The Metropolitan Police has dedicated 45 full-time detectives – more than triple the number deployed to investigate illegal expenses claims by MPs – to its new inquiry into the phone-hacking scandal, The Independent can reveal.
The formation of such a large investigative team, which is nearly double the number of officers in one of Scotland Yard's regional murder squads, is an indication of the seriousness with which Britain's largest force is now pursuing the allegations of illegal interception of voicemails by journalists following heavy criticism of its original investigation.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers, the head of the new inquiry, has indicated she is "not satisfied" with the inquiry begun in 2006 into the activities of private detective Glenn Mulcaire and News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman, which led to the jailing of both men for hacking into the phone messages of royal aides.
The fresh investigation, which began last month following the sacking by the NOTW of one of its senior executives and the passing of "significant new information" to the Yard, will require officers to sift through vast amounts of data – potentially including the email archive of Rupert Murdoch's News International – in an attempt to draw a line under damaging claims that police have previously failed to pursue all lines of inquiry.
Working under the command of a detective superintendent and based in a Metropolitan Police building in west London, the officers involved in Operation Weeting are also having to contact almost 4,000 people whose details were found in information seized from Mr Mulcaire, including around 20 individuals who were previously told they did not feature in his documentation.
Mark Lewis, a solicitor representing several claimants against the NOTW, said: "The Met now appear to be taking it very seriously. I hope there is a proper investigation as to why they didn't in the past."
The Yard declined to discuss how many officers had been involved in the original hacking inquiry, led by Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman. The size of the Operation Weeting team dwarfs that deployed in other recent high-profile cases. The Met's investigation into illegal expenses claims was staffed by 13 officers, while the "cash for peerages" inquiry had eight investigators.