- Thrice Bitten: A third Fleet Street newspaper – the News of The World – then joined in the hacking spree
- The former Lib-Dem MP was illegally targeted because of his sexual-orientation
- Mail on Sunday executive was in email contact with convicted phone hacker
- Byline Investigates reveals more evidence that Daily Mail Editor-in-Chief Paul Dacre gave the wrong evidence to the Leveson Inquiry – potentially a criminal offence
- The Sun blackmailed Simon Hughes with unlawfully ‘blagged’ phone bills to nobble his leadership bid for the Liberal Democrat party
- Read more, in the latest instalment of our MailBOMB series….
By Graham Johnson
Editor, Byline Investigates
The Mail on Sunday targeted an MP over his sexual orientation using phone hacking – after he’d been firstly blackmailed by The Sun with illegally obtained information.
A senior executive at the Mail on Sunday (MoS) knew about the electronic eavesdropping operation into Simon Hughes, who was a Lib Dem MP at the time.
MoS Associate Editor Chris Anderson was in email contact with Greg Miskiw, a freelance journalist who specialised in selling stories based on phone-hacking.
Miskiw paid private investigator Glenn Mulcaire to listen to Hughes’ voicemails, together with those of a man suspected to be in a relationship with the then MP for North Southwark and Bermondsey.
Miskiw reported the findings back to the Mail on Sunday.
Both the Mail on Sunday and Chris Anderson have denied commissioning any phone hacking, or knowingly buying any illegally-obtained information from Greg Miskiw.
However, Greg Miskiw told Byline Investigates: “On behalf of the Mail on Sunday, I asked Glenn Mulcaire to use ‘dark arts’ on Simon Hughes, in order to track down any boyfriend that Hughes may have been seeing – it was a fishing exercise.
“My contact at the Mail on Sunday, an executive in the editorial team, knew that the methods used were illegal.
“Glenn Mulcaire used a combination of blag calls, phone hacking, obtaining itemised phone bills and ‘pinging’.”
“Blag calls” are phone calls made to a target, under a false pretext to illegally obtain personal and/or private information, from them by deception – a criminal offence since at least 2000.
Phone-hacking is the term used to describe the interception of voicemails, and has also been a criminal offence since 2000, under a different law.
Itemised phone bills contain extensive private and sensitive information, and obtaining them (by blagging, usually) without authority has been a criminal offence since 1995.
“Pinging” is the name given to a form of location tracing, which pinpoints a target’s mobile phone signal, by calculating its proximity to the nearest cell masts, and it is illegal.
As we reported here, Hughes was first blackmailed into coming out by The Sun, who paid a different private investigator to fraudulently obtain his itemised phone bills.
A third newspaper – the now defunct News of The World – also joined in the illegal free-for-all, and was successfully sued by Hughes in 2011.
Byline Investigates understands that, until recently, Hughes was unaware of the actions of The Sun, and did not know about the Mail on Sunday hacking either, until contacted by our reporters.
The intrusion by THREE Fleet Street newspapers into his private life, caused the former MP great distress.
The involvement of the Mail on Sunday in the phone-hacking of Hughes is highly significant, as the paper’s editors have previously denied on oath that the practice ever took place.
In addition, our reporters exposed how the Mail on Sunday was also involved in the hacking of at least five other victims, around the same time.
As were Ben Noakes and Nicky Taylor, a divorced couple who were hacked because they knew Heather Mills, the former wife of Sir Paul McCartney.
Mills’ own voicemails, and those of her sister, Fiona, were also intercepted and her billing data ‘blagged.’
The first 14 parts of our MailBOMB series revealed how veteran MoS reporter Katie Nicholl is strongly suspected of unlawful information gathering, and how Prince Harry was targeted.
A spokesman for the Mail on Sunday and Chris Anderson said:
“This allegation – which relies on the word of a convicted phone hacker, without any corroboration – is utterly baseless and categorically denied. Neither Chris Anderson nor the Mail on Sunday has ever commissioned anyone to hack phones, nor have they ever knowingly used information that was illegally acquired by Greg Miskiw.”
More follows on the Simon Hughes story in MailBOMB Part 16.
Investigation and Story by Graham Johnson, Editor of Byline Investigates