Police failure to investigate phone hacking 'unacceptable'

The failure of Surrey Police to investigate the hacking of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's mobile phone was "unacceptable", an investigation has found.

Surrey Police Deputy Chief Constable Craig Denholm and Detective Superintendent Maria Woodall were given verbal and written warnings in 2012 over accusations they knew Dowler's phone was being hacked by News of the World reporters.

The internal report released on Thursday said police officers at the force might not have pursued the News of the World about information taken from Dowler's mobile phone "because of the potential consequences".

Milly Dowler was 13 when she was abducted and murdered by serial killer Levi Bellfield in 2002.

The News of the World ceased publication in 2011 following the phone hacking scandal Credit: Reuters

Not pursuing the News of the World over the hacking was "a matter of deep regret", the report added.

Phone hacking was not a widely used term at the time of Dowler's disappearance, and they found it was possible for the activity not to be recognised as illegal.

The report added Surrey Police spent all their effort and energy focusing their investigation on finding the schoolgirl, and other matters were not considered or prioritised.

It concluded there was no suggestion of any collusion between the force and the News of the World, which ceased publication in 2011.