Leveson returns to tackle police's bungled phone hacking probe

Inquiry expected to hear potentially damaging disclosures from two former Met officers

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The Independent Online

The extent of links between News International and senior police officers will come under close scrutiny this week when those who led the failed probe into phone hacking give evidence to the Leveson Inquiry on press standards.

A new phase of the inquiry opens today and is expected to examine the latest allegation that a senior Scotland Yard officer gave details on the progress of its 2006 hacking investigation to ex- NI chief executive Rebekah Brooks. The Independent Police Complaints Commission, the police watchdog, said on Friday that it had launched a new investigation into possible wrongdoing.

Potentially damaging disclosures are expected this week with the appearance of two senior Scotland Yard officers who were forced to resign over the hacking scandal. Their evidence comes in the same week that Rupert Murdoch launched his riposte to Leveson and the closure of the News of the World with the launch of the new Sun on Sunday.

Former Commissioner Paul Stephenson and assistant commissioner John Yates give evidence on Thursday. Both men quit the force last July after being criticised for their links to News of the World executives, but were later cleared of wrongdoing following inquiries by the police watchdog. Mr Yates is set to give his evidence via videolink.

They will be joined by Andy Hayman. He headed the 2006 inquiry, which led to the jailing of News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman and investigator Glenn Mulcaire in January 2007 after hacking the phones of royal aides.

But Scotland Yard was criticised for limiting the inquiry's scope into a handful of cases, with the force now estimating there were more than 800 victims. Mr Hayman, an ex-assistant commissioner, had a bruising encounter with MPs last year whom he accused of having a "lynch mob mentality".

"Bring on the formal inquiry with a respectable judge, when we can actually get some sense out of this," he told a radio interviewer as David Cameron ordered the inquiry by Lord Leveson.

He is set to face questions over his decision to enjoy hospitality from the News of the World during the police inquiry. He dined with News of the World deputy editor Neil Wallis at the private members club, Soho House, between the inquiry being launched and raids on Mr Goodman and Mr Mulcaire.

The inquiry opens today with the appearance of Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers, who is in charge of the current probe into phone and computer hacking, and corrupt payments to public officials. She will be followed with evidence from the former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott and ex-Scotland Yard deputy assistant commissioner Brian Paddick, who aims to highlight what has gone wrong in the relationship between police and press. "Basically, I'll be saying it's unhealthily close," he said.

This part of the inquiry – focused on links between police and press – is expected to last six to seven weeks.

Metropolitan Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe, his predecessors and other chief constables are set to give evidence during this phase of the inquiry.

Roll call: appearing at the Leveson inquiry this week

Sue Akers

Monday: The current head of the probe into phone and computer hacking and alleged bribery of public officials. The inquiry is likely to ask the Scotland Yard deputy assistant commissioner about a probe into a senior officer who handed details of the ongoing 2006 inquiry into phone hacking to a News International executive.

John Prescott

Monday: Likely to continue his strong criticisms of the police after being kept in the dark despite evidence showing that he had been targeted by phone hacking.

He said that it had taken him 19 months to secure justice after he and other hacking victims won an apology from the force earlier this month.

Jacqui Hames

Tuesday: The former Crimewatch presenter and her husband discovered they were under surveillance by the News of the World in 2002. The paper claimed that it was assessing claims they were having an affair – even though they were married. She was shown evidence last year that she was being hacked.

Paul Stephenson

Thursday: The ex-Commissioner was not leading the force at the time of the original inquiry. But he is likely to be asked why he did not order the inquiry to be reopened in the face of mounting evidence about the scale of hacking. He quit, in part, after criticisms for hiring a former News of the World executive as a consultant.