The phone hacking scandal.. “it’s been going on for years”

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A SCARBOROUGH man who worked for the News of the World yesterday said illegal and unethical practices at the newspaper had been going on for decades.

Peter Bleach, of Cornelian Avenue, was hired by the now defunct paper during the 1980s and early 1990s to give his expert opinion on the arms trade. He was also hired by the newspaper as an investigator.

Mr Bleach, an arms dealer who would go on to spend eight years in jail in India for his part in a botched arms drop in 1995, said that he witnessed illegal payments being made to corrupt police officers and surveillance of mobile phone calls.

“The investigators commissioned by the newspaper would pay police officers £200 and get address details, telephone numbers and criminal records from car number plates. It was a standard thing,” said Mr Bleach.

“Some of the detective constables who were taking the money are now senior police officers.

“The News of the World would hire private detectives and their journalists would direct them on what to go and get.

“A lot of the private detective firms would be staffed by ex-policemen who had retired to avoid corruption proceedings, so they knew the guys still in the force who were bent.

“No-one is saying all the cops were corrupt – it must have been galling for the vast majority who were honest.”

Mr Bleach said that during the 1980s and ’90s investigators would listen to mobile calls which could then be heard on shortwave radios. They would sell stories to the News of the World for £600, which they received even if they were not printed. As part of one investigation, Mr Bleach monitored the calls of a man attempting to sell weapons to the IRA.

Although not strictly illegal at the time, he says that the practice was a precursor to the voicemail phone hacking scandal which has seen a huge police investigation launched and the newspaper closed by owner News International.

“I’m not surprised at all by what had happened. It has been a time bomb waiting to go off. It was an open secret that you could get anything you wanted if you were willing to pay for it and I think it’s good that it’s all come out.

“In the ‘80s you had to stand everything up, but since then it has got hopelessly out of control.”