Unauthorised tapping into or hacking of mobile communications - Home Affairs Committee Contents

3 The police response

Police response to hacking allegations

46.  It would clearly be inappropriate for us to seek to interfere with the continuing police investigation into the News International hacking affair and the recently announced associated public inquiry, but it is necessary to undertake some examination of how the police responded to the allegations at various times.


47.  The hacking investigation began in December 2005 when the Head of Royalty Protection at the Metropolitan Police, Mr Dai Davies, told Mr Peter Clarke, then head of the Anti-Terrorist Branch, that members of the Royal Household were concerned that their voicemails were being accessed. Due to the potential security implications of, for example, the movements of members of the royal family becoming known, Mr Clarke said that the Anti-Terrorist Branch would investigate.[30] (However, we note that the merger of the anti-terrorist and royal protection function of the Metropolitan Police is an alternative explanation for this decision.) We were surprised that the previous Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Lord Blair of Broughton, said he had only slight knowledge of these events.[31]

48.  As Deputy Assistant Commissioner at the time, Mr Clarke was responsible for setting the parameters of the inquiry. He described how he did so as follows:

The parameters of the investigation, which I set with my colleagues, were very clear. They were to investigate the unauthorised interception of voicemails in the Royal Household, to prosecute those responsible if possible and to take all necessary steps to prevent this type of abuse of the telephone system in the future. The investigation would also attempt to find who else, other than Goodman and Mulcaire, was responsible for the interceptions. The reason I decided the parameters should be so tightly drawn was that a much wider investigation would inevitably take much longer to complete. This would carry, to my mind, two unacceptable risks. First, the investigation would be compromised and evidence lost and, second, that the much wider range of people, who we were learning were becoming victims of this activity, would continue to be victimised while the investigation took its course. This would probably go on for many months and to my mind this would be unacceptable.[32]

As previously laid out, we were told that the investigation was further limited by the understanding that the correct approach was to attempt a prosecution under section 1 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, assuming a narrow interpretation of the offence, meaning that the police would have to find evidence that the voicemail had not been accessed by the intended recipient before it was accessed by the hacker.[33]

49.  When Messrs Mulcaire and Goodman were arrested, the investigatory team, led by Mr Peter Clarke under the oversight of Mr Andy Hayman, requested a large amount of material from News International, including details of who Mr Mulcaire reported to, whether he had worked for other editors or journalists at the News of the World, records of work provided by him and details of the telephone systems in the News of the World offices. The police received a letter from the newspaper's solicitors saying that News International wished to assist, including with identifying any fellow conspirators, but the amount of relevant documentation was limited. In fact, very little material was produced. The police told us that they were unable to pursue the inquiry further with News International because of their refusal to co-operate.[34]

50.  We pressed Mr Clarke on this issue, asking what prevented him from taking the matter further with News International despite the fact that he was, as he told us, "not only suspicious, I was as certain as I could be that they had something to hide."[35] Mr Clarke told us that what prevented him was the law: the police were advised by lawyers that, whilst News International through its lawyers was giving the impression of full co-operation, the police would not be able to obtain a 'Schedule 1 production order' to require disclosures of information as that might seem to amount to a 'fishing expedition'.[36] Mr Clarke said:

I think it has been explained many times before this Committee that there was correspondence entered into between us and News International. The letters that were sent from the Metropolitan Police were put together in consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service. The replies came back through the lawyers acting on behalf of News International and I know that the people, both from the CPS and from the Met, at the time who were looking at this were very frustrated at finding themselves in what they regarded as a legal impasse.[37]

51.  We deplore the response of News International to the original investigation into hacking. It is almost impossible to escape the conclusion voiced by Mr Clarke that they were deliberately trying to thwart a criminal investigation. We are astounded at the length of time it has taken for News International to cooperate with the police but we are appalled that this is advanced as a reason for failing to mount a robust investigation. The failure of lawbreakers to cooperate with the police is a common state of affairs. Indeed, it might be argued that a failure to cooperate might offer good reason to intensify the investigations rather than being a reason for abandoning them. None of the evidence given to us suggests that these problems were escalated for consideration by the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police or by Ministers. The difficulties were offered to us as justifying a failure to investigate further and we saw nothing that suggested there was a real will to tackle and overcome those obstacles.

52.  In this context, we draw attention to the fact that, when we asked her on 5 July 2011 to comment on the allegations that the phones of the Dowler family had been hacked into, Ms Rebekah Brooks said in a letter of reply:

I want to be absolutely clear that as editor of News of the World I had no knowledge whatsoever of phone hacking in the case of Milly Dowler and her family, or in any other cases during my tenure.

I also want to reassure you that the practice of phone hacking is not continuing at the News of the World. Also, for the avoidance of doubt, I should add that we have no reason to believe that any phone hacking occurred at any of our other titles.[38]

In an earlier letter, responding to our request for clarification of the evidence on payment of police officers that she gave to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee in 2003, she said:

My intention was simply to comment generally on the widely-held belief that payments had been made in the past to police officers.

