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UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee, and copies have been made available by the Vote Office for the use of Members and others.
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Mr John Whittingdale (Chair)
Dr Thérèse Coffey
Mr Adrian Sanders
Mr Tom Watson
Witnesses: John Yates QPM, Acting Deputy Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service, gave evidence.
Q1 Chair : Good morning. This session is a follow-up to the Committee’s report on press standards, privacy and libel. It comes after the Adjournment debate held by Chris Bryant on the floor of the House recently, in which he suggested that Assistant Commissioner Yates might have misled both this Committee and the Home Affairs Committee. Acting Deputy Commissioner Yates then wrote to me suggesting that he took these allegations seriously, and that we might wish to invite him to come back to the Committee in order to allay Chris Bryant’s and our concerns, and it is on that basis that I am pleased to welcome Acting Deputy Commissioner Yates this morning. I should also say that the Committee is aware that there is an ongoing police investigation that could lead to criminal charges, and of course there are civil cases under way as well; we will bear that in mind during our questioning this morning.
Deputy Commissioner Yates, when you appeared before this Committee in September 2009, we discussed at some length what constituted an offence under the Regulation of Investigatory powers act. You were very clear that you had to prove that a voice m essage had not been listened to by the person it was sent to in order for a criminal act to take place if it were then hacked. That remains your understanding of the law?
John Yates: It does, Chair. I wonder whether you might afford me the opportunity just to make a brief opening statement on these matters.
Chair : Yes, okay.
John Yates: You referred, quite understandably to the adjournment debate led by Mr Bryant MP; he made a number of statements in that debate about the manner in which this investigation had been undertaken by the Met. He also made several assertions that are not correct. The most stark and immediate of these is the aspect that relates to my evidence provided to the Home Affairs Select Committee on 7 September last year. He is saying that I misled the Committee in relation to the legal advice received by the original investigation team; he stated I "misled the Committee and used an argument that had never been relied on by the CPS or by his own officers so as to suggest the number of victims was miniscule." I take this to be a very serious allegation, as I know you understand.
During my evidence, I set out the very prescriptive definition of Section 1 of the Regulatory Investigative Powers Act, RIPA. It is what has become known as mobile phone voicemail hacking. Principally, I explained to the Committee that to prove the offence of interception under that Section, the prosecution had to show that a voicemail had been intercepted prior to it being listened to by the intended recipient. On this basis, I advised that there may in fact only have been 10 to 12 victims against whom we could actually prove an offence.
Mr Bryant then stated that "never at any stage during the prosecution of Goodman and Mulcaire did anybody from the CPS advise the Metropolitan Police that the law should be interpreted in such a way". That is not correct. I have provided you a letter today, which I sent to both this Committee and the other Committees that have an interest, that sets out in detail the nature and the extent of the CPS and leading counsel’s advice that was provided in this case. It constitutes, in my view, an absolute rebuttal of what Mr Bryant has wrongly claimed, and supports my previous evidence both to this Committee and other Committees of this House.
Taking this in turn, the DPP, in his letters to this Committee of 30 July and another letter of 3 November 2009, states the law says, "To prove the criminal offence of interception, the prosecution must prove that the actual message was intercepted prior"-and he underlines "prior"-"to it being accessed by the intended recipient." The same factor is also further described "as an essential element of the offence". That same legal advice was given to the senior investigating officer during the Mulcaire and Goodman case, and consistently throughout that investigation back in 2006. It actually permeated every aspect of his investigative strategy and all the submissions to the CPS. It also resulted in the employment of tactics and, indeed, experts to evidence the difference between a voicemail being opened or unopened at the point of its alleged interception.
In the adjournment debate, Mr Bryant also went on to say the CPS "formally warned a team from the Met on October last year that it was wrong to claim such an interpretation". Further, he states that this misinterpretation of the law was the very reason and the only reason why the Met refused point blank to reopen the case until January of this year. Mr Bryant is, in my view, mistaken on both matters. There was no such warning in relation to any historical case. His claim may, however, refer to the provision of some newly commissioned legal advice in late 2010 as to what might constitute an offence of interception for the purposes of any future-and I underline "future"-investigation. The CPS have signalled an intention, as is quite proper, possibly to include the interception of voicemails that have already been opened by the intended recipient. That may of course impact on the current investigation being led by my colleague, Sue Akers.
On the second point he raised, on the issue of opening a new investigation, it is clear that the sole reason for this was the fact that News International provided new material to the police in January of this year. So whatever the outcome of the future investigations of this nature, the fact remains that during the Mulcaire and Goodman case, and throughout the ensuing period until October 2010, the legal advice on this matter was unequivocal, and as I said on 7 September, very prescriptive.
The significance of this point, in my view, is very clear. I have always cautioned on behalf of the original investigation that whilst suspects may have targeted many people as private investigators, we could only actually prove the offence of voicemail interception in a very small number of cases. If there is a wider interpretation of what constitutes interception of voicemail under RIPA and it is now applied, then this position of course may change. But that is a matter for the new investigation and it is clearly inappropriate for me to comment on any of those matters in terms of the new investigation now.
So I hope that helps clarify my position and rebuts the very important issues that Mr Bryant raised, which I think he is materially wrong on.
Q2 Chair : Thank you. That is certainly helpful. You will be aware that this Committee made a formal recommendation that RIPA be amended so that it was clearly an offence to listen to a message whether or not it had already been listened to. Now, you say that you were very clear in your interpretation of the law at the time you carried out your investigation, that it was only an offence if-
John Yates: Well, you know it was not my investigation, but in terms of the legacy that I picked up in 2009 it was very clear, and it was made absolutely clear to me in all the briefings I had and it was my absolute understanding that it had to be accessed before-
Q3 Chair : Who gave you those briefings you had?
John Yates: The relevant colleagues and the legal advice that I received around that.
Q4 Chair : The CPS?
John Yates: Not directly the CPS at that particular point, but I refreshed from the CPS advice from previously, 2006/2007, so no I did not directly seek at that time, as I recall. It could not have been clearer, Chair, that that was the position, and we even employed a very experienced forensic telecommunications expert to absolutely adduce these factors, and differentiate between the opened and the unopened. In my letter I think I talk about three separate advice files to the CPS on that point and that point alone.
Q5 Chair : Are you therefore surprised that the Director of Public Prosecutions should tell the Home Affairs Committee that this was not really a relevant factor when it came to deciding whether or not to make and to bring prosecutions?
John Yates: I think there is some confusion on this point, and the DPP is well able to speak for himself, but I think his letters in 2009 make it absolutely clear what the position was. They have refreshed their view; that is quite proper and he does not make the law-he advises on the law, of course-but he has refreshed his view.
Q6 Chair : He has changed his mind?
John Yates: You would have to ask him that, but that is what it certainly looks like to me. I have no difficulty with that.
Q7 Chair : That is a fairly significant change. This was the crucial factor determining whether or not-
John Yates: He has changed his mind now, not in 2006/2007 when there was a different DPP and different legal advice. So I am not surprised; DPPs are quite entitled to take a revised view. We all learn from the experience of these issues and see what the public view and the will of parliament may or may not have been. He has taken a revised view, but it is in October 2010 we have that revised view, not when the original investigation team carried out their original enquiries in 2006/2007. My letter is a very lengthy and detailed letter about exactly what the advice was throughout that period. It is absolutely clear they were concentrating on offences that we could prove to show that it was an unopened voicemail before the recipient got it.
Q8 Chair : Okay. Chris Bryant suggested that a meeting was held on 1 October between the CPS and the Metropolitan Police. Are you saying that meeting did not occur?
