MURDOCH’S News Group Newspapers (NGN) ‘are not truly sorry, only sorry they got caught,’ Charlotte Church insisted in a devastating statement outside the High Court yesterday morning.
At the same time as the Welsh singer was speaking, Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers told the Leveson Inquiry into press, police and political corruption, of ‘a culture at the Sun of illegal payments to police’.
Emerging from the Royal Courts of Justice having been awarded a payment of £600,000 from NGN in damages and costs, Charlotte Church said: ‘What I have discovered as the litigation has gone on has sickened and disgusted me.
‘Nothing was deemed off-limits by those who pursued me and my family, just to make money for a multinational news corporation. Of course, I was a teenager at the time and my parents were not in the public eye, they just happened to have a well-known daughter.
‘Whatever I have had to go through, they have suffered as well. They have been harassed, put under surveillance, and my mother was bullied into revealing her own private medical condition for no other reason than they were my parents.
‘Someone in a newspaper thought that was okay. How can that be, in any right-thinking society? I wanted to bring the individuals responsible to court, and make them explain why they did this to me and my family. . .
‘Today marks the settlement of my claim and the day News International admitted their wrongdoing in court. . .
‘However, I have also discovered that despite the apology which the newspaper has just given in court, these people were prepared to go to any lengths to prevent me exposing their behaviour, not just in the deliberate destruction of documents over a number of years, but also by trying to make this investigation into the industrial scale of their illegal activity into an interrogation of my mother’s medical condition, forcing her to relive the enormous personal distress they caused her back in 2005.
‘It seems they have learned nothing, and I would have learned nothing more from an actual trial since it was clear that no-one from News International was prepared to take the stand to explain their actions.
‘In my opinion, they are not truly sorry, only sorry they got caught. For these reasons, having achieved all I was going to achieve through this process, I am now focusing my energies instead on assisting both the criminal investigation and Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry, as well as others who are seeking to bring to justice those responsible for this appalling behaviour.’
Module two of the Leveson Inquiry is looking at the relationship between press and police.
In her evidence, Akers said the Murdoch press paid ‘regular, frequent and sometimes significant sums of money to public officials’.
Counsel to the inquiry Robert Jay QC said relations between News International and the Metropolitan Police were at best ‘inappropriately close and if not corrupt, very close to it’.
The nature of their relationship, he said, might explain why police did not properly investigate phone hacking in 2006, or later in 2009 and 2010.
Jay read out evidence that Scotland Yard told then Sun editor Rebekah Brooks in 2006 that it was not extending its inquiry to include News of the World staff other than Clive Goodman who was jailed in 2007 alongside private investigator Glenn Mulcaire for accessing royal voicemails.
Tom Crone, the NoW’s head of legal affairs summarised Scotland Yard’s briefing in an email headed ‘strictly private and confidential’ to then-NoW editor Andy Coulson on 15 September 2006.
‘Here is what Rebekah told me about info relayed to her by the cops,’ he said. ‘They suggested that they were not widening the case to include other NoW people, but would do so if they got direct evidence, say NoW journos directly accessing the voicemails (this is what did for Clive).’
After resigning following the jailing of Goodman, Coulson was appointed by Prime Minister Cameron as his head of press.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Prescott appeared before the inquiry yesterday afternoon. ‘I think there is a conspiracy of silence to hide facts. Frankly I am more strongly of that view in the last few months.’
Following yesterday’s evidence Murdoch claimed: ‘Such practices are ones of the past’. Former Murdoch journalist Education Secretary Gove claimed last week that the Leveson Inquiry had led to a ‘chilling atmosphere’ that threatened press freedom in the UK.