FORMER Met police assistant commissioner John Yates should have arranged for a different officer to lead a review into the original phone hacking investigation, because of his links with the News of the World, the Leveson Inquiry has found.
Lord Justice Leveson said a “series of poor decisions, poorly executed” had contributed to the idea that closeness between the Met Police and News International made officers reluctant to fully investigate hacking.
But he said he had seen no reason to doubt the integrity of the police and senior officers concerned.
Police launched the original phone hacking investigation, dubbed Operation Caryatid, after members of the royal household contacted them with concerns that their voicemails were being hacked by the News of the World in December 2005.
The newspaper's former royal reporter Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire were both jailed in 2007 for hacking.
But police later fell under fire for failing to widen the scope of the investigation despite evidence suggesting there would be many more victims.
Mr Yates, former assistant commissioner at the Met Police, was said to have decided in a matter of hours that there was no fresh material that could lead to convictions.
He resigned in July 2011 over criticism of his review two years previously.
Lord Justice Leveson today said that Mr Yates - friends with Neil Wallis, the then deputy editor of the newspaper - should have made sure he was not involved.
"Because of its importance to the reputation of the Metropolitan Police each step of the way in which Operation Caryatid was executed and later reviewed has been analysed in great detail," he said.
"In reality, I am satisfied that I have seen no basis for challenging at any stage the integrity of the police, or that of the senior police officers concerned.
"What is, however, equally clear is that a series of poor decisions, poorly executed, all came together to contribute to the perception that I have recognised."
The report acknowledged that the decision to restrict the original investigation was justified, given the pressures of counter-terrorism activities at the time.
But it added: "Although he was a very experienced police officer, I regret that Assistant Commissioner Yates did not reflect on whether he should be involved in an investigation into the newspaper at which he had friends, including one who was the deputy editor (in circumstances in which decisions by the Metropolitan Police and the Crown Prosecution Service were coming under scrutiny).
"He would have been better advised to arrange for a different officer to conduct it.
"That is even more so when he decided, within hours and before the case papers had been recovered and could be properly reviewed, that there were no grounds for reviewing the decision: errors of recollection were inevitable and they were made.
"Furthermore, publicly to announce that conclusion, on camera, on the same day meant that there was no turning back.
"A defensive mindset was then established which affected all that followed."