THE sister of murdered Milly Dowler has slammed the “incestuous” relationship between Britain’s top politicians and the press as she spoke out in the wake of the first verdicts in the phone hacking trial.
Gemma Dowler, whose younger sister’s phone was hacked after she disappeared in 2002, said she wanted to make sure “something good” came out of the scandal and called on Prime Minister David Cameron to make good on promises he made to her family over press regulation.
Miss Dowler’s comments were made in a video released in the wake of the conviction of former Downing Street spin doctor Andy Coulson for plotting to hack phones.
Revelations that the News of the World had hacked missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s phone in spring 2002 sparked public outrage and contributed to the tabloid’s downfall.
The eight-month phone hacking trial heard how former NotW chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck tasked private investigator Glenn Mulcaire to hack Milly’s phone around the time of the Surrey schoolgirl’s murder in 2002.
A message left by a recruitment agency suggested the 13-year-old may have been alive in Telford and the NotW dispatched reporters to investigate the false lead before Stuart Kuttner told Surrey Police about the message.
Former NotW editor Rebekah Brooks, who was cleared of hacking charges by the same jury on Tuesday, was in charge of the paper in 2002 but was on holiday in Dubai at the time Milly’s phone was hacked, leaving Coulson at the helm.
In the wake of Tuesday’s verdicts, Miss Dowler called for Mr Cameron and other party leaders to implement proposals made following the Leveson Inquiry into press standards.
She said her family had stayed silent during the court case to make sure the defendants got a fair trial. She said: “But now that it’s over, I want to speak out about what I think should happen next to make sure that something good comes out of these terrible events.
“We have known for ages that serious crimes were being committed on a major scale in parts of the press. Ordinary people have suffered terribly from journalists who recklessly intruded into private grief and stole private information.”
She branded Ipso, the new press watchdog backed by most of the industry, as “meaningless”, adding: “This is just the newspapers looking after themselves.
“Something needs to be done to make sure what happened to my family doesn’t happen again.”
She went on: “But there are other, equally worrying problems. Most important and damaging of all is the incestuous relationship between our top politicians and the press.
“For example Tony Blair, the prime minister when Milly disappeared, didn’t phone us when he heard that Milly’s phone had been hacked. But when he heard that the police were investigating Rebekah Brooks, he phoned her to offer his support. Three long years have passed since my meeting with David Cameron and the other party leaders.
“We were pleased that he was prepared to initiate the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics. However, I have not forgotten the promises that were made to my family and all of the other victims of press ‘intrusion.’”
Hacked Off, which yesterday said there had been an extensive criminal conspiracy to hack phones, is calling for a press regulator along the lines recommended by the Leveson Inquiry.