cause embarassment.
Rather than data protection, computer misuse or conspiracy
offences, a very narrow interpretation of RIPA dictated investigation parameters.
Naturally, the Crown - the CROWN - Prosecution Service agreed. With
voicemail content 'out of court', proving illegal process was top
priority. The whole impetus for investigation, resources and
prosecution had to be zeroed in on technical data. Employees in the
Royal household complied with a covert sting, mobile service providers
were enlisted to provide technical assistance - anything to spare Royal
blushes. Of course, News of the World counsel would have used any
princely court appearance to their advantage. Yet, it could be argued
that the princes were denied the opportunity to stand up in court and
face down a tabloid. That might have had more of a chilling effect on
press 'dark arts' than any judicial inquiry.
determination to keep the phone hacking prosecutions so tightly drawn
rebounded. As the scandal grew wider, the MET response narrowed. Only
four categories of thousands in the Mulcaire notebooks were deemed
important enough to notify - police, security, senior politicians and of
course, Royal. Royal priority and privilege therefore enabled victims
such as the Dowler family, parents of the murdered Soham girls, 7/7
bombings, service personnel killed on active duty in Afghanistan to be
overlooked. They simply weren't as important as protecting Royal from
embarassment. The whole point was to filter out 'extraneous matters'.
Yates later argued that it just hadn't occurred to the MET that there
could have been another category of phone hack targets - victims of
crime. Though, debatably, you are only going to find what you go looking
for. The princes themselves were spared a court appearance, spared
publicising of their
private lives, and spared the opportunity to be treated by the MET as
any other victim of phone hacking. In the event, not even the Royal
employees had to give evidence in court as Goodman and Mulcaire both
And all because Murdoch capos were behaving too
as adjuncts to a dynasty above the law. No doubt Royal household and
MET exchanged self-congratulatory sentiments after the convictions -
perhaps shook hands, job well done, case closed. News International
retreated behind their 'one rogue reporter' fiction.
Windsor, House of Murdoch - neither could possibly have predicted the
ensuing combat zone which has led to Harry's arse on the front page of
Hackgate for Beginners
Some Intriguing Hackgate "Known Unknowns"
The Milly Dowler Hacking - Part 1: Questions Still Unanswered
You can contact the author on Twitter @brown_moses or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org