Guardian writer questioned over Scotland Yard hacking 'leak'

Newspaper says move raises concerns that the police are seeking to criminalise the work of reporters

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The Independent Online

A journalist at The Guardian has been questioned under caution by police investigating the alleged leaking of information from Scotland Yard's phone-hacking inquiry.

Amelia Hill, the newspaper's special investigations correspondent, was formally interviewed several days ago with a warning that the information provided could be used as evidence in court. The Guardian said the move raised concerns that police were seeking to criminalise the work of reporters.

The development came as it emerged that Andy Coulson, the former Downing Street communications chief, is refusing to give further evidence to the Commons committee investigating phone hacking because of "concerns" it would conflict with the Yard's expanding investigations. DLA Piper, the law firm representing Mr Coulson, has written to the media select committee saying it is concerned about "parallel inquiries and investigations and the publicity generated by them".

Ms Hill was contacted by police after the arrest of a 51-year-old detective on Operation Weeting, the Yard's investigation into illegal voicemail interception at the News of the World, on suspicion of "unauthorised disclosures" about the progress of the inquiry. The officer was arrested last month by his own force, reportedly after suspicions were aroused by the timing of the publication of a story about the arrest of James Desborough, the NOTW's US editor, by Ms Hill.

According to the paper's own records, a story about the arrest appeared on The Guardian's website at 10.29am on 18 August – one minute before Mr Desborough's 10.30am appointment to face questioning at a south London police station. Scotland Yard did not issue a press release about the arrest until 11.01am.

In a statement, The Guardian said: "We can confirm Amelia Hill has been questioned in connection with an investigation into alleged leaks. On a broader point, journalists would no doubt be concerned if the police sought to criminalise conversations between off-record sources and reporters."

The disclosure came as Weeting detectives arrested a 35-year-old man at 5.55am yesterday at his north London home on suspicion of conspiracy to intercept voicemails. The man, who is the 16th person arrested by the phone-hacking inquiry, was reported to be Raoul Simons. He was made deputy football editor of The Times in 2009 and had also worked previously at the London Evening Standard.

Meanwhile, an Indian technology company providing IT services to News International said it had identified four new occasions on which it had been requested to delete emails. NI told The Independent earlier this year that its full email archive was intact following evidence to a court that large amounts of data were lost in a transfer to India.