Yesterday, U.K. newspaper The Guardian published a story revealing that Rupert Murdoch’s British newspaper subsidiary News Group NewsÂpapers had paid more than £1 million ($1.4 million) to settle claims that its reporters had illegally hacked into the cell phones of government officials and celebrities.
The allegations set off a firestorm of controversy in the U.K., with Scotland Yard launching an inquiry into the claims.
According to the Guardian the payments were made to Gordon Taylor, CEO the Professional Footballers’ Association, who sued News Group after a private investigator who worked for the company, Glenn Mulcaire, was jailed and admitted to hacking into phones of various targets, including Gordon and model Elle MacPherson. Another News Group staffer, Clive Goodman, a reporter for Murdoch owned News of the World was also jailed for hacking.
Although News Group denied any knowledge of its employees’ actions, Gordon still sued claiming the company did know what was up. His suit led to a £700,000 pay-out, which the Guardian claimed included more than £400,000 in damages. Two other football figures also sued the media company, resulting in the additional £300,000 in payments. All of the settlements included clauses preventing the parties from discussing the case, and Taylor’s case was sealed by the court, the Guardian added.
But despite the hefty payments, this case has greater implications. The Guardian claims that more than 30 News Group journalists, including some senior editors, were involved in the alleged hacking operation, and targets include high ranking government officials including former deputy prime minister John Prescott and former culture secretary Tessa Jowell.
What’s more, the Guardian points out that Andy Coulson, current the director of communications for Conservative leader David Cameron, was deputy editor and editor of News of the World when these alleged hackings were taking place. Now his credibility is called into question and he may lose his job or resign.
What if all of these allegations are true? Who is culpable? The reporters, the papers, News Group or all of them? Do they deserve jail time or fines? Sound off in the comments.