Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Inquiry into phone hacking by Britain's best-selling newspaper announced

Growing public outrage over alleged hacking of mobile phone belonging to missing girl later found murdered, and reports that the News of the World illegally paid tens of thousands of pounds to senior Scotland Yard officers had been to leak information, sees PM announce inquiry.

LONDON // Prime minister David Cameron bowed to growing public outrage yesterday and agreed to a public inquiry into phone hacking by Britain's best-selling newspaper.

Mr Cameron also told parliament that a separate inquiry would be held into why an initial Scotland Yard investigation into the claims three years ago wrongly concluded that a solitary, rogue reporter on the News of the World and a private investigator had been solely responsible for the hacking.

In fact, it has now emerged that the practice was widespread at the newspaper, owned by Rupert Murdoch's News International, with journalists paying for access to the mobile phone voicemails of at least 100 people, mainly celebrities, and, possibly, many more.

Police also confirmed yesterday that they had been handed e-mails by the News of the World showing that senior Scotland Yard officers had been illegally paid tens of thousands of pounds in recent years to leak information.

The e-mails were said to implicate the then-editor, Andy Coulson, who went on to become Mr Cameron's director of communications before resigning over the hacking scandal in January.

The controversy has been rumbling on for more than four years, after Clive Goodman, the newspaper's royal correspondent, and private detective Glenn Mulcaire were jailed for hacking into the voicemails of staff members of the royal family. But on Tuesday, new revelations sparked a public outcry.

It was then that The Guardian newspaper revealed that not only had the phones of the rich and famous been hacked, but also that of Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old who disappeared on her way home from school on the outskirts of London in 2002 and whose body was not found for six months.

It was reported yesterday that the tabloid had also targeted the phones of the families of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman - two 10-year-olds who were abducted in Cambridgeshire in 2002 and whose bodies were found two weeks later. Relatives of some of the 52 people killed by suicide bombers in the 7/7 attacks on the London transport system in 2005 had also been subject to hacking.

Mr Cameron told MPs yesterday that the latest revelations were "absolutely disgusting" and that the inquiries would start as soon as the latest police probe into the hacking scandal was completed.

"We are no longer talking here about politicians and celebrities. We are talking about murder victims, potentially terrorist victims, having their phones hacked into," the prime minister said.

"It is absolutely disgusting, what has taken place, and I think everyone in this House and, indeed, this country will be revolted by what they have heard and what they have seen on their television screens."

Ed Miliband, leader of the opposition Labour Party, also demanded that Mr Cameron refer the proposed takeover of the UK's biggest satellite TV provider, BSkyB, by Mr Murdoch to the Competition Commission to test if he were a "fit and proper" person to run the broadcaster.

Mr Cameron would make no such undertaking despite loudening voices expressing concern that the hacking scandal cast doubts on Mr Murdoch's News Corp's bid to buy the 61 per cent of BSkyB that it does not already own.

The prime minister also said that an independent inquiry into the scandal should look not just at practices at the News of the World but also "a wider look into media practices and ethics in this country".

Even The Times, a newspaper in the same News International stable as the News of the World, accepted in a leader article yesterday that the latest phone hacking revelations had "besmirched the name of journalism".

After months during which the paper appeared relatively mute over the scandal, it carried a front-page story yesterday and devoted two inside pages to it.

"Anyone who believes in the nobility of the trade of reporting the truth … and anyone who believes in the contribution of vibrant comment to a raucous and well-informed democracy, has to be clear when a line has been crossed," it commented.

But the cracks now appearing in the relative unity that News International has maintained so far could be nothing compared to the commercial damage the company's various titles might suffer.

Three of the News of the World's biggest advertisers - Ford, Virgin Holidays and the Halifax bank - have all now cancelled contracts until the completion of the latest police inquiry.

Should the government eventually relent and either block or stall the News Corp takeover of BSkyB, the financial implications for Mr Murdoch's media empire in the UK could be dire.

dsapsted@thenational.ae

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greets supporters after his arrival in Zahedan, the regional capital of Sistan and Baluchestan province on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. During Mr Rouhani's two-day visit, he will tour several other cities and hold meetings with local scholars and entrepreneurs. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

On the road with Hassan Rouhani

Iran's president is touring some of Iran's most underdeveloped provinces. Foreign correspondent Yeganeh Salehi is traveling with him.

 The Doha-based Youssef Al Qaradawi speaks to the crowd as he leads Friday prayers in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt in February, 2011. The outspoken pro-Muslim Brotherhood imam has been critical of the UAE’s policies toward Islamist groups, adding to friction between Qatar and other GCC states. Khalil Hamra / AP Photo

Brotherhood imam skips Doha sermon, but more needed for GCC to reconcile

That Youssef Al Qaradawi did not speak raises hopes that the spat involving Qatar and the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain might be slowly moving towards a resolution.

 Twitter photo of  Abdel Fattah El Sisi on the campaign trail on March 30. Photo courtesy-Twitter/@SisiCampaign

El Sisi rides a bicycle, kicks off social media storm

The photos and video created a huge buzz across social media networks, possibly a marker of a new era for Egypt.

 An Afghan election commission worker carries a ballot box at a vote counting centre in Jalalabad on April 6. A roadside bomb hit a truck carrying full ballot boxes in northern Afghanistan, killing three people a day after the country voted for a successor to President Hamid Karzai. Eight boxes of votes were destroyed in the blast, which came as the three leading candidates voiced concerns about possible fraud. Noorullah Shirzada / AFP Photo

Two pressing questions for Afghanistan’s future president

Once in office, the next Afghan president must move fast to address important questions that will decide the immediate future of the country.

 Friday is UN Mine Awareness Day and Omer Hassan, who does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan, is doing all he can to teach people about the dangers posed by landmines. Louise Redvers for The National

A landmine nearly ended Omer’s life but he now works to end the threat of mines in Iraq

Omer Hassan does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan and only has to show people his mangled leg to underscore the danger of mines. With the world marking UN Mine Awareness Day on Friday, his work is as important as ever as Iraq is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world.

 Supporters of Turkey's ruling AKP cheer as they follow the election's results in front of the party's headquarters in Ankara on March 30. Adem Altan/ AFP Photo

Erdogan critic fears retaliation if he returns to Turkey

Emre Uslu is a staunch critic of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Now, with a mass crackdown on opposition expected, he is unsure when he can return home.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National