Brian Paddick writes: The Lib Dem Guide to phone hacking

Uniquely perhaps, I was a victim of the News of the World’s private investigator, Glen Mulcaire, when I was a senior police officer at New Scotland Yard, working along the corridor from the officers who conducted the first phone hacking inquiry in 2002. But they never told me I was victim.

It was only a couple of years ago when my solicitor received a call from a Guardian journalist, that I knew Mulcaire had my name and mobile phone number in his notebook. So you will appreciate, a bit like the animals who agreed to provide the farmer with a full English breakfast for his birthday, whilst other politicians, like the hens, might be committed to the idea of getting to the bottom of the phone hacking saga, I, like the (other) pigs, am involved!

I am part of a group who sought, and have been granted, a judicial review of the first police phone hacking investigation. We are asking the courts whether the police failed in their legal duty to investigate the allegations fully, and failed in their duty under the Human Rights Act to help us to protect our right to a private and family life – the least they could have done is told us to be careful about using our voicemails. If successful, the courts will rule that the police have a lawful duty to fully investigate such crimes and to warn victims and potential victims of phone hacking in the future.

What such action is unlikely to uncover is why the police failed in their duty first time around.

Their current investigation, Operation Weeting, is finally getting to grips with the acres of evidence that was available to the first investigation. Victims, like myself, are being interviewed for the first time and new arrests are being made. There are numerous hypotheses as to why this is only happening now, none of which have sufficient evidence, at the moment, to show that they are the correct explanation.

In the light of recent developments, the “We had far more pressing matters to deal with” excuse seems to prompt the adage ‘a stitch in time saves nine’. “We didn’t want to upset News International” sounds outrageous but that depends which angle you are looking at it from.

Policing in the UK is based on the consent and active cooperation of the public, which in turn depends on the public having trust and confidence in the police. Too many negative police stories and not enough positive ones in the press can result in the gradual erosion of that trust and confidence, and potentially undermines the whole basis of British policing. A bit like the rioters in Brixton in 1981, you can understand why the police might have done it but that does not justify it.

If the police failed to investigate crimes, including hacking into murder victim Milly Dowler’s phone, which had the potential to throw a murder enquiry off course as well as giving the grieving parent’s false hope, so as not to upset their relationship with Murdoch’s empire, we have every right to be appalled.

The third and most sinister explanation, unsubstantiated but possible, is that someone in the police could have curtailed the initial police investigation because the News of the World had something on them. We know that members of the Parliamentary Committee investigating these issues were warned-off recalling Rebekah Brooks (nee Wade), then editor of the News of the World, under threat that their own private lives would be exposed in the newspapers if they did (she was never recalled).

Similarly, one can speculate that there could have been some senior police officers, who may have had similar warning shots fired across their bows. I can recall at least two Chief Constables who had ‘secret love child’ stories published by tabloid newspapers in the past, and it is possible that other senior officers’ skeletons have been discovered by the press but not yet revealed to the public.

I have to stress that we have no direct evidence to support any of these possible explanations but the longer the police refuse to tell us why the initial phone hacking inquiry was so woefully inadequate, the longer the conspiracy theorists have to engage in damaging speculation.

Brooks admitted in 2003 that News International was paying police officers for information. The only ‘new’ development on this front is that News International has only now provided the police with information about some of the officers they paid, forcing the police to investigate matters that should arguably have been investigated eight years ago. For the record, paying police officers for confidential information that they could only have secured through their work as a police officer is a criminal offence by both police officer and journalist.

Whilst the Metropolitan Police investigation into these allegations of corruption is being supervised by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, it might be timely to remind readers that the Director of Investigations at the IPCC is a former Metropolitan Police Commander and right-hand man to the former Commissioner, now Lord, Ian Blair.

And now they have axed the News of the World. A commercial decision as they no longer have the advertisers and possibly the readership? A cynical ploy to make it more likely that Murdoch can buy BskyB? Or a mass slaughter in an attempt to save one person, Rebekah Brooks? Whatever it is, it should make no difference to the police investigation or the public inquiry.

Hopefully I have convinced you that this is a complete mess.

The corruption allegations should be investigated by an independent police force, led by a senior officer with no previous connection to the Metropolitan Police. Whilst I have confidence that Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers is conducting a thorough investigation under Operation Weeting, what went wrong with the first phone hacking investigation is beyond her remit.

Only a public inquiry led by a judge, who can compel witnesses to give evidence on oath, stands any chance of getting to the bottom of this. The illegal practices of the press, the relationship between the police and the press, and politicians and the press, all need to be examined. And those found guilty of criminality should be prosecuted.

As for me, as I told Andrew Gilligan in the London Evening Standard during the last Mayoral Campaign, my skeletons and I have been out of the closet for some time, which is why I am unafraid to speak out and demand that the police and the press are held to account.

If you would like to back my campaign to be the Liberal Democrat candidate for Mayor of London, please join join my Facebook page.

