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UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 562
House of commons
TAKEN BEFORE THE
HOME AFFAIRS Committee
Unauthorised tapping into or hacking of mobile communications
TUEsday 4 September 2012
assistant deputy commissioner Sue Akers QPM
Evidence heard in Public Questions 1 - 89
USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT
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Taken before the Home Affairs Committee
on Tuesday 4 September 2012
Keith Vaz (Chair)
Mr James Clappison
Dr Julian Huppert
Mr David Winnick
Examination of Witness
Witness: Sue Akers QPM, Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service, gave evidence.
Q1 Chair: Could I call the Committee to order and refer everyone present to the Register of Members’ Interests where the interests of members of this Committee are noted, and can I welcome, for her last appearance before the Select Committee, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers.
Alun Michael: As these are policing issues, I perhaps ought to declare, in addition to what is registered in the Register of Members’ Interests, the fact that I am a candidate for police commissioner elections in South Wales in November.
Q2 Chair: Thank you. Mr Michael is noting the fact that he is a candidate in the forthcoming elections in November for South Wales.
This is part of our regular update from the Deputy Assistant Commissioner, following our report last year into phone hacking. We are most grateful to you for coming here today, and we have noted the evidence that you have given to Lord Justice Leveson. If I can begin by running through some of the figures that you have given us in the past and some of the figures that you have given to Lord Justice Leveson. I think you said on the last occasion, Deputy Assistant Commissioner, that there were 4,775 potential victims. As of now, 2,615 have been notified. There are 2,160 yet to be notified. There are 702 likely victims of this, you told Lord Justice Leveson, on 23 July. Twenty-six people have been arrested, nine people have been charged and therefore, according to my calculations, it will be December 2013 before all the potential victims have been notified. Do you recognise those figures or do you have some new figures for the Committee?
Sue Akers: I think it would be a very useful opportunity now to give you what we consider to be the most up-to-date figures. They are a bit of a moving feast because, as we investigate and get to meet with who we think are potential victims, sometimes they do not turn out to be such. That is why there is a fluctuation in victims.
If I may start with the victims, firstly, I can say that we have notified and made contact with every single person we consider to be either potential or likely victims. Potential victims we define as anybody whose name and phone number is in the material that we hold. Likely victims need to have some other additional material around them that would enable hacking to take place, so would include, for instance, a PIN number or a unique voicemail number. Also we have some audio tapes, so where we have those or transcripts we include them as likely victims.
As of 31 August, potential victims-people whose name and phone number are in the material-are 3,675, of whom 1,894 have been contacted, meaning that unsuccessful attempts to contact on numbers are 1,781. Likely victims, which is the category that perhaps Members will be more interested in because these people are likely to have been victims of hacking, we assess to be at 1,069, of whom 658 have been contacted, leaving 388 who were not contactable for various reasons and 23 who, for operational reasons, we chose not to tell.
Q3 Chair: That is a higher figure than the figure you gave Lord Justice Leveson, because on 23 July you said that the number of likely victims was 702. You are giving us a figure of over 1,000 today, so it has grown since July. Is it because you have gone through the files and you have found more names?
Sue Akers: There will be an assessment taken on the basis of a whole range of factors and-
Q4 Chair: But the figure is higher?
Sue Akers: But the figure is higher.
Q5 Chair: Yes, and this is because you have come across more names?
Sue Akers: This will be in the course of our investigation, as we speak to people and they get to view material, they start to identify other people that are in the material and lead us on to others, so it grows, rather than the other way round.
Q6 Chair: As of now-because the Committee is keen to know when this is all going to be concluded, as I am sure you are-how many more are left to be contacted?
Sue Akers: None.
Sue Akers: We have contacted over 2,500 people and we are satisfied that we have made contact. There may be more to be followed up but, in actual notification terms, everybody has been notified.
Q7 Chair: You are telling this Committee today, as of now-
Sue Akers: We have completed the activity that the Committee were very worried about on the last occasion.
Chair: We were.