John Yates: I think there was a meeting; there was a conference around that matter, but there was no formal warning in the sense that he has adduced in the debate. It was the New York Times matter that they were considering, and it was simply that they had taken a revised view. I think they had sought the advice of a new leading counsel. A new leading counsel took the view that, "Well, actually in the future you may wish to consider a wider view," and that is what the DPP signalled at that time, as is perfectly proper.
Q9 Chair : So a meeting did take place-
John Yates: Indeed, it did.
Chair : -it is likely that the CPS did say that their view of the law had changed.
John Yates: Yes, but there was no warning or anything of that nature whatsoever.
Chair : Right, but actually they did say it was wrong to claim such an interpretation. It might not have been phrased as a warning but-
John Yates: From this point here on, yes. But you cannot judge the view they take in October 2010 to the view that was unequivocally given-and it is set out in letters from the DPP-about how the case and the prosecution was conducted, and how the investigative strategy developed in 2006/2007. It is very clear, and you will see it in the letter, that all that was about you have to have the two ingredients: that a voicemail was sent and it was listened to prior to the intended recipient doing so.
Q10 Paul Farrelly: The DPP, Mr Starmer, wrote to the Guardian and said, "It is regrettable that John Yates has taken one sentence of my evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee out of context." That is wrong, isn’t it? He is wrong.
John Yates: As far as I am aware, I am in heated agreement with the DPP about these matters now, and I think there has just been some confusion about what he thought he may have been responding to, but you would have to ask him that-not me-and what I was responding to around what Chris Bryant has said in the adjournment debate. I am very clear, as I have said to you-and I have set out a letter in detail-that Chris Bryant was wrong. I believe I have a very clear factual-
Paul Farrelly: No matter what-
John Yates: Hang on. I have a very clear factual audit trail that supports that view, and I do not want to get into a fight with the DPP. It is unedifying; it is unnecessary.
Mr Watson: You are already in one.
Q11 Paul Farrelly: Well, he has got into a fight with you.
John Yates: Whatever. We are in agreement now-the letters are clear; the DPP’s letters are clear.
Q12 Paul Farrelly: Let’s be quite clear. No matter what he wrote to the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee in October and circulated to us, his statement to us in 2009 was absolutely clear, as you have referred to. So what he has written in this letter, that you have taken his evidence to us out of context, is wrong. Is that not the case?
John Yates: It is difficult to see how it could be taken out of context. I think that is probably the safest place to be. As I say, we have had discussions with me, his staff and his lawyers, and I think we are clear about what happened in 2006/2007. I am very clear about what happens hereon; it is a matter for Sue Akers and the new team, and probably best leave it at that.
Q13 Paul Farrelly: So we can be clear as to what was communicated to the Metropolitan Police, were notes taken by the Metropolitan Police of the conference at the beginning of October?
John Yates: 2010-yes. In fact, I think they are the CPS notes, but they were agreed.
Paul Farrelly: They were agreed?
John Yates: Yes.
Q14 Paul Farrelly: Could we have a copy?
John Yates: I think they will be privileged, so they are not mine to give away, but you could certainly ask the CPS on that.
Q15 Paul Farrelly: Okay. I do not want to dwell too much on the original inquiry because you were not involved in it, although you have clearly reviewed what went on, but when Andy Hayman wrote in The Times that the inquiry had "left no stone unturned", was he accurate?
John Yates: I think you have to look at the context at the time and where the investigation was focused at the time. It was focused very much on the royal family and very much on the issues surrounding that. The context at the time was of course that the arrest of Goodman and Mulcaire took place the day before the airlines plot started, which is probably one of the biggest criminal investigations in the Met’s history. Those at the time undoubtedly would have taken decisions about how to use resources in the most appropriate way; that is what we do all the time.
Q16 Paul Farrelly: But he wrote that the inquiry "left no stone unturned". In your opinion, was that accurate?
John Yates: Well, it is a fairly bold statement to make about any inquiry, so it is a fairly bold statement to make.
Paul Farrelly: Yes or no?
John Yates: I think the inquiry-
Paul Farrelly: Accurate or not accurate?
John Yates: In terms of how the inquiry was conducted, the outcome achieved-we thought the law was clarified, and two people went to prison and it had a huge deterrent effect-I think was a good outcome. The experience of the last three years would suggest that in some areas perhaps more could have been done, and I am quite happy to reflect the wisdom and maturity of that to say that. We have a new investigation; I think we should allow them to get on with it, and to talk about victims and all those issues now I think is probably unwise.
Q17 Paul Farrelly: After the Guardian article in 2009, you were brought in to establish the facts, and you made a lengthy statement after a day’s look at what went on. After that, we wrote to you saying how disappointed we were that you had not disclosed these 91 PINs, which were PINs where the factory settings had been changed. We understand that you commissioned a more thorough review of everything that was in the police’s possession afterwards. Before our report, briefings were given to Ministers by your staff officer, who said at the time minimal work had been done on the vast amount of personal data. So when you made that statement after your review of the day, did you consider that you had indeed established all the facts?
John Yates: You could never say I had established all the facts in that day. That was not actually the task set. The task set was, "Is there anything new in the Guardian article that day that we are unaware of?" The answer was there was nothing new. After that article had been published, it was clear that we needed to do some more analytical work on the vast quantity of data, and I applied considerable amount of resource to that effort, which involved putting it on a proper computer system away from all the reams of paper. As that happens, and as more details became apparent in terms of the subject you are talking about-91 PINs or whatever-it is obvious, as that analytical process comes through, more information will become apparent. What I told you on my first appearance was what I knew at the time, and I wrote back to you thereafter, Chair, to say actually that issue arose because of a Freedom of Information request, I believe, so it was further researched. Back to your original point: what was I asked to do? Establish the facts. Was there anything new in the Guardian article? It was new to some people, but it was not new to us.
Paul Farrelly: We have had this debate.
John Yates: I re-read it exhaustively last night.
Paul Farrelly: It is semantics. It is a circular argument.
John Yates: Yes.
Q18 Paul Farrelly: On 26 January this year, the Metropolitan Police service ordered a new investigation to be undertaken by Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers.
John Yates: Yes.
Paul Farrelly: When did you stop being involved in investigations into phone hacking?
John Yates: It was around that point. As you are aware, the current hierarchy of the Met is looking slightly different because of Paul’s illness-he is coming back by the way, very soon. So I moved into Acting Deputy as well as my day job, which is the Head of Counter-Terrorism and other matters. These issues only ever came to my area before because it involved the royal family, and we were involved in the protection of the royal family. It is absolutely proper that they should be done in the specialist crime directorate, where they probably have the appropriate resources and scope to undertake an inquiry of this nature. So it would not be appropriate now for counter-terrorism officers to be undertaking these types of inquiries, so it is absolutely the right decision. I am no longer involved and, quite properly, firewalled on all those issues from how the investigation is being run. So, as I know you are aware, Chair, I cannot comment on it, nor would I want to.
Q19 Paul Farrelly: So although you are the Acting Deputy Commissioner and therefore nominally her superior, there are no reports arranged for you.
John Yates: Absolutely no reports and that is very clear on that. Again, Mr Farrelly, that is not unusual; it has happened often around these issues.
Q20 Paul Farrelly: To put it mildly, the Metropolitan Police has been reluctant to release notes and documents from the hoard seized from Glenn Mulcaire to people taking civil action. Have you been involved in any of the decisions about what to release and not to release?
