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UK top cop: Coulson 'blindingly obviously' mixed up in hacking

Regrets hiring Murdoch man at Scotland Yard

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Sir Paul Stephenson, who resigned from his job as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police on Sunday, has told MPs that he "regretted" the "embarrassing contract" in which he had hired a News of the World executive, Neil Wallis, as a PR consultant. But the outgoing top policeman of the UK said that it was "blindingly obvious" that Andy Coulson, hired at No. 10 Downing Street by Prime Minister David Cameron, had previously been mixed up in phone hacking.

Stephenson told MPs today that he learned only after Chamy Media's contract had come to an end that Wallis – who owned Chamy until it was dissolved in April this year – had a connection to the phone-hacking claims currently engulfing News Corp.

Stephenson told the Home Affairs select committee, chaired by MP Keith Vaz, that until January 2011, when he was on sick leave, he "had no reason to connect Wallis with phone-hacking... I had been given assurances that there was nothing new."

The commissioner batted away suggestions that he had "made a personal attack on the Prime Minister". He had said in his resignation letter that David Cameron made the wrong decision when he hired ex-NotW editor Andy Coulson as his official spokesman, even though there were clear connections to the previous phone-hacking probe carried out by the Met.

"When Mr Coulson resigned... by definition he associated his name with hacking. That is simply and blindingly obvious," he said.

Stephenson said that 17 per cent of his media contacts had been at the NotW, and added that 30 per cent involved News International employees. He pointed out that some 42 per cent of the UK's readership were hooked into NI titles.

He said it was therefore only natural to be involved in a dialogue with reporters at the News Corp-owned company.

Stephenson also admitted that he was consulted before Wallis was appointed by the Met.

"I regret we went into that contract, quite clearly, because it's embarrassing," said Stephenson.

He wasn't involved in the procurement process of Chamy Media, but said he had no issue with Wallis's employment between October 2009 and September 2010. He also said that he had not been aware that Wallis's daughter also worked at the Met.

Meanwhile, Scotland Yard's director of public affairs and internal communication, Dick Fedorcio – who shortly faces a grilling from MPs scrutinising the phone-hacking scandal – has been referred by the Met to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

"The context of this referral is in connection with the ongoing high level public interest in the relationship between News International and the MPS and, in particular, the relationship between Neil Wallis and Mr Fedorcio and the circumstances under which the contract was awarded to Chamy Media," said the Met in a statement. ®

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