Corrupt policemen tipped off journalists about celebrity victims of crime before other officers had time to respond to their calls for assistance, the actor Hugh Grant claimed yesterday.
In an escalation of the allegations facing the police Mr Grant told The Independent he had personal experience of reporting crimes and discovering the first person who turned up on his doorstep was a tabloid journalist.
Mr Grant suggested he would be raising the issue when he is called to give evidence before Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry into phone hacking.
In an interview ahead of a meeting with David Cameron to discuss phone hacking yesterday Mr Grant said he had become aware of untoward practices involving the police and tabloid reporters long before the issue of phone hacking came into the public domain. "There were little things," he said. "You knew if you ever called the police for burglary or mugging or whatever the first person to come round was not a policeman but a journalist.
"For years you would think very much twice about calling the police over anything. I want Leveson to uncover the full extent of the relationship between tabloid papers and the police because I think we have only scratched the surface of that."
Mr Grant also suggested there was more to be revealed about the relationship between senior politicians and the Murdoch press. He said: "The more that comes out about all this the more we will learn about the true nature of the Prime Minister's relationship with the Murdoch organisation. What I hear on the Cotswold grapevine is that the relationship was sinisterly cosy to a deeply unhealthy and unattractive degree.
"It wasn't just Cameron it has been every Prime Minister since Thatcher with the possible exception of John Major – who made a stab at standing up to the tyranny and look what happened to him.
"I am very keen to try and gauge whether there is any real appetite on behalf of the Prime Minister for the kind of media reforms that they were talking about in July (after the Milly Dowler revelations) or whether their instinct is to push the whole thing into the long grass and go back into the nice cosy old routine of being in bed with Murdoch."
Mr Grant also insisted that most privacy orders made by the courts under the Human Rights Act were justified and that newspaper defences of public interest were spurious.
"The vast majority of the public interest defence is coming from the popular press and is specious. When they say 'oh but he's a role model' they (the papers) are trying to find a moral hook to hang the privacy invasion on.
"You have to recognise when the arguments are real and when they are protecting a highly lucrative racket."
Mr Grant, who is taking part in a seminar being organised by the Leveson inquiry tomorrow, added that he hoped the his inquiry would establish that phone hacking practices extended beyond the News of the World.
"I'm dying for him to reveal it wasn't just phone hacking it was all these other methods. It was not just the News of the World, a huge number of newspapers were up to these dirty tricks. I want him to establish that the intimidation of those elements of the popular press over politicians – by keeping dossiers on their private lives – was effectively blackmail."