Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
2 SEPTEMBER 2009
Q1900 Chairman: If I happen to have
listened to it and not deleted it and they then manage to access
it, that is perfectly legal?
Mr Yates: It is a breach of privacy.
I am not sure it is legal, but it is certainly no offence under
section 1 of RIPA.
Q1901 Chairman: This may be going
slightly beyond your remit, but do you not think that is completely
Mr Yates: Well, I suppose you
could take a view on it, but we are only dealing with what the
law states and what we can do in terms of the evidence in terms
of building a case.
Q1902 Chairman: I understand. Can
I, finally, ask you about the notification of those many people
where there was evidence that their phones might have been hacked
into. There appeared to be some confusion as to how many of those
were notified and when.
Mr Yates: If I take it from the
start, all those subject to the indictment are clearly aware obviously.
A number of other people who were approached as potential witnesses,
but chose not to provide evidence for whatever reason, they too
were aware. Then we looked at a system with the phone providers,
and the decision was taken in 2006 and I have no reason to doubt
them now, where we looked at certain sensitive areas, people in
government, people in sensitive public positions, royal, military,
police and the like, where there was a suspicion that they had
been hacked or otherwise had their privacy breached where we would
contact them, which we did. Then the service providers contacted
other ones in the same sort of category that we were looking at
who, they believed, had been hacked or otherwise had their privacy
interfered with. They contacted them and, if they felt there was
a greater degree of interference which merited further police
investigation, then they came back to us, and there was one case
where that happened which formed part of the indictment. Since
July 2009, you will remember that at the end of my statement I
said I was concerned as to had anything fallen through the net,
and we had been following a very, very tight strategy around analysing
whether something could have fallen through the net. There may
have been a couple, it is a handful of people potentially, and
we have gone back and worked with the phone companies again on
that, and one of them of course was Andy Coulson who himself declared
that he may have been subject to that type of activity, but it
is very few, it is a handful, and we are still going through that
Q1903 Philip Davies: Just going back
to the point about Neville Thurlbeck, I am obviously not a police
officer, you are the experts in these matters and I certainly
do not want to presume that I know more about these things than
you do because I do not, but, given that Clive Goodman was the
royal reporter and there was evidence that phones hacked included
those of people who were not in the Royal Family, would it not
be a fairly easy conclusion to come to, or proposition to make,
that perhaps, if he is the royal reporter and there are other
people's phones being tapped, there must be other people at the
News of the World involved in this
activity? Would that not be an early presumption that the police
would make if investigating this?
Mr Yates: I think we made the
presumption and the assumption that he was involved with numerous
journalists from many newspapers and other outlets. All the evidence
and material we seized from his home address indicated that that
was his job. Whether it breached into the lines of illegality
is a different matter, but he was a private investigator and you
would expect him to have snippets of information and sometimes
he had just a name, sometimes he had a date of birth, sometimes
he had an awful lot of information around individuals, but that
is what his job is. Our job was to follow the evidence around
section 1 of RIPA, which is fairly narrow, fairly well defined
and fairly challenging to prove.
Q1904 Philip Davies: Sure, I appreciate
all that, but, given that you had the name "Neville",
this idea that he did not say which Neville it was and it could
have been any Neville, how many Nevilles were working at the News
of the World at the time? Did you look into
it and come across a huge list of Nevilles at the News
of the World when you were carrying out the
Mr Yates: I can absolutely see
where you are coming from and where the Chair is coming from on
this, but we are looking at using our resources wisely and effectively.
I would say it is 99.9% certain that, if we were to question Neville
Thurlbeck on this matter, he would make no comment. That was the
position of every other journalist we spoke to during this inquiry.
It was the position of Mulcaire, it was the position of Goodman
and they made no comment. I have no evidence to put before him
other than the fact that this is a Neville, that he has not read
it and we know that he has not read it because it has not been
transmitted by Mulcaire to Neville Thurlbeck. I can see where
you are coming from, but we are making the decision based on where
the evidence is going to be and where we are going to get the
proof for a case to put before a court. The decision taken at
that time was that it was not a viable line of inquiry and, I
have to say, it has been supported by leading counsel and the
Q1905 Chairman: You could have asked
the author of the email. We know precisely who he is.
Mr Yates: Who, Mulcaire or Ross
Chairman: No, the individual employed
by the News of the World whom we have
not named at the request of the Guardian, but you know who it
is because it is on the top of the email.
Q1906 Paul Farrelly: He has just
Mr Yates: I did not mean to.
Q1907 Chairman: Well, you could have
Mr Yates: We could, and I can
ask my colleague whether we did or not.
Mr Williams: No, we did not speak
to him, but it comes back actually that, as part of our investigation
strategy, we were asking the News of the
World to supply more information pertaining to Mulcaire,
his employment, his records of work, who he worked for and what
stories he worked on, as was said, and any editors or journalists
that he worked for because this was an ongoing process and we
wanted to understand the whole picture. What it came back to was
the News of the World saying, "No,
there was no information" and, therefore, we were left in
isolation, literally, with that document which, when you look
at it, is not enough in evidence to pursue, which is where we
have ended up.
