Murdoch Scandal Essay

On By In 1

Authors –

Edmand Dester Thipursian –
Sai Thogarcheti –
Abdullah Al Fahad –
Chintan Gurjar –
Adam Mentsiev –
Alams Titus Mammuan –

1. Introduction

The world is growing rapidly with various technologies, and accordingly, illegal activities are being increased in adopting these new technologies. Every country has its own laws and regulations. In the UK, people are convicted under the Computer Misuse Act 1990 for illegal activities which are done with the help of technologies, and there are evidences that many people have been sentenced under this law (Turner, M., 2013). Apart from that, there are few regulations, such as RIPA 2000, which gives power to certain authorities in the UK to carry out surveillance or intercept the communications against a person for a specific reason. The question is, are these laws being used effectively and reasonably?

Gaining information illegally or by misusing the power of rights is against the law, and publishing this information is unethical and against media regulations. The News of the World phone hacking scandal is an ongoing case, which created massive concern on those laws, which led to set up an inquiry on media regulation. This paper will be discussing the issues and analyzing how the News of the World came to its demise for illegal activities like hacking the personal phones of many people to seek out inside information and the legal issues involved in it.

2. Overview of Computer Laws in the UK

According to Feng, X., (2013), computer users in the UK must be compliant with the following UK laws:

  • Communication Act (2003):This act granted more power to OfCom (Office of the Communication) to regulate media and communication service providers. Sections 125 and 126 introduced that improper use of public electronic communication network, possession or supply of devices to break the law are punishable acts. It also introduced that using an unknown Wi-Fi broadband connection without its owner’s permission is illegal (Legislation Government UK, 2003). Evidence: On July 2005, the West London Court punished a man with £500 and 12 months sentenced under Communication Act (2003) for using others’ Wi-Fi without the owner’s permission (BBC, 2005).

  • Human Rights Act (1998): Article (10) under the Human Rights Act (1998) facilitates that an individual can express his/her own view, published article or leaflet and communication through the internet, though other people may not like it and find it offensive. However, using offensive language insulting to others with the motive of targeting a racial or ethnic group can be punishable. Journalists and any media reporters will be free to express or criticize the government or political party without fear. However, Article (8) can be used to punish anyone who is involved in another’s personal life, which is considered to be disrespectful (Legislation Government UK, 1998).

  • Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (2003): It introduced that sending automated recorded messages through telephone or mobile voice or SMS for marketing purposes, without prior permission of the user, is illegal (Legislation Government UK, 2003).

  • Computer Misuse Act (1990): Under this act, it is illegal to hack or introduce a virus to others’ devices. Computer Misuse Act (1990) or CMA (1990) Section 1-3 introduced the offenses as follows:

  1. Unauthorized access to Computer material (Data or program);

  2. Unauthorized access to Computer with intent to commit or facilitate a serious crime;

  3. Unauthorized modification of computer material;

People convicted under this act may be sentenced for 6 months to 5 years and/or up to £5000 payments could be imposed (Legislation Government UK, 1990).

  • The Radio Equipment and Telecommunications Terminal Equipment Regulation (2000):Article 3.1 (a) introduced the protection of health and safety of the user or any other person with respect to safety requirements that must be met by all the equipments within the scope of the directive. Article 3.3 (c) introduced certain conditions on the equipments within the scope of the directive as follows: all the equipments must incorporate safeguards to ensure that all the users’ personal data is protected (Legislation Government UK, 2000).

  • Data Protection Act (1998/2008):Data Protection Act (DPA) was intended to protect individuals’ personal information which is handled by an organization or by an individual (Legislation Government UK, 2008).

  • Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act (2001):This legislation gives power to detain a foreigner indefinitely without any charge who is a threat to the UK and cannot be deported under human rights legislation. It was introduced after the September 11th attacks, and later it was replaced by the Prevention Terrorism Act (2005) (Legislation Government UK, 2005). It also gives power to detain a person who uses electronic devices for a terrorism related activity.

  • Police and Justice Act (2006):Police and Justice Act (2006), Part 5 includes the Computer Misuse Act (1990) for a certain computer related offenses such as deliberate attacks on a system to degrade the operation of a computer (Legislation Government UK, 2006).

  • European Law:European Law is predominantly superior to its member states’ legislation, including UK legislation (Legislation Government UK, 1973).

  • Regulation of Investigatory Power Act 2000:Regulation investigatory power Act 2000 (RIPA 2000) is a supreme regulation which is governed by the UK government and public authorities used to obtain information about individuals and an organization if necessary (The Guardian, 2009). RIPA covers a covert technique, which can be done in accordance with human rights. RIPA 2000 covers a range of important covert activities, which includes (Legislation Government of the UK, 2000):

  1. Interception of communication – this involves intercepting of peoples’ voice mails, text messages, phone calls, etc.

  2. Interception of communication data – includes intercepting of phone bills, credit card records, etc.

  3. Acquiring of ciphered data (encrypted data) – which involves any secret that relates to electronic data e.g. PIN, password, etc.

