Monday, July 11, 2011

Phone hacking: Lib Dems Öpik and Paddick to sue

Both hope to be a candidate in next year's London mayoral election, meaning the scandal may become a campaign issue
Former Lib Dem MP Lembit Öpik (above) and the former deputy assistant police commissioner Brian Paddick, have both said they intend to sue after having their phones hacked. Photograph: Sean Smith for the Guardian
Two Liberal Democrats hoping to become their party's candidate for next year's London mayoral election intend to sue over the alleged hacking of their phones, raising the possibility that the scandal may become an issue during the campaign.

Lembit Öpik, who was ousted from the safe Lib Dem seat of Montgomeryshire in the 2010 general election, and the former deputy assistant police commissioner Brian Paddick have signalled their intention to take legal action over claims that their pones were hacked by the News of the World – though Paddick intends to sue the police rather than the publisher.

Öpik said that having been to Scotland Yard to review evidence a couple of months ago, there was "no doubt" in his mind that the News of the World had hacked his phone.

"The closure of the newspaper will do nothing to stop the legal action that myself and others are taking … I'm not going to let go of it. Nor will other people," he said.

Paddick told the BBC over the weekend: "I'm not suing News International, I'm suing the police. They failed in their legal duty to investigate properly first time around."

If either man wins their party's nomination, they will fight the election against Labour's Ken Livingstone, and the current Conservative mayor, Boris Johnson. Last September, Johnson - who as mayor also chairs the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) - dismissed continuing concerns over the News of the World's use of phone hacking as "codswallop" that looked "like a politically motivated put-up job by the Labour party".

He told the London assembly at the time that he was "satisfied" by the Met's investigation of the matter. Johnson struck a different tone last week after a string of new allegations surfaced, and joined calls for a "no-holds-barred" judge-led inquiry and called for an investigation led by the Independent Police Complaints Commission over claims police officers were bribed.