If, in doing so, I gave the impression that I had knowledge of any specific cases, I can assure you that this was not my intention.[39]

Even this is not easy to reconcile with the record. We note that neither of these carefully-crafted responses is a categorical denial: Ms Brooks's denial of knowledge of hacking is limited to her time as editor of News of the World; and on payments to police, she did not say that she had no knowledge of specific payments but that she had not intended to give the impression that she had knowledge of specific cases.

53.  The refusal by News International to co-operate with the police inquiry in 2005-06 meant that the only significant evidence available to the police lay within the 11,000 pages of documents that had been seized from Mr Mulcaire at the time of his arrest. Mr Clarke and his colleagues decided that the time and resource required for an exhaustive analysis of these papers could not be justified, but instead a team of officers was detailed to go through that material with a range of objectives; firstly, to look for evidence relevant to the offences that had been charged; secondly, to make sure that the police's obligations in terms of disclosure under the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act were fulfilled; and thirdly, to look for potential victims where there were national security implications.[40] When we asked whether every document had been read at that time, Mr Clarke said that he could not say for sure whether it had: the team was instructed to look through the papers with particular objectives in mind, not to do an exhaustive analysis of every name, phone number and so on.[41] However, Mr Clarke did say that the team did not carry out its task on the narrow business of looking only for links between Mr Mulcaire and Mr Goodman: in the course of trawling through the papers, they identified 28 possible victims.[42]

54.  We asked Mr Clarke why—given he was certain that the rot went wider—he had not followed the evidence by initiating a broader inquiry:

James Clappison: In the normal course of policing, if an offence is discovered and it is discovered that there has been further offending associated with that offence, the police normally investigate the further offending, don't they? If, for example, you stop somebody for driving while disqualified and you find they have been committing burglaries, you would investigate the burglaries as well, wouldn't you?

Mr Clarke replied that the correct comparison was not with a crime such as burglary but with a complex fraud case where one would focus the investigation at an early stage, decide what the potential offences might be and then concentrate on trying to prove those offences.[43]

55.  The consequences of the decision to focus within the Mulcaire papers on the areas vital to the prosecution of Mulcaire and Goodman were extremely significant. A huge amount of material that could have identified other perpetrators and victims was in effect set to one side. Mr Clarke explained to us the reasons for taking this approach, starting with the context at the time. He reminded us of the increase in the terrorist threat since 2002, and the London bombings and attempted bombings in the summer of 2005. He said that by early 2006 the police were investigating the plot to blow up trans-Atlantic airliners in midflight and those responsible were arrested on 9 August 2006, the day after Messrs Goodman and Mulcaire. By the middle of 2006 the Anti-Terrorist Branch had more than 70 live operations relating to terrorist plots but some of these were not being investigated because there were not enough officers to do so. In this context, he had to decide on priorities, and the priority of protecting life by preventing terrorist attacks was higher than that of dealing with a criminal course of conduct that involved gross breaches of privacy but no apparent threat of physical harm to the public.[44] Nevertheless we cannot overlook the fact that the decision taken not to properly investigate led to serious wrongdoing which the Commissioner himself now accepts was disreputable.

56.  The second reason why the police decided not to do a full analysis of all the material was that they considered the original objectives of the investigation could be achieved through a number of other measures: the high-profile prosecution and imprisonment of a senior journalist from a national newspaper; collaboration with the mobile phone industry to prevent such invasions of privacy in the future;[45] and briefings to Government, including the Home Office and Cabinet Office, to alert them to this activity and to ensure that national security concerns could be addressed.[46]

57.  We asked how many officers had been assigned to the investigation. We were told that the number varied but at the start of the investigation, because of the tight focus and the desire to limit the numbers with access to potentially sensitive information, the average was ten to twelve officers, and these formed the core during the investigation, with occasional support from analysts, intelligence officers and document readers. When it came to arrests and searches, officers were borrowed from elsewhere and maybe as many as 60 were involved.[47] This compares with an average of 45 officers who have been involved throughout in trawling through the Mulcaire papers and dealing with disclosure requests for the current investigation.

58.  We also asked, given that counter-terrorism had to be his officers' priority, whether anyone had ever considered transferring responsibility for the non-terrorism related aspects of the case to other parts of the Metropolitan Police Service, such as the Specialist Crime Directorate:

Mr Clarke: I suppose you could say that this type of investigation was never core business for the Anti-Terrorist Branch. It came to us because of the national security issues at the beginning.

Alun Michael: That is rather my point.

