Crime and punishment
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Saturday, 27 January 2007
ImageThe saga of the criminal journalists who hacked into the message banks of members of the Royal Family and other prominent people, seems to have reached its conclusion.  (We last referred to the affair on the ACM website on 18 January, 2007)  It has ended with the gaoling of a journalist and an investigator engaged by the Sunday newspaper, the News of The World, which is the UK’s biggest-selling newspaper with a circulation of around 3.3 million copies.  According to The Guardian of 26 January, 2007, the News of the World “royal editor”, Clive Goodman, has been sentenced to four months in gaol after pleading guilty to intercepting e}phone messages. His co-accused, private investigator Glenn Mulcaire was sentenced to six months. 

 

The judge, Mr Justice Gross, described their behaviour as "low conduct, reprehensible in the extreme.  Neither journalist nor private security consultants are above the law.  This case was not about press freedom; it was about a grave, inexcusable and illegal invasion of privacy.  It was not pushing at the limits, or at the cusp: it was plainly on the wrong side of the line. It is essential for the decency of our public life that conduct of this kind is clearly marked as unacceptable.  This was serious criminal conduct to which we must not become numbed.  It is to my mind [of] the very first importance to the fabric of our public life that such intrusive, sustained criminal conduct should be marked by immediate loss of liberty."

 

According to The Guardian, Goodman had “a glittering reputation…for scoop-getting, reputedly holding the paper's record for the highest number of consecutive front-page leads.”  

 

Immediately after the decision, the editor of the News of the World, Andy Coulson, announced his resignation in these words:-"I have decided that the time has come for me to take ultimate responsibility for the events around the Clive Goodman case.  As I've said before, his actions were entirely wrong and I deeply regret that they happened on my watch. I also feel strongly that when the News of the World calls those in public life to account on behalf of its readers, it must have its own house in order.  It has been a privilege to lead such a talented and dedicated team and I've no doubt the successes of the last four years will continue."  

 

According to The Times, of 26 January, 2007 Mr. Coulson replaced Rebekah Wade as editor in January, 2003, when she left to edit The Sun, its daily sister tabloid.  We mentioned in the report on the ACM website on 18 January, 2007 that after the News of the World’s Royal Editor was arrested, The Sun published three year old photographs of Prince Harry and Prince William, as if they had been recently taken.  The photographs untruthfully suggested that Prince Harry had compromised his relationship with his current girlfriend. 

 We do hope this was not some misguided attempt to extract revenge.