One of Britain’s top policemen said today that he was “99 per cent certain” his phone had been hacked, as MPs grilled him about his decision not to reopen the investigation into the scandal.
Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner John Yates told the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee he believed his voicemail messages were illegally intercepted in 2005-06.
He noted that this was a “particularly difficult time” for Scotland Yard but said he did not know who carried out the hacking.
Former Metropolitan Police commissioner Lord Blair told the committee that his home and mobile telephone numbers were found on lists obtained by detectives investigating phone hacking at the News of the World.
But he said he had no evidence that anyone listened to his voicemails.
Yates, the Metropolitan Police’s head of counter-terrorism, told MPs: “From the methods I know that are used, and the impact it has on your phone, your pin number, I am 99 per cent certain my phone was hacked during a period of 2005-06.
“Who by, I don’t know. The records don’t exist any more.”
He added: “It arrived from my own knowledge – I know what happened to my phone. It was a particularly difficult time for the Met.”
Scotland Yard officers carrying out the phone-hacking inquiry, known as Operation Weeting, are examining 11,000 pages of material containing nearly 4,000 names of possible hacking victims.
Lord Blair, Britain’s former top policeman, told the committee: “What I am aware of is that my mobile and home telephone numbers were within the files that have been examined.
“I have no evidence and nor, as I am aware, does Operation Weeting have any evidence to suggest that those phones were hacked.”
He also said an earlier inquiry into phone hacking by the News of the World while he was head of Scotland Yard was “not a major issue at the time”, adding: “Never during my period of office, which ended in 2008, did it become a major issue.”
Yates expressed regret at his 2009 decision that there was no need to reopen the phone-hacking investigation.
But he insisted he had always told the truth to the Home Affairs Select Committee and suggested that the News of the World “failed to co-operate” with police until the start of this year.
“I can assure you all that I have never lied and all the information that I’ve provided to this committee has been given in good faith,” he told the MPs.
“It is a matter of great concern that, for whatever reason, the News of the World appears to have failed to co-operate in the way that we now know they should have with the relevant police inquiries up until January of this year.
“They have only recently supplied information and evidence that would clearly have had a significant impact on the decisions that I took in 2009 had it been provided to us.”
Yates strongly denied allegations in the New York Times that he was put under pressure not to investigate phone hacking at the News of the World because of fears that the Sunday tabloid would publish details about his personal life.
“I categorically state that was not the case to each and every one of you. I think it’s despicable, I think it’s cowardly,” he told the MPs.
Yates said he had “never, ever, ever” received payment from journalists for information but admitted it was “highly probable” that some officers had.
Asked by committee chairman Keith Vaz whether he had offered to stand down from his job, the senior officer said: “No, I haven’t offered to resign.
“And if you’re suggesting that I should resign for what News of the World has done and my very small part in it, I think that’s probably unfair.”
Labour MP Vaz told Yates at the end of the session that the committee found his evidence “unconvincing”.
He told him: “There are more questions to be asked about what happened when you conducted this review.
“So you may well be hearing from us again. Please do not regard this as an end of the matter.”