Mr Clarke: Having got to that point, forgive me, is the point then that could I have tried to pass the investigation to somebody else? I think the realistic point—and I certainly thought about this at the time and it is reflected in the decision logs from the time—is that for the previous two years I had already been stripping out other parts of the Metropolitan Police to support the Anti-Terrorist Branch in a whole series of anti-terrorist operations. A lot of other serious crime had gone uninvestigated to the extent it should have done because of the demands I was placing on them. I took the view that it would be completely unrealistic, given that we were heading towards a prosecution of Goodman and Mulcaire, to then go to another department and say, "We've got a prosecution running. We have a huge amount of material here that needs analysing. We don't know, given the uncertainties of the legal advice, whether there will be further offences coming from this or not. Would you like to devote 50, 60, 70 officers for a protracted period to do this?" I took the judgment that that would be an unreasonable request and so I didn't make it.

Alun Michael: In your answer, you have indicated that other aspects were stripped out of the command in order to give you the maximum resource for dealing with terrorism. With the obvious benefit of hindsight, might it not have been better to shift this activity as well?

Mr Clarke: I don't honestly see where I could have shifted it to. It would have been more a case of trying to invite people, I think, to lend me more officers and, to be frank, I think I had tried their patience quite sufficiently over the past years. I don't mean it to sound trite but it would have been a very difficult request to have made to colleagues.

Alun Michael: But it wasn't pushed up the tree as a responsibility?

Mr Clarke: To be honest, there wasn't much of a tree to push up above me. I know this is something I discussed not only with my own colleagues in the Anti-Terrorist Branch but of course with Andy Hayman as well.[48]

59.  Mr Clarke also addressed the question of whether his team could have returned to the unassessed material in the months after Messrs Goodman and Mulcaire's arrests. He said, "The answer quite simply is no. By December we were embroiled in the Litvinenko murder in London, and a few months later the attacks in Haymarket and Glasgow. Meanwhile, we had to service all the court cases that had been coming through the process for some years that in 2007 led to the conviction of dozens of people for terrorist-related crimes." He added that it would not have been feasible to ask other departments to undertake the task using their own scarce resources in a case where there had already been convictions and there was no certainty of obtaining convictions for serious offences, given the untested nature of the legislation.[49]

60.  We asked whether Mr Clarke personally had been aware of the serious concerns about media breaches of privacy raised in two roughly contemporary reports from the Information Commissioner, What price privacy?, and its follow-up six months later, What price privacy now?. Mr Clarke said he had not been aware of them, probably because his focus was on terrorist issues, and if anyone else in the Metropolitan police had known of them they had not linked these reports with the Mulcaire investigation.[50]

61.  When challenged on whether he stood by his decision to limit the investigation in 2006, Mr Clarke said that, despite all that had been revealed since, he believed the decision to have been correct, given the limited resources at his disposal and the absolute priority of dealing with threats to public safety. We note this position. However, its consequences have been serious and we are not convinced that the former Commissioner's decision to merge anti-terrorist and royal protection functions on the basis that both involved firearms, or the decision to pursue this investigation within the command, were justified. It is also revealing about the nature of management within the Metropolitan Police Service that this issue does not appear to have been escalated to the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner, or even the Assistant Commissioner, as an issue about which they ought to be aware and to which a solution needed to be found.

62.  Mr Clarke went further and said he considered that, in its own terms, the operation had been a success: the prosecutions had succeeded and the mobile phone industry had taken action to ensure that their customers were less vulnerable to the type of interception practised by Mr Mulcaire than before—so much so that "because of our work with the mobile phone companies in getting the protective security arrangements around voicemails changed, voicemail hacking no longer continues."[51] As we discuss in the next chapter, whilst it is true that mobile phone companies have now acted to provide much greater security for their customers' communications, and whilst the 2005-07 inquiry succeeded on its own terms, we cannot say that inquiry was a success given the extent of the intrusion now becoming apparent and the fact that even now not all the victims of interception have been identified let alone contacted. Nor are we convinced that no hacking takes places or that it cannot take place. We do not have the technical competence to make such a judgement, and nor did we receive detailed evidence on that point.

63.  Mr Clarke's main regrets involved the consequences for victims of the decisions he had taken. One of the reasons why he thought a full trawl through the Mulcaire papers was not vital, was that he was putting in place a strategy for dealing with victims. As far as the people who had been identified by his officers were concerned, the strategy involved police officers informing certain categories of potential victim and the mobile phone companies identifying and informing others to see if they wanted to contact the police. As Mr Clarke acknowledged, he had since learned that this strategy did not work as intended. He also considered it "utterly regrettable" that the decision not to conduct a detailed analysis of all the material available had led to the failure to identify that victims of some of the most serious crimes were also among the victims of hacking—a category of people not previously considered to be potential targets.[52]

64.  We also questioned Mr Andy Hayman, who at the time had been Assistant Commissioner in charge of the Specialist Operations Group and Mr Peter Clarke's immediate superior officer. We wanted to explore Mr Hayman's role in the 2006 investigation, particularly in the light of the fact that he was known to have had a number of meals with senior News International figures at the time and had subsequently, shortly after his resignation from the Metropolitan Police in 2008, started to write a regular column for The Times.[53]

