'News of World' bosses dined with Met chief

Meetings in period force was refusing to reopen hacking inquiry

Sir Paul Stephenson, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, dined privately with senior executives at the News of the World seven times over a four-year period during which the force turned down calls for the heavily criticised investigation into phone hacking to be reopened.

Following a demand that it disclose its contacts with Rupert Murdoch's News International, Scotland Yard revealed that senior officers met NOTW editors 13 times between 2006 and 2010 in the aftermath of the arrest of a reporter for phone hacking. Almost half of the meetings were between Sir Paul, now Britain's most senior police officer, and an executive at the Sunday newspaper, deputy editor Neil Wallis.

The disclosure prompted calls for the force to explain why meetings were allowed to take place when it later transpired it had failed to investigate the full extent of the scandal.

Dee Doocey, a Lib Dem member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, branded the contacts "extraordinary" and indicated she would raise them at a meeting of the watchdog body tomorrow. She said: "Imagine the outcry there would be if the Commissioner was seen dining with a member of the public who was the subject of a police investigation."

The closeness of the relationship between Scotland Yard and the NOTW has been repeatedly raised by critics of the original police inquiry into the activities of private investigator Glenn Mulcaire and royal editor Clive Goodman, who were jailed in January 2007 for making 609 calls to the voicemails of royal aides.

Despite the discovery by detectives of 4,332 names, 2,978 mobile phone numbers and 91 PIN codes at Mulcaire's home, no one was interviewed at the NOTW beyond Goodman. The paper's editor, Andy Coulson, resigned in 2007, saying he bore ultimate responsibility for the scandal.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers, who is in charge of the new investigation launched last month, acknowledged the original inquiry had not gone far enough last month when she told John Prescott she was "not satisfied" with its work. Lord Prescott is one of about 20 people who have been informed they may have been a target despite being previously told there was little or no such evidence.

The police said there was nothing unusual in senior officers dining with editors but declined to detail meetings with other titles over the same period which would reveal if contact with the Sunday tabloid was unusually frequent. A spokeswoman said: "Senior officers from the Metropolitan Police meet representatives from a wide range of media as a necessary part of their roles."

The meetings began with a dinner between Sir Paul, his head of press Dick Fedorcio and Mr Wallis in September 2006 – a month after counter-terrorism officers arrested Mulcaire and Goodman. They became more frequent in 2008 and 2009 with eight private dinners and social engagements, including an invitation for Sir Paul to attend the News Corporation summer party two years ago. Sir Paul also attended a private dinner that month with Mr Wallis, who was appointed Mr Coulson's deputy in 2003.

In July 2009, John Yates, now Deputy Commissioner, refused to reopen the criminal investigation into hacking despite revelations by The Guardian that "thousands" of mobile phones may been targeted and that more than £1m had been paid to settle cases out of court. Four months later Mr Yates had dinner with the NOTW's editor, Colin Myler.

It is not known if the phone-hacking allegations were discussed at any of the meetings. Ms Doocey said: "I find it quite extraordinary that when allegations about illegal phone hacking were still unresolved the Commissioner thought it was appropriate to be regularly dining with the News of the World and News Corporation."

News International said: "We never comment on what was discussed at private dinners but we would like to ask The Independent how many times the editor or senior staff met with senior policemen during the same period?" Mr Wallis, who left the NOTW in 2009, made no comment.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future