Police commit 200 officers as scale of hacking inquiries grows
Number of detectives dedicated to Operation Weeting has trebled since its launch in January
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Saturday 15 October 2011
The number of officers dedicated to Scotland Yard's phone-hacking inquiry and two other related investigations has surged past 100.
The Independent has learned that a total of 108 detectives and support staff are now working on Operation Weeting, the Yard's ongoing inquiry into phone hacking by the News of the World, and two linked investigations: Operation Elveden, a police-corruption probe, and Operation Tuleta, which is looking at the hacking of computers.
Funding is available for a further 20 officers, meaning the Yard potentially has 128 staff to dedicate to its investigations – a near tripling of the 45 detectives originally assigned to Weeting when it was launched in January. The expansion means that nearly 200 police across the UK are now investigating claims of illegal news gathering by Rupert Murdoch's media empire. In Scotland, Strathclyde Police has dedicated more than 50 officers to Operation Rubicon, its investigation into allegations of perjury involving the former NOTW editor Andy Coulson and wider claims of phone hacking aimed at public figures.
The Yard had been criticised for the sluggish pace at which it informed victims of the NOTW's private investigator Glenn Mulcaire after it took six months to inform only 170 of the 3,870 people whose names appear on the records seized from his home.
Since then, the rate of notifications has increased with more than 452 potential victims now informed. More than 60 public figures and victims of crime have also launched civil-damages claims against the NOTW.
The Metropolitan Police spokeswoman said yesterday: "The team is making contact with victims as speedily as possible but we cannot rush this process as letting people know they may have been the victim of phone hacking invariably stimulates the demand for substantial amounts of 'disclosure' on the Met's part, some of which will be to enable people to pursue civil actions."
The expansion of the police inquiries, which have also led to the arrest of 16 people, is the latest evidence of the extent to which the hacking scandal has spawned multiple inquiries. Bernard Hogan-Howe, the new Met Commissioner, told MPs this week that there are 30 separate investigations, reviews, lawsuits and inquiries into hacking.
Tom Watson, the Labour MP who has led the political inquiry into News International's illegal activities, said: "News Corp investors meet to vote for their board next Friday. I hope they are fully aware of the scale of the criminal investigation into the company they are responsible for."
In a separate move, Surrey Police Authority said yesterday it would be maintaining a "close interest" in investigations by the Yard and the Independent Police Complaints Commission following the revelation by The Independent that Surrey Police knew about phone hacking by the NOTW in 2002.
The Sunday tabloid held two meetings with detectives leading the investigation into the disappearance of Milly Dowler. At these sessions, it became clear that the paper had accessed the schoolgirl's voicemails but the force took no action. A spokesman for the police authority said: "We maintain a close interest in any developments in these cases as they relate to Surrey."
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