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Phone Hacking

Volume 521: debated on Tuesday 18 January 2011

3. What support the Law Officers’ Departments have provided for the investigation by the Metropolitan Police Service into alleged telephone hacking and blagging; and if he will make a statement.


The roles of the police and the Crown Prosecution Service are distinct. The police investigate allegations of criminal conduct; the Crown Prosecution Service provides them with advice, when requested to do so, and takes prosecution decisions. The constitutional role of the Law Officers is to superintend the CPS. The Law Officers are not involved in the provision of such advice. On 14 January, the Director of Public Prosecutions announced that the CPS would conduct a comprehensive assessment of all material in the possession of the Metropolitan Police Service relating to phone hacking, following developments in the civil courts in cases taking place on this issue. The purpose of this assessment is to ascertain whether there is any material that could now form evidence in any future criminal prosecution relating to phone hacking.

Are the Law Officers confident that the CPS is giving the right advice? In particular, is it asking the Metropolitan police to examine the separate secure e-mail server used by News International executives of the grades of Andy Coulson and Rebekah Wade and also to examine the existing illegally transcribed phone message made by Ross Hall for “Neville”?

The hon. Gentleman may have seen a copy of the letter written by Mr Yates, the acting deputy commissioner, to the Director of Public Prosecutions. That letter makes it quite clear that he wishes to re-examine all the material collected in this matter and then to seek the advice of the CPS and the DPP in relation to it.

Does the Attorney-General agree that it is important for this matter not to be just a witch hunt against the Murdoch press, which is what the Opposition are trying to turn it into? The Information Commissioner’s report published some time ago made it plain that this habit of hacking and bad behaviour by reporters was happening across the whole of the press, not just in the Murdoch press. Will he make sure that the issue does not become concerned only with the Murdoch press, but that the investigation is carried out on a wider basis?

I am not going to be drawn into making criticisms of any individual in this matter. What is quite clear is that the hacking into telephones is indeed a serious criminal offence, that the Crown Prosecution Service will apply the code of Crown prosecutors in order to weigh up the information and evidence available, and that it is plainly in the public interest for proceedings to be brought against individuals where there is evidence that an offence has been committed.

As the Attorney-General is aware, serious concerns have been expressed about the handling of the News of the World phone hacking investigations to date. The announcement of a comprehensive assessment of all the material held by the Metropolitan Police Service is to be welcomed, but will the right hon. and learned Gentleman confirm whether he shares these concerns about the handling of the case to date? Will he clarify what prompted this change in direction only a matter of weeks after the CPS announced that there was no admissible evidence on which it could properly advise the police to bring criminal charges?

The hon. Lady must understand that any investigation in accordance with the code for Crown prosecutors must take account of the information and evidence available. If evidence and information become available that warrant looking further at a matter, that is exactly what happens. In this particular case, as I indicated in my first answer, information has emerged in the course of civil proceedings, which gives rise to a justification and reason for looking again at the material. That is exactly what the police and the CPS are going to do.