Sarah Payne's mother allegedly hacked by NOTW

A phone given to Payne by Rebekah Brooks, to help her keep in touch with supporters, was targeted by

Police have found evidence that Sara Payne, the mother of Sarah Payne, the eight year old who was was abducted and murdered in July 2000, could have been targeted by the News of the World's investigator Glenn Mulcaire.

The revelation that Payne's phone could have been hacked is particularly shocking in light of her close relationship with the newspaper, which under Rebekah Brook's editorship campaigned for a change in the law to allow the identification of paedophiles. Brooks said that the battle for "Sarah's Law" was one of her proudest achievements.

When she heard that the newspaper was going to be closed, Payne gave a heartfelt statement in which she said "it feels like a friend had just died". She also said:

The NOTW team supported me through some of the darkest, most difficult times of my life and became my trusted friends.

One example of their support was to give me a phone to help me stay in touch with my family, friends and support network, which turned out to be an absolute lifeline. A lifeline policy that we now adopt as victims' advocates.

Since Sarah was murdered, my marriage broke down, my brother passed away, then my mother and then my father.

I just don't know what I would have done without being able to reach out to my friends and family 'whenever I needed them' during these very dark times and it helped me stay in touch with the NOTW team regarding their support for my campaign to bring about Sarah's Law which went national this year.

It is thought that the evidence that police have found in Mulcaire's notes relate to this phone -- which, according to the Guardian, was given to Payne as a gift by Brooks. In the same statement, Payne said it would be a "devastating intolerable betrayal" if her phone had been hacked. She even wrote a column in the final issue of the newspaper.

This latest development will reignite speculation about how much Brooks knew about phone-hacking, given her close involvement with the Payne case and the campaign for "Sarah's Law" as editor of News of the World. Brooks denies any knowledge of phone-hacking. She told MPs last week that "we only know what we have read", and said she was horrified to read in the Guardian that the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's phone had been hacked.

If the allegation does turn out to be true, the key question will simply be "why?", given that Payne had a close working and personal relationship with senior executives at the newspaper.


UPDATE 17.30

Rebekah Brooks has given a statement confirming that Payne was given a phone by the newspaper:

For the benefit of the campaign for Sarah's Law, the News of the World have provided Sara with a mobile telephone for the last 11 years. It was not a personal gift.

The idea that anyone on the newspaper knew that Sara or the campaign team were targeted by Mr Mulcaire is unthinkable. The idea of her being targeted is beyond my comprehension. It is imperative for Sara and the other victims of crime that these allegations are investigated and those culpable brought to justice.



Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty Images
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Autumn Statement 2015: George Osborne abandons his target

How will George Osborne close the deficit after his U-Turns? Answer: he won't, of course. 

“Good governments U-Turn, and U-Turn frequently.” That’s Andrew Adonis’ maxim, and George Osborne borrowed heavily from him today, delivering two big U-Turns, on tax credits and on police funding. There will be no cuts to tax credits or to the police.

The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that, in total, the government gave away £6.2 billion next year, more than half of which is the reverse to tax credits.

Osborne claims that he will still deliver his planned £12bn reduction in welfare. But, as I’ve written before, without cutting tax credits, it’s difficult to see how you can get £12bn out of the welfare bill. Here’s the OBR’s chart of welfare spending:

The government has already promised to protect child benefit and pension spending – in fact, it actually increased pensioner spending today. So all that’s left is tax credits. If the government is not going to cut them, where’s the £12bn come from?

A bit of clever accounting today got Osborne out of his hole. The Universal Credit, once it comes in in full, will replace tax credits anyway, allowing him to describe his U-Turn as a delay, not a full retreat. But the reality – as the Treasury has admitted privately for some time – is that the Universal Credit will never be wholly implemented. The pilot schemes – one of which, in Hammersmith, I have visited myself – are little more than Potemkin set-ups. Iain Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit will never be rolled out in full. The savings from switching from tax credits to Universal Credit will never materialise.

The £12bn is smaller, too, than it was this time last week. Instead of cutting £12bn from the welfare budget by 2017-8, the government will instead cut £12bn by the end of the parliament – a much smaller task.

That’s not to say that the cuts to departmental spending and welfare will be painless – far from it. Employment Support Allowance – what used to be called incapacity benefit and severe disablement benefit – will be cut down to the level of Jobseekers’ Allowance, while the government will erect further hurdles to claimants. Cuts to departmental spending will mean a further reduction in the numbers of public sector workers.  But it will be some way short of the reductions in welfare spending required to hit Osborne’s deficit reduction timetable.

So, where’s the money coming from? The answer is nowhere. What we'll instead get is five more years of the same: increasing household debt, austerity largely concentrated on the poorest, and yet more borrowing. As the last five years proved, the Conservatives don’t need to close the deficit to be re-elected. In fact, it may be that having the need to “finish the job” as a stick to beat Labour with actually helped the Tories in May. They have neither an economic imperative nor a political one to close the deficit. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.