The police watchdog has said Surrey Police knew of a claim in 2002 that murdered teenager Milly Dowler's phone had been hacked, but failed to investigate. The IPCC said officers were "afflicted by a form of collective amnesia” over the incident.
After the IPCC concluded there was no case to answer for misconduct, Surrey Police say they have taken the following actions over the two officers being investigated:
In respect to the actions of Craig Denholm in 2002, the Chief Constable has taken management action and issued words of advice in relation to not assessing some of the material sent to him referring to phone-hacking.
In respect to the actions of Maria Woodall in 2007, the Chief Constable has taken management action and given words of advice in relation to not making the connection between the convictions for phone-hacking in 2007 and the events of 2002.
Surrey Police acknowledged in 2011 that the hacking of Milly Dowler's voicemails should have been investigated and both the former Chief Constable and I have met with and apologised to the Dowler family for the distress this has caused.
This was the largest and most high-profile murder investigation in the country at the time and remains the largest enquiry ever undertaken by Surrey Police. It was right that Milly was the primary focus of the investigation but the matter of phone-hacking should have been revisited at a later stage.
In the report the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said:
"There is no doubt, from our investigation and the evidence gathered by Operation Baronet, that Surrey Police knew in 2002 of the allegation that Milly Dowler’s phone had been hacked by the News of the World (NOTW).
"It is apparent from the evidence that there was knowledge of this at all levels within the investigation team.
"There is equally no doubt that Surrey Police did nothing to investigate it; nobody was arrested or charged in relation to the alleged interception of those messages either in 2002 or subsequently, until the Operation Weeting arrests in 2011."
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) found that former senior officers at Surrey Police were “afflicted by a form of collective amnesia” in relation to the force’s failure to investigate an allegation that the voicemail of Milly Dowler had been hacked by the News of the World.
The IPCC investigation found that there was knowledge of the allegation in 2002 at all levels in Operation Ruby, Surrey Police’s investigation into the abduction and murder of Milly Dowler, but that no action was taken to investigate it.
We will never know what would have happened had Surrey Police carried out an investigation into the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone in 2002.
We have not been able to uncover any evidence, in documentation or witness statements, of why and by whom that decision was made: former senior officers, in particular, appear to have been afflicted by a form of collective amnesia in relation to the events of 2002. This is perhaps not surprising, given the events of 2011 and the public outcry that the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone produced.
However, it is scarcely credible that no-one connected to the Milly Dowler investigation recognised the relevance and importance of the information Surrey Police held in 2002 before this was disclosed by Operation Weeting.
Surrey Police has apologised to the Dowler family for their failure and they were right to do so.
Two police officers have been given "words of advice" after an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigation in to their actions when the News of the World hacked Milly Dowler's mobile phone messages in 2002.
Surrey Police Deputy Chief Constable Craig Denholm and Detective Superintendent Maria Woodall will be given verbal and written warnings.
The pair were referred to the IPCC in November 2012, over accusations that Deputy Chief Constable Denholm knew Milly's phone was being accessed by the News of the World and that Detective Superintendent Woodall over information she provided Surrey Police during an internal investigation.