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News Corp. Hacking Claims Affecting Police Workload, Lawyer Says

June 20 (Bloomberg) -- A lawyer for London’s Metropolitan Police force said that a lawsuit brought by people who suspect their cell phones were hacked into by News Corp.’s News of the World newspaper is becoming a major use of resources.

The force is receiving “daily” requests from lawyers for more information and from the representatives of celebrities asking if they were a target of the paper, police lawyer Jason Beer said at a hearing in the case today.

“Our priorities are the investigation and detection of crimes,” Beer said. “But those priorities have been substantially affected by these claims.”

Lawyers for more than 25 celebrities, athletes and public figures asked the court today to force the police to disclose thousands of pages of documents seized in a 2005 to 2006 investigation into phone hacking at the newspaper. They already have been given documents that contain the names of their clients.

If the police were required to process the documents to remove private information that shouldn’t be disclosed to third parties, it could take thousands of hours of police time, Beer said.

Justice Geoffrey Vos told the parties to consider a compromise to narrow the categories of documents they are seeking.

Celebrities and politicians have sued News Corp.’s U.K. unit over allegations the newspaper illegally accessed mobile-phone messages for stories. The New York-based company in April apologized and offered to settle some of the cases after journalists linked to the paper were arrested. So far one claimant, actress Sienna Miller, has agreed to settle.

The scandal started when a former News of the World editor and a private investigator were sent to jail in 2007 for hacking into members of the royal household’s mobile phones. Former News of the World Editor Andy Coulson resigned as Prime Minister David Cameron’s head of communications in January over claims the practice took place while he was at the paper.

To contact the reporter on this story: James Lumley in London at jlumley1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net

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