65.  Mr Hayman denied that anything improper or unprofessional had occurred, either in relation to his informal contacts with News International at the time or in relation to his subsequent employment by them. On the dinners, he said that he had not revealed anything about the hacking investigation, not least because Mr Clarke was, for security reasons, minimising the number of people kept informed about the investigation so Mr Hayman did not know the details himself. Mr Hayman said whilst he was accountable for what was done and had oversight of the investigation, the day-to-day responsibility was Mr Clarke's and he was not even aware that Mr Clarke considered News International was being very obstructive in relation to the investigation.[54] He stated that he had had no involvement in the decision to set narrow parameters for the inquiry, nor in the decision not to comb through the 11,000 pages of the Mulcaire documents. Whilst he could not remember the detail of his daily briefings from Mr Clarke, he said that he had been aware of the CPS advice and had endorsed all Mr Clarke's decisions about strategy and approach.[55]

66.  Mr Hayman claims to have had little knowledge of the detail of the 2006 operation, and to have taken no part in scoping it or reviewing it; his role seems to have been merely to rubber-stamp what more junior officers did. Whilst we have no reason to question the ability and diligence of the officers on the investigation team, we do wonder what 'oversight', 'responsibility' and 'accountability'—all of which words were used by Mr Hayman to describe his role—mean in this context.

67.  Leaving aside the fact that his approach to our evidence session failed to demonstrate any sense of the public outrage at the role of the police in this scandal, we were very concerned about Mr Hayman's apparently lackadaisical attitude towards contacts with those under investigation. Even if all his social contacts with News International personnel were entirely above board, no information was exchanged and no obligations considered to have been incurred, it seems to us extraordinary that he did not realise what the public perception of such contacts would be—or, if he did realise, he did not care that confidence in the impartiality of the police could be seriously undermined.

68.  Mr Hayman was very vague about the number of dinners and other events that occurred during the time of the 2005-07 investigation, but he stated that he had always been accompanied by the Director of Communications of the Metropolitan Police.[56] We have subsequently received evidence from the Director of Communications that, to the best of his recollection, he accompanied Mr Hayman only once to a social event with News International:

I first became aware of the investigation into phone hacking upon my return from a period of leave in August 2006.

To the best of my knowledge and recollection, the only dinner that I attended with Mr Hayman and News International staff was on 25 April 2006, some three months previously. The dinner was entered in the Specialist Operations Directorate Hospitality Register.

Therefore, I did not discuss with, or give advice to, Mr Hayman on any question relating to attending this dinner whilst the investigation was in progress. Furthermore, I did not have any conversation with Mr Hayman about phone hacking more generally at that time. [57]

We do not expressly accuse Mr Hayman of lying to us in his evidence, but it is difficult to escape the suspicion that he deliberately prevaricated in order to mislead us. This is very serious.

69.  Mr Hayman's conduct during the investigation and during our evidence session was both unprofessional and inappropriate. The fact that even in hindsight Mr Hayman did not acknowledge this points to, at the very least, an attitude of complacency. We are very concerned that such an individual was placed in charge of anti-terrorism policing in the first place. We deplore the fact that Mr Hayman took a job with News International within two months of his resignation and less than two years after he was—purportedly—responsible for an investigation into employees of that company. It has been suggested that police officers should not be able to take employment with a company that they have been investigating, at least for a period of time. We recommend that Lord Justice Leveson explore this in his inquiry.


70.  Following the conviction of Messrs Mulcaire and Goodman, the papers seized from Mr Mulcaire were stored in evidence bags and the police seem to have expected no further action would need to be taken. The case was considered closed.[58] However, the Guardian newspaper continued to investigate whether other journalists and editorial staff from the News of the World had made use of Mr Mulcaire's services to obtain information illegally. On 8 July 2009, the Guardian published a story that Mr Gordon Taylor, head of the Professional Footballers Association, had been paid a substantial sum by News International to stop him speaking about the alleged hacking of his mobile phone. The obvious inference was that other journalists must also have been involved in hacking since it was unlikely the royal correspondent of the News of the World would have been interested in Mr Taylor's messages. As stated earlier, this and other stories led the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police on 9 July 2009 to put Assistant Commissioner John Yates in charge of examining the allegations. This process has been frequently referred to as a 'review' of the earlier investigation, but Mr Yates told us: "From the beginning of my involvement in this matter in 2009, I have never conducted a 'review' of the original investigation and nor have I ever been asked to do so." He told us that 'review' has a specific meaning for the police, "a review, in police parlance, involves considerable resources and can either be thematic in approach—such as a forensic review in an unsolved murder investigation—or involves a review of all relevant material." [59] Mr Yates told us that the Commissioner had asked him to "establish the facts around the case and to consider whether there was anything new arising in the Guardian article. This was specifically not a review. [Mr Yates's emphasis]"[60]

