Tag Archives: Metropolitan Police

Guardian: New phone-hacking investigation contacts 4,000

The Guardian reported last night that the Metropolitan police warned a total of 36 people in the first four years of the phone-hacking affair that they may have been targeted.

In comparison, according to the Guardian, the new investigation being carried out into allegations of phone hacking is thought to be contacting up to 4,000 people whose details were allegedly found during the original police investigation.

Scotland Yard has previously repeatedly refused to disclose the number of victims it had warned, rejecting applications under the Freedom of Information Act on the grounds that releasing it would necessarily disclose the identities of those warned, and that this would breach their privacy.

However, in a sharp change of policy, the Met’s acting deputy commissioner, John Yates, volunteered that during the 2006 inquiry police had warned 28 people they may have been victims; and that after the Guardian revived the affair in July 2009 they warned eight more.

Director of public prosecutions issues new statement on phone hacking

The director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC issued a statement last night via the Crown Prosecution Service blog to say that evidence relating to recent allegations of phone hacking, as well as new “substantive” allegations, should be subject to “the same rigorous assessment as Alison Levitt QC is applying to material already in the possession of the Metropolitan Police Service”.

I have asked Alison Levitt QC (who has had no previous involvement in the case) to take a robust approach with a view to advising whether the Metropolitan Police Service should carry out any further investigation or deciding whether any prosecutions can be brought.

This builds upon the previous request by the MPS to the CPS to assess all the material relevant to phone hacking.

Earlier this month the CPS announced that it will conduct a “comprehensive assessment” of evidence held by the Metropolitan Police.

Last night’s statement followed allegations that phone-hacking scandal was “endemic” throughout Fleet Street by lawyer Mark Stephens, and reports that lawyer Mark Lewis has been instructed by four clients with complaints against other national newspapers.

The Guardian: Met asks News of the World for new phone-hacking evidence

The Metropolitan Police has asked the News of the World for fresh evidence as part of the phone-hacking investigation, the Guardian has reported.

The Met wrote a letter to the newspaper on Friday “requesting any new material they may have in relation to alleged phone-hacking following the suspension of a member of their staff.”

The News of the World responded in a statement, saying: “We have received a letter from the Metropolitan police and will co-operate fully.”

Later this week the Met is expected to hand over previously undisclosed documents to the lawyers of sports agent Skylet Andrew, who represents cricketer James Anderson and footballer Sol Campbell, among others. Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator paid by the News Corp publication, pleaded guilty to intercepting telephone messages in 2006.

Full story at this link.

The police’s “narrow” approach to phone hacking: not a crime if message had been listened to first

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger raised what he said was a little known fact about phone hacking evidence, in yesterday’s press regulation debate in the House of Lords.

He had been told by Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Yates, he said, that the police only considered the interception of phone messages an offence if they hadn’t been listened to.

Once messages were stored after they were listened to by the recipient, subsequent access by a third party was not considered a criminal offence. The public should be aware of the “narrow definition” of phone hacking, the Guardian editor warned.

As reported in last week’s Culture, Media and Sport select committee report:

“The police also told us that under Section 1 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) it is only a criminal offence to access someone’s voicemail message if they have not already listened to it themselves. This means that to prove a criminal offence has taken place it has to be proved that the intended recipient had not already listened to the message. This means that the hacking of messages that have already been opened is not a criminal offence and the only action the victim can take is to pursue a breach of privacy, which we find a strange position in law.”

The committee recommended that “Section 1 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act is amended to cover all hacking of phone messages”.

“Narrow definition” line is a “convenient PR shelter for Scotland Yard”, argues Davies

The Guardian’s evidence of widespread phone hacking attempts contradicted police reports that only a ‘handful’ of victims had been targeted, so Scotland Yard is trying to “justify its position” by raising the narrow legal definition of the criminal offence, Guardian journalist Nick Davies told Journalism.co.uk.

Davies also challenges the legality of any kind of phone hacking:

“The narrow legal definition is highly contentious. The idea is that it is illegal to listen to somebody’s voicemail only if they have not themselves already heard it. This not written in the law at all; it was clearly not parliament’s intention. It’s an interpretation – not one that has been tested and accepted by a court, simply something that was said during a legal conference at the Crown Prosecution Service while the police were investigating the original case.

“It was said by David Perry, Crown counsel in the case, but he didn’t even produce a written opinion and never mentioned it in court when [Clive] Goodman and [Glenn] Mulcaire came up.” A future court may or may not agree with this definition, Davies added. “At the moment, however, it is a convenient PR shelter for Scotland Yard who are embarrassed by their handling of the case.”

Satchwell claims phone hacking case has ‘grey areas’; challenges Guardian’s proof

The liveliest part of yesterday’s House of Lords debate came when executive director of the Society of Editors, Bob Satchwell, challenged some of the Guardian’s claims and insisted there were “grey areas” in the case.

Journalist Nick Davies vehemently disagrees: the black and white is there, he later told Journalism.co.uk, but newspapers and the Press Complaints Commission don’t want to see it.

“Satchwell says editors don’t know the truth about all the material confiscated by the Information Commissioner’s Office from [private investigator] Steve Whittamore in March 2003 because the ICO didn’t investigate it. That isn’t correct.

“The ICO analysed all the material and produced spreadsheets – one for each newspaper organisation – and the spreadsheets lists all of the journalists who asked Whittamore to find confidential information, all of the targets, all of the information requested, how it was obtained, how much was paid.

“The ICO and police worked together to prepare three court cases: one led to four convictions, the other two collapsed for technical reasons. You really can’t say that there wasn’t an investigation. Furthermore, when the new information commissioner, Christopher Graham, gave evidence to the media select committee, he said he would not publish the spreadsheets, but he clearly indicated his willingness to talk to any editor who got in touch in search of detail.”

No editor has asked for extra information from ICO
“I checked last week with the ICO as to how many editors had now got in touch to ask which of their journalists are named in the spreadsheets and also to ask whether the PCC had approached them and asked for information,” said Davies.

“The answer was that no editor and nobody from the PCC had asked.” Furthermore, Davies said, he had written detailed stories about the contents of the spreadsheets.

“So, if editors are still in a grey area on all this, it’s because they refuse to look at the facts in black and white, even though the facts are there for them.”

Solicitor Mark Lewis considering legal action against PCC

Mark Lewis, the solicitor who represented the head of the Professional Footballers Association, Gordon Taylor, in the News International phone hacking case, is considering taking legal action against the Metropolitan Police, the Press Complaints Commission and its chair Peta Buscombe.

In a unexpected addition to her speech at the Society of Editors conference last year, Buscombe cited police claims that Lewis’ evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport select committee was false [also see today’s main news story here]. Lewis, giving evidence to the committee’s inquiry into allegations of widespread phone hacking at News of the World, said detective sergeant Maberly had told him there were 6,000 people  affected by phone hacking – but he was not clear if this was the number of phones, or whether it included the people who left messages on hacked phones.

Following Buscombe’s claims about his evidence, Lewis complained through numerous letters to the PCC. Lewis told Journalism.co.uk at yesterday’s CMS press briefing that his complaint with the PCC and the Met “was not over by a long shot yet” and that he may pursue legal action against both organisations.

When Journalism.co.uk previously contacted the PCC over Lewis’ complaints, the Commission did not wish to comment.

As reported by the Independent on Sunday, Lewis has asked for the police inquiry into phone hacking to be re-opened, headed by someone other than assistant commissioner John Yates – whose phone hacking evidence was today criticised by the CMS committee in its press standards, privacy and libel report.

Full coverage of the CMS report at this link…

The report in full and our page-by-page guide at this link…

Guardian.co.uk: Committee to hear police evidence for NOTW phone hacking inquiry

The Guardian reports that the ‘fallout’ from its revelations in July, about News of the World’s use of phone hacking, will continue.

Next week the Commons culture, media and sport select committee will hear evidence from the information commissioner as well as from John Yates, assistant commissioner at the Metropolitan Police, and detective chief superintendent Philip Williams.

Full story at this link…

BJP: Photographers sue Met Police for treatment at Greek embassy protests

“Two photographers have filed a legal claim against the Metropolitan Police after they were unlawfully prevented from reporting the protests outside the Greek embassy last year,” the British Journal of Photography reports.

Photojournalist Marc Vallée and videojournalist Jason Parkinson are seeking an apology and damages from the Metropolitan police. Vallée makes the announcement on his blog here.

“The photographers were covering protests outside the Greek embassy in London on 08 December 2008 when a police officer deliberately obstructed them in their work. They also claim they were physically removed from any area from which they could document events.”

British Journal of Photography story at this link.

More to follow from Journalism.co.uk.

Tapping/hacking/blagging – the terminology

Media reports refer to both ‘phone tapping’ and ‘phone hacking’ when discussing the Guardian’s investigation into the use of private investigators by News International journalists.

But what exactly were the PI activities alleged to have taken place at the request of journalists?

Phone hacking. This is the term the Guardian uses in its reports, which includes a number of alleged activities. It reported: “Hacking into messages on mobile phones is covered by the same law which now regulates phone tapping and other forms of covert information-gathering, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, known as RIPA.” There is no public interest defence for breaking this law. Activities alleged by the Guardian include:

  • Hacking into mobile phone voicemail accounts, the crime NOTW journalist Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire were convicted for in 2007.
  • Illegal hacking ‘into the mobile phone messages of numerous public ­figures to gain unlawful access to confidential personal data, including tax records, social security files, bank statements and itemised phone bills’.

Guardian tech editor Charles Arthur describes how, in further detail at this link, voicemail hacking can be done very simply – via the four digit pin code.

  • However, new methods could now be in use by PIs (no specific allegations made). Arthur quotes a senior security analyst at McAfee: ‘a number of products [are] out there which claim that they will let you listen to someone’s mobile conversations, forward their SMSs and tell you the numbers they have dialled’.
  • In addition, Arthur reports, ‘it might be feasible to clone the connection between a Bluetooth headset and phone so an eavesdropper could connect to the phone while its owner was briefly out of earshot. A hacker could get numbers and contact information’.

Phone tapping. Assistant commissioner for the Metropolitan Police, John Yates, in his statement yesterday, referred to the Mulcaire and Goodman case. He said:

  • “Our inquiries found that these two men had the ability to illegally intercept mobile phone voice mails, commonly known as phone tapping.”

However, the term ‘tapping’ can also indicate other kinds of interception of communications systems e.g wire tapping / obtaining post. In this BBC Q&A from 2006 it is stated that there are three ways a mobile phone can be tapped:

“This can be done either at the handset, or during the conversation – which is illegal and very expensive – or through the mobile phone company which connects the device.”

Blagging. The Guardian reports that this could include obtaining access to confidential databases, such as telephone accounts, bank records and information held by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority, which is covered by a different law, the 1998 Data Protection Act: “Section 55 makes it an offence to gain unauthorised access to such data, punishable by a fine. However, unlike RIPA, this offence carries a public interest defence.”

The Guardian reports on a series of ‘dark arts’ methods used by PIs, including:

  • Obtaining ex-directory landlines, tax records, social security files, bank statements, mobile numbers, people’s addresses or people’s phone bills and medical records.
  • Conning BT, the DVLA, mobile phone companies and other organisations into handing over private details.

EPUK: NUJ to complain to Data Commissioner over journalists surveillance

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) is to lodge a formal complaint with the Data Commissioner about a database of images of journalists compiled by the Metropolitan Police.

According to EPUK, the Met has failed to release details of the database and made contradictory claims about its existence and the body’s surveillance of journalists.

Full story at this link…

Video: Commander Bob Broadhurst at the NUJ’s photography conference

Some interesting comments in the video below (courtesy of Paula Geraghty) of Metropolitan Police commander Bob Broadhurst on the police’s relationship with photographers, public order policing and the recent G20 coverage.

“If you look at those images around G20 and the climate camp at the other end of the road, some of our officers had huge problems doing anything with the crowd because of the phalanx of cameras in front of them before they could get to anybody,” says Broadhurst, who was speaking at the National Union of Journalists’ (NUJ) photography conference.

“Legitimate? Maybe yes, but we do seem now to be in a new dynamic; certainly because of the way some of the G20 events were portrayed in the media, by the time anybody turned up most of the ground was already taken up by competing camera crews and journalists looking for a story, All that does is add to the mix that our officers have to deal with. We need to work our way through that. Let’s have a more sensible dialogue.”

Commander Bob Broadhurst at NUJ Photography Conference from Paula Geraghty on Vimeo.