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Hackgate: Did News of the World Hack Sara Payne While Backing Her Anti-paedophile Campaign?

Posted on the 29 July 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost
Hackgate: Did News of the World hack Sara Payne while backing her anti-paedophile campaign?

Rebekah Brooks (neé Wade), former editor of the News of the World, gives evidence in front of a select committee in March, 2003.

Sara Payne, whose eight-year-old daughter was murdered in 2000, has been left “absolutely devastated” by the revelation that she may have been targeted by News of the World investigator Glenn Mulcaire. Police officers from Operation Weeting, the investigation into phone hacking, contacted Payne earlier this week to inform her that her personal details were found among Mulcaire’s notes. Under the editorship of Rebekah Brooks, The News of the World (NotW) strongly supported Payne’s campaign to allow parents access to information on local sex offenders. The revelations come at the same time as the announcement that the BSkyB board has unanimously backed James Murdoch to stay on as non-executive chairman, although he probably shouldn’t celebrate too soon, as it looks as though he may be recalled by the culture committee following a dispute over his testimony.

“If it is proved that News of the World betrayed the trust of that family, it will play very badly with the public,” Rebekah Brooks’s former colleague Tim Minogue told The Daily Beast.

  • “My trusted friends”. The allegations apparently centre on a mobile phone that was given to Sara Payne by the NotW. Writing in The Guardian, James Robinson set out the relationship that developed between Payne and the Sunday tabloid after her daughter Sarah was abducted and murdered by a convicted sex offender: “For a time after Sarah’s murder in July 2000, the paper was synonymous with its high-profile campaign to ‘name and shame’ convicted sex offenders. Brooks and Payne became close as a result. One industry source who knows Brooks well said the two women were ‘very good friends’.” Payne wrote a column for the final edition of the NotW, in which she described the paper’s staff as “my very good and trusted friends”.

Paedos out! Following the News of the World‘s campaign to “name and shame” sex offenders, it was widely reported that a paediatrician was driven from her home by vigilantes who misunderstood her job title. But was this an urban myth?

  • “Unthinkable”. Rebekah Brooks issued a statement describing the allegation that Sara Payne’s phone was hacked as “abhorrent”: “The idea that anyone on the newspaper knew that Sara or the campaign team were targeted by Mr. Mulcaire is unthinkable,” she said. At The Daily Beast, Lloyd Grove asked a number of Brooks’s former colleagues, including The Guardian‘s Roy Greenslade, whether they thought it was conceivable she had been involved; all insisted they found the idea hard to believe. What’s more, former NotW political editor Ian Kirby told The Daily Beast that hacking Payne’s phone would have been entirely pointless:  ”My immediate reaction is there would be absolutely nothing to be gained from hacking Sara Payne’s phone…  We could call her up any time we wanted, and when we asked her a question, she answered it,” he said. Over at the New York Times news blog, Robert Mackey pointed out that Brooks repeatedly “boasted” of her support of Payne’s campaign during her testimony to the culture committee.
  • Self-help. With every new revelation in the phone hacking scandal, there have been calls for greater press regulation.  The head of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), Baroness Buscombe, is to step down following complaints that the regulator’s response to phone hacking was inadequate. Having insisted in May that the PCC had “come on a lot in recent years”, UK Prime Minister David Cameron described the press regulator as “ineffective and lacking in rigour” in July and demanded “a new system entirely”. But Roy Greenslade has called for reform rather than wholesale rejection, insisting that government involvement in the regulation of the media would destroy press freedom:  ”We would find ourselves in the company of some of the world’s most repressive regimes,” he wrote in The Evening Standard. Instead, Greenslade suggested “an improvement of self-regulation”: he argued the PCC should have greater powers to investigate and carry out sanctions against publications that fail to adhere to the Code of Practice.
  • Press appeal. Speaking of press co-operation, the judge appointed to lead the judicial enquiry into phone hacking and newspaper standards has appealed to journalists and editors not to “close ranks”. Lord Justice Leveson said in a statement: “I hope that an appropriate cross-section of the entire profession, including those from the broadcast media, will be involved in the discussion.” The inquiry will look at the “culture, practices and ethics of the press”, and include a series of seminars.

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