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12 July 2011

John Yates’ evidence is “unconvincing“, say MPs

"Had I known in 2009 what I now know, I would have made different decisions", says Met's assistant c

By Samira Shackle

John Yates, the assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, has just given evidence about phone-hacking to a committee of MPs.

The Home Affairs Select Committee were increasingly hostile to Yates, with Keith Vaz concluding that the view of the committee is that Yates’s evidence was “unconvincing”.

Yates chose to begin with an opening statement:

Had I known in 2009 what I now know, I would have made different decisions. I can assure you all that I have never lied and all the information I provided to this committee and others has been given in good faith.

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“It’s a matter for great concern that for whatever reason the News of the World had failed to co-operate. They’ve only recently provided information and evidence that would have had a major influence on the decisions that I took.

This set the tone for a session in which Yates appeared to be more concerned with clearing his own name than helping to resolve the very serious question mark over the conduct of the Metropolitan police. Asked whether he really expected wrong-doers to co-operate with inquiries, he said “Part of the issue was what were we able to do with NI though their lawyers to get further information.”

Frustrated MPs pushed him on this, pointing out that Scotland Yard had thousands of pages of documents sitting in evidence bags – why were these not examined? “The case had gone to court. Two people had been sentenced,” said Yates, referring to Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire. “What would possibly persuade me in the absence of new evidence to ask those questions?”

Asked whether he had ever received payment from a news outlet, he said he had “never, ever, ever” received payment, adding that the question was “amazing”. He did, however, concede that it was “highly probable” that his staff had, given that the Met employs 50,000 people.

Yates was asked about a story in the Evening Standard that he had been pressurised by the News of the World who made allegations about his private life. He refuted the claim:

I categorically state that that was not the case. I think it is despicable, I think it is cowardly. It is not true and it can be proved to be untrue.

Vaz asked whether he had considered resigning. Yates said: “I think that is probably unfair”. Clearly, we have a long way to go before the answers about the police failings in this case are found.

Peter Clarke, former deputy assistant commissioner of the Met, is currently being interviewed. Andy Hayman, former assistant commissioner of the Met and Sue Akers, deputy assistant commissioner of the Met will also face the committee in the next few hours.