Sue Akers: I think I said we had contacted 170, and you were adding names and phone numbers and coming to very big numbers but-
Q8 Chair: But you have contacted everyone you think you need to contact and the total is what?
Sue Akers: The total number of potential and likely victims combined is 4,744, and of those 2,500 have been contacted. The rest we can’t contact.
Q9 Chair: You have now arrested 26 people to date. Has that gone up since yesterday?
Sue Akers: In terms of numbers of arrests, on Operation Weeting, which is the phone hacking, we have arrested 25. I do not know, Chair, whether you are interested in the other operations?
Chair: We are very interested in the other operations: Tuleta and Elveden.
Sue Akers: In Elveden, which is allegations of corrupt payments, we have made 43 arrests, and in Tuleta, which includes computer hacking and stolen mobile phones, among other things, there have been 11 arrests to date.
Q10 Chair: So the total number of people arrested in all your operations-my mathematics is not perfect-is 75 people?
Sue Akers: I make it 79.
Q11 Chair: Yes, as I said, it wasn’t perfect-79 people. Of those 79 people arrested, how many were police officers and how many were journalists?
Sue Akers: In the phone hacking, 12 were current or former journalists. In corrupt payments, 24 current and former journalists and five police officers, nine other public officials and five people who were conduits for the corrupt payments.
Q12 Chair: That is 79 people arrested but only nine people have been charged. Is it a worry to you that despite the thousands of names you have gone through and the number of arrests you have made, you only have enough evidence to charge nine?
Sue Akers: It is not a worry to me. We worked hand in glove with the CPS. We still have files that await a decision with the CPS. We are constantly providing them with files and they are constantly providing us with charging decisions. It is just that those are the first decisions that have been made and they have resulted in charges. Of the people that we have arrested in Operation Weeting, eight have now been charged, which means that there are some who are still awaiting a decision and others that it has been decided to take no further action against.
Chair: Dr Huppert has a question on people notified.
Q13 Dr Huppert: Perhaps I misheard you, DAC Akers. Did you say that there were some people it had been decided not to contact?
Sue Akers: Yes.
Q14 Dr Huppert: Why was it decided not to contact them?
Sue Akers: For operational reasons.
Q15 Dr Huppert: These are people whose phones were hacked but are presumably involved in some other way as well?
Sue Akers: Yes. It is very difficult for me to disclose that here.
Q16 Dr Huppert: Will you at some point be notifying them?
Sue Akers: No.
Q17 Nicola Blackwood: I want to follow up on the 2,500 people that are non-contactable. At what point do you come to the conclusion that individuals are non-contactable? What process did you go through for trying to contact them?
Sue Akers: It would be where we have been unable to put a name to a unique voicemail number. There will be names that are so common that we can’t narrow it down enough to identify an individual. There will be a range of reasons, bearing in mind that we are dealing with material that is now six years old. Lots of people don’t have the same telephone numbers; people move on. It is very difficult this long after the event, but we have taken every reasonable step to contact people where we are able.
Q18 Mark Reckless: Of the 4,744 on the potential list, you have contacted 2,500 but the rest you haven’t?
Sue Akers: Yes.
Q19 Mark Reckless: Almost by definition, don’t you start with a mobile number? Are you saying that because of the lapse of six years, almost half of those people have changed their mobile number and therefore you can’t contact them?
Sue Akers: As I said before, there is a whole range of reasons why we have not been able to contact them. Where we have, we have done so but we have to draw a line somewhere and-
Q20 Mark Reckless: If you have a mobile number for them, wouldn’t you ring up that mobile and try to speak to them or leave a message?
Sue Akers: Yes, we have done that. We have done everything. The number I gave you is after all those inquiries have been made, so numbers have been rung.
Q21 Mark Reckless: Might it be that some of those you are contacting do not want to speak to you, like you do not want to speak to the 23 you haven’t contacted?
Sue Akers: No. If they did not want to speak to us we would consider that they at least had been notified, so they would not be among the number. These are people who do not hold the same number, or have common names-a whole range of reasons why.
