Former Deputy Prime Minister Calls For Review of Murdoch Paper Wiretapping

Former U.K. Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott called for a judicial review of the extent of phone tapping carried out by staff at Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World newspaper after the New York Times reported that everyone at the paper, “even the office cat,” knew about it.

The Metropolitan Police didn’t investigate the full extent of the tapping, which was carried out when Andy Coulson, now Prime Minister David Cameron’s director of communications, was editor of the paper, Prescott told BBC Radio 4’s “Today” show.

Prescott said police told him the paper had paid 500 pounds ($770) for details from his phone. He vowed to seek a judicial review if police refuse to hand over the evidence they have that he was a target of hacking.

“The only way the truth can come out is to have it properly investigated and to have a judicial review. It is a serious breach,” Prescott said.

“The New York Times piece makes some very serious allegations not only against Rupert Murdoch’s News Group but also the Metropolitan Police’s handling of the original case into phone hacking at the News of the World,” he said in a statement on his website.

The News of the World’s former royal reporter, Clive Goodman, and Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator, were jailed in 2007 for phone-tapping. Coulson resigned, saying he had no knowledge of their activities.

In July 2009, the Guardian reported that News Group Newspapers, a News International subsidiary, paid 700,000 pounds ($1.08 million) to a phone-tapping victim. It said the practices of phone-hacking, where voice messages were intercepted, and “blagging,” where private investigators would attempt to get information by impersonating people, went far beyond Goodman and Mulcaire.

Hayley Barlow, a spokeswoman for the News of the World, a unit of Murdoch’s News Corp., which also publishes the Wall Street Journal, said the paper isn’t commenting on the New York Times report or Prescott’s claims.

“We have no response at all,” Barlow said in a telephone interview. “We are not commenting.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Thomas Penny in London at tpenny@bloomberg.net

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