Detective clients list stays secret

A list of clients of rogue private detectives will not be published by MPs "for the time being" after the data watchdog intervened in the so-called "blue-chip hacking" row.

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Christopher Graham urged the Home Affairs Select Committee not to publish a list of 102 organisations and individuals who used rogue investigators.

Information Commissioner Christopher Graham urged the Home Affairs Select Committee not to publish a list of 102 organisations and individuals who used rogue investigators while his office conducted its own investigation.

Committee chairman Keith Vaz MP has written to Mr Graham to confirm the list will not be published pending the outcome of a "scoping exercise" by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), which is due to complete on September 23.

Mr Vaz has also written to Justice Secretary Chris Grayling to request that the Ministry of Justice ensures sufficient resources are provided to the ICO to ensure its investigation is completed quickly.

The committee is to decide on the next steps after Mr Graham appears before it on October 8.

Mr Vaz said: "The Information Commissioner has given the committee an explicit commitment that he will pursue this matter to its appropriate end and that the victims will receive justice.

"He firmly agrees with the committee that these organisations and individuals need to act within the law.

"We are pleased that these matters are now subject to a thorough investigation albeit one delayed for several years.

"To ensure that this investigation brings those clients who have committed illegal acts to justice we have asked Mr Graham to come before the committee after his scoping exercise.

"This will allow us to reassess whether his investigation fulfils all that is required. We will then decide on the next steps."

The committee last week publicly warned the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) it would publish the highly coveted list, which features law firms, insurance companies, financial services groups and celebrities reportedly including music mogul Simon Cowell.

The list was handed from Soca to the committee earlier this year on condition it was not published - sparking a row over transparency.

The so-called ''blue-chip hacking'' list was drawn up at the request of the committee and relates to Soca's Operation Millipede, which led to the conviction of four private detectives for fraud last year.

A statement on the behalf of the committee said: "The committee has been frustrated by the lack of activity on this issue over the past four years.

"In contrast to the rigorous police investigation of those in the media who are accused of being involved in the unlawful trade in information, little if anything seems to have been done to investigate those in other sectors, such as law and insurance.

"In addition nothing seems to have been done for the potential victims."

Mr Graham earlier this week told the committee that if it were to publish the list it would impede the course of justice.

The committee also said it was "concerned" about the resource implications of the ICO investigation, as well as the level of penalties for data protection offences.

In his letter to the Justice Secretary, Mr Vaz urged the Government to commence legislation that would strengthen the level of penalties.

He said: "There is universal agreement that the current penalties are too low.

"The introduction of a custodial sentence would provide a more effective deterrent, particularly since the offences of this kind are often committed for commercial gain, and a small fine is unlikely to prove effective."