Q22 Chair: I think the point Mr Reckless is making is that when you leave a message you don’t say, "By the way, we are notifying you that you have been hacked".
Sue Akers: No.
Chair: You say, "Give us a ring" and people may not want to ring the Metropolitan Police if you leave a message on their answering machine, saying, "Ring the police". Would you consider that-
Sue Akers: To be honest, I have not been leaving the messages so I am not precisely sure what message has been left.
Q23 Chair: No, but you understand the point?
Sue Akers: Yes, I do.
Chair: It may be they just don’t know it is about phone hacking, they may just think-
Sue Akers: I suspect that the message that was left was very clear as to why.
Chair: Very clear, okay. Lorraine Fullbrook has a question on notification.
Q24 Lorraine Fullbrook: I want to know how much help you have been getting from the mobile telephone companies. Where you had a number but you did not have a name or people have changed their numbers, how much help have you had from the telecoms companies?
Sue Akers: I would say on behalf of the officers that have been dealing with this that they have been dealing closely with the mobile phone companies and where they have been able to help they have, throughout the investigation. Whether it be in terms of gathering more evidence or whether it be in notifying victims, the mobile phone companies have been helpful as far as they can be.
Q25 Lorraine Fullbrook: I do not understand that if you have numbers that you can’t marry up to somebody why you can’t, because the mobile phone companies have this information going back years.
Sue Akers: You would have to ask the mobile phone companies why they can’t provide that, but we-
Lorraine Fullbrook: So they are not giving you much help then?
Q26 Chair: Why haven’t you asked the mobile phone companies this?
Sue Akers: We have. For the people that haven’t been contacted, perhaps you are under a misapprehension that where there are lots of orphaned telephone numbers-numbers that are not attached to a name-we are trying to get subscriber checks on all of them. We certainly have not done that but where we have-
Q27 Lorraine Fullbrook: But you say of the 4,744 you have only contacted 2,500.
Sue Akers: Yes.
Lorraine Fullbrook: There is a fair chunk-nearly 50% more-that you have not been able to identify in fact. I don’t understand why you haven’t.
Sue Akers: Because practically we cannot establish who they are.
Q28 Alun Michael: Is it the case that people have not been identified, or that in many of these cases there isn’t anyone to identify, because it is a dead number or a dead phone or someone where the service is not being provided?
Sue Akers: It is both.
Q29 Alun Michael: Are you able to say with confidence that there is not a continuing service in relation to those numbers?
Sue Akers: Yes, I think we are.
Q30 Chair: Let us move on to some more factual points. Why is it that Strathclyde Police are bringing charges under Motorman rather than the Metropolitan Police? Why do people have to go all the way up to Strathclyde to be charged? Why are you not dealing with it, since it all comes from the same operation?
Sue Akers: I was not aware that Strathclyde were charging Motorman. I know they have an interest in the case but I thought that was in respect of-
Q31 Chair: You do not know anyone who has been charged by Strathclyde Police?
Sue Akers: No.
Q32 Chair: Do you have access to the Operation Millipede files?
Sue Akers: No.
Q33 Chair: You don’t? Have you sought access to them?
Sue Akers: No. In fact, you need to remind me what the Operation Millipede files are.
Chair: I understand they are related to some of the investigations that are going on.
Sue Akers: In Strathclyde?
Chair: No, generally. Could you look into this and come back to us?
Sue Akers: Yes. If you can put something around the operation name it might help.
Q34 Chair: Let us move on to the number of officers who have been helping in these three inquiries. You have 19 officers in Tuleta, 96 in Weeting and 70 in Elveden. As I understand it, that is 185 officers and civilians working on these three inquiries. Is that still the figure?
Sue Akers: Yes.
Chair: Or is it more or is it less?
Sue Akers: No, 96 in Weeting, 70 in Elveden, 19 in Tuleta.
Q35 Chair: Yes, those are the figures that I gave you. So you have 185 officers working with you at the moment?
Sue Akers: Yes.
Q36 Chair: Do you know what the total costs of the three operations are at the moment?
