'I prove legal system works' says phone-hacking reporter

Neville Thurlbeck

Neville Thurlbeck

First published in News thisisoxfordshire: Photograph of the Author by , Council Reporter, also covering Oxford city centre. Call me on 01865 425429

‘I AM proof that the law works,’ a journalist due to be sentenced today for phone hacking told the Oxford Union.

Neville Thurlbeck appeared in a debate on press freedom at the university debating society.

The former chief reporter at the News of the World, who worked at the paper for 21 years, is due to be sentenced today after pleading guilty to phone hacking.

But addressing a packed debating chamber on Wednesday, he said there was no need for statutory regulation of the press.

He said: “The law works as it is, I can tell you from rather personal, first-hand experience. Wrong-doing is being severely punished and that is far more effective than a Royal Charter which will do enormous damage to the industry.

“You do not need politicians to tell you what you can and cannot read, you have the police, you have the law and you have the judiciary.

“That is enough and I am living proof.”

In the wake of the hacking scandal, a new independent body to regulate the press was recommended by the Leveson Report, released in November 2012 Since then the Government has put forward a Royal Charter to oversee the press, while the industry itself has formed a new body called the Independent Press Standards Organisation.

Thurlbeck said the “misdemeanours” of the News of the World – which was closed in 2011 – have been used to “rush through” the Royal Charter.

He added: “If the chill wind of censorship is being felt in the newsroom of The Sun, one of the most fearless newsrooms in the world, how daunting must it be for local papers to probe local councils?”

Thurlbeck’s work as a journalist included revealing Jeffrey Archer’s perjury during his 1987 libel case against the Daily Star and breaking the story of David Beckham’s alleged affair in 2004.

The journalist was also behind an exclusive about Max Mosley’s private life, which saw the paper slapped with £60,000 damages for breaching his privacy.

Before the trial of Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks began last year, Thurlbeck pleaded guilty to phone hacking.

Last week, Coulson, the former editor of the News of the World, was found guilty of phone hacking after a 139-day trial.

He and Thurlbeck are due to be sentenced together at the Old Bailey today.

Martin Moore, director of the Media Standards Trust, was one of the people who spoke against the Oxford Union motion, which was This house believes that any regulation of the press is an unacceptable restriction of freedom of speech.

He said: “I believe in press freedom but I also believe in individual liberty.

“How do you deal with news corporations which refuse a right of reply? There is no low-cost access to the law.

“If you are accused on the front page of a national paper of being a paedophile you can rush to the law only if you have a spare £1m.”

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