Wednesday, March 28, 2012

#Leveson : #Mafia And Britains Bent Cops!

Veteran police reporter Graeme McLagan says Scotland Yard has reached a new low in the phone-hacking scandal—but it has a dismal history of corruption and embarrassing links to the tabloids. Why the British police need to shape up to regain their reputation as honest enforcers.

By being too close to The News of the World, the Metropolitan Police (aka Scotland Yard), like the Conservative government, stands accused of exercising bad judgment, of being too trusting and of demonstrating willful blindness. The British public’s trust in the media, police, and politicians is at a dismal new low.

The tabloid press has never been held in high esteem. Trust in politicians fell further after the recent expenses scandal, which resulted in prison for some MPs who had falsified claims. The police were seen as trying to clean up their act. But the latest exposures have left the force thoroughly demoralised.

Rank-and-file officers expressed disgust on learning that Sir Paul Stephenson, who recently resigned as Met commissioner because of the phone-hacking scandal, obtained £12,000 worth of free hospitality from a friend at a health farm, whose PR was being run by a former deputy editor of The News of the World.

One detective said: “It’s shocking that very senior officers have accepted hospitality, particularly from The News of the World, when ordinary officers are warned not to accept a free meal from, say, a restaurant owner, in case that compromises us in the future. And we’re not supposed to even speak to reporters without clearing it with the press office beforehand.”

What has also surprised is the level of job-swapping, the so-called revolving door between News International titles and the Met. A quarter of the force’s press officers came from the Murdoch stable. Unreported until a few days ago was that Neil Wallis, former deputy editor of The News of the World at the time of the phone hacking, was taken on at £1,000 a day to provide help and advice to the head of the news operation.

His appointment is now described as “appalling” by the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, which has recently hauled various senior police officers before it. But at the time, no one within the Met appears to have expressed any concern, or worry about how it might be viewed outside.

Same with Andy Hayman, formerly assistant commissioner and No. 3 in the Met’s hierarchy. He had meals with News International executives while in charge of the phone-hacking investigation, and within weeks of resigning from the Met in 2008 started writing a column for Rupert Murdoch’s flagship paper, The Times.

“It’s extraordinary,” said the Home Affairs Committee, “that he did not realize what the public perception of such contacts would be, or, if he did realize, he did not care that confidence in the impartiality of the police would be seriously undermined.”

The committee’s report described Hayman’s conduct during the phone-hacking investigation and his session in front of the MPs as both unprofessional and inappropriate.

He displayed “an attitude of complacency,” with one likening him to “a dodgy geezer.”

However, in joining the Murdoch paper, Hayman was doing no more than what was done by his former boss, the commissioner Sir John Stevens, now Lord Stevens. At one of Stevens’ retirement parties late in 2004, some were surprised to see Rebekah Wade (now Brooks) there. She and the commissioner were clearly on close terms. All was explained a little later when he started a column for The News of the World.

When Rees was arrested for a third time over the Daniel Morgan murder, invoices from The News of the World were found at his home detailing payments for information he had provided, including on “Will’s girl,” apparently a reference to Prince William’s then-girlfriend, Kate Middleton.

In fact, as commissioner, Stevens was responsible for encouraging more openness by the Met, writing in his memoirs that he “made himself available” to national newspaper editors, naming six, the first three being Piers Morgan (Daily Mirror), Rebekah Wade (Sun), and Andy Coulson (News of the World). All three went on to play parts in the phone-hacking scandal, with Coulson being forced to resign because of it. He later became David Cameron’s press officer until he had to resign from that, too.

Like Hayman, Stevens also knew a lot about leaks of confidential information, and newspapers’ use of private investigators who employed corrupt police. He was in charge of a fresh anti-corruption drive by the Met.

During the 1980s and 1990s, London police were beset with stories of organized police corruption.

Detectives were taking thousands of pounds from criminals, stealing heavy drugs, and then recycling them through informants.

There was also increasing concern about the involvement of private investigators who were interfering with investigations, “blagging” information, and employing corrupt officers, feeding tabloid newspapers’ growing demand for information on more