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Scale of phone hacking at News International becoming clearer

Today was the opening day of the Leveson inquiry into press standards. It was told that evidence showed at least 28 News International staff were named in notes belonging to private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.

File photo of Lord Justice Leveson.
File photo of Lord Justice Leveson.
Image: Sean Dempsey/PA Wire/Press Association Images

TWENTY EIGHT STAFF may be linked to hacking at News International, a high court in London was told today.

At the opening day of the Leveson inquiry at the high court in London, it was said that 28 company staff are named in notes taken from Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator.

Mulcaire was jailed along with former News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman for intercepting voicemails in 2007.

Robert Jay QC, counsel for the inquiry, said that it appeared that illegal interception of voicemails went beyond the News of the World.

He said that the inquiry had seen the names of no fewer than 28 News International employees in the notes kept by Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator which the News of the World paid to illegally eavesdrop on its victims.

The words The Sun — a possible reference to the News of the World’s sister-title — also cropped up in Mulcaire’s notes, said Jay.

So, too, did a name linked to the Daily Mirror, the Sun’s left-wing rival, which is published by Trinity Mirror PLC.

Jay said that the evidence on phone hacking pointed to what he described as “at the very least, a thriving cottage industry.”

The inquiry was briefly disrupted when David Sherborne, a lawyer for phone hacking victims, said that a Trojan, or data-stealing virus, had been found on his computer — raising the possibly that he was being hacked.

The otherwise cool and clinical Leveson briefly seemed speechless.

“I’m not often thrown, but Mr Sherborne has managed to do that,” he said.

Sherborne later said the problem was being dealt with.

Sherborne was one of several dozen lawyers and journalists packed into a room at London’s neo-gothic Royal Courts of Justice, with more in a spillover tent pitched into a nearby courtyard.

A handful of members of the public came to watch the proceedings as well — among them Bob Dowler, whose daughter Milly had her phone hacked by the News of the World at the height of the media frenzy over her disappearance in 2002.

Britain’s phone hacking inquiry was set up by Prime Minister David Cameron – it is one of several investigations spurred by public anger over unethical practices at the now defunct paper.

The long-running scandal has threatened Murdoch’s global media empire, and the first part of Leveson’s inquiry looks at evaluating the media’s wider role.

Leveson said he hoped to have the first part of his inquiry wrapped up by the end of 2012.

He’s expected to recommend either scrapping or radically reforming the Press Complaints Commission, the self-regulatory body whose failure to get to grips with the hacking scandal has been roundly criticised.

The scope of his inquiry’s recommendations will hinge in part on whether illegal behaviour is found to have been limited largely to the News of the World or whether it was practiced more widely.

Read: Murdoch rejects ‘mafia’ assertion in evidence to MPs>

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