Senior figures at News International were aware of widespread phone hacking at News of the World as far back as 2006, the Leveson Inquiry has heard.
The evidence emerged as DAC Sue Akers from the Metropolitan Police appeared before the inquiry for a second time to provide an update on police operations into alleged criminality at News International.
She was asked about a 2006 email sent from Tom Crone, then head of legal at News International, to editor Andy Coulson detailing information received by Rebekah Brooks from the police.
It described payment records from News International to private investigator Glenn Mulcaire totalling over £1 million, and said police were going to contact “RW”, believed to mean Rekebah Wade, Brooks’s maiden name, to “see if she wishes to take it further”, referring to he potential for a widespread investigation into phone hacking at the News of the World.
In a 2009 statement John Yates, then Assistant Commissioner at the Met, said an inquiry into the original investigation, claimed no further investigation was needed into phone hacking. He resigned over the matter in 2011 following further revelations discrediting his conclusion. The evidence of DAC Akers continues to demonstrate the inadequacy of that inquiry.
Akers said Operation Elevden had revealed one public official was paid £80,000 by a journalist over several years and another journalist had been given over £150,000 to pay sources including public officials, adding that the authority level for payments seem to have been made at senior level and a “culture of illegal payments” existed at the Sun.
The investigation would continue to look at “regular, frequent and sometimes significant sums of money” paid to public officials by journalists, and staff members are still examining a database of 300 million emails recovered from News International.
Neil Garnham QC, acting for the Met, said an increased terrorism threat during the summer of 2006 had drained resources from the original investigation into phone hacking.
Lord Justice Leveson said evidence gathered from Mulcaire offered up “veritable Aladdin’s cave of information” and said: “I would like to understand… why the police shouldn’t have gone to News International and said: ‘This is what is gong on… what’s been happening, what are you going to do about it, how are you going to make sure it doesn’t happen anymore’.”
Robert Jay QC, inquiry counsel, made an opening statement on module two this morning. He said the Met had a strategy to notify potential victims of phone hacking that had not been properly executed, and pointed out it could be viewed as a “deliberate failure” to avoid drawing attention to the relationship between the force and News International.