John Yates: I think I have explained to this Committee or other Committees we follow a very strict Court of Appeal ruling that material gathered for a particular purpose cannot be released for another purpose without a court order. It is a conveyor belt effect, actually, in the decision is made by a High Court Judge and not a lowly minion like me, so that is the way it operates. I know Justice Vos made decisions last week that affect that-fine, that is a High Court Judge’s decision and we will follow that. So in answering your question: no, I am not involved in decision making about releasing material.
Q21 Paul Farrelly: The police has changed its approach. The new DAC has said that they will release information. Previously, the police put hurdles in the way of people wanting information. For instance, that they had to prove the reasons why they thought they might feature in the documents seized from Mulcaire. Were you involved in any decisions on that approach?
John Yates: The new-?
Paul Farrelly: No, the previous approach.
John Yates: It is not an approach; it is a matter we have adopted since time immemorial. That is the way we release documentation, so I cannot comment on what Sue may or may not be doing in terms of that.
Paul Farrelly: I am not asking you to.
Chair : Paul, you have strayed into the next area.
Q22 Paul Farrelly: I just have a couple more questions to finish off this section. After the New York Times published its article, you told the Home Affairs Select Committee that you would like to talk to Sean Hoare and he was subsequently interviewed. Was he interviewed as a witness or under caution? On what basis?
John Yates: My recollection is he was interviewed under caution, although we would not normally discuss these type of matters, but I think it is probably a matter of public record that bit.
Q23 Paul Farrelly: Why?
John Yates: We discuss arrest and charge, but prior to that point it is slightly culpatory on individuals to say, "You are being interviewed under caution." We do not normally name people, so I would be reluctant to go through it.
Paul Farrelly: But you have talked about him in front of the Home Affairs Committee, which why I am mentioning his name.
John Yates: I cannot recall the exact details. I think he has gone on record saying he was.
Q24 Paul Farrelly: Why? Why not as a witness?
John Yates: Because I believe he made admissions, even in the media, that suggest he deserves the benefit of a caution to know that if he does say something it could be used in evidence at some point in time. So it is a protection to the individual, which Parliament has thought appropriate and we think it appropriate in order to give him that protection. I would not read anything into that, because, if we did not do it, I think you and others would be the first people to jump down our throat, and courts would throw out the evidence because it was produced in an inappropriate way.
Q25 Paul Farrelly: Can you tell us: last Autumn, before the files passed to the CPS and then no further action was taken, how many other people were interviewed?
John Yates: There were a number of people. I cannot give you a headcount now, but a number of people, journalists and others, were interviewed around these matters.
Paul Farrelly: Roughly how many?
John Yates: It would be fewer than 10, I think.
Q26 Paul Farrelly: You mentioned Andy Coulson’s name in front of the Home Affairs Committee-was he one?
John Yates: I think he has agreed he was. To be accurate on these matters I will happily provide you with the details of numbers of witnesses and a headcount of numbers of people under caution, if you are happy, rather than the individuals themselves.
Q27 Paul Farrelly: Okay, but you mentioned Andy Coulson in the Home Affairs Committee as someone you might like to talk to. Did you interview him?
John Yates: I would need to see whether we have given that out in public. I cannot remember whether he has.
Paul Farrelly: You mentioned that you would like to see him in front of the Home Affairs Committee.
John Yates: Can I first assure myself that I am not stepping anywhere that I do not want to? I am not being defensive; these are witnesses and we have to treat people’s privacy appropriately.
Q28 Paul Farrelly: When we last talked to you, you told us that perhaps it was a mistake not to interview Neville Thurlbeck and Ross Hindley/Hall at the time, but you came to the conclusion that nothing would be achieved at the time you gave us evidence by interviewing them then. When you were interviewing people after the New York Times article, had you changed your stance?
John Yates: As I say, I am not sure it is appropriate to actually name the people we have interviewed.
Paul Farrelly: No, but had you changed your stance?
John Yates: There certainly was some value then in trying an interview. Can I just research about whether that is appropriate or not? But had I changed my stance? Yes I had, in terms of yes, I think there was some value. Whether we got any value out of it, of course, is a different matter.
Q29 Mr Watson: Mr Yates, would you describe the scale of the evidence that there was to examine when there were calls for new investigation in 2009? Was it a warehouse, a roomful, a filing cabinet full?
John Yates: It was bin bags.
Mr Watson: And did you and your team-?
John Yates: Several.
Mr Watson: Several bin bags. How many? Half a dozen?
John Yates: Two or three.
Mr Watson: Two or three-were they full?
John Yates: I did not see them.
Q30 Mr Watson: Did you or your team examine all of the Mulcaire records?
John Yates: At what point?
Mr Watson: When you were asked to establish the facts?
John Yates: No.
Mr Watson: No.
John Yates: What you are potentially describing is a full-scale review. I was never asked to do that and I never did it. It would have taken considerable resources to do so. What I was asked to do-I will go back to Mr Farrelly’s point-was establish the facts. What was in the Guardian article that day? Was it new? Did it constitute new evidence?
Q31 Mr Watson: So if you have not reviewed the evidence, how are you able to say how many people have been hacked on any realistic basis?
John Yates: I did not say I did not-
Mr Watson: Well, the Met Police did, didn’t they?
John Yates: We went through a process post July 2009 to put all the material on a computer.
Q32 Mr Watson: So the names and the numbers were distilled into a discrete list?
John Yates: Yes. As far as I was aware from the 2006 investigation, the best of my knowledge at that time was this was where they thought the best evidence was, where the focus of the investigation was, where we could actually adduce the very technically difficult evidence of what I discussed with the Chair. So that is where we went then.
Q33 Mr Watson: So all the names and numbers in the evidence file were decanted into a separate list?
John Yates: In terms of post July 2009?
Mr Watson: At any point.
John Yates: That has been happening all the way through from that point on.
Mr Watson: But it did not happen in 2006?
John Yates: Not that I am aware of, no.
Mr Watson: Did it happen in 2009?
John Yates: But all the material was reviewed by the relevant counsel at that time in that case for disclosure purposes.
Q34 Mr Watson: You told the Committee at Question 1903 that Mulcaire had "snippets" of information, and that was his job to have them as a private detective. That is misleading, is it not? There was lots more than snippets in that evidence from him.
John Yates: If you have found the word "snippets" then perhaps that does not demonstrate the full scale of it, but I was very clear that he had a lot of information and had gathered a lot of information during the course of his employment, if you call it that. But, as I also said, I think if you go a bit further on, that is what private investigators do, so it does not necessarily go into the evidential aspect. The point I made was that you would expect private investigators to have information.
Q35 Mr Watson: You have known for four years the extent of the information that was in the Mulcaire file, yet it has only come to light now as a result of civil litigation cases.
John Yates: Again, I think we risk confusing what is evidence, what is appropriate use of police resources in terms of gathering that evidence and putting it before a court, and what are other matters in terms of what other individuals will or may want to do in terms of civil action against the News International group. It is not our job to investigate civil actions, breach of the privacy et al.
Q36 Mr Watson: Could I show you a piece of the evidence that is in the public domain? It comes from the Sheridan file that has been publicly reported as a release from the Sheridan trial. You will see that Mulcaire wrote-
John Yates: Could I have a copy?
Mr Watson: Yes. Jim, can you pass it on, please. You will see in the top left-hand corner that Mulcaire wrote the first name of the journalist when he was obtaining the information on the target. Why did the police ignore this evidence in relation to everyone else other than Goodman?
John Yates: Firstly, there was very clear evidence about Goodman in terms of his phone records and everything else around it. Again, I do not want to get into semantics, Mr Watson, but the fact the name is on the left-hand corner does not mean he knows how that information was obtained. It is a huge quantum leap to suggest that that is the case. If you go back to Operation Motorman and *Operation Slade*[0.30.49] stuff, all the journalists that were interviewed then said, "We thought the information had been obtained lawfully."
