A section of the judgement in in the Mosley v News of the World case (pdf) that appears to have gone unnoticed are paragraphs 82 to 87.They are incendiary
Download the judgement and type the word "blackmail" into your Adobe Acrobat reader, it will take you straight to it.
At this part of the judgement, Counsel for Mosley, James Price Q.C. is getting his teeth into Colin Myler, the editor of the defendant's paper. He is concerned about the witnesses of the sex sessions and how they were "encouraged to cooperate" with the paper. It is beyond dispute that Myler threatened that if they did not cooperate, their identities would be made public in the paper.
“Q This was a naked threat, wasn’t it, Mr Myler?
A I think it could be interpreted as a threat. I’m not so sure …
Q Come on, Mr Myler, please.
A Well, clearly it could be interpreted as a threat, but I think by this time the girls who took part would have known that the News of the World had the photographs anyway.
Q What’s it called when you threaten to reveal publicly the identity of somebody who has done something embarrassing which they do not wish to become public unless they cooperate with you? What’s it called?
A I think you know what it’s called. You’re talking about the potential use of blackmail.
Q I am.
And it got much, much worse when the paper's chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck, was cross examined about the same "threat"
Q Let’s be direct about this. There is a clear threat here that if they don’t cooperate they will expose them in the News of the World?
A No, I don’t accept that. I think there was a clear choice here but there was no attempt to threaten them.
Q Let’s get this straight. If the blackmailer says to the victim, ‘Either you pay up or I’ll put your picture in the newspaper’ he’s offering him a very fair choice?
Q There’s no threat?
A No, because I’m asking for something here. Your example states that I’m asking for something in return for issuing a threat.
Q Yes, indeed you are.
A No, I’m offering to give them something. I’m offering to pay them money for an anonymous interview. I’m offering to pay them, not to take anything from them, so in that sense I’m not blackmailing them at all. That thought never crossed my mind. I’m offering them a choice.”
And then the wretched Thurlbeck was gently reminded of the law of blackmail by the Mr Justice Eady.
It seems that Mr Thurlbeck genuinely did not see the point. Yet it is elementary that blackmail can be committed by the threat to do something which would not, in itself, be unlawful.
At this point, I can just imagine the legal representatives of the News of the World hoping that a hole would open up into which their witness would tumble ! A feeling I've experienced many times!
I'm sure most criminal lawyers whose clients were up to the shenanigans Myler and Thurlbeck were involved in, would expect a knock on the door from the police.