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.