A whole new scandal that could damage The Sun

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The Independent Online

With these latest arrests Scotland Yard has opened up a whole new flank in its hacking inquiry – with enormous implications for Rupert Murdoch's News International.

Until now the Metropolitan Police's Operation Weeting has focused on alleged offences by the private detective Glenn Mulcaire on behalf of the news desk at what was Britain's biggest Sunday tabloid. The arrests related to a "suspected conspiracy" which is quite "separate" to that previously investigated. The six people held are former members of the paper's features team.

The distinction might appear minor, but the departments were fiercely competitive – meaning the new alleged conspiracy could amount to a fresh scandal with a very different catalogue of victims.

Each time Mr Murdoch and his empire try to contain this sordid affair it seems to break out anew.

News International has fiercely protected The Sun from the stigma of phone hacking. The arrests, which include two current Sun journalists, risk such contamination. The company will be concerned at the alleged involvement of the editor of Fabulous, a magazine rescued from the News of the World and turned into an integral part of the new Sunday paper which Mr Murdoch launched last year.

That process of replacing the NOTW with The Sun on Sunday now appears less of an act of contrition and more one of commercial opportunism by a company that saw the benefits of a single digital brand and an integrated staff, cherry picking journalists and supplements without due assessment of the consequences. News International said this month it would accept no further compensation claims from hacking victims beyond 8 April. The media magnate is desperate that the matter can be written off as an unfortunate episode.

It is bad enough that criminal trials relating to previous allegations are not due to be heard until September. This new investigation may only just be beginning.