Arab Today, arab today leveson inquiry concern over police evidence
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Leveson inquiry: concern over police evidence

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Arab Today, arab today Leveson inquiry: concern over police evidence

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The attorney general is examining whether the head of Scotland Yard's investigation into illegal news gathering has prejudiced fair trials for any journalists involved through her evidence to the Leveson inquiry. Dominic Grieve's office is scrutinising the testimony made by Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers 10 days ago amid concerns that her comments were potentially in contempt of court. Akers is the head of three linked inquiries into phone hacking, alleged bribes and computer hacking. She said that the Sun newspaper was responsible for creating a "network of corrupted officials" and creating a "culture of illegal payments" to officials from the police, Ministry of Defence and other public bodies. In a statement about her investigation she included details of "multiple payments" by the Sun journalists to public officials, with one individual receiving £80,000, while one journalist, she said, drew more than £150,000 over the years to pay sources, including public officials. The stories that resulted from these disclosures were "salacious gossip", she said, and not in the public interest. She also gave details of how the relative of one arrested public official acted as a conduit to hide the cheque payment to that individual. The Guardian understands the attorney general has received at least one complaint raising concerns that Akers's evidence – given in the midst of a criminal inquiry – could be in breach of the Contempt of Court Act and could prejudice further legal action against any of the individuals arrested. Lawyers for the attorney are investigating. A spokeswoman for the attorney general told the Guardian: "Evidence given during the Leveson inquiry has been drawn to the attention of the attorney general's office. The attorney general will consider the concerns raised." Eleven Sun journalists have been arrested in relation to alleged bribes to public officials; all have been named in the media. None have been charged. The attorney general's intervention comes as a former Met commissioner warned that the move to secrecy by Scotland Yard in the wake of the phone hacking scandal threatened to increase the chance of rioting on Britain's streets. Lord Stevens, who ran the Met from 2000-05, told Lord Justice Leveson on Tuesday that the pendulum of police and media relations had swung too far away from openness. Stevens, who as Met commissioner introduced an open door policy for the media, said he would have picked up and "tirelessly" pursued the issues raised by the Guardian in 2009 about phone hacking at the News of the World. But he said the reaction to the hacking revelations had created an unhealthy fear of the press among police officers. "From what I have heard people are absolutely terrified of picking up the phone and speaking to the press in any way," he said. "I don't think that is healthy. The press has their job to do, they have delivered some outstanding work, there has to be a relationship with them for the right reasons." He said that not engaging with the press put the police at risk of not being trusted, and in turn risked causing outbreaks of rioting. "Let me make this clear, in my view this is extremely damaging to British policing," he said. "The media need to know what the police are doing. It is absolutely essential to have transparency and openness … If there's no engagement then the police risk not being part of the community. This will ultimately result in them being distrusted … It is precisely in these conditions that public order outbreaks occur as community tensions are heightened and there is public concern over the actions of the police." Lord Condon, the Met commissioner from 1993 to 2000, said there should not be an overly bureaucratic response to the phone hacking revelations. "I would be worried about anything which suggested that any contact between the police and the media was almost inherently wrong, that the media are given some sort of pariah status, and almost being in the same room, or within 50 yards of them, a police officer would be required to take a note," he said. But Condon suggested that officers accepting hospitality from journalists was a dangerous area. "In my opinion hospitality can be the start of a grooming process which can lead to unethical or inappropriate behaviour." Both said they favoured no editors during their tenure at the Yard and their relationships with the media during their tenure had always been entirely professional. Stevens, who wrote for the News of the World after retirement from the Met, said he stopped the column after the 2007 convictions of Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire over phone hacking. "I saw Colin Myler and Neil Wallis and told them I didn't want to continue," he said. "I never gave them reasons but from that night on I never saw them again." Stevens said his decision to end the contract with the paper – which latterly was paying him £7,000 an article – was fuelled by other information he received about "some unethical behaviour in relation to one or two articles that had got headlines in the News of the World." He did not elaborate.

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