News International is preparing a new damage limitation strategy which could see the suspension of further journalists on the News of the World as early as this week to meet a demand from Rupert Murdoch that a line is drawn under the phone-hacking scandal.
The media tycoon arrived in London yesterday for a meeting with executives at his British newspapers, including former NOTW editor and News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, as the long-running saga over claims of illegally accessing voicemails threatens to deepen with the revelation of new names of staff allegedly involved in the practice.
The Independent understands that documents submitted to the High Court in proceedings brought by high-profile figures claiming their phones were hacked will disclose in the next few weeks the identities of "several" members of staff at the Sunday tabloid previously unconnected with the activities of Glenn Mulcaire, the private detective who was jailed for listening to the messages of members of the royal household.
The news comes as the row threatens to engulf other newspapers, with former Liberal Democrat MP Paul Marsden confirming he is considering a complaint against the Sunday Mirror. A legal source with knowledge of the case said: "There will be more names of News of the World staff members whose names appear on documents kept by Glenn Mulcaire entering the public domain."
Ian Edmondson, the assistant editor (news) on the paper, was suspended in December after it emerged his name appears on records kept by Mr Mulcaire, which were seized at his home in 2006 and have been released to lawyers bringing civil proceedings against the Sunday paper on behalf of the actress Sienna Miller.
An internal investigation by the NOTW which is looking at many thousands of emails sent and received by Edmondson, who has been at the paper since 2005, is expected to conclude shortly. Edmondson has strongly denied any wrongdoing.
Mr Murdoch has promised "immediate action" against any employee at News International, the British arm of his News Corporation media empire, implicated in phone-hacking. He is said to be displeased at the failure of his senior UK managers to bring an end to the drip of allegations that has steadily eroded the NOTW's central claim that illegally accessing voicemails was restricted to a single "rogue" reporter.
It is understood that part of News International's strategy will be a new impetus to reach out-of-court settlements with celebrities suing the NOTW for breach of privacy following six-figure payouts to publicist Max Clifford and Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association.
The scandal is also threatening to disrupt Mr Murdoch's attempt to gain Government approval of his proposal for News Corp to buy the 61 per cent of satellite broadcaster BSkyB that it does not already own. Downing Street yesterday denied there were any plans for the businessman, who dined in the canteen at News International's Wapping headquarters yesterday with Ms Brooks, to meet Prime Minister David Cameron.
The media tycoon, whose son James News Corps' European and Asian operations, is travelling to Europe to attend the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, this weekend but broke his journey to try to quell the hacking scandal.
Former Liberal Democrat MP Paul Marsden believes stories written about his private life in the Sunday Mirror may have been based on hacked messages from his mobile phone. The business consultant is one of three people, including an actor in a soap opera, who have made complaints to national newspapers other than the NOTW. Trinity Mirror said its reporters operate "within the criminal law".
Prosecutors said last night they will expand their review of evidence gathered during the phone-hacking inquiry to include the fresh claims.
Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions, said any evidence from "recent or new substantive allegations" will be assessed by a senior barrister as part of an ongoing inquiry into material already held by Scotland Yard.
The decision means officials at the Crown Prosecution Service could advise the Met to reopen the inquiry into fresh claims that the mobile phones of high-profile individuals were hacked.Reuse content