Q37 Mr Watson: Mr Yates, we both know the distinction between information and evidence. Are you familiar with the phrase "acting on information received"?
John Yates: Yes.
Q38 Mr Watson: Given that Mulcaire recorded every journalist that instructed him, why did you not interview the other journalist named in the evidence file?
John Yates: I think you are making the assumption that he has not been interviewed, so you need to be careful on that point.
Q39 Mr Watson: Can I ask why the Met did not arrest or at least interview Edmondson at the time?
John Yates: Because you have to have reasonable suspicion, Mr Watson. I have not got the bit of paper that you are probably going to refer to next, with another name on the left-hand corner, but that is not evidence that justifies arrest at that point. Other material may come into play that supports the view and adds to that picture-and I do not want to comment on that, and you must not stray into that point. But there has to be reasonable evidence to support an arrest or an interview.
Q40 Mr Watson: So you are saying that you do not believe that the journalist’s first name written in the top left-hand corner of a notebook from a person who has been arrested for phone hacking warrants further follow-up or provides evidence?
John Yates: You are assuming that that individual-whoever that individual is-has not been interviewed. As I say, that is probably a dangerous area to go into, but there has to be a picture built up around the evidence, the intelligence and the information. You come to a view, as police officers, that justifies a particular course of action.
Q41 Mr Watson: Okay, I take your point, but do you accept that significant evidence in terms of documents, emails, electronic evidence will have been lost by not seizing documents from Edmondson, Miskiw and Thurlbeck like you did to Mulcaire and Goodman?
John Yates: I am not in a position to comment on that because I do not know which aspects you are going to rely on.
Q42 Chair : It was the evidence that the News of the World produced of Ian Edmondson’s emails once they became aware of the information in Mulcaire’s files that has led to the reopening of the police investigation.
John Yates: We are talking about getting into where the new investigation is there. I think we have to come to the point that News International were asked for this information many years back and, for whatever reason, they did not provide it.
Mr Watson: I will come to that.
John Yates: They have now provided it. It is new material, so I need to be cautious about how I describe it; it is new material and there is a new investigation.
Q43 Chair : But they were not asked many years ago specifically for information regarding Ian Edmondson.
John Yates: They were asked for all relevant information about editors and assistant editors. The letter I think I read out to you last time showed that. They chose, for whatever reason, whether they could find it or not, not to provide it at that point.
Q44 Chair : But they were asked for a blanket trawl, not specifically.
John Yates: We asked for very specific issues.
Chair : On Ian Edmondson?
John Yates: On editors, assistant editors and the like. I do not have the letter with me; I will re-find the letter in a second, but it was very clear what was asked for and you will know the vagaries of Section 9 production orders and what you can and cannot do, and whether there is cooperation or not cooperation from any particular media outlet. In other areas they were cooperating fully, and we had a lot of toing and froing around contracts and the like. If they said there was not anything, we had to take that at face value at that point.
Q45 Mr Watson: Did they offer any information that was rejected by the Metropolitan Police?
John Yates: I am not aware of any-I am not aware of any.
Mr Watson: But you would be concerned if that was the situation?
John Yates: It depends what it was.
Q46 Mr Watson: Can you suggest any explanation for the numerous instructions from Edmondson and other journalists to Mulcaire, combined with the notes of mobile telephones and direct dial numbers, other than illegal hacking?
John Yates: Mr Watson, that is a matter for the new investigation.
Mr Watson: It was the previous investigation.
John Yates: I really cannot comment on it.
Q47 Mr Watson: Okay. Can you think of any lawful purpose for assembling a list of 91 mobile phone PINs?
John Yates: It would be difficult to think of a lawful purpose.
Mr Watson: Would you say that it is like finding 91 credit cards in someone’s house all in different names?
John Yates: I am not sure that is a parallel.
Q48 Mr Watson: Do you think the average policeman that works for you would think that that would warrant further inquiry?
John Yates: It is how you focus your resources, Mr Watson, in terms of these matters. It is quite proper, with the discretion that we have and you know we have, to focus your resources where you are going to get the best evidence and show the broader spectrum of criminality in these issues. That is what they did in 2006; that is how the whole prosecution was framed, to ensure the court was aware and had the full sentencing powers available to it in order to ensure they could show the full level of criminality.
You do not go into every matter. It is simply impossible. We do not have the resources to do it. The Chief of Defence Staff this Monday would have made some very difficult decisions about where his resources are because of Libya. What they were doing before would have been very useful, but he would be moving his resources. That is what happens in policing. The context of this case, and I do reiterate it-8 August 2006-is that, in terms of the airline plot, all the arrests in the airline plot took place the following day. So those that were managing this case at that time would have made perfectly proper decisions about how those resources were going to be used, and that is what happened. If you applied 100 detectives at this, you would find lots more details. It would not be, in certain circumstances, the best use of resources because there are other priorities.
Q49 Mr Watson: Mr Yates you have said that; I take your point. But the devil is in the detail, as we now know with the case. In January 2010 you told Mr Whittingdale, the Chairman, you did not know about the 91 PINs when you gave evidence in 2009. Can you tell us when you learnt about that?
John Yates: I cannot remember exactly, but the decision to put it on the HOLMES system took a number of months and a number of police officers. I think it was about 10 or 12 police officers full time for a number of months.
Q50 Mr Watson: If you could let us know a date, but when you learnt of the 91 PINs, why did you not immediately launch an inquiry?
John Yates: Because we kept to that very high threshold of what constitutes an offence. We can go to and from on this all the time. I have said in my opening that I am quite happy to reflect in a mature way about the level of resources perhaps put to this case in 2006/2007.
Q51 Mr Watson: I am asking you to reflect now. Do you think it was appropriate that you did not launch an inquiry?
John Yates: An inquiry into which aspect, Mr Watson?
Mr Watson: The fact that 91 PINs were found, suggesting pretty clearly that criminality had taken place.
John Yates: Criminality or breach of privacy is a different issue.
Q52 Mr Watson: Criminality under RIPA.
John Yates: There is a new investigation going on under a new definition, and I think we need to let that happen. I have reflected on these matters and have been quite happy to agree to you-
Mr Watson: But you have not concluded in front of us yet, though, Mr Yates. You may have reflected, but you have not concluded. That is what I am trying to get.
John Yates: I have reflected about how we could have done more around victims, however you describe a victim. You can bash me on whatever you want-
Q53 Mr Watson: Your colleague Mr Williams told the Committee at Question 1907 that you could not pursue the "For Neville" email because it was all you had, and at Question 1953 you said you had no evidence as to whom Mulcaire was doing these inquiries for. You told the Committee at 1904 you had no evidence to put before Thurlbeck. These statements are all untrue, are they not?
John Yates: They are not untrue. They were to the best of my knowledge at the time. I do not know what the position is now around these matters because, as I say, there is a new investigation, but to the best of my knowledge at the time that was the case and we answered the questions as we knew it at that time.
Q54 Mr Watson: Mr Williams went further. He said that there is nothing that points me to any other journalist at the News of the World. That is just simply untrue, is it not?
John Yates: But you are making judgments now about the events that have taken place, particularly in the last few months, that may make those statements not untrue but in the sense that they are not factually correct now but were then. Events move on. New information comes to light. What I have said throughout this is if new evidence comes to light we will consider it and take appropriate action. That is exactly what we have done.
