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Monday, April 05, 2010

Phone tapping allegations pose serious questions for the Met

Today's Guardian suggests that allegations that News of the World journalists hacked the phones of celebrities will not be going away too quickly.

The paper says that police, who investigated the phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World, obtained previously undisclosed telephone records which showed a vast number of public figures had had their voicemail accessed, and then decided not to pursue the evidence. They say that this raises fundamental questions about the behaviour of Scotland Yard, which has claimed repeatedly that it found evidence of "only a handful" of people whose mobile phone messages had been intercepted by the News of the World's private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire:

The paperwork also reveals that police and prosecutors adopted a deliberate strategy to ringfence the evidence which they presented in court in order to suppress the names of particularly prominent victims, including members of the royal family. The existence of this strategy has been omitted from all public statements, including evidence made to the House of Commons media select committee.

In a further blow to the official version of events, the Guardian has discovered that although police and prosecutors named only eight victims in court, material seized by police from Mulcaire and the paper's royal reporter, Clive Goodman, contained 4,332 names or partial names of people in whom the two men had an interest, 2,978 numbers or partial numbers for mobile phones and 30 audio tapes which appear to contain an unspecified number of recordings of voicemail messages.

The revelations increase the prospect of the government ordering a new inquiry into the affair. While Scotland Yard's public position remains that it did all that its resources and the law permitted, some police sources admit privately that they failed to fully investigate the case, that decisions may have been distorted by a fear of upsetting Rupert Murdoch's newspapers, and that it was "unfortunate" that the officer in charge of the inquiry, assistant commissioner Andy Hayman, subsequently left the police to work for News International as a columnist.

As the Guardian points out, any prolongation of this affair could well prove embarrassing for David Cameron and his media adviser, Andy Coulson, who edited the paper at the time of the offences and who says he does not remember any illegal act.

As I pointed out on 28th February one other interested party in this latest development may be Lembit Őpik, who has instructed lawyers to look into the possible unlawful hacking of his mobile phone by the newspaper.
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