Met admits 'unlawful' failure to warn phone-hack victims

The Metropolitan Police Service today accepted at the High Court that its failure in 2006 and 2007 to warn victims and potential victims of phone hacking was unlawful.

News of the acceptance that it had “breached a legal obligation” came as two judges in London heard that a number of claimants – including former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Prescott – had settled judicial review proceedings brought against the Met over “failures to warn victims”.

Lord Justice Gross and Mr Justice Irwin were told that the two sides had reached agreement by Hugh Tomlinson QC, representing Lord Prescott, ex Met Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Brian Paddick, actor Jude Law’s personal assistant Ben Jackson, MP Chris Bryant and an anonymous individual known as HJK.

Tomlinson said the claimants and the Met had agreed a “declaration” – in which the Met admits it breached its duties under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Lord Prescott was in court for the proceedings.

Law firm Bindmans, for the claimants, said in a statement that the declaration “constitutes an admission by the police that their failure to warn victims that their privacy was or may have been unlawfully invaded was a breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights”.

That article provides that “everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence”.

Lord Prescott said in a statement: “It’s taken me 19 months to finally get justice.

“Time and time again I was told by the Metropolitan Police that I had not been targeted by Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World.

“But I refused to accept this was the case. Thanks to this judicial review, the Metropolitan Police has finally apologised for its failure to inform victims of the criminal acts committed by the News of the World against myself and hundreds of other victims of phone hacking.”

The Metropolitan Police Service said in a statement: “The MPS is pleased to have reached an agreement in this case and accepts more should have been done by police in relation to those identified as victims and potential victims of phone hacking several years ago.

“It is a matter of public record that the unprecedented increase in anti-terrorist investigations resulted in the parameters of the original inquiry being tightly drawn and officers considered the prosecution and conviction of Clive Goodman and Glen Mulcaire as a successful outcome of their investigation.

“There are now more than 130 officers involved in the current phone-hacking inquiry (Weeting) and the two operations being run in conjunction with it, and this in part reflects the lessons that have been learned about how police should deal with the victims of such crimes.

“Today’s settlement does not entail damages being paid by the MPS and, as the court has made clear, sets no precedent for the future.

“How the MPS treats victims goes to the very heart of what we do. It was important that this case did not result in such a wide duty being placed on police officers that it could direct them away from their core purpose of preventing and detecting crime.

“All the claimants are receiving personal apologies from the MPS.”

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