Monday, 18 July 2011

Sir Paul Stephenson
It is just two weeks since the Guardian broke the story about Millie Dowler’s phone being hacked by a private investigator working for the News of the World. The pace of events since then has been hectic. Occasional lulls followed by periods of frenzied developments. 
The resignation of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner is the latest chapter in this extraordinary period. 
In his resignation statement Stephenson said, "I may wish we had done some things differently, but I will not lose sleep over my personal integrity.” 
He claims not to have been informed about the extent of the phone hacking scandal by his senior colleagues. He says he had nothing to do with the hiring of Neil Wallis, the ex-deputy editor of the NOTW. He also takes credit for giving the force strong leadership in difficult times. Up to a point Lord Copper. 
The recent performance of the Met is a cause for serious concern. The death of Ian Tomlinson yet again showed just how the Met’s first reaction to a serious incident is to lie and cover up the facts. Just as they did with Jean Charles de Menezez and just as they successfully did all those years ago with the death of Blair Peach. The collapse of the case against the climate change protestors only came about because an undercover police spy spilled the beans. The inquiry into that fiasco is underway and the Met are in the firing line over their handling of these officers. Stephenson takes credit for the policing of the recent Royal Wedding and for, “The professional and restrained approach to unexpected levels of violence in recent student demonstrations.” He seems to have forgotten that there is a current case against the use of kettling against 11 year olds currently in the courts. Yes, the full might of the anti-riot squad deployed against 11 year olds. Confined in a small space without access to food, water or toilets for up to 12 hours. Now that is 'professional and restrained'!
Then we come to the really serious stuff. It emerged over the last fortnight just how close the relationship between the NOTW execs and journalists have been with the Met. At lower levels, officers are regularly and routinely paid for information. At higher levels, senior officers engaged in investigating the company had a series of dinners and meals together.  By April 2010, the Guardian was writing of the Met's original investigation: "Something very worrying has been going on at Scotland Yard. We now know that in dealing with the phone-hacking affair at the News of the World, they cut short their original inquiry; suppressed evidence; misled the public and the press; concealed information and broke the law." Then this year Stephenson helped himself to a freebie - a 5 week stay in a health spa - usual cost £12k. 
From top to bottom the organisation stinks. 
Any attempt to clean it up must come from the top. There needs to be a purge at all levels of the force. 
We can also do without the hypocritical guff emanating from politicians involved. All talk of ‘doing the honourable thing’ and ‘accepting his resignation with sadness and reluctance’ is basically twaddle. Boris Johnson had a very serious discussion with Stephenson about the Wallis affair last Thursday. The home Secretary was equally unimpressed and no doubt reflected the view of Downing Street. 
All talk of there being no pressure is just so much hot air.
Let us leave the last word to the egregious Vaz, "I don't think we should criticise people when they decide to take responsibility."

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