Parliament Offers Little Sympathy to Assistant Police Commissioner

John Yates led the 2006 investigation into phone hacking

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John Yates is struggling to absolve himself of having greatly underestimated News Corp.'s illegal behavior. The assistant London Metropolitan Police commissioner explained his role in past phone hacking investigations to a panel of Members of Parliament on Tuesday, but they were not sympathetic. MP Keith Vaz called his testimony "unconvincing," assured Yates he would face further questioning and stopped just short of asking the commissioner to step down. "Have you actually offered to resign?" Vaz wondered. "If you're suggesting that should resign for what the News International has done and my small part in it, then I think that is unfair," Yates replied.

Yates is a key figure in a Home Affairs Select Committee about the Met's failure to reveal the depth of News Corp.'s privacy invasions during a 2006 investigation into phone hacking allegations. David Cameron called for the committee's involvement last week in response to a torrent of revelations that News of the World's phone hacking practices reached well beyond the royal family, where the Met's original investigation more or less stopped. Currently in charge of counter-terrorism for the London police, assistant commissioner Yates told the committee it was a "poor decision" not to reopen the case in 2009 and called his original estimate that only 91 people had been victim to phone hacking "a matter of regret." Yates denied that ever lying to the committee Yates or receiving bribe money from News Corp.

Committee members expressed worry nevertheless that Yates may have been otherwise influenced. Monday night, The New York Times reported that Yates and four other investigators are phone hacking victims. The threat of revealing details about officers' personal lives, the report suggests, affected the investigation.

Members of Parliament asked Yates whether this influenced his investigation and he denied flatly that it had. The committee also questioned Peter Clarke, the former deputy assistant commissioner of the Met, who echoed Yates's statements of regret and accused News Corp. of "deliberately trying to thwart a criminal investigation." In an interview with the BBC and The Guardian, Gordon Brown emboldened this accusation Tuesday morning with his own account of News Corp.'s behavior. Brown said that Rupert Murdoch's company worked with the "criminal underworld" to gain access to details of his private life and "abused their power" in the process.

As expected, the Home Affairs Select Committee announced that they had invited three top News Corp. executives--Rupert Murdoch, James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks--for questioning next week. MP Tom Watson told BBC Radio 4 about the invitation and was careful to add that the three would probably decline the invitation. News Corp. responded, "We have been made aware of the request from the CMS committee to interview senior executives and will co-operate… We await the formal invitation."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.