British watchdog clears ex-police chief over hacking scandal

17th August 2011, Comments 0 comments

Britain's police watchdog on Wednesday cleared the country's former top officer of misconduct over the News of the World phone hacking scandal.

Paul Stephenson quit as head of London's Metropolitan Police last month amid evidence of the force's links to Rupert Murdoch's media empire, which owned the now-defunct News of the World (NotW) paper at the centre of hacking allegations.

But the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said it was dropping its investigations into Stephenson and three other former senior officers over the hacking scandal after considering claims against them.

The IPCC added however that it would probe separate allegations that ex-assistant police commissioner John Yates, who quit a day after Stephenson, had helped a former NotW executive's daughter to obtain a job with the London force.

The IPCC acknowledged the "damaging effect" of the scandal but added: "In relation to their alleged respective roles in the 'phone hacking' investigation, the conduct of none of these officers amounts to recordable conduct."

Stephenson quit his job following the revelation that the London force hired former NotW executive Neil Wallis as a public relations consultant.

The officer had also faced criticism of his decision to accept a break at a spa and health farm from a firm where Wallis worked.

Police have faced intense criticism over their initial refusal to re-open the phone-hacking investigation despite mounting evidence the practice was endemic at the Murdoch-owned tabloid. The probe was eventually relaunched in January this year.

But with regard to Stephenson, IPCC deputy chair Deborah Glass said: "I do not think he committed a misconduct offence because one of his officers may have carried out a poor investigation."

The separate probe into Yates is over claims he helped Wallis' daughter to get a job at the London force.

Yates faced criticism over his 2009 decision not to reopen the phone-hacking probe, a decision he has admitted was flawed, but the IPCC said it did not believe any fresh probe into this matter would serve any purpose.

"Considering that he has been questioned about his involvement in phone hacking over many hours in six separate parliamentary sessions, it is difficult to see what further investigation would achieve," said Glass.

After a lull, the hacking scandal came back to life Tuesday when lawmakers released a letter in which a former reporter -- jailed for hacking in 2007 -- claimed that the practice was "widely discussed" among senior staff at the paper.

© 2011 AFP

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