On 26 January 2011 the Metropolitan Police announced a new investigation into phone hacking – Operation Weeting. This is under the “Specialist Crime Directorate” and is headed by Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers. Over the last two weeks she has been meeting victims and their lawyers and making it clear that a number of previous statements about “no evidence” were incorrect.
By coincidence, the day after the announcement there was a meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority (“the MPA”) at City Hall which was told that
“following new significant information, from News International, the MPS were re-opening the investigation into alleged telephone hacking. He confirmed that the Serious Crime Directorate, under DAC Sue Akers, would be conducting a rigorous investigation”.
The MPA also heard from the last officer in charge of the phone hacking investigation, Acting Deputy Commissioner John Yates. He “confirmed” that no new material had been uncovered in July 2009 and that following allegations made by the New York Times in September 2010, the Metropolitan Police Service (“MPS”) in conjunction with the Crown Prosecution Service (“CPS”), found no new admissible evidence. In response to members, he stated that he was confident in the MPS’ ability to carry out the new investigation and did not support the suggestion for an independent investigation. He also confirmed that the CPS would be providing advice to the MPS during the investigation.
He said the MPS were unable to release information gathered during a criminal investigation without a court order and therefore the individuals would need to seek disclosure by a court order. He was asked to comment on relationships between investigation officers and staff at the News of the World. He said that
“News International is a big beast, and we have a lot of dealings with News International every day of the week around lots of aspects of policing. So, do not be surprised that there are meetings“.
The Minutes record that on 2 February 2011 the Commissioner agreed to provide Members with details of meetings between investigating officers and the “News of the World”.
[Update] A list of such meetings was released on 22 February 2011. Nick Davies comments on this in the Guardian drawing attention to the fact that Senior Metropolitan police officers had private dinners with News of the World editors at the same time as the force was responsible for investigating the phone-hacking scandal.
Some members raised concerns that initial investigations had not been given the priority it should have had and that this perception was mainly due to information on the initial investigation came from the media and that details had not been shared with the MPA. Some members questioned the MPS investigating and that it should be undertaken outside of the MPS. Mr Yates said he was very confident that the MPS investigation into the new allegations would be robust.
Acting Deputy Commissioner John Yates has also given evidence on the same issue to the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee in September 2009 and to the Home Affairs Select Committee in January 2011. The evidence before the Home Affairs Select Committee was the subject of an Inforrm post earlier this year.
We have already mentioned the application on 18 February 2011 in the case of Sky Andrew v News Group Newspapers. This was a public hearing and the Claimant’s Skeleton Argument is a public document which has already been quoted in the press.
Finally, we draw attention to a recent post on Roy Greenslade’s blog entitled “Doubting Don is so wrong about phone-hacking coverage” dealing with an article by former Observer editor Donald Trelford in which he wrote
“It seems extraordinary that this story should remain so high on the news agenda. It was all a long time ago, two people have been to jail, the paper’s editor has resigned twice from senior posts without any convincing evidence being produced against him, the Press Complaints Commission appears satisfied that newspapers now abide by data protection law, and police inquiries have resumed.“
Professor Greenslade describes this statement as “hopelessly flawed, and also inaccurate”. This is his conclusion
“The fact that the police have resumed their inquiry is the result of consistent pressure from The Guardian and the lawyers representing hacking victims.
How ironic that Trelford’s column appears in the same issue of The Independent that carries a graphic across pages 8 and 9 showing some of 115 legal cases connected to phone-hacking, Revealed: the widening web of litigation in press scandal.
Don, don’t you recall your lonely campaign to expose Mohammed Al Fayed’s past? Surely you discovered then that evidence is hard to come by, that investigations take time, and that repetition is essential. It took time, did it not, to nail “the hero from zero.”
You are way off track in belittling the coverage of the phone-hacking scandal”.