More than 2,000 people whose mobile phones were probably hacked by the News of the World may never learn they were involved in the scandal, MPs were told yesterday.
Sue Akers, the Metropolitan Police's Deputy Assistant Commissioner who has led the force's phone-hacking and allied corruption investigations, told the Home Affairs Select Committee that of the 4,744 people who may have had their phone messages illegally intercepted, only 2,500 have so far been notified by Scotland Yard.
MPs on the committee, led by Keith Vaz, expressed surprise that so many had not been contacted. Mr Vaz asked Ms Akers if she was concerned that a police operation now expected to cost £40m – and which had so far resulted in just eight people being charged over phone hacking and six others on charges of perverting the course of justice – would leave so many potential victims unaware of what had happened to them.
But she insisted that the charges brought represented success, and hinted that the numbers charged would increase as the investigation into corruption, Operation Elveden, continued.
Explaining why so many potential victims had not been contacted, she said telephone numbers gathered in evidence were now more than six years old and many had since been abandoned or changed. The names linked to the old numbers were often too common to make contact a simple process, she added. "People move on, and we have to draw the line somewhere," she told MPs.
Ms Akers, who is to retire next month, said the reason her inquiry had been successful, in contrast to previous investigations, was because of the level of co-operation now offered by News International.
MPs were told that command of the three investigations – Weeting, Elveden and Tuleta, the computer-hacking inquiry – will shortly be transferred to Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stephen Kavanagh, who currently heads the Met's territorial division, responsible for policing London's streets. It is understood that Mr Kavanagh will combine the two roles.
Scotland Yard still has 185 officers working on the investigations. Ms Akers said that they would cost £9m this year, and had been budgeted to run for a further three years at a combined cost of £40m.