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Cops make new arrest in UK phone hacking probe

British police made a new arrest on Thursday in the country's tabloid phone hacking scandal, while an actress and her ex-soccer player husband announced they had agreed to a settlement with the now-shuttered News of The World tabloid.

world Updated: Aug 22, 2011 10:47 IST

British police made a new arrest on Thursday in the country's tabloid phone hacking scandal, while an actress and her ex-soccer player husband announced they had agreed to a settlement with the now-shuttered News of The World tabloid.

Police in London confirmed a 38-year-old man, who they declined to name, was arrested at a London police station after he arrived voluntarily on Thursday. He is the 13th person to be arrested so far in the saga and only one of those arrested has already been cleared.

Britain's Guardian newspaper reported the man was James Desborough, formerly the Los Angeles-based US editor for the News of the World.

The newspaper claimed that his arrest was related to activities that took place before he moved to the United States.

Both News International, the British division of Murdoch's News Corp. empire that owned the tabloid, and London police declined to confirm that Desborough was the suspect now being questioned.

"We are fully cooperating with the police investigation and we are unable to comment further on matters due to ongoing police investigations," News International said in an e-mailed statement.

In a separate development, lawyers for British television actress Leslie Ash and former soccer player Lee Chapman confirmed they had resolved their legal action against the News of The World.

"The tabloid's parent company had "agreed to pay our family an appropriate sum by way of compensation and costs and it has apologized for the harm and distress it has caused us," the couple said in a statement.

But the couple indicated they now plan to sue other British newspapers over allegations that their phone messages and those of their children may have been illegally accessed.

"We remain concerned that the practices complained of against NGN (News Group Newspapers) are likely to have been prevalent within a number of other media publishers, and we will be instructing our lawyer ... to take action against other newspapers in due course," they said.

Ash and Chapman had been the subject of frequent tabloid stories after the actress suffered health problems and won a then-record 5 million pounds ($8.25 million) compensation payment from a London hospital after contracting an infection during treatment there.

The couple said they believed that their messages were intercepted in 2004 while Ash was recovering in the hospital.

News International, the British arm of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. media empire that owned the News of the World, said it would not comment on the settlement.

Already, the disclosure earlier this week of new documents in the phone hacking case has piled pressure on Murdoch's empire.

Correspondence published on Tuesday by British lawmakers investigating the scandal suggested that executives were warned more than four years ago that phone hacking was endemic at the News of the World. The company had previously insisted the practice was not widespread.

The charges were made in a 2007 letter written by Clive Goodman, a former journalist with the now-defunct tabloid whose jailing in 2007 on phone hacking charges first brought the practice into the spotlight.

Goodman's reply came after then-News International Ltd. Executive Chairman Les Hinton had written a letter to the reporter telling him that he had been fired as a result of his conviction.

In his response, Goodman insisted that his activities had been carried out with the support of other members of staff and alleged that phone hacking had been routinely discussed.

However, in a 2007 appearance before the House of Commons media committee, Hinton assured parliamentarians that no one else at the paper had been engaged in phone hacking.

Hinton, who worked for Murdoch for more than five decades in various positions, announced his resignation July 15 from his post as publisher of The Wall Street Journal. He is News Corp.'s first US executive to lose his job in the phone hacking scandal.

In his resignation letter, Hinton referred to what he'd told UK parliamentarians in 2009, claiming that there "had never been any
evidence delivered to me that suggested the conduct (phone hacking) had spread beyond one journalist."

"This is pretty devastating," Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff said of the newly released documents, claiming that they showed that the "people who Rupert speaks to every day ... are people who were deeply engaged in the cover up of what was going on at the News of the World."

Hinton was appointed earlier this year to be a member of The Associated Press board of directors. AP spokesman Paul Colford said Wednesday that since then, Hinton had not attended any board meetings but has not offered his resignation.

First Published: Aug 22, 2011 10:20 IST