The publisher of the News of the World tonight denied that its reporters had hacked into the phones of hundreds of public figures.
On Wednesday The Guardian began reporting that the paper had accessed the voicemails of hundreds of public figures, including with former deputy prime minister John Prescott, London Mayor Boris Johnson and actress Gwyneth Paltrow.
In its statement, News International accused The Guardian of being “selective and misleading” in its coverage.
News International added that, following an internal investigation, it was confident that there were no fresh cases of its journalists accessing the voicemails of individuals.
It also denied that the newspaper or its journalists had instructed private investigators or other third parties to access voicemails or that there had been “systemic corporate illegality” to suppress evidence.
It said that apart from the case of the paper’s former royal correspondent Clive Goodman, who was jailed in 2007, the only evidence connecting its reporters to the accessing of voicemails was that which emerged during a case brought by Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballer Association.
“It goes without saying that had the police uncovered such evidence, charges would have been brought against other News of the World personnel,” it said.
“Not only have there been no such charges, but the police have not considered it necessary to arrest or question any other member of News of the World staff.”
“News International has delayed making this detailed statement until all relevant facts have been analysed and checked internally and externally.
“News International has completed a thorough investigation into the various allegations made since the Guardian story broke on Wednesday.
“This investigation augmented a similar process here following the arrest of private investigator Glenn Mulcaire and News of the World journalist Clive Goodman in August 2006.
“Perhaps more significantly, the police investigation into Glenn Mulcaire and Clive Goodman began in 2005, nine months before the two men were arrested.
“Prior to arrest the police conducted live monitoring of both men’s activities and also kept the News of the World activity in this area under investigation.
“The raids on Mulcaire’s premises, on Goodman’s premises and on the News of the World office seized all relevant documents and all available evidence. The police investigation continued after the arrests and all relevant activity was studied and analysed in the context of identifying unlawfulness/criminality. The police investigation was incredibly thorough.
“Apart from matters raised in the Mulcaire and Goodman proceedings, the only other evidence connecting News of the World reporters to information gained as a result of accessing a person’s voicemail emerged in April 2008, during the course of the Gordon Taylor litigation. Neither this information nor any story arising from it was ever published. Once senior executives became aware of this, immediate steps were taken to resolve Mr Taylor’s complaint.
“From our own investigation, but more importantly that of the police, we can state with confidence that, apart from the matters referred to above, there is not and never has been evidence to support allegations that:
:: News of the World journalists have accessed the voicemails of any individual.
:: News of the World or its journalists have instructed private investigators or other third parties to access the voicemails of any individuals.
:: There was systemic corporate illegality by News International to suppress evidence.
It goes without saying that had the police uncovered such evidence, charges would have been brought against other News of the World personnel. Not only have there been no such charges, but the police have not considered it necessary to arrest or question any other member of News of the World staff.
Based on the above, we can state categorically in relation to the following allegations which have been made primarily by the Guardian and widely reported as fact by Sky News, BBC, ITN and others this week:
:: It is untrue that officers found evidence of News Group staff, either themselves or using private investigators, hacking into “thousands” of mobile phones.
:: It is untrue that apart from Goodman, officers found evidence that other members of News Group staff hacked into mobile phones or accessed individuals’ voicemails.
:: It is untrue that there is evidence that News Group reporters, or indeed anyone, hacked into the telephone voicemails of John Prescott.
:: It is untrue that “Murdoch journalists” used private investigators to illegally hack into the mobile phone messages of numerous public figures to gain unlawful access to confidential personal data, including: tax records, social security files, bank statements and itemised phone bills.
:: It is untrue that News Group reporters have hacked into telephone voicemail services of various footballers, politicians and celebrities named in reports this week.
:: It is untrue that News of the World executives knowingly sanctioned payment for illegal phone intercepts.
All of these irresponsible and unsubstantiated allegations against News of the World and other News International titles and its journalists are false.
The Guardian has been selective and misleading in its coverage of the report and investigation by the Information Commissioner. There has been and is no connection between the Information Commissioner’s investigation and the allegation of hacking into telephones or accessing telephone voicemails.
The report concerned the activities of a private investigator who, between April 2001 and March 2003, supplied information to 32 newspapers and magazines including, incidentally, the Guardian’s sister newspaper, The Observer, which according to the Information Commissioner was ninth worst “offender” out of the 32. The information supplied was deemed to be in breach of the Data Protection Act 1998.
“When Les Hinton gave evidence to the Select Committee in March 2007, the evidence which emerged during the Gordon Taylor litigation in April 2008 was not known to Mr Hinton or any other senior executive within News International.
“Furthermore, we are inviting the Guardian to supply the Metropolitan Police with any new evidence they claim to have.
“Since February 2007, News International has continued to work with its journalists and its industry partners to ensure that its journalists fully comply with both the relevant legislation and the rigorous requirements of the PCC’s Code of Conduct.
“Finally, we would like to make it clear that despite the Guardian suggesting otherwise, the departure of managing editor Stuart Kuttner has no connection whatsoever with the events referred to above. The Guardian were informed of this position from the outset and chose to mislead the British public.”