THE BLOG

Phone Hacking Investigation - £50million Spent for What?

11/12/2015 17:28 GMT | Updated 11/12/2016 10:12 GMT

Almost £50million of taxpayers money, hundreds of police tied up for years, many journalists' lives and careers ruined... all for one (and a bit) guilty verdicts.

So was this politically-inspired witchhunt of tabloids in general and Murdoch papers in particular that finally ended today - officially at least - worth it? Or justified?

No. And no.

The whole squalid saga limped to a close this morning when the Crown Prosecution Service finally announced that no further action will be taken over allegations of phone-hacking against 10 individuals at Trinity Mirror newspapers

Nor, a 12-word tweet from the CPS disclosed, would there be Corporate Liability charges against News UK following admitted phone-hacking at the News of the World.

Well-wishers have all day been saying to me and others caught up in this horror "You must be pleased."

Well, I'm pleased that the hell is finally over for all those journalists whose careers were hanging in the balance while the CPS pondered seemingly for years over whether to prosecute or not.

But rage is the main emotion felt by me and most others whose lives were wrongly wrecked in this nightmare brought about an unholy alliance of police, politicians, press-haters and prosecutors.

Rage for what those people did to us, and rage for the sheer callous and cynical reasons they did it.

Let's get one thing clear - phone-hacking was utterly wrong, morally appalling, and the criminals who did it deserved to be properly punished.

It was right that it was properly investigated by police, that there should be prosecutions, that victims be compensated and properly apologised to, that politicians and the rest of the media should abhor it and insist it must never happen again.

However, it wasn't rape, it wasn't murder, it wasn't child abuse, it wasn't terrorism, it wasn't heroin trafficking. But it was treated like it was.

For political reasons, all normal perspectives were abandoned as the Establishment went into a kind of self-serving moral panic to destroy the tabloid press. And, in the process, conveniently destroy and neuter press freedom in Britain.

At various times over 150 highly-trained and skilled detectives and police staff were involved in investigating the allegations of phone-hacking and alleged bribery of public officials.

At the trial of one journalist accused of paying backhanders to a public official, the police chief leading the investigation confirmed from the witness box that he had TWICE as many detectives investigating the case as he did when he ran a murder squad.

Money was no object was dozens of detectives were fanned out to conduct the kind of pre-dawn raids on the homes of unsuspecting journalists they usually reserve for organised crime lords.

The unnecessary abuse of police power that happened on those raids is well documented: The elderly cancer victim turned out of her bed so cops could search under her mattress; young teenage daughters of one journalist having to watch burly detectives rummaging through their underwear drawers; A heavily-pregnant woman caring for her other child alone was raided at 5.30am; a terrified nanny attending a crying baby screaming when she saw men hiding in the undergrowth in the early hours...

And all of it politically motivated.

When Scotland Yard first investigated phone-hacking at the News of the World in 2006 they were well pleased with the result.

I think it was Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clark who told a Commons select committee that the inquiry resulted in two guilty pleas, two jail sentences, and they were confident they had completely stopped the abuse that phone-hacking certainly was.

There is no evidence - apart from the antics of one self-confessed drug-addled drunk called Dan Evans that it ever happened again. The NotW editor of the time, Andy Coulson, resigned too.

At the time MPs, the-then Home Secretary, the Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer, and so on were all satisfied.

But then in 2010 Rupert Murdoch's newspapers switched their political allegience from the then-Labour Government of the opposition Tories. Andy Coulson became David Cameron's press secretary.

And the gloves came off. It all became political, with Coulson a convenient target and Murdoch as a unifying hate figure for the Left. We all know what happened next.

I was one of many arrested in the summer of 2011. After four years of hell which cost me my marriage, my job as managing director of a major PR company, most of my life savings, I was finally unanimously acquitted after a month-long trial at the Old Bailey this summer.

I was just one of many journalists who suffered such long and desperately damaging ordeals but who then later walked free after lengthy expensive trials this year.

So how many guilty verdicts were achieved by that £50million spent on the journalist witchhunt by Scotland Yard and the CPS, both of whom whinge and moan endlessly about shortage of money to fight crime?

As I said earlier, one and a bit. After a six month trial at the Old Bailey, Andy Coulson was found guilty of phone hacking and jailed. Everyone else who pleaded Not Guilty in that trial were either cleared by the jury, or their cases later dropped.

The 'bit' was a minor charge was upheld in the trial of Sun reporter Nick Parker, who was cleared of the main bribery charge. There were a number of former News of the World executives who pleaded guilty and were sent to jail for short periods too of course.

But did that really rate £50million? Was it worth taking all those detectives away from investigating murder, rape, child sex abuse, human trafficking, drug trafficking, and so on?

Was it proportionate to spend all that money and all that manpower and all that time on what was a blatant attack on journalists? Was it right to devastate the lives and careers of those men and women only for them to be cleared years later? The answer to all those questions is No.

So yes, I'm pleased all charges have been finally dropped. But I'm outraged it took this long, and cost so much in every way, to reach this conclusion. You should be too.