Leveson inquiry: The spy, the judge and the ‘cover-up’

Former intelligence officer alleges inquiry buried evidence of high-level corruption between MPs, press and police
  • @TomJHarper

Sir Brian Leveson “pulled his punches” over evidence of “serious police corruption at the very highest level” because it was “too hot to handle”, according to a complaint that has been lodged with the judicial watchdog by a News of the World hacking victim.

Ian Hurst, a former British Army intelligence officer whose family computer was infiltrated by private investigators working for the now defunct Sunday red-top, has written to the Ministry of Justice to complain that the senior judge “failed in his judicial duty” during his public inquiry into inappropriate relationships between the press, the police and politicians.

In his letter sent to the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office, the former spy said Sir Brian “covered up” the existence of a Scotland Yard intelligence report detailing a corrupt relationship between a very senior former police officer and a News of the World executive – neither of whom have ever been charged with criminal offences.

Mr Hurst said his complaint was prompted by The Independent on Sunday revealing the milestone inquiry had ignored the classified document, which alleged the policeman obtained highly confidential information on decisions taken by Lord Blair when he was Metropolitan Police Commissioner in 2006, and passed it to the NOTW.

The final News of The World

Mr Hurst said: “I believe this complaint will demonstrate that Sir Brian pulled his punches with regards to evidence of serious police-press corruption at the very highest level – evidence that was indisputably central to the terms of reference agreed with Prime Minister David Cameron.” The former intelligence officer concludes that Sir Brian was “prepared to turn a blind eye to rampant allegations of corruption at the very centre of the nexus of corruption between the press and the police”. Mr Hurst has also implored the watchdog to contact Lord Blair, whom he describes as “perhaps the most high-profile police victim of the dark forces the Leveson Inquiry was supposed to expose and eradicate”.

The former Met chief is understood to be gravely concerned by the report, which shows some within Scotland Yard’s anti-corruption command knew his team had been compromised in 2006 – yet failed to warn him.

Mr Hurst claims he was also shown the intelligence report in June 2011 by a senior journalist from the BBC’s Panorama, who had allegedly obtained it from police sources.

When he gave evidence at the Leveson inquiry, the 53-year-old alluded to the existence of the file and says Sir Brian “begged” him for a copy.

In November 2011, Mr Hurst told the inquiry: “The documentation that I’ve seen and others have seen, including Parliamentarians, clearly shows the corruptness which was allowed to continue and the culture was encouraged, which would not have allowed phone-hacking or computer-hacking to have taken place over such a sustained period if it didn’t have the cover and the protection of very senior police officers.”

According to transcripts, Sir Brian repeatedly asked Mr Hurst to give him details of the report, saying: “I need to know what I need to know.”

Allegations: Sir Ian Blair

In his complaint, Mr Hurst said: “He told me not to bring it up at the time as he was very keen to include it in ‘module two’ [in Part One] of his inquiry in early 2012. Crucially, he quite explicitly said that is was not for Part Two, which is yet to take place.” Part Two is due to look at tabloid phone hacking and whether police were complicit in the misconduct, but has been deferred until the end of criminal proceedings.

The former intelligence officer said he followed Sir Brian’s instructions and prepared a second witness statement, which included details of the intelligence report. But in the intervening months, Sir Brian appeared to have a change of heart, and rejected Mr Hurst’s new evidence.

It is understood that when Lord Blair gave evidence to the inquiry in March 2012, he was surprised not to be questioned about the intelligence report and its significance.

Mr Hurst told the Ministry of Justice: “It also seems that other former senior (and honest) police officers – including ... Lord Blair – are also aware of Sir Brian’s failure to fulfil his judicial duty with regard to the suppression of this evidence.”

He noted that Sir Brian refused to answer questions about the report when he appeared before the Culture, Media and Sport Committee in October. Tory MP Tracey Crouch asked the judge if he was “flummoxed”.

In his complaint, Mr Hurst said: “The Met gathered this intelligence in 2006, it leaked out into the public domain in 2011 yet the [police officer] has still not been arrested and it is 2014. [The NOTW executive] has still not been charged with any offences, despite the Met holding prima facie evidence of his criminality dating back to at least 1998 which I have seen and can provide you with.”

He added that inquiries should “proceed to recover all the available material of evidential value without fear, favour or outside influences”.

Sir Brian did not respond to requests for comment.

A spokesman for the Judiciary said: "The Inquiry has now concluded and all of Lord Justice Leveson's conclusions are set out in his Report. The Inquiry didn't provide any kind of commentary outside of the hearings on what was included or not during the course of the Inquiry and it wouldn't be appropriate to start doing so now. He has nothing to add to his Report.

"In any event, the terms of reference for the Inquiry were about the culture, practices and ethics of the press and how they engaged with the public, the police and politicians. Evidence on other issues would have been considered to have been outside those terms of reference. As you yourself indicate, Lord Justice Leveson dealt with the point of Ian Hurst's evidence in his ruling of 26 March 2012."