Britain's police chief quits over links to former NOTW staffer
Published 18/07/2011 | 05:00
Paul Stephenson, Britain's most senior police officer, resigned last night over his close links to the former News International executive Neil Wallis.
Pressure on the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police -- who was already under fire over the revelation that he hired former 'News of the World' deputy editor Mr Wallis as a public relations consultant -- intensified over the weekend after it emerged he accepted hospitality from a health resort that also employed Mr Wallis to promote its services.
Scotland Yard had earlier issued a strong denial that there was any link between Mr Wallis and Mr Stephenson's five-week stay earlier this year at the Champneys health spa in Hertfordshire, England, when he was recuperating from a major operation.
Scotland Yard said the accommodation was offered by the managing director of Champneys, Stephen Purdew, who is a close friend of Mr Stephenson.
The embattled officer yesterday faced an increasing clamour over the Yard's handling of the phone-hacking scandal.
A senior member of the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) had earlier said she would back a vote of no confidence in Mr Stephenson.
Jenny Jones, the Green member of the MPA and a former deputy mayor of London, said: "He no longer has my confidence. He is doing what has become a very, very political job and he is out of his depth.
"There are serious questions about his employment of Mr Wallis and we pay him £270,000 (€308,000) a year so he doesn't have to take freebies. I don't believe he is the person for the job any more," she added.
Although a vote of no confidence would have had no legal status, it would almost certainly have made the commissioner's position untenable.
One MPA member had said prior to Mr Stephenson's resignation yesterday: "I don't think you can misstate how important the coming few days are for him -- he is properly in trouble and he needs to show once more why we should have confidence in him."
British Home Secretary Theresa May had been due to tell MPs today that she believed Mr Stephenson was still doing a good job at the helm of Britain's largest police force, but that she had "concerns" over the closeness of the Yard's relationship with News International.
Hours after the arrest of Mr Wallis last Thursday on suspicion of conspiracy to intercept voicemails, the Met admitted it had employed the former 'News of the World' executive for PR advice between October 2009 and September 2010, paying his company, Chamy Media, £24,000 (€27,400) to work two days a month.
Chamy worked with senior officers, including Mr Stephenson and Assistant Commissioner John Yates, who has known Mr Wallis for 12 years.
Scotland Yard had strongly denied any impropriety in its dealings with Mr Wallis, who also met Mr Stephenson, Mr Yates and other senior officers for private dinners while he was employed at the 'News of the World' during investigations into the phone-hacking scandal.
Home Office minister James Brokenshire said: "I think there are questions about the Metropolitan Police's relationship with Chamy Media and also with Mr Wallis.
"The home secretary does have some concerns still in relation to the Metropolitan Police's relationship with Chamy Media."
Deputy British Prime Minister Nick Clegg had failed to offer Mr Stephenson his support yesterday, but said he was "incredibly worried" about the impact of recent events on public confidence in the police.