Deputy Mayor 'told Met to rein back on hacking investigation'

Sir Paul Stephenson tells Leveson that Boris Johnson's deputy urged him to scale down inquiry

A close ally of the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, repeatedly applied pressure to the Metropolitan Police to scale down its investigation into phone hacking as the force began discovering what happened at the News of the World, the former Commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, disclosed yesterday.

Giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry, Sir Paul said that on "several occasions" after he returned to work from an operation on his leg last April, Kit Malthouse, Deputy Mayor and the chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority, urged him to remove resources from Operation Weeting into illegal voicemail interception at the paper.

Sir Paul recalled that Mr Malthouse advised London's police force not to succumb to the press and political "hysteria" over phone hacking, indicating that he backed the Mayor's previous stance that calls for a thorough investigation were politically and commercially motivated mischief by Labour MPs and rival journalists. Despite the pressure from the top of the MPA, Sir Paul – whose force had made a series of blunders over hacking before beginning the new investigation – resisted the overtures.

His evidence raises fresh questions about whether Mr Johnson's Conservative administration was too close to News International, whose then chief executive, Rebekah Brooks, was a dining companion of the Mayor and whose husband, Charlie, was with him at Eton.

In September, 2010, in the days after a New York Times investigation suggested senior executives such as the then Tory director of communications, Andy Coulson, had presided over a culture of hacking, Mr Johnson dismissed the story as "a load of codswallop".

In the past year , the new police investigation has identified at least 829 likely victims of phone hacking and uncovered evidence of computer hacking and widespread bribery of police officers .

In his evidence, Sir Paul, who resigned in July 2011, said his force had wrongly adopted a "defensive" stance towards the new disclosures, believing wrongly that the original investigation, Operation Caryatid, in 2006 had been successful. He said: "On several occasions after Operation Weeting had started and I had returned from sick leave, Kit Malthouse, expressed a view that we should not be devoting this level of resources to the phone-hacking inquiry as a consequence of a largely political and media-driven 'level of hysteria'. While understanding his desire to maximise the resources devoted to current issues of crime and public safety, I pointed out the disclosure requirements arising from the civil cases left us with little choice but to invest significant resources in servicing this matter."

The Labour MP Chris Bryant, a victim of phone hacking, called for Mr Malthouse's resignation. He said: "This amounts to a clear political intervention designed to intimidate the Met into dropping an investigation.

"Both Boris Johnson and Kit Malthouse's interventions show they are more interested in protecting their cronies than in pursuing justice."

Mr Malthouse insisted he had behaved properly. His spokeswoman said: "It was entirely proper, as Paul Stephenson indicated this morning, for Kit Malthouse to probe the reasoning behind the allocation of resources into the phone-hacking inquiry. His job is to hold the Commissioner to account."

Earlier at the inquiry, the Metropolitan Police confirmed it had briefed Tony Blair's administration about its inquiry in 2006. Last week, the former Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Peter Clarke, explained he had briefed the then Home Secretary, John Reid. On Friday, Mr Reid said he could not recall any such briefing and had been unaware Labour MPs had been among the victims.

Yesterday morning, Lord Leveson was told that not only had the Metropolitan Police found a copy of the briefing – which it passed to the inquiry – but that it understood that a senior Home Office official had also prepared a briefing for the Home Secretary.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Sport
wimbledonScot will face Ivo Karlovic next
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test