Sat, Nov 05, 2011 - Page 6 News List

British police raise estimate on victims of phone hacking

AP, LONDON

British police on Thursday increased their estimate of potential phone hacking victims of the News of the World tabloid to 5,795 people.

The acknowledgment that hundreds of potential victims had been missed by police is a further embarrassment for London’s police force, whose reputation has been tarnished by its failure to get to grips with the scandal.

Two of the force’s most senior officers have resigned amid criticism they ignored clear evidence of systematic wrongdoing at the now defunct newspaper, which belonged to Rupert Murdoch’s media empire.

In a statement, London’s Metropolitan Police said it had identified 5,795 names in the material collected from Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator at the center of the scandal — compared to the roughly 4,000 names which police earlier said had been found in the notes.

The police force, known colloquially as Scotland Yard, suggested the total could still grow, saying the figure was “very likely to be revised in the future as a result of further analysis.”

Murdoch was forced to close the News of the World in July as it emerged that staff at the paper had routinely conspired to intercept the cellphone voicemails of public figures — including celebrities, sports stars, politicians and even crime victims.

More than a dozen former News of the World journalists, including former editor Andy Coulson, have been arrested as the scandal escalated. Apart from Mulcaire and a News of the World journalist jailed over the practice back in 2007, no one has yet been charged.

The scandal has shaken Murdoch’s media empire and rattled Britain’s political establishment, with British Prime Minister David Cameron — who had employed Coulson as his chief media aide — saying the country needed to take a hard look at how its aggressive tabloid press wields its power.

The police force’s failure to get to the bottom of the scandal when it first erupted five years ago has also come under scrutiny, particularly after it emerged that top officials at Scotland Yard shared a series of overlapping personal, professional and business interests with Murdoch executives.

Although Scotland Yard has had access to Mulcaire’s notes for years, the force said it was still not possible to put a precise figure on the number of people whose phones had been hacked.

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