There is “absolutely no point” in launching a criminal probe into whether police officers were paid by newspapers for information, former Metropolitan police boss Brian Paddick tells Channel 4 News.
On Friday it emerged that the Met’s assistant commissioner for specialist crime, Cressida Dick, contacted MPs on the home affairs select committee to inform them that the force was discussing whether police should begin a full inquiry.
The prospective investigation relates to comments made in 2003 by Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive of News International – which publishes, amongst other titles, the News of the World – when she told the Commons committee “we have paid police for information in the past.”
She was then asked whether she would continue to do so in the future, but before she could answer, former News of the World editor and David Cameron’s communications chief Andy Coulson interjected and sidestepped the question.
If these claims are true, then it is most likely officers were paid in cash and there is no way of proving it – Brian Paddick
And last week, Mrs Brooks appeared to countermand her comments by saying she had no “knowledge of any specific cases.” She added: “If, in doing so, I gave the impression that I had knowledge of any specific cases, I can assure you that this was not my intention.”
In an article for the New Statesman last week, actor Hugh Grant published a transcript of his secretly recorded conversation with former News of the world reporter Paul McMullan, who claimed that “20 per cent of the Met [force] has taken backhanders from tabloid hacks.”
But Mr Paddick, who was Assistant Deputy commissioner at Scotland Yard from 2003-05 and also an alleged victim of phone hacking by News of the World, said that a criminal investigation would be “a waste of time, because it would yield no results.”
He said that if police officers received payments from newspapers for information, it would be “extremely unlikely” that there would be any documentary evidence transactions had taken place. “The only way a criminal investigation would happen is if there were individual receipts of payments from newspapers to officers, with signatures, etc. No policeman would allow for their identity to be written on anything unless they were very, very careless,” he said.
“If these claims are true, then it is most likely officers were paid in cash and there is no way of proving it.”
Mr Paddick added that during his time at the Met, he did was not aware of any instance of police officers receiving payment from newspapers, but was aware that information had been leaked to the media. “I was certainly never offered any money for information or tip-offs: everyone knew I would not accept it if it was offered. But of course, you’d read stories that could only have come from an internal leak. This was viewed more in terms of treachery than corruption, as disloyalty to the organisation rather than profiteering, because if money exchanged hands, I certainly didn’t know about it.”
The news comes as The News of the World phone-hacking litigation returns to the High Court for decisions on how the case should proceed. Recently, a number of alleged victims have obtained rulings over the disclosure of information by the Metropolitan Police and Vodafone in pursuit of their damages claims for breach of privacy.
If money exchanged hands, I certainly didn’t know about it – Brian Paddick
The orders related to material forfeited by private detective Glenn Mulcaire who, with News of the World reporter Clive Goodman, was jailed over royal phone taps in 2007, and data relating to other mobile phone users.
At the end of last week, eight people who had made claims, including actress Sienna Miller and former culture secretary Tessa Jowell, received apologies from the newspaper. Last week, detectives conducting a criminal investigation into the allegations arrested the paper’s chief reporter and its former head of news.
Neville Thurlbeck, 50, and Ian Edmondson, 42, were questioned by Scotland Yard detectives when they voluntarily attended separate police stations in south-west London. On Thursday, senior reporter James Weatherup became the third journalist from the newspaper to be questioned. He was released on bail until September.