Ex-police chiefs cleared of phone-hacking misconduct

THE Scotland Yard chiefs who quit over the phone- hacking scandal have been cleared of misconduct.

Allegations against the former Metropolitan Police commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, and his ex-assistant, John Yates, were thrown out yesterday by the police watchdog.

Andy Hayman and Peter Clarke will escape further investigation despite the “damaging effect of the perceived inadequate response” to criminal activities at the News of the World, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said.

Sir Paul and Mr Yates – who both resigned last month as police were engulfed by allegations of payments from journalists to officers and criticism over the force’s hiring of hacking suspect Neil Wallis as a PR consultant – welcomed the watchdog’s announcement.

Sir Paul said the ruling was “as I would have expected it to be” as he added that he regretted that resources “have had to be expended on this matter”.

He criticised the IPCC for saying the public would make its own judgements about him accepting free hospitality while on sick leave.

“The IPCC’s comments about my acceptance of assistance from a friend through my family, unconnected to my professional life, of services from Cham- pneys’ Medical Services, which they chose to examine under their powers without any external referral, does in my view fall a little short of full and proper context,” Sir Paul added.

“However, this is a matter for their judgement.”

An independent investigation into allegations that Mr Yates secured a Scotland Yard job for the daughter of Mr Wallis will continue.

The officers were cleared as the crisis was reignited by fresh evidence claiming phone hacking was “widely discussed’ at the now closed tabloid under Andy Coulson’s editorship.

The announcement came as the British Prime Minister was forced to repeat his claim that he would have “taken different decisions” over the appointment of former News of the World editor Andy Coulson as his director of communications.

David Cameron was speaking after papers published by the Commons culture, media and sport committee suggested phone hacking frequently came up at the paper’s editorial meetings.

Labour MP Tom Watson described the latest claims as “devastating”.

He also said they suggested previous evidence given by Mr Coulson to the committee was “misleading and probably deceptive”.

During a visit to Cheshire to promote enterprise zones, Cameron was asked whether the appointment of Mr Coulson raised questions over his judgement.

He said: “Clearly, if I had known then all the things I know now, then obviously I would have taken different decisions.”

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