  4. Using of human covert intelligence – involves the use of an undercover officer, an informant, or buying information concerning someone from a reliable source, which can be from individuals in charge of the covert surveillance.

  5. Use of covert surveillance on citizens.

  6. Use of intrusive surveillance when necessary – it involves issues concerning private properties.

The above listed powers for covert affairs were introduced to govern the nation and for the safety of the citizens against terrorism, immigration issues, to control disorder and for the stability of the UK economy (The Parliament Publication UK, 2010). RIPA 2000 as said above is only meant for public authorities such as the police and any legal investigatory organization. It must be done with an approved warrant from the secretary of the state in section 41 of RIPA 2000 with the list members of the authority that can be given approval with proper application, and such warrants can only be granted in cases of national security or serious crime (The Guardian, 2009 and Telegraph, 2013).

3. The UK Judicial System

The following figure shows the structure of the UK Judicial system. The UK legal system is almost a 1,000 year evaluation of the legal system. The UK Judicial System lies on three pillars:

  1. Parliamentary Sovereignty (The UK Parliament)

  2. The Separation of Powers

  3. The Rule of Law

The UK Parliament consists of the House of the Lords, House of Commons, and the Crown. The principal source of UK law is the UK Parliament. The separation of law is that a certain degree of independence power to the functions, which are legislative (House of Lord), executive (Cabinet) and judicial (Judges) functions of government (Rivlin, 2004). The Rule of Law is defined as the legal relationship between the citizens and state of the government.

Figure : The UK Judicial System

Source: Judicial Statistics, Annual Report 2005 (CM6799)

Apart from the principal source of UK law, there are various lawmaking institutions such as The European Union Law making institutions, the Courts, Regulatory bodies and International institutions. The UK law became subservient to European Union Law after the UK joined with the European Union in 1973 (Rivlin, 2004).

4. The Principles of Press Regulation

There is a great need for the freedom of expression of society, which is independent, and it should be just. The media uses this right to inquire about any influential body or story. It is self-regulating and runs free of any statutory rules. The Press Complaint Commission (PCC) was formed by the Press industry itself and it provides a guideline for media professionals rather than laws. PCC has its own code of practice containing 16 articles, which cover a wide range of issues including harassment, intrusion, children, privacy, accuracy, listening devices, confidential sources, discrimination payment for articles (PCC, 2009). The balance of this action cannot be maintained just by self-regulation and it has failed to. Other systems seem to be working well enough for the different industries and different authorities.

After the news of a murdered schoolgirl, Milly Dowler, whose phone had been hacked by the News of the World, Prime Minister David Cameron set up a public inquiry about the press ethics. A number of witnesses had been heard by Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry during November 2011 and June 2012, who had also been a victim of phone hacking and disturbing behavior. A new system of press regulation was called for after Leveson published a 1,987 page report in November 2012. The report also mentioned that the press made a lot of people to face hardship and also caused chaos for some innocent people, and they have been looked down on their rights and freedom (Castella, T., 2013).

To find out if a regulation is good enough, we need to take a look at the UK Better Regulation Task Force of 1997 in which is laid out five principles of good regulation, which are used by the Department of Business Innovation and Skills still today, saying that the regulation must be:

  • Transparent – it must be open, simple and easy for all to understand and use.
  • Accountable – it is subject to inspection by the public.
  • Consistent – it must be justly and precisely implemented.
  • Targeted – it must be attentive to the core of the problem.
  • Proportionate – it must be well balanced and must be executed when there is a genuine need for it and when it is suitable to the nature and size of harm that might be caused, and also the cost involved must be clearly mentioned and minimized (Carnegieuktrust, 2011).

5. RIPA 2000

RIPA 2000 section 1 (1) describes that unlawful interception of any communication such as a public postal service or public telecommunication service is an offense. Section 1 (7) (a) and (b) clearly indicates that a person who does that will be punished with up to 2 years sentence or fine or both. Section 19 (4) introduced that a person who is part of lawful interception authority and discloses the information that he/she received from those activities must be kept secret is an offense and liable to fine or sentence up to 5 years or both. RIPA 2000 part 3 section 53 introduced that failure to comply with a notice to disclose the key for protecting information is an offense and a person or organization who does that will be punished under this act up to a maximum sentence. In 2007, Clive Goodman and Glen Mulcaire were convicted under RIPA 2000 and Computer Misuse Act 1990 for 4 months and 6 months accordingly due to intercepting the Royal family’s voicemails. Former police officer Jeremy Young was convicted and sentenced for 27 months in 2007 due to various agencies’ unlawful intercepting of communication under RIPA 2000.

