The Phone Hacking Scandal: A Timeline
It was back in 2006 when news of the phone hacking scandal first broke. On 8th August the royal editor at the News of the World, Clive Goodman, and private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, were arrested after Goodman wrote an article the previous year about a knee injury sustained by Prince William, which aroused the suspicions of Buckingham Palace.
26th January: Both Goodman and Mulcaire are jailed, for four months and six months respectively. The then editor of the paper, Andrew Coulson resigns, despite denying any knowledge of what had happened. It is claimed that this was an isolated incident.
31st May: Coulson is recruited as the Conservative’s director of communications and planning, and David Cameron quickly makes him his media advisor, a controversial decision.
April: James Murdoch authorises an out of court settlement to footballers’ union leader, Gordon Taylor, after claims of phone hacking.
21st July: The Guardian claims that phone hacking went further than previously thought, however the police choose not to reopen the investigation.
1st September: A New York Times article quotes ex-NoW reporter, Sean Hoare, who claims that he had been asked by Coulson to hack into people’s messages.
21st-22nd December: Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt is given the responsibility of handling News Corporation’s £8bn bid for BSkyB, after Business Secretary Vince Cable, who was dealing with it, was taped by undercover journalists from the Daily Telegraph, saying that he “declared war” on Rupert Murdoch.
21st January: Coulson resigns from his position as media advisor, still denying that he knew about phone hacking taking place under his editorship.
7th June: Settlements begin to be made including to Sienna Miller who receives £100,000.
20th June: Scotland Yard receives emails which allegedly show payments to the police in return for information, supposedly authorised by Coulson.
4th July: It is reported in the Guardian that, under the editorship of Rebekah Brooks, the answerphone messages of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler had been hacked, by NoW.
7th July: After 168 years in print, James Murdoch announces the closure of the News of the World, which apologises for its conduct.
8th July: Coulson is arrested and David Cameron announces two inquires are to be held to investigate the scandal looking into the ethics of the press and their relationship with the public, politicians and the police, as well as the investigating the conduct of newspapers and the initial phone hacking inquiry.
11th July: After The Sun switched its loyalties away from Labour, Rupert Murdoch claimed that Gordon Brown phoned him to declare war on him and his company. At the inquiry, Brown maintains that no such call took place and claims that there is no evidence to suggest otherwise. Brown also speaks about the story published in The Sun in 2006 about his son’s cystic fibrosis. Rebekah Brooks claimed that the Browns had given express permission to the paper to run the story, but Brown maintains that this was not the case. The Sun denied accessing Fraser Brown’s medical records, and claimed that the story had come from a member of the public who had a child with the same condition. Brown said that lack of honesty from members of News International is “sad” and that, “We can’t learn the lesson about what has happened with the media unless there is some honesty about what actually happened.” The NHS have since apologised to Brown admitting that it was in fact “highly likely” that information was leaked by a member of their staff.
15th July: Still denying any knowledge of phone hacking, Brooks resigns from her post as News International’s Chief Executive claiming that she feels “a deep sense of responsibility for the people we have hurt”.
17th-18th July: The Metropolitan Police came under fire for their handling of the phone hacking scandal. Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson and Assistant Commissioner John Yates both resign after criticisms of their links to the media. Officers later claim that News International had attempted to “thwart” the initial inquiry. Former Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Elizabeth Filkin, claimed that the issues surrounding the relationship between the press and the police had “eroded trust from the public”. Some had claimed that it was this closeness with the media that deterred officers from seriously investigating their conduct.
19th July: News Corporation chiefs Rupert and James Murdoch face questioning from MPs. Both claim that they were not aware of what had been going on. Despite authorising payment to settle a phone hacking claim, James Murdoch maintains that he did not know that phone hacking had gone beyond Clive Goodman.
20th July: David Cameron speaks out about his “regret” over his decision to hire Coulson. Later, Chancellor George Osborne maintains that Coulson was chosen for his capabilities, and not for his connections with News International.
