IPCC criticises Met Police over Neil Wallis role

Neil Wallis
Image caption The Met paid Neil Wallis's company, Chamy Media, for PR advice between 2009 and 2010

Senior Scotland Yard staff showed poor judgement in their relationship with ex-News of the World executive Neil Wallis, the police watchdog says.

Mr Wallis was appointed as an adviser to the Met in 2009 and his daughter also secured a job with the force.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) found no evidence of corruption but said policies were breached and boundaries "blurred".

Scotland Yard said it accepted the findings and would take them forward.

The IPCC report refers to a period in which the mounting phone-hacking scandal at the NoW was beginning to place public scrutiny on the relationship between the Met and the NoW.

The interception of mobile phone voicemail messages led to the closure of the tabloid after 168 years, legal proceedings involving thousands of victims, and inquiries into media ethics and police corruption.

The IPCC found that the former head of Public Affairs at Scotland Yard, Dick Fedorcio, "effectively employed" Mr Wallis before a written contract was prepared or agreed.

'Integrity and fairness'

The watchdog had reported the findings of its investigation to the Met Police in January. In March, the Met announced it was launching disciplinary proceedings against Mr Fedorcio and he subsequently resigned.

Publicly releasing the report on Thursday, the IPCC said the "integrity and fairness" of the process of awarding a contract to a public relations company run by Mr Wallis was "compromised".

Mr Fedorcio failed to monitor the contract and did not seek the approval of the police authority or ensure a vetting check was completed," it said.

The IPCC also criticised former Assistant Commissioner John Yates over the appointment of Neil Wallis's daughter, Amy, to a job at the Met.

It said Mr Yates had sent an email to the then head of human resources at the Met, Martin Tiplady, about Amy Wallis in which he described Neil Wallis as a "great friend (and occasional critic) of the Met in past years [who] has been a close adviser to Paul [ex-Commissioner Paul Stephenson] on stuff/tactics in respect of the new commissionership".

BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said the email shone a light in some detail on the nature of the relationship between the Met and Mr Wallis and "perhaps how inappropriate it was".

The IPCC found no evidence that Mr Yates "directly influenced" the appointment of Amy Wallis and no evidence amounting to misconduct.

But it said the email was seen by more junior staff as an "instruction" to find her a job and it was "poor judgement to do so, bearing in mind the appearance of favouritism".

IPCC deputy chairwoman Deborah Glass said: "Despite the growing phone-hacking scandal, which must have exercised the MPS [Met] at a senior level and which was beginning to damage the reputation of the Metropolitan Police in late 2009, senior people appear to have been oblivious to the perception of conflict.

"It is clear to me that professional boundaries became blurred, imprudent decisions taken and poor judgement shown by senior police personnel."

'Impact on public confidence'

Ms Glass said that she was "acutely aware" that both reports were being published as Lord Justice Leveson investigated the relationship between the police and media.

The Leveson Inquiry was launched after it was revealed that phone hacking at the now defunct News of the World (NoW) tabloid was more widespread than just one reporter.

Ms Glass said the ongoing inquiry was "painting an uncomfortable picture of the relationship between the biggest police force in Britain and sections of the media."

"This culture has had an impact on public confidence, although I also observe that since these cases were referred, none of the senior personnel referred to in these reports are still serving," she said.

Scotland Yard said in a statement: "As the IPCC has previously made clear, it found no evidence of misconduct that would justify disciplinary proceedings in relation to allegations about forwarding a CV for the purposes of employment at the MPS.

"The report recommends that we review our practices in relation to senior staff who refer friends and relatives to our human resources department for appointment, attachment and holiday employment."

It said the Met had been the subject of "much external scrutiny" in recent months and the IPCC review would form part of its wider response in taking forward "emerging issues and advice".

It was revelations about a former senior NoW journalist having such a role at Scotland Yard which prompted the force's then commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson to resign in July last year.

Mr Wallis was arrested on suspicion of phone hacking last year but has not been charged.

His company, Chamy Media, was paid £24,000 by the Met for PR advice between October 2009 and September 2010.

Also on Thursday, British lawyer Mark Lewis announced he was taking legal action in the United States on behalf of three alleged victims of phone hacking by the News of the World.

It is the first time that legal action over the hacking scandal has moved outside the United Kingdom.

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