Convicted News of the World journalist accuses Met of theft over refusal to return contacts book and sex tape

A former News of the World journalist has accused the Metropolitan Police of theft after it refused to return his contacts book, four and a half years after being arrested.

Former news editor James Weatherup only received the last of his belongings back on Wednesday, minus his A4 book which was written in long hand.

Weatherup believes that detective superintendent John McDonald, who is head of the Operation Weeting phone-hacking probe, is believed to have ordered the journalist's book be kept by Scotland Yard because there are numbers in there which belong to celebrities who have been phone hacked.

Weatherup, 57, of Brentwood, Essex, he is now seeking legal advice to find out if he can sue the Met.

He said: "I think it is totally ridiculous and illegal for the police to have withheld my contacts book on the spurious grounds that it may contain numbers of people that have been hacked.

"For a start it is a restraint of my trade and secondly I have been compiling those numbers and addresses for 35 years, way before mobile phones were even introduced.

"There are thousands of numbers in the book ranging form personal family contacts to a number of celebrities who are my friends as well as contacts.

"I have been transferring details in long hand from book to book since I started in journalism and that is my master and only copy."

Weatherup, who was sentenced to 200 hours of community service for pleading guilty to six phone-hacking charges has been trying to recover his possessions since he was arrested in 2011. He admitted the offences, which happened in 2004/5, in 2013 and was sentenced in August 2014.

He added: "I only got my phone back in February and a few of my contacts were on there so what is the difference?   

"The reason they said it could not be returned originally  was because of an outstanding legal issue between News International and the Met because the contents of my desk were removed to an outside solicitors when I was arrested.

"However, I got a phone call last week saying the issue had been dropped and I could have my contacts book back and the contents of my work drawer.

"But when DC Tim Hargreaves and DC Andy Brown turned up at my flat they said there had been a problem and I could not have it back after all.

"They said the decision had come form on high and there was nothing they could do about it.

"They also refused to return a video tape of a married celebrity who had been caught out cheating on his wife which was published in the News of the World years ago allegedly because of privacy.

"What right have the police to suddenly act as a moral arbiter over what is returned to me or what is considered private and what is not ? It is nothing to do with phone-hacking.  What gives them the right to make that decision? I bet they had fun watching it though. 

"A 'senior manger' also decided that a sheet of paper with names and contact numbers on could also not be returned, however the officers who visited me were not able to say who was on the list.

"If this is my property I want it back. If any of the six people I was linked to over phone-hacking are in my book or or the paper they can redact them if they want, but give me back what is legally mine.

"I just want to know what on earth is going on at The Met, who do they think they are? Have they not harried and prosecuted enough journalists yet?  As it happens, they irrevocably damaged one of my laptops and I will now also be demanding they replace it with a new one."

Weatherup said that the sex-tape in question resulted in a News of the World story published in around 2009 which was read by millions of people so could not be said to be a private matter. 

He said there are thousands of names in his contacts book.

"A journalist is only as good as his contacts book. It is not a book of phone-hacking targets it is a book of contacts built over many years.

"I never had a list of people I was phone-hacking, I am not a serial phone-hacker, I never was."

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