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Posted Jul 17, 2011, 4:08 pm
Scotland Yard Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson resigned Sunday as the News of the World phone hacking scandal continued to unfold. Britain's most senior police official, in resigning, cited allegations tying the police force with Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. empire during the hacking scandal, but insisted he had done nothing wrong, according to AFP.
The British police had been accused of accepting bribes from News of the World journalists and of not aggressively investigating allegations of phone hacking, the BBC reported. Stephenson had earlier confirmed that some police officers had received large sums of money to provide information to help the News of the World's operatives to hack into mobile phones, but he said Sunday he had no knowledge of the extent of the hacking activities going on, according to Reuters.
The leadership of Scotland Yard was also under pressure when information came out that a former deputy editor of News of the World, Neil Wallis, had been employed as an adviser to the Yard's top officers last year, according to the Guardian. Wallis, 60, was arrested last week in connection with the ever-widening phone hacking scandal.
The spotlight on Stephenson intensified earlier Sunday after reports surfaced that the police chief and his wife accepted a free five-week stay earlier this year at a health spa where Wallis worked as a public relations consultant, according to the Guardian.
In a statement published in the Telegraph on Sunday, Stephenson said:
I have taken this decision as a consequence of the ongoing speculation and accusations relating to the Met's links with News International at a senior level and in particular in relation to Mr Neil Wallis who as you know was arrested in connection with Operation Weeting last week.
He said that he had not made the decision to employ Wallis in his PR role, nor did he have any knowledge of Wallis's involvement in phone hacking, according to VOA.
A week ago, Scotland Yard's assistant commissioner, John Yates, the police officer in charge of investigating phone hacking at News of the World, apologized to victims of the scandal, saying that he "deeply regretted" his decision not to reopen an investigation into News International in 2009, according to GlobalPost. Yates said that Scotland Yard’s reputation had been “very damaged.” Yates decided to not reopen the case in 2009 after just eight hours’ consideration.
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Stephenson's resignation came hours after Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of the News of the World's parent company, News International, was arrested earlier on Sunday. She was the 10th person arrested in connection with the hacking scandal.
News of the World was closed last week by Murdoch after allegations that journalists at the tabloid had illegally accessed the cellphone voicemails of hundreds of celebrities, politicians, families of British soldiers who died in Afghanistan and a young murder victim, and that they had illegally paid police for information and for help with the the hacking, according to VOA.
In resigning on Sunday, Stephenson emphasized that his integrity was not in question. According to his statement published in the Telegraph:
Let me state clearly, I and the people who know me know that my integrity is completely intact. I may wish we had done some things differently, but I will not lose sleep over my personal integrity.