Phone hacking probe will be widened: Cameron (Lead)

July 20th, 2011 - 7:10 pm ICT by IANS  

David Cameron London, July 20 (IANS) Prime Minister David Cameron Wednesday told members of the Commons that his government will widen its probe into the phone hacking scandal.

He told MPs that he had accepted “significant amendments” to the terms of reference of the probe to be conducted by Lord Leveson.

Individuals in the police, media and politics, as well as the role played by broadcasters and social media will be probed.

Cameron, who cut short an official visit to four African countries to participate in an emergency parliamentary session, detailed the steps the government has taken to deal with the crisis after allegations of phone hacking by the News of the World, BBC reported.

Britain has been shaken by the malpractices at the News of the World, which eventually led to its closure after a run of 168 years.

A parliamentary committee report released Wednesday found that Rupert Murdoch’s News International company “deliberately” tried to block a police probe into phone hacking by the News of the World.

The finding comes a day after Murdoch and his son James testified before the committee.

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

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 hampering 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 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, Guardian reported.

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, according to the Guardian newspaper.

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.”

On Wednesday, the News Corporation boss sent an e-mail to all employees that those responsible must “be held accountable under the law”, BBC reported.

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