Sue Akers: This year, just under £9 million and we have projected costs over four years, which will be in the region of £40 million.
Q37 Chair: £40 million. Does it not cause you concern that even with £40 million of taxpayers’ money-please don’t take this as criticism from me-half the people haven’t been notified and only nine people have been charged? Is that a concern to you?
Sue Akers: No, it is not a concern to me. I think the fact that people have been charged in Weeting represents the success of our investigation. Nobody has been charged yet in Elveden but neither have people been-it is still under consideration.
Chair: It is still ongoing.
Q38 Mr Clappison: On a different subject, you mentioned computer hacking in the course of your remarks. What can you tell us about the progress of investigations on that, please?
Sue Akers: It is difficult for me to go into any detail, obviously, because it is an ongoing investigation, but there are seven people who are on bail in relation to computer hacking.
Q39 Mr Clappison: I know it is difficult for you but are you able to tell us generally what the nature of the allegation is in those cases, the general character?
Sue Akers: You will have seen, maybe, the Panorama programme. There are inquiries in connection with that. It is difficult for me to go into much more detail.
Q40 Mr Clappison: Are you able to say anything about the characteristics of the seven people who are under investigation, what category they might fall into?
Sue Akers: I suppose the general category you would say is private investigator, some of them ex-police.
Q41 Mr Clappison: Are there files with the CPS in relation to those matters or not?
Sue Akers: Yes.
Q42 Mr Clappison: How many?
Sue Akers: There will be one file around the one job; it will all relate to various individuals.
Q43 Mr Winnick: Deputy Assistant Commissioner, you told the Chair in response to more than one question from him that nine have been charged out of the 72 who have been arrested.
Sue Akers: Eight have been charged.
Mr Winnick: Eight.
Sue Akers: Eight have been charged on phone hacking. Of course there have been six others-
Mr Winnick: So it is eight out of the 79?
Sue Akers: There have been, of course, six others, which I suppose I should have mentioned, that were charged with perverting the course of justice in connection with our investigations into phone hacking.
Q44 Chair: Is that total 14?
Mr Winnick: Fourteen?
Sue Akers: Yes.
Q45 Mr Winnick: Does the number arrested remain 79?
Sue Akers: Yes.
Q46 Mr Winnick: So it is 14 out of 79. Would you accept that it is extremely important and in the public interest that despite all the public pressure and concern-parliamentary concern as well, obviously-the same criteria apply when it is decided by the appropriate prosecution authorities for charges to be made? In other words, the case is such when it is decided to make charges that the feeling is that there is a reasonable chance of a successful prosecution.
Sue Akers: That is the code for the Crown Prosecution Service and that is the criteria that they will apply to their decisions, yes.
Q47 Mr Winnick: If you ventured an opinion, would you accept that if indeed the criteria were weakened in any way and charges were made that led to unsuccessful prosecutions, it would certainly not be in the overall public interest?
Sue Akers: You have to let justice take its course. The Crown Prosecution Service will make their decisions on the basis of the evidence and the public interest, and after that it is up to a judge and jury.
Q48 Mr Winnick: So we are right in coming to the conclusion that the criteria, despite all the public interest and pressure, for prosecution in these cases remain the same as in other cases?
Sue Akers: Yes.
Q49 Mr Winnick: Thank you very much. In your evidence to the Leveson inquiry, you said that Trinity Mirror, News International and Express Newspapers were being investigated for corrupt payments to officials. That is what you said?
Sue Akers: Yes.
Q50 Mr Winnick: Are there other organisations now involved in the investigation, apart from those?
Sue Akers: Those are the organisations that I have said publicly, and I think I should not go any further than what is in the public domain.
Q51 Mr Winnick: When you say you do not want to go any further, I do not want to press you when you consider that it would be inappropriate, Deputy Assistant Commissioner, but you have mentioned companies already to the Leveson inquiry. You are saying, in effect, if I understand you, that there are other companies but for some reason you do not want to mention them today.
Sue Akers: I am certainly not ready to say anything in the way that I did about the Mirror Group and the Express Group because our investigation is still continuing.
