Business, Economics and Jobs

Officer in charge of News of the World phone hacking scandal apologizes to victims

The police officer in charge of investigating phone hacking at News of the World has apologized to victims of the scandal.

Scotland Yard’s Assistant Commissioner John Yates has said he ‘‘deeply regretted’’ his decision not to reopen an investigation into News International in 2009, London’s Sunday Telegraph reported.

Yates also accused the Murdoch-owned paper of not cooperating with the original police investigation in 2005, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

News International blamed it on one ‘‘rogue reporter’’ but it was instead a cover up of an ‘‘industrial scale’’ operation, it reported in an exclusive interview with Yates.

As the News of the World's final issue went to press on Saturday night, Yates said that Scotland Yard’s reputation had been “very damaged.”

‘‘I have regrettably said the initial inquiry was a success. Clearly now that looks very different.”

Yates decided to not reopen the case in 2009 after just eight hours’ consideration, including consultations with other senior detectives and Crown Prosecution lawyers.

“I didn’t do a review. Had I known then what I know now — all bets are off: I would never have reached this conclusion … I am accountable and it happened on my watch and it’s clear I could have done more.”

At least nine journalists and three police officers are facing jail, The Sunday Times reported.

Rupert Murdoch arrived in London Sunday, facing outrage over the allegations that the paper’s journalists paid police for information and hacked into the voicemails of young murder victims and the grieving families of dead soldiers.

He is desperately hanging on to hopes of saving the takeover deal for satellite broadcaster British Sky Broadcasting, as the sordid affair turns a spotlight on the close relationship between the Murdoch empire and British politicians.

The Liberal Democrats indicated they could back a Labour move in parliament to delay the Murdoch takeover of BSkyB until after the police investigations into phone hacking, the Guardian reported.

Murdoch’s sudden decision to shut down the paper has failed to stop growing disquiet about U.K. press regulation.

As the last edition of the paper hit news stands today, it issued an apology.

‘‘We praised high standards, we demanded high standards but, as we are now only too painfully aware, for a period of a few years up to 2006 some who worked for us, or in our name, fell shamefully short of those standards,’’ reads a message posted on the tabloid's website. ‘‘Quite simply, we lost our way. Phones were hacked, and for that this newspaper is truly sorry.’’

It stopped short of acknowledging recent allegations that staff paid police for information.

Many journalists and media watchers have expressed astonishment that Rebekah Brooks, who was editor of News of the World when some of the hacking allegedly occurred, was keeping her job at head of News Corp.'s U.K. newspaper operations, Associated Press reported. She is expected to be interviewed by police.

Murdoch on Saturday told reporters in Sun Valley, Idaho, that Brooks had his "total" support.

The paper's editor, Colin Myler, offered words of encouragement and sympathy to his staff on a "very difficult day."

"It's not where we want to be and it's not where we deserve to be," he said in a memo to staff seen by Britain's Press Association. "But I know we will produce a paper to be proud of."

The scandal exploded last week after News of the World was accused of hacking into the mobile phone of 13-year-old murder victim Milly Dowler in 2002 while her family and police were desperately searching for her.

News of the World operatives reportedly deleted some messages from the phone's voicemail, giving the girl's parents false hope that she was still alive.
Prime Minister David Cameron has called for new regulations and pledged a public inquiry into the sordid affair.

Andy Coulson — a former News of the World editor and ex-communications chief to Prime Minister David Cameron — was arrested Friday, as was Clive Goodman, an ex-News of the World royal reporter, and an unidentified 63-year-old man.

All three have since been released on bail.