Tessa Jowell, the former Labour cabinet minister, has hired lawyers to seek to discover who hacked into her phone on twenty-eight separate occasions as the scandal engulfing the News of the World prompts a growing list of public figures to seek legal redress. Jowell, the most senior politician yet to allege having been targeted, also fears her phone has been hacked again in the past week but has been told she needs a court order before Scotland Yard can release information it holds about the original interception five years ago.
The news comes in the wake of an announcement on Wednesday by Scotland Yard that it has reopened its inquiry into phone hacking at the News International tabloid after being passed "significant new information" by the News of the World, which had been conducting an internal investigation into the conduct of its head of news, Ian Edmondson. Edmondson was sacked earlier this week.
A series of former Labour ministers, led by the former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott and the former Europe minister Chris Bryant, have already announced they are suing the Metropolitan police to force Scotland Yard to release details about the targeting of their phones. Police contacted Jowell during the investigation that led to the jailing in 2007 of a private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, and the News of the World's former royal editor, Clive Goodman, to tell her that her phone had been hacked.
Jowell told ITV News: "The police hold whatever information they were able to retrieve as a result of their inquiries but, without a court order, they can't give out information to me and obviously what I'm concerned about is how, which of my friends, my family, were also hacked into at the same time. But that is information at the moment that I don't have." The Guardian understands she is now being represented by lawyers in the case.
Jowell also passed fresh information to the police after being warned by her mobile phone provider that there had been an unsuccessful attempt to listen to messages left on her phone last week. She said it "may be entirely innocent or may be more sinister".
The actor Leslie Ash and her husband, Lee Chapman, a former footballer, joined the growing list of celebrities planning to sue the News of the World for allegedly hiring a private investigator to hack into their mobile phones. Phones belonging to Ash and Chapman were allegedly targeted by Mulcaire when Ash was recovering from a life-threatening superbug infection.
The couple have also obtained information from the Metropolitan police which suggests their children – then aged 16 and 13 – were targeted by Mulcaire. Their lawyer, Charlotte Harris, said they fear "highly personal telephone voicemails left by her children may have been compromised".
It also emerged that the interior designer Kelly Hoppen, a former girlfriend of the footballer Sol Campbell and mother-in-law to the actor Sienna Miller, is suing a News of the World reporter, whom she alleges hacked into her mobile last year. The reporter, Dan Evans, has been suspended on full pay since April.
Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith has added his voice to the growing chorus of criticism aimed at the News of the World's owner, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, and the police. He told the Guardian: "The fact that a powerful newspaper organisation has abused its position and broken laws in this way is bad enough. The media occupy a hugely privileged position; self-regulated, unelected and tremendously powerful. Because of greed and corruption within some parts, it will become harder for the rest of them to do what we want them to do: apply scrutiny, expose corruption and hypocrisy and keep the powerful on their toes [the nerve of the man! – Ed].
"But failure by the police to properly investigate it is even more serious. It was always obvious that the crimes weren't limited to a couple of rogue reporters and yet, were it not for this newspaper's campaign and brave action by a handful of high profile victims, the truth would simply have been buried."
A former Murdoch editor warned the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, who has the power to block News Corp's current bid for control of the broadcaster BSkyB, to dismiss any offers of editorial guarantees made by the company in an attempt to get the deal through.
Bruce Guthrie, until recently editor of the Age and Herald Sun in Australia, writes in the Guardian: "Such assurances should be taken with a grain of salt. Actually, a whole shaker of the stuff. News Corp … will pretty much do or say whatever it takes to achieve its ends. While Murdoch and News Corp will tolerate competition, they much prefer market dominance. Monopolies? Even better." Guthrie said he had seen [the former Australian prime minister] John Howard shaking with nerves before meeting Murdoch.
During a highly charged public meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority at London's City Hall, John Yates, the Met's acting deputy commissioner, was forced to defend the Met against allegations that it had mishandled the original inquiry into hacking.