A former assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan police has told the Leveson Inquiry he felt critical coverage of him in the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday was a reaction to his arrest of a Tory MP in a leaks probe.
Bob Quick told the Inquiry that both papers had been critical of his investigation, in which former shadow immigration spokesman Damian Green was arrested, having received leaks from a civil servant. Neither Green nor the civil servant were charged, with the Crown Prosecution Service saying there was “insufficient evidence” to bring a case against them.
Quick said that some of the subsequent media coverage was “a surprise”. He noted that the then acting commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson asked him to drop the investigation, and former assistant commissioner John Yates had also told him the inquiry was “doomed”.
“I didn’t feel I had huge support from my colleagues,” Quick admitted, noting that coverage from the Mail on Sunday had affected his family’s safety and that he moved his children out as a result.
Describing events leading to the December 2008 story, Quick said the Mail on Sunday had asked him about his wife’s wedding chauffeur service, questioning if he or other police officers in uniform drove the cars. Scotland Yard’s press office later told Quick that the Sunday paper would run the piece as a front-page story. The paper never did, conceding there was no truth to the article, but instead published a piece titled “Security scare over wedding car hire firm run from top terror police chief’s home”.
Earlier in his lengthy testimony, Quick added that in 2000, while he was working with Scotland Yard’s anti-corruption command, he became suspicious about the relationship between journalists and officers suspected of corruption, following a covert operation that revealed corrupt payments to police officers for information. He told the Inquiry that when he recommended an investigation in a report to his then boss Andy Hayman, Hayman said it was “too risky”.
Quick also noted that, on two occasions when he was invited to drinks at a wine bar near Scotland Yard, he saw Yates, Stephenson and the Met’s ex-public affairs chief Dick Fedorcio having drinks with former News of the World crime reporter Lucy Panton and the Sun’s Mike Sullivan. He noted his surprise at seeing the Daily Mail’s Stephen Wright in social engagements with Yates, despite having been critical of the Met.
Such socialising, Quick said, had the “perception of looking inappropriate”, adding that he felt there was a “risky interface between the police and journalists who are in a fiercely commercial environment seeking scoops, exclusives and stories”.
Also in the witness box today was the Met’s ex-deputy commissioner, Tim Godwin, who also expressed concerns that socialising with journalists would create a “perception” issue.
Godwin revealed there was “one style” of conduct with the press favoured by the management board, and there was his own, in which he felt uncomfortable socialising with the press. Lord Justice Leveson pressed him on the matter, questioning him on the possibility of his senior colleagues having a separate “set of values”, to which Godwin responded that it was more a difference of style than a difference of values.
The Inquiry continues on Monday.
Follow Index on Censorship’s coverage of the Leveson Inquiry on Twitter – @IndexLeveson