Nearly two hundred people have contacted the police to find out if their phones were tapped by the News of the World, The Independent has learnt.
Until now the Metropolitan Police have not released figures on the number of people – many of whom are celebrities – who have contracted them to find out if they were targeted by the paper and its private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.
But now, in response to a Freedom of Information request, they have admitted that between July 2009 and November 2010, 194 people wrote asking whether information relating to them is held within the material seized during the 2006 investigation into phone hacking.
Most of these individuals contacted the police through lawyers.
The move is part of the initial stages of legal action against the paper which may end up costing the News of the World tens of millions of pounds in compensation.
The paper has already settled cases brought against it by Gordon Taylor of the Professional Footballers' Association and the celebrity agent Max Clifford. Both are thought to have been paid £1m each.
Another eight people are believed to have initiated legal proceedings against the News of the World. These include the football agent Sky Andrew, the actor Steve Coogan, the politician George Galloway and at least two "high profile" individuals who have not been named.
Other individuals known to have contacted the Met asking about information held on them include the former Foreign Office minister Chris Bryant and the former Scotland Yard deputy assistant commissioner Brian Paddick. Mark Lewis, who represented Gordon Taylor and is now acting for an undisclosed number of journalists, celebrities and MPs also suing or preparing to sue the paper, said he alone had put in around 16 letters to the police.
"What concerns me are the tactics that the police are using not to disclose information," he said. "I have seen cases where someone has written asking whether the police hold information on them to be told no. But when they write back including their phone number it transpires the police do hold the information.
"Similarly if someone's name begins 'Mac' but Mulcaire had written 'Mc' in his records then the police have been saying that the information is not being held. This is not good enough."
Only two people have stated publicly that they are considering suing the News of the World: the talkshow host Vanessa Feltz, who said she felt "affronted, shocked and bewildered", and the Lib Dem MP Simon Hughes. But many others are eventually expected to join them, including the actors Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow, television cook Nigella Lawson, singer George Michael, and supermodel Elle Macpherson.Reuse content