Gordon Brown has called for a criminal investigation into Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers, claiming the law was broken up to 40 times in attempts to discredit him.
The former prime minister made the explosive claim after a former Sunday Times investigator, John Ford, claimed he targeted Mr Brown and his predecessor Tony Blair.
Mr Ford, a former private investigator, confessed that he used methods such as “blagging” and deception to obtain personal financial details of hundreds of people.
He claimed to have accessed Mr Brown’s bank and mortgage account.
Mr Brown said: “According to the new evidence from John Ford – which corresponds with other information I have – there were at least 25, and up to 40, violations of the criminal law by the Murdoch group including impersonation, reverse engineering my phone and blagging, for no reason other than to discredit someone they wanted to undermine for their own reasons.
“This new evidence shows that, even when under oath, what was then News International misled the Leveson Inquiry. I am now calling for police to investigate this criminal wrongdoing.”
Last week the government announced it had ditched the second part of the Leveson Inquiry, which was due to look into unlawful conduct within media organisations as well as relations between police and the press. Mr Brown’s comments came as Culture Secretary Matt Hancock ruled out reversing the decision to scrap the second part of the Leveson Inquiry following the revelations.
Mr Hancock was responding to reports of a “potential fraud and data protection breach by a former private investigator”. He said: “The allegations are of behaviour that appears totally unacceptable and potentially criminal. Investigation is therefore a matter for the police.”
He had been urged by shadow culture secretary Tom Watson to “reconsider his decision on the public inquiry into illegality in the press”.
A spokesperson for the Sunday Times said: “The Sunday Times has a strong record of investigative journalism over decades and has employed many contributors and researchers to work on stories, or parts of stories.
“The paper strongly rejects the accusation that it has in the past retained or commissioned any individual to act illegally.
“Some allegations related to the research work of John Ford have been aired previously and we cannot comment on the specifics of these new allegations which all predate 2011.”