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Police consider payment probe

Scotland Yard is considering launching an investigation into illegal payments to police by newspapers following comments by the chief executive of News International.

Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick said the Metropolitan Police was carrying out a "scoping exercise" into whether there were any grounds for beginning a criminal inquiry following remarks by former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks.

Mrs Brooks was editor of The Sun when she told the Culture, Media and Sport Committee in March 2003: "We have paid the police for information in the past."

She was responding to a question from Labour MP Chris Bryant about whether the News of the World, which she edited from May 2000 to January 2003, had ever given officers money for a story.

Ms Dick wrote to Home Affairs Committee chairman Keith Vaz yesterday in response to a question about the remit of the Met's research into claims newspapers had paid police for information.

She said Deputy Assistant Commissioner Mark Simmons had been assigned "to conduct a scoping exercise to establish whether there are now any grounds for beginning a criminal investigation resulting from the comments made by Rebekah Brooks" in 2003.

Mrs Brooks, who became News International chief executive in September 2009, told the Home Affairs Committee this week she had no intention of giving the impression that she knew of any specific cases when she made her remarks.

She wrote to Mr Vaz: "As can be seen from the transcript, I was responding to a specific line of questioning on how newspapers get information.

"My intention was simply to comment generally on the widely held belief that payments had been made in the past to police officers.

"If, in doing so, I gave the impression that I had knowledge of any specific cases, I can assure you that this was not my intention."

News International declined to comment on Ms Dick's letter.