Senior Scotland Yard figures were guilty of "imprudent decisions and poor judgement" in their employment of a former deputy editor of the News of the World as a public relations consultant, police watchdogs said yesterday. In a sharply critical report, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) found that the employment of Neil Wallis on a £24,000 contract "blurred professional boundaries" and was evidence of a failure to spot potential conflicts of interest which now threatened to undermine public confidence in the Metropolitan Police.
The revelation last summer of Mr Wallis's entangled relationship with the Yard, which included his retention as a PR adviser in 2009 at a time when the force was facing renewed scrutiny of its handling of the NOTW phone-hacking scandal, triggered a chain of events which led to the resignation of then Met Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson and Assistant Commissioner John Yates. The IPCC's in-depth review of the decision to employ Mr Wallis and his Chamy Media PR company reserved particular criticism for Dick Fedorcio, the former head of the Yard's powerful directorate of public affairs, who took on the former newspaper executive in September 2009 without agreeing a written contract.
Breaches of other Met procedures, including a failure to monitor what work Mr Wallis carried out to earn his £2,000 fee for two days' work per month and a decision not to submit the journalist to security vetting, meant that Mr Fedorcio should face proceedings for gross misconduct. Mr Fedorcio resigned from his post last month, after the Yard announced it was starting disciplinary proceedings. Deborah Glass, the IPCC's deputy chairwoman, said the practice of allowing individuals accused of misconduct to resign was "hugely damaging to public confidence" in the police. The watchdog was also critical of Mr Yates, a friend of Mr Wallis who was consulted by Mr Fedorcio about whether the NOTW editor should be approached for the consultancy role. The report found that Mr Yates had shown "poor judgement" when he forwarded a CV for Mr Wallis's daughter, Amy, to the Yard's human resources department.
Ms Glass said the investigation had found no evidence of corruption but pointed to repeated breaches of the Met's guidelines and policies in its dealings with the former executive in Rupert Murdoch's News International, who also received payments totalling £25,000 from his former employer while he was working with the Yard. In a statement, Ms Glass said: "Despite the growing phone-hacking scandal, which must have exercised the [Met] at a senior level and which was beginning to damage the reputation of the Metropolitan Police in late 2009, senior people appear to have been oblivious to the perception of conflict. It is clear to me that professional boundaries became blurred, imprudent decisions taken and poor judgement shown by senior police personnel."
Mr Wallis left NOTW in June 2009 and was approached by the Yard to undertake public relations work. The IPCC found that although the Chamy Media contract ran between October 2009 and September 2010, Mr Fedorcio did not follow the normal procedures for awarding the contract and undermined its integrity by employing Mr Wallis a month before the formal agreement began.
The report said that Mr Wallis carried out his contract largely through "face to face" meetings and phone calls. The IPCC said: "In the absence of any records, it is impossible to establish what Mr Wallis did for his £2,000."
Report reveals how Force found jobs for old friends
Senior Scotland Yard officers "routinely" referred friends and relatives for jobs and attachments inside Britain's largest police force and presided over a culture where junior staff treated such requests as an "instruction" to find suitable vacancies, police watchdogs found yesterday.
The Metropolitan Police pledged to review its practices on employing friends and family members of existing staff following the revelations in a review by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) of the relationship between the former News of the World executive Neil Wallis and former Assistant Commissioner John Yates.
The watchdog was called in last year after it emerged that Mr Wallis had sent his daughter Amy's CV to Mr Yates, the Yard's head of counter-terrorism and a long-standing friend of the tabloid journalist. The CV was forwarded by Mr Yates to the Met's head of human resources, Martin Tiplady, and Ms Wallis was subsequently employed by the force.
The IPCC had already cleared Mr Yates, who resigned last year over the phone-hacking scandal, of any misconduct related to his handling of Ms Wallis's CV. But in its full report yesterday, the watchdog said the counter-terrorism chief had shown "poor judgement" in forwarding the document in 2009.
In his evidence to the IPCC, Mr Tiplady said it was "a matter of routine that many senior MPS staff referred friends and relatives to HR for appointment, attachment and holiday employment".
No evidence was found that proper recruitment procedures were not followed when such applications were made.