Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Wade In The Balance And Found Wanting

Most of the press, with the obvious exception of the News International stable, is expressing disgust as more details of the phone-hacking scandal emerge. Tampering with the voicemail of the by-then-murdered Milly Dowler, raising false hopes in her family and clouding the picture for police investigators plumbed new depths of callousness and irresponsibility, but this, to me, is not the worst aspect of this complex scandal.

Some years ago Rebekah Wade as was (now Brooks) admitted to a Commons committee that her paper had paid police officers for information. Now extensive files on these payments have reportedly been handed over to Scotland Yard. What did senior police officers do at the time about this news - or was it not news to them but rather something greeted with a nod-and-a-wink? If this hacking scandal results in criminal charges, as it may, what is the likelihood of an investigating detective being one who has taken brown envelopes from Wapping in the past? What does that do for public confidence?

In the same way, it's a bit rich to hear David Cameron's expressed shock about the behaviour of the paper managed by his dining and riding companion - why didn't he ask her over the After Eights, or during a gentle hack in the countryside?

We are still waiting to hear an explanation as to why the police investigation into journalistic malpractice stalled in about 2006. Cynics might draw an unpleasant conclusion. As a rider, Cameron knows the importance of seeing that the stables are regularly cleaned out. There's some muck here that he might make a start on.

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