MP claims Met withheld info on Glenn Mulcaire hacking - Press Gazette

MP claims Met withheld info on Glenn Mulcaire hacking

Police failed to tell Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes that private investigator Glenn Mulcaire had his address, home phone number and personal details about his friends, the Leveson Inquiry heard today.

Scotland Yard detectives informed Hughes in October 2006 that they had uncovered evidence Mulcaire had hacked his mobile phone while working for the News of the World. The officers told him other politicians had also been targeted by the investigator and were not willing to go public and give evidence at a trial.

But it was only in May last year that police showed Hughes the extent of the information that Mulcaire held about him, the press standards inquiry heard.

Mulcaire and News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman were jailed in January 2007 after pleading guilty to intercepting voicemail messages left on royal aides’ phones.

Hughes strongly criticised Scotland Yard’s failure to bring charges against anyone else despite evidence that “at least three” other senior News of the World journalists were involved in hacking his phone.

Referring to his original contact with police in 2006, he said: “What they didn’t tell me was that Mr Mulcaire not only had that phone number but he had every other phone number, address, and other things.

“They did not tell me that he had, for example, the hotline in the office, which only a few people knew, my private phone number at home, which is private because four years before or something like it I had been a witness in a murder case and had had to have police protection.”

The Lib Dem MP said Mulcaire also had the names, addresses and phone numbers of some of his friends. He said the investigator’s notebooks showed that the News of the World had tried to stand up stories about a man and a woman linked to him “based on a salacious assumption”.

“They were trying to establish relationships between me and these people, neither of which were what they would have liked them to have been,” he said.

Police ignored ‘long-standing and widespread criminality’

When Hughes asked detectives in 2006 whether other people were involved in phone hacking, he was told: “No, we are just proceeding against Mr Mulcaire.”

He told the inquiry: “What I am very unhappy about – and it seems to me was a complete failure – was to explore whether it would be appropriate to bring charges against other defendants at the same time as part of the same inter-related set of activities.”

The MP added in a statement: “I suspect that the police had shut down this investigation, much to the delight of News Group (publishers of the News of the World), and ignored evidence of long-standing and widespread criminality. I do not know of any good or persuasive reason why this should be, and it makes me extremely suspicious.”

Hughes said his chances of becoming Lib Dem leader were hit when The Sun revealed in January 2006 that he had used a gay chatline. He recalled that a Sun journalist told him before the story ran that the paper had “come by” records of his telephone calls.

Before the revelations he had been favourite to replace Charles Kennedy as his party’s leader, but afterwards his poll ratings dropped and he lost the leadership election.

Hughes told the hearing: “It would have been great to have won, but the consolation is probably running political parties in this country is an even more onerous burden, and it may be life has been easier without doing it, so I am fairly philosophical.”

Hughes revealed to the inquiry that time is to be set aside in the next Parliamentary session for legislation on press regulation if necessary.

He said: “I have made it clear to the Deputy Prime Minister, my party leader and my colleague, that, in my view, in this parliamentary session, that will begin next spring – May 2013 – space should be reserved now in the forward planning of Parliament to deal with anything that requires legislation.”

He added that any such legislation would have to be in place well before the next General Election, planned for 2015, and stressed: “Parliament will absolutely not bottle it and we mustn’t run away from it.”

‘Unhealthy relationship’ between press and politicians

Hughes continued: “The Press must act in a framework of proper behaviour and the police must act and Parliament needs to be ready to act.”

Asked by Robert Jay QC about the links between politicians and the Press, Hughes said that, even early on in his career, it was evident “there was a growing unhealthy relationship”.

He told the inquiry: “I understood how influential the tabloids became. I saw the desperate effort when I was in Parliament for party leaders to gain favour with the tabloids. I saw Tony Blair fly across the world to have summit meetings with the Murdoch family. I regarded it as increasingly unhealthy.”

He said it was important to reach the newspapers which sold millions, as opposed to hundreds of thousands, of copies a day – in reality, the tabloids as opposed to the broadsheets.

Hughes added: “As every election grew nearer, the battle to get the most popular titles on your side would grow and it seemed to me there was a lot of compromising of principles to do that.”

In some cases, he said. “parties temper their policies… to make them have maximum popular appeal” and added: “Sometimes they go in the wrong direction for populist reasons.”

In an apparent reference to Prime Minister David Cameron’s former communications director Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor, Hughes said: “Appointments of people to serve Government who come from media backgrounds are, in principle, good things because you need people in government service who understand the way the media work.

“It seems to me they should, however, be carried out carefully, mindful of the risks and the disadvantages, and it may be that they haven’t always been so.”

Mulcaire earned in excess of £500,000

The Bermondsey and Old Southwark MP levelled some criticism towards the way the investigation was initially conducted and said the suffering of phone hacking victims could have been avoided if action had been taken earlier.