Mr Winnick: If that is the position, I will not press you further. Thank you.
Q52 Michael Ellis: Deputy Assistant Commissioner Akers, how many officers and staff do you currently have on Operation Weeting?
Sue Akers: 96.
Q53 Michael Ellis: You have been involved in other operations in the past in your career. Is that a large number compared with other operations?
Sue Akers: I am not sure this operation can be compared with any that I have previously dealt with because it is quite-
Michael Ellis: It has highly unique characteristics.
Sue Akers: -an extraordinary and complex investigation, not least because it is not just limited to the investigation. It involved as well that huge piece of work around contacting victims and dealing with massive disclosure obligations, which were brought about by civil actions that were being held in tandem. I would say that I have the resources, as a minimum number, to deal with this investigation and move it along as swiftly as we would like, but compared with others-
Q54 Michael Ellis: It is an appropriate number, you think. What about the rank of the officers involved? Do you have a number of officers of senior rank or are most of them detective constables and sergeants? Can you say something about that?
Sue Akers: Yes, I can. I have a detective superintendent in charge of each strand, so there are three of those, one dealing with the phone hacking, one dealing with corrupt payments and one dealing with the Tuleta offences. They each have a detective chief inspector and a small number of detective inspectors. The rest are sergeants, constables and a fair number of police staff.
Michael Ellis: I see.
Sue Akers: Sorry, I should say I have a detective chief superintendent who oversees or hovers above all three of the detective superintendents.
Q55 Michael Ellis: So he is your deputy, is he, a detective chief superintendent?
Sue Akers: He is my deputy.
Q56 Michael Ellis: So there is yourself, a detective chief superintendent and three superintendents. They have chief inspectors below them and then below that there are inspectors, sergeants and constables?
Sue Akers: Yes.
Q57 Michael Ellis: How long do you think Operations Weeting and Elveden will need to continue?
Sue Akers: That is a very good question and it is one that I have been, I suppose, giving quite a lot of thought to, not least because I am going to retire. An exit strategy is one of the most difficult of the issues. In terms of Weeting, the phone hacking is probably easier to see an end to because we now have people charged. That needs to take its course through the courts. In terms of the corrupt payments, very much depends on the co-operation of the papers that we are involved with. All the time that they disclose material to us it leads to further inquiries that we make, and, frankly, if we are uncovering corrupt police officers we feel that we should continue to do that. But I take your point, there is an enormous amount of money being spent on this and a lot of police resource and, post-Olympics, we are going to be in very tight financial times and questions are going to be asked about how much longer you can let things run.
Q58 Chair: I think we are asking that question today. How much longer are things going to run?
Sue Akers: Certainly on the phone hacking, it must take its course through the criminal courts.
Q59 Michael Ellis: Once you charge people that is the end of the matter as far as the police are concerned and as far as those individuals are concerned, yes?
Sue Akers: Yes. I think the way this should be brought to a conclusion is a combination of us and the CPS sitting down to decide on the criminal justice outcomes and potentially parameters that you might want to put around any future investigations, plus, going forward, Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations. Then the Information Commissioner must get involved where there is not quite such serious criminality but, nonetheless, there are breaches of privacy.
Q60 Michael Ellis: So we are talking months, are we?
Sue Akers: Although we are decreasing the number of resources, we have factored the next three years into our budget.
Q61 Chair: Are you telling the Committee that you are winding down the operation, bearing in mind there is a resource implication and also the fact that you have contacted everyone that you humanly can contact?
Sue Akers: Winding down is probably not how I would describe it. We are now prioritising on case building and getting our cases through the court. Certainly we feel we have gone as far as we can on the victim notification, but there is still-
Q62 Michael Ellis: So you do not anticipate a greater need for resources?
Sue Akers: No. I always caveat that, because a lot of the additional work that we had on Elveden was brought about because News International did their own internal review of the Sun and then presented us with evidence. At the moment we do not anticipate any more.
