EMAILS HANDED OVER to police investigating the phone-hacking at the News of the World newspaper reveal that the newspaper secured the phone numbers for members of the royal family and their friends and relatives by buying them from a police officer.
The emails were found by News International four years ago during a previous investigation into the actions of its former Royal Editor, Clive Goodman, but were only handed over to police last month, the BBC’s Robert Peston reports.
A source told Peston that the emails were ‘unambiguous signs of criminal activity’ at the paper.
The emails allegedly outline how reporters asked for management approval to pay up to £1,000 to police officers in the Royal Protection Branch, in exchange for details of phone numbers of members of the royal family and their associates.
Goodman was jailed for four months in 2007 after he pleaded guilty to intercepting the voicemail messages of royals including Prince William.
Peston said other emails in the tranche also showed that the practice of illegal phone-hacking was widely accepted within the NotW, with some emails appearing to be prima facie evidence that editor Andy Coulson had personally approved the police bribes.
The emails will heap further pressure on senior executives at News International and parent News Corp – including Rebekah Brooks and James Murdoch – who could be prosecuted for failing to share the emails with police when they were first uncovered in 2007.
This morning it was reported that Brooks is likely to be questioned by police investigating the phone-hacking affair, though her questioning would be as a witness and not as a suspect.
The report will also add to the pressure on prime minister David Cameron, who has repeatedly defended his decision to hire Coulson as a press advisor shortly after Coulson quit the News of the World in the aftermath of Goodman’s conviction.
Cameron’s deputy, Nick Clegg, has today called on Rupert Murdoch to abandon plans to acquire a 100 per cent stake of broadcaster BSkyB.
This lunchtime singer George Michael said police wanted to interview him over comments he had made on Twitter about the affair: