The former commissioner of the Metropolitan police has said a “closed” and “defensive” mindset were the reasons behind the force not investigating phone hacking further in 2009.
Sir Paul Stephenson told the Leveson Inquiry there was a “flawed assumption” that the original 2006 investigation, Operation Caryatid, which led to the jailing of former News of the World royal reporter Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, had been sufficient.
He added that the force was hookedon a “defensive” strategy that would not expand its resources without new evidence.
In July 2009, then Assistant Commissioner John Yates was asked to review the 2006 investigation, but ruled that there was no fresh material that could lead to convictions.
Asked about re-opening the investigation in 2009, Stephenson said it “was simply not a matter of priority” for him. He added: ” Do I believe that there was a deliberate attempt to back off because it was News International? No I do not, sir.”
Chiming with the evidence given last Thursday by the Met’s former Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Peter Clarke, Sir Paul agreed that priority in 2009 was investigating terrorism.
In his witness statement, Stephenson wrote that following the Met’s launch of hacking investigation Operation Weeting in January 2011, the the Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority, Kit Malthouse, expressed a view that “we should not be devoting this level of resources to the phone hacking inquiry as a consequence of a largely political and media driven ‘level of hysteria’.”
Sir Paul was also quizzed about the controversial appointment of former News of the World deputy editor Neil Wallis as a PR consultant for the Met in 2009. In his statement Sir Paul wrote that “with the benefit of hindsight I regret that the MPS entered into a contract” with him.
He said the pair had met in 2006, and that he himself played no part in selecting Wallis’s PR firm, Chamy Media, as a consultant, noting that it was handled by the Met’s public affairs director, Dick Fedorcio.
Sir Paul added that he had no reason to doubt that Wallis was a fit and proper person to be awarded the contract.
He said was made aware in April 2011 that Wallis was a “person of interest” in Operation Weeting, and in July that he had been arrested.
Elsewhere in his testimony, Stephenson told the Inquiry that there was the potential to become “obsessed” by headlines, and having to deal with “negative commentary” was “distracting” for senior officers. He added that there were individuals on the management board who gossiped and leaked to the press, creating a “dialogue of disharmony”.
Discussing his resignation last summer amid speculation over the Met’s links with News International and his relations with Wallis, Sir Paul said he had always held the view that “if the story becomes about a leader — as opposed to what you do — that’s a bad place to be.”
“I didn’t think I had any alternative and out of a sense of duty and honour I decided to resign,” he said.
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