Q63 Chair: Are you pleased with the co-operation you have received from News International? Have they been co-operative with you? Other commissioners have said in the past they have not been co-operative with them.
Sue Akers: I think you can’t compare the co-operation that we have had to the co-operation that my former colleagues had.
Q64 Michael Ellis: Are you receiving co-operation from other news organisations?
Sue Akers: Yes, we have drawn up a protocol with Express Newspapers and we have-
Michael Ellis: Thank you.
Q65 Alun Michael: Before I go on to a question of law, can I make sure that we have understood what you are investigating. Am I right in thinking that many mobile phones-particularly when you go back over a five-year period-will be disused, will have been used for a short period of time and no longer have a user, so it is not a question of looking for somebody, it is that there is nobody that exists?
Sue Akers: In some cases, yes.
Q66 Alun Michael: When we are talking about the numbers that you have contacted and then the numbers that you have not been able to contact, it is not necessarily that there is an individual that you are not able to contact, it is that there is a phone number that was in use at a particular time, and is therefore recorded in the information available to you, but you are not able to find somebody actually using that number now?
Sue Akers: We are not able to then advance because it is such a common name or it is-
Q67 Alun Michael: Yes. So you are not able to track back in the history and you are not able to find an extant user?
Sue Akers: Yes.
Q68 Alun Michael: So it is not that there is a big pool of people who should be contacted, it is that you have got pretty close to the end of what it is reasonable to do?
Sue Akers: I think we would say we have taken all the reasonable steps that we can and decided that we can’t go beyond that.
Q69 Alun Michael: Thank you. Can you give us a sense of what you feel about the law as it stands at the moment? Does it enable you to investigate these cases effectively? Are there deficiencies in the law that make your job more difficult?
Sue Akers: Yes.
Q70 Alun Michael: Could you spell them out?
Sue Akers: Yes, I will try to. The difficulties for us-the challenges-lie in accessing journalistic material because when the Police and Criminal Evidence Act was drawn up, for some reason we can’t get at journalistic material even if it is in furtherance of a criminal offence. For instance, the analogy I suppose is with material that attracts legal professional privilege. You can access that if it has been in furtherance of a criminal offence; you can’t with journalistic material. Then you have to deal with schedule 1, and in doing that, some of the conditions before you can get a production order are that you have tried other means, one of which would be that you had asked for the co-operation of the organisation. Where you have evidence or no absence of evidence of a lack of co-operation, our legal advice is that you, therefore, are unlikely to obtain a production order. So the reason that we have had some success is because we have had the co-operation of News International, which certainly did not exist for my colleagues who went before.
Q71 Alun Michael: This is important because, of course, there is the question of possible future organisations that might not wish to co-operate. It sounds as if you are talking about legal obstacles, which is what I asked about, not technical obstacles.
Sue Akers: No, legal.
Q72 Alun Michael: I wonder if you might supplement your response on this perhaps in writing to us afterwards. I think the question of where the obstacles lie and what your legal advice is and so on would be very helpful to Parliament because, clearly, there are places where the protection of journalistic sources is important, just as the protection of police information-as with an earlier answer that you gave-is important. The question is where the line is drawn. Would that be something that you could supplement for the Committee?
Sue Akers: Certainly. I would be very happy to do so.
Q73 Alun Michael: Just one other point. It does seem very often that the requirements on investigators in the way that cases have to be brought forward, with issues of disclosure and all sorts of things, are complicated. Are there procedural problems, in terms of the obstacles in your path and the path of the Crown Prosecution Service in taking forward the files you provide to them, that are making it difficult for prosecutions to be successfully pursued?
Sue Akers: It is probably too early to say whether they are going to be successfully pursued. I think the problems just lie in the vast quantity of material that we have and, therefore, our obligations on disclosure to make sure that we do not have in existence anything that would undermine a prosecution.
Q74 Alun Michael: In terms of the practicalities, that will come in the fullness of time, but are there any cases where you end up talking to the Crown Prosecution Service and the Crown Prosecution Service are saying, "Looking at the file, it would be really nice to prosecute that but we know that the obstacles in the way of succeeding with it mean that it is not worth pursuing"?
