By Nick Davies, Vikram Dodd and Nicholas Watt
The government tonight came under pressure to set up a judicial inquiry
into the phone hacking scandal at the News of the World after the paper
confirmed that it has suspended a journalist while it investigates new
allegations of the unlawful interception of voicemail.
The prime minister's media adviser, Andy Coulson, has denied a report in
the New York Times which claimed he freely discussed the use of unlawful
news-gathering techniques when he was editing the paper and "actively
encouraged" a named reporter to engage in illegal interception of
voicemail messages. Coulson has always denied knowing of any illegal
activity by his journalists.
Scotland Yard, too, found itself in the firing line after the New York
Times quoted unnamed detectives alleging they had cut short their
investigation because of their close relationship with the News of the
World. A group of four public figures, including former deputy prime
minister John Prescott, is poised to sue police over a failure to warn
them they had been targeted by the private investigator at the centre of
the scandal, Glenn Mulcaire.
The Guardian has learned that the Metropolitan police commissioner at
the time of the original investigation, Sir Ian Blair, was among those
whose names were found in material seized from Mulcaire, raising
questions about whether officers who were directly involved in the
investigation had discovered that they, too, had been targets of the
newspaper. It is understood Blair was assured at the time that his phone
had not been hacked.
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