Q55 Mr Watson: Mr Yates, in addition to other documents you had Mulcaire’s notes, which recorded Thurlbeck, Edmondson and others instructing him to hack phones.
John Yates: No, no-hang on.
Mr Watson: Hold on. You were content to sit there and let this Committee receive information from Mr Williams knowing that it was grossly misleading.
John Yates: No, that is not right, and you are doing wonderful leading question in terms of it. I knew no evidence that the people you have mentioned had instructed Mulcaire to hack phones. There is no evidence to that that I am aware of. There is a new investigation, so again, at the risk of being boring, that has to take its course, but I knew no evidence at the time there were any instructions. It is pretty unfair of you to suggest that I did.
Q56 Mr Watson: Do you accept that you did not give the Committee the full picture the last time you were in front of us?
John Yates: I gave the fullest picture that I knew at the time. That was July. I then applied considerable resource to it because I was concerned about the level of detail that was there that we needed to properly analyse and research. I do not think this Committee would expect to receive a running commentary on how an investigation is developing.
Q57 Mr Watson: You told the Committee that there were no reasonable grounds to question Thurlbeck and Hindley. Do you now accept that that was untrue?
John Yates: I already said that we should have interviewed Thurlbeck.
Mr Watson: You should have interviewed Thurlbeck-did you interview Thurlbeck in 2009 then?
John Yates: Again, I want to come back to what I said earlier in terms of some assurances around that.
Q58 Mr Watson: You told the Committee, and you have told us again this morning, that the principal point in establishing the facts was whether there was any new evidence, but you already knew at the time that evidence existed that is only now emerging in the civil actions. Is that true?
John Yates: Again, at the risk of repetition, it was about establishing the facts-anything new in the Guardian article and there was not. Any new evidence anywhere? Both I and the DPP, with counsel, reviewed it again and he came to the same conclusion about two weeks later. So that is two individuals who have come to the same view.
Q59 Mr Watson: With that evidence in your hands that we now know about, why did you need new evidence?
John Yates: In terms of the new material, new material can radically change a view of previous material. So I think it is unwise of me to try to comment or analyse that particular question because one bit of new material comes in and it can throw a whole different light on old material. I think I need to be absolutely clear that the new investigation must run its course and you are taking me into areas where I perhaps should not go.
Q60 Mr Watson: Did you think that that evidence was not significant?
John Yates: Which bit?
Mr Watson: The evidence you had at the time that we did not know about, but we now do.
John Yates: It is information. They took a view at the time that that would perhaps not take them to the areas where it would show the full extent of the criminality and how the prosecution was framed. Armed with new information and new material, provided only very recently, they are maybe taking a different view, but I do not know that, Mr Watson.
Q61 Mr Watson: Why did you not draw the Commissioner’s attention to it?
John Yates: Because like the DPP and like senior counsel who reviewed it in 2009, we took the view that there was nothing new there that warranted reopening the inquiry.
Q62 Mr Watson: You told us at the time that the questions you put to the News of the World were put to their lawyers on a lawyer-to-lawyer basis. Is that your usual procedure when dealing with a corporation whose employees are suspected of a crime?
John Yates: Certainly, the law absolutely requires us, unless you absolutely know you are going to be lied to and misled, to engage in that way in the first steps.
Q63 Mr Watson: News of the World, when they gave evidence to us, and you will have noted this, told us repeatedly-they stressed-that in their evidence they allowed the police free rein. Were they lying to us?
John Yates: We asked them questions; they provided answers. In a number of areas we had some very helpful answers, and in a number of areas they said they did not have any information so we had to accept that on that basis. The law is very clear on this, Mr Watson; you can take a view any way you like, but the law is very clear that if you think you are going to get cooperation, you have to seek cooperation first.
Q64 Mr Watson: You had available all the evidence that is now emerging in the civil cases, and you chose not to pursue it.
John Yates: That is not the case; you know that is not the case. We have had new evidence that has come in in the last matter of months. As I said in my opening, that is the sole reason why they have reopened the inquiry. So that would tend to support the view that there was no material before that that justified reopening the inquiry.
Q65 Mr Watson: Final question: did you and your colleagues deliberately suppress the evidence of wrongdoing by journalists and others working for News Group newspapers and its subsidiaries?
John Yates: Absolutely not.
Q66 Mr Watson: Did you set out to shield News Group newspapers and its journalists?
John Yates: Absolutely not.
Q67 Jim Sheridan: Mr Yates, could I focus on your relationship with News International? When you gave evidence before us on 2 September 2009, you explained that the relationship between the Met and the News of the World was professional. At that time, had you already made arrangements for dinner with the editor of the News of the World?
John Yates: I cannot recall. If you recall, in April 2009 I took on a new role as the Head of Counter-Terrorism and I suspect that dinner was arranged with a view of that type of issue in mind.
Q68 Jim Sheridan: So you knew when you gave evidence, when you said that your relationship was professional, that arrangements had been made for dinner with the editor of the News of the World?
John Yates: I have no idea when the arrangement was made, but my diary would show arrangements with a number of media outlets on a regular basis during the course of my professional working. If policemen only talked to policemen we would be a pretty dull lot anyway, but it is part of my role as a senior police officer to engage at all levels-politicians, business, media, communities-to ensure that I am getting the broadest possible view of life and how it looks. So I do not think it is unusual and I do not think there is anything strange about that at all.
Q69 Jim Sheridan: Could you share with the Committee all the listed dates of meetings or social arrangements that you have had with the News of the World?
John Yates: They are a matter of public record; we put them all on our websites.
Q70 Jim Sheridan: Could you tell us where you went for dinner on that night?
John Yates: I cannot honestly recall.
Jim Sheridan: You cannot remember?
John Yates: No. I could find out, if it helps.
Q71 Jim Sheridan: Can you remember who paid?
John Yates: News International paid. It is declared in the hospitality register, as they always are.
Q72 Jim Sheridan: So that is recorded as well, is it?
John Yates: Yes. We have been doing this for many years, Mr Sheridan, and we always declare them, and the hospitality register is there for anyone to see and it is on a public website.
Q73 Jim Sheridan: Can I ask you: at this dinner did you discuss the evidence that you gave to the Select Committee and did you discuss the whole question of phone hacking?
John Yates: I just would not do that.
Jim Sheridan: So you never discussed-
John Yates: I would not-
Q74 Jim Sheridan: So what was the subject of the discussion then?
John Yates: I cannot recall-this was two and half years ago. I imagine it would be about my new role-a broad view of how I see world in terms of the current counter-terrorism world in order to make sure that media outlets are aware, in the broadest possible sense, about the temperature and all those issues. I just would not be discussing issues about evidence or other cases. It would be totally inappropriate. I just would not do it.
Q75 Jim Sheridan: So what you are suggesting is that you had this dinner with the News of the World and at that time phone hacking was topical, but at no stage did you mention or they mention phone hacking?
John Yates: No, and actually-
Jim Sheridan: So what was the purpose of the meeting then?
John Yates: I have just told you what the purpose of the meeting was. It was to discuss my new role potentially. I cannot actually remember, but I am looking at the dates: I had become the Head of Counter-Terrorism in April, a few months of feet under the table and then I would be engaging with people. I think if you look at my list of engagements and people I have met, there is a very broad spectrum-Telegraph, ITN, Channel Four, the Guardian-at least three or four occasions. It is completely normal and I believe acceptable for us, as senior cops, to engage with the media, in the same way as I am sure every one of you in this room does as well.
Q76 Jim Sheridan: So you would still describe your relationship with News International as professional?
John Yates: Yes, I would do.