Q1908 Philip Davies: Whether you
think it is worth reopening this again at this stage is a separate
matter, and you may well be right that, based on what you have
seen, it is not, but would you not at least concede that, in reviewing
it thoroughly, perhaps at the time it would have been best practice
if the police had spent a bit of time having a chat with Neville
Thurlbeck on the basis of the emails that you had in your possession?
Mr Yates: In 2006 that may well
have been the case but it is concentrating on using your resources
properly. We would make a professional decision based on our experience,
which collectively is quite considerable, that that is going to
take us absolutely nowhere; therefore we were concentrating on
using the resources that we do have in the areas where we are
going to find the evidence. That is not going to take us anywhere.
That was the decision taken at the time. Certainly, in 2009, I
was absolutely of the view that it was not new; it was considered
at the time by counsel, and there was certainly no value in reopening
Q1909 Mr Sanders: I will move away
from Neville-Neville Land and come back to what actually happened
when the Guardian wrote this story. There was a lot of
excitement and then, almost within a matter of hours, it was announced
there had been a review and that sort of killed it. Can you explain
to the Committee how that review was undertaken?
Mr Yates: Firstly, it was not
a review. The Commissioner asked me to establish the facts, two
entirely separate exercises. A review involves a thorough
Q1910 Mr Sanders: Hang on. It was
very clearly reported as a review and I am almost certain I heard
a police officer on television refer to it as a review at the
Mr Yates: I absolutely guarantee
the word "review" was not mentioned that day.
Q1911 Mr Sanders: So where has the
media got the idea that there was a review? Do you think they
tapped somebody's phone and got it?
Mr Yates: I have no idea. I was
so clear on the day, through both my statement and through other
means, that I was asked to establish the facts. In police circles,
and no doubt in journalistic circles, a review has a completely
different sense, which is a focus. Sometimes it is a forensic
review, sometimes it is a complete review, but that involves a
lot of work and a small team of people. I was asked to establish
the facts by the Commissioner, and indeed if you read the transcripts
of that day you can see absolutely clearly I was asked to establish
the facts. I made a note to myself on that day as to what I was
actually doing, what I was actually going to consider. I looked
at the scale, the scope and the outcome in terms of the original
case. I considered the level of liaison there had been with CPS
and senior counsel and any advice they had provided. Clearly that
Q1912 Mr Sanders: Did you consult
with counsel at that time?
Mr Yates: No, I did not.
Q1913 Mr Sanders: So you just went
back over what had been the
Mr Yates: There were a number
of other considerations that I made. I considered the approach
adopted by the prosecution team in their papers, what were they
actually focused on, and it was those eight cases. I considered
the amount of complexities and challenges around the evidence
then and what evidence would be available now, particularly in
relation to the availability of the data. I considered the level
of disclosure and who would review the material. In this case
senior counsel had reviewed the material. I considered how the
case was opened after the guilty pleas. I considered whether there
was anything new in the Guardian articles in terms of additional
evidence, and I considered finally our approach to the victims,
how they were managed and dealt with and the impact of further
inquiries, if they had been necessary, on them, and I came to
the view, and I appreciate you all thought it was rather quick,
that there was no new evidence in this case. It was a conflation
of three old stories.
Q1914 Mr Sanders: And this was an
exercise you alone conducted?
Mr Yates: No, I did it with Philip
and the team and the original team. We sat down for a number of
hours that day and went through these points.
Q1915 Mr Sanders: How many hours
that day? What time did you start this process?
Mr Yates: It was a number of hours.
I did not record it, but I came to the view
Q1916 Mr Sanders: It presumably was
not on your agenda that day.
Mr Yates: No. The diary was cleared
that day, as you would imagine.
Q1917 Mr Sanders: At some point the
diary must have been cleared. At some point somebody took a decision,
in the light of this new story, "We have got to look at this
Mr Yates: It was fairly early
on in the day. I gave this considerable thought in terms of what
was new and was there anythe principal point is, was there
any new evidence, and the answer was there was not, and I have
to say, whilst I came to the view fairly quickly, subsequent events,
subsequent views of the DPP, subsequent views of senior counsel
who had reviewed the material, had concurred with my view.
Q1918 Mr Sanders: At what time in
the day was an announcement made to the media that this exercise
was being undertaken?
Mr Yates: I think Sir Paul Stephenson
had announced it up at the ACPO conference round about half past
nine that morning, I cannot remember, but he certainly had a very
early conversation in the morning with me. I cannot remember what
time because I did not deem it relevant then, but it was a very
early in the morning conversation.
Q1919 Mr Sanders: And at what time
Mr Yates: You are trying to find
out how many hours I spent on this?