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Thursday, 19 January 2012

News International's Crisis of Trust - The Staff

THERE WAS one extra person to settle a phone hacking claim against News International today, I can reveal.
It was Cornelia Crisan, the former lover of actor Ralph Fiennes.
A spokesman for Olswang, News International’s lawyers, said: “Crisan has settled but there was no statement in open court in that settlement, which may be why it has not been reported. However, the settlement order has been signed by the judge.”

I am still trying to find out how much she settled for.
But the background to this story reveals the hidden dangers for all News International journalists.
In February, 2006, I was dispatched by a newsdesk executive to intercept Ms Crisan on a train and put to her an allegation that she had been conducting an affair with Fiennes.
I did so, alighted then wrote a few pars of copy. From memory she refused to comment.
That was my total and complete involvement.
What I didn’t know was that Ms Crisan was selling her story to the Sunday People and the Mail on Sunday through the publicist Max Clifford.
And that the News of the World had hacked the phone of Max Clifford’s assistant Nicola Phillips in order to steal her story.
(The same executive who dispatched me by the way was the same one who dispatched me to put allegations to Gordon Taylor. You may see a pattern emerging here.)
Back to Ms Crisan.
While that executive hid from the legal fallout once again, I was subjected to a High Court action.
News Group Newspapers and Glenn Mulcaire were accused by Ms Crisan’s lawyers of hacking her phone.
I and a fellow reporter were accused of, “deliberate and intentional harassment of the Claimant by the Third and Fourth Defendant at the direction of and while in the employ of the First Defendant”.
In plain language, the allegation was our boss at News International instructed us to ask Ms Crisan some questions in the course of gathering information for a story. And that this amounted to harassment.
The financial claim was £25,000-£50,000. Plus eye watering costs which could amount to hundreds of thousands of pounds. Plus the very expensive legal advice I needed right up to today’s resolution.
As there was no criminal allegation against me, in the normal course of events, one would expect a big newspaper group to back their former journalist with legal representation.
Not so News International.
My request to Will Lewis, the general manager at News International went nowhere. As did my request to human resources director Derrick Crowley.
I even tried News International’s lawyers Olswang myself. Lawyer Dan Tench tried but failed to obtain approval to represent me. It was all down to me. My legal costs, Crisan’s legal costs if we fought it and lost. Then damages.
And all simply because I asked a woman a question on a train, in the normal course of my work, on the instructions of my news desk.
This will have dramatic implications for all staff at News International, especially reporters and photographers.
It shows News International no longer consider they have a duty of care to their staff.
People like Will Lewis have made News International a dangerous place to work and an unlikely choice of career move for anyone of any quality in our industry any more.
There is a growing perception that top down, systematic corruption, as revealed in court today, could see you robbed of your job, your house and your liberty.
And News International will walk away and leave you to it.


  1. AnonymousJan 19, 2012 07:26 AM
    What you are highlighting (and doing it brilliantly) is that plague of modern management technique - the art of taking responsibility for absolutely nothing.
  2. AnonymousJan 19, 2012 08:29 AM
    Great article! I believe you are on C4 news tonight too?
  3. AnonymousJan 19, 2012 09:00 AM
    Good on you for fighting your corner but why are you (and other ex-NOTW journos) still protecting the executives who were above you and dumping you in it? Or are you confident justice is catching up with them?
  4. AnonymousJan 19, 2012 09:12 AM
    well done for speaking the truth
  5. AnonymousJan 19, 2012 09:58 AM
    An excellent article. In my days as a journalist, it was simply expected that if you got into trouble, your newspaper would fight FOR you AND pick up the bills.
  6. AnonymousJan 20, 2012 02:08 AM
    Good piece.

    PS in your profile pic, the trees are in focus and your face is not. Time for a new one.
    1. Neville ThurlbeckJan 20, 2012 04:06 AM
      I agree I must sort that out. Although I'm not sure the readers will thank me for getting my face more in focus.
    2. Reply
  7. ColinJan 20, 2012 02:23 AM
    You'll pardon my cynicism by finding it hard to believe that you as a senior reporter, just mildly accepted a request to ask a few questions with no knowldege about the rest of the background info. If she had talked, what were you to investigate/discuss with her?

    But all you did was " .... simply because I asked a woman a question on a train, in the normal course of my work, on the instructions of my news desk. .... "

    You seem to have a remarkable talent for being a senior person there, but never seeing anything! If true, then you must be some journalist, the biggest story in your whole career was under your nose in your own company, and you missed it.

    Or maybe you didn't. As I said, I hope you will forgive my finding your self-serving bleating now so hard to believe.
  8. AnonymousJan 21, 2012 05:49 AM
    there's a ring of truth about what Neville says here. information at NOW was shared on a strictly need to know basis. the reporter wouldn't have been told where the tip had come from (ie phone hacking) unless he needed that information to perform the task in hand. The exec would have sidled up to Neville and said something like, "look old boy, we think Crisan's done a deal with the opos. this is where she is. Go and see f you can get her to talk."
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