Home Affairs Committee seeks further evidence from Yates

11 July 2011

The Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee Rt. Hon Keith Vaz MP has received a reply from Assistant Commissioner John Yates QPM concerning his review of the 2006 police investigation into phone hacking and allegations over the Milly Dowler case.

The committee is due to receive evidence on the previous and current phone hacking inquiries from John Yates QPM, Assistant Commissioner at the Metropolitan Police, Andy Hayman CBE QPM, Assistant Commissioner for Specialist Operations at the Metropolitan Police at the time of the first investigation, Peter Clarke, former Assistant Commissioner Specialist Operations at the Metropolitan Police and Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers QPM who is leading Operation Weeting on Tuesday 12th July.

For further information please contact Alex Paterson on 020 7219 1589 or

Letter from John Yates QPM Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police to Chair

Re: Phone Hacking Inquiry

I write in response to your letter dated 5th July 2011 and in which you refer to a 'review of the 2006 investigation…conducted last autumn' and any awareness or knowledge that I may have had of Milly Dowler being amongst those potentially affected.

As you know, I am not sighted on the progress of the new investigation. However, the recent revelations about Milly, her family and indeed anyone who has suffered a family tragedy potentially being affected are obviously a matter of huge concern and it is a source of great regret that these matters were not uncovered earlier. To answer your specific question though, the first time I became personally aware that Milly Dowler may have been affected was when the news emerged in the public domain this week.

You also refer in your letter to the question of a review and suggest that I have informed your Committee that I 'had thoroughly reviewed all the evidence from 2006'. This is not the case and I do not believe that I have ever given the impression to either your Committee or your fellow Committee - Culture. Media & Sport (CMSC) - that I had carried out such an exercise. For clarity, a review, in police parlance, involves considerable resources and can either be thematic in approach - such as a forensic review in an unsolved murder investigation - or involves a review of all relevant material. The specific question was raised by the CMSC at my appearance before them on 2nd September 2009 and I have enclosed the extract for your attention.

I appreciate that events have moved on considerably but it should not be forgotten that the catalyst for the new investigation (and the levels of resources now applied) was solely the result of new evidence being produced by the News International in January of this year. From the beginning of my involvement in this matter in 2009, I have never conducted a 'review' of the original investigation and nor have I ever been asked to do so.  If I may, I think it useful to set out the sequence of events that has taken place and the levels of assurance that were evident at that time which led to the judgement that a full-scale review was not necessary.

The facts are that following reporting in The Guardian in July 2009, as the then newly appointed Assistant Commissioner in charge of Specialist Operations, I was asked by the Commissioner to 'establish the facts around the case and to consider whether there (was) anything new arising in the Guardian article'.   This was specifically not a review.

At this time (July 2009), the case had remained closed for over 2 years since the sentencing of Mulcaire and Goodman in January 2007.  Following detailed briefings from the Senior Investigating Officer it was apparent that there was no new material in the Guardian article that would justify either re-opening or reviewing the investigation.

A short while later, this view was endorsed independently by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, who had simultaneously 'ordered an urgent examination of the material supplied to the CPS'. The Crown Prosecution Service acknowledged that Prosecution Counsel had seen all the unused material during the original investigation in addition to the actual evidence utilised in the case itself. It is appreciated that such a review is always undertaken in relation to relevance in respect of the indictment. However, in a written memorandum, dated 14th July 2009, Counsel stated: (the underlined aspects are my emphasis)

…'we did enquire of the police at a conference whether there was any evidence that the Editor of the News of the World was involved in the Goodman-Mulcaire offences. We were told that there was not (and we never saw such evidence).We also enquired whether there was any evidence connecting Mulcaire to other News of the World journalists. Again, we were told that there was not (and we never saw such evidence).'

In other words, in whatever guise - relevance to the indictment or otherwise - that Counsel considered the unused material, they stated then in unequivocal terms that they were neither told about nor did they see any matters that appeared to merit further investigation.

On 16th July 2009, in his own statement on the matter, the DPP stated 'it would not be appropriate to re-open the cases against Goodman and Mulcaire, or to revisit the decisions taken in the course of investigating and prosecuting them'. This led to the case remaining closed until January this year when new evidence was provided by News International which resulted in the launch of Operation Weeting.

Therefore, as can be seen, in relation to events that took place in 2009, I was provided with some considerable reassurance, (and at a number of levels), that led me to a view that this case neither needed to be re-opened or reviewed. For completeness, I have enclosed a copy of the press lines released by the Commissioner.

In terms of the work conducted 'last autumn' referred to in your letter, there was some further reporting in the New York Times on 1st September 2010 which led to my tasking of a Senior Investigating Officer to ascertain if there was any new information that might require investigation. A number of interviews were conducted in the ensuing months and advice was again sought from the CPS. In their final written legal advice provided on 10th December 2010 however, the Head of the CPS Special Crime Division concluded that he did 'not consider that there is now any evidence that would reach the threshold for prosecution. In my opinion there is insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction against any person identified in the New York Times article'. This, again, was not a review of the original case.

I hope you find this helpful. Due to the significant media and public interest in this matter, I am copying this letter to the Commissioner and to the Chair and Chief Executive of the Metropolitan Police Authority.

Further Information

  • The Home Affairs Select Committee session on Tuesday 12th July will take place in the Wilson Room, Portcullis House
  • John Yates will appear before the Committee on Tuesday 12th July at 11:30 am
  • Peter Clarke will appear before the Committee on Tuesday 12th July at 12pm
  • Andy Hayman will appear before the Committee on Tuesday 12th July at 12:20 pm
  • Sue Akers will appear before the Committee on Tuesday 12th July at 12.40pm

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