Regulation Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) 2000 was established in 2000 to counteract terrorism and to protect the public. Where there is no authorization to perform covert affairs with regards to the right to human privacy, under article 8 of the European convention of human rights it is considered unlawful by virtue of section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 (Telegraph, 2013). Local authorities are strongly recommended to obtain authorization under the Power Act 2000 where the surveillance is likely to interfere with human rights. There are several press reports about public authorities performing covert surveillance affairs of individuals, with the misuse and implication of the power, and also the unlawful interference of human privacy (Walsall Government UK, 2012). In 2008, the BBC referred to RIPA as an “anti-terror law” because of the misinterpretation of the published report (Walsall Government UK, 2012). Several requests were forwarded to the councils concerning its affairs of covert surveillance, access to communication data, and the use of RIPA 2000 (Walsall Government UK, 2012).

A regular internal report for RIPA 2000 was considered by the councillors to make sure RIPA 2000 is consistently adhered to in accordance with the council policy to retain its purpose and no other further authorization beyond that (Telegraph, 2013). New policies and procedures were endorsed in RIPA 2000 on 30 January 2012 by the Audit committee, which requires a new code of attestation made by the surveillance commissioner’s office as “the Senior Responsible Officers’ roles and responsibilities, the role of members particularly that of the Audit Committee, key personnel changes of officers with authorizing responsibilities” (Democracy York Government UK, 2008).

RIPA 2000 Sec (37) (38) introduced the protection of Freedoms Act 2012 which was amended in 2012. It provides certain conditions to the local authorities and they must be followed when they carry out those surveillances under RIPA 2000. According to Brightbrotherwatch, (2011), from 2008 to 2010 there were 399 cases filed under the RIPA 2000 act. The same survey found that local councils abused RIPA 2000 for absurd reasons and wasted the taxpayers’ money. It also discovered that only 4.6% of investigations produced prosecutions. Brightbrotherwatch (2011) concluded that local councils must not have RIPA 2000 power and if they need it then they should have a permission or warrant from the magistrate court, and the case must be investigated by the police, not local councils.

When RIPA 2000 was introduced, only nine public organizations were granted power, but now more than 1000 public organizations are granted power to intercept communication, which can create a serious threat to privacy and freedom. As we discussed earlier, it is proven that misuse of this act is inevitable. Removing the power of the local authorities and getting warrants from magistrates can reduce this serious issue. Also, this act only be used when there is a serious threat to the nation, and not for civil cases.

6. Computer Misuse Act 1990

Computer Misuse Act (CMA) was established in 1990 based on the controversy of two hackers R. V. Gold and Schifreen, who tried to connect and retrieve private information from a British telecom organization (Edshare Soton, 2010) . Before CMA 1990 was introduced, there was no law or punishment that governed such crime and it was relatively free for a hacker to hack into any system if he/she was capable of doing it (Gorril, M, 1998). Though with the complex growth of technology in recent years after the establishment of Computer Misuse Act, CMA 1990 was amended as “The Police and Justice Act 2006 received Royal Assent on 8 November 2006. Part 5 of this Act contains amendments to the existing Computer Misuse Act 1990″ to suit the level of crime and to also protect the privacy of citizens in the UK (The CPS Government UK, 1990). CMA 1990 acts as a guide to many countries to adopt such laws. The latest situation of CMA 1990 is that the CMA will be amended to comply with the European Convention on Cybercrime with the maximum imprisonment of 2 years and after the infamous NOTW phone hacking scandal, smart phones will be amended as a computer device under the CMA 1990 act.

Although this act is very strong enough and is in place, very few cases took place and were convicted in the last 30 years. The problem is that most of the cases occurred due to ignorance of not being aware of what happened. Tracing the person who does this activity is very difficult and time consuming, and often the least of the damage cannot be retrieved, even if the offender is caught.

7. Computer-related Cases from the Past, At a Glance

There are many people have been convicted and sentenced under cybercrime laws due to various computer-related wrongdoing such as stealing information and spreading viruses. Metropolitan Service’s Central e-Crime unit had an investigation on the issue of unauthorized access to an individual person’s Facebook account. The investigation revealed that Crosskey, a 21 year old, was sentenced to twelve months for hacking an individual Facebook account intentionally. He was punished according to Computer Misuse Act 1990 under Section 1 and Section 3, which depicts that he intended to use a computer to perform unauthorized access to data, which belongs to the client held in the computer (Knowles, J., 2012). According to Hunt, K., (2013), Lewys Martin, a computer hacker was sentenced to two years under Computer Misuse Act 1990 Section1, 3, and 3A, who made repeated Denial of Service (DoS) attacks on the websites of Kent police and Oxford and Cambridge universities.

Christopher Weatherhead and his allies have been jailed up to 18 months under the Computer Misuse Act 1990 section 3 for carrying out cyber-attacks on PayPal, Visa and MasterCard with the help of DoS attacks. Judge Testar reveals that four people were involved in this activity, and among them two people have been jailed for the attacks and one online assault, and the third person was sentenced to six months in prison, and the sentencing of the fourth person was adjourned (Halliday, J., 2013). Computer-related wrongdoing would affect the businesses on a large scale and computer bullies can lead an individual to death, as we have seen many cases in recent times around the world.

