The latest man arrested in the News of the World phone-hack inquiry worked as a PR consultant for the Met Police. Neil Wallis also dined with top officers Sir Paul Stephenson and John Yates.
Neil Wallis, a former deputy editor at the News of the World who was arrested earlier in connection with phone-hacking, was hired by the Metropolitan Police as a public relations adviser to provide “strategic communication advice”.
It is estimated that Mr Wallis earned £24,000 for his two day per week consultancy work for the force between October 2009 and September 2010.
(Pictured: Neil Wallis leaves Hammersmith Police Station after being bailed on Thursday)
The 60-year-old, who worked under Andy Coulson, was taken in for questioning earlier by officers investigation Operation Weeting, the inquiry into illegal mobile intercepts launched in January this year.
Records show that his company, Chamy Media, was dissolved on 3 May of this year after less than two years in operation.
Later in May Lord Prescott and three others won their bid to launch a legal challenge over the police handling of alleged phone-hacking cases.
On Thursday evening the Mayor of London Boris Johnson summoned Sir Paul to what was described as a “frank” meeting lasting an hour and a half.
Following this it was announced that the Met Commissioner would, at the mayor’s suggestion, ask Lord Justice Brian Leveson to include consideration of the circumstances surrounding the employment of Neil Wallis by the Met as part of the inquiry he will lead into the wider phone-hacking scandal.
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Sir Paul has also been asked by the chair of the Home Affairs Committee Keith Vaz MP to give evidence to his committee next Tuesday – the same day that Rebekah Brooks, James Murdoch and Rupert Murdoch have all agreed to appear before the Culture, Media and Sports Committee.
The Metropolitan Police issued a statement explaining Mr Wallis’s business relationship with the force.
It said: “Chamy Media, owned by Neil Wallis, former executive editor of the News of the World, was appointed to provide strategic communication advice and support to the MPS, including advice on speech writing and PR activity, while the Met’s deputy director of public affairs was on extended sick leave recovering from a serious illness.
“In line with MPS/MPA procurement procedures, three relevant companies were invited to provide costings for this service on the basis of two days per month.
“Chamy Media were appointed as they were significantly cheaper than the others. The contract ran from October 2009 until September 2010, when it was terminated by mutual consent.
“The commissioner has made the chair of the police authority aware of this contract.”
New questions have been raised over the close ties between Mr Wallis and the leadership of the Met Police.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson had dinner with Mr Wallis in the middle of the police inquiry into phone hacking in 2006. Sir Paul was then deputy commissioner.
Addressing members of the Metropolitan Police Authority on Thursday, Sir Paul said: “I do not believe that on any occasion I have acted inappropriately. I am very satisfied with my own integrity.”
Sir Paul also spoke to Channel 4 News Political Correspondent Cathy Newman who challenged him over another dinner, this time involving Mr Wallis and the Met’s Assistant Commissioner John Yates. AC Yates could have reopened the phone-hack inquiry in 2009 but did not because there was not enough fresh evidence, a decision he has since described as “poor” and a matter of “regret”.
It is believed his dinner with Neil Wallis took place some time between February and March of this year – after the launch of Operation Weeting, which widened the scope of the investigation, leading to Mr Wallis’s arrest.
Sir Paul told Channel 4 News: “I think that matter is already in the public domain about what John Yates did in terms of having a dinner or an engagement that involved Neil Wallis and I’ve made my statement on that matter.”
On 24 March 2011, Asstistant Commissioner Yates answered questions from MPs in the the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee about his closeness and recent meetings with Mr Wallis.
He said: “I have known Neil for a number of years. I cannot recall the last time.”
He added it “may well be” that the dinner took place this year and insisted that “we [Met Police] always declare them [social engagements]”.
Following this statement a Freedom of Information request to the Met found that no dinner involving the two men had been declared for 2011.
Mr Wallis is said to have been the “hard man” to Andy Coulson’s “good cop” during his time at the News of the World. His nickname was “Wolfman”.
After leaving NoW in 2009 he swapped Fleet Street for public relations, moving to media consultancy the Outside Organisation. The company, which offers “crisis managment” services, describes him as a veteran of the media “who needs little introduction”.
Its website previously said “what Mr Wallis doesn’t know about journalism isn’t worth knowing”.
Mr Wallis was also a member of the Editors’ Code of Practice Committee, an industry body which sets self-regulating guidelines, until 2009.