It was "unwise" for the Scotland Yard officer in charge of the original inquiry into phone hacking to dine with News of the World executives at a time when the paper was under investigation, the head of the body which issues national policing policy and guidance said yesterday.
Andy Hayman, who as the former head of the Yard's counter-terrorism branch had responsibility for the inquiry in 2005-2006 into voicemail interception, attended a dinner with unnamed NOTW executives in April 2006, when officers under his command were investigating allegations the paper hacked into the mobile phones of members of the royal household.
Mr Hayman, who was employed at the Murdoch-owned Times newspaper as a columnist following his retirement in 2008, told MPs this week that it was unthinkable for him to have divulged any information to managers at Rupert Murdoch's News International (NI) while its best-selling Sunday title was under criminal investigation.
Sir Hugh Orde, the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said yesterday it was not "seemly" for a police officer to accept hospitality from a newspaper. He told BBC Radio 4's Today: "In those circumstances it seems an unwise decision."
Mr Hayman, a former assistant commissioner in the Metropolitan Police, is one of several senior Yard officers who met with editors at the NOTW and other NI titles during the first phone-hacking investigation and subsequent reviews of the case. Assistant Commissioner John Yates, who has been heavily criticised for his decision not to re-open the inquiry in July 2009, met Colin Myler, editor of the NOTW, for dinner in November that year.
The Yard has been at pains to underline that such social meetings take place with all newspaper groups and are a routine part of the relationship between police and the media. The Prime Minister, David Cameron, said yesterday that Sir Paul Stephenson, the Met's commissioner, will appoint an independent expert to advise on how to introduce greater transparency into relations between journalists and officers.
Mr Hayman took to the airwaves to hit back at the "lynch-mob mentality" of the MPs who questioned him, one of whom described him as a "dodgy geezer" and asked if he had done a deal to curb the hacking inquiry over fears that that tabloid would expose details about his private life. He strongly denied the claim.
Speaking on London's LBC radio, Mr Hayman said: "To be accused of being a dodgy geezer, which is probably on the basis of my accent – I think that's a really poor show."
Hayman "Any suggestion or hint that these were candlelit dinners where state secrets were shared is rubbish. They were businesslike... I was always with the director of communications."
Analysis The counter-terrorism officer fails to address whether it was appropriate to be socialising with unnamed executives from a newspaper which was the subject of a criminal investigation for which he was responsible.
Hayman "I am aware that there was obstruction [by the NOTW]... I am sure that one of the meals was when [the hacking investigation] was going on... I am sitting at one side of the table, [thinking] I know something that you don't know, I'm not going to tell you."
Analysis At what point did Mr Hayman become aware that his officers felt the NOTW were being obstructive? If it was prior to his April 2006 dinner with the paper, why did he still attend? Was the belief that the NOTW was failing fully to co-operate ever raised by Mr Hayman with his superiors?
Hayman "I didn't even know when the door went in on the News of the World. [Deputy Assistant Commissioner] Pete Clarke [the officer in charge of the hacking inquiry] has already said it was important for the integrity of investigation he kept everything tight."
Analysis With members of the Royal Family involved and hundreds of public figures named on documents seized from private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, Mr Hayman does not seem to have questioned the decision to restrict the investigation to fewer than 10 victims of hacking.Reuse content