Phones hacked often and ‘in public interest’

NEWS of the World reporters routinely hacked voicemails and did so because it was in the public interest, a former journalist at the paper said.

Paul McMullan, who worked at the defunct tabloid for seven years, told the Leveson Inquiry that editors were aware voicemails were being hacked, but threw reporters “to the wolves” by denying they knew anything about it.

Asked by David Barr, counsel to the inquiry, if editors were aware reporters at the tabloid were hacking people’s voicemails, the former deputy features editor said “yes”.

“We did all these things for our editors, for Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson,” he said.

“My assertion has always been that Andy Coulson brought that practice wholesale with him when he was appointed deputy editor, an appointment I could not believe.”

McMullan launched a scathing attack on both former editors, saying: “They should have had the strength of their conviction to say: ‘I know, yes, sometimes you have to enter into a grey area or enter a black, illegal area for the good of our readers, for the public good, and yes we asked our reporters to do these things’.

“But instead they turned around on us and said, ‘oh, we didn’t know they were doing it, oh heavens, it was all just Clive Goodman and later it was just a few others’.

“They should have been the heroes of journalism, but they aren’t, Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, they are the scum of journalism for trying to drop me and my colleagues in it,” he said.

McMullan added that hacking into voicemails was a common, easy “school-yard trick”.

Murdoch reappointed

*NEARLY 45% of non-News Corporation shareholders failed to back James Murdoch as he was reappointed a director of BSkyB at the company’s annual general meeting.

BSkyB said, excluding votes cast by News Corporation, Murdoch received the support of 55.7% of independent shareholders, with 31.4% opposed and 12.9% withheld.

There have been calls for the son of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch to resign his role as chairman amid fears that his links to the phone hacking inquiry at News Corporation will damage BSkyB’s reputation.

Murdoch received the support of 76.9% of shareholders, with 17.8% opposed and 7.3% withheld.

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