UK & World News
MPs Defied On Rogue Investigators Publication
The head of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) has refused to publish a list of clients of 'rogue' private detectives despite an ultimatum from MPs.
The move paves the way for the Home Affairs Select Committee to release the names on the controversial list after it threatened to do so earlier this week.
Trevor Pearce, director general of (Soca), has written to the Committee chairman Keith Vaz MP to reject his call for the list - featuring law firms, insurance companies, financial services groups and celebrities - to be published by Monday.
The names of 102 firms and individuals who allegedly used corrupt private investigators was handed from Soca to the Committee earlier this year on condition it was not published, sparking a row over transparency.
In his letter to Mr Vaz, Mr Pearce said: "I remain firmly of the view that publishing the list of clients would affect ongoing investigations and inquiries."
Following a heated evidence session on Tuesday, Mr Vaz told Mr Pearce and Stephen Rimmer, Soca's interim chairman, the Committee would publish the list on Monday if Soca did not do so first.
The so-called "blue-chip hacking" list was originally drawn up during Soca's Operation Millipede, which led to the conviction of four private detectives for fraud last year.
In the letter, Mr Pearce said Soca provided the client list to the Committee in accordance with Cabinet Office guidelines on the handling of sensitive information in confidence to select committees.
Mr Vaz confirmed on July 15 that the Committee would treat the list as confidential, Mr Pearce said.
The director general added that the Information Commissioner, the data watchdog, and the Metropolitan Police do not want the names on the list to be published.
Mr Pearce said: "I note the points raised by the Committee in respect of individuals and companies wanting to know whether they are on the list, as this would inform their engagement with private investigators.
"All businesses should take proactive measures to ensure that where they use private investigators they do so in a lawful manner, irrespective of whether they are concerned as to whether or not they are on the list."
He added: "I am clear, as is the Soca chairman, that Soca's responsibility in ensuring the integrity of an investigative process in the interests of justice has not changed and that therefore the confidential material as presented to and agreed with you should remain confidential."
Up to 100 individuals may have had their details accessed by the private investigators, Mr Pearce previously revealed.
The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) last week announced its own investigation into nearly 100 of the private eyes' clients, while nine names have been withheld by Soca at the request of the Metropolitan Police.