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10 Comments

  • coldcomfort 8th Jul '11 - 1:13pm

    Maybe approx 197 staff of the News of the World who were not there when the hacking took place have to be sacrificed to save Rebekah Brooks because she knows too much about Rupert & his operation to be let loose? Pure speculation of course. Let us hope that the measures Cameron outlined in his press conference this morning do get to the truth. Putting all the PR, and mea culpa, and all that stuff to one side Cameron did not answer two key questions. James Murdoch admitted making payments and does this make him a fit person to run a dominant media outfit? ( Cameron said this raises questions that need answers – Whoppee doo!) Second Question: given James Murdoch’s published statement what else would he have to do to finally be considered unfit to run a media organisation? (no answer). What Cameron DID say was that Jeremy Hunt was following all the proper procedures with respect to BSkyB and they should not be interfered with. Is he saying that Vince Cable would NOT have followed proper procedures? If ‘yes’ then that is a very serious slur on Vince that needs to be addressed. If ‘no’ why was the decision taken away from Vince? BSkyB is not the same as Kraft taking over Cadbury. It is NOT just a simple commercial matter.

  • This aspect of the scandal is by far the most important, and you are in a good position, Brian, to keep highlighting it. There have always been, and will always be, corrupt police officers, but only exceptionally has corruption become systemic in elements of the police force. It is crucial that the reason(s) for the ineptitude of the Metropolitan police are discovered and made public, although as you are implying, it is very difficult to think of an innocent explanation for this: perhaps there is one, but some of the possible explanations are quite frightening in their possible ramifications.
    Oh, and Brian, please leave out the elaborate metaphors!

  • Keith Browning 8th Jul '11 - 4:48pm

    Sex is the one motivator of the rich, powerful and famous that has so far been absent from all this. Perhaps that is one of the missing links between the media, press and politicians. It is certainly alluded to in Brian’s well made comments and it might be that is where the next part of this saga takes us.

    It certainly has very little to do with phone hacking per se, which seems to be a red herring that is meant to mislead the public and the law courts.

  • @ coldcomfort – A very good point: Rebekah will know where the Murdoch’s bodies are buried, and this must be why she is being protected, against overwhelming odds. She probably knows a good deal about Cameron’s bodies, too.

  • @Merlene Emerson: I am no expert in these matters, but all the indications are that News of the World is not a separate company in itself, it is merely a brand of newspaper published by News Group Newspapers Limited, who also publish The Sun. Thus stopping publishing News of the World, sacking staff, etc. should have no impact whatsoever on the legal liabilities of News Group Newspapers Limited and its parent company, News Corporation. So contrary what some supposedly reputable news outlets (looking in your direction Reuters) have reported, there will be no liquidation, just a decision to stop publishing a newspaper, and the consequences that follow for the (mostly) blameless staff.

    See this from David Allan Green at the New Statesman for more:

    http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/david-allen-green/2011/07/news-world-reuters-records

  • Paul Kennedy 9th Jul '11 - 2:03pm

    Shouldn’t we be calling on Deputy Mayor for Policing Kit Malthouse (who purports to represent my area on the GLA) to resign as Chair of the MPA over his and the Mayor’s failure to ensure the police undertook an adequate investigation into the inconvenient hacking cases alleged against the Tories’ friends at News International?

  • Brian Paddick 9th Jul '11 - 8:25pm

    Regrettably the first investigation was on Ken Livingstone’s watch, before the Mayor was allowed under law to be/appoint the Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority. The then chair was the Labour AM Len Duval. I think what it shows is how toothless the MPA really is, which is why Lib Dem policy is to have directly elected police authorities with members who can work full-time on this sort of scrutiny. The Coalition proposal of directly elected crime and police commissioners instead of police authorities will do nothing to rectify the problem, even if London was allowed to have one. In London it will be the Mayor or anyone he chooses to appoint overseen by a committee of the London Assembly. With the best will in the world, Assembly Members who have umpteen other responsibilities in addition to scrutinising the police, are no match for full-time professional police officers if the latter decide to pull the wool over the AM’s eyes. Having said that, the Met genuinely fears the excellent Caroline Pigeon because she does manage to get below the surface on some policing issues.

  • Meher Oliaji 10th Jul '11 - 11:23am

    This scandal is not merely evidence that News International is not fit and proper to own Sky.

    It also demonstrates very clearly that we have not got a plural media now, since one organisation has enough power that it can single-handedly intimidate entire police forces. Both Met and Surrey had evidence of illegal activity, but sensible policemen (Brian, you are not) were not willing to be seen as enemies by News International.

    We’ve had 20 years of party leaders who have more or less admitted that they are terrified of doing anything that would upset News International, yet we are told that we don’t have a problem with media plurality.

  • Apparently the police are testing out some new variations on the Miranda rule…

    “you have the right to remain silent but that will impair our ability to sell information about you to the newspapers”

    “you have the right to remain silent and we will give you plenty of time to pop back to the office and delete those incriminating emails”

    “you have the right to remain silent, but this time its going to devilishly difficult to do a good whitewash job”

    “you have the right to remain silent but the PM is a bit hacked off so you might have to sack a couple of hundred people and give it a few months before bringing out a Sunday Sun if you want the BSkyB deal to go through”

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