Former News of the World hack Paul McMullan says British public 'generally moronic' over Milly Dowler phone hacking

The “generally moronic British public” were easily swayed and confused emotion and grief over Milly Dowler’s murder with the act of phone hacking, according to former News of the World deputy features editor Paul McMullan.

Testimony: Paul McMullan spoke at the Leveson Inquiry

In an interview with Vice, McMullan admitted his association with hacking phones the subsequent Leveson Inquiry had left him unemployable.

He went to repeat the defence of phone hacking he gave to the Leveson Inquiry and said: “Unfortunately, the generally moronic British public are very easy to sway and they confused the emotion of the girl who was killed and the grief of her parents with the act of phone hacking.”

McMullan then went on to reminisce about the days when editors were less concerned about the public’s privacy.

“You used to be able to take a picture or do a story and people would run it; now, it’s, ‘Did they have a reasonable expectation of privacy? Where were you? Were you on a public road? Were they on a public road?’ I thought, ‘Fuck off – we never used to care.’ The good old days of journalism have gone.”

The former tabloid journalist said he did have some boundaries, however, and claimed he was once even asked by bosses to watch child porn to try to identify abusers.

“It was something I didn’t want to do. I started journalism for bouncy, sexy fun – not to do anything that seedy and distasteful,” he said.

McMullan began his career at the Sunday Sport before going on to the News of the World in 1994. During his testimony at the Leveson Inquiry, he admitted to phone hacking, bribing public officials, searching through celebrities’ bins to find information and posing as a teenage prostitute to entrap a paedophile priest.

“At one time we were so powerful that we didn’t care about breaking the law, because no policeman or politician was going to come up against NotW and The Sun,” he told Vice. “As soon as we got so weak that the politicians and the showbiz people who these things with prostitutes and drug dealers could get their own back, they did so with vengeance.

The former hack went on to say that Leveson had made journalism “boring” and said the public would realise what had been lost in years to come.

“I bought a surveillance van after [the Leveson report came out] and was going to go back into business but no one would hire me. People were so careful of having another inquiry that the paper wouldn’t touch all the old journalism tricks we used to do to get stories.

“Basically, newspapers have tamed themselves for fear of being completely tamed through legislation,” he added, before blaming the inquiry for making him unemployable.

McMullan now runs a pub in Dover.

Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis

Join us, it’s free.

Want to read this article and others just like it? All you need to do is become a member of The Drum. Basic membership is quick, free and you will be able to receive daily news updates.