Prosecutors step in to review Met evidence in phone-hacking scandal

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The Independent Online

Prosecutors are to re-examine all the evidence amassed by Scotland Yard during its investigation into the phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World.

The move follows growing concern that the Metropolitan Police Force has failed properly to investigate claims that hundreds of politicians, celebrities and other public figures have had their phone messages illegally intercepted.

The Labour MP Chris Bryant, who believes he may have been a target of phone hacking, said: "The evidence that this goes far deeper than one rotten apple has continued to stack up, and so a fresh pair of eyes looking at the case is very welcome. The Met's credibility has been severely damaged and an independent review of its investigation is frankly long-overdue."

But John Prescott, the former deputy prime minister, denounced the review: "The public prosecutor has looked at the evidence before and has always accepted the Met's case. That is why I am going for a judicial review – because of the incompetence of the Metropolitan Police. The only reason they are now reviewing the evidence is because it has been revealed in a civil case."

Keir Starmer QC, the head of the Crown Prosecution Service, confirmed yesterday that he had ordered his prosecutors to conduct "a comprehensive assessment of all material in the possession of the Metropolitan Police Service relating to phone hacking, following developments in the civil courts."

The development followed a meeting between Mr Starmer and John Yates, Acting Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. Afterwards Mr Yates, who is heading the ongoing investigation, acknowledged that four years after the police were first alerted to the phone-hacking operation there were still questions to be answered.

In his letter to Mr Starmer he wrote: "We are both aware that there remain outstanding public, legal and political concerns... I consider it would be wise to invite you to further re-examine all the material collected in this matter. This would also enable you to advise me ... whether there is any material which could now form evidence in any future criminal prosecution."

This week it emerged that scores of stars of screen, stage and sport are preparing court actions against the Metropolitan Police in a co-ordinated campaign to force the disclosure of more evidence that they believe implicates News of the World executives in the phone-hacking scandal. News International, the owner of the News of the World, could end up paying millions of pounds in compensation if the police files prove that the scale of the illegal operation went beyond the actions of "one rogue reporter".

On Wednesday the sports agent Sky Andrew was handed evidence originally retrieved from police raids on the office and home of the private investigator Glenn Mulcaire in 2006. The breakthrough in Mr Andrew's case came after his lawyers went to court to force the Met to comply with requests for disclosure of the information.

The police investigation and civil court action threaten to embroil the former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, who resigned four years ago over the scandal only to become David Cameron's chief media adviser.

Last week it emerged that a senior News of the World executive, Ian Edmondson, had been suspended over allegations of professional misconduct believed to be linked to the hacking.

In 2007 Clive Goodman, the royal editor of the News of the World, was jailed for for plotting to intercept voicemail messages. Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months after pleading guilty to the same charge.

A News of the World spokeswoman said: "We will, of course, co-operate fully with any inquiries relating to the assessment by the CPS."