Andy Coulson, the Prime Minister’s Director of Communications announced his resignation on Friday. Coulson’s first resignation was back in January 2007, when he stepped down from being Editor of The News of the World amid allegations that phones belonging to members of the Royal Household had been hacked into. Coulson’s Royal Editor, Clive Goodman, was imprisoned, along with Private Investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, (for four and six months respectively) for phone hacking and retrieving voicemail messages belonging to members of the royal household. Coulson  maintained that he and other big players at the company had been kept entirely in the dark by Goodman, who they claimed acted as a “rogue reporter” but still felt conscionably responsible enough to step down as Editor-in-Chief. Coulson subsequently accepted a position with the Conservative Party, working for David Cameron – which would keep him very much still in the public eye – five months after he left News of the World

On 5 January 2011 it was announced that Ian Edmondson, assistant News of the World editor, had been suspended from active duties after evidence reportedly emerged that Edmondson had asked Mulcaire to hack into voicemail messages belonging to the football agent Sky Andrew. The results of this investigation are not known.  This arguably placed additional pressure upon Mr Coulson and ensured by confirmation of reports in the media.

The “rogue reporter” defence lacks strength in some areas and it remains to be seen whether the judiciary will consider it to have much bearing going forward. A basic presumption under civil law is that the employer is vicariously liable for his employee’s actions for work carried out during the course of his employment. It will arguably be a challenge for tabloid editors to argue that they remained ignorant of their employees’ activities. Whilst this may seem unfair to members of the press who argue that a certain degree of control is exercised by journalists independently of supervision, FrontRow Legal would advise that you always keep a handle on your staff’s methods of investigation, especially as the laws surrounding privacy continue to develop.

Claims against The News of the World for invasion of privacy mount as others join Sienna Miller and Max Clifford.

Published January 25, 2011

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