He told the inquiry: “If there had been robust action in 2006, a lot of the illegal activity might have been shut down, stopped, as it would have been dealt with, and a lot of people who are now known to be victims, they might not have been victims or might not have suffered as much.”

Lord Justice Leveson said: “There were several witnesses whose lives, it seemed from the evidence and from the facts, have been very dramatically affected by that delay.”

The MP also criticised the way the case against Mulcaire was dealt with. He questioned the fact that Mulcaire was sentenced in 2006 on the basis that he had received £12,300 in payments – whereas the total he earned was in excess of £500,000.

Hughes alleged that this was known by the police and key figures including former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks (nee Wade) and the now defunct tabloid’s former legal manager, Tom Crone.

The MP said: “The fact that the court didn’t have before it information which was clearly known – known to the police because they told Rebekah Wade, known to Rebekah Wade, known to Tom Crone, known to Andy Coulson – that that was not in the court’s knowledge is a serious fault which meant that the court was asked to do a job on the basis of incomplete evidence.”

He went on to describe it as a “completely unforgivable fault”. In his statement to the inquiry, Hughes added that the judge in the case should have made a confiscation order for the full, higher figure, and added: “Mr Mulcaire was permitted to keep money he should not have had.”

NoW accused over murder suspects

Meanwhile, Former Crimewatch presenter Jacqui Hames suggested today that the News of the World placed her under surveillance because of the paper’s links to suspects in a notorious murder case.

She rejected as “absolutely pathetic” ex-News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks’s claim that the paper was investigating whether she was having an affair with detective chief superintendent Dave Cook, who was actually her husband.

Hames, herself a former Scotland Yard detective, fought back tears as she told the Leveson Inquiry of the damaging effect that being followed by private investigators had on her and her marriage.

The News of the World placed the couple under surveillance after Cook made an appeal on Crimewatch in June 2002 for information about the 1987 murder of private investigator Daniel Morgan, the inquiry into press standards heard.

Hames alleged that Morgan’s firm Southern Investigations, whose members included suspects in the killing, had “close links” to senior News of the World news editor Alex Marunchak.

She said in a statement to the inquiry: “I believe that the real reason for the News of the World placing us under surveillance was that suspects in the Daniel Morgan murder inquiry were using their association with a powerful and well-resourced newspaper to try to intimidate us and so attempt to subvert the investigation.

“These events left me distressed, anxious and needing counselling, and contributed to the breakdown of my marriage to David in 2010. Given the impact of these events, I would like to know why the police did not investigate why we came to be placed under surveillance by a newspaper like this.”

Let down by MPS

Dick Fedorcio, the Metropolitan Police’s director of public affairs, asked Ms Brooks to explain why Hames and Cook were placed under surveillance.

The then-News of the World editor said the paper was investigating suspicions they were having an affair, and repeated this explanation at a meeting in 2003.

Hames said in her statement: “This was utterly nonsensical as we had by then been married for four years, had been together for 11 years and had two children.

“Our marriage was common knowledge to the extent that we had even appeared together in Hello! magazine.”

Referring to the efforts to find out information about her and her ex-husband, she added: “I think any reasonable person would find it difficult not to put them together and feel that in some way there was some collusion between people at the News of the World and the people who were suspected of committing the murder of Daniel Morgan.”

In May 2011 Scotland Yard officers informed Ms Hames that her details had been found in the notebooks of Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator working for the News of the World who was jailed for phone hacking in 2007.

The information included her payroll and police warrant numbers, her home address and mobile phone number, and notes about Mr Cook.

Ms Hames said Mulcaire’s notes were dated July 3 2002, about a week before the News of the World placed her and her husband under surveillance.

“This demonstrates to me that the News of the World knew full well that I was married to David at the time of the surveillance and thus gives the lie to their explanation for it,” she said in her statement.

“This information could only have come from one place: my MPS (Metropolitan Police Service) file. I was horrified by the realisation that someone within the MPS had supplied information from my personnel file to Mr Mulcaire, and probably for money.

“Similarly distressing was the realisation that the MPS had known about these entries in Mr Mulcaire’s notebooks since 2006 but had chosen neither to inform me nor to investigate it adequately.”

She added that she was serving in a covert intelligence unit on a “highly-sensitive” inquiry about airport security at the time the information about her was leaked to Mulcaire.

She said: “I have always been loyal to the MPS, but I do feel very let down by this failure to inform or protect me from the unlawful actions of the press.”

Morgan, 37, who was originally from Monmouthshire, was found with an axe in his head in the car park of the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham, south London, on March 10 1987. The case against three men accused of killing him collapsed last March.

Cook was arrested last month over alleged illegal leaks to a journalist as part of Scotland Yard’s investigation into corruption of public officials, known as Operation Elveden. He was later bailed and has not been charged.



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