Scotland Yard under fire over ex-Murdoch man role
Cop watchdog: 'Professional boundaries became blurred'
Senior Met police officials "breached" Scotland Yard employment policies and demonstrated "poor judgment" when it came to their relationship with Neil Wallis – a former News of the World deputy editor – the UK's cop watchdog said today.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission also confirmed today that it had planned to bring allegations of gross misconduct against Scotland Yard's erstwhile public affairs director Dick Fedorcio. It could not pursue the allegations after Fedorcio resigned, however.
Wallis left the NotW in June 2009. By August of that year Fedorcio asked the-then Met assistant commissioner John Yates if Wallis' company, Chamy Media, could be employed by the Yard to provide additional public relations support while his deputy was out of action.
The IPCC noted that Yates considered it a "sensible proposal". However, the commission said Fedorcio had "a case to answer" in relation to the hiring of Wallis at the MPS.
"We found that he employed Mr Wallis prior to a written contract being agreed thereby compromising the competitive process that should have been followed," it said.
"Mr Fedorcio also failed to monitor the contract and to ensure Mr Wallis was appropriately vetted and he did not identify to the police authority the nature of Mr Wallis’ employment.
"The MPS decided that he faced allegations of gross misconduct. Mr Fedorcio chose to resign shortly afterwards."
IPCC deputy commissioner Deborah Glass said that it was not possible to prevent a police employee from quitting ahead of any gross misconduct proceedings. She acknowledged that the practice of cops quitting before such scrutiny could take place was "hugely damaging to public confidence".
The IPCC separately probed Yates' decision to forward the CV of Wallis' daughter to the Met's now-retired human resources director, Martin Tiplady, had not amounted to misconduct but concluded he had used "poor judgment".
Yates left the capital's police service in July just as the phone-hacking scandal at Rupert Murdoch's Sunday tabloid, News of the World, erupted.
In the same month, Wallis was arrested by police and later bailed on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications. No charges have been brought against the ex-Wapping exec.
Yates came under sharp criticism after it was revealed that he had spent just one day in 2009 looking at the initial investigation into voicemail interception evidence, but that he had concluded at that point that there was nothing worth pursuing further.
"Despite the growing phone-hacking scandal, which must have exercised the MPS at a senior level and which was beginning to damage the reputation of the Metropolitan Police in late 2009, senior people appear to have been oblivious to the perception of conflict," Glass said.
"It is clear to me that professional boundaries became blurred, imprudent decisions taken and poor judgment shown by senior police personnel."
She added that "none of the senior personnel referred to in these reports are still serving” and said that the cop watchdog had recommended to Scotland Yard that they review their practices to ensure that they "are not susceptible to allegations of interference or favouritism."
Murdoch empire faces phone-hack lawsuits in US
Separately, it has been reported that News Corp, which owns News International, is facing three phone-hacking lawsuits in the US.
Fleet Street lawyer Mark Lewis, who represented the parents of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, told the Daily Beast that cases were expected to be filed in the States within the next few weeks.
He did not reveal specifics of the planned lawsuits, but did tell the website that all the subjects were "high-profile".
It's understood that one alleged victim of phone-hacking is connected to the royal household and the late Princess Diana. Another victim is reportedly linked to England's football team, while the third is said to be someone who was an associate of a Hollywood celebrity, and therefore alleged to have been a target for phone-hacking.
“It’s not just the people who were A-list or celebrities, but people who were in their circles — people who might call them or work with them, what I would call the ordinary people who just got caught in the crossfire,” said Lewis. ®