The newly appointed head of the Metropolitan Police, Bernard Hogan-Howe, has ordered an independent review of his force’s investigation into the News of the World’s phone-hacking scandal.
The decision to call in Durham Police to examine the evidence being gathered by Scotland Yard in Operation Weeting brings to 11 the number of formal inquiries focused on the illegal interception of phone messages by the now defunct News International title.
Jon Stoddart, Chief Constable of Durham, will head the latest review. Officers from outside London will be drafted in to boost the independent credentials of the examination.
Scotland Yard revealed yesterday that Hogan-Howe had taken the decision to review Operation Weeting when he was appointed Acting Deputy Commissioner following the departure of the Assistant Commissioner, John Yates, and the Commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson.
In an interview with London’s Evening Standard newspaper, Hogan-Howe said he had asked for the independent review to “reassure us we are going in the right direction, though I think we are”.
Scotland Yard emphasised that nothing unusual should be read into the review.
A formal statement from the Met stated it was “considered best practice in a sensitive inquiry of this nature”.
Operation Weeting began in January and is headed by the Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Sue Akers, with almost 50 officers involved.
Akers is also involved in overseeing another linked inquiry which is focusing on the alleged bribing of police officers. The Met’s directorate of professional standards is leading this examination with supervision by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
The review of Weeting’s operations will accompany another directive from Hogan-Howe, who yesterday announced that he intended to “reset the boundaries between the police and the media” which have been in the spotlight throughout each revelation of the scandal.
He told the Metropolitan Police Authority the police’s relationship with the media had “gone too far”.
He also called for a new era of transparency. It is understood he has already laid the foundations for a new set of guidelines for dealing with the media that will be issued to Met officers.
Stoddart became Chief Constable of Durham Constabulary in 2005 after two years as his force’s Deputy Chief Constable. Although the Stoddart-led review will concentrate on Weeting, around 120 police officers throughout Britain – in London and Strathclyde – are involved in investigations linked to the News of the World hacking.