British leaders are demanding to know why of one of the country's premier law enforcement bureaus, ignored massive corruption and misconduct by private investigators. The Serious and Organised Crime Agency allegedly knew about - but turned a blind eye - to activities including illegal wiretapping and hacking. Now the agency's refusing to name which people or firms ordered the bugging - for fear of damaging their reputation. Investigative journalist Tony Gosling shares his opinion on this point.
Police won't name big firms and lawyers who hack phones - to protect their human rights
Police refused to publish names of companies accused of hiring private eyes
The Serious Organised Crime Agency has a list of those accused
Publishing names might breach the Human Rights Act, they claim
The agency said that publishing the list could damage the firms’ commercial interests by tainting them with guilt
Police are refusing to publish the names of law firms, blue-chip companies and celebrities accused of hiring private investigators to break the law – to protect their ‘human rights’.
The Serious Organised Crime Agency has a list of those accused of paying private eyes to dig for information, including using illegal means such as phone hacking.
But yesterday it emerged that the agency, dubbed Britain’s FBI, is suppressing the names, claiming that to publish them might breach the Human Rights Act. It cited Article 8, the right to a private and family life.
The agency also claimed that publishing the list could damage the firms’ commercial interests by tainting them with guilt.
Last night one Tory MP called for the heads of Soca to be sacked if they continue to block the release of the list.
And senior MPs who are investigating the scandal criticised the agency for its lack of transparency.
Labour’s Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, wrote to Soca to ask for ‘all the information Soca holds on private investigators and their links with the police and private sector’.
He said: ‘Soca has indicated that it is prepared to give the client list to us in confidence. This has still not been received. It is a disappointment that this is yet another document the committee has had to receive in secret from Soca.’
He added: ‘In view of the public interest, openness and transparency may be the only way that the public can be reassured that no one is above the law and [that] Soca have done all they can to address this issue.’
Mr Vaz said he will write to the leading 100 legal firms and every firm in the FTSE 100 to ask them if they have ever commissioned private investigators and for what.