Investigate the investigation

It has been another eventful week in the phone-hacking saga, with the suspension of News of the World news editor, Ian Edmondson.  We are now told that the Met have written to the News of the World requesting further information on phone hacking.  The News of the World have said they will fully co-operate.

But how can we expect either of these two parties to come up with the whole truth?  We have precious confidence in News Group and the Met  have so far appeared worryingly half-hearted about this investigation.  The matter first came to light several years ago, thousands of people have had their privacy invaded, the editor at the time now works at the heart of government and yet, only when there is a huge public fuss, do they appear to prick up their ears again. 

Surely it is time for the Met to stand aside, if only to allay the suspicions attached to their motives.  Covert complicity  between the press, politicians and the police attacks the very core of our democracy.  For this reason, we believe it is essential for an independent police force to launch a full inquiry into both the phone-hacking and its subsequent investigation.

Because of the importance of this issue, we quote extensively here from two individuals who have argued for the same in the last couple of days.  The first, Chris Bryant MP, was one of the names of interest to Mulcaire.  The second, Alastair Campbell, obviously has unparalleled knowledge of the workings between press and government.

In the meantime, please do all you can to support the call on Twitter and the internet. We are giving it the hashtag #InvestigateHackgate

Chris Bryant MP, The Guardian, Comment is Free, 6 Jan 2011

 ……We know that in the material held by the Met are details of literally thousands of other people who were, in the Met’s own words, “people of interest to Mr Mulcaire”. I happen to be one of them, but I only know that because I happened to ask the Met, who are still refusing point blank to give me all the material they hold, or to contact the many thousands of others affected. Other targets have had to take legal action to get hold of material relating to them and have found the names of senior journalists written in the corners of Mulcaire’s notebooks. There may be other pages with other senior journalists named that the Met has failed to disclose. It is clear that any investigations they have conducted have been cursory.

Even more important is the culture of complicity. Back in 2003 the then editor of the Sun, Rebekah Wade (now Brooks) admitted to the commons culture select committee that she had paid police officers for information. There has still been no investigation into such police payments. And Andy Hayman, the officer who once ran the Met investigation, now writes for the Murdoch press. All of which casts a pall over the Met’s reputation for impartiality and independence.

Evidence is mounting that the one convicted case of a dodgy private investigator being used to track down stories illegally is a far from isolated case. Nor is it just a matter of murky Murdoch practices. We know that the account of the extent of the Mulcaire/News of the World case by the Press Complaints Commission has been profoundly misleading. Indeed, its chair, Baroness Buscombe, has had to apologise in the high court for suggesting that it was untrue that a police officer had said that there were 6,000 victims. Considering the declared desire of the PCC to put a stop to this kind of illegal activity across the industry, it is extraordinary that she is still in the post.

The time for a proper inquiry into the Met’s investigation by another police force is long overdue. All evidence points to this going far deeper than the Met are willing to credit, and so it is time for a fresh pair of eyes. Otherwise we shall never get to the bottom of what really happened at the News of the World. With the present culture of impunity the worst of the dark arts will continue to besmirch the fine tradition of the free press.

Alastair Campbell blog, 7 Jan 2011 

 There are several reasons why this story will not go away. First because journalists find it so hard to believe that an editor would be so ignorant about where stories came from. Second because the truth is being dragged kicking and screaming by a few individuals refusing to be fobbed off or bought off, and every fresh revelation brings further difficult questions for Scotland Yard.
What a contrast between the zeal shown by Yates of the Yard in the so-called cash for honours investigation, and the way this case has been handled.  I tend to agree with those who say that trust in the Met’s ability to handle this has fallen. They are appearing more and more like a vested interest, less like an independent investigative authority seeking after truth.

The other reason is the proximity to the government decision on News Corp’s efforts to take full control of BkyB. When Vince Cable’s ability to handle that without fear or favour was questioned, he was immediately stripped of that responsibility. We appear to have reached a similar position with regard to the Met. They have clearly not done the job properly so far. So another force should be asked take over, and include the role of the police, and their relations with media organisations, in its remit

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