Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Joan McAlpine, Hacking and the News of the World

Joan McAlpine MSP

The Scottish Daily Record reported today that the contact details of Joan McAlpine MSP were found in the notebooks of convicted phone hacker Glen Mulcaire.  Ms McAlpine also devoted her regular column in the paper to her reaction to this news.  

I spent much of 2010 covering Tommy Sheridan's trial for perjury and the news that Ms McAlpine was a potential victim of phone hacking  rang a bell. It turned out her name had been mentioned during the trial, and after some searching of my notebooks I've managed to locate the reference.

It came from  Crown Witness Anvar Khan, who in 2006 was employed by the Scottish News of the World as a columnist. Ms Khan was asked by the Advocate Depute about a series of  meetings she had with the newspaper's Scottish editor, Bob Bird. One discussion mentioned was at the newspaper's Christmas party. At this event, Ms Khan testified, she had asked Mr Bird 'what stories the paper was working on' ? According to Ms Khan he replied "We have information on Joan McAlpine."

At the time, no-one followed up on that  statement, it was irrelevant to the case in hand so received no attention from the assembled press corps (myself included) . However given today's revelations it raises an interesting question. The focus so far of the phone hacking enquiry has been on the national edition of the News of the World.  However it is difficult to see why the News of the World nationally would be interested in the the goings on of SNP candidates and Scottish ministers.  If phone hacking of prominent Scottish people  did take place, would the instructions not ne  more likely to come from Kinning Park than Wapping?

Strathclyde police are currently engaged in a major investigation on these matters, Operation Rubicon   We cannot, pre-judge that enquiry but surely now the position of the Scottish Government, that phone hacking is an exclusively  "English" problem is becoming untenable. 

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