‘More journliasts will face prison for phone hacking’ MP tells Hampstead

An MP who spearheaded the battle to expose phone hacking told a Hampstead audience he expects more journalists will be prosecuted for their role in the scandal.

Conservative MP John Whittingdale, who headed the Parliamentary select committee into phone hacking, also predicted some reporters would try and cut a deal with police for more lenient sentences in exchange for revealing the true extent of hacking.

The MP said: “I think it will lead to huge changes in the whole way the media operates in this country, and lead to prosecutions and people going to prison.

“There are people who never in their lives thought they would end up in prison.

“It is becoming apparent, particularly with payments to police officers, there is a level of corruption most people will see as very, very serious.

“In the same way Parliament had to clean up its act after the expenses scandal, the media will have to.”

Mr Whittingdale was elected chairman of the select committee on culture, media and sport for the second time last June.

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He spoke about his work at a drinks reception hosted by the Belsize Conservatives in Glenmore Road, Belsize Park, last Thursday (November 17).

Evidence uncovered by the committee forced the closure of the News Of The World in July, after 168 years.

It also prompted the resignations of News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks and Dow Jones chief executive Les Hinton.

This determined pursuit to uncover the extent of hacking was “scary” at times, Mr Whittingdale admitted.

“Yes it was difficult personally,” he said. “It was unlike anything I’ve ever done.

“In the last few days I have been told that I and members of my select committee were followed by News Of The World journalists trying to discover dirt they could use against us.

“This committee’s investigation was a really important thing for Parliament.

“Parliament has been through quite a difficult period with the problems we have had with expenses.

“This showed that even someone as powerful as Rupert Murdoch had to come before Parliament.”

The MP said he found it “hard to believe” that just one newspaper group would be hit by evidence of hacking.

But he said he hoped local papers would not be tarnished by the same brush.

“There is a very strong feeling that the mistakes carried out by a small number of papers shouldn’t affect public confidence in the rest of papers,” he said.

“I passionately believe in freedom of the press and I’m reluctant to see government increase regulation.

“But there is no question that the landscape has changed and that we are going to have a very different regulatory system.”