71.  The form of Mr Yates's consideration of the hacking allegations appears to have been that he received detailed briefings from the Senior Investigative Officer for the 2005-06 investigation, including considering the CPS's contemporaneous advice (he did not take fresh legal advice), and after discussing it with some of the officers involved in the investigation he came to the conclusion that the Guardian articles gave no new information unknown to the police in 2005-07 that would justify either re-opening or reviewing the investigation. The whole process took about eight hours.[61] At that time, Mr Yates also took the decision that the material seized from Mr Mulcaire should be listed on a database so that it would in the future be easier to see whether new evidence could be linked to any existing evidence.[62]

72.  At the same time, the Director of Public Prosecutions had ordered an urgent examination of the material supplied to the CPS. Such a review by the CPS "is always undertaken in relation to relevance in respect of the indictment", although Mr Yates stresses that the CPS saw all material available to the police. It appears that the CPS review only reconsidered whether all the material relevant to the original indictment of Messrs Mulcaire and Goodman in relation to the six charges in 2007 had been dealt with thoroughly. However, in a written memorandum dated 14 July 2009, Counsel confirmed that the CPS had asked about the possibility of the then editor of the News of the World or other journalists being involved in the Goodman-Mulcaire offences, but had never seen any evidence of such involvement. We were told by the Director of Public Prosecutions that at this time, in July 2009, the police and CPS discussed the mention in the papers of the name 'Neville'—which was taken possibly to refer to Mr Neville Thurlbeck, ex-chief reporter of the News of the World. The DPP, however, concluded that the name 'Neville' was not enough to warrant re-opening the investigation, and Mr Thurlbeck was not interviewed.[63] At the end of the CPS review, the Director of Public Prosecutions said that "it would not be appropriate to re-open the cases against Goodman and Mulcaire or to re-visit the decisions taken in the course of investigating and prosecuting them."[64]

73.  In short, the exercises conducted by the police and the CPS in July 2009 appear to have been limited to the consideration of whether or not, in the light of recent reports in the media, the 2005-07 investigation had been carried out thoroughly and correctly. Critically, because the 2005-07 investigation had focused only on the joint roles of Messrs Mulcaire and Goodman, there was no progress in 2009 to consideration of the relationships that Mr Mulcaire might have had with other journalists, even though the Gordon Taylor story implied that such relationships had existed.

74.  On 1 September 2010, just before AC Yates first gave oral evidence to us, the New York Times reported comments by the former News International journalist, Mr Sean Hoare, about the involvement of former colleagues in hacking. This led Mr Yates to undertake a scoping study—in other words, to appoint a Senior Investigating Officer to ascertain whether the new information published in the New York Times was sufficient to justify (re)opening an investigation.

75.  On 7 September, we asked Mr Yates about his approach to the new allegations:

Q22 Alun Michael: Can I just clear up one simple point? You referred to speaking to and interviewing a number of people, and a letter that is going today to the New York Times and so on. Would I be right in interpreting what you have said as meaning there is now a live investigation taking place?

Mr Yates: I think it's a semantic point. What constitutes a reopened investigation? If we are going to speak to somebody, some people will say that is a reopened investigation. I would say we are considering new material and then we will work with the CPS to see whether that constitutes potential lines of inquiry that can be followed up and would be likely to produce evidence and be a proper use of our resources.

Q23 Alun Michael: I suppose I would put it another way. Is it just a question of having some discussions or are you actively seeking to be able to say to the public that the issues have been fully investigated?

Mr Yates: Mr Hoare has made some very serious allegations both in print and on the radio, and clearly we need to go and speak to him to see what he has to say about that in the broader context.[65]

Rather than being 'a semantic point', we consider the evidence given to us by Mr Yates to be totally unclear. There was considerable ambiguity about the status and depth of the police inquiries, and it was not clear whether the purpose was to respond to potential criticism of the earlier inquiries or to genuinely pursue the evidence to a clear conclusion. This is one reason that we kept our own inquiry open in the hope of obtaining greater clarity in due course.

76.  Again, apparently because witnesses were unwilling to come forward, the CPS decided on 10 December 2010 that there was insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction against any of the people identified in the New York Times.[66]

77.  However, the situation changed completely very early in January 2011. As a result of the continuing civil proceedings being brought by people who believed themselves to have been victims of hacking, disclosure requirements were imposed on the police by the courts and—arguably in response to these disclosures—News International decided to suspend Mr Ian Edmondson on 5 January and thereafter to provide new information to the police about the scope of complicity by other employees in the hacking by Mr Mulcaire. On 14 January 2011 the Director of Public Prosecutions announced that the CPS would conduct a "comprehensive assessment of all material in the possession of the Metropolitan Police Service relating to phone hacking, following developments in the civil courts", which would "involve an examination of all material considered as part of the original investigation into Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire and any material that has subsequently come to light."[67] The assessment was to be carried out by the Principal Legal Advisor, Alison Levitt QC.

