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Statement by Baroness Buscombe on new evidence in the phone message hacking episode

STATEMENT BY BARONESS BUSCOMBE, CHAIRMAN OF THE PRESS COMPLAINTS COMMISSION, ON NEW EVIDENCE IN THE PHONE MESSAGE HACKING EPISODE

Made at the Society of Editors Annual Conference, Radisson Blu Hotel, Stansted.

I would like to use this opportunity to say something on a subject that I know has been of great interest to some in the media and politics.

Last week, the PCC published a report following allegations we were misled by the News of the World during an inquiry we conducted in 2007 into how the phone message hacking situation involving Glenn Mulcaire and Clive Goodman could have arisen.

Having reviewed all the information available, we concluded that we were not materially misled.

While most people seemed to understand our reasons, one or two were less sure. I have chosen not to debate these matters in public, because our report speaks for itself.

But new evidence has now come to light.

Those of you who are familiar with the case will recall the significance that was attached to the apparent evidence of a then Detective Sergeant from the Metropolitan Police called Mark Maberly. It was he who was alleged to have said that around 6,000 people had had their phone messages hacked or intercepted.

This allegation was made in oral evidence to the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, and has also been published in the press. It was repeated just last Monday in some coverage questioning our report.

Since the publication of our report last Monday, the PCC has heard from Detective Inspector (as he now is) Maberly through lawyers for the Metropolitan Police.

This letter says that Mr Maberly has in fact been wrongly quoted on the 6,000 figure. The reliable evidence, we were told in an e-mail confirming the contents of the letter, is that given by Assistant Commissioner John Yates to the Select Committee, who referred to only a ‘handful' of people being potential victims.

In light of this, I am doing two things.

First, I am of course putting this new evidence to my colleagues on the Press Complaints Commission, because they will want to update our report to take account of this development.

Second, I have just spoken to the Chairman of the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, John Whittingdale, to draw this to his attention. Any suggestion that a Parliamentary Inquiry has been misled is of course an extremely serious matter.

ENDS

15/11/09

(UPDATED JULY 2010)

In the PCC's response to the 2010 Select Committee response, the Commission made reference to this statement and said the following:

Finally on this subject, Baroness Buscombe's speech to the Society of Editors could have been interpreted to mean that she and the PCC had accepted that the Metropolitan Police's statement that the evidence given by Assistant Commissioner Yates was reliable meant that the evidence given to Parliament by the solicitor, Mark Lewis, was unreliable. It was never our intention to create that impression. We accept that the evidence given by Mark Lewis was given honestly. It was never supposed to be suggested that Mark Lewis had misled Parliament or that there had been any determination that his evidence was not correct. We apologise to Mark Lewis for any distress that has been caused.



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