No new phone-hack criminal charges because new evidence was too vague

“If the Guardian, the New York Times and Channel 4’s Dispatches can all find numerous journalists who worked at the News of the World who without exception insist that the newspaper routinely used private investigators to gather information by illegal means, why can’t Scotland Yard find a single one who will tell them the story?”

So asks Guardian journalist Nick Davies, who has been leading the investigation into new allegations of phone-hacking at the News of the World.

I suspect the answer is that for all the new allegations,  there has been no silver bullet. The conjecture that ‘Andy Coulson must have known what was going on’ is not the same ‘as I saw him do it on this date, at this time and on this story’, which no-one seems to have.

The New York Times reported: “A dozen former reporters said in interviews that hacking was pervasive at News of the World…Everyone knew. The office cat knew.” But there were little specifics in the lengthy NYT investigation which prompted the new investigation.

Channel 4’s Dispatches uncovered a new un-named former NotW reporter who said: “Andy was a very good editor, he was very conscientious and he wouldn’t let stories run unless he knew they were correct, so if the evidence that a reporter had was a recorded phone message that would be what Andy wanted to know about. They would have to say ‘yes there’s a recorded message’ which you would either go and play to him or show him a transcript of to satisfy that they weren’t going to get sued, that it wasn’t made up.”

But again there were no specifics, presumably because the source didn’t have them.

The Director of Public Prosecutions said on Friday: “A number of other witnesses were interviewed and either refused to co-operate with the police investigation, provided short statements which did not advance matters, or denied any knowledge of wrongdoing.”

My understanding is that the Met Police are going to keep the investigation open, in the sense that they will hear any new evidence as and when it comes up. But it looks like the criminal side of this investigation is definitely over.

But with John Prescott seeking judicial review over the Met Police’s handling of phone hacking, fresh parliamentary inquiries set to come from the Standards Committee and the Home Affairs Select Committee and a plethora of pending privacy actions (most recently from Steve Coogan as exclusively revealed by Press Gazette). This story is not going to go away any time soon.

In another new development, the Met Police has said it will no longer provide those who believe they have been targeted by the News of the World with a summary of the evidence pertaining to them. The Met has revealed that 194 people contacted them for these summaries. The Guardian and others report the Met is now only handing over the info if the individual can show “reasonable grounds” that they were targeted.

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