Sue Akers: I am sure there are many occasions when we look at things where we think we know where the truth lies but for one reason or another, we can’t-
Alun Michael: Again, if there are procedural obstacles that could be identified in the cases you are dealing with, could we have some information about that to the Committee?
Chair: It would be extremely helpful, if you could write to us.
Q75 Dr Huppert: There is obviously organised criminality around some of this. There is also an issue about mobile phone companies not making it sufficiently hard for people to hack in. Have you been talking to the mobile phone companies about the security that they provide, and are you comfortable that they are now providing the levels of security that we ought to expect?
Sue Akers: Yes. Each of them has a different way of operating, so as we have uncovered our evidence as our investigation has progressed, we have made sure that we alert the mobile phone companies to that so that they can design their systems to take cognisance of what we are uncovering and make them more secure.
Q76 Dr Huppert: Do you think it would be hard for a journalist without specialised training to try to do the same activities again?
Sue Akers: I would be amazed if it was not much more difficult.
Q77 Nicola Blackwood: It is reassuring that we are now dealing with all of this evidence and actually seeing arrests, but I think what everybody would like to know is whether in the course of these investigations, you have uncovered any evidence that phone hacking is still going on anywhere and whether you think that this is still a problem? Obviously your answers to Mr Michael and Dr Huppert are helpful-whether there needs to be different legislation, whether there are issues of mobile phone security that are relevant-but the real question is what is the situation now, in your opinion?
Sue Akers: We are reasonably confident that phone hacking is not carrying on now. Some of that will be, I hope, to do with our activity, but a lot as well around the mobile phones and the security that they have put in place. Having said that, things always move on; phone hacking may not be a problem but something else may be.
Q78 Nicola Blackwood: Do you think that there is a temporary deterrent effect because of the current media focus on this operation and on the hacking scandal and the Leveson inquiry and so on, or do you think that there has genuinely been a sea change in attitudes within the media and within the public as a result of this scandal?
Sue Akers: Probably Lord Justice Leveson is better able to give an opinion on that from all the evidence he has heard, but I think there has been a sea change and we do not have any evidence of phone hacking currently taking place.
Q79 Chair: Deputy Assistant Commissioner, you have several times mentioned today your predecessors who had charge of the general issue of phone hacking, and you have tended to give them your blessing-that they could not have done better because they did not have the co-operation of News International. But this Committee has looked at the issue for a number of years and you have actually come up with results, whereas the Yates, the Clarke and the Hayman inquiries suddenly stopped. I am sure you have seen our reports in which we criticised the way those inquiries took place. Why have you managed to do so well-you have actually charged people-as opposed to your predecessors?
Sue Akers: I have probably said it but I will repeat it. We had this unprecedented relationship with News International, who set up the management standards committee, their independent body, to investigate what had gone on, and they were prepared to disclose documents to us in a way that they had not been in years gone by. That, coupled with the resources that I have been given to deal with this, enabled us to take the inquiry to places where previously they could not have done.
Q80 Chair: I know you are not talking about winding down the inquiry, but you seem to be telling the Committee that the end game is in sight, in the sense that you will have done your job, based on the information you have received. I think you mentioned to Lord Justice Leveson that you had between 8 and 12 terabytes of information. I asked the Library to tell me what a terabyte was because I don’t know.
Sue Akers: It is huge.
Chair: It is 450 million typed pages of information, and the information that you have talked about, which is 12 terabytes, is 1 million telephone directories. That is a huge amount of information that your officers have tried to look at. It is not just a question of ringing up people to see if they are still there. A million telephone books is a huge amount of information. Have you come to the end of that or are you going to be in a position, like your predecessors, where-as we found out in our inquiry-there were lots of files that remained unopened? Have all the files been opened now?
Sue Akers: Certainly what we are not doing with all of that-as you can imagine, you have just described the quantity of it-is going through line by line. This is material that is largely on IT systems. What we are having to try to do is be smart around the way we search that material, using key words to search that we hope will draw out evidence. But inevitably in that amount, there will be material that we miss I am sure.
