From the Mirror:
THE News of the World hacked a phone belonging to Sarah Payne’s mother – which was given to her by then editor Rebekah Brooks, it was claimed yesterday.
Scotland Yard have told Sara – mother of the eight-year-old schoolgirl murdered by Roy Whiting – that the mobile may have been targeted by the newspaper. They said they had found evidence suggesting she was hacked by News of the World investigator Glenn Mulcaire.
Officers from Operation Weeting told her on Tuesday that they had found her personal details among his notes. The evidence is believed to relate to the phone Rebekah Brooks gave her to help her stay in touch with supporters.
Original painting (Medusa by Rubens)
Friends of Sara Payne said that she is “absolutely devastated and deeply disappointed” at the news. The newspaper – and particularly Rebekah Brooks – had championed Sara’s campaign for Sarah’s Law. Sara even wrote a column for the paper’s final edition, calling their staff “my good and trusted friends”.
Labour MP Tom Watson said: “This is a new low. The last edition of the News of the World made great play of the paper’s relationship with the Payne family. Brooks talked about it at the committee inquiry. Now this. I have nothing but contempt for the people that did this.” It has already been revealed the paper hacked and deleted the voicemail of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.
The latest news will raise further doubts about whether News Corporation is “fit and proper” to own TV licences and its 39% share of BskyB.
Last night, Rebekah Brooks said: “These allegations are abhorrent and particularly upsetting as Sara Payne is a dear friend.
A News International spokesman said: “News International takes this matter very seriously and is deeply concerned, like everyone. As the facts are established, the company and the independent Management and Standards Committee will take all appropriate actions, including co-operating fully with any potential criminal inquiries or civil proceedings which may arise.”
John Whittingdale, chairman of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said it would be meeting tomorrow to discuss its next steps.
From The Boston Globe:
Even in the worst of times, Sara Payne was a defender of Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World. She thought she had good reason.
After her 8-year-old daughter was killed by a convicted pedophile living a few miles away, Payne credited the feisty tabloid with helping her campaign for a new British law giving parents the right to know if anyone with regular access to their children is a sex offender.
But in a case generating a fresh uproar in Britain over the nefarious methods of News of the World, Payne acknowledged yesterday that she might have been among the thousands of British citizens targeted by the paper in a widespread campaign of illegal phone hacking.
The revelations again put Murdoch’s News Corp. under a blinding spotlight at a time when some politicians here are calling for the company’s vast British media holdings to be broken up, saying it does not meet the criteria that media owners here be fit and proper companies. It also dealt another blow to Scotland Yard, which had earlier told Payne she was not among those targeted by the tabloid, a position it only recently corrected.
More than anything, though, Payne’s involvement in the scandal robs News Corp. of one of its most sympathetic voices.
Earlier this month, Payne had bemoaned Murdoch’s decision to shut down the tabloid after revelations that its employees had hacked the phone of a different young murder victim – hampering a police investigation in the process. Payne chided the newspaper for hacking phones, including that of the girl, Milly Dowler. But she nevertheless described the 168-year-old paper’s closure as “the passing of an old friend’’ in a piece she penned for its final edition.
Payne’s targeting could spell fresh trouble for Rebekah Brooks, who resigned as head of News Corp.’s British operations this month and is facing criminal charges tied to the hacking scandal. When serving as the editor of News of the World in the early 2000s, Brooks closely directed the paper’s coverage of Payne’s crusade. She has denied any knowledge of illegal newsgathering at News of the World.
The news came just as the independent inquiry into the scandal officially launched yesterday, with Lord Justice Brian Henry Levenson [sic], who is leading the investigation, saying it could take 12 months or longer to complete. Hearings would begin this fall, with the mandate of the inquiry now broadened to explore illicit activities among not only newspapers, but also television and social media in Britain.
“It may be tempting for a number of people to close ranks and suggest that the problem is or was local to a group of journalists then operating at the News of the World,’’ he said. “But I would encourage all to take a wider picture of the public good and help me grapple with the width and depth of the problem.’’
Before anyone gets too excited about the investigation, keep this in mind–from The Telegraph:
Lord Justice Leveson went to two parties in the past year at the London home of Matthew Freud, a PR executive married to Elisabeth Murdoch, the daughter of Rupert Murdoch widely tipped to be her father’s successor.
MPs said last night that Lord Leveson’s social connections to News Corp raised questions about his impartiality and suitability to lead the inquiry.
It emerged [...] that Lord Leveson, while chairman of the Sentencing Council that advises the Government on punishing criminals, met Mr Freud at a dinner in February last year in an Oxford University college.
The pair discussed how to promote public confidence in the criminal justice system.
Mr Freud then offered to provide some staff from his company Freud Communications to work for nothing advising the council on how to raise confidence in sentencing. This resulted in Lord Leveson attending two parties at Mr Freud’s London home, in July last year and last January.
They talked about punishing criminals? Set your irony meters to high, kids.