18 Jul 2011

John Yates quits Met Police insisting ‘conscience is clear’

John Yates of the Met Police becomes the second top-level police officer to resign because of the News of the World phone-hacking crisis, as Channel 4 News Political Editor Gary Gibbon reports.

Assistant Commissioner John Yates, 52, insisted his “conscience is clear” after quitting Scotland Yard over the phone hacking scandal.

John Yates said his decision to resign was a matter of great personal frustration. He said he had acted “completely” with integrity.

Mr Yates, who was in charge of counter-terrorism operations, tendered his resignation after the Metropolitan Police Authority Standards Committee decided to suspend him, pending an investigation to be led by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

He blamed his departure on a “huge amount of inaccurate, ill-informed and on occasion downright malicious gossip”.

It follows concern over links between AC Yates and former News of the World deputy editor Neil Wallis, who was hired as a public relations consultant by the Met police, and was arrested last week.

The IPCC said it was asked to investigate four former and serving senior Metropolitan Police officers over their handling of the phone-hacking scandal.

Sir Paul Stephenson and John Yates will be investigated over his handling of the phone hacking inquiry.

John Yates will also be investigated over allegations he inappropriately secured a job for a friend’s daughter.

It is also reported the two former senior figures to be investigated are former Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, who oversaw the original 2006 inquiry into phone-hacking, and former Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman, who led the investigation.

Meanwhile, David Cameron has cut short visit to Africa for a second time in order to deal with the crisis engulfing the police, Government and News Corporation.

A ‘distracting issue’

London Mayor Boris Johnson, who accepted Mr Yates’ resignation, said that although no allegations of impropriety had been proven, Mr Yates’s decision was “the right call,” and that allegations surrounding him were a “distracting issue.”

Mr Johnson, who previously described hacking allegations as a “load of codswallop,” said Cressida Dick would replace Mr Yates in the interim.

“Whatever mistakes have been made at any level in the police service, now is the time to clear them up,” Mr Johnson added.

Mr Yates’ departure comes after his boss Sir Paul Stephenson resigned on Sunday after details emerged of his alleged inappropriate links to Mr Wallis.

The resignation of two of Britain’s most senior police officers follows a growing list of phone-hacking scalps including Andy Coulson, News Corp veteran Les Hinton and News International CEO Rebekah Brooks, as well as the 168-year-old News of the World itself.

Resignation: John Yates. (Reuters)

Due diligence

At the centre of Mr Stephenson’s and Mr Yates’s resignations is Neil Wallis.

He was hired by the Metropolitan Police as a public relations adviser, earning £24 000 for his two-days-per-month consultancy work between October 2009 and September 2010.

The BBC reported that Mr Yates was the official tasked with carrying out due diligence before the Metropolitan Police awarded a contract to the firm operated by Mr Wallis.

Ed Miliband said “clearly there is a large cloud on John Yates” and that it was up to the Metropolitan Police to decide his future in the force.

Read more: How Neil Wallis worked for the Met and dined with top police officers Yates and Stephenson

Another Labour heavyweight, John Prescott, who claims his own phone was hacked, went further, insisting on Twitter that “Stephenson went for not knowing the full truth of investigation. Yates – who failed to open the bags of evidence – must go too”.

Dee Doocey, the Liberal Democrat City Hall spokeswoman on policing said: “Literally hundreds of victims of phone hacking were failed and his resignation is long overdue.

“He made a monumental error of judgment which rendered his position untenable,” she added.

Directory of inquiries
Home Secretary Theresa May has announced a further three inquiries on top of a judge-led inquiry in two parts.
• One will be headed by Elizabeth Filkin to investigate the Met's relations with the media, and how to ensure maximum transparency.
• Another will be carried out by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary to investigate allegations of police corruption generally.
• A third will ask if the IPCC should be given new powers to investigate institutional failings, rather than its current remit of investigating individual officers.

Unconvincing evidence’

Mr Yates has also been recalled by the Home Affairs Select Committee investigating phone hacking to “clarify his evidence” on Tuesday.

Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: “The committee has recalled Mr Yates to give evidence tomorrow (Tuesday) to clarify aspects of his evidence that he gave to the committee last week and following the statement of Sir Paul Stephenson.”

Mr Vaz told Mr Yates last week that his evidence was “unconvincing” and warned him it was “not the end of the matter”.

Mr Yates was ordered to look at the phone-hacking investigation after fresh claims in July 2009 and in September 2010. But on both occasions he refused to reopen the investigation.

Last week he spoke of his regret at his 2009 decision but insisted he had never lied to MPs and suggested the News of the World “failed to co-operate” with police until the start of this year.

More from Channel 4 News: Yates of the Yard, phone hacking, bin bags and regret

He told the Home Affairs Select Committee last week: “I can assure you all that I have never lied and all the information that I’ve provided to this committee has been given in good faith.

“It is a matter of great concern that, for whatever reason, the News of the World appears to have failed to co-operate in the way that we now know they should have with the relevant police inquiries up until January of this year.

“They have only recently supplied information and evidence that would clearly have had a significant impact on the decisions that I took in 2009 had it been provided to us.”

Mr Yates’s evidence in 2009 that phone hacking wasn’t as widespread as had been claimed by the Guardian newspaper, was again repeated in September 2010.