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Leveson Inquiry: Prosecute NoW criminality, ex editor says

Original Source: BBC: WEDNESDAY 14 DECEMBER 2011
14 December 2011 Last updated at 18:10
Ross Hawkins Political correspondent, BBC News

Colin Myler: "Whatever acts that indivuals took part in, the full force of the law should take care of them"

Ex-News of the World editor Colin Myler says the full force of the law should be used against anyone who acted in an illegal way at the paper.


He told the Leveson Inquiry into media ethics he did not recognise an account of hacking phones and expenses fraud.


Mr Myler added that extracts from the diary of the mother of missing girl Madeleine McCann were published in the mistaken belief the NoW had approval.


Meanwhile, a former NoW lawyer denied a "culture of cover-up" had existed.


Last month, Paul McMullan, the paper's ex-deputy features editor told the hearing phone hacking was in the public interest, claimed celebrities often "loved" being chased by journalists, and argued that "privacy is for paedos".


Mr Myler said he did not recognise much of the evidence Mr McMullan talked about, adding: "The criminality that took place, if it did take place, at the News of the World, is one thing, and whatever acts that individuals took part in, the full force of the law should take care of them. I'm sure it will."


Mr Myler returned from five years working in the US to become editor of the News of the World in January 2007, following Andy Coulson's resignation after Clive Goodman and Glen Mulcaire were jailed over phone hacking.


He said that in his absence, a combination of legal rulings and changed British privacy laws lead to changes in the way newspapers worked, and he spoke of an "explosion" of "fire-chasing lawyers, contacting the celebrity saying, 'Do you realise that the photograph that's been published here is in the breach of your privacy, and maybe we should do something about it."


Mr Myler said that when he took charge of the paper, he had written to all staff explaining how they must have the "clearest justification" for intrusion into personal privacy.


The matter of privacy came to the fore in relation to the story of how the NoW published the diary of Kate McCann, the mother of the missing Madeline McCann, without her knowledge, and ended up publishing an apology and making a donation to the family's fund to find their daughter.


Mr Myler said Ian Edmondson, the NoW head of news, told him he had cleared the story with the McCanns' spokesman, Clarence Mitchell.


"Ian Edmondson had assured me on more than one occasion that Clarence was aware of what we were intending to do and had said, 'good'.


"And indeed I stressed very clearly by using the phrase that I did not want Kate to come out of church on Sunday morning and find out that the diaries were there without her knowledge."


But inquiry chairman Lord Justice Leveson said a transcript of a phone call between Mr Edmondson and Mr Mitchell about the story the paper was planning was "most clearly ambiguous".

"It was not a culture of cover-up, it was a culture of avoiding reputation damage through bad publicity”

End Quote

Tom Crone

Former NoW legal manager

Mr Mitchell has issued a response to the NoW claims, saying that at no time had Mr Edmondson told him they had and were planning to publish the diary.


He also said he had witnesses to his end of the conversation and had given the inquiry lawyers his emails as a statement, and had been told it was "likely" he would be called to speak to the inquiry.


Mr Myler was also quizzed about a story the paper ran about the private life of international motorsport chief Max Mosley, which led to a significant legal ruling on the matter of privacy.


In 2008 Mr Mosley took the NoW to court over the story, and won a legal action which Mr Myler said "humiliated" the paper and "was a landmark in how tabloid newspapers have to approach those kinds of stories".


Despite this, he put the story forward for a scoop of the year award, but he rejected the suggestion that he was in fact gloating about the story.

Mr Crone said the settlement was to avoid "reputational damage"

Earlier in the day, former NoW legal manager Tom Crone told the inquiry an out-of-court payment to football union boss Gordon Taylor over phone hacking was about avoiding "reputational damage".


Asked who was the "guardian of ethics" at NoW publisher News International, he said compliance was not within his job.


Mr Crone was asked by counsel to the inquiry Robert Jay QC if the 2008 Taylor case had to be settled "to avoid the parading of these matters at a public trial". He replied "yes".


"It was not a culture of cover-up, it was a culture of avoiding reputation damage through bad publicity," he said.


But later, another former NI lawyer Jon Chapman told the inquiry he believed compliance was part of the remit.


"I've heard Mr Crone's testimony. I would have thought compliance would have been picked up by lawyers on the editorial side. Clearly Mr Crone doesn't agree with that," he said.


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