COMMONS

Home Affairs Committee continues to pursue phone-hacking inquiry

25 July 2011

Lawyers Harbottle and Lewis have responded to a letter from the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP, outlining their ability to disclose information to the committee and naming the lawyer who originally advised News International. Rt. Hon Keith Vaz MP has responded to them, requesting that they disclose the advice they provided to News International and also the News International emails they were tasked to examine in 2007.

Mr Vaz has  written to DPP Keir Starmer and Lord Macdonald asking what conversations they had and advice they were given by the Attorney General during the investigation in 2006-07 and re-examining of the material in 2009.

Further to the issue of the role of the Attorney General in the phone-hacking investigations, he has written to Baroness Scotland and Lord Goldsmith asking whether they provided advice to the Department for Public Prosecutions or the Metropolitan Police Service on this matter. Lord Goldsmith has responded to this letter, stating that he did not provide advice to the Crown Prosecution Service on the scope of the investigation.

Mr Vaz has written to Dick Fedorcio, Director of Public Affairs at the Metropolitan Police regarding the employment of his son by News International.

He has also written to HCL Technologies, regarding the possibility that they stored and/or destroyed information on behalf of News International.

Chairman Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP said:

 “The evidence taken by the committee has raised significant questions. We must ensure all avenues of inquiry are followed through. ”

For further information please contact Alex Paterson on 020 7219 1589

(1) Letter from Harbottle and Lewis to the Chairman:
Phone Hacking

I enclose a letter which we sent to John Whittingdale OBE MP today, the contents of which are self-explanatory.  So far as the question in your last paragraph is concerned, we believe we are free to explain the position in general terms, without commenting on all the circumstances in question.

As a matter of practicality, as we explained in our letter to Mr Whittingdale, the file in question had been closed and archived.  As a matter of legal theory, even if the file had been under active consideration, it would have been as serious breach of professional ethics for this firm to have disclosed its contents to any third party.  Confidential documents supplied by a client to his solicitor for the purpose of taking legal advice cannot be disclosed by the solicitor to third parties, including the police, unless the solicitor is either compelled to do so or has the permission of his client.  The law is clear that clients are free to consult solicitors safe in the knowledge that the solicitor is professionally bound to respect their confidences, save in the most limited of circumstances.

We would be happy to assist the Home Affairs Committee with any further enquiries, subject to the legal constraints currently imposed upon us by News International.

(2) Letter from Chairman to Harbottle and Lewis:
 Phone hacking

I am writing to thank you for your swift response to my letter yesterday.

I am aware that Harbottle and Lewis have now been given permission by News International to talk to the Home Affairs Select Committee about the remit in the 2007 investigation of phone hacking at the News of the World.

The Committee would be grateful if you could now provide information on the following questions:
• what was the exact remit given to Harbottle and Lewis when it was instructed by News International in 2007;
• the contents of emails and information held in the file you mentioned in your letter;
• what advice was provided from Harbottle and Lewis to News International in 2007 following examination of the emails and information;
• why the evidence you had in the 2007 that was later examined by Lord MacDonald in 2011 was not acted upon sooner?

Thank you for your continued assistance with our inquiry.

(3) Letter from the Chairman to Keir Starmer QC:
Phone Hacking

I am writing to you regarding the re-examination of the CPS’ approach in 2006 and 2007 to the investigation into phone hacking at News of the World which was undertaken by the Head of the Special Crime division from 9–15 July 2009.

What conversations did you have with the Attorney General at the time, Baroness Scotland, about this re-examination of the material and what, if any, advice did she provide?

(4) Letter from the Chairman to Lord Macdonald QC

I am writing with regard to your role as Director of Public Prosecutions during the period of Mr Clarke’s investigation into phone hacking at News of the World.

Whilst you were Director of Public Prosecutions, what action did you take to pursue prosecution of individuals who had unlawfully tapped into or hacked mobile communications?