James Marks and James McCormick were convicted under CMA 1990 Sec 1 act with unauthorized access into Sony music servers and downloads of music tracks. They were sentenced to 6 months imprisonment and had 100 hours of unpaid community service. Junaid Hussain, a 18 year old hacker who hacked the Katy Kay, a former Tony Blair’s advisor Gmail account, and accessed and published personal contacts, was convicted under CMA 1990 and given 6 months in a youth detention center (Purnell, B., 2012). Student Paul McLoughlin used Istealer to create the Trojan program and put the data into a malware program to gain the login credentials. He was convicted under CMA 1990 Sec 3A (Leyden, J, 2011).

8. News of the World

The News of the World was one of the largest selling newspapers in the UK. It was also one of the oldest newspapers, sold in the UK from 1843 to 2011. Owned by the well-reputed media firm News Limited in which Rupert Murdoch, the famous media tycoon of America, was a managing director, the News of the World was most famous for publishing celebrity-oriented scandals and populist scoops. Over the years, the newspaper exposed many national as well as local celebrities’ sinful sexual acts, drug abuse, and criminal activities by setting up journalists in various disguises to ferret out both photographic and video evidence, and hacking phones.

From 2006, NOTW was facing various allegations of its phone hacking scandal and investigations revealed that NOTW not only hacked celebrity phones’ voicemail but also those of ordinary people. It started to lose the battle against the phone hacking scandal due to public outrages and it was closed on 10th July 2011. It led to have an inquiry on Media Regulation and amended smart phone as Computer under Computer Misuse Act 1990 and raised a question on the Data protection and privacy.

9. The Case Scenario

NOTW encountered a barrage of allegations related to phone hacking lasting for a decade. It was claimed that NOTW hacked the phones of several business personalities, politicians, celebrities, well-known public figures, and members of the British Royal family, among others. Prince William’s voicemails had been hacked by the NOTW’s private investigator. The police started their investigation and NOTW’s royal editor and private investigators were convicted and sentenced to jail. The Guardian newspaper published various articles about the NOTW phone hacking.

Subsequently, the police started their own investigation by the name of ‘Operation Weetings’. They discovered that NOTW hacked not only celebrities but also the relatives of dead British soldiers, victims of the 7/7 London bombing, and murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler in order to create hot news in its publications. This discovery created public outrage and it led to the Lord Justice Leveson inquiry on Press regulation and closing of NOTW. Many employees of NOTW have been arrested and a few have been convicted. The case is still in court.

10. History of the Case

In 2005, an article published in the News of the World revealed the details of a meeting between Prince William and Tom Bradby, ITV royal correspondent even before the meeting took place. When Prince William and Bradby finally met, they tried to figure out how the information about a potential meeting that was only known by two of them got leaked. Prince William also showed concern as how recently his appointment with a knee surgeon got leaked too. During the discussion, they realized that such personal information could only get leaked if their phones were being hacked and their voicemails intercepted. Following an investigation, it was discovered that the voicemails of Prince William’s aides were hacked into, leading to a leakage. Subsequently, the royal editor of the News of the World, Clive Goodman, and Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator were convicted of the offense and imprisoned. During the court proceedings, it was revealed that besides Prince William, they also hacked into the phones of other well-known public figures including supermodel Elle Macpherson, MP Simon Hughes, publicist Max Clifford, football agent Skylet Andrew and the Professional Footballers’ Association’s Gordon Taylor (BBC News#1, 2007). Andy Coulson, then-editor of News of the World, soon resigned, taking responsibility for everything that happened.

Renewed Investigation: Though apparently the case appeared resolved with the imprisonment of Glenn Mulcaire and Clive Goodman and the resignation of Andy Coulson, subsequent investigations by police, newspaper and parliament showed evidence of a large-scale phone hacking. The Guardian newspaper came up with the report that a confidential settlement through the payment of up to £1m was done with three people whose phones had been hacked to wrap up the case.

In 2010, a series of renewed investigations took place and it was discovered that the News of the World targeted over 4,000 people for hacking phones (BBC News#3, 2012). Besides celebrities and politicians, the newspaper hacked the phones of the relatives of dead British soldiers, victims of the 7/7 London bombings and the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, whose abduction and killing shocked the nation in 2002. The revelation created a national public outcry against Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation, resulting in the closure of the News of the World in 2011 (BBC News#2, 2013).

11. Analysis of the Case

Phone hacking is a criminal offense and those involved in phone hacking may either receive a fine or/and imprisonment. Furthermore, the victims of phone hacking are allowed to sue the perpetrators of phone hacking for damages. Section 1 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) considers intentional interception of communications carried out over a public telecommunication system a felony unless there is a legal reason for investigators of Security Services and Police to conduct the operation (The Drum, 2011). Section 3 of RIPA also allows the victims of phone hacking to sue the culprits in the Civil Courts. The Data Protection Act 1998 permits the prosecution of hackers for criminal activities including unlawful ways of obtaining, disclosing and procuring personal information under section 55 (The Drum, 2011). Besides RIPA and DPA, charges could be brought against the culprits of phone hacking for the violation of right to privacy.

