June 17, 2024

New Hacking Case Outrages Britain

The tabloid at the center of the scandal, The News of the World, had championed the campaign of the grieving mother, Sara Payne, for a law warning parents if child sex offenders lived nearby. Mrs. Payne, who was paralyzed by a stroke in recent years, had written warmly of the paper in its final edition, calling it “an old friend.”

A statement released on behalf of Mrs. Payne by the Phoenix Foundation, a children’s charity she founded, described her as devastated and disappointed. “Today is a very sad dark day for us,” the charity added in a posting on Facebook. “Our faith in good people has taken a real battering.” The page noted that she was struggling in the wake of the July 1 anniversary of her daughter’s abduction.

British news channels, which had been growing weary of the scandal — into a fourth week of cascading revelations that have shaken the media, political elite and police — broke into their scheduled reports to report the allegations that Ms. Payne had been hacked.

“Forgive me if I sound cynical,” said one member of parliament, Tom Watson, who has led investigations into hacking, “but I don’t know where it is going to end.”

 “The last edition of The News of the World made great play of the paper’s relationship with the Payne family,” he noted, saying, “I have nothing but contempt for the people that did this.”

The Guardian was the first to report Scotland Yard’s alert to Mrs. Payne, but the e-mail newsletter Popbitch suggested earlier this month that Mrs. Payne’s voice mail had been hacked and that the phone in question may have been provided to her by the onetime editor of The News of the World, Rebekah Brooks, as part of the campaign for the law.

In a statement, Ms. Brooks confirmed that The News of the World had provided Mrs. Payne with a cellphone “for the last 11 years,” but that “it was not a personal gift.” She said she found the allegations that Mrs. Payne’s voice mail had been hacked “abhorrent and particularly upsetting as Sara Payne is a dear friend.”

When Ms. Brooks, who has been forced to step down from News International, the British arm of Rubert Murdoch’s News Corporation and owner of The News of the World, recently testified before Parliament, she cited the successful campaign for Mrs. Payne’s law as evidence of the good she had done at the tabloid’s helm. A spokeswoman for News International said the company had no immediate comment.

Scotland Yard officers told Mrs. Payne that her name was on a list of about 4,000 targets held by the private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, according to the Phoenix Foundation statement. Mr. Mulcaire, who was convicted on hacking charges related to the paper five years ago, had an exclusive contract with the tabloid.

The hacking scandal had been smoldering for years, but ignited in recent weeks following assertions that hacking on behalf of The News of the World had interfered with the investigation into the 2006 murder of a 13-year-old girl, Milly Dowler. The man eventually convicted of her killing committed two more murders before he was caught.

Also on Thursday, the British judge leading the inquiry into the scandal held a news conference in central London, saying that the panel planned to hold its first public hearings in September and that it would have the power to compel witnesses to testify.

The inquiry will be in two parts. The first will focus on press regulation and the relationship between the press and the public, said the judge, Lord Justice Leveson. The second, which will begin after the police investigation is finished, will focus on specific allegations of phone hacking and other journalistic malfeasance in the wake of the scandal, which has spread through British media but which has most strongly shaken Mr. Murdoch’s media empire.

Justice Leveson was appointed by Prime Minister David Cameron after it became clear that hacking at The News of the World extended not only to public figures like celebrities and politicians, but also to Milly Dowler and the families of those killed in terrorist attacks. Mr. Cameron, a Conservative, initially resisted setting up an immediate inquiry, but changed his mind in response to widespread public disgust and growing political pressure from the opposition Labour Party.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/29/world/europe/29hacking.html?partner=rss&emc=rss