Q77 Jim Sheridan: How often have you met with Colin Myler?
John Yates: I think it is just that once actually. I think it is just that once, but bear in mind he was not the editor at the time of these events anyway.
Jim Sheridan: Just the once?
John Yates: Not that that makes a difference.
Jim Sheridan: Just the one time?
John Yates: I believe so-I believe so.
Q78 Jim Sheridan: How would you describe you relationship with Lucy Panton?
John Yates: I have known Lucy for a number of years. I have been around crime and serious crime for probably the best part of 15, 20 years. I have known Lucy for ages, actually.
Q79 Jim Sheridan: Do you have any other friends at News International?
John Yates: Currently?
Jim Sheridan: Well, even then. Old friends/new friends?
John Yates: Yes, probably-I have to think about who has been there, who has not been there and where they have gone since. No, there would be a number of people I know. Again, I have been around serious crime for 20 years; you are going to come across journalists in every walk of life. It is not unusual.
Q80 Jim Sheridan: But do you not think it would be unusual, given the circumstances at that time for you to have dinner and social arrangements with people who are being investigated?
John Yates: Hang on, News International is a big firm. It is like saying someone cannot have dinner with me because a detective inspector in Bromley has been nicked for corruption. It is absurd. If they were suspects, absolutely not right, but they were not at that point, as far as I am aware they are not now, and if they did become then clearly that makes a huge difference.
Q81 Jim Sheridan: Have you met any of the Murdoch family?
John Yates: Not that I am aware of.
Jim Sheridan: I think you would remember that, surely?
John Yates: I may have been at a do they had been at somewhere, but I do not think I have met directly a member of the Murdoch family, no.
Q82 Jim Sheridan: And how would you describe your relationship with Rebekah Brooks?
John Yates: I have met her on a number of occasions probably. Do not forget that The Sun run the Police Bravery Awards, so yes. Again, they are all declared.
Q83 Jim Sheridan: Do you declare how much, if any, is paid by newspapers for stories that are given out by the police?
John Yates: As I think we all know, it is illegal to pay for stories from the police, and if we did have information about it, we would investigate it.
Q84 Jim Sheridan: So that does not happen then?
John Yates: It has happened in the past on very rare occasions, and where we have found out about it, we have caught them and they have gone to prison.
Q85 Jim Sheridan: Can I ask you then, do you think it is appropriate that the Commissioner and, indeed, the Met’s media man had dinner with the News of the World deputy editor, Neil Wallis, in September 2006, even though this is only a month after Clive Goodman had been arrested, and where the police were trying unsuccessfully to get the newspaper to release the evidence?
John Yates: I think you would have to ask the Commissioner that. I do not think that is for me to answer, but I suspect he would probably give you the same answer I have just done around it being a big organisation; we do engage them. That is for the Commissioner to answer, not for me really, but I imagine he would probably give the same response.
Q86 Jim Sheridan: So you think it is appropriate for a huge organisation, regardless of the size of it, to have dinner and social events with them?
John Yates: I think it is entirely-
Jim Sheridan: Do you do that with other people who are under suspicion?
John Yates: They are not under suspicion, Mr Chairman.
Jim Sheridan: They are under investigation.
John Yates: No, they are not under investigation. Certain individuals within that business were under investigation. That does not mean the rest of them are treated as lepers and you do not engage with them. If they became under investigation that is a completely different matter, but it is like saying that people cannot engage with me because a DI in Bromley has been nicked for corruption. It is absurd.
Q87 Jim Sheridan: Did you ask the commissioner about the dinner that he had with the deputy editor, Neil Wallis?
John Yates: No, I did not. Why would I?
Jim Sheridan: I would have thought you would have.
John Yates: You need to ask the Commissioner that. It is not for me to answer.
Q88 Jim Sheridan: Finally, Mr Yates, could I ask, as I have already asked, if you could list all your social arrangements, dates that you have had with people in the News of the World.
John Yates: I am quite happy to. Let me take it away. My social life is my social life, and my business life is my business life.
Jim Sheridan: I am only interested in your social life with News International. I am not interested in what you do in other parts of your life.
John Yates: I am very happy to consider it.
Q89 Mr Watson: Just a follow-up point. Just for clarity: was Neil Wallis interviewed or investigated as part of the original investigation?
John Yates: No.
Q90 Mr Watson: When did you last meet Mr Wallis for lunch or dinner?
John Yates: I have known Neil for a number of years. I cannot recall the last time.
Q91 Mr Watson: Could it be this year?
John Yates: Yes. What are we, April? It could easily be.
Q92 Mr Watson: Could it be February?
John Yates: It may well be.
Q93 Mr Watson: Would you have discussed phone hacking with him?
John Yates: No.
Q94 Mr Watson: He does not work for News International now.
John Yates: No. In spite of all of this, we are professional people; we just would not do it.
Q95 Mr Watson: In answer to my colleague you said that, if you received information about police being paid for information, it would be investigated. Can I take it that you then investigated Rebekah Brooks after she told this Committee that she paid police for evidence?
John Yates: I think we went through this hoop last time. It was 2003 and that is not my responsibility. I am happy to go back and look at what happened in 2003, but that is eight years ago.
Q96 Mr Watson: But, to clarify it, you are aware that the chief executive of News International told a parliamentary committee that she paid the police for evidence.
John Yates: I remember seeing it in glorious technicolour, Mr Watson, yes.
Q97 Mr Watson: You have just said that when information like that-
John Yates: I think the actual question I answered to Mr Sheridan-you are right on that point anyway-was about police officers providing information for cash, in which case I said we have done in the past; we have caught them and there have been investigations.
Q98 Mr Watson: So, when someone admits to paying police for evidence it is your view that it should be investigated.
John Yates: It is my view that there are possible offences there, yes.
Q99 Mr Watson: And they should be investigated.
John Yates: There are possible offences there, but you have to look at what is appropriate.
Q100 Mr Watson: To get a straight yes or no, should they be investigated?
John Yates: Obviously, you have to look at the availability of any evidence, the scope of the inquiry and all those issues.
Q101 Mr Watson: You are not answering my question, which requires a straight yes or no answer.
John Yates: I am trying to explain that it is not straightforward.
Q102 Mr Watson: When that information is provided, should it be investigated-yes or no?
John Yates: I am trying to explain that there is not a straightforward answer to that question, because there are a number of other issues you would have to consider before you launched an inquiry.
Q103 Mr Watson: If I said to you in public that I had paid police for evidence, would you investigate it?
John Yates: We may want to speak to you, yes, and on that basis we would then determine how we would go forward.
Q104 Mr Watson: Likewise, Rebekah Brook said that.
John Yates: I do not know what happened in 2003, Mr Watson.
Q105 Mr Watson: You know she told this Committee that she had paid police for evidence. Should she be investigated-yes or no?
John Yates: I am saying there are possible offences there. The decision to launch an investigation is not for me on that one.
Q106 Jim Sheridan: Just for the record, I asked a question about the police in general; I did not ask about the question about police officers.
John Yates: I do not think it changes my response.
Q107 Mr Sanders: In his statement of July 2009 the DPP, Mr Starmer, said it was agreed that any potential victim would be informed of the situation by the police. Do you acknowledge that this was agreed?
John Yates: I hope we are not going to get into the semantics of what constitutes a victim but, with that rider, yes.
Q108 Mr Sanders: How many victims were notified by the police in 2006, and how many more were notified in 2009?
John Yates: I would have to come back to you with the exact numbers. I suspect that in 2006 it was a very small number; from 2009 thereon I think I gave a guarantee that we would look at it to see if we had done enough and what more we needed to do, and we have been doing that ever since. Now there is a new investigation, no doubt they will be taking a revised view, particularly with the revised view of the law.
