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UK police expand inquiry to include Murdoch competitors

Staff Reporter

Police have expanded their hacking inquiry beyond the Murdoch empire, requesting information on the use of investigators by other newspapers.

Police have expanded their hacking inquiry beyond Rupert Murdoch’s empire, asking for files from an earlier probe into the use of investigators by other British papers, regulators said on Thursday.

The 2006 report by the Information Commissioner’s Office, called “What Price Privacy Now,” alleged that Britain’s middle-market Daily Mail newspaper made the most requests to private investigators for confidential information.

The People and the Daily Mirror tabloids, both owned by Trinity Mirror Group, were next on the list, according to the report by the office, an independent body promoting data privacy.

“The information was handed over to the police three months ago,” a spokesperson for the Information Commissioner’s Office said, after a BBC report that the files had been turned over to police.

“It was at their request.”

A spokesperson for London’s Metropolitan Police said: “We are not prepared to discuss specific lines of inquiry.”

The Information Commissioner’s report said an investigation into the illegal trade of personal data revealed that the Daily Mail had made 952 requests for confidential information.

The People made 802 requests, the Daily Mirror 681 requests and the Mail on Sunday 266. Murdoch’s now-defunct News of the World was in fifth place with 228.

It identified a total of 32 British news outlets that made requests and said that they involved 305 journalists.

There was no immediate comment from any of the papers named in the report.

The BBC quoted the Daily Mail as saying the information obtained may have been used for reasons of public interest, and Trinity Mirror as saying its journalists worked within the law and the Press Complaints Commission code of conduct.

Scotland Yard’s investigation into phone-hacking has so far focused on News of the World, which was shut on July 7 after it it emerged that the Sunday tabloid had hacked the messages of Milly Dowler, a murdered British schoolgirl.

The paper’s royal editor Clive Goodman and a private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, were jailed in 2007 for hacking the phones of members of the royal family but the paper insisted he was a “rogue reporter”.

Despite mounting evidence that the practice was more widespread, police did not reopen the probe until January, searching 11 000 pages of Mulcaire’s notes and finding the names of nearly 4 000 potential victims.—AFP

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