Met chief went to NOTW crime editor's wedding
Following stints with Reuters and the Press Association, Martin Hickman joined The Independent as a news editor in 2001. He became the Consumer Affairs Correspondent in September 2005 and has run the paper's trenchant campaigns on packaging, bank charges and factory-farmed chicken. He writes on subjects as diverse as food, finance, energy and fashion. With Tom Watson, he is author of a new book on the phone hacking scandal, Dial M for Murdoch - News Corporation and the Corruption of Britain.
Wednesday 04 April 2012
John Yates, the Scotland Yard Assistant Commissioner who resigned last summer over his handling of the phone-hacking scandal, attended the wedding of a News of the World reporter later arrested by the force, the Leveson Inquiry heard yesterday.
Lucy Panton, the now-closed NOTW's crime editor, said that Mr Yates was one of "many" police officers of all ranks present at her wedding to a Scotland Yard detective.
Mr Yates resigned last July after admitting he made a "pretty crap" decision not to inspect the notes of the NOTW's private detective Glenn Mulcaire. Mr Yates had consistently maintained that there was evidence that only a few people had actually had their phones hacked by the NOTW. However, the new Metropolitan Police inquiry believes that the likely number of victims is 829.
Ms Panton was arrested in December on suspicion of making corrupt payments to police officers but was later bailed and has not been charged. She told Lord Leveson: "There were a few people at my wedding whom I would class as working friends. Mr Yates falls into that category. I certainly got on well with him ... But we didn't socialise outside of work. The wedding was the only occasion."
Ms Panton, who was allowed to file a story on the computer of Scotland Yard's director of public affairs Dick Fedorcio, who has now resigned, said a NOTW executive's suggestion that she should "call in all those bottles of champagne" to get inside information about a terrorist plot from Mr Yates in October 2010 was only office "banter".
Referring to the email sent to her by the new editor, James Mellor, Ms Panton said: "There were no bottles of champagne. I think he was putting pressure on me to get a story."
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."
In her written statement, Ms Panton, who worked at NOTW from 2002 until its closure in July 2011, suggested that crime reporting was grittier than had been suggested. "I believe that a distorted picture has been presented of how journalists carry out their business," she wrote.
"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 covering often horrendous crimes, to help bring the culprits to justice and break stories that are of public interest."
Murdochs to appear before Leveson
Rupert and James Murdoch will appear before the Leveson Inquiry in the coming weeks.
Lord Leveson said that media proprietors will give evidence in the weeks beginning 23 April and 8 May. News International's former chief executive, Rebekah Brooks, will also appear in the inquiry's third module, which will examine the relationship between the press and politicians.
Ms Brooks applied yesterday for core participant status, with legal representation and advance access to statements. Her lawyer, Stephen Parkinson, said she had already been criticised and could receive more negative comments. Labour's Tom Watson and Lord Prescott and the Liberal Democrat Simon Hughes have also asked to be core participants.
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