Robert Jay QC, counsel to the inquiry, yesterday told the Leveson Inquiry that at least 28 'corner names' linked to the NoW were legible in the 11,000 pages of notes that police seized from private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, which relate to a total of 2,266 taskings and the names of 5,795 potential victims
When News International counsel Rhodri Davies QC addressed the inquiry this morning he said the company had not had an opportunity to view all the Mulcaire notes – but suggested the allegation that 28 journalists were involved in phone-hacking was wide of the mark.
In his opening statement Jay claimed that of the 2,266 requests in Mulcaire's notebooks 2,145 were linked to NoW journalists referred to as A, B, C and D.
This meant that 123 taskings were not accounted for by those four individuals.
Davies pointed out that the 123 must also include Clive Goodman – the former NoW royal editor jailed for phone-hacking in 2007 – who was 'reasonably active'but was not included in the cyphers A, B, C and D.
Davies said: 'The statement has occasioned some surprise on our side.
'As I have said we don't have all the notebooks but we knew that were five legible corner names which could be correlated with names of News of the World journalists, those being Mr Goodman and A-D.
'We also know that the police believe that there are a number of others that can be correlated to NoW journalists that we don't know the names, and we are in no way able to assess that one way or another. Nor do we know how many, but our understanding is that it certainly does not add up to 27.
'Given the arithmetic which I went through just know, it does sound a little surprising if that rump of 123 taskings in fact contained at least another 21 NoW journalists that we are unable to identify."
He added: 'I don't want to present this as more important than it is: 2,266 tasking is 2,266 taskings too many, five journalists known to be commissioning them from the NoW is five too many, and five corner names may not be the beginning and end of evidence of involvement.
'It may be possible to be involved without being a corner name at all, but nonetheless we think it is necessary to be accurate as far as possible and we would like to have this information rechecked."
Davies also told the inquiry he was unable to guarantee phone-hacking stopped after Goodman was jailed in 2007. "I am not going to give any guarantees that there was no phone-hacking by or for the News of the World after 2007," he said.
"No doubt that will be explored during the evidence, and we note that Mr Jay said the police thought the last instance was in 2009. Nonetheless it does look as if lessons were learned when Mr Goodman and Mr Mulcaire went to jail.
"If phone-hacking continued after that it was not, as it appears, what Mr Jay described as the 'thriving cottage industry' which existed beforehand."
Davies also took the opportunity to apologise on behalf of News International for the phone-hacking scandal, describing the behaviour as "wrong, shameful and should never have happened".
'It is right that at the formal opening of the inquiry and in public, I should repeat on behalf of News International the apologies that have been made to all those whose phones were hacked or whose family, friends or associates' phones were hacked, by or at the behest of staff working at the News of the World,'he said.
"That phone-hacking was wrong, it was shameful, it should never have happened. News International apologises for it unreservedly."
'I must add that we accept that phone hacking at the News of the World was not the work of a single rogue reporter,'he continued.
"We accept that there was no public interest justification for it, and we further accept that it was not the subject of a proper and thorough investigation until the Metropolitan Police began Operation Weeting in January this year following the supply of certain material to them by News International.
"In addition we regard as wholly unacceptable the commissioning of a private investigator to carry out surveillance of lawyers acting for claimants or Members of Parliament on the select committee."
Meanwhile, he said the publisher disputed claims that The Sun had commissioned hacking of actor Jude Law's phone - something he said was not apparent in the evidence.
Mulcaire was jailed along with the News of the World's former royal editor Clive Goodman in January 2007 after they admitted intercepting voicemail messages left on phones belonging to royal aides.