Sunday 8 April 2012

The Week in Hackgate 02/04/12 to 08/04/12

After last weeks excitement it seemed that the Leveson Inquiry and columinsts would provide most of the weeks Hackgate related stories.  At the Leveson Inquiry former News of the World senior executive Neil Wallis told the inquiry that the topic of conversation when he entertained senior police officers was more likely to be Britain's Got Talent than police matters, and advised Lord John Stevens and Sir Paul Stephenson of the Metropolitan police on filling out job applications.

The chariman of the Police Federation also appear at Leveson, telling Leveson that journalists and police needed to agree a national set of guildelines on "off the record" conversations, and to clearly define what the term means.

Meanwhile, journalists kept themselves busy by writing informative articles, such as this profile of Neil Chenoweth, the veteran journalist driving the Australian Financial Review's coverage of alleged pay-tv piracy by NDS, a News Corp subsidiary.  Brian Cathcart of the Independent focused on Operation Motorman, calling for the files to be released to the public in light of last weeks ITN investigation who revealed that Operation Motorman involved much more that previously known to the public.

Over in the US Chrisitan Brother Investment Services petitioned to strip Rupert Murdoch of the News Corp chair ahead of the annual meeting in October, calling on his dual role as chariman and chief executive to be split, and an independent chairman appointed, to help address the “lax ethical culture and a lack of effective board oversight”, exposed by News Corporation’s “still emerging scandals”.

On Twitter @tabloidtroll claimed that News International were requiring any arrested journalists they paid legal fees for had to sign a contract saying News International could sue them for the fees if they were convicted.

Former News of the World crime editor Lucy Panton appeared at the Leveson Inquiry on Tuesday, with her revelation that John Yates, the Scotland Yard officer who decided against reopening the investigation into News of the World phone hacking was a guest at her wedding overshadowed by far more significant events.

Following a number of articles asking questions about what James Murdoch knew, and when, it was announced that he would be stepping down as Chairman of the BSkyB board, but continue to serve as Non-Executive Director of the Company, succeeded by Nicholas Ferguson.  Rupert Murdoch issued a brief statement, perhaps reflecting his displeasure at the situation.  Robert Peston of the BBC explained his theory on why James Murdoch resigned on the BBC website, which can be summarised as "he was beginning to stink up the place".

Later on in the day the Leveson Inquiry discussed directions for module 3 of the inquiry, revealing, among other things, that the full Milly Dowler story will be discussed week commencing May 8th, and Rebekah Brooks had applied for core participant status, which was later granted.

To top the day off, ITV reported that the upcoming Culture, Media and Sport select committee report on phone hacking was likely to find that former News of the World Editor Colin Myler and the paper's former legal manager Tom Crone are guilty of misleading their committee and therefore Parliament, with opinion split on James Murdoch.  The punishment (or lack of) for misleading Parliament is discussed in this Guardian article.

On Wednesday Australian Financial Review reported that US website DocumentCloud had taken the leaked Ray Adams NDS emails down after being approached by News Corp lawyers, who said they contained “confidential and trade secret information”.

While News International missed the deadline to file their accounts, Sadie Frost explained what it was like to be a hacking victim and the Leveson Love Triangle was discussed, Neville Thurlbeck felt the need to bring up News International's Taint and how hard done by Lucy Panton was, yet again demonstrating the lack of self-awareness I've come to love from his blog.

Michael Wolff highlighted how the lack of press interest in the US into the hacking scandal gave Rupert Murdoch a certain degree of immunity from events, while at the Leveson Inquiry they heard that the police had told the barrister prosecuting former News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman in January 2007 that there was no evidence against any of the paper's other journalists.  Later the director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, told the Leveson inquiry there was "a degree of pushback" from John Yates when he suggested investigating further after hearing about the existence of the "for Neville" email.

On Thursday Julian Assange's evidence that the PCC stood by while was libeled was published by the Leveson Inquiry, while the Christian Brothers Investment Service came back to say that James Murdoch should also resign from News Corp.

Sky News revealed that one of it's correspondents had accessed the emails of John Darwin, citing "public interest" as their defense.  This apparent spreading of the Hackgate scandal to Murdoch's television operation piqued interest in the scandal across the globe, with Tom Watson MP and Chris Bryant MP both wondering what the BSkyB knew, and when, and if it was linked to James Murdoch's resignation.  On Saturday the Telegraph reported James Murdoch and the BSkyB board knew about it "months ago"

It was also revealed that one of the men detained on suspicion of offences under the Computer Misuse Act in February was Steve Hayes, owner of the London Wasps and Wycombe Wanderers, along with Graham Freeman, was already involved with an investigation into blagging, Operation Millipede, which also involved Philip Campbell Smith, who is alledged to have also hacked the computer of former British intelligence officer, Ian Hurst.

On Friday I came across a copy of an email sent by the Sky News financial controller, asking people not to include the word "fraud" or "bribe" on their expenses, and email that had an interesting use of "whilst in most cases".  It was also revealed that pressure is being applied on the Commons select committee reporting into phone hacking to hold back from challenging the testimony of key News International witnesses by parliamentary lawyers who fear the MPs could prejudice individuals' chances of a fair trial.

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