Prosecutors will expand their review of evidence gathered during the phone hacking inquiry to include fresh claims swirling around the scandal, the Director of Public Prosecutions has said.
Keir Starmer said any evidence from “recent or new substantive allegations” will be assessed by a senior barrister as part of an ongoing inquiry into material already held by Scotland Yard.
His announcement came as former MP Paul Marsden stated that his phone may have been hacked by a journalist at the Daily Mirror in 2003.
Mr Marsden – who was elected for Labour in 1997 before defecting to the Liberal Democrats – told the BBC he was keen to pursue court action if the claims were true. However, a spokesman for the newspaper group said: “Trinity Mirror’s position is clear: our journalists work within the criminal law and the PCC code of conduct.”
The Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) decision to widen its review means officials could advise the Met to reopen its inquiry into claims that the mobile phones of high-profile individuals were hacked. The review, overseen by Alison Levitt QC, may also lead to lawyers deciding that enough evidence already exists to bring charges against others implicated in the scandal.
In a statement on Monday, Mr Starmer said he has asked Ms Levitt to take a “robust approach” to her review of hundreds of documents and subsequent advice to senior police officers or prosecutors.
Mr Starmer said: “It has been agreed following a meeting with Acting Commissioner Tim Godwin and Acting Deputy Commissioner John Yates that any evidence resulting from recent or new substantive allegations made to the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) of mobile voicemail interception arising from the Goodman and Mulcaire case should be subject to the same rigorous assessment as Alison Levitt QC is applying to material already in the possession of the Metropolitan Police Service.”
The Met is under intense pressure to reopen its investigation into the phone hacking scandal following the departure of Downing Street communications chief Andy Coulson, who has faced a barrage of difficult questions about his conduct while editor of the News of the World. The paper’s former royal correspondent, Clive Goodman, was jailed in 2007 along with private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.
It has been claimed former prime minister Gordon Brown contacted the Met last summer to ask if his phone had also been targeted, but his office declined to comment on the reports.
The Commons Standards and Privileges Committee is to hold a hearing on the phone hacking allegations. Witnesses will include Lord Lester of Herne Hill, who is taking a private members bill on press regulation and libel through the Lords and former Law Lord Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead, who sat in Naomi Campbell’s privacy case against the Daily Mirror.