Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg

Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg
Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg © Gernot Keller, 2007
Blinkered Justice articles also appear on CrimeTalk and Government In The Lab

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Hacking scandal: what role Scotland Yard?

(c) ChrisO
Re-published in full from The Pryer 

"This story is so old and boring. Where does it take anybody? Newspapers will seek out information from whatever sources they can, until newspapers close down. I don't think it does us any damage. It's a bit of a non-story".
These are the words of a Scotland Yard source as reported in The Guardian on 6th September 2010 regarding the news that the phone hacking scandal investigation might be reopened. With hindsight, and lets be honest, with any foresight, these are not clever words. But might they represent something else, something more sinister regarding the motives of Scotland Yard in this whole debacle?

I should note that I am mainly using The Guardian’s articles in this post because they have been the most pro-active media outlet in getting to the bottom of this scandal. Whereas other newspapers appear to have been fearful of writing about the dubious activities of News International for whatever reason, since it returned to the headlines in 2009, The Guardian have been exemplary in their coverage.

This morning, the Prime Minister (PM) David Cameron offered an opening statement on the affair during a press conference. In an attempt to harvest the public moral outrage at the intrusions of News International journalists hacking into the private phones of ordinary vulnerable citizens, the PM publicly announced that two inquiries will take place. The first, and possibly the most important of the two inquiries, is to be conducted by a Judge and will look at the failure of the first police investigation in phone hacking in 2006. He stated:
“So for those worried about the police investigating the police, this has full and independent oversight. But let's be clear. Police investigations only get you so far.What people really want to know is - what happened? And how was it allowed to happen? That is why the Deputy Prime Minister and I have agreed that it's right and proper to establish a full, public inquiry to get to the bottom of what happened. A judge needs to be in charge so there's no question that it is totally independent and things are done properly.”
Yet right from the start, the Metropolitan police have been less than forthcoming on the nature of their investigation. John Whittingdale MP, who was chair of the House of Commons media select committee inquiry, told The Guardian in early 2010:
"We found it difficult to get information from a number of bodies, including the police, who were less than forthcoming. I think there was an acceptance that it was convenient to a lot of people that one reporter should get the blame. But the important thing for us is to ensure it can't happen again."
Subsequent articles in April 2010 by Nick Davies in The Guardian, here and here, highlight the apparent contradictory, evasive and misleading ways that Scotland Yard have gone about their business. They have deliberately misled the public over the number of people whose phones have been hacked, they did not tell victims that their phones had been clandestinely infiltrated, and they have avoided revealing information that is in the public interest despite Freedom of Information requests. 
All the evidence that has been coming out in the last few days has been in police hands since it was gathered in 2005/6. Why does none of this evidence surface until it has been uncovered by more scrupulous journalists and released into the public domain? Who are the Met seeking to protect?
Andy Hayman, the man who was formerly in charge of The Met’s phone hacking investigation, and since employed by News International may be able to help with enquiries. Hayman resigned from the Met following allegations over his credit card expense claims and allegations of improper conduct with female colleagues, although an internal inquiry cleared him of wrongdoing. However the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) criticised Hayman for misleading the public over the De Menezes shooting. 
We now know that News International were paying some police officers for information. Andy Coulson and Clive Goodman have been arrested over the last few hours. Given Hayman’s employment and his direct link to the original investigation, it would be interesting to know whether there was any evidence of a relationship between Hayman and News International before his resignation.
Whoever might be responsible at an individual level, there has been little evidence of institutional acceptance at The Met for what has happened since 2006. Nobody has come forward to publicly apologise to the victims of phone hacking for their inaction or lack of candour thus far. Legally, the victims of phone hacking are victims of a crime. 
Regardless of the discussions and arguments over the public/private nexus and the rights of the rich and famous, phone hacking victims should be treated as such and afforded explanations as any other victims are.

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