St Albans hacking victim’s dad backs press freedom

THE St Albans father of a soldier killed in Afghanistan, whose email account was believed to have been hacked into by journalists, has spoken out in support of freedom of the press.

Tony Philippson’s son Captain James Philippson, of Bricket Wood, was killed in action at the age of 29 on June 11 2006.

It is believed the fallen soldier’s email account was hacked into just days after his death.

When Capt Philippson went to Afghanistan, he left his hotmail password with his brother David so that he could manage his affairs while he was fighting on the front line.

A week after his death David logged into his brother’s account and found that several new messages had been read but amid the grief of losing Capt Philippson, he forgot about the incident.

When details later emerged about mobile phone voicemails being hacked into by the News of the World, it suddenly struck David that his brother might have also fallen victim to similar tabloid newspaper practices.

Following last Thursday’s publication of the Leveson Report, which calls for an independent self-regulatory body for the press, Tony said that no harm had been done following the assumed hacking.

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Initially the family thought that the Ministry of Defence had been observing his son’s emails, but later contacted the police to investigate the possibility of hacking.

But as records were only kept for five years, the telephone company had deleted the opened emails.

Tony said: “We can’t prove it now.”

While he did not give evidence at the Leveson Inquiry, Tony said: “I couldn’t care less about the hacking of Hugh Grant’s phone. It hasn’t done him any harm. He is making a fool of himself.”

He said that public figures should be “big enough” to turn the other cheek when the press were delving into details of their lives, as “they don’t do any real harm”.

Tony said journalists should be allowed the freedom to research people making the news and added: “The press has an important role to play – more so than the protection of Hugh Grant’s privacy.”

In his 2,000-page report Appeal Court judge Lord Justice Leveson said that at times, the press had “caused real hardship” and “wreaked havoc with the lives of innocent people”.

But he remained “firmly of the belief that the British press – all of it – serves the country very well for the vast majority of the time”.

St Albans MP Anne Main has urged fellow politicians to tread cautiously before “muzzling the press” in the wake of the report.

Mrs Main added: “Instinctively I feel we should defend freedom of the press. I accept that the majority of press did not take part in the worst excesses of this scandal.

“Local papers particularly do a good job of holding up the candle of truth and we should not jeopardise the scrutiny they bring to bear.

“We as politicians may not always like what they have to say, however I am mindful that there are other laws in place should the press step over the line.”