Q109 Mr Sanders: Why did the police not inform all of the victims?
John Yates: Because it is not as straightforward as it sounds. We run the risk of getting into the semantics of what constitutes a victim. Certainly, in terms of the small number that I have always referred to, they were undoubtedly victims in the sense of a breach of the law, as in Section 1 of RIPA. As to the other matters, there is not the clearest evidence. They took the view then-I revised the view-that we should do more around that. That is what we have been doing since, but I absolutely accept that we could and should have done more around that at that particular time, so there is no difficulty with that.
Q110 Mr Sanders: When did the police pass the task to the mobile phone providers?
John Yates: I think it was during the course of the original investigation. We had some clear correspondence from one of the major companies saying they had done absolutely everything expected of them. I think there is some confusion with some of the other mobile phone companies as to who was doing what, and we need to get some more clarity around that.
Q111 Mr Sanders: You did not check all of the mobile phone providers?
John Yates: No. My understanding is that we wrote to all the major providers and indicated that this was the bit that we were going to be responsible for and that was the bit that they were going to be responsible for. I am not sure that the follow-up was perhaps as thorough as it could have been. That is what we are in the process of doing, and have been for some months.
Q112 Mr Sanders: So, you did not check all of the mobile phone providers to see that they had done what they were asked to do?
John Yates: I am not absolutely certain that that circle was completed.
Q113 Mr Sanders: It seems the problem is that not only were victims not informed, they were often misled by the police when they sought information following the 2009 revelations. If I give you an example, on 9 July you told the press there was no evidence that Lord Prescott’s phone had been tapped. You received similar information by letter, and on 2 September 2009 you replied "no" when asked whether his phone was tapped. You again said there was no evidence when asked about Prescott on the Today programme in September 2010. Why did you take this position?
John Yates: I know you have been spoken to, Chair, but I think it would be really unwise for me to get into dialogue about that particular individual in this Committee while a new inquiry is under way. I think it would be really unwise. I am sorry. You would not want to do anything that would prejudice a future inquiry, nor would I from this point. I am not ducking it; I am happy to come back later and answer it, but I think that at this time it would be really unwise to speak on that particular point.
Chair: If you feel there is a risk of prejudicing an inquiry by answering a specific question, then it is entirely your right to say so on that basis.
Q114 Mr Sanders: On 9 February this year your replacement, Sue Akers, revealed that there was indeed information in Mulcaire’s documents that identified Prescott as a victim of phone hacking. Do you not accept that Lord Prescott was misled?
John Yates: I would need to see the quote in terms of its context, but I think it is most unwise for me to get anywhere near this.
Q115 Mr Sanders: Are you aware that the Met admitted to the High Court on 17 February that they had twice told Kelly Hoppen they had no documents relating to her from 2005 or 2006 when this appears to be untrue?
John Yates: I am not certain of those details and I cannot comment. All I would say is that there is a difference between untruth and mistake. I just do not think you can say it is untrue without the context around what else has been happening.
Q116 Mr Sanders: I accept that, but poor Kelly Hoppen has been told only in the last few weeks that her name was in Mulcaire’s case notes.
John Yates: If that is the case, it is regrettable. I know the new inquiry is focusing on a number of areas. That may be one; I am not sure.
Q117 Mr Sanders: Do you wish to apologise for misleading her?
John Yates: I would need to know the context, and I am sure you understand that.
Q118 Paul Farrelly: I just want to finish off with a few questions on victims, but before I do so perhaps I may complete what I was pursuing before Tom took over. Thank you, Mr Yates, for agreeing to give us a memo on the numbers, not the names, of people who were interviewed.
John Yates: May I do that in concert with the new inquiry people to make sure that will not do anything-?
Q119 Paul Farrelly: Sure. It is the previous investigation and I would like just the numbers. It would be very interesting, given it is on record that Mr Hall was not interviewed as a witness but under caution, as to whether you can break it down into the number of people who were interviewed as witnesses or under caution.
John Yates: Can I take it away? I think it would be perfectly possible-I know we have done it before-to break down numbers of individuals interviewed under caution and the number of witnesses seen, provided it is not so small that it makes it absolutely obvious that it is a certain individual. We are cautious about releasing in the public domain details about people who have just been interviewed under caution, because it does not go to their guilt; it goes to their protection.
Q120 Paul Farrelly: I will leave that with you to reflect on it. Given the public interest in this, some people might feel a little surprised when you say fewer than 10 people were interviewed, because I can list a far greater number of people whose names have come into the public domain.
John Yates: Can I go back and look at it, and provide you with what I can? It may well be. I can look to my back to see if I can get a note.
Q121 Paul Farrelly: When you looked at this after the New York Times article, would you have thought it relevant in that investigation to investigate allegations of destruction of documents at the News of the World when Clive Goodman’s desk was raided? Would that have been relevant to your investigation?
John Yates: I doubt it. The New York Times aspect was focused very much on particular areas and, once the articles had been published, particular people came out in public to say certain things, and that was where the scope of that inquiry went. I cannot think of the relevance of going back to what happened in 2006 and Goodman’s documents, or whatever.
Q122 Paul Farrelly: With allegations in the public domain of the potential destruction of evidence, you are saying it would not have been relevant to look at that and establish what might have gone on?
John Yates: If it had been a valid line of inquiry, I am sure it would have been pursued. Certainly, that has not come to my attention, and I am sure it would have done.
Q123 Paul Farrelly: In re-examining what may have gone on, would it have been relevant for you to try to get a copy from Glenn Mulcaire of the five-page synopsis of his book called Here to Here: The Inside Story of the Royal Household Tapes and the Murky World of the Media?
John Yates: Is that a book that has been published?
Q124 Paul Farrelly: No; it is a synopsis. Again, it is information that is in the public domain as a title, but would it have been of any interest to you to get hold of that?
John Yates: I am confident that that particular bit of work done in late 2010 with the CPS would have followed the relevant lines of inquiry as to what was forthcoming from the New York Times, which, understandably, did not want to share their sources with us. It was fairly limited.
Q125 Paul Farrelly: Since the revelation of further hacking by another individual, Dan Evans, who has been suspended at the News of the World, News International, the organisation, has said that if any such phone hacking is established, any individuals will be summarily dismissed for gross misconduct without any compensation. Yet, as we established in our inquiry, Glenn Mulcaire and Clive Goodman were treated differently. Would it be of any relevance to your fresh look at what happened to investigate why they were treated differently, and why Mr Mulcaire’s legal costs are still being paid by the organisation?
John Yates: That is a matter for Mr Mulcaire and News International; I do not think it is a matter for the police.
Q126 Paul Farrelly: When in the autumn-I think it was in November-you passed the file to the CPS, and they responded that there was nothing further to do, did you make any recommendations to the CPS that they did not act on?
John Yates: Not that I am aware of. The old days of being very prescriptive about where we think the charges are are in the past. It is a much more collegiate approach. The CPS are the final, independent prosecutors, but there is a much more collegiate approach around statements of the facts, objective analysis and then letting lawyers, who may or may not have conduct of the case, come to a decision. We do not recommend because we are not the people who lay charges, so there is a much more objective analysis of the facts and evidence, which allows others whose role it is to ensure they do that.
Q127 Paul Farrelly: When you passed the file to the CPS, did you reach any conclusions that any further action needed to be taken, or anybody needed to be charged?
John Yates: That is a matter for the CPS, not us.
