Royal phone hacking scandal: Timeline of events so far

The UK phone hacking scandal terrors the very heart of Westminster, and has far reaching consequences for politicians and citizens alike. This article covers the full timeline of events so far.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

Controversy continues to stir in Westminster amid allegations that reporters and journalists from one prominent British tabloid newspapers, engaged in the illegal interception of voicemail messages on the phones of the Royal family, senior politicians and celebrities.

The UK phone hacking scandal shows politicians and government reluctant to investigate claims against a newspaper, which might further damage their reputations on a personal or political level. But also, the complex nature of the outdated communications laws, political spin show the grip that national presses have on not only Parliament but also the British people.


The freedom of the presses in the United Kingdom does not allow journalists, reporters and freelancers to work outside of the law. On the other hand, politicians play a continually dangerous game balancing the media, in order to tow the party politician line and to engage with government under the premise to stay in power.

While this is a slow, developing story that has now prolonged for over four years, the timeline can be followed below of main events leading to present day.

9th April 2006: First headline appears in the News of the World detailing an article about Prince Harry. Excerpts of an answerphone recording were published in the paper. Questions arose as to how the newspaper could access such private information.

Buckingham Palace was 'suspicious' and asked Scotland Yard, home of the Metropolitan Police, also tasked with protecting politicians and the Royal Family, to investigate.

30th May 2006: "A vast number of voice mailboxes belonging to a number of high profile individuals have been identified as being accessed without authority", says a briefing note sent from Scotland Yard to the Attorney General (Source: Channel 4). At this point, the police investigation appeared to focus only on the phone hacking of members of or those who work for the Royal family.


August 2006: Glenn Mulcaire's office, a freelance private investigator, is raided by police, uncovering evidence of his work with News of the World.Only after a police investigation of linking phone calls to phone calls did evidence become clear of the phone hacking affair.

The offices of the News of the World were also searched by police. Clive Goodman along with Mulcaire were subsequently arrested and charged.

29th November 2006: Clive Goodman, Royal editor for the News of the World, pleads guilty at the Old Bailey in London.  

26th January 2007: Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire are sentenced to four months and six months respectively for conspiring to unlawfully intercept communications. The pair had used preset codes set by network operators to access unsecured voicemail boxes of members of the Royal family and politicians, and reported on the findings.

It is reported that supermodel Elle Macphearson, Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes, publicist Max Clifford and Prince William had their phones hacked, according to the BBC.

Andy Coulson, editor of tabloid newspaper News of the World, run by Murdoch-owned News International, denied the allegations that he knew anything of the phone hacking, but resigned taking 'full responsibility for the scandal'.

Late January 2007: Chief executive of the Professional Footballers Association, Gordon Taylor, brings a civil case against the News of the World. This case led to damages being paid to Taylor by the newspaper, but also the rendition of police files to discover more on the extent of the phone hacking.

While some claim that there were 'over 6,000' people subject to phone hacking, this was later proved to be untrue. The number appears to be closer to 3,000-4,000.

Simon Hughes MP spoke to the Guardian regarding the out of court settlements which in some cases paid over £1 million to hacking victims. This led to questions regarding why the News of the World were paying out of court, and seemingly admitting guilt as a result under the UK legal system.


However as a result of these payouts, the alleged victims were barred from talking about the hacking scandal and subsequent victims in Taylor's case.

April 2007: By this point, a number of people had suspected their phone of being hacked after the story had broken, and had written to the police to question whether their names had appeared in evidence.

July 2007: Andy Coulson, former editor of tabloid newspaper News of the World, becomes Director of Communications for the Conservative Party, the opposition party in government at the time.

8th July 2009: The Guardian begins a series examining further allegations that the phone hacking by News of the World that victims were far broader than those of the Royal family. John Prescott, former deputy Prime Minister, Tessa Jowell MP and now mayor of London Boris Johnson MP, and other celebrities were named as having their phones tapped into by journalists.

9th July 2009: Scotland Yard said no further evidence from the Guardian warranted the opening of the original or subsequent cases into phone hacking.

24th February 2010: The Parliamentary Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, which investigate particular incidents or ongoing problems in government and act in a similar way to a court of law, convenes to investigate the phone hacking scandal. Andy Coulson was brought up against the committee, and was scolded along with many for suffering 'collective amnesia'.

Rebekeh Brookes (née Wade) was to be considered for subpoena to give evidence at a cross party committee on standards. This was subsequently dropped fearing reprisals against members of the committee.

May 2010: British government falls after Prime Minister Gordon Brown resigns. A new coalition government is formed, with new Prime Minister David Cameron taking residence in Downing Street. The Director of Communications for the Conservative Party Andy Coulson now becomes the chief press officer for the British government.

September 2010: The New York Times publishes details it finds that the phone hacking was more widespread than believed at the newspaper office.

Scotland Yard reopens its investigation into the phone hacking subject to the new evidence given by News of the World reporter Sean Hoare, suggesting that Andy Coulson 'actively encouraged' the use of such means.

10th September 2010: The government backs a new session of the Parliamentary Select Committee for Home Affairs, one of the most powerful committee in Parliament, to investigate the new claims.

Around this time, Scotland Yard's Assistant Commissioner John Yates said that Andy Coulson would be expected to speak to police, along with Sean Hoare in regards to the fresh allegations.

The Standards and Privileges Committee would have the power to 'subpoena' witnesses, something which had not been performed in over 50 years.

10th December 2010: The Crown Prosecution Service, which brings criminal charges against people, said it would not be bringing charges in this instance against Andy Coulson regarding his time as editor of News of the World, citing insufficient admissible evidence.

5th January 2011: News editor for the News of the World Ian Edmondson is suspended by the paper, after actress Sienna Miller made allegations of phone hacking in 2005-2006. It is believed that these developments precipitated the resignation of Andy Coulsonlater on this month.


14th January 2011: The Crown Prosecution Service said that it will be reviewing the evidence collected by Scotland Yard, following on from the result of the aforementioned civil suits.

21st January 2011: Andy Coulson, former editor of tabloid newspaper News of the World, resigns as the Director of Communications ('chief spin doctor') for the Prime Minister of the new coalition government.

"When the spokesman needs a spokesman, it's time to move on", Coulson said.

23rd January 2011: It is reported that former PM Gordon Brown wrote to Scotland Yard asking whether his phone had been hacked into during his time as Chancellor of the Exchequer (Treasurer) and as Prime Minister. One newspaper reported that the letter was sent during the time of which the hacking was taking place.

24th January 2011: The Crown Prosecution Service will widen the inquiry into phone hacking under the premise that hacking was 'widespread'. The BBC's business editor Robert Peston reports that News International, the parent company of the News of the World is to conduct its own investigation, which could result in executives being sacked in weeks.

27th January 2011: A significant development, according to the BBC. A fresh criminal investigation has been launched by Scotland Yard, after the investigation begun on the 24th January 2011 resulted in the News of the World news editor, Ian Edmonson, being sacked.

Emails belonging to Edmonson allegedly show evidence linking to the phone hacking scandal. Scotland Yard has been criticised for failing to investigate thoroughly during the wake of the scandal.

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