Leveson Inquiry: Editors 'knew phones were hacked'
Phone hacking was carried out with the knowledge of News of the World editors, an ex-journalist on the paper has said.
Paul McMullan accused ex-NoW editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, who deny knowledge of hacking, of "trying to drop me and my colleagues in it".
"I don't think anyone realised that anyone was committing a crime at the start," he also told the Leveson Inquiry into media ethics.
But he said he thought phone hacking was acceptable to get to the truth.
Earlier, the inquiry heard from the Guardian's Nick Davies, who said he did not think the media was "interested in or capable of self-regulation".
He proposed the setting up of a "public interest advisory body" that would guide journalists, and the public, on whether stories were in the public interest.
Mr Davies said some News of the World journalists still sincerely believed that their story on former motorsport chief Max Mosley's participation in a sadomasochistic orgy was in the public interest.
But he added: "I profoundly and sincerely disagree with them, I do not think it was in the public interest."
He was under oath. He was not there of his own volition. He'd been ordered to give evidence. Despite this, he didn't appear a reluctant witness - far from it. So willing was Paul McMullan to talk about what went on at the News of the World and, he insisted, elsewhere, that he had to be warned that he didn't have to answer questions if he was worried about incriminating himself.
He certainly tried to incriminate others who've repeatedly denied knowing what was going on in their backyard. Andy Coulson, former tabloid man and spokesman for the prime minister, brought the practice of hacking to the News of the World "wholesale", according to Mr McMullan. He called Rebekah Brooks, at one stage, the "criminal-in-chief".
He was unrepentant when talking about the tabloid trade. "All I've ever tried to do," Paul McMullan told the inquiry, "is write truthful articles."
Mr McMullan was NoW deputy features editor between 1994 and 2001.
Asked whether his editors had known about mobile phone voicemails being intercepted by News of the World journalists, Mr McMullan said: "I could go a bit further on that: we did all these things for our editors, for Rebekah Brooks and for Andy Coulson.
"You only have to read Andy Coulson's column in [the Sun's] Bizarre where it would just be littered with ... 'Pop star A is leaving messages on pop star B's phone at 2am in the morning saying 'I love you and shall we meet up for a drink?'. I mean, it was that blatant and obvious - I don't think anyone realised that anyone was committing a crime at the start."
He added: "My assertion has always been that Andy Coulson brought that practice wholesale with him when he was appointed deputy editor."
Mr McMullan called Ms Brooks and Mr Coulson "the scum of journalism for trying to drop me and my colleagues in it".
"They should have had the strength of their conviction to say: 'I know, yes, sometimes you have to enter into a grey area - or enter a black illegal area - for the good of our readers, for the public good, and yes we asked our reporters to do these things.'
End Quote Paul McMullan Ex-NoW journalist
Privacy is the space bad people need to do bad things”
"But instead they turned around on us and said: 'Oh, we didn't know they were doing it. Oh heavens, it was all just Clive Goodman and later it was just a few others.'"
Former NoW royal correspondent Goodman was jailed in 2007, along with private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, for illegally accessing voicemails of members of the royal household.
Mr McMullan told the inquiry that he thought phone hacking was a "perfectly acceptable tool".
"All I have ever tried to do is to write truthful articles and to use any means necessary to try to get to the truth," he said.'Dangerous area'
"There's so many barriers in the way that sometimes you have to enter a grey area that I think we should sometimes be applauded for entering, because it's a very dangerous area.
"My life has been at risk many times, at home more than in war zones. I used to get a death threat at least once a month for 15 years of my career.
"I sacrificed a lot to write truthful articles for the biggest-circulation English language paper in the world and I was quite happy and proud to do it, which is why I think phone hacking is a perfectly acceptable tool - given the sacrifices we made - if all we are trying to do is to get to the truth."
He went on to say that most people did not need privacy because they had nothing to hide.
"Privacy is the space bad people need to do bad things in," Mr McMullan said. "Privacy is for paedos."
He also said it was not for anyone to say whether a story was or was not in the public interest.
"Circulation defines what is the public interest," he said.
"I see no difference between what the public is interested in and the public interest. Surely they are clever enough to make a decision whether or not they want to put their hand in their pocket and bring out a pound and buy it."