Reliability of News International's email trawl is questioned

Hacking inquiry may be delayed after Murdoch firm admits to 'technical issues' with data search

The reliability of News International's trawl for internal emails relating to the phone-hacking scandal was thrown into doubt at the High Court yesterday, as the firm admitted there were "technical issues" with its software.

The newly discovered problems with NI's computer database search emerged as the company was forced to ask for the postponement of a hearing in its case against Mary Ellen Field, a former adviser to model Elle Macpherson.

Ms Field is claiming compensation from NI after being sacked by Macpherson, who blamed her for leaking a series of stories to the tabloid press. Macpherson was a victim of News of the World phone hacking, which Ms Field claims was the actual source of the articles.

NI wants her case dismissed, claiming that Macpherson's phone was hacked only after Ms Field was sacked.

But yesterday NI's counsel Michael Silverleaf QC admitted that there were newly discovered "technical issues with data extraction software" that required a postponement.

He told the court he did not know if the software difficulties were affecting the "integrity" of data searches at NI, which have been previously conducted in conjunction with the Met's Operation Weeting investigation. Earlier this month at a hearing of the latest wave of civil actions brought by victims of phone hacking, it was revealed that NI had disclosed just 12 internal emails from a data trawl that focused on the period 2000 to 2005.

NI has spent £1m on what the Metropolitan Pol-ice has termed "disclosure searches" of its databases and archives. Other document searches and forecasts for similar exercises next year will take the cost of the overall data trawl past £7m. Last year Scotland Yard admitted it was involved in searching 300 million NI emails as part of investigations into phone hacking at the publisher's now-closed Sunday tabloid, the News of the World.

Evidence found in databases that had been thought "destroyed", but were subsequently reconstructed, has been crucial to the Met's investigation of hacking and the bribery of public officials.

The revelation of problems with NI's email trawl comes barely a week after Mr Justice Vos, the judge in the second wave of civil actions, ruled that further disclosures from the Rupert Murdoch-owned company's databases could not be justified.

In the Royal Courts of Justice yesterday, Mr Silverleaf could not give assurances that the newly discovered "technical issues" would not affect the rest of civil and criminal actions going through the courts.

Following the postponement of Ms Field's case, her lawyer Mark Lewis, who has been a key legal figure throughout the hacking scandal representing a number of high-profile victims, said: "This raises questions of reliability of [NI's] reconstruction of missing documents. It may be that we will now never know the full extent of this documentation." He added: "This has a wider impact. Not just about Mary Ellen Field, but an impact on all other cases."

Ms Field's case will now be heard in November after NI was given time by Mr Justice Vos to re-ex-amine the extent of the data extraction problem.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Danish director Lars von Trier
tvEnglish-language series with 'huge' international cast set for 2016
Life and Style
tech
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering