Keith Vaz is not the most likeable of politicians – normally – but when he chaired the Select Committee that has been given the task of investigating the ongoing phone hacking scandal, he had the Metropolitan Police on the back foot.
Now that the UK government has been galvanised into a fully fledged investigation of this sordid affair, it looks as though there will be no stopping it. The public inquiry called for by Hugh Grant is a little way off yet, but the House of Commons has other tools at its disposal in the meantime, including the power to investigate on its own behalf which is what it did yesterday.
One of the people grilled by Vaz & co was Andy Hayman, who in addition to controlling counter-terrorist operations in the Met had served as Chief Constable of Norfolk from 2002-2005. He was also in charge of the News Of The World phone hacking affair at one point, and on retiring from the Met he went to work for News International. It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to join up the dots. Asked by Lorraine Fullbrook MP if he had ever received payment from any news organisation (ie taken a bribe), he responded:
“Good God! Absolutely not! I can’t believe you suggested that.”
In the recent Milly Dowler inquiry, Surrey Police actually suggested in the early stages that the missing girl may have been murdered by father. In the recent Casey Anthony case on the other sides of the Atlantic, the grandfather of the victim was accused in open court both of disposing of Caylee Anthony’s body, and of sexually abusing his own daughter from an early age.
Both Bob Dowler and George Anthony bore these accusations with stoic resignation; Andy Hayman is asked if he had ever taken a bung in order to turn a blind eye to dodgy dealings by a major national newspaper, and he exhibits righteous indignation at the mere thought of it.
When it was suggested that his decision to accept hospitality from senior figures at News International while he was investigating one of their newspapers was inappropriate, he claimed the dinners were “businesslike” rather than “candlelit affairs where state secrets were discussed”.
This led Mr Vaz to suggest he was “More Clouseau than Columbo”; at this point it was just about possible to imagine Hayman as the bumbling French detective from The Pink Panther tripping over dead bodies in his hunt for the elusive diamond thief.
Earlier, another senior police officer, Peter Clarke, had the temerity to pass the buck to News International, who he said were a massive international company who could afford the best legal advice.
Anyone accused of murder in future, take note, hire a top class lawyer and the police won’t even bother to question you.
Clarke also had the gall to suggest that the Met’s failure to investigate the matter thoroughly was due to their having to triage. They were investigating major terrorist operations like 7/7, which had to take priority. The Metropolitan Police and other forces spend millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money and countless man hours on relative trivialities. In one now infamous case they employed an undercover officer for more than seven years issuing him with fake ID including a fake passport so that he could “gather intelligence” on a lawful if radical environmentalist organisation.
In spite of some drastic attempts at damage limitation by both fairly senior police officers and the News International organisation itself, this affair is not going away. The share price of the company continues to fall, and in a cooperative effort unprecedented outside of wartime, the Government and the Opposition have joined forces to prevent the Murdoch takeover of BskyB.
Rupert Murdoch is eighty years old; most men of his age would be content to sit at home in their carpet slippers, or play the odd round of golf. Some with his colossal wealth might even consider following in the footsteps of the much young Bill Gates, and divesting themselves of such an obscene fortune, but such are the trappings of power, and the mindset that comes with it.
And there could be more trouble coming Murdoch's way; in the United States, a Senator has called for an investigation into News Corporation's domestic operations. We have a saying in Britain that it happens first in America. That has been true of everything from rock 'n' roll to alien abductions, and it is not quite conceivable that the country that gave us Silicon Valley is lagging behind Britain in the misapplication of such technology by Grub Street.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com