Yates of the Yard 'withheld phone records' from police leak inquiry
James Cusick is political correspondent of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday. As an experienced member of the lobby, he has previously worked at The Sunday Times and the BBC. His career as a journalist has been split between print and television, including senior positions as producer with Sir David Frost and at BBC Newsnight. He is also an award-winning golf and travel writer, working for over a decade as the UK contributing editor for one of the USA’s leading golf magazines. He broadcasts regularly for the BBC and CNN. He lives in London.
Thursday 08 March 2012
John Yates, the former Scotland Yard senior detective who dismissed the need to re-open the police's investigation into phone hacking, refused to let other officers examine his own phone records during a leak probe because he was "very well connected", the Leveson Inquiry heard yesterday.
Downing Street believed that leaks to the media which took place during the controversial 2006 "cash for honours" investigation came from Mr Yates, then an assistant commissioner with the Metropolitan Police looking after the inquiry. In evidence to Lord Justice Leveson, Bob Quick, then chief constable of Surrey Police, said he was ordered to carry out a second review of the honours investigation after the Cabinet Secretary Gus O'Donnell complained about leaks.
Mr O'Donnell had specifically pointed out Mr Yates as the potential source of the leaks, seen as damaging to the then Labour government. To allay the cabinet secretary's fears, Mr Quick suggested the "fairly standard practice" of analysing Mr Yates' phone records, often employed when an officer was suspected of leaking.
In his statement to the inquiry, Mr Quick said Mr Yates refused to have his records examined, telling him: "No Bob, I'm very well connected."
Mr Quick said he dismissed the comment as "a bit of theatre". There was no follow up on the phone examination, with Sir Paul Stephenson, then the Met's deputy commissioner, ruling the intrusion not necessary. In July 2007 it was announced no one would face charges over the cash for honours allegations.
Mr Quick, who became Britain's senior counter-terrorism officer until he resigned in 2009, told the inquiry that former assistant commissioner Yates and Sir Paul had also urged him to drop another case – the investigation into sensitive Home Office leaks which had ended up in the hands of then Conservative shadow immigration minister, Damian Green. The arrest of Mr Green at his constituency home and the searching of his Westminster offices turned the case into a political storm.
Mr Quick told the inquiry that Mr Yates described the investigation as "doomed" and advised him to drop the matter and "cut his losses".
Mr Quick also claimed that Sir Paul told him in December 2008 he had "written out his resignation" over the matter, although the Met's counsel immediately disputed this.
"I was surprised and quite shocked [about the possible resignation] because I couldn't see that the police were doing anything other than their duty to investigate what were very serious allegations from a government department," Mr Quick said.
Mr Quick was forced to leave the Met in 2009 after being photographed carrying sensitive documents on a planned counter-terrorism operation.
Work experience: Jobs for the boys (and girl)
Sir Ian Blair
Yesterday, the Leveson Inquiry heard how, in July 2005, Sir Ian Blair arranged, through Scotland Yard's head of press Dick Fedorcio, for his 15-year-old son Joshua to have a week's work experience at The Sun. Sir Ian said he saw nothing unusual in the arrangement, pointing out there had been numerous interns in his own office. Sir Ian later recalled how Joshua was on the work placement on the day of the 7/7 terror attacks and had been travelling to The Sun's offices by bus. His father called him and told him to get off the bus and walk to Scotland Yard. As these examples show, the work experience path between News International and the Met is well trodden...
The Leveson Inquiry heard that one of Sir Ian's predecessors, Lord Condon, had also arranged for one of his two sons to have a work placement at The Sun. Scotland Yard said yesterday it could not confirm when the work experience took place.
The former NOTW executive, who was arrested during the hacking scandal, has a daughter, Amy, who worked last year for the Met as a civilian staff member. Former Asst Commissioner John Yates had a 12-year friendship with Mr Wallis but the IPCC cleared him of any wrongdoing after claims he had improperly helped Ms Wallis obtain her job.
The long-standing head of media for the Yard, who is currently on leave from his post pending an investigation into his links with former News of the World deputy editor Neil Wallis, has a son, Alex, who also works in the Met's communications team. Prior to joining the Met, Alex worked as a journalist and did work experience at The Sun.
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