Sir Paul Stephenson: Officer whose ambition knew no bounds


Cahal Milmo,Martin Hickman
Tuesday 25 October 2011 00:56
Former Scotland Yard commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson
Former Scotland Yard commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson

Sir Paul Stephenson's reputation for tough talking and careful judgement fast-tracked him to the top. But it was his judgement in the end that would prove his downfall, after a series of damaging revelations over the Met's handling of the News of the World phone-hacking affair.

In his two-and-a-half-year term as Britain's most senior policeman, the butcher's son from Lancashire has not had an easy ride. He was said to have drafted a resignation letter on his first day in office, in January 2009, amid the furore over the arrest of shadow Immigration minister Damian Green in 2008 during an investigation into the alleged leaking of material about failures at the Home Office.

Known as "Rusty" to his friends for his tanned appearance, Sir Paul began his career with Lancashire Constabulary in 1975 and shot up the ranks, becoming a superintendent in 1988. After a period in research and development he took on an operational command post in the then Royal Ulster Constabulary. He was appointed Assistant Chief Constable at Merseyside Police in 1994, overseeing a significant reduction of gun crime, anti-corruption and terrorist activity.

In 1999, he returned to his home county as deputy chief constable of Lancashire before rising to the top job three years later. In March 2005, he moved to London to assume the role of Assistant Commissioner to the Metropolitan Police under the then Commissioner Sir Ian Blair. Two years later he was appointed to the board of the National Policing Improvement Agency before receiving a knighthood in June 2008. In 2009 he was made Met Commissioner.

‘Our work is in danger of being eclipsed by the hacking affair’: His statement

"I have this afternoon informed the Home Secretary and the Mayor of my intention to resign as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service. I have taken this decision as a consequence of the ongoing speculation and accusations relating to the Met's links with News International at a senior level and in particular in relation to Mr Neil Wallis who, as you know, was arrested in connection with Operation Weeting last week.

Firstly, I want to say what an enormous privilege it has been for me to lead this great organisation that is the Met. The recent example of the heroism and bravery of Met officers in chasing armed suspects, involving the shooting of one of my officers, is typical; but is in danger of being eclipsed by the ongoing debate about relationships between senior officers and the media. This can neverbe right. I had no knowledge of, or involvement in, the original investigation into phone hacking in 2006 that successfully led to the conviction and imprisonment of two men. I had no reason to believe this was anything other than a successful investigation.

I do not occupy a position in the world of journalism; I had no knowledge of the extent of this disgraceful practice and the repugnant nature of the selection of victims that is now emerging; nor of its apparent reach into senior levels. I saw senior figures from News International providing evidence that the misbehaviour was confined to a rogue few and not known about at the top. One can only wonder about the motives of those within the newspaper industry or beyond, who now claim that they did know but kept quiet.

As Commissioner I carry ultimate responsibility for the position we find ourselves in. With hindsight, I wish we had judged some matters involved in this affair differently. I didn't and that's it. However, the issue of my integrity is different. Let me state clearly: I and the people who know me know that my integrity is completely intact. This is not a 12 months that can afford any doubts about the Commissioner of the Met.

I have seen at first hand the distractions for this organisation when the story becomes about the leaders as opposed to what we do as a service. We the Met cannot afford this... although I have received continued personal support from both the Home Secretary and the Mayor, I have with great sadness informed both of my intention to resign. I will miss many things, but most of all it will be the... honest, hard-working professionals who it has been such a great pleasure to lead."