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Yates attacked over hacking role
Former Met 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 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."
Lord Justice Leveson went on: "In 2006, the decision to limit the prosecutions at that time was clearly justifiable.
"Unfortunately, the approach of the police and some of the decisions made in the period 2006/2010 can be characterised as insufficiently thought through (and, in any event, not followed up or taken forward), wrong and unduly defensive (and not merely with the benefit of hindsight).
"Accepting, however, the relationship between Mr Yates and Mr Wallis (which was not in issue), there is no evidence to suggest that anyone was influenced either directly or indirectly in the conduct of the investigation by any fear or wish for favour from News International.
"The mistakes were neither more nor less than that: the integrity of the officers who gave evidence and were directly involved in the investigation shone through what they said and I do not doubt it."
Commenting on the general relationship between the press and the police - an area tackled by the inquiry - the report said there needed to be a "constructive tension and absolutely not a self-serving cosiness".
The Leveson Inquiry chairman said he had not found any extensive evidence of police corruption, and the scale of the problem of "leaks" should be kept in proportion.
"I must start by making it clear that although Operation Elveden (concerned with bribery of public officials) is proceeding, the Inquiry has not unearthed extensive evidence of police corruption, nor is there evidence satisfying the standard of proof that I have adopted, namely the balance of probabilities, that significant numbers of police officers lack integrity in one or more of the respects I have examined."
The inquiry heard evidence suggesting close relationships between journalists and police officers - including the loan of a horse by the Metropolitan Police (MPS) to former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, and meals and drinks between other media figures and police.
But Lord Justice Leveson said this should also be put in its proper context, saying: "No one could reasonably conclude that inappropriately lavish entertainment is or has been rife in the MPS, or that the officers involved in what may be described as the most damaging evidence were corrupt.
"The issue is about perception, more than integrity."
The report said that "serious consideration" should be given to putting a 12-month "cooling off" period into contracts that would stop former senior police officers being employed by the press.
Lord Justice Leveson recommended that "off-the-record" briefings by police to journalists should be discontinued.
He said the term "non-reportable briefing" should be used to cover a background briefing that is not to be reported, and "embargoed briefing" for one where the content can be reported but not until a certain time.
He said Acpo rank officers should record all contact with the media, and that record should be available publicly.
The report also recommended that police should re-examine the auditing of access to the Police National Computer (PNC).
It also said that Acpo guidance should "more specifically spell out the dangers of consuming alcohol in a setting of casual hospitality (without necessarily specifying a blanket ban)".