Q128 Paul Farrelly: Did News International alert the Metropolitan Police Service that an employee had been suspended for a new case of phone hacking before it was revealed in the press, in the New York Times and Guardian? Did they tell you?
John Yates: I am not aware of the timeline. I know they produced new material at a particular point-I think it was in January of this year-and that was when we came to the view that this merited a new investigation. That was what happened, and it was passed over to a new team.
Q129 Paul Farrelly: My question was if they told you before it came into the public domain in the New York Times and the Guardian?
John Yates: I am not sure of the timeline.
Q130 Paul Farrelly: Can you check for us?
John Yates: I can certainly check it.
Q131 Paul Farrelly: To return to victims, you told us in previous evidence that potential targets may have run into hundreds but they used that tactic on a far smaller number. I do not want to go into semantics that you and we have been through on what constitutes a victim, but on what basis were you able to use the phraseology that they "used that tactic"?
John Yates: I am not sure whether it was to this Committee or the Home Affairs Select Committee. I was being pedantic about what constituted the actual offence, which was that we could prove that the voicemail had been intercepted prior to the recipient accessing it.
Q132 Paul Farrelly: You were using a very narrow definition of "tactic" as well.
John Yates: I was using a narrow definition, yes.
Q133 Paul Farrelly: That is pretty semantic, isn’t it?
John Yates: We work to the evidence. I do not think it is semantic, but you have your view.
Q134 Paul Farrelly: When you gave us that evidence, were you aware that previously Detective Superintendent Williams had written a memo to the Crown Prosecution Service on 30 May 2006 which said: "A vast number of unique voicemail numbers belonging to high-profile individuals have been identified as being accessed without authority"? Were you aware of that?
John Yates: I am not aware of that particular memo, no.
Q135 Paul Farrelly: Did you ask him?
John Yates: Not about that particular memo.
Q136 Paul Farrelly: You can see quite clearly there is a conflict between what you said and what he said.
John Yates: You will recall that Mr Williams gave evidence with me. I do not think it is a conflict, but you take a view.
Q137 Paul Farrelly: On 9 and 10 July, when you issued your statements, you committed to informing people. Yet in supplementary evidence to us in November 2009, after you had given evidence in person, you said that the number of people actually contacted by the police was a very low number, and none since the 9 and 10 July statements. How do you explain that discrepancy between intention and action?
John Yates: That is a very fair point. In terms of the length of time it takes to put everything and back record convert huge volumes of material on to the relevant system, there were 10 people working 10 hours a day for three-plus months to do that. It was a slow process, and I am happy to accept that we could have been speedier about much of that. The intention absolutely remains, and we now need to make sure-the new investigation will be doing it anyway-that that is committed to in a thorough way.
Q138 Paul Farrelly: In a complaint to the Guardian about some of its coverage, you wrote that technically you proved only one interception, so potentially the number of so-called victims could go down to one; then it is 10 to 12; and then there are more as we have seen from the civil cases. Do you recognise that you and the police have difficulty in credibility around this issue?
John Yates: I would not say "credibility", but, without straying into areas I should not, there was only one case on the basis of the legal advice given at the time that we could technically prove. The other cases that form the indictment were proved on what you would call system, method or whatever you want, and there was a guilty plea, so the law was not tested in that sense. I have accepted, Mr Farrelly, that we have not been as clear as we could be. There are different definitions of what is and what is not a victim, who is and who is not affected, and I have accepted we could have done more on that. I know the new team is working and is applying huge amounts of resources to try to put that right.
Q139 Paul Farrelly: I hope you agree that the Guardian have done a public service in giving people the wherewithal to find out through civil actions that they were indeed targeted.
John Yates: Contrary to what they may think-they are in the room-I have huge admiration for what the Guardian have done. It is a huge story and issue, but police resources have to focus on where the best evidence is, and that was what happened in 2006.
Q140 Paul Farrelly: Given that it has been reported in Private Eye that Messrs Carter-Ruck acting on your behalf have written to a solicitor, Mark Lewis, and the Guardian, can you tell me who is paying Carter-Ruck to do that?
John Yates: I suspect these are properly matters private to me. I have no difficulty with what the Guardian write the vast majority of the time, but I have objected to some of the more colourful assertions and allegations that go to my integrity. I think you would expect me to rebut that in a way one has to.
Q141 Paul Farrelly: The question is: are you or the Metropolitan Police paying?
John Yates: I think that is a private matter for me.
Q142 Paul Farrelly: But it is a matter of public resources if it is the Metropolitan Police.
John Yates: It is a private matter for me, and it is probably a question you ought to direct to the police authority.
Q143 Paul Farrelly: I have two final questions, Chair, you will be glad to hear. In terms of contacting victims, you said several times before the Home Affairs Committee that you would speak to Chris Bryant personally. Why have you not followed through with that?
John Yates: I have offered to. I wrote to Mr Bryant towards the end of last year-I can get you the exact date-and reiterated that offer in writing. He has not followed it up.
Q144 Paul Farrelly: Why was Sienna Miller not contacted by the Metropolitan Police? Why has she had to force the production of documents?
John Yates: Sienna Miller? I am not absolutely sure of the details of that case.
Q145 Paul Farrelly: This is my final point. In your letter to us asking to come here, you say that what Chris alleged was affecting not only your reputation but that of the Metropolitan Police. I put it to you that the reputation of the Metropolitan Police has already been affected in spades by what has gone on. Let me give you an example. In this inquiry we did a little what you might call basic police work. We asked the News of the World how many Nevilles it employed at the time. The answer was one. It is a question that the Metropolitan Police did not ask. Andy Hayman, the officer in charge at the time, wrote in The Times that the inquiry had left no stone unturned. Your evidence to us really has not given any flavour of criticism of the scope and nature of the investigation. Would you accept that the reputation of the Metropolitan Police has suffered throughout this, not just because of the allegations made by Mr Bryant in Parliament?
John Yates: I would certainly say that, as to reputation, it has been challenging for us. We are now working extremely hard to put that right. I did say in answer to one Member-I am not sure which one-in relation to "no stone unturned" that investigation and resources were properly focused on where we could get the best evidence, because that is what we have to do. There are not limitless resources for the police to undertake huge investigations when we can focus these matters in a way that presents the best evidence to a court. But I accept what you said and, in terms of the victim strategy, we could have done more. We need to do more on that, and we are doing more.
Q146 Mr Watson: I have three brief technical questions. First, can you tell me on what date Chris Bryant raised with you his concerns that his phone may have been tampered with?
John Yates: I do not know.
Q147 Mr Watson: Could you follow that up?
John Yates: Yes, certainly.
Q148 Mr Watson: Second, in the Jonathan Rees case there were a number of audio tapes for which transcripts were provided as part of a murder inquiry that has just finished. Will the new team be reviewing all the audio tapes from that inquiry to help inform the new investigation?
John Yates: That is entirely a matter for them. I know they are fully aware of the Rees aspect and the links, and that is a matter for them.
Q149 Mr Watson: Third, we know from the Information Commissioner’s inquiry into the convicted private investigator Steve Whittamore that private information about a family member of Milly Dowler was obtained. If it transpires from the review of the Mulcaire evidence that, when Sky News were broadcasting it round the clock, Glenn Mulcaire was instructed to hack the phones of the family members of children killed at Soham, would that warrant an adequate use of police resources to investigate it?
John Yates: I am sure it would, but that is the first I have ever heard of that aspect.
Q150 Chair: Deputy Commissioner, I thank you for coming before the Committee this morning. I am sorry if you have to go through the whole process again next week. This was not my wish or our intention.
John Yates: No. It does seem slightly odd, Chair.
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