UK Politics

Phone-hacking probe: Dowlers say Brooks should quit

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionMilly Dowler's mother, Sally, says she thought it was Milly who was deleting the voicemail messages

Relatives of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler say News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks should resign over the phone-hacking scandal.

Their solicitor, Mark Lewis, said they thought she should "take responsibility and do the honourable thing".

Mrs Brooks was News of the World editor when Milly's phone was allegedly hacked after her abduction in 2002.

Milly's mother Sally and her sister Gemma have met Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to discuss the hacking row.

The News of the World has closed in the wake of claims that up to 4,000 people may have had their phones targeted, but Ms Brooks has remained in her position.

In 2003, Mrs Brooks told the Commons culture committee that the Milly Dowler case was an example of how the News of the World handled stories sensitively and respected the wishes of grieving parents.

Miss Wade, as she was then known, said: "Well, for example, at any high profile funeral the last thing the relatives want is every single newspaper turning up.

"In the recent case of Milly Dowler we were asked not to be there so one photographer went and took the picture, and one reporter went for the words and that was it."

'False hope'

Prime Minister David Cameron has ordered two public inquiries - one into hacking and the other into the ethics and culture of the press.

He has said the first must wait until the current police investigation into hacking is completed but the Dowler family, along with a number of others, want it to begin now.

They also want to play a part in deciding the terms of reference and the powers that the inquiries will have.

Mr Lewis told a press conference the Dowlers' meeting with Mr Clegg was "very constructive" and he seemed to have "a genuine desire for change".

Asked whether the family believed Mrs Brooks should resign, Mr Lewis said: "They think it is vital that the people responsible are held to account.

"They don't see why she should stay in the job. They see this as something that went right to the top."

Mrs Dowler told Mr Clegg the family had only learned about the hacking of Milly's voicemail just before the trial of her killer Levi Bellfield.

She explained that the deletion of some of messages on her daughter's phone during the time she was missing but before her body was found had given the family hope that she was still alive.

Mr Clegg said afterwards: "It's innocent families like them who have paid a very heavy price for truly grotesque journalist practices that are simply beneath contempt.

"We owe it to the Dowlers and other innocent victims of hacking to get these inquiries right, to make sure that they are really strong, they get to the bottom of what happened and make sure that it never happens again."

The family will also meet Labour leader Ed Miliband and Mr Cameron this week to discuss the scandal.

'Vested interests'

Martin Moore, from the Media Standards Trust, who also attended the meeting, said he and the Dowlers wanted to make sure the inquiry was conducted in the right way.

"Our particular concern is there have been a number of inquiries into this which haven't achieved very much," he said.

"There are also a number of vested interests here - the police, press and politicians - an awful lot of people for whom this will be a very uncomfortable and difficult inquiry, and we think it's important that the voices of the victims and the many other concerned members of the public aren't lost."

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionNick Clegg urged Rupert Murdoch to 'do the decent thing and reconsider'

Mr Moore said the Inquiries Act 2005 had been set up specifically to prevent inquiries dragging on too long and to make it possible for them to be carried out in parallel with a police investigation in certain circumstances.

"The police investigation could go on for another two or three years so the inquiry might not even get going until 2014 or 2015 and we could be looking at 10 years before we get any answers," he added.

"That's too long - we want to get going as soon as possible."

The Dowlers' meeting took place as the row continued about the bid to buy BSkyB by News Corporation - of which News of the World (NoW) publisher News International is part.

'Truly sorry'

Labour leader Ed Miliband is continuing to call for the takeover process to be halted and is planning to force a vote on the matter by MPs during an opposition day debate on Wednesday.

And on Monday, Mr Clegg also said News Corp owner Rupert Murdoch should "do the decent and sensible thing" and "reconsider" the bid.

Any Commons vote on Wednesday will not be binding on the government but Lib Dem MPs and some Conservatives are expected to vote for a delay to the deal or for it be blocked altogether, which will increase pressure on Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt to act.

Mr Hunt, meanwhile, has written to broadcasting regulator Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading for fresh advice on the BSkyB bid.

He is expected to make a statement on hacking and the media to the House of Commons on Monday afternoon.

The News of the World, which has been operating for 168 years, published its final edition this weekend, in which it said it was "truly sorry" for its actions.