Leveson's police grilling only the beginning


Let's not beat about the bush. No journalist in their right mind turns down a drink with a top contact.

It's part of the business. It builds contacts - and contacts lead to stories.

But the latest Leveson Inquiry evidence, suggesting that some Metropolitan Police chiefs dabbled in a champagne lifestyle with tabloid hacks, won't help the force rebut the charge that it was too close to News International.

The inquiry has moved into its next phase which is looking at the relationship between the police and the press.

We've had weeks of evidence of alleged tabloid excesses and something of an attempted fightback from the papers and their friends in politics.

But this second phase may ultimately prove to be the most important because Lord Leveson has to decide whether the relationship between certain cops and reporters has been ethical - even if it can't be expected to be entirely transparent.

Police reputation

The question for the inquiry is quite simple: Was the relationship between the Metropolitan Police and News International in particular at best too close and at worst corrupt? And if it was inappropriate, does that explain a failure to investigate hacking?

Peter Clarke Peter Clarke has defended the police's decision not to delve deeper into the activities of reporters

The hacking allegations surfaced amid the massive counter-terrorism operations of 2006. Clive Goodman, the only News of the World reporter jailed for hacking, was arrested in the middle of a hugely successful investigation into a plot to bring down transatlantic airliners.

Peter Clarke, the then national co-ordinator of counter-terrorism operations, has repeatedly defended decisions not to delve deeper into the activities of reporters.

On Thursday he told the inquiry: "Invasions of privacy are odious, obviously. They can be extraordinarily distressing and illegal but they don't kill you. Terrorists do."

Lord Leveson has signalled that he clearly understands that reasoning. So the real question is why did the police not investigate again in 2009-2010?

This is the point upon which the Metropolitan Police's reputation now turns.

Champagne policing?

John Yates, the assistant commissioner who quit last year, faced three hours of very tough questioning yesterday about his drinks and meals with News International hacks.

Mr Yates, highly respected by his peers, is under attack because it was his decision not to reopen the hacking inquiry after the Guardian newspaper's investigation showed the News of the World's "rogue reporter" defence was rubbish.

The worst moment for him came when he had to comment on an internal NoW email in which a news desk editor asks a star reporter to "call in those bottles of champagne" by getting Mr Yates to spill the beans about a terrorism plot.

"It's a phrase," said Mr Yates. "And I think it's slightly unfair that it's put to me in that way, and I've said I put a completely different spin on it to you. There may well have been the odd occasion, yes, when a bottle was being shared with several people, but nothing in the sense that you're suggesting."

John Yates John Yates, former Met Police assistant commissioner, is now working in Bahrain

While all of this was going on, Lord Prescott was on Twitter, angrily commenting on the evidence of Mr Yates and his former colleague Andy Hayman: "Yates spent 1 year investigating Cash 4 Honours & found nothing. Spent 6 hours reviewing phone hacking & missed EVERYTHING"

Leveson is going to hear from more key and former Met figures who will be asked whether they agree that the relationship with the press went wrong.

One of next week's star witnesses is Lord Blair who quit as commissioner four years ago in circumstances completely unrelated to hacking.

We heard a sneak preview of his evidence when earlier this week Robert Jay QC, counsel to the inquiry, read out part of the former Met chief's witness statement.

In the document, Lord Blair says: "I believe that where the problem may have become significant is that a very small number of relatively senior officers increasingly became too close to journalists, not I believe for financial gain but for the enhancement of their reputation and for the sheer enjoyment of being in a position to share and divulge confidences."

John Yates and his former colleague Andy Hayman denied on Thursday that there was anything wrong in their relationships with the press or News International.

But the question of the Met's general approach to newspapers will keep coming back as the inquiry looks at whether, in the words of Robert Jay, there was an "arguably over-cosy relationship".

So this week's evidence has really only been the opening shots in what is going to be a very uncomfortable time for Britain's top force.

Dominic Casciani Article written by Dominic Casciani Dominic Casciani Home affairs correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Did we ever have values such as honour, integrity and honesty or is that just a false childhood memory I have, a bit like the summers being longer and hotter, the world being an altogether happier place and sausage & tomato crisps being the best flavour ever?

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    I used to think that the two words "Northern Ireland" were the most boring on the planet. "Leveson Inquiry" has replaced it.

    Just because it might be of interest to the media, so the media thinks that everyone else is interested in it. They're not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Police, politician, hooker, landlord, ex wife, boyfriend etc.... to a tabloid journalist as long as they deliver the story who cares.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    What a corrupt, nasty and greedy country we've become, it's always existed but in the past there's been counter balances. These have been removed by stealth since the 1980's, by both Labour & the Tories.

    No wonder endemic corruption has been on the rampage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    "The next phase of the Leveson Inquiry will decide whether the relationship between certain police officers and reporters has been ethical"

    Phase? Crikey! How long does it take to make THAT decision given what we already know.

    Are the "deciders" well paid? If so, are there any vacancies?

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Seems the old adage of "power corrupts,absolute power corrupts
    absolutely" could be coming home to the people who have been
    involved in all these shady,and sometimes downright illegal activities.
    Shame on the top police who"resigned" suddenly last year --and went
    on to accept massive gold-plated pensions.They should also be
    prosecuted if found to have been so lax in their duties.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Surely some mistake - you've all fallen down the stairs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Surely all this is a matter for criminal prosecutions, not some 'circus' of a public enquiry?

  • Comment number 28.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Hacking the phone messages of minor celebrities didn't kill anyone did it ? Hacking the messages of a government minister too stupid to know better and set security might have, we'll never know. He's indignant , but was still incompetent and stupid and has the gall to complain. The police must have a relationship with the press or we end up with a state run media.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    At the time when the police were using resources to combat terrorism they were receiving more resources than at any time in history. Taxpayer's money was being spent by the Labour government on paying police properly and getting bobbies on the beat.

    We hear that the police had to put the hacking allegations on the back burner through lack of funds. Pathetic excuse!

    Someone is hiding something.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    The extent of any corruption between the press, police and politicians needs to be laid bare for all to see, though I am not going to hold my breath. My only hope is that if any members of the lpolice or press look like they`re going down, they decide to take politicians with them. Prepare to hear these weasel words from politicians over the coming months "lessons will be learned"

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Love of money is the root of all evil.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    The terrorist's goal is to terrorise - bombings are but one way to that end. In its way, the gutter press has also terrorised gutless pollies.

    The Met claims to have had no money, time or manpower to spare to look into the gutter press. But could find all three in spades to infiltrate, and indeed impregnate, environmental activists.

    The Met has always been a law unto itself - this must change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    We are really looking at the Rupert Murdoch Government (of any hue) and Police Force. Why has this man been allowed to gain so much control over people who should know better. I suspect that what we have seen up until now is only the tip of th iceberg.

    Being a Scot I have to say I am disappointed that Mr Salmond has seen fit to cosy up to Murdoch and it it continues will cost him my vote.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Good, let us hope that the inquiry gets rid of all rivals to the BBC and Guardian who alone are steadfast in their search for truth and objectivity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    "...Let's not beat about the bush. No journalist in their right mind turns down a drink with a top contact...."


    Sadly so, it's just that the meaning of "top" is usually taken to mean the one of whom most readers have heard, rather than the most authoritative in the field.

    The rest follows...

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Corruption amidst the politico`s and police....?

    No never....surely !

    Feed the press...

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    In 2005 the Government tore apart HM.Customs and Excise because of a procedural error in a highly complex trial. In comparison the activities of the Police as an organisation makes the failure to disclose a few documents pale into insignificance. The thoughts about privatising elements of the Police service at this stage make me think that a lot of coppers will need to hang on to their hats.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    The l BBC is obsessed by the Leveson enquiry, personally I think the majority of the British public have had enough of it.

    As soon as I heard that Charlotte Church was awarded £600,000 for having her phone hacked, I thought what a disgrace. Members of our armed force can have their limbs blown off and get nothing like this amount.

    The media obsessed with itself.


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