Wednesday, 24 August 2011
The story of the current hacking scandal must begin with Clive Goodman.
That is not to say that the broad chronology of all the relevant events to do with telephone hacking and similar tabloid misconduct begins with his fateful arrest on 8 August 2006.
For example, any hacking by or on behalf of other News of the World journalists after the abductions of Sarah Payne (July 2000) and Milly Dowler (March 2002) was well before the arrest of Goodman. And there is no reason to believe Goodman was involved in this.
The open teasing of Dominic Mohan (now editor of The Sun) about The Mirror's use of Vodafone's lack of security for show business exclusives was back in early 2002.
(By the way, we still do not know how The Mirror's then editor Piers Morgan reacted to that.)
Furthermore, Operation Motorman of the Information Commissioner, an investigation into the unlawful trade in personal information involving newspapers, had commenced in 2003. The Information Commissioner's significant - but at the time widely ignored - first report on that investigation was even published in May 2006, two months before the unconnected arrest of Goodman.
So the broader story of tabloid telephone hacking, and of the other unlawful practices in respect of obtaining information, was already old by the summer of 2006.
But it is the arrest of Goodman which is the start of the story of the current scandal, for almost everything which has happened since so as to engage public and political concern flows from that one event, and why it ever happened.
Goodman was royal editor of the News of the World.
One means by which he got stories was by intercepting voicemails. According to reports of his conviction, he made at least 487 calls to royal household telephones for this purpose.
And in November 2005 there appeared a story in the News of the World which prompted serious suspicions that royal household telephone messages were being intercepted.
It is a curiosity of our domestic political system that it was only when the royal household's telephones were being interfered with that the Metropolitan Police had to act.
This means that had Goodman not been so cack-handed so as to use the information from the hacking of the royal household's telephones in a suspicious manner, there may never have been any police investigation.
And when the police did act, they sought to narrow the investigation to the royal household's telephones, even though they had seized substantial evidence from Goodman's accomplice Glenn Mulcaire of hundreds of other interceptions, not related to the royal household.
This collection of evidence from Mulcaire was to be crucial in the events which then followed; but without Goodman's clumsiness, all this information would never have been seized, and it doubtless would not now exist.
Both Goodman and Mulcaire were arrested in August 2006, pleaded guilty on 29 November 2006, and were sentenced to terms of imprisonment on 26 January 2007.
Given the guilty pleas, there was no trial, though there were sentencing remarks of the judge, Mr Justice Gross.
During this time Goodman continued to be employed (though suspended) on the News of the World. He was not dismissed until 5 February 2007, when his contract was terminated with immediate effect.
It is not clear why such instant dismissal was delayed to 5 February 2007.
Goodman had pleaded guilty over three months before, and it appears he had indicated a guilty plea well in advance of November 2006; but it was not until 5 February 2007 that he was sacked
The dismissal letter, dated 5 February 2007, is included in this pdf.
It is worth reading carefully, as what then happens over the following five months in 2007 determines a great deal of the shape of the current scandal.
Part 2 of the Story of Hackgate to follow here at Jack of Kent, but next will be a post at New Statesman on something very interesting which happened at the sentencing of Goodman and Mulcaire on 26 January 2007.
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By Jack of Kent at 22:02