Hacking in Northern Ireland

The ongoing Leveson Inquiry is currently examining the culture, practices and ethics of the media. Numerous celebrities including film stars, singers, comedians and tv personalities have given evidence of their experiences of media intrusion and hacking. Yesterday both Charlotte Church and Anne Diamond gave oral testimony of their experiences. Ms Diamond talking about how the press were camped outside her door within an hour of her son dying from cot death was particularly distressing.

But in addition, Jane Winter of British Irish Rights Watch submitted evidence to the inquiry yesterday. Ms Winter, who heads the Northern Irish human rights group, told the inquiry that sensitive documents which they had shared with Ian Hurst who had served with the British Army’s Intelligence Corps had been hacked, it seems by the News of the World. Ms Winter believes that it was part of an effort on that paper’s part to gather news stories.

In addition to this the Guardian is today reporting that Peter Hain, former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland may have had his computer hacked by persons working for News International. The Metropolitan Police are investigating the allegations and also suspect that the computers of senior civil servants in Northern Ireland may also have had their computers hacked. This moves inquiries far beyond phone hacking. If it turns out that newspapers were also hacking electronic data, particularly of such confidential and sensitive data relating to national security then a further plethora of questions will arrive for groups like News International. And given these two reports there may be a further series of questions yet to arise on the media’s role in Northern Ireland.