On 24 March 2011 Acting Deputy Commissioner John Yates gave evidence at a special session of  the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee as a follow-up to its inquiry into Press Standards, Privacy and Libel.   This arose out of comments made by Chris Bryant MP in the course of an adjournment debate on 10 March 2011.

Prior to the hearing Mr Yates had written to the Committe Chairman, John Whittingdale MP, setting out the detailed history of the advice given as to the effect of section 1 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (see our previous post for the background).   In his evidence Mr Yates said

“During the Mulcaire and Goodman case and throughout the ensuing period until October 2010, the legal advice on this matter was unequivocal and very prescriptive. The significance of this point is very clear. While suspects may have targeted many people, we could only actually prove the offence of voicemail interception in a very small number of cases.

In the course of questions by Labour MP Tom Watson Mr Yates said that there were two or three bin bags of evidence obtained from Mr Mulcaire and that 10 or 12 officers had spent 3 months full time putting the material on the police “HOLMES” computer system.  Mr Yates accepted that “we could have done more around victims” and that Neville Thurlbeck of the “News of the World” should have interviewed.

Mr Watson MP suggested that private investigators working for newspapers may have targeted the families of Milly Dowler, the Surrey schoolgirl who was abducted and murdered in March 2002, and of Jessica Chapman, one of the two 10-year-old girls murdered by Ian Huntley in Soham in August 2002.  This is reported in the Independent in a story entitled “Were phones of Soham families hacked? MP makes shocking claim

The full session can be watched on Parliament TV. There are reports of this session in the Financial Times and the Guardian and it is the subject of a Simon Hoggart sketch.

Mr Yates and Mr Bryant are due to give evidence before the Home Affairs Select Committee on Tuesday 29 March 2011.  That committee’s chairman, Labour MP Keith Vaz, said:

The committee takes these allegations very seriously. We hope that the evidence given by Mr Bryant and Mr Yates will clear up the question of whether or not Mr Yates knowingly or unknowingly misled the committee.