(5) Letter from Chairman to Baroness Scotland PC QC
Phone Hacking

I am writing with regard to your role as Attorney General during the period of the re-examination of the CPS’ approach in 2006 and 2007 to the investigation into phone hacking at News of the World. This was undertaken by the Head of the Special Crime division from 9–15 July 2009, under the direction of the Director for Public Prosecutions, Mr Keir Starmer QC.

Whilst you were Attorney General what conversations did you have with Mr Starmer QC, about this re-examination of the material and what, if any, advice did you provide?

(6) Letter from Chairman to Lord Goldsmith

I am writing to you in regards to your former position as Attorney General from 2001 to 2007. As you may know the Home Affairs Select Committee completed their inquiry into the unauthorised tapping into or hacking of mobile communications. We released our report into this subject this morning.

The Committee would be most grateful if you would provide some information relating to the phone hacking investigation whilst you were Attorney General.

Whether you:

  • received any information from the Metropolitan Police regarding the phone hacking inquiry led by Peter Clarke under Andy Hayman in 2005 and 2006?
  • were sent a memorandum on 30 May 2006 from the Metropolitan Police Service in which they stated there was a vast array of information pointing to individuals who have been hacked and that may necessitate a wider investigation?
  • shared the contents of this memorandum with any Cabinet members?
  • provided any guidance to the Metropolitan Police Service following the memorandum?
  • asked the DPP at the time to act upon the information on the memorandum?
  • provided any opinion at the time on the definition of the RIPA ACT 2000?

Please could you also outline the responsibilities of the Attorney General on giving advice on the scope of an open investigation such as the one referred to above.

If you feel you have any further information you would like to add or points you would like to clarify please contact the committee.

I am most grateful to you for your assistance with our inquiry.

(7) Letter from Lord Goldsmith to Chairman 
Phone Hacking

In response to your letter of 20 July I am happy to provide the following information relating to my time as Attorney general. As you will appreciate I have retained no documents myself relating to this matter and so I am grateful to the officials at the Attorney General’s Office who have provided me from the records retained there with factual information relating to your inquiry. I have also been able to refresh my own memory by consulting the documents held there. The following answers are provided, on that basis, to the best of my recollection.

I answer by reference to your specific questions as follows. I set out each question and then my response.

You ask whether I:

1. Received any information from the Met regarding the phone hacking inquiry led by Peter Clarke under Andy Hayman in 2005 and 2006:

Answer: No. It would be unusual, but not unknown, for the police to be in direct contact with the Attorney General on an ongoing investigation.  All information given to me in this case came to me through the Crown Prosecution Service.

2. Was sent a memorandum on 30 May 2006 from the Metropolitan Police Service in which they stated there was a vast array of information pointing to individuals who have been hacked and that may necessitate a wider investigation.

Answer: The passage quoted is an extract from a memorandum prepared by a CPS lawyer to brief the DPP and me. It was not from the MPS. The purpose of the memorandum was to brief the Director and me on the Goodman and Mulcaire cases specifically. I believe that the purpose of the comment was to provide background information so that the Director and I were aware that the particular cases referred to were not isolated examples. It was not a request for  advice or views on whether further investigations should be carried out.

3. Shared the contents of this memorandum with any Cabinet Minister.

Answer: No that would have been entirely inappropriate. It is an important constitutional principle that the DPP acts independently of Government and that the Attorney General, when fulfilling his role of superintendence, does so also. This memorandum was to keep us updated on progress in this investigation and was not for sharing with other Ministers, none of whom should be, or perceived to be, in a position to influence prosecution decisions.

4. Provided any guidance to the MPS following the memorandum.

Answer: No, the memorandum was not from the MPS and I do not know whether they were aware of it or its contents. It was not a request for guidance from me on the police’s investigations. Nor did I give any. Still less did I instruct the police, as I see has been suggested, to confine their investigations in any way. I believe that the information about other cases was provided merely as background to indicate that cases referred to in the memo were not isolated. That would be a consideration, for example, in determining whether prosecution was in the public interest, the full paragraph appeared to indicate that there other calls were in fact being investigated as the memorandum continued: ‘These may be the subject of wider investigation in due course. A number of the targets of this unauthorised access have been informed – some of which have declined to assist in a police investigation.’
I have no knowledge of why that wider investigation of those other cases may in the result not have proceeded. The Committee will need to address such questions to the DPP and MPS. As to the specific potential prosecution brought to my attention it did of course proceed and led to the conviction of Mulcaire and Goodman.

