My reaction to Coulson's conviction
The conviction of Andy Coulson, the former Editor of the News of the World, has now confirmed that the crime of phone hacking was rife at Murdoch’s News International.
We were lied to time-and-time again by Murdoch’s people that it had been the work of just one ‘rogue reporter’. This lie was actively supported and promoted by the Metropolitan Police, the Crown Prosecution Service and even the Press Complaints Commission.
The Guardian revealed in July 2009 that up to 3,000 people had their mobile phones and messages hacked on the instructions of News International. I was one of its targets.
It led me to write to David Cameron, then Leader of the Opposition, on July 8th 2009 questioning his decision to employ Andy Coulson as his Director of Communications. I warned him that if the hacking claims were true “Mr Coulson is not fit to enter Government as your Director of Communications if you are elected or indeed, remain in his current post. I look forward to your prompt reply as a matter of urgency.”
I received no reply to my warning. It was even reported that Mr Cameron was “very relaxed” about the claims.
Cameron’s apology today is the very minimum he could do. But his blind acceptance of Coulson’s innocence, with next to no due diligence, exposes his appallingly poor judgement. It seems this blind acceptance was caused by his burning desire to become Prime Minister.
Cameron must now as matter of urgency confirm if Coulson was subjected to a security check, as every other person entering Government must undergo and what advice he received from security officials about his Director of Communications. This is a man who left the News of the World after one of his reporters had been jailed for phone hacking!
A criminal court has decided Mr Coulson’s guilt on phone hacking. But now we move to the court of public opinion.
These activities led to the Leveson Inquiry. His recommendations to prevent such crimes and practices being repeated were adopted unanimously by Parliament in the Royal Charter.
But it is now overwhelmingly clear that the press have no intention, despite their promises, to have a complaints body that would be consistent with the Leveson principles.
The industry has produced IPSO (Independent Press Standards Organisation) which purports to replace the ineffective press poodle, the PCC.
But IPSO is totally inadequate and completely in defiance of many of the Leveson principles and has no intention of registering a compliance, as it would have to do under the Royal Charter.
The press are defying Leveson’s proposals, the Parliamentary view and the overwhelming opinion of the victims of these criminal acts.
It is now necessary to make clear to these papers that there can be no return to business as usual.
If they are not prepared to accept the major principles of Leveson, then Parliament should act to see that it is implemented.