How my 1999 phone hacking story did or didn’t reach those up the chain of command at The Sun Newspaper.


Here’s what Paul Crosbie, who I met at The Sun newspaper in in 1999 at News International HQ in Wapping, London said after contact with him in 2011.

I asked him about  the phone hacking story he wrote and why a threat to national security was never published.

In his own words….. 

“This is difficult because it was a while ago and I cant remember whether I asked about the story when it didn’t make the paper or whether I just went on to the next story. I did write it up and remember contacting Vodafone and I think other phone companies for their comments. I remember Vodafone referring me to the instruction book that came with their phones which mentioned that people should change their password.

The way the system worked was I would put a story idea up to the news editor. In your case it would have been the following day or the day after you came to see me – I needed time to look into your claims. If the news editor liked the story it would go on the morning newslist – this is basically an agenda of the days news. The news list is then discussed in morning conference  and stories would be allocated to the paper. I am guessing now but I would have thought that this story was on the newslist  or I wouldn’t have written it – or at least been enthusiastic about it. If the police or an inquiry wanted to look into this that newslist should still be around. The story would be written (again that should be on file as everything was computerised and kept for legal reasons), it would then be sent through to the news editor who would check the story was as earlier sold to him, he would then sent it through to what is called the back bench. This is copytaster for the paper, who is making a judgement on the value of stories, the editor, deputy editor and the night editor, who decided what space is given to the story and allocates a page.

It was possible to follow a story though the system and see who had looked at it and if it wasn’t to be used where the story had stopped it in the system. It could be the news editor because he didn’t like it, it could be the back bench – if it got that far then you assumed it was because they had found a better story. The Sun overall used around 50 stories an edition of which maybe 20 were given prominence in the paper – the rest would be cut back to a few paragraphs. My story would have been completing for space with one of the 20 as it needed space to give all the facts. I dont know if I checked where the story had got to in the system or whether I enquired what had happened to it. Sometimes stories that were squeezed though it being a big news day would be put forward again. I don’t know if this was the case. The tenure of the story would have been Phone users are warned messages left by callers can be listened in to.  The lack security has been revealed  etc……I wouldn’t have mentioned the police or the security services.

Maybe you find it odd that I wasn’t more curious about the story. The Sun was a difficult place to work. I was brought in to give it a different focus from the usual crime, politics, showbiz and scandal stories. My job was to write about everyday issues that were of interest to readers and the problems they faced. It was a new job so you were always struggling against those who were more familiar with the usual type of Sun story. If a story wasn’t used you simply went on the next.

I don’t know whether the information you gave me led to today’s events. I only know I wasn’t asked to demonstrate the flaws to anyone.  The Sun and other papers did use ex policemen and investigators to help but no one ever talked about the details of how a story was obtained and you didn’t ask.  Yes you knew of sharp practices but nothing illegal as this clearly was. I said to Channel 4 and the One Show they were free to contact me again. I think the rapid change in events in recent days meant your story would be overtaken.

As you say someone may do a book on this and there may be a Tv documentary but because of the police and official Parliament investigation, this will not be for some time. I honestly don’t know whether you unwittingly started this. To my mind it would seem extraordinary that others didn’t know about this flaw in the mobile phones system, especially former policemen. My opinions at the time were the same as yours that the Police and Security Services could be using this, it never occurred to me that it could be used in other ways. As far as I can remember no one ever asked me to demonstrate the technique. I’d never heard of this before you came to the office. I don’t know why the story wasn’t used, I only rarely questioned decisions, you just got on with the next story.

At the time Rebekah Brooks ( Wade ) was deputy editor at The Sun newspaper, the editor was
David Yelland who now works for a big city pr firm Brunswick. Andy Coulson was also on the Bizarre column.”

An interesting insight into how a newspaper works and the pressures of being a journalist at a red top newspaper.


For more on my story and why I was at The Leveson Inquiry on Dec 6th 2011 then please visit

Thanks for reading. Please share.

Steven Nott

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