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
Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on