Privacy law in the UK is a mix of an individual’s right to privacy as mentioned in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Press, freedom of expression as mentioned in the Article 10 of the same convention, and the law of confidentiality (The Drum, 2011). The question that needs to be addressed by the court of justice is whether a person’s right to privacy would get precedence over the freedom of expression by the Press.

The News of the World case also has raised some moral and ethical issues related to the practice of journalism, especially in the matter of voicemail interception of the deceased girl Milly Dowler. After the disappearance of Milly Dowler when her family and friends were frantically sending voice messages to her phone, the unlawful interception and further deletion of important voice messages ruined potential evidence that could have given the police officials a lead to her murderer. Furthermore, the suffering of Milly’s parents, who got a false hope that Milly Dowler was still alive due to the interception and deletion of the voicemails left on her mobile, cannot be ignored. Besides, hacking into personal phones of people and disclosing information without their knowledge and consent is a completely unethical act that, if practiced by any newspaper intentionally, is worthy of severe punishment because the journalists and media persons, in their bid to compete for gaining higher circulation of their news copies, subject their victims to untold mental anguish and suffering.

12. How the Case has Unfolded So Far

The case begins from the appointment of Rebekah Brooks as an editor of NOTW at the age of 32 years in 2000. How the case has been unfolded year by year is as follows, and those timeline information was collected from various sources such as BBC news, the Guardian and other online materials;

2000: Rebekah Brooks became the editor of the NOTW at the age of 32 and she was in the head of controversial campaign of “Name and Shame” to seek the suspected pedophiles. It was helping with the case of Sarah Payne who was murdered in July 2000.

2002: Milly Dowler, who is a 13 year old girl, goes missing on the way back to her home in London on March 2002. NOTW was followed up this case by hiring private investigator Glenn Mulcaire who was apparently snooping into Dowler’s mobile phone voicemail and deleting the old voice mails to make more room for new voicemails. This act was leading to a wrong direction of the case and gave false hope that she was still alive to Dowler’s family and the police investigations.

2003: Rebekah Brooks and her deputy Andrew Coulson became the editor of the Sun and NOTW respectively.

2005: NOTW published an information about Prince William‘s knee injury and a royal court has been set up a police investigation to find about voicemail snooping.

2006: The Private Investigator Glenn Mulcaire and the royal family editor of the NOTW Clive Goodman were apprehended on the suspicion of the phone hacking and sentenced to 4 and 6 months jail time respectively.

2007: Andrew Coulson resigned from the editor of the NOTW by taking full responsibility for the royal family phone hacking issue in May 2007. He then became the Conservative Party’s communications director later in the same year. Murdoch’s son James Murdoch became the Chief Executive of the European and Asian operation of the News Corporation on December 2007.

2009: Only July 2009, The Guardian published a report about NOTW’s phone hacking into politicians and celebrities. It accused that News Corporation knew about intercepting voicemails in NOTW and it has paid $1.6 million for settlement of the dispute. This led to the police investigation and the case was closed later without sufficient evidence. Rebekah Brooks became a CEO of the News International.

2010: David Cameron became a Prime Minister of the UK and Andrew Coulson became his Chief of Media. The New York Times published an article that Andrew Coulson was aware of the phone hacking when he was editor of NOTW. NOTW has spent over £2 million with victims of phone hacking scandal in order to settle the court cases. Andy Hayman (Assistant Commissioner), who was in charge of the Scotland Yard inquiry, left the police work and joined News International as a columnist.

2011: Due to the pressure from the public and the media, Andrew Coulson resigned from his position as a Chief of Media in January 2011. The Scotland Yard announced that they are going to launch the new investigation on NOTW’s phone hacking culture. During this time, The Guardian published a story that NOTW was involved in intercepting voicemails of 2005 terrorist attacks’ victims. Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown accused the NOTW of publishing his personal information that was received illegally. Andrew Coulson and Clive Goodman were arrested under the charges of police bribery.

July 2011, Rupert Murdoch and his son were appearing in front of the Parliament to testify that they had no knowledge of phone hacking culture in their company. Brooks resigned as a CEO of the News International. Following arrests of NOTW’s top executives and employees, on July 10, 2011 NOTW issued its last publication. NOTW parent company News Corporation withdraws its takeover bid from BSkyB. NOTW sister concern Wireless Generation lost its contract from New York State government project. Lord Justice Leveson inquiry was open to the inquiry into journalist ethics.

2012: Various arrests were taking place under this investigation during this period. Editors and reporters from the Sun, The Daily Mirror, The Daily Star, The Sunday Mirror, The Daily Star Sunday, NOTW reporters, editors and a police officer were arrested.

2013: The trial was started for Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson.

