Name firms accused of hacking within 14 days, MPs tell police

Soca must name companies that used corrupt private investigators to break the law

The Serious Organised Crime Agency has refused to name the blue-chip companies it knows commissioned corrupt private investigators to break the law – but was immediately ordered to do so within 14 days by a committee of MPs.

Trevor Pearce, the agency’s director-general, sparked incredulity when he told the Home Affairs Select Committee that he had not come armed with information on the companies which had hired criminal private investigators – despite 10 days of revelations in The Independent. During heated exchanges, the head of “Britain’s FBI” admitted there were “some details” of other industries besides newspapers involved in hacking that were known to the agency, but he had not brought them with him.

Keith Vaz, the Labour MP and committee chairman, ordered Mr Pearce to provide the details to the committee within a fortnight.

He said: “In 14 days this committee would like the list of names. We would like to know from you anyone who has not been pursued by the relevant agencies and who these relevant agencies are.” Mr Pearce and Sir Ian Andrews, the chairman of Soca, were ordered to make an unscheduled appearance before the committee after The Independent revealed last month that the agency had evidence that some of Britain’s most respected industries routinely employ criminals to hack, blag and steal personal information on business rivals and members of the public.

A leaked report showed the agency knew six years ago that law firms, telecoms giants and insurance companies were hiring private investigators to break the law and further their commercial interests, yet Soca did next to nothing to disrupt the unlawful trade.

Following The Independent’s disclosures, Mr Vaz said that he felt the committee had been “misled on a number of issues” during its initial inquiry into the murky world of private investigators last year.

When asked if Soca’s investigation had uncovered evidence that companies had employed criminal private investigators, Mr Pearce replied: “There may well be some details.” Later he added: “As to there being a definitive list, I don’t know. I can go away and look.”

Mr Pearce, a former senior police officer and head of the National Crime Squad, kept referring the committee to the Metropolitan Police, which conducted many of the investigations later reviewed by Soca.

Mr Vaz pointed out the agency had conducted three investigations of its own into private investigators, and warned: “Just passing the buck on to the Met is not going to get anywhere. You must have these names. I find it extraordinary, given that all that has been reported in the newspapers, that you don’t have them.”

Mr Vaz said he would be raising the matter with Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Scotland Yard Commissioner, during an evidence session next week. 

Mr Vaz also raised the fact that John Yates, a former Assistant Commissioner at the Met, had told the committee that phone-hacking was confined to “one rogue reporter” in 2009 – at the very same time other Scotland Yard inquiries were uncovering related criminality on an industrial scale.

Mr Vaz said: “Someone in the Met must have known about it.” Mr Pearce replied: “I can’t comment on that… This report went to [the Met] in February 2008.”

Steve McCabe, a Labour MP, later accused Soca of “sitting on a pile of information” relating to “serious organised crime” and he found it “astonishing that we are not seeing greater activity”.

Mr Pearce replied: “Information gets passed to the appropriate agencies… I think we are doing as much as we can.”

Mr Vaz also raised fears that the evidence held by Soca would “disappear into a great, black hole in the sky” once the agency is abolished later this year.

Mr Pearce replied:  “The characterisation that we have been holding anything back is frankly wrong.”

After the hearing, Mr Vaz was clear that Soca would be forced to comply with the committee’s request. He said: “They will be called back before the committee to explain their actions to Parliament. I would be very surprised if they did not comply.”

News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
News
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
tech
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments