Met Police accused of phone-hacking inquiry failures

Sir Paul Stephenson and John Yates
Image caption Sir Paul and John Yates resigned within 24 hours of each other

The Metropolitan Police have been accused of a "catalogue of failures" in the News of the World phone-hacking inquiry in a damning report by MPs.

The home affairs committee criticised News International's "deliberate attempts to thwart investigations".

It called for extra resources for the police investigation so new hacking victims could be informed more quickly.

David Cameron told the Commons the police inquiry would now be overseen by a figure from outside the Met.

The prime minister said: "The responsibilities of the deputy commissioner - which the House will remember include general oversight of the vital investigations both into hacking and into the police, Operations Weeting and Elveden - will not be done by someone from inside the Met, but instead by Bernard Hogan-Howe, who will join temporarily from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary."

Mr Cameron made a statement to the Commons before a debate on public confidence in the media and police.

The Commons is sitting for an extra day after the prime minister delayed MPs' summer recess to address the latest developments in the hacking scandal.

'No concerns'

On Wednesday morning, ahead of the debate, Labour MP Chris Bryant claimed senior Buckingham Palace figures had expressed concern over Mr Cameron's recruitment of former News of the World editor Andy Coulson as an adviser. This was denied as "complete rubbish" by No 10.

A Palace spokesman said: "No royal officials raised concerns about Mr Coulson's appointment with Downing Street. We do not comment on the private conversations of members of the Royal Family."

Mr Coulson resigned as Downing Street director of communications earlier this year over the phone-hacking scandal. He was arrested and questioned in recent days on suspicion of bribing police officers.

In other developments:

  • The protester accused of throwing a paper plate of shaving foam at Rupert Murdoch as he gave evidence to the Commons media select committee has been charged with a public order offence. Jonathan May-Bowles, 26, will appear before City of Westminster Magistrates' Court on Friday
  • Shares in News Corporation rose by 6% at the close of trading in New York after Rupert and James Murdoch's appearance in front of the committee
  • Reuters reported that, in an e-mail to staff, News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch had said the organisation was taking "urgent steps to address the past and ensure that serious problems never happen again", and that "those who have betrayed our trust must be held accountable under the law"
  • The law firm hired by News International in 2007 to review allegations of phone hacking says it is being prevented from responding to "inaccurate" comments made by James Murdoch. Mr Murdoch said a letter written by the law firm made executives at News International believe that hacking was a "matter of the past". Harbottle and Lewis says it is not being allowed to breach client confidentiality
  • Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard says the Australian arm of News Corp will have to answer "hard questions"
  • Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt tells the BBC that News Corp will have to address why so much malpractice happened in the organisation without Rupert Murdoch knowing

Thousands of victims

While the MPs' report blames News International for obstructing the Met's first inquiry into hacking, it says there was no "real will" on the part of Scotland Yard to tackle the news group's failure to co-operate.

It says the conduct of former Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman, who oversaw the investigation, was unprofessional and inappropriate.

The report questions whether Mr Hayman should ever have been appointed to his role as head of counter-terrorism and says it is "deplorable" that he began working for News International two months after he left the Met.

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Media captionHome affairs committee chairman Keith Vaz: "The victims of hacking should have come first"

The Met's head of public affairs, Dick Fedorcio, is also criticised for failing to conduct proper checks on Neil Wallis, an ex-News of the World executive employed by the Met in 2009, who was last week arrested and questioned about phone-hacking allegations.

The committee says it is "shocked" by the way Mr Fedorcio hired Mr Wallis and says he tried to deflect blame onto a senior officer, former Assistant Commissioner John Yates.

A new police investigation, Operation Weeting, is well under way, but the MPs say unless it has more staff it could be a decade before all the thousands of possible victims are informed.

The committee praised Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers' decision to contact all potential victims of phone hacking by the NoW, but said it was "alarmed" that only 170 had so far been informed.

The committee launched its investigation into hacking last September.

Chairman Keith Vaz said the major shortcoming by the police was that victims were not put at the heart of the investigation.

He told the BBC: "Instead, we had a catalogue of mistakes, investigations that were not thoroughly completed, reviews that were not undertaken for more than eight hours."

'Brushed aside'

Mr Cameron arrived back in the UK on Tuesday night, having cut short his trade visit to Africa.

He was briefed on the evidence given to Commons committees by News Corporation's Rupert and James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks as well as former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson and Mr Yates, who both resigned from Scotland Yard this week.

Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Doocey said her concerns about senior officers meeting News of the World executives were dismissed by the Met.

Baroness Doocey, a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, said in the House of Lords: "Last February I expressed concern that senior Metropolitan Police were dining with executives from the News of the World at a time when the Metropolitan Police were investigating the newspaper.

"My concerns were brushed aside by the Met, who said, and I quote, 'it does not naturally follow that you cannot talk to a hierarchy if someone within the organisation has committed an offence'.

Government culture spokeswoman Baroness Rawlings said the Met was carrying out an investigation and the issue would be considered by Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry into phone hacking.

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