13. Conclusions

The News of the World, which was a big selling newspaper in the UK, came to its demise following the disclosure of its unethical practice of hacking the phones of celebrities, politicians, well-known public figures, family members of the dead British soldiers, 7/7 London bombing victims, and the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler. Though the case was apparently solved after the royal editor of the newspaper Clive Goodman and a private investigator called Glenn Mulcaire were convicted and imprisoned due to their involvement in the phone hacking of Prince William, a renewed investigation took place a few years later following a subsequent revelation of evidence regarding a large-scale operation of phone hacking by the News of the World involving more than 4,000 victims. Phone hacking is a criminal offense deserving of punishment either by fine or imprisonment or both as per the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 and the Computer Misuse Act 1990, which also allows the victims of phone hacking to sue the culprits for damages. Besides, phone hacking violates an individual’s right to privacy and right to confidentiality. When established newspapers and media tycoon like Murdoch indulge in such unethical practice like hacking for the sake of gaining a higher circulation of their news copies, exemplary punishment should be meted out to deter such crimes in future.

14. References

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  2. Wolff, M., (2008), “The man who owns the news”, New York: Broadway Books.

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  4. The Guardian, (2011), “Andy Coulson resigns – as it happened” available at, accessed on 11th Nov 2013.
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  23. —-By Jamillah Knowles, Thursday, 17 May ’12 , 01:44pm
  24. —Keith Hunt, 2013
  25.—–Josh Halliday—2013
  26. —Michael J L Turner 1993 – 2013
  27. —–Sharpe, D–2011
  28. — John Leyden, 2011
  29.—- Brid-Aine Parnell, 27th July 2012
  30.—–Tom de Castella 30th october 2013

  31. —– September 2011 (Regulation of the Press

The malign influence of Rupert Murdoch on British life

News International acts as if it is above the law and has contributed to the coarsening of society's values, writes Henry Porter

When Rupert Murdoch appeared on his own Fox News Channel last year and was, astonishingly, asked about the News of the World phone-hacking scandal – "the story that was really buzzing around the country and certainly here in New York", as the anchorman put it – Murdoch cut him off with the words: "I'm not talking about that issue at all today. I'm sorry."

Seen against the background of Sun Valley, Idaho, and in short sleeves and sunglasses, Murdoch appeared more like a gangster fighting extradition proceedings than the attendee of a media conference. For some reason, the vicious agility of the elderly Hyman Roth in The Godfather, Part II came to mind. Naturally, the Fox News anchor didn't challenge the man he called Mr Chairman and the matter of the mass hacking of phones belonging to MPs, public figures and celebrities was dropped as Murdoch moved to praise his own organisation for its robust criticism of the Obama administration, delivering one swift jab at a competitor, the Financial Times, in the process.

Murdoch is a problem for British society and the News of the World phone-hacking story – given further impetus over the last 10 days by the New York Times and the Guardian – is a symptom of the chronic malignity of his power. In the last 40 years, we have grown used to News International (NI), so that it is difficult to imagine Britain without Murdoch's occupation, without, for instance, the leaders of the main parties humiliating themselves and our political system to gain his endorsement, or News International journalists and executives treating the law, national institutions and Parliament with disdain.

Murdoch has become one of the political issues of our time, as menacing in his own special way to democracy and conduct of politics as many other threats our society faces, only we do not see it, because his power is used behind the scenes to extend his commercial influence and so his grip on the flow of so much of the information in Britain. He and his equally unappealing son, James, (probable salary £1.3m) may bellyache about the BBC, but when you set the advertising spend and income of BSkyB alongside those of ITV and the BBC and add his newspapers and websites into the equation, you realise that Murdoch is by far the greatest force.

In February, I evoked the nightmare of Berlusconi's Italy when commenting on the fact that News International had concealed the truth about the extent of the phone hacking and that people such as Rebekah Brooks, formerly editor of the Sun and News of the World and now chief executive of NI, had refused to turn up to answer questions from the Commons culture, media and sport select committee. This is wrong in one respect. Berlusconi is at least an Italian operating in his own land. As an American citizen, Murdoch appears to have scant interest in the plurality of information in Britain and therefore the health of British society.

His overriding concern is that the government remains covertly in step with his plans for expansion and that the flow of profits to News Corp remains uninterrupted. It is as though we had handed over a huge chunk of British agricultural land or given up our food distribution networks to a relentless foreign corporation.

But the amazing thing about Murdoch's power is that it is maintained even though we owe him absolutely nothing and he is, theoretically, at the mercy of laws and regulations that can be activated to control him. His power is in a sense illusory, maintained because people choose to believe it. He argues with some reason that Sky News Sport and Sky+, for instance, and the continued existence of the loss-making Times and Sunday Timesnewspapers (losses up to £87.7m in 2009) make an important contribution to entertainment and information, yet it is also probable that other companies, possibly more benign, would have grown to occupy the commercial space that he has created for NI.

