Milly Dowler police 'victims of hacking'


Officers from Surrey Police are "likely" to have fallen victim to phone hacking as detectives investigated the disappearance of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, a seminar heard today.

The force admitted earlier this month that it had known the teenager's phone was hacked by someone working for the News of the World (NotW) in 2002.

Today counsel for Surrey Police said a "number" of officers were also likely to have had their voicemail intercepted during the same period.

Addressing a seminar ahead of Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry into media ethics and hacking, John Beggs QC, for Surrey Police, said: "My instructions are that it is likely that a number of Surrey Police officers themselves were victims at the time of the launch of the Milly Dowler investigation, in March nine years ago - were themselves victims of hacking.

"I don't want to develop that any further."

Mr Beggs's comments came as he made an application for Surrey Police to become a "core participant" in the inquiry which begins next month.

Lord Justice Leveson agreed to consider the request on the basis that the force may be subject to criticism over alleged failings during the Milly Dowler investigation.

Surrey Police have drawn increasing scrutiny in recent months after it emerged publicly in July that officers were aware Milly's phone messages had been hacked into shortly after she went missing as she made her way home from school in March 2002.

Chief Constable Mark Rowley said the now-closed Sunday newspaper made a call to the police operation room co-ordinating the inquiry into the schoolgirl's disappearance in April of that year which made it apparent it had accessed her voicemail.

But officers merely "focused on retrieving any evidence the NoTW had that could assist in the investigation into Milly Dowler's disappearance" as that was the priority, he said.

No criminal investigation was launched into how the News International newspaper came by the information it provided and Surrey Police neither arrested nor charged anyone in connection with the hacking.

The force also failed to pass this information on to the Metropolitan Police's original phone hacking investigation in 2006, it later admitted.

Milly, 13, was abducted and murdered by serial killer Levi Bellfield as she walked back to her home in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey.

The revelation that her phone was hacked by the News of the World triggered a storm of outrage that led to the Sunday tabloid's closure in July.

It also raised further questions over the actions of private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who was employed by the News of the World and jailed along with the tabloid's royal editor Clive Goodman for intercepting voicemails in 2007.

Addressing Lord Justice Leveson, Robert Jay QC, counsel to the inquiry, said a journal belonging to Mulcaire revealed "at least" five more News of the World journalists may have been involved in hacking.

But he added: "Identification as a name on Mr Mulcaire's notebook page would not provide conclusive proof (that someone was involved).

"It would provide an inference and it would be for you to assess whether that inference could be appropriately drawn."

The seminar, at London's Royal Courts of Justice, set out to consider the "interface" between the work of the inquiry and the police investigation into phone hacking amid concerns the lengthy probe could prejudice criminal proceedings.

Lord Leveson's inquiry is to be conducted in two parts. The first will examine the culture, ethics and regulation of the media while the second is to look at phone-hacking allegations, the shortcomings of the original police inquiry and claims of corrupt relations between police and the press.

Police investigations continue and decisions have yet to be made in relation to a number of suspects who could still be charged.

Neil Garnham QC, representing the Met Police and the Crown Prosecution Service, said: "We say the inquiry ought not, as a matter of principle, rehearse any evidence in part one that is likely to prove central to the criminal proceedings."

The seminar also addressed requests by a number of potential witnesses to speak on condition of anonymity, along with the concerns that some of those called to give evidence could be limited by the police investigation.

Referring to the 14 people arrested - "most" of whom are former employees at the News of the World - Rhodri Davies QC, representing News International, told the hearing: "They occupied some key positions at that paper - from reporters up to the editor - as is well known.

"If one wants to find out what happened and who knows what inside the paper, we would need to ask those people.

"We would need to check with the people that were there at the time.

"The risk is that it can only be half a job and that's extremely dangerous and would not result in satisfactory conclusions."

Mukul Chawla QC, representing Rebekah Brooks, echoed his fears, adding: "There are likely to be a number of people in a position, like my client, who want to help but find that the restriction being placed upon them make it difficult for them to assist."

On the issue of anonymity, Lord Justice Leveson was told that cyphers could be used to avoid any issues of identification.

During the hearing, he said core participant status had been granted to the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).

Applications have also been received from Telegraph Media Group and Trinity Mirror.

The inquiry, which will start on November 14, is due to hear evidence from Milly's parents Sally and Bob in the second week.

It is understood that Surrey Police became aware its officers were subject to interception following the launch of Operation Weeting - the Met Police investigation into phone hacking - earlier this year.


Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Lois Pryce... Life Without a Postcode. Lois lives on a boat with her husband.. Registering to vote in the election has prooved to be very difficult without a fixed residential post code. (David Sandison)
newsHow living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing