How Met Kicked Hacking into Long Grass

What I can’t get my head around is why would you give a tabloid hacking enquiry to the Counter Terrorism police? Commander Peter Clarke, before the Home Affairs Select Committee, told us that his department was given the job because the victims were the Royal Family and they need to be protected from terrorist threat. But they knew at this early stage that this was the press dealing in tittle-tattle, not Islamists plotting to kill the Queen.

There are a huge number of different squads at Scotland Yard and elsewhere. Why didn’t this case go to the police who specialise in computer misuse and fraud?

Cmdr Clarke isolated the one case, rather than tackling the 11,000 documents of potential evidence they had in the so-called black bin-bags. He did this for strategic reasons, and he is plausible. The CPS are tactical in this manner all the time. By isolating the one case, the investigation avoids getting out of control.

Once they got a conviction, Clarke tells us he drew up a set of procedures for the other victims to be contacted. It naturally would follow that some of them would also want to make complaints, but it seems that they simply weren’t contacted. He didn’t explain why, and this point seems to have been missed by the MPs.

Clarke was dealing with about seventy live operations including a plot to blow up airliners over the Atlantic, the Litvinenko case that began later that same year, as well as the 7/7 bombers. He says that, “For two years I’d been stripping out other departments for extra officers” just to keep up with the work.

So why did he get this middling little case? He’s got far more important issues of life and death to concern himself with. Why give him a case of tabloid journalists eaves-dropping the Princes’ voice mail for tittle tattle? But maybe that’s the point.

If somebody wanted to ensure that the wider matter wasn’t fully investigated, or at least that the investigation was limited to this one case and not be expanded, the Counter Terrorism department was perfect for ensuring that this happened. They never wanted the burden in the first place, so they were hardly likely to investigate beyond the narrow remit of achieving the one result.

Each day Clarke would discuss the business of his department, including the hacking case, with his immediate superior Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman. As he said, “There wasn’t much of a tree to push up above me. This was something I discussed with Andy Hayman.” In fact the only person above Hayman was Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson.

So we can only presume it was Andy Hayman that gave him the original hacking case. Could it be possible that Hayman would engineer a situation, whereby the wider investigation would be shelved?

Clarke told the committee of his regret that, “The Victim Strategy which we set in place in Aug 2006 has not been as effective as it should have been.” He didn’t name names, and although he comes across as having integrity, he did give me the impression he was withholding evidence at times, perhaps due to discomfort at ratting on former colleagues.

So when this Victim Strategy had been created, who was responsible for delegating it for action? I would have thought his immediate superior, Andy Hayman. So why did it fail to be successful? Did Hayman file it under trash, perhaps?

Hayman, who has since retired from the Met, was made a laughing stock when he appeared before the Committee. On retiring, he had been given a column on The Sunday Times, but said he didn’t consider that this publication was part of the same company that produced The News of the World. He refused to disown the column, only saying that he’d have a conversation with the editor about whether to continue.

He claimed it fulfilled a life-long ambition to be a writer. However, the extract read out to the committee hardly screamed of talent. Chair Keith Vaz mocked, “Your evidence is more Clouseau than Colombo.”

The appearance of Andy Hayman didn’t deliver much in the way of tangible evidence, since he was so evasive. What it did deliver was the ironic sight of one of the most powerful police officers in the country, spluttering, prevaricating, stuttering and sweating, like any one of the thousands of culpable and desperate criminals that he must have interrogated over the course of his career.

It looks like a sad end to an eminent career, but it may get sadder yet. He has further questions to answer.

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