Phone-hacking: police chiefs to tell MPs that it was a cock-up not a conspiracy

Four senior officers will appear before Commons committee to salvage tarnished reputation of the Metropolitan police

Vikram Dodd and Paul Lewis
John Yates
John Yates, assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, will be trying to salvage its tarnished reputation when he appears before MPs. Photograph: Lewis Whyld/PA
Police chiefs will try to stanch the battering to the Metropolitan police’s reputation caused by the phone-hacking scandals by telling a powerful committee of MPs that mistakes had been made, but they were the result of cock-ups and confusion and not the sign of any conspiracy.
The home affairs committee resumes its hearings on Tuesday into phone hacking with four past and present Scotland Yard chiefs.
First up is assistant commissioner John Yates, who will tell MPs that he did not examine any documents before declaring in 2009 that the Met did not need to reopen its phone-hacking investigation, which had closed two years earlier after gaining two convictions.
Yates appears before MPs on a crucial day for Britain’s biggest police force, who are under fire for missing numerous allegedly criminal acts of phone hacking by the News of the World, and for some of its officers allegedly selling information to the paper which facilitated the hacking of the royal family.
A concerted Yard fightback saw Yates acknowledge to the Sunday Telegraph that his 2009 decision was “pretty crap” and admit mistakes, followed on Monday by the Met accusing News International of leaking to try to derail its corruption investigation.
Tuesday’s hearings, police chiefs will hope, will at least not add to the damage. They hope the flood of revelations about the police will then begin to dry up.
In a letter to the committee released on Monday, Yates said the failure to detect the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone was “a source of great regret”.
He denied ever having said he had “reviewed” the Met’s phone-hacking investigation following revelations in the Guardian in July 2009. Yates, in his letter to MPs, said he talked to the head of the 2006/7 inquiry: “Following detailed briefings from the senior investigating officer, it was apparent that there was no new material in the Guardian article that would justify either reopening or reviewing the investigation. A short while later, this view was endorsed independently by the director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC.
“Therefore, as can be seen, in relation to events that took place in 2009, I was provided with some considerable reassurance (and at a number of levels) that led me to a view that this case neither needed to be reopened or reviewed.”
But prosecution sources indicated they do not agree. A source said the Crown Prosecution Service’s view was still that “the legal advice given by the CPS to the Metropolitan police on the interpretation of the relevant offences did not limit the scope and extent of the criminal investigation”, as contained in a letter in April by Keir Starmer to MPs on the culture, media and sport committee.


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