Leading article: The police are also in the dock

The allegation that the News of the World made illegal payments to Metropolitan Police officers highlights the fact that the police themselves are in the dock over this squalid business.

The force's behaviour over phone hacking has been suspect from the very start. When the scandal broke in 2005, the police limited their investigation to the activities of a single News of the World journalist, Clive Goodman. Despite the fact that the notes of a private investigator indicated that there were thousands of other victims, the police declared their work to be over when Goodman was jailed. The Met's acting Deputy Commissioner, John Yates, subsequently told Parliament that there was no evidence the phone-hacking scandal extended further. Calls for the investigation to be re-opened were repeatedly ignored.

Yet now we discover that the police were sitting, all along, on evidence that the phones of the families of murder victims and the victims of terrorist attacks were hacked. The revelation that some police officers were in receipt of payments from the newspaper provides a troubling possible explanation for this foot-dragging. The question of who must be brought to book at the News of the World is important. But just as important is the question of who in the Metropolitan Police will be held accountable for the manner in which they have obstructed justice.

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