Met 'ignored intimidation claims'
Police ignored intelligence for 15 years that private investigators were hired by criminal gangs to intimidate key witnesses in high-profile trials, it has been reported.
Details of the threat posed to Scotland Yard's witness protection programme were allegedly included in a secret 2008 report by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) leaked to The Independent.
The Metropolitan Police were made aware of the matter by an informant but did not arrest or charge those suspected of "actively working" on witnesses to withdraw damaging allegations, the newspaper reported. One of the "supergrasses" who was approached withdrew his original testimony, leading to the collapse of a major criminal trial, it is alleged.
The allegations come just days after former undercover officer Peter Francis claimed he was tasked with finding "dirt" to smear the family of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence.
Keith Vaz, who as chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee led an inquiry into private investigators last year, said the fresh claims were "absolutely devastating".
Mr Vaz also told The Independent that Soca would be called to give evidence to his committee next week, while Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan Howe will appear on July 9.
He said: "It seems they will have some very difficult to questions to answer. We were very clear in our report that the link between private investigators and the police needs to be broken, so they can be properly investigated without fear and favour. However, no action was taken and we are still awaiting a Government response. This industry needs to be brought out of the shadows and be properly regulated."
Scotland Yard declined to comment and referred the matter to Soca.
A Soca spokesman said: "Soca produced a confidential report in 2008 on the issue of licensing the private investigation industry. Soca does not comment on leaked documents or specific criminal investigations. Information is shared with partners as required."
Asked if Soca had been told it would have to face the committee next week, the spokesman said: "That would be responded to directly. Communications from the committee or MPs are not something we would comment on."