British police defend handling of tabloid hacking scandal

3rd September 2010, Comments 0 comments

British police on Friday defended their handling of a phone-hacking scandal involving one of media baron Rupert Murdoch's top papers, after the former deputy premier called for an official inquiry.

Fresh questions have been raised by a report in The New York Times newspaper into the hacking of mobile phone voicemails by the News of the World tabloid at the time it was edited by Andy Coulson, who is now the media adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron.

John Prescott, the former British deputy prime minister, said he would seek a judicial review if Scotland Yard did not reveal whether he was one of those targeted by the tabloid, Britain's biggest-selling paper.

Clive Goodman, the News of the World's then royal editor, and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire were jailed in 2007 after the phone messages of aides to Prince William, second in line to the throne, were illegally accessed.

Prominent police, military and sporting figures were also allegedly targeted.

Scotland Yard said it "rejects the suggestion by The New York Times that police 'failed to follow-up on clear leads' and 'declined to pursue other evidence of criminality by others'" in the phone-hacking investigation.

"In this case the Met (Scotland Yard) has had to balance a number of competing interests, but has been as open as possible, whilst maintaining and protecting individuals' personal information and respecting privacy," it said.

However the statement said it was "seeking to clarify some aspects" of the article with The New York Times, without elaborating.

The New York Times report alleged that Coulson knew about some of the phone voicemail hacking. Coulson resigned over the affair but denied any knowledge of hacking.

Coulson is now communications chief for Cameron's Conservative Party, which leads Britain's governing coalition with the Liberal Democrats.

Prescott said he now wanted to "find the truth" about whether his phone had been tapped, adding that he expected to hear from Scotland Yard by September 11 over the issue.

"If they fail to give us that information, which is clearly available but has to be given to us, I will seek a judicial review," he told BBC radio.

© 2010 AFP

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