If the Met investigation into phone-hacking at the News of the World continues at its current pace it could take a decade to contact everyone that was affected
The warning came in a report into phone-hacking published by the Home Affairs select committee today.
Unlike the Met’s original hacking investigation, the new Operation Weeting inquiry – led by deputy assistant commissioner Sue Akers – is contacting every person whose name or phone number appeared on papers seized from jailed private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.
A total of 3,870 names are included in evidence already held by police, alongside 5,000 landline numbers and 4,000 mobile numbers.
Only 170 people have so far been contacted.
Since the investigation was launched earlier this year a further 500 people have come forward asking whether their details were recorded in Mulcaire’s papers – 70 of whom have been identified as potential victims.
The committe claimed the complexities of the case made it ‘impossible to predict when the investigation would be complete”.
It also noted with ‘some alarm’that so few people had been contacted.
‘We accept that there are a number of reasons why progress may have been slow so far, but at this rate it would be at least a decade before everyone was informed,” the committee said.
‘This timeframe is clearly absurd, but it seems to us to underline the need for more resources to be made available to DAC Akers.’
The committee iis now calling on the government to free up extra funds for the investigation.
‘We deplore the response of News International‘
News International was heavily criticised over its response to the original investigation, led by deputy assistant commissioner Peter Clarke and overseen by former assistant commissioner Andy Hayman.
When Mulcaire and royal reporter Clive Goodman were first arrested in 2006, the Met requested a large volume of material from NI including ‘who Mr Mulcaire reported to, whether he had worked for other editors or journalists at the News of the World, records of work provided by him and details of the telephone systems in the News of the World offices”.
The police received a response from NI’s solicitors claiming the amount of relevant documentation was limited, which meant that ‘very little material’was handed to police.
‘We deplore the response of News International to the original investigation into hacking,’the committee said.
‘It is almost impossible to escape the conclusion voiced by Mr Clarke that they were deliberately trying to thwart a criminal investigation.”
While the committee was ‘astounded’at how long it took NI to begin fully cooperating with the police, the Met was also rapped for its failure to ‘mount a robust investigation”.
‘The failure of lawbreakers to co-operate with the police is a common state of affairs,’it said.
‘Indeed, it might be argued that a failure to co-operate might offer good reason to intensify the investigations rather than being a reason for abandoning them.’
Lack of due diligence
The Met’s director of public affairs and internal communications Dick Fedorcio was also criticised for the appointment of Neil Wallis as a part-time communications consultant on a £1,000-a-day contract in 2009.
Wallis, the former deputy editor of the News of the World, was arrested on suspicion of phone hacking last week.
‘We are appalled at what we have learnt about the letting of the media support contract to Mr Wallis,’the committee said.
‘We are particularly shocked by the approach taken by Mr Fedorcio: he said he could not remember who had suggested seeking a quote from Mr Wallis; he appears to have carried out no due diligence in any generally recognised sense of that term; he failed to answer when asked whether he knew that AC Yates was a friend of Mr Wallis; he entirely inappropriately asked Mr Yates to sound out Mr Wallis although he knew that Mr Yates had recently looked at the hacking investigation of 2005-06; and he attempted to deflect all blame on to Mr Yates when he himself was responsible for letting the contract.”