Phone-hacking police round on News International

Phone-hacking police round on News International

News International tried to “thwart” the original inquiry into phone hacking at the News of the World, senior Met police officers have told MPs.Ex-Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke said there was “prevarication and what we now know to be lies”.Assistant Commissioner John Yates said the firm “appears to have failed to co-operate” during his review of the case.Commons Home Affairs Select Committee chairman Keith Vaz said Mr Yates’s evidence was “unconvincing”.Current Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson, who was seen emerging from 10 Downing Street on Tuesday evening, said Mr Yates had his “full support and confidence”.A police investigation began in 2005 triggered by stories in the News of the World (NoW) about Prince William’s health.News International closed the paper last week amid continued outrage over reports of hacking including revelations that the mobile phones of murder victim Milly Dowler and relatives of dead soldiers had been accessed.In his evidence to the committee, Mr Clarke said: “We pursued it as far as we could through the correspondence with the News of the World lawyers.”But he added: “This is a major global organisation with access to the best legal advice, in my view deliberately trying to thwart a police investigation.”

In other developments:

* News International (NI) denied that the Sun accessed the medical records of former prime minister Gordon Brown’s son Fraser, explaining a 2006 story about him having cystic fibrosis “originated from a member of the public”. Another NI paper, the Sunday Times, denied it broke any laws when investigating the purchase of a flat by Mr Brown

* Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers, who is leading a new investigation into phone hacking, revealed to the committee that only 170 out of more than 4,000 potential victims whose details were stored by private investigator Glenn Mulcaire had been contacted by police

* Labour leader Ed Miliband met David Cameron and Deputy PM Nick Clegg to discuss the fall-out of the scandal

* MPs will vote on Wednesday on a Labour motion urging News Corporation boss Rupert Murdoch to withdraw his bid for BSkyB – and the government said it would back the call

* News Corporation boss Rupert Murdoch, its chairman James Murdoch and News International’s chief executive Rebekah Brooks have been invited to appear before the Culture, Media and Sport Committee next Tuesday

* Mr Miliband had a meeting with the family of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, whose phone was allegedly hacked, and told them his “heart goes out” to them

* The final edition of the News of the World on Sunday sold 3.8 million copies, 1.1 million more than the previous week
* The websites and are transferred to News International amid speculation a seven-day edition of the Sun is being planned

* News International said it would offer new positions to the “vast majority” of former News of the World staff

Mr Clarke told MPs his remit during the initial investigation was strictly to look into who had been hacking into the phones of members of the royal household. Only the “most important” victims of phone hacking had been told about it, he said.He said he had to weigh up a breach of privacy investigation with counter-terrorism investigations, and an exhaustive analysis of the evidence at hand may or may not have made any difference at all.”If at any time News International had offered some meaningful co-operation instead of prevarication and what we now know to be lies, we would not be here today,” he said.In 2007, a reporter and private investigator working for the paper were jailed for phone hacking.

It was reported that the pair were considered to have been acting alone and the investigation led by former Met Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman ended.Mr Hayman told the committee: “At the time everything possible that they were able to do, given the resources and the parameters they set, was done and I stand by that…”What we look like now, it’s very lame. I think what’s happened is I think we’ve had more time to do it, more revelations have come out, the News of the World have given us material that we didn’t have at the time.”

Mr Hayman later went on to become a columnist with News International title the Times but rejected suggestions he was in the newspaper group’s “back pocket”.In 2009, Assistant Commissioner Yates oversaw a review of the investigation after allegations appeared in the Guardian that NoW reporters had paid private investigators to hack into thousands of phones, many owned by politicians and celebrities.At the hearing, he admitted it was a “poor” decision not to reopen the inquiry and he regretted not doing enough to protect victims.But he said: “It is a matter of great concern that, for whatever reason, the News of the World appears to have failed to co-operate in the way that we now know they should have with relevant police inquiries up until January this year. – BBC