Louise Mensch MP accuses Piers Morgan of knowing about phone hacking going on while he was the editor of the Daily Mirror. Morgan calls these allegations a “blatant lie”.
3rd November: The Met reveal that 5,795 potential victims of phone hacking have now been identified, including actors, sportsmen and politicians as well as the families of dead British soldiers and of the victims of the 7/7 bombings in London.
14th November: The inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press begins, led by Lord Justice Leveson.
13th March: Rebekah Brooks and her husband Charlie Brooks, along with four other people, are arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
3rd April: James Murdoch steps down as chairman of UK satellite broadcaster BSkyB, having already resigned as chairman of News International. He still maintains he knew nothing of the phone hacking going on at NoW.
1st May: MPs label Rupert Murdoch as “not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company.” The culture committee concluded that “if at all relevant times Rupert Murdoch did not take steps to become fully informed about phone hacking, he turned a blind eye and exhibited wilful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications.” However, the committee was split, with some members disagreeing with such condemnation. At the Leveson Inquiry, Murdoch had claimed that there had been a “cover-up” which prevented senior members from knowing about the scandal.
11th May: Brooks tells the Leveson Inquiry how the Prime Minister used to sign of texts to her with ‘LOL’, until she informed him that it meant ‘laugh out loud’ as opposed to ‘lots of love’. She is also questioned about a message the PM sent her saying to “keep your head up” after she resigned from News International.
15th May: Rebekah Brooks and her husband are charged along with Brooks’ personal assistant Cheryl Carter, chauffeur Paul Edwards, security man Daryl Jorsling, and the head of security at News International, Mark Hanna. The crimes at hand involve conspiring to take material from the News International archive, and to conceal documents and computers as well as other equipment from police. Rebekah Brooks claims to be “baffled” by the decision. Her husband says that he is being used as a “scapegoat” and that his wife is the victim of a “witch-hunt”.
31st May: Texts are presented to the Leveson Inquiry, sent from Jeremy Hunt to James Murdoch, calling it “great” that European regulators were not to intervene in the takeover bid, just hours before he was asked to take responsibility for overseeing it. Hunt admits that he was “sympathetic” to the bid but had not let his own opinions influence his conduct. He says that he did consider resigning but since he believes that he behaved fairly, he decided “it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to go”. The Prime Minister stood by his Culture Secretary, saying that he believes that he had behaved appropriately. However, Labour called for his resignation since he failed to suitably supervise his advisor, Adam Smith, who quit admitting that his own behaviour was inappropriate.
12th June: Former Prime Minister, Sir John Major, tells the inquiry that Rupert Murdoch said that his papers would not support him if he did not change his policy on Europe, in 1997. Later that year, he lost his title to Tony Blair, who had the backing of The Sun.
13th June: Lib Dem leader, Nick Clegg, claims that his party were threatened with ill-favoured treatment if they did not support News Corporation’s takeover bid for BSkyB, and that, “It would be good for the Lib Dems to be open to the bid.” However, considering the previous treatment given to the party, Clegg says that he didn’t deem the threat “credible”.
14th June: More texts between David Cameron and Rebekah Brooks come under the spotlight, with her texting him saying that “professionally we’re definitely in this together” after The Sun turned its support to the Conservatives, in 2009. She also text him the day before his speech to the Conservative Party saying, “Yes we Cam”, as well as making references to the pair having “country supper”.
23rd July: On the penultimate day of hearings at the Leveson Inquiry, Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Met, Sue Akers, reports that they are investigating Trinity Mirror and Express Newspapers as well as News International. She also says that they have found evidence that two prison officers at high-security prisons received payments from the papers. The Met admit that they took the decision to close the initial phone hacking case too quickly.
24th July: It is announced that former members of the News of the World: Rebekah Brooks, Andrew Coulson, Stuart Kuttner, Greg Miskiw, Ian Edmondson, Neville Thurlbeck and James Weatherup, as well as private investigator, Glen Mulcaire, will face a combined total of 19 charges.