Neil Wallis denies forcing contacts to provide favours
- 2 April 2012
- From the section UK
The ex-deputy editor of the News of the World has told the Leveson Inquiry he did not put any of his contacts "in an armlock" to provide favours.
Neil Wallis said: "I am a journalist. Journalists live or die depending on their contacts...I nurtured those contacts."
Last week the head of the Met's press office Dick Fedorcio resigned.
He quit after questions were raised over a PR contract awarded to Mr Wallis's firm.
Mr Wallis said "working lunches" were the "way of the world" and he said: "I won't accept that me going to dinner with a police officer is different to a civil servant going to dinner with a businessman."
He rejected suggestions he was seeking to get something out of senior officers by taking them out for expensive dinners.
He said: "John Stevens (former Met commissioner) is an officer who worked for 40-odd years in the police. He lived his life, 20 years, as a target for IRA assassination as he carried out the three Stevens inquiries. He was the man who was the gang-buster in the Met.
"So the suggestion that this man of integrity, of experience, of immense crime-fighting ability is going to be seduced by me taking him down to Cecconi's (a Mayfair restaurant) and having steak and chips and a nice bottle of wine - I just can't begin to see where that comes from."
At one point during his questioning he lost his temper when counsel to the inquiry, Robert Jay QC, repeatedly referred to his daughter, Amy, who was given work experience at the Met.
Mr Wallis said he was "at a loss" to understand why her privacy was being invaded and he pointed out that many people had requested work experience for their children, including former Deputy Commissioner Tim Godwin and Catherine Crawford (chief executive of the Metropolitan Police Authority).
Lord Leveson later said: "I quite understand your concerns about your daughter and I sympathise very much in that regard and I regret the upset it may have cause to her and I would be grateful if you would pass that on to her."
Lord Leveson then asked Mr Wallis about the question of privacy.
Mr Wallis said he remembers the "Wild Bill Hickok" days of the press and he said things had changed a great deal and stories like the exposure of Max Moseley "will not happen again".
He said a "kind of Leveson law" had already come into effect to protect people's privacy.
Earlier Mr Wallis said he went to two or three football matches with the Met's former Assistant Commissioner John Yates, who was the officer overseeing the original investigation into phone hacking at News International.
He said he shared a keen interest in sport with Mr Yates and also went out for dinner with Mr Yates and property developer Nick Candy.
Mr Wallis said the conversation during those dinners was "chit-chat".
Asked for more detail about what was being discussed he said: "If it was today we would discuss things like (new London skyscraper) The Shard or (ITV's) Britain's Got Talent."
Mr Wallis also told the inquiry about his relationship with the Met's former Chief of Specialist Operations, Andy Hayman.
He said Mr Hayman was interested in how national media reacted to stories about terrorism.
"My advice to him was that footage on shoe-bomb would have a profound effect," said Mr Wallis, who said he persuaded Mr Hayman to give the footage to the NoW.
Robert Jay QC, counsel to the inquiry, asked him: "Did you buy champagne for Mr Hayman or Mr Yates?"
"I don't like champagne, not to my knowledge. Not knowingly. I prefer a white wine," replied Mr Wallis.
Mr Wallis said he also met the then Met Commissioner, Lord Condon, over dinner when he worked at the Sun newspaper.
Mr Jay asked: "Did you give Paul Condon PR advice ?"
Mr Wallis said: "It's too crude to put it like that. I'd give him my views and if he found them interesting or useful then I was glad. We talked on a number of issues."
He said he would give Lord Condon his view on a range of issues, including police corruption, "which was a big problem at that time".
Mr Wallis said: "We at the Sun were trying to reach out to the police establishment over our support for the Police Bravery Awards."
He also met Lord Stevens over a meal, having been introduced by Mr Fedorcio.
Mr Wallis said: "I cared about the Met a lot, the Macpherson Report was catastrophic for the Met."
He said he "did as best I could" to advance Lord Stevens' application for commissioner, a post he was appointed to in 2000.
But Mr Wallis said: "It's terribly flattering that you think I could appoint the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police."
He said of Lord Stevens: "I gave him the input. He succeeded. I thought, happy days."
But Mr Wallis said he was not the only newspaper executive trying to curry favour with senior police officers and he added: "John Stevens wasn't mean in his charms, as it were. I know he got on very well with Paul Dacre."
He said when Ian Blair replaced Lord Stevens in 2005 things changed.
"He decided he wasn't interested in the views of the tabloid or mid-market press. He was a very cerebral man. He was not a great communicator, it's no surprise his career ended when it did," Mr Wallis said of Lord Blair.
Mr Wallis claimed Lord Blair described the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes as a "Houston we have a problem" moment.
"We stuck it on the front page. It didn't go down too well. It was example of how he could snatch defeat from jaws of victory," he said.
Earlier, Stewart Gull, the officer who had led Suffolk Police's investigation into the Ipswich prostitute murders in 2006, told the inquiry media strategies were important during murder investigations as the press can act as a conduit.
Mr Gull, who now works for Jersey Police, said a suspect called Tom Stephens - who was later cleared of any involvement - "put himself on offer to the media" and he said the BBC recorded a conversation with him and then passed it on to police.
He said: "As I understand it, journalists from the Sunday Mirror picked up Stephens and interviewed him in hotel."
Mr Gul said he had no knowledge of the NoW surveillance team described in Dave Harrison's evidence.
He said he found some of the reporting headlines, like "Ripper Is Bondage Beast", was sensationalist.
Mr Gull said defence lawyers tried to challenge pre-trial and said Stephen Wright's right to fair trial had been undermined by some of the reporting.