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April 6, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The U.K. voicemail hacking scandal involving Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday tabloid, the News of the World intensified on Tuesday with the first arrests in the current Scotland Yard investigation. The newspaper’s chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck, and its former head of news, Ian Edmondson, were reportedly held at west London police stations for six hours as police searched their homes seeking evidence in a scandal that some analysts have said threatens Murdoch’s media empire and raises questions about Scotland Yard’s own relationship with his newspaper, Internet, and television news operations in the U.K.. In a statement, News International, the umbrella group for those operations, said that it “has consistently reiterated that it will not tolerate wrongdoing and is committed to acting on evidence.”

Keir Starmer

The arrests occurred on the same day that Keir Starmer, Britain’s Director of Public Prosecutions, contradicted testimony by John Yates, the No. 2 man at Scotland Yard, that police had limited their original investigation of the hacking because the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which Starmer heads, had advised him that it is only illegal to intercept a voicemail before it is listened to by the intended recipient. In fact, Starmer said, “The legal advice given by the CPS to the Metropolitan Police [Scotland Yard] on the interpretation of the relevant offenses did not limit the scope and extent of the criminal investigation.” Commenting on the latest developments, Ian Burrell, the media editor of the London Independent, wrote today, “The biggest question is how far up the chain of command at News International the phone hacking goes.” Earlier reports had indicated that in order to keep a lid on the scandal, millions of dollars in settlements had already been paid out to celebrities and politicians whose voicemails had been hacked.