Anyway, the good in his enterprises must surely be set against the detriment to British society, laid bare in the phone-hacking scandal. These are as follows. First, he has been responsible for a distortion of politics in the last four decades. In an unguarded moment at Davos three years ago, he replied to a question about shaping the agenda on the Iraq war: "We basically supported the Bush policy." And so he did. In the nine days before the invasion, freedom of information requests reveal that he had three conversations with Tony Blair.

No British political party has succeeded at an election in the last 30 years without Murdoch's blessing and the drumbeat of his papers can make life extremely difficult for a government when he withdraws his support, as he did from Labour last year. This ability to intervene decisively in general elections gives him immediate access to the prime minister and power to his editors to dictate laws, such as Sarah's Law. It was hardly a surprise when David Cameron employed the former editor of the News of the World, Andy Coulson, now mired in the phone-hacking scandal, to be his director of communications.

Blair's deputy director of communications, Lance Price, called Murdoch the 24th member of the cabinet. "His presence was always felt," he wrote. "No big decision could ever be made inside Number 10 without taking account of the likely reaction of three men – Gordon Brown, John Prescott and Rupert Murdoch. On all the really big decisions, anybody else could safely be ignored." That is almost certainly true of the new government and Andy Coulson is seen as the key facilitator of Rupert's habitual privilege.

Second, News International regards itself as above the law of the land. As well as paying out large sums to several victims of the phone hacking, who might otherwise have brought cases against NI in open court, it is suspected of subverting the police.

The Metropolitan Police's investigations by Andy Hayman into Glenn Mulcaire's operation to tap phones on behalf of the News of the World is thought by MPs such as Paul Farrelly to be inadequate. Mr Hayman is now employed by the Times as a columnist. Further, Rebekah Brooks admitted to a House of Commons committee, then denied it, that as editor she authorised payments to the police for stories.

Unseen political influence, paying the police for stories and the hobbling of due process are the standard procedures followed by crime families and though I do not say that Murdoch is a criminal, there is a case for placing the influence of the media magnate, his clannish associates and family on the spectrum of undesirable behaviour in a democracy.

The third part of the case against Rupert Murdoch stems from the unusual clarity of a one-dimensional being – the lack of doubt in his positions – as well as the acid drip of his customary cynicism.

British society is far from perfect: we are sometimes harsh, jeering, vulgar, indolent and lacking in compassion and it is to these traits that Murdoch's tabloid newspapers and much else in his media empire appeal. But look at Britain before Murdoch bought the News of the World and you see a nation that was a good deal less derisive. Murdoch has undoubtedly contributed to the coarsening of British society and also to an erosion of values, which now sees a society where the outrageous practices of his – and other – tabloid journalists are expected, if not quite accepted.

I often wonder what Murdoch and his family will leave behind when they pass from the scene – the memory of an extraordinarily successful business empire and of many conquests no doubt, but there will be few monuments, libraries, inventions, endowments, galleries or campaigns for justice to remember them by; merely a vague sense of depletion and of a power that existed, to a bewildering degree, for its own sake.

After a good debate in the Commons, which, incidentally, was an encouraging change from the proceedings in the last Parliament, the standards and privileges committee will investigate the hacking of MPs' phones. Together with renewed scrutiny of the police investigations this is a start.

MPs could do worse than summon Murdoch to the Commons, to answer questions about who sanctioned illegal practices by his journalists, but he'd probably reply as Hyman Roth did to Michael Corleone: "I didn't ask who gave the order because it had nothing to do with business."

It's time government stood in the way of his ambitions

A plurality review over the BSkyB bid is essential to protect the scope of our TV and newspaper coverage, writes Will Hutton

Three days into the coalition government's life, Rupert Murdoch was seen leaving Number 10 by a back door. Nobody knows the substance of his conversation with the prime minister. However, it would be astonishing if during the course of the unminuted exchanges he did not foreshadow the view of Chase Carey, Sky's chief operating officer, in a telephone call with City analysts later in June, that News International's bid for the some 60% of the shares it does not own in BskyB should not warrant a "plurality review". Rupert Murdoch wants as little opposition as possible to this tipping point for News International – its desire to have 100% ownership of BSkyB. Not to have raised this with the new prime minister would have been a dereliction of duty.

The arcane "plurality" provision in the 2003 Communications Act, inserted by Lord Puttnam despite the opposition of Tony Blair and the Labour government, permits the business secretary to refer any bid involving cross-media ownership to OfCom to ensure it will not materially reduce the plurality of voice in the British media. OfCom's conclusions are then included in the Competition Commission's assessment of whether the bid in question should go forward.

These next few months are crucial for the future of the British media in a way in which MPs, exercised by Andy Coulson, have simply not registered. The review is the last line of defence in preventing News International (NI) from controlling half of Britain's television revenues – and half its newspaper revenues – by the middle of the next decade. The company would then represent the single largest concentration of media power in any large democracy, a practice outlawed in Australia and the US, with huge implications not just for British politics and culture, but also for the structure of the media and the information industry.

