The mushrooming phone hacking scandal that took down Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World tabloid is now embroiling British Prime Minister David Cameron, who on Friday called for tighter regulation of the press and a new investigation into the paper as police arrested his former communications director.
“The whole country has been shocked by the revelations of the phone hacking scandal,” Cameron said at a press conference on the scandal. “I cannot think what was going through the mind of the people who did this.”
Among those people, police allege, is Andy Coulson, the paper’s former top editor who was until earlier this year Cameron’s communications director. Coulson was arrested Friday morning “on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications” and “on suspicion of corruption allegations,” the Metropolitan Police Service said in a statement.
The police did not offer other details on the arrest, saying, “It would be inappropriate to discuss any further details regarding these cases at this time.”
The News of the World weekly tabloid, which has a circulation of 2.7 million, will publish its final issue on Sunday, Murdoch’s son James announced Thursday.
The paper was rocked this week by accusations that it hacked into phones of dead crime victims, soliders who had been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and those who lost their lives in the “7/7” terror attacks in London in 2005
At his press conference, which concluded just before Coulson was arrested, Cameron was repeatedly questioned about why he hired Coulton, who stepped down from his job at the paper in 2007 following the conviction of one of the paper’s reporters for hacking-related charges.
“The decision to hire him was mine and mine alone and I take responsibility for it,” Cameron said. “He said at the time he didn’t know what was happening on his watch. I took the decision – my decision, my decision alone – to give him a second chance. That’s what happened. I don’t think it’s particularly meaningful today to put a different gloss on it. People will judge me for that, I understand that.”
Cameron wouldn’t say what he asked Coulton about the scandal before hiring him and insisted that “no one gave me any specific information” on reasons to doubt Coulton.
The prime minister tried in his press conference to steer the conversation toward broader problems in the British press. The problem is not just journalists at one paper, he said, and he plans order a commission to examine the “culture, ethics and practices of the British press.”
Cameron also called for a second investigation of the phone hacking scandal, calling the one conducted by police “inadequate.”
He said that News International, the subsidiary of Murdoch’s News Corporation that runs News of the World, should have accepted the resignation of Rebekah Brooks, a company executive who was editor of the paper when some of the hackings took place and who is a personal friend of Cameron’s.
“It has been reported she offered her resignation over this and in this situation I would have taken it,” he said.
The Gazette now offers Facebook Comments on its stories. You must be logged into your Facebook account to add comments. If you do not want your comment to post to your personal page, uncheck the box below the comment. Comments deemed offensive by the moderators will be removed, and commenters who persist may be banned from commenting on the site.