78.  On 26 January 2011, the Metropolitan Police announced it was launching a new inquiry into alleged phone hacking as a result of receiving "significant new information from News International relating to allegations of phone hacking at the News of the World in 2005/06." The new investigation was to be led by DAC Sue Akers and carried out by the Specialist Crime Directorate which had, according to the press notice announcing the inquiry, been investigating a related phone hacking allegation since September 2010.[68] It was agreed with the CPS that Alison Levitt would continue her re-examination of the existing material.

79.  We pressed Mr Yates repeatedly on why the scope of the exercises in 2009-10 had been so narrow, when he was aware of the earlier Operation Motorman which—though not related to hacking—revealed journalists' widespread use of blagging and other illegal methods of obtaining information.[69] He replied:

It is a very fair question, but you talked about command decision. What you have to do occasionally, you do take decisions, you base them on risk and you consider them fully about what are the other issues, and I have given you the levels of reassurance I had. There was simply no reason at that time. The ICO [Information Commissioner's Office] is a completely different matter, it judges on a different standard of evidence against different offences. It was a decision taken. Now, in the light of what we now know, it was not a very good decision, but it is solely—I will repeat it—it is solely as a result of the new information provided by News International who clearly misled us. They clearly misled us.

Nicola Blackwood: Was there a feeling that you were going to do the minimum necessary in order to show that you had looked at the facts and that there was nothing new in this case because you have more important things to be getting on with?

AC Yates: There is probably an element of that but if there had been any new evidence there, if I had seen any new evidence there, then of course—

Nicola Blackwood: But you did not even take new legal advice, so you just looked at the documentation from before.

AC Yates: I was supported later by the DPP and by counsel.[70]

80.  We understand that, when Sir Paul announced in July 2009 that he was asking Mr Yates to look into any new information, this was an unprepared remark made as he was going into the ACPO conference rather than a carefully prepared statement.[71] Unfortunately it left the public—and indeed Parliament—with the impression that a more detailed examination was to be held than was in fact the case.

81.  We assume that Sir Paul left Mr Yates with a large amount of discretion as to how he should consider the evidence. Mr Yates has subsequently expressed his view that his reconsideration in 2009 of the material available from the earlier investigation was very poor.[72] We agree. Although what Mr Yates was tasked to do was not a review in the proper police use of the term, the public was allowed to form the impression that the material seized from Mr Mulcaire in 2006 was being re-examined to identify any other possible victims and perpetrators. Instead, the process was more in the nature of a check as to whether a narrowly-defined inquiry had been done properly and whether any new information was sufficient to lead to that inquiry being re-opened or a new one instigated. It is clear that the officers consulted about the earlier investigation were not asked the right questions, otherwise we assume it would have been obvious that there was the potential to identify far more possible perpetrators in the material seized from Mr Mulcaire. Whether or not this would have enabled the police to put more pressure on News International to release information, by making it clear that police inquiries were not merely a 'fishing expedition' but targeted at certain people, is an issue that may be addressed by the forthcoming public inquiry.

82.  Mr Yates has apologised to the victims of hacking who may have been let down by his not delving more deeply into the material already held by the police. We welcomed that and agree that his decision not to conduct an effective assessment of the evidence in police possession was a serious misjudgement.

83.  As we were finishing our inquiry, the news broke that Sir Paul Stephenson and Assistant Commission Yates had resigned, and that the Metropolitan Police Authority had referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission ('IPCC') complaints about their conduct and the conduct of Mr Peter Clarke, Mr Andy Hayman and Mr Dick Fedorcio. The Deputy Chair of the IPCC had made a statement that the IPCC would carry out an independent investigation of the matters referred.[73]

84.  We asked Sir Paul, Mr Yates and Mr Dick Fedorcio, Director of Public Affairs at the Metropolitan Police, about the allegations being circulated in the media, about the employment by the Metropolitan Police of Mr Neil Wallis, former deputy editor of the News of the World. Assistant Commissioner Yates admitted to us that he was a friend, though not a close friend of Mr Wallis. In September 2009 Mr Wallis (who had resigned from his employment with News International) was employed on a 'retainer contract' to assist Mr Fedorcio during the illness of Mr Fedorcio's deputy. The contract was on a rolling six-month basis and was renewed twice. Just after the second renewal, on 7 September 2010, stories in the New York Times about hacking by News International journalists led Mr Fedorcio and Mr Wallis to come to the conclusion that the relationship now might lead to embarrassment and that to continue the contract was inappropriate.

