Phone tap scandal referred to police watchdog

By politics.co.uk staff

The allegations over the News of the World’s use of phone tapping has been referred to the pIndependent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) by the Liberal Democrats.

The referral comes after Met assistant commissioner John Yates ruled out a further investigation yesterday.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne wrote a letter this afternoon to Nick Hardwick, chair of the watchdog.

“The Metropolitan police cannot act as judge and jury in its own trial,” he wrote.

“Only an independent inquiry can properly consider any possible neglect of duty by the Specialist Operations Department into the original investigation.

“Given the scale and scope of the allegations, the possibility that other journalists and investigators were involved must now be seriously considered.”

The news comes as the Conservatives continue to back their head of communications, Andy Coulson, despite calls for him to go.

Mr Coulson was deputy editor, and then editor, of news of the World during the period the Guardian alleges thousands of people’s phones were illegally tapped.

Speaking on BBC1’s Question Time, shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt accused other parties of “political opportunism” over the issue.

“The reality is that Andy Coulson stepped down from editing the News of the World and he did it because he was taking responsibility for something he did not know about but something he wanted to take responsibility for,” he said.

“He has behaved totally honourably.”

David Cameron was asked if Mr Coulson’s job was safe, to which he replied: “Yes, of course.”

The Tory leader said he believed in giving people a second chance.

Speaking outside his home in west London, Mr Cameron said: “It’s wrong for newspapers to breach people’s privacy with no justification.

“That is why Andy Coulson resigned as editor of the News of the World two-and-a-half years ago. Of course I knew about that resignation before offering him the job. But I believe in giving people a second chance.

“As director of communications he does an excellent job for the Conservatives, in a proper, upright way at all times.”

The Met said last night no new information had come to light to warrant a new investigation into the affair.

But the director of public prosecutions Keir Starmer intends to launch an urgent review, the Press Complaints Commission has said it will conduct an inquiry and the Commons culture and media committee intends to ask Andy Coulson to give evidence into the affair.

“In the light of the fresh allegations that have been made, some preliminary inquiries have been undertaken and I have now ordered an urgent examination of the material that was supplied to the CPS by the police three years ago,” Mr Starmer said.

“I am taking this action to satisfy myself and assure the public that the appropriate actions were taken in relation to that material.

“Given the nature of the offences, the amount of material is, of course, extensive and complex, but it has all been located and a small team is now rapidly working through it.”

Senior political figures have been ferocious in their attacks on Mr Coulson, arguing his employment casts doubt on Mr Cameron’s judgement.

Former deputy prime minister John Prescott, allegedly one of the victims of the scandal, has written to Mr Cameron calling for Mr Coulson to be given the sack.

News International, which owns the News of the World, said it would not “shirk from vigorously defending our right and proper role to expose wrongdoing” but said it worked to ensure staff stayed within the law.