The House of Commons Home Affairs Committee received evidence from the Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, who has requested that the list of clients of private investigators provided by SOCA to the Committee not be released.
He told the Committee that this will ensure that the criminal investigation, launched last week, is not impeded.
The Committee has been frustrated by the lack of activity on this issue over the past 4 years. In contrast to the rigorous police investigation of those in the media who are accused of being involved in the unlawful trade in information, little if anything seems to have been done to investigate those in other sectors, such as law and insurance. In addition nothing seems to have been done for the potential victims.
Mr Graham said that it was due to the work of the Committee that he had received the information earlier than he was expecting. The Information Commissioner also made clear that he understood the Committee’s desire to see action on this issue and that his organisation was responding to that.
He told the Committee that if it were to publish the list it would impede the course of justice.
The Committee agreed that Mr Graham’s team will conduct an initial, two-week scoping exercise, after which the scale of the inquiry will be more apparent. He would inform the Committee of the results of the scoping exercise and then report back to the Committee at a meeting scheduled for 8 October 2013.
The Committee is concerned about the resource implications of the investigation. The Committee has written to the Lord Chancellor to ask him to ensure that the Information Commissioner has sufficient resources to bring the investigation to an early conclusion and to press for the Commencement of Section 77 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008.
All the decisions taken by the Committee on this matter have been unanimous.
Chair of the Committee, Keith Vaz commented:
“The Information Commissioner has given the Committee an explicit commitment that he will pursue this matter to its appropriate end and that the victims will receive justice.
He firmly agrees with the Committee that these organisations and individuals need to act within the law.
We are pleased that these matters are now subject to a thorough investigation albeit one delayed for several years.
To ensure that this investigation brings those clients who have committed illegal acts to justice we have asked Mr Graham to come before the Committee after his scoping exercise. This will allow us to reassess whether his investigation fulfils all that is required. We will then decide on the next steps.”
The Chair has written to the Information Commissioner and the Lord Chancellor:
The Committee has published all the correspondence it has received on this matter from SOCA, National Crime Agency, Metropolitan Police, and the Information Commissioner.