MPs accuse Met of 'catalogue of failures'

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The Independent Online

MPs have deplored News International's attempt to "deliberately thwart" the original investigation into phone hacking but also accused the Metropolitan Police of a "catalogue of failures".

In a report published today, the all-party Commons Home Affairs Committee urges the Government to consider providing more resources for the current police inquiry into hacking. After taking evidence from six witnesses yesterday, the MPs rushed out a report saying that the outgoing Assistant Commissioner John Yates's 2009 review of the initial investigation was "very poor" and he was guilty of a "serious misjudgement". They accused former Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman, who carried out the first inquiry, of having a cavalier attitude towards his contacts with those in News International (NI) who were under investigation and of deliberate prevarication in order to mislead the committee.

The report expresses concern that the police's current attempt to contact the several thousand potential victims of hacking could take years and says the victims should get easier access to redress.

Last night, Lord Macdonald, the former head of the Crown Prosecution Service, told the MPs that internal NI emails collated in 2007 contained "blindingly obvious" evidence of alleged serious criminality. When he looked at the material on behalf of News Corporation's board in June this year he decided quickly that it should be passed to Scotland Yard, which in turn launched Operation Elveden, a new inquiry into allegations that News of the World journalists made corrupt payments to police.

Lord Macdonald's comments will lead to further difficult questions being asked of Harbottle & Lewis, a leading law firm whose clients include Prince Charles. The firm reviewed the same material in 2007 after it was engaged by NI to defend the newspaper group against an unfair-dismissal claim by its disgraced former royal editor, Clive Goodman.

As a result of its analysis of the documents, understood to largely consist of internal NI emails, Harbottle & Lewis wrote to the company saying the material contained no evidence of criminality. But Lord Macdonald said: "I cannot imagine that anyone who was looking at that file could not find evidence of serious criminal wrongdoing."

Later Harbottle & Lewis expressed "great regret" that NI will not allow it to breach client confidentiality so it can to "respond to any inaccurate statements or contentions".

Earlier, Mr Yates suggested that more senior figures at NI should lose their jobs for its "cover-up" of phone hacking. He predicted that a number of police officers would go to prison for "corruption" as a result of Scotland Yard's current investigation into the hacking scandal and allegations that NI made illegal payments to police.

Mr Yates, who resigned on Monday, told the committee he had been held accountable for his part in the affair.