by a Newsnet reporter
Sir Paul Stephenson, the Commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police which is heading the investigation into the NotW phone hacking and corruption scandal, announced his shock resignation yesterday. Sir Paul had come under heavy criticism in recent days due to his appointment of Neil Wallis as a public relations consultant for the force. Mr Wallis was formerly deputy editor of the News of the World and was arrested on Thursday in connection with the scandal.
After leaving the News of the World, Mr Wallis was employed from October 2009 to September 2010 in a part-time job with the force, advising senior officers on their dealings with the press and media. At the same time the force was conducting its first investigation into the NotW phone hacking allegations, and concluded that there was no need to reopen a criminal investigation into the affair.
Pressure on Sir Paul mounted after it came to light that he had accepted £12,000 worth of hospitality at an expensive spa in Hertfordshire while he was recovering from a recent operation on his knee. The PR consultant for the spa is Mr Wallis. The spa is run by Stephen Purdew, a friend of former News International chief Rebekah Brooks who was arrested in connection with the scandal yesterday.
The commissioner said that he decided to resign “as a consequence of the ongoing speculation and accusations relating to the Met’s links with News International”.
Speaking about his decision, Sir Paul said: “Let me state clearly. I, and the people who know me, know that my integrity is completely intact. I may wish we had done some things differently but I will not lose any sleep over my personal intergrity.”
Mayor of London Boris Johnson announced the resignation to the press on Sunday evening, saying: “It is with great sadness and reluctance that I have tonight accepted the resignation of Sir Paul Stephenson as commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service.
“I would like to stress that I have absolutely no reason to doubt the complete integrity of Sir Paul and I believe him to be a fine, passionate and committed public servant who has done a huge amount of good for our city.
Mark Lewis, solicitor for the family of Milly Dowler, whose phone was allegedly hacked by NotW journalists, told Sky News that it was a “significant day”. Mr Lewis added: “These are very important times, the public are standing up to the three Ps – press, politics and the police.”
When asked by the reporter if the recent developments meant that events were starting to get out of hand, Mr Lewis replied: “It is not in danger of getting out of hand, it was out of hand, it was those unhealthy relationships that existed with the News of the World.”
Sources from Downing Street insist that no pressure was put on Sir Paul Stephenson to resign, and that his decision to do so came as a surprise.