Senior Met officer is accused of holding up hacking investigation

 

John Yates resisted reopening the police inquiry into phone hacking despite new allegations that it was rife at the News of the World, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, told the Leveson Inquiry yesterday.

Mr Starmer said he experienced a "degree of pushback" from Mr Yates, then an Assistant Commissioner in the Metropolitan Police, in July 2009 after the emergence of the "For Neville" email, which indicated more NOTW staff than just royal editor Clive Goodman and private detective Glenn Mulcaire had been involved in illegally accessing voicemails. Goodman and Mulcaire were jailed in January 2007 for eavesdropping on the voicemails of eight individuals, but the Metropolitan Police failed to charge anyone else despite Mulcaire's notes containing thousands of names, often with phone numbers and PIN codes.

Explaining why the Crown Prosecution Service had been slow to recognise the inadequacy of the original prosecution, Mr Starmer said that it had been forced to respond quickly to the emergence of the "For Neville" email and that key staff such as the case lawyer, Carmen Dowd, had left. He also indicated he had been frustrated by the attitude of Mr Yates, who, for more than a year and a half from 2009, maintained few people had actually been hacked and that there was no need for a new inquiry.

Recalling a meeting with Mr Yates in July 2009, Mr Starmer said: "There was a degree of pushback against my suggestion that there should be a reinvestigation or further examination of the 'For Neville' email. Mr Yates said it was not new, it had been seen before, and thus I took from that that he didn't consider at that stage there was any point investigating the 'For Neville' email."

Mr Starmer said he did not have the power to force Scotland Yard to begin a new investigation. But he explained that his concern grew after The New York Times published an investigation in September 2010, which suggested hacking had been rife at the NOTW's headquarters in Wapping, east London.

By January 2011, he was determined to launch an independent inquiry into the evidence handed to the CPS by police in 2006 – and told Mr Yates (who resigned last July over his handling of the hacking affair). Mr Starmer recalled: "To be fair to Mr Yates, he did not seek to block that approach and in the end agreed with it, but then I have to say I would not be dissuaded from my course of action."

In earlier evidence to the inquiry, David Perry QC, the CPS lawyer who handled the original prosecution, said police had assured him in 2006 that there was evidence only against Goodman and Mulcaire. Mr Perry said that at a case conference with Scotland Yard detectives on 21 August 2006 he raised the question of whether other journalists were involved. He told the inquiry: "I think I was conscious in my own mind that the question had to be whether it was journalists to the extent of the editor. We were informed there was no such evidence. I cannot recall which officer gave that reply."

In a note on 14 July 2009 setting out the advice he was given by detectives in 2006, Mr Perry wrote: "We did enquire of the police at a conference whether there was any evidence the editor of the News of the World was involved in the Goodman-Mulcaire offences. We were told there was not (and we never saw any such evidence). We also inquired whether there was any evidence connecting Mulcaire to other News of the World journalists. Again we were told there was not (and we never saw any such evidence)."

Lessons from Leveson: Two sessions in, what have we learnt?

The Leveson Inquiry is charged with examining the "culture, practice and ethics" of the press, to find out how prevalent are the "dark arts" of news gathering such as phone hacking, and how the newspaper industry should be regulated. Module one, which began in November, looked mainly at the relationship between the press and the public. Module two, which began in February, examined the relationship between the press and the police. Module three, focusing on the press and politics, will begin on 23 April. Rupert and James Murdoch, together with David Cameron and many other leading politicians, will give evidence.

Module One

Bob and Sally Dowler, 21 November 2011

The parents of Milly Dowler told of the moment when they could again hear their daughter's voice on her phone asking for messages. At the time, it was still believed (though it is no longer) that the News of the World had deleted messages from her inbox, causing this 'false hope' moment.

Hugh Grant, 21 November 2011

The actor suggested that phone hacking went beyond News International papers, accusing The Mail on Sunday of accessing his voicemails in 2007 prior to writing falsely that he was having an affair. The newspaper accused Grant of "mendacious smears".

Anne Diamond, 28 November 2011

According to the former TV-am broadcaster, Mr Murdoch's newspapers waged a vendetta against her after she criticised him at a social function in the 1980s. The Sun ran an article titled "Anne Diamond killed my father", offered her nanny £30,000 for a story, and, against her wishes, printed pictures of her son's funeral.

Paul McMullan, 29 November 2011

The former News of the World features executive gaily recounted chasing after celebrities, watching drugs dealers and posing as a rent boy. He expressed little sympathy for those in the public eye complaining about press coverage. Memorably, Mr McMullan said: "Privacy is for paedos."

Charlotte Church, 28 November 2011

The singer claimed that she had been persuaded to sing free of charge at Rupert Murdoch's wedding to Wendi Deng in 1999 in exchange for good publicity from his newspapers. News International denied this deal was offered.

Piers Morgan, 20 December 2011

Giving evidence by video link, the former editor of the News of the World and Daily Mirror was forgetful and defiant. Mr Morgan could not remember much about the internal workings of his papers, but believed that there had been no phone hacking.

Richard Desmond, 12 January 2012

The Express Group owner defended his papers' libelling of Kate and Gerry McCann, whose daughter Madeleine went missing in 2007. "If [we did] 102 articles on them, and 38 bad ones... you could say there were 68 or 70 good ones."

Module Two

Sue Akers, 27 February 2012

The head of Operation Elveden said her investigation had uncovered evidence that The Sun had been running a "network of corrupt officials", and suggested there had been a "culture of illegal payments" to public officials.

John Yates, 1 March 2012

What emerged from the former Assistant Commissioner's appearance was his close relationship with the deputy editor of the NOTW, Neil Wallis.

Bob Quick, 7 March 2012

The Met's former Assistant Commissioner suggested that John Yates had resisted handing over his phone records to an inquiry into media leaks.