It has been an eventful few weeks at the Leveson inquiry, with various celebrities appearing to present the case against press intrusion. Today, several journalists will give evidence — including Paul McMullan, the former News of the World deputy features editor turned whistleblower. Of course, McMullan is the man who was secretly recorded by Hugh Grant for the New Statesman back in April.
You can read the full transcript here, but in the meantime, here are some of the highlights.
At his appearance last week, Grant suggested that the Mail was also guilty of phone-hacking (which the newspaper denied: “The Mail on Sunday utterly refutes Hugh Grant’s claim that they got any story as a result of phone hacking”). Part of this allegation was based on comments made by McMullan, so you can expect it to be raised again today. Here is the relevant section of the conversation:
Me And . . . it wasn’t just the News of the World. It was, you know – the Mail?
Him Oh absolutely, yeah. When I went freelance in 2004 the biggest payers – you’d have thought it would be the NoW, but actually it was the Daily Mail.
. . .
Me But would they [the Mail] buy a phone-hacked story?
Him For about four or five years they’ve absolutely been cleaner than clean. And before that they weren’t. They were as dirty as anyone . . . They had the most money.
Me So everyone knew? I mean, would Rebekah Wade have known all this stuff was going on?
Him Good question. You’re not taping, are you?
Me [slightly shrill voice] No.
Him Well, yeah. Clearly she . . . took over the job of [a journalist] who had a scanner who was trying to sell it to members of his own department. But it wasn’t a big crime. [NB: Rebekah Brooks has always denied any knowledge of phone-hacking. The current police investigation is into events that took place after her editorship of the News of the World.]
It started off as fun – you know, it wasn’t against the law, so why wouldn’t you? And it was only because the MPs who were fiddling their expenses and being generally corrupt kept getting caught so much they changed the law in 2001 to make it illegal to buy and sell a digital scanner. So all we were left with was – you know – finding a blag to get your mobile [records] out of someone at Vodafone. Or, when someone’s got it, other people swap things for it.
Later, Grant asked McMullan what Rupert Murdoch new about phone-hacking. His answer suggests that the older Murdoch may not have been feigning ignorance when he appeared before MPs:
Me Do you think Murdoch knew about phone-hacking?
Him Errr, possibly not. He’s a funny bloke given that he owns the Sun and the Screws . . . quite puritanical.
McMullan will be up later this morning. In the meantime, here is clash with Steve Coogan on Newsnight: