Computer hacking News of the world
Private eye Jonathan Rees will not be charged. Photograph: Rex Features
A former News of the World executive and a private eye used by the tabloid will not be charged over allegations of computer hacking after prosecutors ran out of time to bring a criminal case.
Among those investigated were the former NotW executive Alex Marunchak and Jonathan Rees, a private eye and one-time murder suspect whose agency worked extensively for the defunct Murdoch tabloid. They deny any wrongdoing.
The Crown Prosecution Service concluded that Scotland Yard had begun investigating the allegations too late. The claims centred on alleged hacking from 2005 to 2007, but the Met did not begin a criminal investigation until 2011. Under the Computer Misuse Act, charges have to be brought no longer than three years after any alleged offence.
The Met investigated 15 suspects and 13 complainants and says it uncovered evidence of the use of spyware to target computers.
Among the cases investigated was that of a former intelligence officer, Ian Hurst, who claims in a civil action that he was hacked by the NotW on Marunchak’s orders as they hunted for information about an alleged IRA informant codenamed Stakeknife.
After the CPS announcement, Hurst said he would continue to pursue his case, adding that he had been constrained while police investigated because of legal restrictions. “Now the information we’ve identified can be used, ” he said. “We’ve got a civil action against the NotW.”
The Met inquiry into computer hacking, Operation Kalmyk, investigated allegations that Hurst’s computer had been hacked by an investigator working for the NotW. Hurst had worked as an army intelligence officer in Northern Ireland.
Philip Campbell Smith is alleged to have hacked Hurst’s computer in 2006 as part of a commission from the NotW, passed to him by Rees.
The computer hacking involving Smith is alleged in her civil action to have been carried out in July 2006 by sending Hurst an email containing a trojan virus that copied Hurst’s emails and relayed them back to the hacker. In Hurst’s civil action he claimed this had been commissioned by Marunchak, who was a senior editor on the newspaper when it was edited by Andy Coulson.
Hurst found out that Smith had hacked his computer and went on to tape him confessing to it, which was first reported by the BBC.
MI5 suspected that Smith had targeted Hurst’s email in an attempt to find the location of Stakeknife. They made no approach to Hurst, apparently on the grounds that he was preparing to write an unauthorised book about his experience in Northern Ireland and could not be trusted. They then asked the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) to investigate. Hurst believes they did not do so adequately.
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