Monday, 4 July 2011

The hacking of Milly Dowler's voicemails

Nick Davies and Amelia Hill of the Guardian have just revealed that the News of the World hacked into the telephone of the then missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

Significantly, the newspaper is alleged to have deleted messages so to ensure the voice mailbox was not filled up.

This was then an on-going investigation into a disappearance. The deleted voicemails could have been evidence in respect of the crime, as well being information which could have assisted the police.

If these allegations are correct, then the current police investigation is now no longer just into breaches of the legislation relating to phone hacking.

This would now appear to be an inquiry into a perversion of the course of justice. The police and the courts do not take such offences lightly.

Not only has the “Hackgate” gone onto a more sickeningly bad level; the seeming criminality is now also far more serious.


No purely anonymous comments will be published; always use a name for ease of reference by other commenters.


Neil Monnery said...

Even I didn't think that they could sink just so low. That is just beyond the pale. How anyone could do such a thing at a time when it was a missing persons inquiry - not a murder inquiry - is just beyond me. I hope that the police come down hard on those directly involved as something clearly needs to be done.

Adam said...

When you say "have just revealed", you mean "have just alleged", surely?

If the allegations are true, then they are, as you rightly point out, utterly sickening and criminal.

But shouldn't we wait to see if they are true first? I'm sure you'd agree that we shouldn't make judgements based on nothing more than a story in a newspaper, wouldn't you?

Simon Bradshaw said...

To an even more blatant extent that other phone-hacking incidents, this is a clear example of unauthorised access to and/or modification of a computer system (which mobile phone voicemail is) contrary to s.1 or s.3 Computer Misuse Act 1990.

John Comyn said...

The issue here is the fact that evidence could have been destroyed and, potentially, the whole case could have been sunk. And that's if the police had even been able to catch the killer. The NoW is one of the first outlets to whinge when criminals get off "on a technicality".

Of course the actions are also morally reprehensible, but we need to see how the above issues are dealt with by the CPS and the courts. I'm pretty sure David is correct - a judge will throw the book at them.

tucola said...


I am not a criminal lawyer, but would these actions satisfy the intention element for perverting (or in this case, I suppose, attempting to pervert) the course of justice?

And the Surrey police officer's example quoted in the linked Guardian article sounds pretty far-fetched (there could have been a message left by the murderer as a smokescreen and, if so, the police would need it as evidence and, if destroyed, that would be a serious interference with the police investigation).

Kate G said...

Other than those directly responsible, there will be others who have known about this for all these years, particularly when the murder enquiry was still ongoing, and said / done nothing about it.
On that simple point alone, I am (but perhaps shouldn't be) flabbergasted.

John Ward said...

From The Slog

Keep the pressure on these scoundrels. And this shower are deemed an OK organisation to take on the BBC.
Dear oh dear oh dear

Sam Gunn said...

I would like to say that I am shocked by this new allegation but, truth be told, I am not in the least. RM, more and more, puts me in mind of a real life Bond villain sequestered in a secret hideout, surrounded by lick-spittle toady's whilst plotting multiple nefarious schemes.

Unlike the Bond villain, however, RM has no redeeming qualities. Rather than petting a fluffy white kitten, he is more likely to be pulling its head off.

MetalSamurai said...

Why didn't the police investigation into Millie Dowler's disappearance reveal this hacking at the time? Were the police not monitoring her number? Shouldn't they have investigated the deletion of messages and tracked it back to Mulcaire?

strangebrew said...

So much for press self regulation.
How toothless, pointless and just plain turgid are the self proclaimed arbiters of good taste in press coverage.
Absolutely useless after the fact.

This is not just phone it has plumbed the depths of depravity, sickness and vile opportunism.

As well as perverting the course of justice....they must be so very proud of themselves for being so clever!

catdownunder said...

Yes, keep the pressure on! There is no way at all that these actions could be described as being "in the public interest".

Joe in Australia said...

I agree that the conduct was thoroughly reprehensible, but in what way could their behavior possibly amount to a perversion of the course of justice? Even if they had destroyed relevant evidence (and there's no reason to think this is the case) there was no prosecution in progress.

Bob Hulley said...

If we are to believe that voicemail evidence from Milly's mobile phone was destroyed, and it now seems very likely that it was, surely Levi Bellfield's conviction must now be seen as unsound? The missing evidence, if such it was, could have cleared him, or made his conviction simpler, or even have been of no consequence, but in it's absence we cannot know.

The NoW frequently rail against "criminals going free on a technicality", so it will be difficult to for them argue that they could not have foreseen the consequences of their actions.

Hacking is bad. Knowingly undermining justice is infinitely worse.

Bob Hulley

Murder most fowl said...

This story does not make sense.

At the time, in 2002, the Police were monitoring the telphone account of Milly Dowler. (At least, I hope they were and expect they would have been!) I saw a report that the account had been given extra credit to ensure the telephone remained open.

Presumably the phone itself was switched off (or its battery had expired). Police monitoring calls through the service provider would mean they knew every number that communicated with Milly's account. They would surely have followed up all of them; especially any that accessed the supposedly secret voicemail passnumber. True, knowing the accessing phone number does not always mean an immediate name and address of its user, but, given available Police resources in a high-priority case, they would have been able to find this out.

So, the Police did know in 2002 that it was the NoW, and correctly decided that this was nothing to do with the disappearance.Then the question becomes were the Police too scared to take further steps against the NoW; too scared even to tell the family that it had been journalists? Or was this a "joint" Police / News International venture, sharing information and patting each other on the back?

Harbo said...

With the NoW committing Harakiri, is there a danger that a number of those who have known of, and or, participated in, these actions will slip away during the rebirth of whatever phoenix arises?
Is this the reason for the "suicide"?

strangebrew said...


"Is this the reason for the "suicide"?"

The demise of NoW would certainly make any investigation, let alone actual evidence gathering, very difficult.

I am of the slightly jaundiced opinion that it is a sacrifice made by Murdoch inc to delay the inevitable inquiry process any which way.
I think they were playing for time where an advantage might eventually present itself.

It was possibly also a handy consequence, if not out right ploy, to definably bring the plurality question under the threshold required.

That is why they withdrew the clause that Sky News would be independent of any takeover,they did not need to do that after NoW was flicked away.
And that re-jigging of contract terms triggered the referral to the competition committee where is was likely to pass unheeded on that point.

The fact is Rupert's 'best' corporate chess moves in this farrago appear to have been governed more by cynicism, greed and panic then by the shrewdness of business acumen.

He can twist and whine all he will, bottom line is swimming into focus that his corporation deliberately turned a blind eye, if not encouraged, a newsroom in the News Corp empire. and probably not the only one, that had little understanding of the word 'ethical', as for morality that seems to have had no place in News Corps boardroom at all under any circumstances unless it was their brand.

Hence abomination soaked shenanigans like Milly's phone hacking occur without let or hindrance.

Impressions are unfortunately not easily disregarded either by jury or the general public, methinks News Corp is a busted flush, as long as there is a Murdoch anywhere near the helm.

I have a feeling that the parliamentary inquiry will be his undoing under the gaze of the public arena, Murdoch Sn has an ego, he is not afraid to use it, maybe he should be!

What is really starting to become a severe concern is just how far 'plod' was in News Corp's / News International's pocket, that has some tricky implications for the whole of the Met's hierarchy methinks.