Thu, Dec 01, 2011 - Page 6 News List

British tabloid inquiry told of ‘culture of illegality’

‘WHOLESALE’ HACKING:Former editors of the paper Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson were labeled as ‘scum’ by Paul McMullan, who also defended reporters and paparazzi

The Guardian, LONDON

Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson have been branded “the scum of journalism” in a series of allegations from a former News of the World deputy features editor at the UK inquiry into press standards.

Paul McMullan accused Coulson of introducing “wholesale” phone hacking when he was appointed editor of the now-defunct News of the World in 2003. He described Brooks as “the criminal-in-chief.”

In a dramatic two-hour testimony before the Leveson inquiry in London yesterday on Tuesday, McMullan made allegations about a “culture of illegality” that stretched from “the little men, the reporters” to senior police officers and politicians.

Lord Justice Leveson at times had to interject to warn McMullan that he risked incriminating himself while he was rattling off claims about alleged criminal wrongdoing during his time at Rupert Murdoch’s News International’s Sunday tabloid, which was closed at the height of the public outcry over phone hacking in July.

Asked whether his editors knew that voicemail messages were being intercepted, McMullan said: “Yes ... I could go a bit further than that. We did all these things for our editors, for Rebekah Brooks and for Andy Coulson. You only have to read Coulson’s column in Bizarre [in News of the World’s sister daily, the Sun] ... it was blatant and obvious. I don’t think anyone realized that anyone was committing a crime at the start.”

He added: “Andy Coulson brought that practice [phone hacking] wholesale with him when he was made deputy editor. They should have had the strength of conviction to say: ‘Yes, sometimes you have to stray into black or gray illegal areas’ ... Instead they said we didn’t know they were doing it. They should have been the heroes of journalism ... They’re the scum of journalism for trying to drop me and my colleagues in it.”

“For 21 years you have a culture of illegality of phone hacking and fiddling your expenses and so on. What you have is a future prime minister [now-British Prime Minister David Cameron] cozying up and being molded by the arch-criminal, Rebekah Brooks, the criminal-in-chief,” he later said.

Coulson and Brooks have separately and repeatedly denied any involvement or knowledge of criminal activity at News of the World.

McMullan separately launched an extraordinary defense of paparazzi photographers, who have been criticized by alleged victims of intrusion who have given evidence to the inquiry over the past week.

“I absolutely loved giving chase to celebrities,” he said. “Before Diana [Princess of Wales] died it was such good fun. How many jobs can you have car chases in? It was great.”

He later claimed that privacy was for “pedos,” or pedophiles.

“In 21 years of invading people’s privacy I’ve never actually come across anyone who’s been doing any good. Privacy is the space bad people need to do bad things in. Privacy is for pedos. If there is a privacy law your secrets are going to be much more valuable than they were before,” McMullan said.

McMullan also defended his former colleagues at the now-closed News of the World, saying they were “honest [and] honorable” journalists.

He said that hacking into murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s phone was “not a bad thing for a well-meaning journalist to do,” claiming that they were trying to find the schoolgirl while she was still missing because they had such little faith in police to do the job.

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