British police poised to question PM's media chief

7th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

British police are likely to question Prime Minister David Cameron's media chief following a claim he knew about illegal phone hacking at a tabloid newspaper he edited, a senior officer said Tuesday.

Scotland Yard Assistant Commissioner John Yates told a House of Commons committee that police were set to interview Andy Coulson amid a growing storm over his role in a scandal that saw a senior reporter jailed in 2007.

"I imagine we will be seeing Mr. Coulson in some capacity," Yates told the Home Affairs Select Committee.

Coulson's spokesman said Monday that he was prepared to meet police voluntarily to discuss the allegations.

Scotland Yard said it could not give details about the circumstances under which the meeting would take place.

The furore dates back to when Coulson, now Cameron's communications director, was editor of the News of the World, Britain's top selling tabloid which is renowned for its celebrity scoops.

He resigned in 2007 when the paper's royal editor, Clive Goodman, and a private investigator were jailed after the phone messages of aides to Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry were illegally accessed.

Coulson, who was hired by Cameron six months later, said he took "ultimate responsibility" for their actions but denies he knew about the phone hacking.

But a recent New York Times article quoted a former reporter at the tabloid, Sean Hoare, as saying that Coulson had "actively encouraged" him to hack phone messages.

That prompted lawmakers from the opposition Labour party to call for Coulson's resignation in angry scenes at the House of Commons Monday. They also urged police to review the case amid claims the first probe was inadequate.

Recent News of the World scoops include the alleged involvement of Pakistani cricketers in a betting scam and details of the financial difficulties of Sarah Ferguson, the former wife of Queen Elizabeth II's son Prince Andrew.

© 2010 AFP

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