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Phone hacking scandal hits publishing
21.10.11 | Benedicte Page
The News of the World phone hacking scandal has hit the book industry, with the revelation that private material relating to individuals within the trade has been discovered by police during "Operation Weeting".
Both agent Peter Cox and publisher John Blake have confirmed that their personal details have been turned up by the Metropolitan Police as part of its investigations into illegal surveillance operations by the now defunct Sunday paper.
Cox said he only found out that he was affected by the News of the World phone hacking after proactively contacting the police. He said: "I have retained lawyers to advise me on what course of action to pursue: no options are being ruled out at the moment, so I am not able to comment further on the specifics of the case."
However, he warned others could be affected by the investigation. He said: "Don't assume it's just page one celebrities who have been affected. I would advise any agent or publisher conceivably handling anything that could have been of commercial interest to the News of the World, obviously including serialisations that are going to other newspapers, that it would be prudent to check." A further book trade individual was also affected by News of the World surveillance on the same issue as himself, Cox claimed.
Meanwhile, Blake said it was the police who had approached him to let him know that they had found his home phone number and other private numbers among the material being investigated, asking him if he wanted to pursue the matter. He said: "My phone was probably hacked . . . [but] I feel really sorry for whoever did; they would have heard the missus asking me ‘Where are you?' and ‘Do you want a cup of tea?'"
Blake, who founded the Bizarre showbiz page on the News of the World's sister paper the Sun in the 1980s and was one-time editor of the Sunday People, said he had decided not to pursue the issue. He said: "I was a newspaper man for years and I think it would be hypocritical of me to make a huge song and dance about it. It's all part of the rough and tumble."
Michael O'Mara of Michael O'Mara Books said he had decided not to check whether or not his private details were in the possession of the News of the World. He said: "We did serialisations with them, and when listening to people's conversations they were often doing it for business reasons. But I'd rather just leave it alone. If they did tune in it certainly never caused me any harm, and it would just be upsetting."
It is estimated that around 3,000 people may have had their phones hacked by the News of the World. Journalist Glenn Mulcaire's files name 3,870 people and contain 5,000 landline phone numbers and 4,000 mobile phone numbers.