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News International Release Phone Hacking Lawyers From Confidentiality Clause As Police Investigation Beefed Up

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News International have released lawyers Harbottle & Lewis from their confidentiality clause - allowing the firm to speak out on phone hacking.

The media lawyers can now answer questions on their role in the scandal to police after expressing “regret” that their initial request for the gagging clause to be dropped was declined.

A News International statement said: “News Corp's Management & Standards Committee can confirm that News International has today authorised the law firm Harbottle & Lewis to answer questions from the Metropolitan Police Service & parliamentary select committees in respect of what they were asked to do.”

Harbottle & Lewis initially carried out an investigation into claims of phone hacking at News of the World, telling the company in 2007 that there was no evidence those at the top of News International were aware the practice was carried out by any reporters.

However the company’s position came into question when the BBC’s Robert Peston revealed:

“News International found e-mails in 2007 that appeared to indicate that payments were being made to the police for information, although this evidence of alleged criminal behaviour was not handed to the Metropolitan Police for investigation until 20 June of this year."

The news came shortly after Scotland Yard announced the police team investigating the phone hacking scandal will be expanded after a "significant increase", in their workload.

In a statement Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers said that the team would grow from 45 to 60 officers.

"I have said all along that I would keep the resources under review and this has led to the increase. Similarly, if the demand decreases, I will release officers back to other duties", Akers said.

Operation Weeting began in January and is investigating claims into the News of the World phone hacking scandal.

Akers told parliament last week 170 out of 3,870 potential phone hacking victims have been informed that they are named in the files of Glen Mulcaire, the private detective hired by the News of the World.

The operation has so far arrested 10 people.

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