‘Yates of the Yard’ should have listened to Huhne on ‘Hackgate’

by Stephen Tall on July 10, 2011

Today’s Telegraph carries an interview with the Metropolitan Police’s Assistant Commissioner John Yates with a full mea culpa for his failure to get to grips with British journalism’s criminal free-for-all. As the paper notes:

Mr Yates had the opportunity to reopen the case in 2009 but chose not to do so after just eight hours’ consideration, including consultations with other senior detectives and Crown Prosecution lawyers. … In his interview, Mr Yates addresses last week’s revelation that Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator working for the News of the World, had allegedly hacked into teenage murder victim Milly Dowler’s mobile phone and then deleted messages. … “My byword has always been you look after the victims and the job will always resolve itself. I always put the victim first but here I didn’t follow my principle and that is my greatest regret.”

In the interview itself, published here, he is even blunter:

“If I had known then what I know now of course we’d have widened it. I could have handed it over to the specialist crime directorate.” The decision, he admitted, “was a pretty crap one”.

Fair play to him for the admission, and hindsight is, of course, all too easy. Nonetheless, it’s not as if his decision at the time was uncontroversial. As I noted here — Huhne calls for independent inquiry into newspapers’ phone tapping — on Lib Dem Voice two years ago, following Nick Davies’s original Guardian revelations, the party’s then shadow home secretary wrote to Mr Yates’s boss, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson, to call for an independent inquiry into the allegations.

You can read Chris’s full letter at the link above, but here’s a section from it:

… I am concerned that [the Met’s specialist operations] department that may have failed in its duty to investigate some serious crimes is now being asked to investigate whether there has been any neglect of duty. After all, one of the clear issues here is whether the department merely dropped matters after prosecuting Clive Goodman because that had effectively ended the Royal connection, and its remit does not normally include many others who, if the reports are correct, were also bugged by newspapers or investigators working on their behalf. Why did prosecutions not take place? Why were the victims of bugging not informed? These are matters that the Metropolitan Police must answer.

Yes, they’re matters the Met must answer, and will now have to — but two years later than they should have.