Minister ‘had no appetite’ for review on hacking

Former Home Secretary Alan Johnson had “no appetite” for inspectors to review Scotland Yard’s original police phone-hacking investigation, the Leveson Inquiry heard yesterday.

Sir Denis O’Connor, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary, said he advised Home Office officials there should be an independent review after a July 2009 Guardian story alleged the illegal interception of voicemails was far more widespread than previously believed.

He told the Press standards inquiry that the idea of getting Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) involved was discussed with Ministers and the then-Home Secretary, but it “never really got off the ground”.

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Scotland Yard’s original phone-hacking investigation resulted in the jailing of News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire in January 2007 after they admitted intercepting voicemail messages left on royal aides’ phones.

But the Met was widely criticised for failing to reopen the probe after the Guardian published an article on July 9 2009 alleging there were more journalists and many more victims involved in the case.

Sir Denis said he had a discussion about the report with a Home Office civil servant on the day it appeared in print.

He told the inquiry: “I said, looking at this, that I thought the revelations merited some form of independent review.

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“I thought that the allegations that were there, if true in any degree, would raise substantial public confidence issues, and I would not be surprised if the HMIC were asked to assist in some way to facilitate such an approach...

“I think there was a second –again in the margins of other business – conversation with another, more senior official.

“But my understanding was that, as with a number of other options, discussions ensued with Ministers and the Home Secretary at the time, and there was no appetite for the HMIC being involved.

“So it never really got off the ground, sadly.”

Former Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner John Yates faced criticism over his decision not to reopen the hacking investigation in the light of the Guardian article.

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Mr Yates earlier told the inquiry that he was “good friends” with former News of the World executive editor Neil Wallis.

Met Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick yesterday said the Guardian report “certainly wasn’t a trivial matter” and suggested that Mr Yates should have alerted then-commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson to his close relationship with Mr Wallis before he examined the paper’s allegations.

She told the inquiry: “If you do think you have any conflict, then you have to discuss it with the boss, and so that’s what I think I would have done...

“I don’t know how much Sir Paul knew about the relationship, but I think at a minimum a conflict like that should be discussed.”

The senior policewoman added: “I was completely and totally unaware of that relationship at that time.”

The inquiry continues.