News International deliberately blocked probe: MPs’ panel (Lead)

July 20th, 2011 - 5:30 pm ICT by IANS  

David Cameron London, July 20 (IANS) Rupert Murdoch’s News International company “deliberately” tried to block a police probe into phone hacking by the News of the World, a British parliamentary committee has found.

The Commons all-party home affairs committee report is expected to be released Wednesday. Prime Minister David Cameron was also expected to make a statement on the scandal later in the day, the Guardian reported on its website.

The finding comes a day after Rupert Murdoch and his son James testified before the committee. The report marks an official damning judgment on the News International’s actions.

It finds the company “deliberately” tried to “thwart” the 2005-2006 Metropolitan Police investigation into phone hacking carried out by the News of the World, the Guardian said.

The report also said that police have failed to examine a vast amount of material that could have identified others involved in the phone-hacking conspiracy and victims.

It said the new phone-hacking probe should receive more money from the government if necessary, so it can contact potential victims more speedily.

The conclusion about the News International’s hampering of the police investigation comes after the committee heard evidence from senior Metropolitan officers who were involved in the case that the newspaper publisher obstructed justice.

Subsequent developments and handing over of documents by the publisher are alleged to show the practice of phone hacking was much more widespread than the company ever admitted.

The News International claimed for years it was the work of one rogue reporter, a defence the company has now abandoned.

The committee heard Tuesday that “blindingly obvious” evidence of payments to corrupt police officers was found by the former director of public prosecutions, Lord Macdonald, when he inspected News of the World emails.

The emails and other material have been in the possession of the News International or its lawyers for years.

Ed Llewellyn, David Cameron’s chief of staff, was dragged into the phone-hacking scandal Tuesday when two of the country’s most senior police officers revealed Llewellyn had urged them not to brief the prime minister on developments.

Llewellyn sought to stop information about the scandal being passed on to the prime minister in September, a few days after the New York Times ran an article that claimed Andy Coulson had been aware of the use of the illegal practice when he edited the News of the World, the Guardian said.

Former Metropolitan Police commissioner Paul Stephenson who resigned Sunday and former assistant commissioner John Yates who followed him Monday told the committee that they believed Llewellyn was keen to avoid “compromising” the prime minister.

Yates told the committee he was offering to discuss only police protocol - not operational matters.

Committee chair Keith Vaz, MP, said: “There has been a catalogue of failures by the Metropolitan Police and deliberate attempts by News International to thwart the various investigations. Police and prosecutors have been arguing over the interpretation of the law.”

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