Red-faced all over – The Met has a long way to go to clear its name
MORE lurid developments in the phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World (NotW), Britain’s best-selling Sunday paper, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News International. Two journalists were arrested on April 5th on suspicion of conspiring to intercept mobile-phone messages; both Neville Thurlbeck, the paper’s chief reporter, and Ian Edmondson, an assistant editor sacked in January, deny wrongdoing and were released on bail. Theirs are the first arrests since Scotland Yard launched a new investigation into the matter in January. Its initial probe in 2006 led only to the brief imprisonment of one “rogue” reporter and a private investigator.
On the same day, Sienna Miller, an actress who thinks she was a victim of the paper’s hyperactive newsgathering, won a court order making her mobile-phone company provide third-party data to help determine whether she is entitled to damages. That should put wind in the sails of the many other public figures who suspect they were targets.
In a third twist, Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions, attacked the Metropolitan Police for trying to shift blame for its original, tame inquiry to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). John Yates, the officer in charge of that probe and now the Met’s acting deputy commissioner, told two parliamentary committees in March that advice from the CPS had led the force to limit its investigation. Rubbish, said Mr Starmer.
What now? More hacks might be arrested and finger their bosses. (Andy Coulson, a former NotW editor and later David Cameron’s communications chief, has always protested his innocence, as have other executives.) A government spokesman in the House of Lords, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, responded sympathetically to calls in that house on April 6th for a public inquiry once criminal investigations were complete, which might lead to tighter press regulation.
The coppers, however, are likely to feel the biggest fallout. For whatever reason, in the past officers were amazingly languid in following up leads, and notably failed to notify potential victims. Some might have been getting cash for tips from News International reporters; MPs want to know more.
None of this looks good for the police, already faced with the biggest changes in decades to their budget and operations. As it happens, some in government want one more tweak to the criminal-justice system, which could well involve changing the relationship between police and prosecutors. Mr Starmer will have done his service no harm this week.
Source: The Economist