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British police may reopen hacking case

Associated Press / September 7, 2010

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LONDON — Andy Coulson, the prime minister’s communications director and a former tabloid editor, offered yesterday to meet with police as they consider reopening an investigation into claims his newspaper’s reporters illegally eavesdropped on scores of politicians and celebrities.

Coulson has denied wrongdoing and said he would assist any new inquiry after a New York Times investigation alleged that phone hacking was more extensive among his employees than an initial inquiry had established.

Coulson stepped down as News of the World editor in 2007 after one of his reporters was convicted of hacking. David Cameron, then a member of Parliament and now prime minister, appointed Coulson to his staff later that year, and said he believed in “giving people a second chance.’’

The allegations of phone hacking — sensational even by the knockabout standards of the British press — have been investigated previously by police and a parliamentary committee, but were stirred anew by the Times report, which was published Sunday.

John Yates, an assistant London police commissioner, said officers would seek any new information in the case and consult prosecutors about whether to carry out a new inquiry.

Opposition lawmakers called yesterday for the government to pressure police to establish how many legislators were targeted by the newspaper — and questioned Coulson’s position.

Home Secretary Theresa May told the House of Commons that ministers would not interfere in the Police Department’s handling of the issue.

The tabloid’s former royal reporter and a private investigator were sentenced to jail in 2007 for intercepting messages left for royal officials, including some from Princes William and Harry. Police said they had no evidence that the illegal behavior at the newspaper went any further.

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