Home Secretary Theresa May alarmed at revelations that hacking went beyond media and was used by lawyers and private companies

 

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has expressed alarm over revelations that hacking went far beyond the media and was routinely used by lawyers and private companies to obtain sensitive information about rivals.

The Independent disclosed last week that police officers knew for years that private investigators employed by other blue-chip industries besides newspapers routinely hired criminals to hack, blag and steal private information on members of the public.

Lord Justice Leveson, who conducted an inquiry into media ethics, was sent a report by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) detailing the extent of the unlawful practices, but refused to act on it.

The Home Secretary told MPs she recognised the disquiet in the Commons about hacking and found the new disclosures “very worrying”.

She was responding to a question from the senior Tory MP John Whittingdale, chairman of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee. Mr Whittingdale asked her: “Could you say whether they got it right to tell Lord Justice Leveson about that, but not to pursue any action against those who had committed criminal offences?”

Ms May said decisions about prosecutions were a matter for the police and the Crown Prosecution Service. But she added that she recognised the “degree of concern”.

“The question of phone hacking has been a matter that has caused disquiet in this House for some time,” she told MPs. “But the suggestion it could have been more widespread is of course equally worrying.”

Keith Vaz, the chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, believes the evidence was withheld from Parliament during a previous inquiry into private investigators.

Last night, he wrote to Sir Ian Andrews, the chairman of Soca, highlighting The Independent’s revelations and ordering a “full, unredacted” version of the report to be delivered to the committee by Thursday.

He said: “If the allegations about the scale of hacking among private companies are true, this is a very serious matter indeed.

“I intend to write to all the companies suspected of this practice to establish just how widespread it is.”

Among the practices revealed by the confidential Soca report were live telephone interceptions, computer hacking, police corruption and obtaining itemised phone bills.

Lord Justice Leveson is facing questions over why he failed to highlight the allegations of misbehaviour during his inquiry.

Police investigations included in the Soca report found private investigators employed by a raft of clients including law firms, insurance companies, wealthy individuals and local councils.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders