Monday 20 November 2017

Handling hackers will be acid test of new press regime

As the hacking trial sees its 18th week Ruth Dudley Edwards outlines the challenge for proponents of press self-regulation

Princess Diana. Photo: John Stillwell
Princess Diana. Photo: John Stillwell
Andy Coulson. Photo: Oli Scarff
Clive Goodman. Photo: John Stillwell
Ruth Dudley Edwards

Ruth Dudley Edwards

IN ITS 18th week, the trial of six one-time employees of the now-defunct News of the World (NotW) and of Rebekah Brooks's husband, Charlie, focused on Clive Goodman, everyone's nightmare tabloid journalist – the sort of guy you could imagine listening gleefully to innocent messages on his granny's phone and fashioning them into a front-page story about geriatric orgies in the Women's Institute.

Goodman, the paper's royal editor, was briefly jailed in 2007 after pleading guilty to hacking the phones of aides to Prince Charles, William and Harry. In his thirst for royal tittle-tattle, Goodman had foolishly printed information known to so few that the police were called in.

At the Old Bailey, he's accused of two counts of conspiring with Andrew Coulson (NotW deputy editor and then editor) "to commit misconduct in public office" by paying public officials for information. Coulson is addi- tionally charged with "conspiracy to intercept communications in the course of their transmission without lawful authority", as lawyers put it. In general, Goodman was rough on his old "bullying" and "menacing" boss, claiming he'd "set up the payments to facilitate" hacking and had promised to give Goodman his job back post-prison if he pretended he had been "a lone wolf". Yet hacking, said Goodman, was being conducted "on a pretty industrial scale", with one of his senior colleagues even targeting Coulson's phone to find out what other stories were in the pipeline from the viciously competitive newsroom.

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