ROY GREENSLADE | The Guardian
Read this story on the Guardian here.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission report about Surrey Police’s failure to act over the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone is hugely significant.
It is official confirmation of what we have known for some time – the Surrey force, like the Metropolitan police, let the News of the World’s hackers off the hook.
Though there was evidence in 2002 of hacking during the hunt for 13-year-old Milly, the police were, naturally enough, concentrating on the search for her.
Once her body had been found, however, the IPPC records the fact that Surrey Police itself had conceded that it should have then looked into the hacking allegations.
The commission said there was knowledge of the allegations “at all levels” of the 2002 investigation into Milly’s abduction and murder.
But it registers its greatest concern at the failure of the force to revisit the claims that the News of the World had intercepted Milly’s voicemail messages in 2007, when one of the paper’s staff and a private investigator working for the paper were jailed for such an activity.
IPCC deputy chair, Deborah Glass, is unequivocal: “Phone hacking was a crime and this should have been acted upon, if not in 2002, then later, once the News of the World’s widespread use of phone hacking became a matter of public knowledge and concern.”
She reveals that police officers “expressed surprise and dismay” to the IPCC that hacking wasn’t investigated. And then she says:
“We have not been able to uncover any evidence, in documentation or witness statements, of why and by whom that decision was made: former senior officers, in particular, appear to have been afflicted by a form of collective amnesia in relation to the events of 2002.
This is perhaps not surprising, given the events of 2011 and the public outcry that the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone produced.”
The implication is that, after The Guardian revealed in July 2011 that Milly’s voicemails had been intercepted, Surrey Police officers were embarrassed by the failure to hold a proper investigation into hacking.
And note Glass’s further crucial statement:
“It is scarcely credible that no one connected to the Milly Dowler investigation recognised the relevance and importance of the information Surrey police held in 2002 before this was disclosed by Operation Weeting.”
Scarcely credible indeed. But why? The IPCC does not finger the News of the World itself as being too close to Surrey Police. But it does note claims from within the force of an “unhealthy relationship” with the media in general in order to “keep the media onside”.
I have said this before, but this IPCC report is a timely moment to say it yet again – The sad truth is that from 2006 onwards, when a News of the World reporter and a private investigator were arrested, neither the Met, nor Surrey Police, saw fit to join the dots and look into the matter seriously.
That collective failure, whatever the reasons offered as mitigation, is an indictment of those forces.
Commission report: available here
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