New letter from the director of public prosecutions discredits Met police testimony on phone hacking

by Tom Watson

Parliament is peeling away at the phone hacking scandal and getting nearer to the facts. The comprehensive analysis submitted by the director of public prosecutions, published for the first time today, completely debunks the argument put forward by some officers of the metropolitan police that they could only prove that there were a tiny number of victims. For those who haven’t followed the byzantine twists and turns in the scandal, these are the key points to look for in the letter, the full text of which is hyperlinked at the bottom of this post.

What seems to emerge is that Starmer himself did not really focus on the question in 2009. I can understand this – after all he wasn’t involved in the previous investigation and would be reliant on others to draft responses. We have all been there, with multiple questions and very limited time. In any event, as he points out, his 2009 statement was based on a misunderstanding of the view of prosecuting counsel.

But the killer point for Starmer and against the Met is the indictment. It contained charges for which there was no evidence of prior interception. So this contemporaneous document demonstrates that the before/after question was considered irrelevant by counsel when drafting the indictment.

And not only by counsel. Had the police thought at the time that the only messages which counted were those which had not been listened to, they would certainly have queried the indictment as soon as they saw it. They would have pointed out that they had no evidence of prior interception in relation to a number of the charges.

Had they genuinely believed that prior interception was an essential element they had to prove, there is no way they would have neglected to warn prosecuting counsel. Equally, counsel would never have framed the indictment like that had they believed that only prior interception was an offence.

That indictment is clear contemporaneous evidence of the state of mind of the police and counsel at the time of the prosecution, namely that before/after did not matter.

The “only before” point has been dreamt up later by the Met on the basis of a bit of speculation by one of the lawyers during the investigation. It was never formal legal advice, indeed it was not advice at all, and to try to pretend it was, and that it “permeated” the entire investigation, is disingenuous.

John Yates has some big questions to answer today.

Here is the full letter from the DPP: Keir Starmer QC CPS 01 04 11.

Tom Watson is Labour MP for West Bromwich East.


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6 Responses to “New letter from the director of public prosecutions discredits Met police testimony on phone hacking”

  1. iain ker says:

    You might find that (out here in the real world) people are more concerned about the inadequate policing which allowed a few hundred thugs to smash up ‘posh’ parts of central London on a recent ‘demo’ of TUCLabour supporters.

    This TUCLabour party obsession with ‘sleb’ phones being hacked some years ago resonates not a jot with the public.

    Although of course the obsession is not with phones being hacked. The obsession is with big, bad, baby-eating bogeyman Rupert Murdoch, his dreaded Fox news, and his *gasp* highly profitable (and job-creating) Newscorp.

    Draw a line under it, build a bridge over it, and move on.

  2. In fact, the most damning line in the letter is “There was no evidence one way or another whether the interception had taken place before collection by the intended recipient.”

    It was never an issue to the police at all.

    This officer is simply grasping at straws to defend himself. If he’d simply said he was mistaken not to go after the other offences it would have ended the matter there, but what he’s chosen to do is lie, in order to excuse what he’s done.

    This aught to lead to some kind of disciplinary and maybe make it impossible for him to ever give evidence before a court.

  3. angusdina says:

    “Real World” ??? I think the Metropolitan Police are about to find out that they have been living in a dream world. One where it’s acceptable that they determine who they prosecute, or not, by how friendly they are with them. Where they deliberately supress evidence and then seemingly lie about advice they were given. They should be in for a rude awakening.
    It is this that interests the public, and concerns the public, not some obsession with Mr Murdoch, though time may show he has his own questions to answer.
    Oh and I suspect Mr Cameron would like to wake up and find the Andy Coulson saga was just a dream.

  4. Paul Smith says:

    Iain Ker

    So you are not interested in that the police you would seem to want more of may lie to parliament and are possibly corrupt?

    Then there’s probably a job for you at News International!

  5. iain ker says:

    I happen to think police should be honest. I happen also to think that ACPO shouldn’t have been in TUCLabour’s back pocket for 13 years. (Don’t remember any complaints about that from TUCLabour ‘activists’. I happen to think Andy Coulson was a stupid hire, as is his successor, IPad-Man.

    But then I believe in a government just getting on and doing the right thing rather than spending a fortune on people to tell us that the government is doing the right thing. (the latter remind you of any recent government?)

    But please stop pretending it’s some high principle that’s driving you rather than the chance of ‘getting’ Rupert.

  6. Benjiamen says:

    Police always should be honest. Police in many countries have too much power and this fact can blind them and turn them to the wrong direction.

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