19 Jul 2011

British attorney general defends PM's judgement

8:29 pm on 19 July 2011

Britain's Attorney General is defending the judgement of Prime Minister David Cameron in the phone-hacking scandal engulfing the media, police force, and increasingly, the UK government.

Mr Cameron has been criticised for hiring former News of the World editor Andy Coulson as his press secretary.

Mr Coulson was arrested in connection with the phone hacking scandal, after stepping down from his press secretary role.

Attorney-General Dominic Grieve, who is visiting New Zealand, told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report that Andy Coulson was retained by the Prime Minister "at a time when there were absolutely no allegations against him that he had committed any wrongdoing.

"He had resigned from his position as editor of News of the World because he'd been concerned that journalists working under him, or at least reporting into the News of the World or (had) contracts (with) the News of the World had behaved improperly."

Though Mr Cameron faces no challenge yet to his leadership, some of his Conservative supporters have begun to raise the possibility, albeit remote, that Mr Cameron might face pressure to go himself.

Mr Grieve says the coalition Government is sound, and while phone-hacking affair is important it is slightly peripheral to some of the main issues facing the United Kingdom, the major one of which is its financial crisis.

"Although clearly this is a challenging period for the Prime Minister I don't really see any threat to his leadership whatsoever," he said.

Mr Cameron has cut short his trip to Africa and will fly home to address the House of Commons on the widening scandal.

"I am asking for parliament to sit an extra day on Wednesday so I can make a new statement adding to the details of the judicial inquiry," he said during a press conference South Africa.

9/11 relatives upset

Relatives of victims of the 11 September 20001 attacks have asked to meet the FBI and the US Justice Department to discuss the agencies' preliminary inquiry into reports that News Corp reporters may have tried to hack the phones of 9/11 victims.

US authorities have acknowledged they are looking into a report by Britain's Daily Mirror newspaper that reporters with the rival News of the World offered to pay a New York police officer for private phone records of some 9/11 victims.

The Mirror's report, citing an unidentified source, has yet to be independently verified.

New York attorney Normal Siegel, who represents 9/11 family members in three legal cases, sent letters on Monday requesting meetings with FBI Director Robert Mueller, US Attorney General Eric Holder and US Representative John Conyers, the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee.