19 Jul 2011

Yates: Police will be jailed over phone hack corruption

Scotland Yard chiefs are grilled by MPs over damaging evidence of links between the Met and suspects in the phone-hacking investigation.

One of Britain’s top policemen has said he believes officers will end up being jailed for corruption amid the fallout of the phone-hacking scandal.

Sir Paul Stephenson and Assistant Commissioner John Yates were called before MPs after resigning over links between the Met Police and former News of the World journalists accused of involvement in the scandal.

Mr Yates told MPs: “I confidently predict that as a result of the News International disclosures a very small number of police officers will go to prison as a result of corruption.”

The Met’s director of public affairs Dick Fedorcio was also grilled about the decision to give Neil Wallis, the newspaper’s former deputy editor and a friend of John Yates, a lucrative part-time contract as a PR consultant.

All three men tried to distance themselves from the decision to hire Wallis, who was arrested and questioned last week by detectives investigating the hacking claims.

I confidently predict that as a result of the News International disclosures a very small number of police officers will go to prison as a result of corruption. John Yates

Mr Fedorcio – now the subject of an Independent Police Complaints Commission inquiry over the affair – said he had relied on Mr Yates’ judgement in deciding whether or not to give Wallis a £1,000-a-day job 2009 and said Mr Yates had carried out a “due diligence” exercise over the decision to give the ex-journalist the £1,000-a-day contract.

But Mr Yates said his only involvement had been to seek Wallis’s assurance in a brief phone call to ask that there was nothing in continuing reports of criminality at the News of the World that could embarrass him or the Met Police.

He said: “I received categorical assurances that was the case. That’s not due diligence – due diligence is in the proper letting of a contract.

“I had absolutely nothing to do with that, I had nothing to do with the tendering process, that was a matter for Mr Fedorcio.”

Asked about his friendship with Wallis, Mr Yates said: “I don’t go round to his house on a regular basis. It’s mostly sport-related, with other people. I went to see him two or three times a year. Don’t get the impression that we are bosom buddies living in each other’s houses.”

He denied using his influence to get Wallis’s daughter Amy a civilian job with the Met, saying he merely passed the CV to the Met’s head of human resources with a note showing “a completely equivocal interest in whether she gets employment at all”.

Sir Paul admitted that he was consulted over the employment of Mr Wallis, saying: “Just let me say, with the benefit of what we know now, I’m quite happy to put on the record I regret that we went into that contract, quite clearly, because it’s embarrassing.”

He defended his own decision to accept hospitality from a family friend at the Champneys spa in Hertfordshire where Mr Wallis worked as a consultant.

It was damnably unlucky Wallis was connected to this and I was devastated when I heard. Sir Paul Stephenson

Sir Paul said: “It was damnably unlucky Wallis was connected to this and I was devastated when I heard.”

Nearly a quarter of Met press staff from NI

He revealed that ten former News International employees and interns accounted for almost a quarter of the 45 staff at the Met’s department of public affairs.

But he maintained he had “no reason to believe” that relationships between the Met and News International figures had affected investigations into phone hacking, including the review of the initial inquiry conducted by Mr Yates.

Sir Paul said he had no reason to believe until recently that the initial investigation had not been a success, and he believed his staff when they told him there was no new evidence when they looked at the inquiry again.

He said he was resigning “because I’m a leader”, adding: “Leadership is not about popularity, it’s not about the press, it’s not about spinning. It’s about making decisions that put your organisation, your mission and the people you lead first. It’s about doing things that will make them proud of the leaders and that’s much different from being popular with them.

“It’s about making decisions that may be difficult and personally painful. And that’s leadership and that’s why I’m going.”

Wallis advice to Coulson

It also emerged today that Neil Wallis may have provided “informal advice” to David Cameron’s communications chief Andy Coulson before the general election.

A Conservative spokesman said: “There have been some questions about whether the Conservative Party employed Neil Wallis.

“We have double checked our records and are able to confirm that neither Neil Wallis nor his company has ever been contracted by the Conservative Party, nor has the Conservative Party made payments to either of them.

“It has been drawn to our attention that he may have provided Andy Coulson with some informal advice on a voluntary basis before the election. We are currently finding out the exact nature of any advice.

“We can confirm that apart from Andy Coulson, neither David Cameron nor any senior member of the campaign team were aware of this until this week.”