UK police chief denies criticizing Cameron

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 19, 2011 12:45 PM
UK police chief denies criticizing Cameron

LONDON (Reuters) - The outgoing head of London's police said on Tuesday that his resignation statement was not an attack on the way Prime Minister David Cameron has handled a phone hacking crisis.

"I was taking no such swipe at the prime minister," Paul Stephenson told a parliamentary committee investigating the crisis engulfing Rupert Murdoch's News Corp media empire and the police.

Stephenson announced his resignation on Sunday after it emerged that the force had hired Neil Wallis, a former deputy newspaper editor now implicated in the scandal, as a media adviser.

In his resignation statement, Stephenson appeared to be contrasting his behavior with that of Cameron, who employed former News of the World tabloid editor Andy Coulson as his communications chief.

On Tuesday, he told the committee he agreed with Cameron that the two situations were not comparable. "Of course the employment of Mr Coulson and the employment by the Met (police) of Mr Wallis was entirely different," he said.

He also insisted his decision to quit was his alone.

"Contrary to much ill-informed media speculation, I'm not leaving because I was pushed, or threatened, I'm not leaving because I have anything to fear, I' m not leaving because of any lack of support," he said.

John Yates, Britain's most senior counter-terrorism officer who announced on Monday he too was resigning, said he had offered to brief Cameron about police protocol over a "scoping" exercise he was carrying out in September 2010 on whether to re-open the hacking probe.

However, he said Cameron's Chief of Staff Ed Llewellyn had asked him in an email exchange not to bring the matter up in discussions he was due to have with the prime minister, saying he did not think it would be appropriate.

"Officials will always try and protect their principals. Ed for whatever reason, and I completely understand it, didn't think it was appropriate," he told the committee.

Yates also told the committee he did not think the police should take the most blame for past failures on phone hacking and that News International executives were the real culprits because of their failure to cooperate.

"I yesterday said I was accountable. I do think it's time for others to face up to their responsibilities and do likewise," he said.

Asked who he meant, he said: "News International," adding when pressed over whether there should be more resignations: "It's a matter for them."

Detectives are now not only re-examining allegations of phone hacking at the News of the World but also looking at allegations that police officers took bribes from journalists in return for information.

"A very small number of police officers will go to prison for corruption," Yates said.

(Reporting by Michael Holden and Keith Weir, Editing by Steve Addison)