Q81 Chair: You have a huge amount of expertise in this. Who is going to take over? We clearly do not want somebody absolutely new who does not know what is going on. Has there been a transition period? You announced in May this year that you were going to stand down from the Metropolitan Police after many years of distinguished service. We are concerned that the person who takes over is not going to start all this again.
Sue Akers: No, absolutely. But you should not be concerned, because the officers on the team are superb detectives and they will work-
Q82 Chair: Who will take over? Who will take your job?
Sue Akers: Another ACPO officer has been identified and he will-
Chair: Sorry, who is that?
Sue Akers: DAC Steve Kavanagh.
Q83 Chair: Where is he at the moment?
Sue Akers: At the moment he is in territorial policing but will-
Chair: So he is at the Met at the moment, is he?
Sue Akers: Yes, but he will be moving to a position where he is able to oversee. In terms of ACPO oversight, my role has largely been the public face, to come to your Committees, to go to Leveson, to deal with the overall supervision and to deal with key stakeholders, and some conflict. I am optimistic that by the time I leave at the end of next month, appearances here and before Lord Justice Leveson will be finished, we will be moving towards case building and trials, and there will be no need for the amount of scrutiny and oversight that I have had to put in because we will be in a place where-
Q84 Chair: Presumably you are leaving your phone number so they can ring you in case they have any questions?
Sue Akers: Of course.
Q85 Chair: On the issue of the Met, since this is your last appearance before this Committee and you have obviously seen a lot of changes over the years, what is morale like at the moment in the Metropolitan Police?
Sue Akers: It is tough, I think. There is an immense amount of pressure on officers. I can say this because I take absolutely no credit whatsoever for any part in public order, Olympics or anything. As a member of the public watching the Olympics, I was hugely proud of the organisation and what it did. You don’t see much recognition of that from anybody, really. I think probably that is the way we try to do it. We try to be, "This is about the Olympics, it is about the athletes and not about the security." Nevertheless, I think it was a remarkable three weeks.
Sue Akers: Then Notting Hill Carnival and now the Paralympics. Officers are tired and are under pressure to continue, so-
Q86 Chair: In terms of the rules and ethics that are now in existence, do you think they are too tough? Do you welcome the rules that have been brought in about relationships between police officers and journalists, and the hospitality and other rules?
Sue Akers: I think probably because of where we had got to it was necessary to introduce them. In the fullness of time we may see them relax slightly. Sometimes you need to pull something a bit further than you need to in order to stamp your mark on things before you can relax things. I would like to think we can get back to a position where people are trusted a little more.
Q87 Chair: In respect of the article in today’s Times about your meetings, do you want to go on the record with what that was all about?
Sue Akers: I am happy to. In my view, it is a complete lot of nonsense but sometimes journalists like to make mischief and that is what happened. As you say, my impending retirement was well publicised way back. Various people have been in touch to say, "Can we meet up before you leave?" Elizabeth Filkin was one of the people who kindly invited me to lunch. It was a private lunch and, as she said, inexpensive.
Q88 Chair: What are you going to do next? You are not going to take up an article in News International, like one of your predecessors?
Sue Akers: I can confidently tell you I will not be doing that.
Q89 Chair: One final question about the number of senior police officers who have been leaving the Met. Lynne Owens, of course, has gone. You are among the most senior women officers. Over the years, do you think that there is a bar to women getting the very top jobs in the police force or do you think that is changing? You have obviously got there, but what about the future?
Sue Akers: I don’t think that there is a bar now on women going to the top. This might be slightly controversial, but I think sometimes women look at the top and decide they don’t really want to be there.
Chair: Thank you very much for giving evidence today. On behalf of the Committee, I thank you for all the work you have done on these various operations. When your appointment was announced in Parliament, those on all sides of the House were full of praise for the appointment and the work you have done. I wish you well on behalf of the Committee in your retirement.
Sue Akers: Thank you, Chair.
Chair: Thank you very much.