The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has ordered a review of evidence relating to phone hacking at the News of the World, after new claims emerged about the extent of illegal activities at the tabloid.
A spokesperson announced yesterday that the director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, had instructed the CPS to undertake "a comprehensive assessment of all material in the possession of the Metropolitan Police Service relating to phone hacking".
The decision was made after a meeting between Starmer and the Met's acting deputy police commissioner, John Yates.
"The exercise will involve an examination of all material considered as part of the original investigation into Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire and any material which has subsequently come to light," the CPS spokesperson said.
"The purpose of this assessment is to ascertain whether there is any material which could now form evidence in any future criminal prosecution relating to phone hacking."
Goodman, the News of the World's former royal editor, used Mulcaire's services as a private investigator in order to hack the phones of public figures and aides to the royal family. The two men were jailed in 2007 following an investigation by Scotland Yard.
The decision to comb through existing evidence raises the possibility of a fresh police investigation into phone hacking allegations against the News of the World and its executives, including its former editor Andy Coulson.
Coulson, now the prime minister's director of communications, has persistently denied that the interception of phone messages was authorised by executives or widely practised. The News of the World maintains that Goodman was a "rogue reporter".
In a letter to Starmer, Yates acknowledged lingering questions about Scotland Yard's original phone hacking investigation in 2006. Critics have alleged that police chose to focus on the Goodman-Mulcaire link despite evidence that may have pointed to a wider scandal.
"We are both aware that there remain outstanding public, legal and political concerns," he wrote.
"This is particularly so in relation to the various and recently reported high profile civil cases, as well as the inquiry to be undertaken by the Parliamentary Standards and Privileges Committee."
Although the CPS maintained as recently as last month that there was insufficient evidence available to bring further criminal charges against the News of the World or its employees, civil proceedings by several parties against the paper have continued.
One of those suing the News of the World is Sienna Miller, whose lawyers allege that a senior executive at the paper had instructed Mulcaire to hack the actor's voicemail messages. The executive, Ian Edmondson, has since been suspended, pending the outcome of an internal investigation and litigation.
Others who have brought civil cases against the News of the World include Nicola Phillips - a former assistant to the publicist Max Clifford - and the sports agent Sky Andrew.
According to The Independent, several potential litigants have sought to place pressure on the Metropolitan Police to hand over evidence that may point to the complicity of News of the World executives in the hacking of phone messages.
Media Spy discussion: International Journalism and Media