Police in plea to hacking inquiry
The Metropolitan Police and Crown Prosecution Service have urged the judge in charge of the inquiry into phone hacking to make sure it does not affect the criminal investigation running alongside it.
In submissions to Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry into media ethics and hacking, they said: "It is inevitable that this inquiry will touch on areas which may have a close connection with the criminal investigation and thus an impact on any subsequent trial, were one to take place."
The judge, sitting at the High Court in London, ruled that there should be a preliminary hearing on Monday to discuss how the "interface" between the inquiry and the police investigation should be handled.
The Metropolitan Police and Crown Prosecution Service said in their submissions that the investigations into phone hacking have not been completed, and there are a number of suspects in relation to whom charging decisions have not yet been made.
They said they know the inquiry shares their anxieties "and are grateful for the public reassurance that has been given that it is not Lord Justice Leveson's intention that Part 1 should affect potential criminal proceedings, save in the most tangential sense."
However in discussions with those conducting the inquiry, "it became plain that there might be implications for the criminal proceedings which might not initially be apparent".
As a general proposition, they urged the inquiry not to rehearse any evidence in part one that was likely to prove central to any criminal proceedings.
"This includes, but is not limited to, any investigation as to which individuals were aware of possible criminal activity, and where they sit (or sat) within the hierarchy of any named newspaper. It is our view that these questions may be critical to any prosecution, and would involve the inquiry engaging in a determination which would properly be within the province of a jury."
They asked the inquiry not to make public any significant document which has not already been widely reported, and not to take evidence during part one from anyone who is a suspect in the criminal investigation.
They said they were happy to provide such assistance as they could to the inquiry and it might be possible to agree a schedule of uncontroversial facts, time lines and the use of some documents (where such use would not undermine the criminal investigation or prosecution).