It’s not so much hacking as walking in and having a look. By default, there is no security at all on the voicemail of a mobile phone account. Many people do not enable the PIN number because they don’t want to be locked out of their voicemail if they forget it.
I’m not of course saying that it’s morally acceptable, any more than it’s morally acceptable to walk through an unlocked door and start reading the mail that someone has left opened on the kitchen table. But it is not hacking. The average journalist has no skills in that area. However, if you say to the average journalist or reporter “Would you like to listen to the voicemail messages left for that person involved in that very high profile court case?” I doubt that many of them would reply “No thank you. That would be unethical”. All their instincts tell them that any information is potentially newsworthy. What tastes very bitter to the public palate is that victims have been victimised. If it is revealed that an MP has spent twenty thousand on a miniature yacht for his pet mouse, and claimed the money from the public purse, it is unlikely many people would care about how the information had been gleaned. It may even be assumed that such a person in some way deserved to be “hacked”.
Moral judgements gravitate towards easy targets. Milly Dowler’s family were much more victims of the justice system than of journalists. The justice system needs legislation to change it. Newspapers can close overnight.
Get your voicemail PIN set up today, before you become a public figure.