Leveson: Ex-News of the World crime editor says police terrorism chief was wedding guest


Click to follow
The Independent Online

Former Scotland Yard counter-terrorism chief John Yates attended the wedding of the News of the World's ex-crime editor, the Leveson Inquiry heard today.

Journalist Lucy Panton said Mr Yates was just one of "many" police officers of all ranks who were guests when she married a Scotland Yard detective.

She told the inquiry: "There were a few people at my wedding who I would class as working friends, who I didn't socialise with outside of work.

"Mr Yates falls into that category. I certainly got on well with him. I had a good rapport with him.

"But we didn't socialise outside of work. The wedding was the only occasion."

Ms Panton added that Mr Yates attended the wedding of fellow crime reporter Jeff Edwards, who worked for the Daily Mirror from 1992 until he retired in 2008.

Ms Panton was told by a news editor to "call in all those bottles of champagne" to get inside information about a terrorist plot from Mr Yates in October 2010, the press standards inquiryhas heard.

But the former News of the World crime editor said this was just "banter" from one of her bosses, insisting: "There were no bottles of champagne."

She said: "I think he was putting pressure on me to get a story.

"I would call that banter. It's a way that people spoke to each other in our office."

She added: "I think they hoped that we would be able to ring these people up and bring in exclusives every week.

"The reality is they know that doesn't happen, unfortunately, otherwise we would have had bigger and better crime stories than we did.

"My recollection of this is that I did phone Mr Yates, and I don't believe I actually got to speak to him. That was the reality, week in, week out."

Ms Panton also played down the significance of former Scotland Yard communications chief Dick Fedorcio letting her use his office computer and personal email account to file a story about controversial ex-police commander Ali Dizaei in February 2010.

She said she was under pressure to send her article to her news editors so it could be edited for that weekend's paper.

"In the olden days I think people used to knock on doors - strangers, random residents - to use telephones when they were under pressure," she told the hearing.

"I think on this occasion journalistic instinct took over and I did what it took to get the newsdesk off my back."

The inquiry has heard that former Met assistant commissioner Andy Hayman spent £47 on a bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne while drinking with a female News of the World journalist at the Oriel restaurant in Chelsea on the evening of February 1 2007.

Ms Panton said today she is "confident" she was not the reporter in question.

She said Mr Yates and Mr Hayman were "not so forthcoming" as some of her other police sources, adding: "As a crime reporter you would hope that all your contacts were more forthcoming than they actually were."

The former crime editor told the inquiry she found it "rather bizarre" that there seemed to be so much interest in whether or not she drank champagne.

She said in a written statement: "I enjoy champagne but do not drink it often.

"I have two children, meaning I was trying to get pregnant, pregnant and breast feeding for a large amount of the time of the period in question, so therefore was unable to drink much alcohol for much of the period in question.

"I believe that a distorted picture has been presented of how journalists carry out their business.

"We do not live a champagne lifestyle and the reality of the day-to-day grind of journalism is far from glamorous.

"Other crime journalists and I work hard in a fast moving business covering often horrendous crimes, to help bring the culprits to justice and break stories that are of public interest."

Ms Panton, who is married to a Scotland Yard detective, was arrested in December on suspicion of making corrupt payments to police officers. She was later bailed and has not been charged.

Chief Superintendent Derek Barnett, of Cheshire Police, president of the Police Superintendents' Association of England and Wales, warned that police officers have become more nervous about talking to journalists because of recent scrutiny of relationships with the media.

He said in a written statement: "Understandably, my members talk of a heightened sensitivity in their dealings with the media.

"Many are 'sticking to the facts' and some are seeking to avoid contact altogether.

"If we are not careful there is a risk that due to fear of being misunderstood officers could 'close ranks' on the media.

"This potential unintended consequence could damage many more relationships and affect the openness and transparency of policing. "Indeed, tenacious journalists would be forced to identify and use unofficial sources, no doubt inflicting further damage to public perceptions of policing."

The inquiry, sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, will hear evidence tomorrow from current Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer and his predecessor Lord Macdonald.