As UK Prime Minister David Cameron called an emergency session of Parliament 7/18 over the phone hacking crisis, it triggered upheaval in the upper ranks of Britain’s police. Monday saw the resignation of Assistant Commissioner John Yates — Scotland Yard’s top anti-terrorist officer — and police chief Paul Stephenson, over their links to now-arrested Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor and Rebekah Brooks, former head of News Corp.’s News International.
The resignations are making it harder for Cameron to contain the intensifying scandal on the eve of an unwelcome public grilling by lawmakers for Murdoch and his son James. The government quickly announced an inquiry into police-media relations and corruption.
Home Secretary Theresa May said that people were naturally asking “who polices the police,” and announced an inquiry into “instances of undue influence, inappropriate contractual arrangements and other abuses of power in police relationships with the media and other parties.”
Also Monday, Britain’s police watchdog said it had received allegations of potential wrongdoing in connection with phone hacking against four senior officers — Stephenson, Yates and two former senior officers. One of the claims is that Yates inappropriately helped get a job for the daughter of former News of the World editor, Neil Wallis.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission said it was looking into the claims. Yates said he had done nothing wrong.
“I have acted with complete integrity,” he said. “My conscience is clear.”
Cameron is under heavy pressure after the resignations of Stephenson and Yates, and the arrest of Brooks — a friend and neighbor whom he has met at least six times since entering office 14 months ago — on suspicion of hacking into the cell phones of celebrities, politicians and others in the news and bribing police for information.
Cameron insisted his Conservative-led government had “taken very decisive action” by setting up a judge-led inquiry into the wrongdoing at the now-defunct Murdoch tabloid News of the World and into the overall relations between British politicians, the media and police. “We have helped to ensure a large and properly resourced police investigation that can get to the bottom of what happened, and wrongdoing, and we have pretty much demonstrated complete transparency in terms of media contact.”
Opposition leader Ed Miliband, however, said Cameron needed to answer “a whole series of questions” about his relationships with Brooks, James Murdoch and Coulson, who Cameron later hired as his communications chief. Coulson resigned from that post in January and was arrested earlier this month in the scandal.