Phone-hacking: how the ‘rogue reporter’ defence slowly crumbled | Media | The Guardian
According to a claim brought by the hacking victims, in November 2009, News International allegedly discussed an “email deletion policy”. Under a section marked “opportunity” its aim, it was said, was “to eliminate in a consistent manner across NI (subject to compliance with legal and regulatory requirements) emails that could be unhelpful in the context of future litigation in which an NI company is a defendant”.
Subsequently it appears that some deletions of the email archive were carried out, for unknown reasons, with an estimated half a terrabyte of data (equivalent to 500 editions of Encyclopædia Britannica) eliminated. That prompted a behind-the-scenes row with Scotland Yard’s hacking investigation, details of which leaked last July.
In a civil hearing in January 2012, Mr Justice Vos said it appeared that “a previously conceived plan to conceal evidence was put in train by News Group managers” shortly after the solicitor for the actor Sienna Miller had asked them to retain emails relating to phone hacking.
In October 2010 it was alleged that News International had destroyed all the old computers used by its journalists, including that of one reporter named in Miller’s legal claim.
By last summer, the phone hacking narrative had fundamentally altered with the Guardian’s revelation that voicemails sent to the Surrey teenager Milly Dowler had been targeted when she went missing in 2002. News International had already begun, gradually, to concede that the “rogue reporter” defence was unravelling.
And the Met police’s phone hacking investigation Operation Weeting made the first arrests of NoW journalists on suspicion of intercepting communications. In July, the wave of revulsion that followed the Dowler story led to the closure of the Now, resignations of various senior executives including the chief executive, Rebekah Brooks, and heightened efforts by the company’s management and standards committee to investigate any wrongdoing.