85.  We examined the process for appointing Mr Wallis. We were told that three quotes were invited; Mr Wallis's was by far the lowest. On the question of whether due diligence had been performed  in relation to Mr Wallis, Mr Fedorcio said that he had consulted AC Yates. AC Yates said that he had asked Mr Wallis informally about whether anything in his past might be a source of embarrassment to him, the Metropolitan Police Service or Mr Wallis himself. Mr Wallis told him he need have no concerns. Mr Yates completely denied the suggestion that what he had done at all deserved the description of 'due diligence': he argued he had sought informal assurances to satisfy himself, and this was completely separate from the objective process of assessment and awarding of contracts.

86.  We are appalled at what we have learnt about the letting of the media support contract to Mr Wallis. We are particularly shocked by the approach taken by Mr Fedorcio: he said he could not remember who had suggested seeking a quote from Mr Wallis; he appears to have carried out no due diligence in any generally recognised sense of that term; he failed to answer when asked whether he knew that AC Yates was a friend of Mr Wallis; he entirely inappropriately asked Mr Yates to sound out Mr Wallis although he knew that Mr Yates had recently looked at the hacking investigation of 2005-06; and he attempted to deflect all blame on to Mr Yates when he himself was responsible for letting the contract.

The new investigation

87.  As described by DAC Akers, the catalyst for the new investigation was the civil actions against News International brought by a number of people who suspected that they had been victims of hacking. These actions involved legal requests for a "vast amount" of disclosure from News International and, in the process of trawling through their e-mail and other records, News International found three key e-mails implicating an employee other than Mr Goodman in hacking. These were passed to the police in January 2011 and led to the launch of the new inquiry.[74]

88.  We asked DAC Sue Akers about progress in the new investigation. She said that in the six months since it had started, there had been eight arrests. Her team of 45 officers were still compiling lists of all the material seized in 2006 as the database started under AC Yates's auspices had not worked properly. However, she assured us that the material would be examined thoroughly and, if it led to suspicions about journalists inside or outside the News International group, the investigation would follow that evidence.[75] As for relations with News International, she explained that these had been difficult at first when most of the contact was with News International's lawyers and it had taken two months to agree a protocol on journalistic privilege.[76] However, following a meeting between News International executives and the police to discuss their "very different interpretations of the expression 'full co-operation'", relations had improved markedly.[77]

89.  In order to reassure the public and all those who feared that they might have been targets of hacking, she had adopted a different approach from her predecessors': instead of addressing only those who were definitely victims of crime, she had decided they should contact everyone whose name or phone number appeared in the Mulcaire papers and who could be identified from the information available. She said there were in the region of 3,870 full names of individuals in the evidence already held by the police, plus about 5,000 landline numbers and 4,000 mobile numbers. However, when we asked her how many of these people had been contacted so far, the figure she gave was 170. Many others—approximately 500—had contacted her team asking whether their details were recorded in Mr Mulcaire's papers; only 70 of these had been definitely identified as potential victims. She noted that her team also had the task of responding to disclosure requests in connection with the civil actions that were continuing; she indicated that this was very time-consuming and was significantly slowing down the investigation. It was therefore impossible to predict when the investigation would be complete, though she drew attention to the fact that those arrested had been bailed to appear in October, which gave an indication of the minimum timescale.[78]

90.  We asked DAC Akers about the fact that some of the material recently handed over to the police by News International revealed that newspapers had made payments to some police officers, and that the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police had put her in charge of investigating this. DAC Akers said that, as a result of having become aware of these allegations on 20 June with more material being supplied on 22 June, she had met the Independent Police Complaints Commission and it was agreed with them that she should continue to "scope" a possible investigation. On 7 July, the matter was formally referred to the IPCC by the Metropolitan Police. In technical terms, it was a 'supervised investigation' under the personal supervision of the Deputy Chair of the IPCC: this meant that, whilst DAC Akers retained direction and control of the investigation, the Deputy Chair of the IPCC was kept fully appraised of what was happening.[79]

91.  From the point of view of victim support and of reassurance to the public, DAC Akers's decision to contact all those who can be identified as of interest to Mr Mulcaire is the correct one. However, this is not the same as saying all these people were victims of hacking, let alone that they could be proved to be victims. Only 18 months' worth of phone data from the relevant period still exist: unless Mr Mulcaire provides a list, no one will ever know whose phone may have been hacked into outside that period. Within the 18-months data held, about 400 unique voicemail numbers were rung by Messrs Mulcaire or Goodman or from News of the World hub phones, and these are the voicemails likely to have been hacked into. The total number of people who may eventually be identified as victims of Mr Mulcaire's hacking is therefore much lower than the number of names in his papers.

92.  DAC Akers gave us a guarantee that this further investigation would be carried out thoroughly. We were impressed by her determination to undertake a full and searching investigation. The Specialist Crime Directorate is clearly the correct place for an investigation of this sort, though we note that officers have had to be 'borrowed' from across the Metropolitan Police Service to meet the needs of this particularly labour-intensive inquiry.

