THE BLOG

Phone Hacking Is Forever

25/07/2014 16:16 BST | Updated 24/09/2014 10:59 BST

Enjoying the hot summer sun, I suddenly wondered what it must be like in jail. Shut away; looking at the blue sky with no prospect of a BBQ, pool visit or trip to the beach.

The people who hacked my phone and appeared outside my house a cold January morning over eight years ago, bringing my career and life as I knew it to a end, are now all in jail. And with the latest phone hacking scandal, I should feel the wheel has turned; perhaps a sense of revenge or justice.

But in fact my overwhelming feeling is of great sadness for Andy Coulson and Neville Thurlbeck. They have families. There are kids breaking up for the summer holidays who can't play with dad any more.

The whole phone hacking story may be over as the trials end, but the misery and impact will last forever: not just for those like me, whose private lives were made public, but now for the former editors whose careers and lives are in ruins. And the Met Police's reputation has been badly damaged by the almost comical investigations that took place.

Hacking has been the focus of attention but at its heart we're back to the same old themes: what is private? What is public? How much does our desire for press freedom damage individual freedoms?

I've always argued that my own tabloid scandal was a price worth paying for protecting the principle of press freedom. Now, eight years on, I'm less sure.

If the press impact was over and done with within a year, and you faced your public and media sentence with dignity, it wouldn't be so bad. But in today's online world it's no longer the case that today's paper is tomorrow's fish and chip wrapper; far from it.

The story hangs around forever, much longer than any prison sentence - even though you never committed a crime in the first place. It's hard to escape the ramifications and few do. No wonder that we see so many people rushing to take advantage of the new Google offer to clear their online history, the 'right to be forgotten'.

I've been lucky to have an amazing new career and friends who've never cared about the scandal. Everybody moves on in the real world, apart that is from the search engines. That's something that Andy Coulson will now understand better than most.

I don't think the tabloids understand the enormous change social media and the digital revolution have made. The papers have moved from having the power to kick the powerful hard for a few weeks, to the power to change someone's life until the final obituary and beyond.

And that's why I would love to have my own form of restorative justice with Andy and Neville. Firstly to say that I really hope they are okay and can get home soon, but secondly to try and point out the real-life impact of hacking and targeting. It will never, ever go away.

Oh, and I guess a 'sorry' would be welcome too.