Published on 27 Jan 2011 Sections

Met police criticised over NOTW phone-hacking probe

The acting head of the Metropolitan Police faces questioning over the handling of phone-hacking allegations at the News of the World after a fresh criminal investigation is launched.

Met police criticised over phone-hacking probe

Acting Met Commissioner Tim Godwin answered questions over the investigation into phone-hacking when he appeared before the Police Authority.

It comes after officers launched a fresh criminal investigation into the illegal practice of phone-hacking at the News of the World after receiving “significant new information”.

Mr Godwin told the authority the new inquiry would be “robust”, adding that “no stone would be left unturned”. He said the Met is “not afraid” of being held to account over its decisions but detailed questions can only answered after the criminal process has finished.

I was being asked to act on rumour, innuendo and gossip. Acting Deputy Commissioner John Yates

The inquiry has been transferred to the Met’s specialist crime directorate and will be led by Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers.

Mr Godwin was flanked by Acting Deputy Commissioner John Yates, who remains responsible for the Met’s specialist operations wing, which handled the case until yesterday.

Mr Yates said a new inquiry was not opened before now, despite apparent revelations in some newspapers, because none of the information was new to police.

Phone-hacking timeline

Questioning

But he faced a stream of difficult questions, including calls for the Met to hand over the case to another force and claims he had been “tetchy” at an earlier meeting on the subject.

“If I did appear tetchy it was because I was expected to act on facts that were not in any way able to be developed into evidence,” he said.

“I was being asked to act on rumour, innuendo and gossip. I have always said we will respond to any new evidence and that is exactly what we have done today. This is the first significant new evidence that may have a chance of being admissible. We have set up a new team to deal with that and we need to let them get on with it.”

Read more: phone-hacking is the story that won't go away

New hacking claims

Amid allegations that phone-hacking was widespread, a number of public figures have begun civil legal actions against the newspaper and the police, who have faced criticism for their handling of the claims.

This is a moment for the media to say we are going to put our house in order. Former Cabinet minister Tessa Jowell

Former Cabinet minister Tessa Jowell said today that she had been alerted by police of an attempt to hack her phone as recently as last week – but it is not known whether the attempted hacking has any connection with the wider investigation.

She told BBC News: “I am not making a claim that my phone was unlawfully hacked into. I am simply saying that my phone provider said that an attempt had been made to access my voicemail and I am now trying to establish, by having reported this to the police, the status of that attempt.”

Her phone was hacked into on 28 occasions in 2006, but no prosecutions resulted from the hacks. She said she was not sure if the evidence from last week was “sinister”, but added: “If these forms of behaviour are as extensive as they appear to be, this is a moment for the media, right across the board, to say we are going to put our house in order.”

Former deputy prime minister John Prescott has called for a judicial review into the police handling of the case. He said he didn’t “trust the Metropolitan Police to conduct a proper inquiry”.

Fresh investigation

Scotland Yard announced yesterday that detectives had received a dossier of evidence about suspicious activities at the News of the World in 2005 and 2006, and that a new team would carry out the inquiry.

The decision was made after the newspaper handed over material gathered during an internal investigation into its assistant news editor Ian Edmondson. The newspaper, whose owner Rupert Murdoch was in London this week, said Mr Edmondson has been sacked as a result of the investigation.

Mr Edmondson was suspended from duty in December after he was linked to the scandal in documents relating to legal action by actress Sienna Miller lodged at the High Court.

‘2010 phone hack’

Legal documents indicating that alleged phone-hacking may have been taking place as late as last year has emerged.

Channel 4 News has seen a court order relating to the case of interior designer Kelly Hoppen, the stepmother of actress Sienna Miller. Both women are taking action against the tabloid newspaper.

The document reveals that Ms Hoppen was granted the order forcing a telephone company to release the identity of anyone allegedly trying to hack her private voicemails between June 2009 and March 2010.

Former editor of the News of the World, Andy Coulson, quit his job as Downing Street communications chief on Friday saying the allegations were interfering with his work for the government.

Mr Coulson stepped down as editor of the newspaper on the day royal reporter Clive Goodman was imprisoned for phone-hacking in 2007.

Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire were jailed at the Old Bailey after they admitted intercepting messages. The pair used mobile phone numbers and secret codes to hack into voicemails of celebrities and other high profile people.

Until now the Met has repeatedly batted away calls for a new inquiry despite a steady flow of people also claiming to be victims of the scam. However, Acting Commissioner Tim Godwin and Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer recently announced that senior lawyers would review existing evidence.