93.  We note with some alarm the fact that only 170 people have as yet been informed that they may have been victims of hacking. If one adds together those identified by name, the number of landlines and the number of mobile phone numbers identified (and we accept that there may be some overlap in these), that means up to 12,800 people may have been affected all of whom will have to be notified. We accept that there are a number of reasons why progress may have been slow so far, but at this rate it would be at least a decade before everyone was informed. This timeframe is clearly absurd, but it seems to us to underline the need for more resources to be made available to DAC Akers. We understand that in the current situation of significant budget and staff reductions, this is very difficult. However, we consider that the Government should consider making extra funds available specifically for this investigation, not least because any delay in completing it will seriously delay the start of the public inquiry announced by the Prime Minister.

94.  We are seriously concerned about the allegations of payments being made to the police by the media, whether in cash, kind or the promise of future jobs. It is imperative that these are investigated as swiftly and thoroughly as possible, not only because this is the way that possible corruption should always be treated but also because of the suspicion that such payments may have had an impact on the way the Metropolitan Police may have approached the whole issue of hacking. The sooner it is established whether or not undue influence was brought to bear upon police investigations between December 2005 and January 2011, the better.

95.  We are concerned about the level of social interaction which took place between senior Metropolitan Police officers and executives at News International while investigations were or should have been being undertaken into the allegations of phone hacking carried out on behalf of the News of the World. Whilst we fully accept the necessity of interaction between officers and reporters, regardless of any ongoing police investigations senior officers ought to be mindful of how their behaviour will appear if placed under scrutiny. Recent events have damaged the reputation of the Metropolitan Police and led to the resignation of two senior police officers at a time when the security of London is paramount.


30   Q 438 Back

31   Evidence taken before the Home Affairs Committee on 12 July 2011, New landscape of policing, HC 939-I, Qq 43-75 Back

32   Q 454 See also Qq 467-468 Back

33   Q 454 Back

34   Q 457 Back

35   Q 482 Back

36   Qq 483-486 and Qq 332-334, 375. The law referred to is the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, which provides a special regime for certain types of material which the police may wish to seize as evidence. Including material subject to legal privilege and journalistic material (sections 9, 11 and 13 of the Act). Under this regime, the police may obtain material acquired or created for the purposes of journalism only by means of a 'Schedule 1 application'. Schedule 1 provides that judges may make orders permitting the police to remove or have access to material connected with a crime provided that a number of conditions are all met to the judge's satisfaction. These include the condition that "other methods of obtaining the material have been tried without success". (Schedule 1, paragraph 2(b)(i)) Back

37   Q 484 Back

38   Ev162 Back

39   Ev152 Back

40   Q 473 Back

41   Q 477 Back

42   Qq 518-520 Back

43   Q 465 Back

44   Qq 459 and Q 512 Back

45   See Paras 106-110 Back

46   Q 458 Back

47   Qq 513-515 Back

48   Qq 521-523 Back

49   Q 459 Back

50   Qq 504-505 Back

51   Q 467 Back

52   Qq 458-459 Back

53   Qq 528-532 Back

54   Qq 534-536 and 544 Back

55   Qq 562-570 Back

56   Qq 534-535 Back

57   Ev160 Back

58   Ev158 Back

59   Ibid. Back

60   Ibid. Back

61   Ibid. and Qq 327, 335-336, 364-369, 386-388, 390, 394-401, 406-408  Back

62   Q 372 Back

63   Qq 399-401 By July 2009, Mr Keir Starmer QC was the DPP. Back

64   Ev158; CPS Press release DPP's findings in relation to 'phone hacking' www.cps.gov.uk/news/press_releases/133_09, 16 July 2009; and Qq 337-338 Back

65   Evidence taken before the Home Affairs Committee on 7 September 2011, Specialist Operations, HC 441-i  Back

66   Ev159 Back

67   CPS Press Release DPP announcement on phone hacking, www.cps.gov.uk/news/press_releases/102_11 14 January 2011,  Back

68   Metropolitan Police Service Press Release New investigation regarding alleged phone hacking, content.met.police.uk/News/New-investigation-regarding-alleged-phone-hacking/1260267890128/1257246745756 26 January 2011 Back

69   Qq 376-378, 381-385 Back

70   Qq 382-384 Back

71   Ev160 Back

72   Q 325 Back

73   IPCC press notice dated 18 July 2011, 'IPCC receives five referrals from the Metropolitan police Authority regarding the actions of current and former senior Met officers'. Back

74   Qq 605 and 627-632 Back

75   Qq 606, 612, 635-638 and 640 Back

76   The problem relating to section 55 of the Data Protection Act discussed in paragraphs 17-26 Back

77   Qq 622-623 Back

78   Qq 608, 637, 611, 639 and 616-617 Back

79   Qq 613-614  Back

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Prepared 28 October 2011