The News of the World phone hacking scandal is probably the biggest media scandal of my lifetime and the Guardian's* exposing of the case is one of the two the most significant newspaper scoops of the last decade. The mentality of the people who hacked Milly Dowler's phone is difficult even to comprehend.
However some of the responses to the scandal have been misplaced- with calls on radio phone ins and Question Time to beef up regulation of the press and expressions of disgust that the newspaper broke the law with such impunity.
However it isn't that law breaking to get a story is always wrong, consider the other great newspaper revelation of recent years- the MPs' expenses scandal as revealed in all it's murky glory by the Daily Telegraph. There were widespread accusations, which seem plausible to me, that the law was probably broken somewhere along the line in order for the documents to have gotten into the hands of Telegraph. Yet with revelations of greed, fraud and lawbreaking on a scale that vastly exceeded that of the general public, few people would argue that any criminal behaviour that may have occurred in obtaining the documents was morally wrong.
Tighter regulation of the newspapers to prevent a repeat of the phone hacking scandal would have been welcomed greatly by Elliot Morley, David Chaytor, Lord Taylor et al. It isn't the legality of what the News of the World did that was reprehensible but the nature of their targets- members of the public who had suffered tragic losses and unimportant actors and sportspeople- and it would have been wrong even if they had stayed inside the law by restricting themselves to rummaging through bins.
* Although according to Sunny Hundal the credit belongs to Sunny Hundal.
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