Jane Winter and British Irish Rights Watch settle privately with News International over hackingSecret agreement raises serious questions for both Irish law enforcement agencies and the Irish media
Times Newspapers - dragged into the News Int. hacking scandal
No doubt the revelation that human rights lawyer Jane Winter and British Irish Rights Watch (BIRW - of which Ms Winter was the former director) have settled out of court with News International over hacking will surprise many Cic Saor followers as much as it has your author.
This secret settlement seems to have been agreed in early February just passed, and whilst the exact details, by definition, will be confidential (normal in out of court settlements) the fact of a settlement it usually reported and our first question has to be why the silence? This question is particularly pertinent given that Jane Winter is a highly respected human rights lawyer and one would have expected a statement from her on this vital media/rights-infringement issue.
To be fair, there may well be some kind of agreement on publicity regarding this settlement at a later date, but how can we know without public discussion? Moreover, it’s my understanding that none of British Irish Rights Watch’s clients during Ms Winters’ tenure were informed of the settlement. If this is true, I find this strange because neither Jane Winter nor BIRW can be sure that nobody else was hacked by News International at other times. These clients, who are already victims of violence and collusion perpetrated by a secret sate, must surely be given the chance to establish the truth on hacking beyond reasonable doubt, and only the Irish authorities liaising with London’s Metropolitan Police can carry this out. Indeed it is astounding that this has not happened already, for reasons I explain briefly at the end of this blog. I should stress, however, that there is no reason to blame Jane Winter for the lack of interest on the part of the Irish authorities in these matters.
Leveson - Jane Winter testified in 2011
As for what News International may have agreed to settle on with Ms Winter and BIRW, we can at least assume that the deal is based on Jane Winter’s complaint to the Leveson hacking inquiry in 2011. Ms Winter then made a complaint at the High Court in London in 2012 to the effect that BIRW material from 2006 was found on the computer of a News International hacker. In short, Jane Winter’s and BIRW’s complaint is that News International/Times Newspapers illegally gathered information that was privately owned by the two complainants. This complaint does not just pertain to emails sent by Jane Winter to one of her clients, but also documentary material possessed by at least three of her clients, which was brought into the hacking “ripple”.
The English Independent newspaper quoted Jane Winter’s 2012 High Court complaint in an article on new hacking claims in April 2012: “Blair aide among 46 new Murdoch hacking claims" - http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/blair-aide-among-46-new-murdoch-hacking-claims-7665990.html
The paper also quoted Times Newspapers as saying that Ms Winter’s action would be strongly defended.
‘A spokeswoman for NI said the claim against the Sunday Times would be "vigorously defended".’
Thus, it is indeed major news that News International (here including Times Newspapers), or its present configuration in the UK, has now agreed to settle with Jane Winter personally and BIRW as a body over hacking.
Alex Marunchak currently on bail for hacking
Why haven’t the Irish authorities seized News Int’s Dublin material?
There is a wider, equally compelling reason, for News International’s settlement with Jane Winter to be made public and that lies in the fact that the very same hacked material, which forms the basis of the above settlement, appears to have been sent via fax to News International's Dublin office.
The BBC’s investigative programme Panorama made this revelation in March 2011 and linked the illegal faxes to the then executive officer in Dublin Alex Marunchak. See “News of the World executive obtained hacked e-mails” - http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-12712400
The only quibbles I have with this otherwise excellent Panorama report are that Alex Marunchak was not just a News Of The World executive in 2006 but News International’s senior executive in Ireland. Moreover, the programme didn’t seem to realise the Irish dynamite it had in its hands. Mr Marunchak is at the moment on police bail in England after being arrested in 2012 on suspicion of computer hacking.
It's my understanding from my own sources that the faxes referred to by Panorama were by no means the only faxed material that contained illegally hacked information sent to Marunchak's offices in the early to mid 2000s. That there were in fact a large number of faxes containing hacked material. This Irish hacking story, in other words, is not just about Jane Winter and her clients, by any means.
After this settlement between News International and Jane Winter,and precisely because of this apparent link to News International operations in Dublin, the Irish authorities (South and North) must initiate a full inquiry into exactly who and what was hacked on our side of the Irish Sea and whether there was a political motivation in such hacking. The period when this hacking was going on was a fraught time in Irish history and politics.
The Irish media, meanwhile, (which committed thousands of column inches to hacking in England) has shown remarkable homogeneity in simply refusing to even peek at a huge story staring it in the face – why is this? Is it possibly because an element at least of the Irish media has engaged in the same practices using the same hackers and/or their Irish counterparts? If so, this makes the need for a government inquiry all the more pressing.
Waiting and hoping for prosecutions and trials in England and Scotland that might at some later date throw light on hacking in Ireland cannot be an option and has never been so in the past, not least because covert forces within the state may well have had a hand, or at least knowledge, of these hacking operations and their record of suppressing evidence in these matters is well known.
Mí an Mhárta 2015