5. Asked the DPP at the time to act upon their information on the memorandum.
Answer: No, the memo was jointly directed at the Director and me by one of his own staff. My role was not to direct either an investigation or the prosecution, although in relation to the proposed prosecution I did indicate that it was right to pursue this vigorously. This was a high profile case about a matter of public concern. My responsibilities of superintendence of the CPS meant that I was kept informed of such cases.

6. Provided any opinion at the time on the definition of the RIPA Act 2000

Answer: No, not that I recall, nor is it evidence on the papers that have been retained by the Attorney General’s office.

Finally, you ask of the responsibilities of the Attorney General in giving advice on the scope of an investigation. Just as the CPS, which I superintended as Attorney General, are independent of Government in exercising prosecutorial functions, so are the police independent in operational matters. As Attorney General I had no responsibility for advising the police on the scope of an open investigation. Still less was it my job to give the police instructions on the scope of an open investigation and it would have been inappropriate for me to do so.
I trust that these answers deal with the questions you and the Committee have in relation to my role in this matter.

(8) Letter from Chairman to Dick Fedorcio
Phone hacking

I am writing to thank you for providing evidence to the Committee on Tuesday 19 July as part of our inquiry into the unauthorised tapping into or hacking of mobile communications.

Further to your evidence the Committee would be grateful if you could provide some further information. We have been made aware that your son, who is now working for the Metropolitan Police Service within the human resources press office, was previously employed as a Journalist at titles including the Sun newspaper.

Please could you inform the Committee as to why you did not present this information during your evidence session on Tuesday and if you feel this represents a conflict of interest?

I look forward to receiving your reply by 4pm Friday 22 July.

As you will be aware the Committee published their report on this subject yesterday. I have enclosed a copy for your information.

(9) Letter from Dick Fedorcio to Chairman

Thank you for your letter of 21 July 2011.

In giving my evidence to your committee this week I said that I was keen to be as open and helpful as I could. I have reviewed the draft transcript of my evidence and do not believe that any questions relating to my son were asked of me, nor would it have been relevant to refer to him.

If I had been asked I would have clarified that he is not, nor ever has been a journalist. I would add that it is not unusual for MPS press staff to have undertaken work experience with news organisations in the past.

Alex Fedorcio works for the MPS Human Resources press office, which is not within the Directorate of Public Affairs. I am not responsible for the selection, employment or management of their staff.

The Met has a small, separate HR press office to provide assistance and advice where necessary to officers and staff subject to disciplinary procedures.

While still at school, Alex spent one week on work experience at the Sun. He was invited to return for further work experience if he wished, an offer he took up after university, completing another four weeks work experience.

In November 2007, he took up a temporary fixed term contract as a junior administrative officer in the MPS Human Resources Directorate press office.

In April 2008 he made a successful application for a permanent position in the MPS, through the normal HR processes. He was interviewed and selected in an open competition. I was not involved in that interview process.

I do not believe there is any conflict of interest.

I trust this provides the information you were seeking.

(10) Letter from Chairman to HCL Technologies
Phone Hacking

I am writing regarding the Home Affairs Select Committee’s inquiry into the unauthorised tapping into or hacking of mobile communications. As you may know the Committee published its report into this issue earlier this week.

The Committee would be most grateful if you could provide information on:

  • Whether News International currently holds or has ever held a contract with HCL Technologies?
  • Whether HCL Technologies holds emails for News International within its storage facilities in India? 
  • If News International has ever requested HCL Technologies to delete any of these emails?

Thank you for your assistance in your inquiry. I have included a copy of the Committee’s report published yesterday and look forward to receiving your reply by 5pm on Monday 25 July.

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