Phone hacking trials : My thoughts

old bailey press this way

Phone hacking was endemic throughout the whole of Fleet Street from the late 1990’s and I defy anyone to prove me any different.

Newspaper journalists became comfortable with breaking the law on a daily basis and set a precedent for the future of illegal news gathering.

While the press continue to get away with investigating crime much deeper than the police, we will always have a problem with newspaper journalists breaking the law to obtain front page scoops and always using the term ‘investigative journalism’ as an excuse to break the law to further their careers.

Crime does pay but justice does catch up.

These hacking trials are way too late, but thankfully, for many innocent people, a welcome relief.

Thousands of ‘phone hacking’ victims have worried for years how the press manage to delve so deep into their private lives. At least now they have a good idea what was going on.

Ultimately, I blame the mobile phone networks for what has happened. They’ve had more than enough chances to secure their voicemail systems but instead prefer to line their own deep wealthy pockets rather than make the safety of their customers more important. Vodafone being the biggest culprit. They were warned in 1999 about how insecure their systems were and chose not to act on warnings being thrown at them left, right and centre. Here’s my blog detailing this >>

The Leveson inquiry was an ideal opportunity for the public to understand how the press use illegal news gathering techniques on a daily basis to feed those who daily buy their newspapers.

The Leveson inquiry exposed the cosy relationship between the press and the police so politicians were always going to be under attack with so much power there to threaten and humiliate them with. Leverage, bribery and corruption is the name of the game for the press. Having the police on their side gave them significant advantage and they became a force of their own.

But, people will always buy newspapers, no matter what’s in them or on tempting them on the front page. I do however believe that most newspapers are bought out of pure tradition and while that continues the press will continue to be deluded into thinking it’s their stories that drive their future and ‘over-hyped’ readership figures.

I mentioned this in my testimony to Lord Justice Leveson on the 6th December 2013. Even though I struggled to get through my appearance under oath, I still managed to tell Lord Justice Leveson what I think about the press however getting the point across was difficult because my nerves were getting the better of me buy then.

Below, is the end of my testimony…and my thoughts on the press’ future.

Leveson appearance

We’ve been asking every witness who attends the Inquiry, Mr Nott, if there is anything that they would like to say to the chairman in relation to the future regulation of the press. It’s an optional question, you don’t have to answer it, but if there is anything that you would like to say to Lord Justice Leveson about future regulation, now is your opportunity to do so.

A. I would like to say something, if I can, please, if
that’s okay. Do I need to stand up or sit down?

Q. No, no, you can remain seated.

A. As an outsider and nothing to do with the industry whatsoever, I feel I don’t have the right to have any say about the future of press regulation, but I would like to add something if that’s okay. It may or may not be relevant.
When I was younger and went to visit my grandparents, I always remember my grandfather sitting at the dining room table picking horses from the Daily Mirror and carefully filling out betting slips
with the day’s selections. Meanwhile, my grandmother would be sat in her chair with her glasses on the edge of her nose, marking off numbers in the Sun bingo, even using her best bingo board to rest on. I regularly visited my grandparents and once I brought my nan a large pile of Sun bingo cards that I’d been given by a WH Smith manager. It used to take her hours just marking the numbers off, but it kept her happy and us too. My nan used to roll up the Daily Mirror sometimes to swat the cat. My grandparents always had a newspaper each back then. They must have been rich. We always had a copy of the Daily Mail in our house when I was growing up. I rarely saw my father reading it though, merely skipping through the news to the crossword. He never had time to read the news stories; he was just too busy. I never really noticed my mother reading the newspaper either. She always managed to complete the crossword that my father hadn’t. You can almost sense the air of victory in the house about finishing the crossword that my dad hadn’t or couldn’t. I left home at 19 and wasn’t really a daily newspaper buyer. I thought newspapers were for crosswords, bingo, horse races and TV listings, but I still carried on buying the Daily Mail on Sunday because of its long-running TV guide and that’s what I was brought up with. I never read the news pages, but I always did like the crossword and have a similar issue now with my mother. She seems to manage to complete the crossword after I’ve attempted and failed.

Over the past ten years, we’ve bought the Sun newspaper for its Sun holidays promotions and regularly went on cheap holidays. I stopped buying that newspaper because my daughter once had a look through it and couldn’t believe her eyes when she looked at page 3. She was shocked by it and I’d never encountered the subject of dealing with soft porn with my kids before. I don’t have a problem with it but I had a problem with my daughter seeing it at the time. I don’t buy the Sun any more for this reason. My next door neighbours always save their papers for me so I can use them to light my coal fire. So how could I give an opinion on freedom of the press and press regulation when I’ve been brought up by a family who used newspapers for other purposes than to read them? I’m just giving you an insight into our family as newspaper buyers. Thank you.

What I meant to add at the end was “If newspapers think that it’s the news content and the sleazy front pages that drive their sales then they are completely deluded. I do honestly think the average man in the street buys a paper out of tradition”. Surprisingly many newspaper journalists and editors disagree with me… there again, what do I know ?

LORD JUSTICE LEVESON: Thank you, Mr Nott. It’s quite clear
this was a problem you identified in the late 1990s and
it’s now come home for us to think about.

I honestly still believe there’s a lot more to come from the phone hacking scandal and as MP Tom Watson once said “This is the just tip of the iceberg”.

Phone hacking may be insignificant when we all find out what has really been going on but it was also a long time ago when technology and mobile phones were just taking off so who knows what they’re up to now…..tapping the phones of prime ministers right across the world. Anyone surprised ? I’m certainly not.

Whether or not their are laws in place to stop illegality in the press, it won’t stop them from doing what they want, to who they want whenever they want and tagging it under the ‘freedom of the press’ excuse.

One thing I am sure of is that while politicians continue to use the press for career enhancement then the press will always have control over government. The day that a political party steps away from using the press as a tool to promote themselves will be the day I decide to vote. Until then I’m not wasting my valuable vote on a government that is ultimately run by the media.

The people caught and up at The Old Bailey for phone hacking, misconduct in public office, paying public officials and bribing police to extort stories are just the unfortunate ones.

The real criminals are the people behind the scenes who let it all happen.

The mobile phone networks should also be in the dock with Andy Coulson, Rebekah Brooks and co. In my opinion, Vodafone caused the phone hacking scandal and you can’t ell me any different. I know because I was there.


I would just like to add, there is much evidence of phonehacking way before the devastating 9/11 twin towers attack in New York so what’s saying ‘rogue’ journalists weren’t tempted into hacking the phones of the victims and their families ? They hacked everyone else. There’s absolutely NO WAY they could have held back from the tempatation. It was endemic throughout Fleet Street remember. Something tells me though that if it did happen, the authorities wouldn’t allow such an awful thing to see the light of day and no doubt have put many safeguards in place to stop anyone ever finding out. One day, somewhere, someone will leak it.

It’s innevitable.

And just in case you want to see more about my involvement, here’s Piers Morgan slagging me off at The Leveson Inquiry when he testified ( under oath ) *innocent face* – You can guess I’m not a fan of his…

Thanks for reading and here’s looking forward to a cleaner future of news…..

Steven Nott

Leveson Inquiry Witness, Operation Weeting witness , van driver and justice seeker.

Cwmbran, South Wales

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