Scotland Yard Expands its Hacking Inquiry

10/02/2011 11:20



After reopening its investigation into telephone hacking by the News of the World, Scotland Yard said Wednesday that it was going to contact more people who may have had their voicemail messages illegally intercepted by reporters at the London newspaper.

This included some people who had previously been told by the police that their personal details were not among a trove of evidence seized by the police in 2006 from a reporter and private investigator for the newspaper who were eventually imprisoned for illegally intercepting phone messages of members of the royal household.

The police found evidence then that hundreds of other celebrities, government officials and sports stars may have had their telephone messages intercepted. But Scotland Yard chose to limit its investigation and informed only a small number of potential targets about the hacking.

Since then, a number of other people who suspected that their phones had been hacked — including the actress Sienna Miller — have sued the tabloid’s parent company, News International, leading to more information from the investigation being made public in court documents.

Last month, The News of the World, which had maintained that the hacking was solely the work of the reporter and private investigator, dismissed its assistant editor for news, Ian Edmondson, after finding “material evidence” linking him to the accusations of phone hacking. Mr. Edmonson has denied any wrongdoing. News International handed over the new material to the police.

On the same day, Scotland Yard, facing criticism for what some people called a lax investigation, said it was reopening its inquiry to consider the new material and to review the evidence seized in 2006 and some of the decisions taken then.

It is that review which led to Scotland Yard’s announcement Wednesday that it would now contact everyone whose names or other personal details were among the evidence. The statement said there was no immediate proof that these individuals’ phone messages had been intercepted, but that this possibility would be investigated.

In a statement, deputy assistant commissioner Sue Akers, who is leading the reopened investigation, said anyone whose name was mentioned in the cache of material would get to see all of the relevant information.

“We are determined to ensure that we conduct a robust and thorough investigation which will follow the evidence trail to its conclusion,” she said.

She would not say how many people would be contacted. But, according to an article in The New York Times published in September 2010, the police in 2006 seized what one police investigator called “a massive amount of evidence” — dozens of notebooks and two computers containing 2,978 complete or partial cell phone numbers and 91 telephone PIN codes.

Last month, Andy Coulson, the editor of The News of the World between 2003 and 2007, resigned as Prime Minister David Cameron’s director of communications. Mr. Coulson said that he had known nothing about the hacking, but that continued speculation about whether he had a role in the affair made it impossible for him to do his job.

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