The aftermath of Leveson inquiry: Soca chief is accused of misleading MPs over hacking

Claims and counter-claims surround computer hacker's hard drives at centre of police investigation

One of the UK's most senior law enforcement officers has been accused of misleading Parliament by a victim of hacking. Trevor Pearce, director general of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca), told MPs that vital evidence of computer hacking commissioned by companies and individuals had been passed to a Scotland Yard investigation into the criminal activities of private detectives.

But Ian Hurst, a victim of computer-hacking by investigators working for the News of the World, claims that the hard-drive evidence was never given to Scotland Yard and he has lodged a formal complaint with the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

Mr Pearce told MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee last week that hard drives seized by Soca in 2009 had been handed to the Metropolitan Police "two or so years ago". However, Met officers are adamant that they have only obtained "piecemeal" disclosure from Soca and still do not have the original computers belonging to a hacker who is thought to have been employed by law firms, wealthy individuals and telecoms giants.

For reasons that remain unclear, it is understood Scotland Yard has been assured by Soca, whose role is to "disrupt criminal networks", that they have been passed all the relevant evidence required to mount successful prosecutions – but they have not been given the original material.

Keith Vaz MP, chairman of the committee, said he will question the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, over the disputed events when he gives evidence to MPs next Tuesday. He said: "These allegations also raise worrying questions about the level of co-operation between our lead agency on organised crime and the force in charge of counter-terrorism."

Investigators from Soca seized the hard drives from the hacker, who cannot be named for legal reasons, during a raid in 2009. Despite evidence of criminality, he was not prosecuted until the phone-hacking scandal erupted in 2011. In the wake of widespread public outcry over the phone-hacking of the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, Scotland Yard was forced to launch an investigation into the hard drives seized by Soca two years earlier.

Last week, Mr Vaz asked: "In respect of the hard disk of [the hacker] … has that disk now been given to [the Met] so they can conduct their investigations?" Mr Pearce replied: "As soon as we became aware that there may have been information on that... all of that information – the hard drive, supporting documentary evidence, statements, and indeed follow-up inquiries from our officers, was provided to the Metropolitan Police." He later emphasised that Scotland Yard had been passed the computers "for some significant period of time".

It is understood Mr Pearce's statement has caused uproar inside Scotland Yard as this completely contradicts private assurances made by its own officers for the last two years.

A leaked Soca report – codename Project Riverside – shows the agency knew six years ago that criminal PIs were being hired by insurance companies and debt collectors, but next to nothing was done.

It can also be revealed that Met detectives leading investigations into evidence gathered years ago by Soca have still not been passed a full, unredacted copy of Project Riverside. Mr Hurst reported Mr Pearce to the IPCC.

He said: "This is rapidly descending into a farce. It provides no comfort to victims of crime."

Serious questions have also been raised over other sections of Mr Pearce's evidence to MPs. He was asked about a story in The Independent that revealed police had intelligence for 15 years that showed private detectives had infiltrated the Met's witness protection programme – but failed to tackle the offenders.

Mr Pearce said: "Other than seeing the media reporting, I have never heard anything formally; as a law enforcement officer who has had significant engagement with the undercover world, I have not heard of that before."

However, the Project Riverside report states: "Operations... provided examples of private investigator activities which threaten to undermine the criminal justice system as follows … [including] attempting to discover the location of witnesses under police protection to intimidate them."

Tom Watson, the campaigning Labour MP, said: "It's a very surprising assertion given that Mr Pearce's own report states the complete opposite." A Scotland Yard spokesman insisted they were happy with Soca co-operation. A Soca spokesman said: "Soca will be responding to the committee next week. It would not be appropriate to offer media commentary before responding to the Home Affairs Committee."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with excess, cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since