News In Depth
Hacking report critical of Brooks
Rebekah Brooks should accept responsibility for intrusive attempts to stand up a false story about Milly Dowler by the News of the World while she was editor, the committee's report concluded.
Mrs Brooks told the MPs she was on holiday when the paper published an article in April 2002 making detailed references to voicemails left on the 13-year-old's mobile.
But the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee criticised her for the actions of her journalists.
The News of the World told Surrey Police it had obtained Milly's mobile number and voicemail PIN from other schoolchildren, and made no attempt to conceal the fact that reporters had accessed her messages, the report said.
The paper claimed the missing schoolgirl had contacted a recruitment agency based on a voicemail left on her phone.
The MPs' report said: "Impersonating members of a missing girl's family; besieging an employment agency; falsely asserting cooperation with the police; falsely quoting the police; and, according to their own account, obtaining Milly Dowler's mobile telephone number from her school friends are hardly the actions of a respectful and responsible news outlet.
"For those actions, and the culture which permitted them, the editor should accept responsibility."
It added: "The attempts by the News of the World to get a scoop on Milly Dowler led to a considerable amount of valuable police resource being redirected to the pursuit of false leads."
The committee also criticised former News of the World legal manager Tom Crone, who was on duty on the night before the paper ran the story quoting from Milly's voicemails on April 14 2002.
They said: "Anybody who saw that article will have been aware that the information came from Milly Dowler's voicemail account. Any competent newspaper lawyer could reasonably have been expected to ask questions about how that information had been obtained.
"In this context, we are astonished that Tom Crone should have decided to present to the committee the hypothesis that the information was provided - and subsequently retracted - by the police."
The MPs also raised concerns about Surrey Police's decade-long delay in informing the Metropolitan Police that they had evidence that Milly's phone was hacked.
The report said: "We note that the disappearance of Milly Dowler was properly the priority of Surrey Police at that time and that, as a result, they took no action in relation to the information they had about the News of the World.
"It is less excusable for Surrey Police to have sat on that information for 10 more years before bringing it to the attention of the Metropolitan Police, particularly given the publicity surrounding earlier police investigations into phone-hacking at the News of the World.
"We note that Lord Justice Leveson is examining the relationship between the police and the press, and trust that he will address the issues that this episode raises as part of his findings."
The Guardian's revelation that the News of the World hacked Milly's phone led to the 168-year-old Sunday paper being closed down last July.