Hacking 'widely discussed' at UK tabloid: ex-reporter

16th August 2011, Comments 0 comments

Phone hacking was "widely discussed" at the News of the World and ex-editor Andy Coulson sought to cover it up, the British tabloid's disgraced former royal reporter said in a letter published Tuesday.

Clive Goodman, who was jailed for hacking in 2007, alleged that Coulson, who went on to work for Prime Minister David Cameron, had offered to let him keep his job if he agreed not to implicate the paper in hacking when he came to court.

The explosive accusation comes in a letter written by Goodman in March 2007, shortly after leaving prison, to appeal against his dismissal from the now defunct News of the World.

The letter was released by parliament's media committee.

"This practice (phone hacking) was widely discussed in the daily editorial conference, until explicit reference to it was banned by the editor (Coulson)," Goodman wrote.

He added that the newspaper's senior legal manager, Tom Crone, and Coulson "promised on many occasions that I could come back to a job at the newspaper if I did not implicate the paper or any of its staff in my mitigation plea.

"I did not, and I expect the paper to honour its promise."

The letter was supplied to lawmakers by law firm Harbottle & Lewis and was redacted at the request of police, according to The Guardian newspaper.

Another version of the letter was provided by News of the World publisher News International, but it was redacted to remove all references to hacking being discussed at Coulson's editorial meetings and to the offer to keep Goodman on staff if he kept quiet.

Coulson quit as editor of the News of the World after Goodman and private detective Glenn Mulcaire were jailed, but has denied any knowledge of thne phone hacking.

He went on to work for Cameron as his media chief, but was forced to resign in January amid continuing allegations that the hacking at the News of the World went beyond one rogue reporter while he was at the helm.

The committee published the letter as part of its investigation into hacking at the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid, which was shut last month after claims that its journalists had hacked the phone of a murdered teenage girl.

Writing to the human resources director of News International, the News of the World's parent company, Goodman appealed against his dismissal, arguing that he was not the only person at the Sunday tabloid involved in hacking.

He had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to intercept the voicemail messages of three employees of the royal family and was sentenced to four months.

In his letter Goodman said the decision to dismiss him "is perverse in that the actions leading to this criminal charge were carried out with the full knowledge and support of" -- and then the name is redacted.

He continues: "The decision is inconsistent, because... (redacted) and other members of staff were carrying out the same illegal procedures."

He also says that the News of the World continued to employ him throughout his suspension over phone hacking, and "the paper continued to employ me for a substantial part of my custodial sentence".

News International insisted for several years that hacking at the News of the World was confined to one "rogue reporter", and police took a similar line, halting their investigations following the convictions of Goodman and Mulcaire.

However, mounting allegations that the practice was widespread -- including evidence that Mulcaire targeted thousands of people -- sparked a new police investigation in January.

© 2011 AFP

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