On 20 September 2010, the Home Affairs Select Committee announced the terms of their inquiry into phone hacking by the News of the World. The inquiry will focus on:

  • The definition of the offences relating to unauthorised tapping or hacking in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, and the ease of prosecuting such offences; and
  • The police response to such offences, especially the treatment of those whose communications have been intercepted; and
  • What the police are doing to control such offences.

On 7th September 2010, Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police John Yates gave evidence before the Home Affairs Select Committee. The transcript is available in uncorrected form on the Select Committee website. Please note that neither witnesses nor Members of the Select Committee have had the opportunity to correct the transcript.

When questioned about the original Mulcaire investigation by the Select Committee, the Assistant Commissioner was at pains to point out the fact that just because an individual’s name or telephone number was found among the personal effects of Glenn Mulcaire, did not mean that his/her telephone had been “hacked” into. According to Mr Yates;

‘…hacking is defined in a very prescriptive way by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and it’s very, very prescriptive and it’s very difficult to prove. We’ve said that before and I think probably people in this room are aware of that. It is very, very difficult to prove. There are very few offences that we are able to actually prove that have been hacked. That is, intercepting the voicemail prior to the owner of that voicemail intercepting it him or herself.’

Interestingly, with regard to the list of 91 people whose PIN numbers were found in the notes of Glenn Mulcaire,  (the fact of which was disclosed as a result of a Freedom of Information request from Guardian journalist Nick Davies) ,  Mr Yates said;

‘There is a range of people and the figures vary between 91 and 120. We took steps last year… to say that even if there is the remotest possibility that someone may have been hacked, let’s look and see if there is another category. Bearing in mind that we’d already had a successful prosecution and two people have gone to jail, we wouldn’t normally do that, but because of the degree of concern I said we were to be extra cautious here and make sure we have established whether there is a possibility-and we put some criteria around that, which I won’t bore you with-they have been hacked. That is where that figure comes from. It is out of a spirit of abundance of caution to make sure that we were ensuring that those who may have been hacked were contacted by us.’

It is understood that the Home Affairs Select Committee’s investigations will not involve oral hearings and is inviting written submissions to the Committee Office. Contact details for the Committee staff are found here.