A former senior police officer has accused a newspaper group of trying to skew an investigation into a Conservative minister at the Leveson Inquiry today.
Bob Quick, former assistant commissioner at the Met, said he came under scrutiny from the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday after heading an investigation into then shadow immigration minster Damian Green.
He said the investigation revealed Green had been leaked confidential information from senior civil servant Christopher Galley and was “perfectly legitimate”. Despite this, he received little support from the Met and was criticised in the press for his approach.
A wedding care hire business run by Quick’s wife became then became the target for a series of Mail on Sunday articles. The former officer said he became aware of the situation after a client contacted his wife to say a journalist had been enquiring about the business. The paper then contacted Dick Fedorcio, the Met’s head of press, to say they were running a story claiming serving police officers were working for the business as chauffeurs. When Quick replied saying this was untrue, a different story was printed claiming the business posed a security risk, as he was responsible for counter terrorism.
Quick told the inquiry: “I felt that I ought to ask for the [Met’s] support but I didn’t feel, honestly, that it was forthcoming.”
He said he was surprised when former assistant commissioner John Yates told him the inquiry was “doomed” and advised him to drop it. He told the inquiry he was concerned that Yates had been close with Mail journalist Stephen Wright.
He added: “We had just seized a load of evidence that we hadn’t the opportunity to examine yet… it didn’t seem a tenable argument.”
Quick was responsible for an investigation into Yates’s contact with the media after Gus O’Donnell, former cabinet chief secretary, expressed concern over his dealings with the press.
Quick said he did not believe there had been any leaks but recommended the assistant commissioner’s phone records be audited. Yates refused, saying he was too well connected. He repeated he was “very well connected” when pressed by the officer.
Quick was asked about Operation Nigeria, a police investigation into detective agency Southern Investigations in 1999, which revealed corruption within the force. It was discovered a number of journalists, specifically from the Sun and News of the World, had contact with the agency.
He said: “It became apparent that some officers were being bribed to provide stories. I took the view that was a threat to the organisation and compiled a short report proposing that we might deal with that by way of an investigation looking at financial transactions.
“In particular we believed journalists paying the bribes were not paying them from their own funds. Intelligence revealed payments of £500 to £2,000, therefore we believed they were claiming that money back from their employers.”
Quick told the inquiry he submitted a report recommending an investigation into police corruption to assistant commissioner Andy Hayman, who decided it would be too “risky”. Quick said he disagreed with Hayman’s assessment but felt there was enough evidence to prove journalists had been bribing officers.
Tim Godwin, former deputy commissioner, told the inquiry he had “different values” to other senior officers at the Met, who frequently socialised with journalists and editors.
He added: “We pretty much had common values about honesty and integrity. I think the difference would be that there was one style favoured by some members and another style, which was my style, where I didn’t feel comfortable in that environment.”
He said he had a conversation with Yates about his relationships with members of the press but did not realise the extent of his friendship with Neil Wallis, deputy editor at News of the World, until hearing evidence at the inquiry.
Robert Jay QC did not question Godwin over his hospitality register as there was “nothing of interest” to examine. Lord Justice Leveson said this was significant in itself as it displayed a difference in approach between Godwin and some of his colleagues.
Godwin said he had limited contact with the media but would meet journalists in his office and attend events such as the Crime Reporters Association Christmas party.