The head of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) is facing fresh questions over his evidence to Parliament after he provided MPs with contradictory statements over the unit’s activities regarding corrupt private investigators.
Trevor Pearce, the agency’s director-general, has finally admitted to the Home Affairs Select Committee that Soca handed over key Scotland Yard computers seized from rogue private investigators in October 2011 – months after he originally claimed.
During a previous appearance in front of MPs, he said his investigators passed the hard drives on to the Metropolitan Police “as soon as [Soca] became aware” the historic material was relevant to a new police probe into a private detective who hacked for years with apparent impunity.
In correspondence with the committee’s chairman Keith Vaz MP, published today, Mr Pearce admits Soca knew the computers contained important information at least as early as May 2011, when they were confronted by a victim of computer hacking furious at the agency’s inaction. Yet he later states his organisation only handed the Met partial disclosure of the dated evidence five months later.
The Independent revealed in June the agency had knowledge for years that law firms, insurance companies and other sectors employed criminal private investigators to steal personal information, yet faced no censure.
Mr Vaz said: “I will be asking Mr Pearce to explain this apparent divergence between the original account he gave the Committee and the latest timeline of events from Soca.”
In his letter Mr Pearce also admitted that Soca and the Met were only jolted into action in May 2011 after they were confronted by Ian Hurst, a former British Army intelligence officer who discovered both organisations knew he was hacked by criminal private investigators back in 2006. Mr Hurst told The Independent: “Mr Pearce is treating the Home Affairs Select Committee with absolute contempt.”
A Soca spokesman said: “We have sought to provide the Home Affairs Select Committee with as much clarity as possible. Mr Pearce set out SOCA's engagement with the Met in general terms at his oral evidence session, and has since provided detailed additional information.”