Former News of the World executive editor Neil Wallis has blasted the Metropolitan Police after it was revealed that it has spent an “incredible” £19.5m on operations Weeting, Elveden and Tuleta.
Wallis said the money could have been better spent on fighting more “serious” crimes such as murder, rape, terrorism and paedophilia.
He was reacting to Freedom of Information figures obtained by Press Gazette showing that as of the end of January this year £11.2m had been spent on the Operation Weeting hacking inquiry, £5m on Elveden (bribes) and £1.3m on Tuleta (computer hacking).
Projected costs for the end of March this year were £1.1m for Weeting, £0.7m for Elveden and £0.2m for Tuleta. These figures do not include legal costs associated with the operations.
“I think it’s an incredible amount of money when you think what else that money could have been spent on,” he told Press Gazette.
“And that won’t be the end of it. You can expect that amount of money to double.
“The police have already said that they expect the investigation to go on for a couple more years.”
The FoI request also revealed that 96 officers have worked on Weeting, 70 on Elveden and 19 on Tuleta. The operations have seen at least 59 journalists arrested since April 2011.
Wallis criticised the Metropolitan Police for arresting journalists – like him and The Sun’s Mike Sullivan – and keeping them on bail “while searching for crimes” they had not committed.
He described the combined probes as the “biggest police operation in history” and said resources should be distributed elsewhere.
“I accept that wrongdoing has to be investigated but it all has to come down to proportionality,” he said, adding that arresting journalists should be seen as less of a priority than tackling “sex crimes, rape, terrorism and murder”.
The Metropolitan Police chose not to comment.