Former News of the World executive editor Alex Marunchak has been put in the clear by the Crown Prosecution Service after three years in legal limbo following his initial arrest.
Marunchak was initially arrested on suspicion of involvement in computer hacking in a dawn raid on his home on 2 September 2012.
A file was passed by the Metropolitan Police to the CPS. Today Marunchak was told by CPS lawyers that the case against him was being dropped because there was “insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction of any offences”.
This afternoon, the Metropolitan Police announced that no further action will be taken against anyone as part of Operation Kalmyk, part of Operation Tuleta.
Some 26 News of the World journalists have been arrested and/or charged as a result of investigations stemming from the hacking scandal at the paper over the last four years.
Marunchak believes that he is the only individual at his level of seniority, or higher, at the paper who has not been charged with a criminal offence.
Those convicted of involvement in phone-hacking include former news editors for the paper Neville Thurlbeck, Ian Edmondson, Greg Miskiw and James Weatherup and former editor Andy Coulson. Those arrested and later cleared of phone-hacking include former editor Rebekah Brooks and former managing editor Stuart Kuttner.
Marunchak, 64, told Press Gazette:”There’s nothing there. The whole thing has collapsed like a pack of cards after three years of waiting. The strain on my family has been absolutely enormous.”
Marunchak’s arrest followed claims reported by BBC Panorama in 2011 that he had commissioned a computer-hacker to access former British army “intelligence officer” Ian Hurst's emails in 2006. Marunchak denies any knowledge of this.
Around eight police officers called at his home at 6.30am in the morning to arrest him. Marunchak was on his way back from the newsagents when he let them in to search his house and take away a computer and other materials.
He was questioned at the local police station and kept on police bail for two years. He was “de-arrested” a year ago but told that he could still be charged.
On the claim made by Hurst that he was involved in hacking his emails, Marunchak said: “Anybody who knows me will tell you that the first thing I do when I set in front of a computer is say ‘how do you turn this thing on?’”
A civil claim for computer-hacking lodged by Hurst in the High Court four years ago remains unresolved.
Separately, Marunchak has himself received damages from News International because journalists at the News of the World hacked his phone.
Marunchak says that he was arrested despite earlier receiving a letter from the Met Police saying that if they did wish to interview him it would be by appointment.
He said: “The whole thing was grossly unfair. The worst terrorist would not have been treated the way I was treated. And this is bearing in mind the fact that no charges were ever leveled.
“Today I feel relieved for my family [Marunchak has a wife and two grown-up sons]. It has been a tremendous load of pressure on them and they are not used to that sort of thing.”
Marunchak said he was separately sued by detective superintendent Dave Cook and his partner Jacqui Hames over claims he arranged surveillance of them by the News of the World in 2002. He said that case was resolved with his costs being paid.
He was one of 15 people arrested, and a further seven questioned under caution, as part of Operation Kalmyk.
According to the Met Police this was an investigation into alleged computer-hacking by a private investigator on behalf of other investigators and clients. The offences were alleged to have taken place between April 2005 and September 2007.
During the course of the investigation, which began in 2011, detectives took 560 statements and more than 1,500 exhibits were recovered.
In September 2014, after a review of the length of time the investigation was taking, the MPS decided that it would be appropriate to release the arrested suspects from bail, with a clear explanation that the investigation was continuing.
The Met Police said: "We understand the complainants may be very disappointed by this decision. However, we respect and fully appreciate the CPS’ decision and recognise that in this case there were complex legal and evidential issues that meant there could not be a realistic prospect of conviction."
The Met said: "Following a review of the evidence and the legislation in force at that time, the CPS has advised that there is insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction in respect of offences considered under the Computer Misuse Act 1990 (CMA).
"Unauthorised monitoring of a computer would be contrary to Secton 1 of the CMA, however this offence could not be used due to the age of the allegations as it was time barred. That restriction no longer exists following a change that was introduced in October 2008.
"This barrier to Section 1 of the CMA was recognised and alternative charges were considered, in particular Section 3 of the CMA – ‘Unauthorised modification of computer material’. However, after careful consideration it was felt that the expert evidence gathered in relation to the Kalmyk offences did not support a charge under Section 3."
The 26 arrested and/or charged News of the World journalists
|Neville Thurlbeck||NoW||Hacking||05/04/2011||Yes||Guilty plea|
|Ian Edmondson||NoW||Hacking, payments||05/04/2011||Yes||Guilty plea (hacking)|
|James Weatherup||NoW||Hacking||14/04/2011||Yes||Guilty plea|
|Andy Coulson||NoW||Hacking, payments, perjury||08/07/2011||Yes||Guilty verdict (hacking)|
|Neil Wallis||NoW||Hacking||14/07/2011||Yes||Not guilty verdict|
|Rebekah Brooks||NoW, Sun||Hacking, payments, CPCJ||17/07/2011||Yes||Not guilty verdict|
|Stuart Kuttner||NoW||Hacking||02/08/2011||Yes||Not guilty verdict|
|Greg Miskiw||NoW||Hacking||10/08/2011||Yes||Guilty plea|
|Dan Evans||NoW, Mirror||Hacking, payments, CPCJ||19/08/2011||Yes||Guilty plea (all three)|
|Lucy Panton||NoW||Payments||15/12/2011||Yes||Guilty verdict overturned on appeal|
|Douglas Wright||NoW||Hacking, perjury||17/08/2012||Yes||Cleared|
|Alex Marunchak||NoW||Computer hacking||02/09/2012||No||Cleared|
|Jules Stenson||NoW||Hacking||13/02/2013||Yes||Guilty plea|
|Stephen Moyes*||NoW, Sun||Payments||16/04/2014||Yes||Cleared|
|Ryan Sabey*||NoW||Payments||15/08/2014||Yes||Guilty verdict overturned on appeal|
*Ryan Sabey and Stephen Moves were never arrested, but questioned under caution. So the date given is when they were charged.