Erstwhile Met Police commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson and his one-time colleagues – John Yates, Andy Hayman and Peter Clarke – have all been cleared of misconduct during an inquiry by the cop watchdog into the phone-hacking scandal at News International.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission concluded that Stephenson, who resigned last month, had not committed any offence.
He walked from his job in July while insisting that his "integrity" was intact. Stephenson said at the time that he was stepping down due to the "excessive distraction" his presence at the helm was causing to the effective running of Britain's largest police force.
"I ... considered whether the public interest requires any other matter to be investigated by the IPCC, including Sir Paul's acceptance of hospitality from a family friend at Champneys Medical, unconnected to his professional life, while he was on sick leave," said IPCC deputy chair Deborah Glass in a statement issued this lunchtime.
The health spa was promoted by PR firm Outside Organisation, whose managing director was Neil Wallis – the former deputy editor of the News of the World.
Wallis was arrested on 14 July by Met police investigating alleged phone-hacking at the now-defunct Sunday tabloid.
"The public will make its own judgments about whether any senior public official should accept hospitality to this extent from anyone – or indeed about a policy which regards hospitality as acceptable merely because it is disclosed," said Glass.
"But whether or not the acceptance of hospitality amounts to recordable conduct, I do not consider that it is necessary to investigate it further. Sir Paul Stephenson has given a public account of his actions and of course, has resigned."
Scotland Yard's assistant commissioner John Yates also quit his job at the Met last month, as revelations in the phone-tapping saga at News International, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, continued to unravel.
Glass said today that given Yates had been questioned in six separate parliamentary grillings over his involvement in phone hacking, the IPCC could not see what any further probe would achieve.
"We would agree that he made a poor decision in 2009," she said.
Last month, Yates told MPs that he regretted not re-opening the Met's original investigation into phone-hacking claims in 2009.
"I felt the evidence had been followed," he said at the time.
Yates, who stood down from his position on 18 July, spent one day in 2009 looking at the initial investigation into phone-hacking, but concluded that there was nothing worth pursuing further.
"He himself has acknowledged that, given what is now known, he made a poor decision for which he has now taken responsibility. Had no new investigation into phone hacking begun this may well have been a recommendation, but the current investigation which started in January 2011 makes this unnecessary," said Glass.
She said she had also found no reason to carry out any further investigation into the conduct of Peter Clarke, who led the original phone-hacking investigation at the Met, which at the time was handling around 70 live operations relating to terrorist plots.
Glass noted that the Met's ex-deputy commissioner Andy Hayman's conduct had not been referred to the IPCC by the Metropolitan Police Authority.
"[H]is social contacts with News International and subsequent employment by the Times [which is owned by News International] have been criticised," she said.
"While there are serious issues that need to be scrutinised about the extent of contact between senior police officers and the media – and particularly around hospitality – in the absence of any actual evidence of impropriety these are, in my view, for the inquiry to explore," said Glass.
An independent inquiry has been launched by the police watchdog into claims that Yates had secured a job at the Met for the daughter of Neil Wallis.
The former Murdoch man's Chamy Media company's contract with Scotland Yard – offering up PR services to England's largest police force between October 2009 and September 2010 – is also being investigated by the IPCC, said Glass.
The Commission is separately probing alleged police corruption linked to the phone-hacking scandal, which the Met is investigating as part of Operation Weeting.
"Should any further evidence emerge, through our investigations or from the Leveson Inquiry, of any impropriety by an officer, retired or otherwise of any rank, I would expect it to be recorded by the appropriate authority and referred to the IPCC," Glass added.
"On this basis I will keep all of these decisions under review as the inquiry progresses."
Yates said in a statement via the Met that he was "pleased" that the IPCC was no longer investigating him in relation to any involvement in the phone-tapping issues that had been flagged by the MPA.
"I am disappointed with the IPCC's decision to investigate my peripheral involvement in recruitment process of Neil Wallis's daughter," said Yates.
"I strongly deny any wrongdoing and I am completely confident that I will be exonerated.
"I have been entirely open about this matter and I will cooperate fully with the investigation which I hope will be conducted swiftly," he added. ®