U.K. Police Reopen Wiretapping Investigation

The Metropolitan Police said it reopened its investigation into illegal phone-hacking at Rupert Murdoch’s News of The World.


LONDON -- British journalistic ethics could be about to be blown wide open after Scotland Yard said Wednesday it has reopened its investigation into illegal phone-hacking at Rupert Murdoch’s News of The World.

The Metropolitan Police said it had received “significant new information” from executives on the paper relating to events going back more than five years. The news comes as News International said it had fired the newspaper’s assistant news editor Ian Edmondson, after spending days trawling through his notebooks and emails in an attempt to establish the extent of phone hacking on the paper.

The findings could be about to blow open the whole notion of reporting ethics and legality if it emerges that illegal message accessing was common practice. The paper has previously maintained that it only had a problem with a single rogue reporter -- royal reporter Clive Goodman -- who was later jailed.

“The Met has today received significant new information relating to allegations of phone hacking at the News of the World in 2005/06,” a spokesman for London’s Metropolitan Police said Wednesday.

“As a result, the Met is launching a new investigation to consider this material, to be carried out by the specialist crime directorate which has been investigating a related phone hacking allegation since September 2010.

The previous investigation, carried out by the counter-terrorist squad, has always maintained it uncovered no evidence of wrong-doing.

A spokeswoman for News International said Edmondson’s employment had been terminated and that the company would co-operate fully with the inquiry.

Mr Edmondson was suspended in December 2010 following a serious allegation. Material evidence found during the course of the subsequent investigation has led to Mr Edmondson's dismissal. News International has informed the police, handed over the material it has found and will give its full co-operation going forward.

An earlier police inquiry was much criticized for not investigating the matter fully, leading a number of out of court settlements with people who believed their phones had been illegally hacked.

The anxiety across all the newspapers here must now be that phone-hacking was not limited to staffers on the News of The World, but could have been common on a host of other tabloid papers.

“In layman’s terms it’s now a volcano starting to erupt,” according celebrity PR agent Max Clifford, who settled out of court with the newspaper last year after suspecting his phone messages had been illegally accessed. Clifford said the practice was not restricted to the News of The World, and that other papers would also have to examine their own operations.

“The ramifications will be felt all over Fleet Street,” he told BBC News.