12 Jul 2011

Brown ‘shocked’ by News International tactics

The former prime minister says he is “shocked” by the apparent behaviour of News International journalists who accessed his legal and bank files, as well as obtaining details of his son’s illness.

Gordon Brown also said he and his wife Sarah were “in tears” when they were told in 2006 by The Sun’s then-editor, Rebekah Brooks – now News International Chief Executive – that the paper was going to publish a story about their son’s cystic fibrosis.

The Sun is the latest newspaper in the News International stable to become embroiled in the phone-hacking scandal, after its sister paper The News of the World was forced to close in the wake of last week’s phone-hacking allegations.

The former prime minister stressed that he did not know how the information on his son’s illness had been obtained but it was extremely upsetting.

He said: “Sarah and I were incredibly upset about it… I’ve not questioned how it appeared, I’ve not made any allegations about how it appeared, I’ve not made any claims about how it appeared. But the fact is, it did appear and it did appear in The Sun newspaper.”

Regardless of how the story on his son’s condition appeared, Mr Brown said he did have evidence that people working for News International used “blagging” techniques to obtain other information about him. He said investigators working for The Sunday Times hired people to “break into” his lawyer’s files and on six occasions obtained private information from his building society by posing as him.

He told the BBC: “I think what happened pretty early on in government was that The Sunday Times appear to have got access to my building society account, they got access to my legal files. There’s some question marks about what happened to other files, documentation, tax and everything else.

“But I’m shocked, I’m genuinely shocked, to find that this happened because of their links with criminals.”

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown 'shocked' and 'in tears' over News International stories (Getty)

Mr Brown added: “I just can’t understand this. If I, with all the protection and all the defences and all the security that a chancellor of the exchequer or a prime minister, am so vulnerable to unscrupulous tactics, to unlawful tactics, methods that have been used in the way we have found – what about the ordinary citizen?

“What about the person, like the family of Milly Dowler, who are in the most desperate of circumstances, the most difficult occasions in their lives, in huge grief, and then they find that they are totally defenceless in this moment of greatest grief from people who are employing these ruthless tactics with links to known criminals?”

A spokesman for News International asked for all the information regarding Mr Brown’s allegations to be made available to them, “so that we can investigate these matters further”.

Cameron: ‘My heart goes out to Gordon and Sarah Brown’

Labour leader Ed Miliband, who met with the family of Milly Dowler on Tuesday, said the treatment of Gordon Brown was “disgusting”.

Mr Miliband told Sky News: “I think it’s terrible what happened to Gordon. I think it’s disgusting, and I think it just adds to the long list of outrages that we’ve seen practised by certain newspapers and I think it reinforces the need for comprehensive action to be taken.”

Prime Minister David Cameron also said Mr Brown’s claims were “yet another example of an appalling invasion of privacy”.

He said: “My heart goes out to Gordon and Sarah Brown because to have your children’s privacy invaded in that way – and I know that myself particularly – when your child isn’t well, is completely unacceptable and heart-breaking for the family concerned.”

He insisted that the police would “find the culprits and make sure they are punished”, while the promised judge-led inquiry would find out “what was going on at these newspapers”.

“This Government won’t rest until we have got to the bottom of what is clearly an appalling mess,” he said.