Judges Rule Against Private Investigator in British Hacking Scandal

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LONDON -- A private investigator who has been a central player in Britain's phone hacking scandal lost a bid at the Supreme Court on Wednesday to remain silent about who commissioned him to intercept voice mail messages on behalf of The News of the World, Rupert Murdoch's now-defunct tabloid.

The ruling, by five Supreme Court judges, could open the way to further disclosures about the names and stature of the people who supervised the investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, and possibly show the extent to which the scandal reached into the News of the World management.

Mr. Mulcaire had argued that he had a right to remain silent about who commissioned him to avoid self-incrimination.

The judges issued their ruling in the case of Nicola Phillips, the personal assistant to a well-known publicist, Max Clifford, who has said her voice mail was intercepted. The judges ruled that Mr. Mulcaire was not protected by the right to remain silent and had three weeks to tell Ms. Phillips who had asked him to hack her voice mail.The scandal has seared a broad path through the British press, police and political elite and forced Mr. Murdoch into key business decisions, including the closure of the 168-year-old News of the World last summer and the abandonment of a $12 billion bid to assume full control of Britain's biggest satellite broadcaster.

Around 60 people have been arrested, and on Wednesday police officials said three more people had been detained in a related investigation into the corruption of public officials. Most of those arrested have not been charged and all were granted bail.

In a statement, Mr. Mulcaire said he would comply with the ruling and consider "what the wider implications of this judgment are, if and when I am asked to answer questions in other cases."

Ms. Phillips's lawyer, Mark Lewis, called the ruling a "significant milestone" with "wide-ranging consequences in relation to all the phone hacking claimants and beyond."

In the initial phase of the scandal, Mr. Mulcaire and a News of the World reporter, Clive Goodman, were jailed for several months in early 2007 for illegally accessing voice mail messages in the royal household. At that time, News International, Mr. Murdoch's British newspaper subsidiary, said the hacking was the work of a single rogue reporter.

But last July, the scandal mushroomed with the disclosure that the voice mail of a murdered schoolgirl had been hacked in 2002 before the police found her body. That revelation produced a wave of public revulsion and the affair came under scrutiny in three inquiries by Parliament, the police and a judicial panel led by Lord Justice Sir Brian Leveson.

The inquiries have dominated British public debate, showing close ties between Murdoch executives and British politicians, including Prime Minister David Cameron. Mr. Cameron had appointed a former News of the World editor, Andy Coulson, as his director of communications, and was friendly with Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of News International. Both have been charged with criminal offenses.

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This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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