Mother of murdered child 'on phone-hack list'
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Britain's phone hacking scandal erupted again Thursday after reports that Glenn Mulcaire, the detective hired by the News of the World tabloid, may have eavesdropped on the mother of a paedophile victim.
AP - Britain’s simmering phone hacking scandal erupted again Thursday as a charity founded by the mother of a murdered child said she was targeted by a detective who worked for the News of the World.
The charity, Phoenix Chief Advocates, said Glenn Mulcaire, a detective employed by the now-defunct tabloid, had the details of Sara Payne in his notes.
Payne is the mother of 8-year-old Sarah Payne, whose murder by a pedophile in 2000 shocked Britain and was heavily covered by the News of the World.
The charity said in a statement that police had previously said Sara Payne’s name was not on a list held by Mulcaire, who was jailed in 2007 for hacking into the voice mail messages of royal staff. But it said “it has now been confirmed by (police) that Sara’s details are on his list.”
“Sara is absolutely devastated by this news, we’re all deeply disappointed and are just working to get her through it,” it said.
It was unclear whether Mulcaire had merely obtained Payne’s number or whether he or anyone else had tried to eavesdrop on her voice mails.
The ongoing scandal over illegal eavesdropping prompted the closure of the 168-year-old News of the World tabloid and shaken Rupert Murdoch’s global media empire.
The News of the World was heavily involved in campaigning for a measure, dubbed “Sarah’s Law” after the murdered girl, to give the public access to information about convicted sex offenders. It set up a petition that drew hundreds of thousands of signatures.
The Colchester, England-based charity advocates for victims of pedophile crimes.
The news came as a senior judge opened an inquiry into the scandal that will start by looking at whether the country needs tougher media regulation, and will have the power to force witnesses to give evidence.
Justice Brian Leveson said he has the legal power to demand statements and documents from witnesses - and plans to use it “as soon as possible.”
Leveson’s inquiry was announced earlier this month by Prime Minister David Cameron.
Leveson’s seven-member panel includes a veteran newspaper reporter, a former police chief, a civil liberties activist and a broadcast journalist. They held their first formal meeting Thursday and will begin public hearings in September.
The panel is due to issue a report within a year. Leveson said he would strive to meet that deadline, but “not at all costs.”
A second part of the inquiry will examine specific allegations of wrongdoing at News of the World, but can’t start until the criminal investigation by police is finished - which could be years away.
Leveson said the inquiry would examine “the culture, practices and ethics of the press.”
“In the first instance the inquiry will focus primarily on the relationship between the press and public and the related issues of press regulation,” he said.
Later, it will look at relations among the press, police and politicians.
Leveson said he would soon send out letters summoning evidence and witnesses, who may include journalists, news executives, police and politicians.
But he said he hoped people would participate willingly to help root out wrongdoing.
“It may be tempting for a number of people to close ranks and suggest that the problem is or was local to a group of journalists then operating at the News of the World, but I would encourage all to take a wider view of the public good and help me grapple with the width and depth of the problem,” he said.
The inquiry will try to get to grips with a scandal that continues to shake Britain’s police, political and media establishment. It already has led to the resignations of London’s police chief and two senior executives of Murdoch’s News Corp.
On Thursday, the board of British Sky Broadcasting met under pressure to reconsider the future of its chairman James Murdoch, Rupert’s son.
The board meeting was the first since News Corp. abandoned a takeover bid for BSkyB because of the scandal at the British Sunday tabloid News of the World.
British newspapers fall within James Murdoch’s responsibilities as CEO and chairman of the International division of News Corp.
The meeting was primarily held to sign the full year earnings report of BSkyB, which is 39 percent owned by News Corp. But analysts say the board members are likely to discuss James Murdoch’s future with the company and the possibility of a special dividend.