Newspaper attacks phone hacking claims

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The Independent Online

The News of the World strongly defended itself against allegations of phone hacking today, claiming police and internal investigations had failed to uncover any evidence.

An editorial acknowledged that former royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glen Mulcaire tapped into voicemails in 2006 and were punished for their actions.

But those instances were one-off "mistakes" on the part of the newspaper, it claimed.

Meanwhile, Andy Hayman, a former assistant commissioner at Scotland Yard, who headed a nine-month inquiry into the journalists' conduct, said claims that former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott was a victim of hacking were "without any clear evidence".

The News of the World also highlighted Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner John Yates' confirmation on Thursday that police would not reopen its inquiry into the affair "because no new evidence had come to light".

"So let us be clear," the comment piece said. "Neither the police, nor our own internal investigations, has found any evidence to support allegations that News of the World journalists have accessed voicemails of any individuals.

"Nor instructed private investigators or other third parties to access voicemails of any individual.

"Nor found that there was any systemic corporate illegality by any executive to suppress evidence to the contrary.

"If the police, or ourselves, had uncovered such evidence, charges would have been brought."

The News of the World criticised The Guardian and other media for what it described as an "onslaught" of reports suggesting members of staff were involved in a tapping conspiracy.

It admitted it had made mistakes during its 165-year history.

"When we have done so, we have admitted to them," the editorial said.

"No newspaper, least of all The Guardian, is perfect. Nor is our craft a perfect science.

"Its practitioners are human.

"They misbehave and make mistakes for which they - rightly - pay a heavy price."

It called for rival publications to "practise what they preach" by pursuing "decent journalism", adding: "If The Guardian has any fresh evidence to support their claims against us, we invite them to pass it on to the police without delay."

The comments came after Mr Prescott sought to gain access to "sealed" evidence relating to the phone hacking allegations.

He said his solicitors were writing to Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer, urging him to apply to open material which was reportedly "sealed" in a case the paper's publishers settled with Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers Association (PFA).

On Friday night, News International, the paper's publisher, issued a statement denying reports by The Guardian that its journalists - or private investigators working for them - had hacked into the voicemails of hundreds of public figures, including Mr Prescott.

Writing on his blog, Mr Prescott said: "I've consulted with lawyers and feel the best way to really establish what the News of the World was really up to is to access the evidence file they paid £700,000 to Gordon Taylor to effectively 'seal' from the public."

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