7 Sep 2010

John Yates raises more questions over phone-hacking claims

Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner John Yates told the Home Affairs Committee this morning that police had contacted individuals where they judged there was the “minutest possibility” of someone’s phone being hacked?  

But if your phone number was found in the possession of someone who earned their living hacking into mobile phones you might feel that threshold had been crossed already (nearly 3000 people).

If your name was in the possession of people arrested for phone hacking and your name appeared on an invoice you might think the threshold was double crossed, so to speak. If you personalised your voicemail pin code and yet it was in their possession (there were 91 such cases) you might feel you’d crossed the threshold and run an extra lap round the stadium. 

But John Yates told the select committee, 10 to 12 people were judged by the police to have been subjected to the minutest possibility of risk.
 
If that judgement comes under sustained attack and the police feel they have no choice but to go back into this case in a big way the ground could shift quickly in this story.

At the moment they plan simply to  test whether Sean Hoare (the only named person implicating Andy Coulson in the New York Times article) has anything to back up his allegations … friends of Andy Coulson say even listening back to Hoare’s recent Radio 4 interview suggests a witness who would quickly fall apart under questioning.

But if they start looking into allegations of widespread, endemic phone hacking at the News of the World, something they didn’t do in 2006, the pressure for Andy Coulson to stand aside during a revived full-scale investigation could be hard to resist.
 
Mr Coulson’s political enemies were refused a Privileges Committee investigation today but got a Home Affairs Select Committee investigation into phone hacking … and “Police to quiz top Cameron aide” headlines (Yates said he’d probably be chatting to Coulson in some capacity) so in a slight news vacuum the story is guaranteed another appearance in tomorrow’s papers.

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