Met calls in outside force to review phone-hack inquiry

Scotland Yard’s incoming boss has called in an outside force to review the inquiry into phone hacking at the News of the World.

Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe considered it best practice to ask Durham Police to look at the Met’s Operation Weeting due to the sensitive nature of the case, police said.

The revelation comes after Britain’s top police officer said press and police relationships had “gone too far” as he called for an era of transparency and austerity.

Durham’s chief constable Jon Stoddart will lead the review following the request from Mr Hogan-Howe.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: “We can confirm that the Metropolitan Police Service has asked an outside police service to conduct a review of Operation Weeting.”

It was instigated by Hogan-Howe while he was acting deputy commissioner, the spokesman added. Stoddart will report back to the Met in “due course”.

The review was announced as Hogan-Howe vowed to reset the boundaries between police and media in the wake of the scandal.

Fresh guidance would be issued for officers associating with journalists at the conclusion of several inquiries, Hogan-Howe said.

Addressing members of the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) for the first time since landing the £260,000-a-year job, he said: “I don’t think anyone is going to argue that the police service should not have a relationship with the media.

“But it’s clear that this relationship needs to have a resetting of the boundaries between us and how we manage that interface.”

He said standard operating procedures at the force will be updated at the conclusion of inquiries launched after allegations of police corruption surrounding activities by journalists at the News of the World.

Hogan-Howe warned that officers now need to “treat it as a period of austerity, both in terms of gifts and in terms of relationship with the press”.

“If better guidance comes out later, we will just have to wait and see,” he said.

Hogan-Howe added: “I hope myself that we do not go back to where we were when I joined the service 30 years ago when we didn’t talk to press at all – even when we were talking about crime.

“What’s happened over time is that that relationship has gone too far.

We have to reset the boundary.”

Scotland Yard published a list yesterday of gifts that officers had received after the force came under pressure over Sir Paul Stephenson’s resignation as commissioner.

Sir Paul quit at the peak of the phone-hacking scandal after facing criticism for receiving free treatment at Champneys, a Hertfordshire health spa favoured by soap actors, Premier League footballers and pop singers.

When asked about his own policy on receiving gifts, Mr Hogan-Howe told the MPA: “You do not receive hospitality from people you are investigating.”

A total of 16 suspects have been arrested since Scotland Yard’s Operation Weeting was launched – but police have yet to arrest any officers for receiving payments from journalists.

The scandal has already led to the closure of the News of the World after 168 years and the resignation of Sir Paul and assistant commissioner John Yates.

Mr Hogan-Howe also said it was vital to get to the bottom of allegations surrounding five failed investigations to find the killers of private detective Daniel Morgan in 1987.

The former Merseyside supremo was speaking at City Hall as the police watchdog published elements of a wide-ranging report into police corruption.

Of 2,400 referrals received by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) over the past year, more than 200 were classified as serious corruption.

Len Jackson, of the IPCC, said: “It is clear that allegations of corruption against any rank of officer, such as those we have seen in the last few months, severely damages the reputation and standing of all forces and officers.

“Our second report, which will follow before the end of this year, will provide further analysis of referrals and identification of issues and lessons to be learned for the police service as a whole.”

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