Sunday, January 23, 2011

Exclusive: Brown asks Scotland Yard to investigate if he was hacked

Murdoch flies in for high-level meetings as Yard faces new questions about its conduct
By James Hanning and Matt Chorley
Sunday, 23 January 2011
Andy Coulson leaves No 10 after resigning as David Cameron's director of communications on Friday
Andy Coulson leaves No 10 after resigning as David Cameron's director of communications on Friday

Gordon Brown has asked the police to investigate whether he was the victim of phone hacking, The Independent on Sunday has learnt. Mr Brown has written at least one letter to the Metropolitan Police over concerns that his phone was targeted when he was Chancellor, during the latter stages of Andy Coulson's reign as editor of the News of the World. Mr Brown's aides last night declined to comment. It is understood that Scotland Yard sought clarification from the former prime minister after his request.

Sources have told The IoS that Tony Blair, his predecessor as prime minister, had also asked police some months ago to investigate whether messages left by him had been the subject of hacking (he did not have his own mobile phone until after he left No 10). Mr Blair and his wife, Cherie Booth, were notably keen to preserve their privacy during their time in Downing Street. Blair's solicitor, Graham Atkins, of Atkins Thomson, declined to comment yesterday, but late last night the former PM's official spokesman denied the story.

The news comes as growing criticism of the Met's investigation into widespread mobile phone message interception by the News of the World is mounting. This week, senior Scotland Yard officers are expected to come under fire when they are questioned about the hacking row by London's police authority. MPs will separately take evidence for a parliamentary inquiry into the scandal and the DPP is to meet top Met officers to discuss existing and new evidence.
Demands will also be made for the force to face questions about its use of undercover officers, the policing of violent student-fee demonstrations and the suspension of a bodyguard for an alleged affair with the wife of former shadow chancellor Alan Johnson.

Two days ago, Mr Coulson said he was quitting as David Cameron's director of communications after allegations about his time as NoW editor threatened to overshadow the Government's work. He denies having any knowledge of illegal practices during his time in charge, but said continued coverage made it "difficult for me to give the 110 per cent needed in this role".

Downing Street strenuously denies claims that his resignation was demanded by Rupert Murdoch, who owns the NoW. Mr Murdoch's arrival in London is expected imminently.
Mr Brown and Mr Blair are the most senior political figures to be linked to the phone-hacking scandal. In September, The IoS revealed that Lord Mandelson's mobile-phone details and an invoice for research on him were among files seized by police investigating illegal activity by NoW reporters when Mr Coulson was editor. Other Labour figures understood to have been targeted include Lord Prescott, David Blunkett, Tessa Jowell and Chris Bryant.

Alastair Campbell, the former Labour spin-doctor, told the BBC the controversy had now gone beyond the issue of Mr Coulson's future and "the role of the police in this is now going to become centre stage".

The lawyer Mark Lewis yesterday revealed he was acting for four people who believe they were targeted by newspapers other than the NoW, which has been under intense scrutiny since its royal editor, Clive Goodman, was jailed in 2007 for plotting to intercept messages left for aides to Prince William. Mr Lewis successfully represented Gordon Taylor, head of the Professional Footballers' Association, in a damages claim against the NoW. There are at least five other lawyers bringing similar cases.

Scotland Yard today faces serious criticism from Chris Huhne for its handling of the case – and its "astonishing" use of undercover officers to target eco-activists. Mr Huhne, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, told The IoS that the recent suspension of the NoW executive Ian Edmondson had "dramatically changed the situation, and clearly the police and the Met in particular need to get to the bottom of this".

Mr Huhne also said he and Vince Cable, the Secretary of State for Business, will write to the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, Sir Hugh Orde, after being told they were added to a secret police database of criminal suspects after speaking at a green protest. He also suggested that the police have "invented" the threat posed by green campaigners to justify ongoing resources.

Scotland Yard is also still trying to contain the fallout from the revelation that Mr Johnson's surprise resignation from the Labour front bench was triggered by his wife's alleged affair with his former police bodyguard.

Labour targets

Tony Blair
The most senior political figure named in the scandal so far, involved in headline-grabbing controversies including the Iraq war and "cash-for-honours".

Gordon Brown
Suspicions that he was targeted while he was chancellor, at a time when his fraught relationship with Blair was a major political issue.

John Prescott
Acting against Scotland Yard over failure to tell him Glenn Mulcaire had listed his name. Demanded judicial review into the Met's "incompetence".

Tessa Jowell
Former minister in running Olympics, whose husband was involved in a high-profile Berlusconi case, was told her phone had been hacked.

Lord Mandelson
The IoS revealed his details were among lists of data seized by police investigating phone hacking during Andy Coulson's time as editor.

Peter Kilfoyle
Ex-Liverpool MP said he had been given confirmation his name was on a list of numbers uncovered by police investigating phone hacking.

Chris Bryant
Former Foreign Office minister who learnt police had found his details when they raided Mulcaire's office. Bringing his own case against the News of the World.

David Blunkett
The former home secretary feared his phone had been hacked after reports of his affair with Kimberly Quinn appeared in the News of the World.