Scotland Yard last night admitted the discovery of a new group of potential victims of the phone hacking scandal, opening the way to further damaging privacy claims by public figures against Rupert Murdoch's News International.
In the first sign that the new Metropolitan Police investigation into voicemail hacking at the News of the World is setting to put right the failures of its heavily-|criticised predecessor, the officer in charge of the inquiry revealed “links” had been found between existing evidence and emails handed to police last month by Mr Murdoch's newspaper group.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers said the Yard was taking “urgent steps” to inform the new group, all of whom had been previously told there was “little or no information” held about them on files seized in 2006 from private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.
John Prescott, the former Deputy Prime Minister who had been mounting a High Court challenge over the police's handling of the case, is believed to be among the new potential victims.
Files containing the names and personal details of thousands of individuals, including many celebrities and public figures, were kept by Mr Mulcaire, who was employed by the NoTW and jailed in 2007 for listening to the voicemails of aides to Prince William.
But civil litigants, such as the actress Sienna Miller, have been forced to go to court to obtain |details of the alleged hacking.
In an apparent admission that the initial police investigation,
headed by Deputy Commissioner John Yates, had failed to deliver on an undertaking to inform all victims of hacking, Ms Akers said: “We are determined to ensure we conduct a thorough investigation. We will show (victims) all the information we hold about them.”
Although the Yard declined to discuss how many new potential victims had been identified, except to say it was less than “dozens”, the statement that they form an “important and immediate new line of inquiry” will provide a further headache for News International.
Mr Murdoch's newspaper group is already facing lawsuits from at least a dozen celebrities, from actress Miller to former Sky pundit Andy Gray, and has paid nearly £2m to settle claims from publicist Max Clifford and Gordon Taylor of the Professional Footballers Association.