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June 24, 2013

Leaked report suggests hacking more widespread in law, telecoms and insurance than media

By Press Gazette

Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee Keith Vaz has asked Lord Justice Leveson to explain why he ignored a confidential report revealing the extent of information hacking and blagging in other industries outside the media.

The Independent revealed that the eight-page report from the Serious Organised Crime Agency was submitted in evidence to the inquiry in March last year by Ian Hurst, a former British army intelligence officer who claims he was hacked by the News of the World. But it has only now come to light.

The report reveals the extent to which blue chip companies have hired criminals to “hack, blag and steal sensitive information on business rivals and members of the public”, The Independent reports. The paper says that "law firms, telecoms giants, high-profile celebrities and insurance companies were also employing private investigators to break the law and obtain private data – often to further their commercial interest".

The Soca report apprently suggests that hacking and information blagging had been more widespread in other industries than it was in the media.

A Leveson Inquiry spokesman said: "The terms of reference for the inquiry were absolutely about the culture, practices and ethics of the press and how they engaged with the public, the police and politicians. Evidence on other issues would have been considered to have been outside those terms of reference."

But the fact the SOCA report was apparently ignored by Leveson has led some to suggest that the press has been unfairly treated in the hacking inquiry.

Writing in the Daily Mail today, Richard Littlejohn said: “If you read the Leveson Report, you might have decided that phone-hacking and the obtaining of confidential information by nefarious means was confined to journalists. We now know differently and so did Lord Justice Leveson when he was drawing up his recommendations…

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“While journalists have been charged with illegally accessing messages left on moble phones private investigators have been listening to live calls, bugging phone lines and hacking into personal computers…

"Now we discover that Lord Justice Leveson knew hacking wasn't just confined to the rougher end of Fleet Street. Not only was it rampant in the private investigation sector, but far more heinous methods were being used to obtain confidential information from bank accounts and credit card companies."

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