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News probe judge 'needs more time'

THE judge appointed by British Prime Minister David Cameron to examine fallout from the phone hacking scandal has warned he may not be able to complete the first part of the inquiry within the planned time scale of a year.

THE judge appointed by British Prime Minister David Cameron to examine fallout from the phone hacking scandal has warned he may not be able to complete the first part of the inquiry within the planned time scale of a year.

Mr Cameron established the inquiry this month following continuing allegations that journalists from Rupert Murdoch's News of the World hacked the phones of celebrities, politicians, soldiers and crime victims.

Lord Justice Brian Leveson said yesterday he would use legal powers to compel witnesses to provide statements and documents.

"It may be tempting for a number of people to close ranks and suggest that the problem is or was local to a group of journalists then operating at the News of the World, but I would encourage all to take a wider picture of the public good and help grapple with the width and depth of the problem," he said.

The announcement came as the law firm at the centre of the phone hacking scandal admitted it was negotiating with British police about handing over a cache of confidential News International emails.

Harbottle & Lewis, which worked for Rupert Murdoch's newspapers, informed MPs it was in the process of making a "full and complete disclosure" to the Metropolitan Police about phone hacking.

The firm, which is believed to be under investigation by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, previously had insisted client confidentiality prevented it from making full disclosure to the police.

It emerged at the height of the scandal that the company had in its offices a four-year-old file of hundreds of allegedly incriminating emails. The firm indicated in a short letter to News International that the emails did not show wider evidence of criminality. This document was relied on by the publisher during parliamentary inquiries in 2009.

Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, the former director of public prosecutions who reviewed evidence of police payments in the Harbottle & Lewis file, said last week that evidence of criminality in the file was "blindingly obvious".

Meanwhile in New York, relatives of victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks are to meet American law enforcement officials to discuss allegations that journalists working for Murdoch's News Corporation tried to hack the phone records of the dead.

US Attorney-General Eric Holder has agreed to see family members and their lawyers to discuss the FBI investigation.

Norman Siegel, a New York-based lawyer who represents 20 families who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001, confirmed the meeting and said he intended to take as many of the relatives as possible to see Mr Holder in Washington.

The allegation that News of the World reporters tried to gain unauthorised access to victims' voicemails was made in an article in the London Daily Mirror earlier this month.

The paper said the journalists had approached a former New York police officer working as a private detective and asked him to do the hacking, which he declined to do.


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