For nearly four years they lay piled in a Scotland Yard evidence room, six overstuffed plastic bags gathering dust and little else.
Inside was a treasure-trove of evidence: 11,000 pages of handwritten notes listing nearly 4,000 celebrities, politicians, sports stars, police officials and crime victims whose phones may have been hacked by The News of the World, a now defunct British tabloid newspaper.
Yet from August 2006, when the items were seized, until the autumn of 2010, no one at the Metropolitan Police Service, commonly referred to as Scotland Yard, bothered to sort through all the material and catalog every page, said former and current senior police officials.
During that same time, senior Scotland Yard officials assured Parliament, judges, lawyers, potential hacking victims, the news media and the public that there was no evidence of widespread hacking by the tabloid. They steadfastly maintained that their original inquiry, which led to the conviction of one reporter and one private investigator, had put an end to what they called an isolated incident.
After the past week, that assertion has been reduced to tatters, torn apart by a spectacular avalanche of contradictory evidence, admissions by News International executives that hacking was more widespread, and a reversal by police officials who now admit to mishandling the case.
Assistant Commissioner John Yates of the Metropolitan Police Service publicly acknowledged that he had not actually gone through the evidence. “I’m not going to go down and look at bin bags,” Mr. Yates said, using the British term for trash bags.
At best, former Scotland Yard senior officers acknowledged in interviews, the police have been lazy, incompetent and too cozy with the people they should have regarded as suspects. At worst, they said, some officers might be guilty of crimes themselves.
NSS. Supervising coppers covering up for their mates in the tabloid press should not shock anyone. It’s the kind of corruption that has always lived on a 2-way street.
That something like this has blown up in the faces of a big time, big city police department is the only surprise. Usually the political establishment sees something like this coming and gets their assorted walls of agitprop in place, stonewalling any danger to blue bureaucrats. In fact, that’s probably what they thought they’d already succeeded in doing – if it weren’t for the tenacity of some of the victims and one newspaper, The Guardian.
RTFA for pages of detail – of exactly the sort of corruption you already expect.