Everybody from BT to the Daily Mail group, along with individual citizens, should be profoundly concerned. It is obvious that the conclusion of any worthwhile plurality review is almost foregone, one of the reasons NI is so adamantly opposed to the referral.

Sky is a brilliantly successful operation. Its revenues in the last financial year were £5.9bn and its profits £855m. The next biggest TV company is the BBC – its revenues, largely from the licence fee, are £3.6bn. However, Sky's sports programming budget alone now exceeds the entire programme budget for BBC1. Next is ITV with revenue of £1.9bn; then there is Channel 4 with £855m and Channel 5 with £250m. Sky is an awesome force, moving from an entrepreneurial start-up to a potential monopolist in a generation.

And this is the issue. The emergence of Sky's market power would be problem enough if it just affected the television industry, but what makes it a defining moment for Britain is how the financial and industrial strength in television interacts with News International's dominance of the newspaper industry. The Times, Sunday Times, Sun and News of the World together constitute 37% of UK newspaper circulation.

Moreover, this is an industry struggling to find a viable business model as circulations fall and advertising revenues shrink. Cross-media ownership was an electric issue even in an era of stable technology; at a time of transformative technological change, it has become toxic because NI's television strength can come to the rescue of print in a way no other newspaper group can match.

Pay TV revenues have jumped by some 40% over the last decade and will continue to grow. Sky will benefit both from the natural growth in the market and its talent for adding additional services. By 2015, media analysts Enders Analysis project its revenues will have grown to more than £7bn. What of the BBC? The coalition promises a cut in the licence fee because of its alleged dominance, waste and extravagance. It will be lucky to be spending £3bn in 2015 and if NI has its way, the total will be considerably less. As for commercial terrestrial TV, advertising revenues are under pressure as audiences slip and advertisers look for better returns elsewhere; ITV will do well to maintain its £1.9bn revenues and Channel 4 its £855m. In short, by the time of the next election, Sky's pay TV revenues will constitute half of Britain's total television revenues – or more.

On current trends, its spending on locally made content will remain small by comparison with its revenue; the bulk of its cash earmarked for programmes is dedicated to sports and film rights. No private sector broadcaster will be in a position to mount a challenge to its dominance. Virgin Media TV has just succumbed to a BSkyB takeover. The outlook for BT Vision is bleak.

That would be serious enough on its own. Just consider news. There are only three TV news providers in Britain – the BBC, ITN and Sky. The outlook for ITN, dependent on contracts from ITV and Channel 4, is of never-ending budget cuts and the shrinkage of its capacity. All its shareholders, reading the runes, want to sell. The future for TV news is between a cash-constrained BBC and an ever-richer Sky News. In the US, Fox News, owned by NI, is unconstrained by impartiality obligations and has unashamedly exploited a pro-Republican editorial stance. NI would love to repeat the formula in Britain. Nothing except the BBC, potential objections from OfCom and audience expectations of balance stands in its way.

What about newspapers? Circulation is in headlong decline; a further halving by 2020 is more than conceivable. The future is on the net, but readers are reluctant to pay for newspapers online. The only paywalls that show signs of working are business to business. However, once NI gets 100% ownership of BSkyB, it will simply add its newspaper titles to the subscription television bundle to be received online. NI is the fourth-largest advertiser in the UK. Its marketing heft and industrial strength in pay TV will thus support its newspapers and the rest of the industry will be slaughtered.

Conservative titles – the Mail, Express, and Telegraph – will be marginally more vulnerable than the liberal titles – the Guardian, Observer, Independent, Independent on Sunday and the Mirror, whose readership will stay more loyal to the editorial line. But the effect will be small.

There is a convergence of TV and online usage and attractively priced online newspapers available via Sky as part of carefully designed packages for individual consumers will be irresistible, although the Express may hope to repeat the approach with its putative ownership of Channel 5. However, the prospect by 2020 is of an enfeebled newspaper industry in which NI titles command more than half the circulation and revenues and a television industry in which coverage of current affairs beyond a diminished BBC will be sporadic, thin and partisan.

NI made its bid on 15 June and Richard Desmond's Northern & Shell bid for Channel 5 – which raises exactly the same issues – followed. The same argument applies and if Vince Cable refers the NI bid for a plurality review he could hardly fail to do the same for Northern & Shell.

The plurality review has only happened once before – when NI took a 17.9% stake in ITV. OfCom registered its concern, but the Competition Commission set it to one side, believing the size of the stake and NI's editorial record did not warrant the acquisition being blocked. It could hardly take the same stance over the current bids, in particular NI's.

Last week, I argued for the establishment of a media commission, modelled on the Banking Commission, to make recommendations about ownership and regulation. That should still take place. But the most urgent action is a plurality review. As matters stand, to delegate the decision to Brussels's competition authorities, which are notoriously reluctant to act, is far too dangerous. All politicians should understand the danger of the kind of media dominance NI is now developing in Britain. We will mourn our great newspapers, our choice of television and the BBC when they have gone. Now is the moment to defend them.


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