Saturday 23 June 2012

Hackgate - Major Upcoming Events

Another quality article from a regular contributor, this time on what we can expect in the coming months.

As the Leveson Inquiry moves towards its conclusion of Module 3 (the Press and Politicians), there is almost a sense of its role as 'centre of attention' is beginning to devolve and disperse into other arenas as multiple court cases start, new ones are scheduled, imminent decisions made on charges, and more arrests are possible. Here is a round-up of some key Hackgate events to look out for.

Rebekah Brooks: sequencing charges and court appearances

Brooks first appearance at Crown Court happened on June 22nd.  Whilst each of her co-defendants are charged with a single related offence,  Rebekah Brooks is charged with 3 counts of conspiring to pervert the course of justice.  These charges refer to allegations of removing and concealing evidence of phone hacking at News International titles.  In addition, Brooks is waiting to hear if she is to be charged with offences under Operation Weeting (phone hacking) and Operation Elvedon (corruption of police and/or public officials). Scheduling  current or future court appearances will therefore be complex
Rebekah Brooks, the former News International chief executive, should know by the end of the summer whether she is to face further charges in relation to allegations of phone hacking and illegal payments to public officials.
The Crown Court ordered a plea and case management hearing for September 26th.

Glenn Mulcaire Supreme Court decision due any day

Glenn Mulcaire has case ongoing at the UK Supreme Court, against being ordered by the Court of Appeal to reveal the names of those commissioning him at News International.  Legally, the case is very complex. Mulcaire's legal team have argued that he does not have to reveal any information that is self-incriminating, but that is not true of phone hacking which might be legally deemed 'intellectual property'. If it is held that some intercepted phone messages were commercially sensitive and contained intellectual property, Mulcaire's case fails.  The Supreme Court hearing was May 7th and 8th, which resulted in Mulcaire losing the appeal.  It was however argued by his defence that the Supreme Court Decision was flawed. Mulcaire's defence team were given a brief period of a few days to prepare and present their counter-arguments, but this period was extended to take account of the cluster of May, June and Jubilee bank holidays.  To date, the Mulcaire case is stilled listed as 'Awaiting Judgement'.

Charging decisions due under Operation Weeting

Batches of case files have been sent in June to the Crown Prosecution Service for charging decisions.

Batch 1  11 June, relating to five journalists - (RIPA) Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (2000)

Batch 2  18 June, two journalists, RIPA

Batch 3  21 June, four journalists, RIPA

Batch 4  22 June, one  journalist and "one other individual", RIPA

Charging decisions on these June referrals will be made in due course.

Andy Coulson's appeal to require News International to pay his legal costs

This Appeal Court case should be scheduled soon, following Coulson being given leave to appeal on May 8th '12
Coulson's appeal centres on a severance agreement with News Group Newspapers on 26 January 2007, two days before he resigned as editor of the News of the World... (A previous court hearing) "ruled in December that a clause in the agreement covered only Coulson's "lawful duties" as editor and that allegations of criminal activity fell outside the scope of the contract."
High stakes indeed for Andy Coulson as he awaits more charging decisions under Operation Weeting and Operation Elvedon.

Andy Coulson: Procurator Fiscal to decide on trial for perjury

Coulson has already been charged with perjury in Operation Rubicon (Strathclyde Police investigation into the Tommy Sheridan/ News International perjury trial). Under Scots law, a decision will have to be made in the near future as to whether Coulson will stand trial following this charge.

Contempt of the House: Hinton, Crone and Myler

On 30 April '12, the House of Commons Select Committee (Culture, Media and Sport) published its report 'News International and Phone Hacking'.

It concluded that Les Hinton, Colin Myler and Tom Crone all misled the Select Committee with their evidence.

This resulted in a Commons debate (Column 990 onwards) on 22 May.  On behalf of the CMS Select Committee, its Chair John Whittindale moved that the House refer its outcomes to the Standards and Privileges Committee for appropriate action. Whittingdale's motion was carried.
Although Committees rarely take evidence on oath, the House of Commons 2011 guidance for witnesses giving evidence to Select Committees is clear. It states that witnesses are expected to answer fully, honestly and truthfully, and that "deliberately attempting to mislead a committee is a contempt of the House”.
In theory, contempt of the House could be punished by imprisonment or fine though these have not been imposed for many years. It is therefore arguable whether the ability to impose such sanctions should be deemed to have lapsed into disuse.  An alternative approbation is to be  summoned in person to the bar of the House, to be admonished by the Speaker.

The whole situation is going to be difficult for the Standards and Privileges Committee to resolve. Firstly, Hinton, Myler and Crone continue to deny contempt and stand by their testimony.  Secondly, Hinton and Myler are both now resident in the United States.  Parliament would naturally be loathe to see any - or all three - refuse to attend the House when summoned for admonishment, exposing Parliamentary powers as toothless.  Nevertheless, the Standards and Privileges Committee is duty bound to respond the the House's wishes at some point soon.

Ray Adams and allegations of corruption

On 31 May '12, the Metropolitan Police Service concluded its review of alleged police corruption which had impeded the original investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence.  It then made public its conclusion that there was no evidence that corruption shielded the killers of Stephen Lawrence, and that the force had given all relevant evidence to the 1998 Macpherson inquiry.
The Met released the findings of its review on Thursday, which began in March after allegations about corruption in the Lawrence case made in the Guardian and Independent. The claims centre on former Met commander Ray Adams, who was a senior officer in the south London area where Stephen was murdered, and former detective sergeant John Davidson, who was a senior detective on the first, flawed investigation into the racist killing. Adams and Davidson had been the subjects of internal corruption investigations, after which neither officer faced disciplinary or criminal charges. They retired on full police pensions and denied any wrongdoing. Adams, who left the force because of a bad back, went on to work at a Rupert Murdoch-owned company, NDS, in a senior security role.
The next day, despite the Met review conclusions, Home Secretary Theresa May made an announcement
A spokesman for the Home Office said: “The Home Secretary has asked for a QC-led review of the work the Metropolitan Police has undertaken into investigating claims of corruption in the original Stephen Lawrence murder investigation.
To date, no timescale has been given for the new review process.

Operation Baronet, the Surrey Police investigation into the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone

Assistant Chief Constable of Surrey Police, Jerry Kirkby, was due to conclude a final report for submission to Levson by the end of May.  A request to the Leveson Inquiry for an update resulted in the following response on 20 June:
The Inquiry is not covered by the Freedom of Information Act, as detailed here - - but will endeavour to conduct proceedings in an open and transparent manner.  Documents and information will be made available on the website during the course of the Inquiry, as appropriate and as they are referred to in the hearings.  Therefore it would not be appropriate for the Inquiry to comment on the questions you raise.
Given Lord Justice Leveson's commitment to transparency, there must be good reason to decline to release information - possibly to avoid prejudicing imminent legal action against those involved and/or failing to take action at the time.  More information on Operation Baronet can be found here.

Interesting times, watch this space...

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  1. A very interesting read puts everything into perspective

  2. No developments to come re the Daniel Morgan murder trials of all concerned? Didn't the "NOTW investigation team" get involved with the Met Police investigation(s)?