John Yates 'pushed back' against reopening of phone hacking investigation

Posted: April 4, 2012 at 5:36 pm

Senior Met officer John Yates “pushed back” against suggestions for a new investigation into phone hacking in 2009, the Leveson Inquiry has heard.

Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer, who continued giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry this afternoon, said he thought there should have been an examination of the “for Neville” email, potentially implicating other News of the World journalists in phone hacking. Yates, then assistant commissioner, conducted a one-day review of the original investigation, in 2009.

Starmer told the inquiry: “There was a degree of pushback against my suggestion that there should be a reinvestigation or further examination of the ‘for Neville’ email. To the best of my recollection, Mr Yates said that it was not new, it had been seen before and thus I took from that he didn’t consider at that stage there was any point for investigation of [the] email.”

Starmer said he was frustrated after the email and other documentation was presented to the Culture Media and Sport select committee, investigating the hacking scandal, by journalist Nick Davies in 2009. 

He said he accepted the email did not prove anything alone, but flagged up the need to examine material not used in the 2006 case against royal reporter Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire.

He added: “My concern then was that I had been told in July 2009, in confident terms by Mr Yates, that all of this had been looked at: ‘it’s nothing new, Mr Starmer you needn’t concern yourself’.

“When I really focused on the fact that this had all happened in a day I became increasingly concerned about the confidence with which those answers had been given. “

David Perry QC, leading counsel in the Goodman and Mulcaire prosecution, was drafted in by Starmer to review the CPS advice on the case.

By 2011, when further material was revealed during civil action brought against News of the World by actress Sienna Miller, Starmer said he decided a full review of all police material on hacking was needed.

He said: “At that stage I thought nothing less that a root and branch review of all the material that we have and the police have is now going to satisfy me about this case, and that’s why I indicated in fact to Tim Godwin, who I think was then acting commissioner, that I had for my part reached the view that we could no longer approach this on a piecemeal basis – looking at bits of material – and we really had to roll our sleeves up and look at everything.”

The DPP described a 2011 meeting with Yates, saying he had made his mind up that a full review was needed

He said: “To be fair to Mr Yates, he did not seek to block that approach and in the end agreed to it, but I have to say by then I had reached the stage where I really was not in the mood for being dissuaded from my then course of action.”

Starmer said a full CPS review is currently underway, headed by Alison Levitt QC, but that findings would not be published until any charges have been brought under Operation Weeting.