British police chief says 'conscience is clear'

18th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

A top British policeman who quit Monday after failing in 2009 to reopen the phone-hacking investigation insisted "my conscience is clear", even as a watchdog said it had been asked to probe his conduct.

Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner John Yates announced he was resigning amid criticism over his failure to revive the Scotland Yard probe into phone hacking at the Rupert Murdoch-owned News of the World tabloid.

Yates quit a day after Scotland Yard's chief, Commissioner Paul Stephenson, resigned amid questions over his links to former News of the World deputy editor Neil Wallis, who was employed by Scotland Yard as a consultant after he left the paper.

"Earlier on this afternoon I informed the Home Secretary, the Mayor of London and the Chair of the Police Authority of my intention to resign as Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service," Yates said in a statement.

"It is with great regret that I make this decision after nearly 30 years as a police officer."

Shortly before Yates's resignation was announced, the Metropolitan Police Authority, which supervises the police, had decided to suspend him.

The original 2006 phone-hacking investigation led to the jailing of the News of the World's royal editor and a private investigator.

Amid a stream of fresh allegations, the probe was finally reopened in January -- sparking a string of arrests, resignations and the closure of the scandal-tainted News of the World.

Yates repeated that he felt "great personal regret" that phone-hacking victims were not properly dealt with but sounded a defiant note, denouncing press attacks against him and insisting he had done nothing wrong.

"Sadly, there continues to be a huge amount of inaccurate, ill-informed and on occasion downright malicious gossip published about me personally," he said.

He added it would have distracted from his role as Britain's top counter-terrorism officer as London geared up for the 2012 Olympics.

"I have acted with complete integrity and my conscience is clear," he continued.

"I look forward to the future judge-led inquiry where my role will be examined in a proper and calmer environment and where my actions will be judged on the evidence rather than on innuendo and speculation as they are at present."

Moments after Yates's statement was broadcast on television, police watchdog the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said the Metropolitan Police Authority had asked it to investigate his conduct.

The IPCC has been asked to look into "the conduct of Assistant Commissioner John Yates... in his review in July 2009 and overall role in relation to the phone-hacking investigation," it said in a statement.

It had also been asked to examine "his alleged involvement in inappropriately securing employment for the daughter of a friend," said the statement.

The allegation centres on whether Yates helped secure a job for Wallis's daughter, British media reported.

In addition, the IPCC has been asked to investigate Stephenson's conduct in relation to the phone-hacking investigation and the conduct of two former senior officers.

Yates has been recalled to clarify evidence on Tuesday that he gave last week to parliament's home affairs committee, a panel of lawmakers.

© 2011 AFP

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