London’s police commissioner resigned his post on Sunday, just a few hours after a former executive for Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp was arrested in connection with the News Of The World phone hacking scandal.
Sir Paul Stephenson, chief of the Metropolitan Police Force, also known as Scotland Yard, announced his resignation in a press conference and explained that the media coverage of the scandal “not only provide[s] excessive distraction both for myself and colleagues, but [is] likely to continue for some time.”
Stephenson and the police services have been in the spotlight in the wake of allegations that officers accepted bribes from reporters for Murdoch’s News Of The World tabloid — reporters who have been accused of hacking into the phone records of murder and terrorism victims, celebrities, and public officials. Scotland Yard has also been criticized for botching the initial investigation into News Of The World phone hacking in 2006. Two people were convicted then, but recent revelations suggest the scandal was far more sprawling then the initial investigation found.
Stephenson himself has also been criticized for his decision to hire Neil Wallis, who was arrested last week in connection with the scandal, as a public relations adviser for Scotland Yard.
In his statement, Stephenson denied that he knew of any wrongdoing during his tenure as police chief. “I had no knowledge of, or involvement in, the original investigation into phone hacking in 2006 that successfully led to the conviction and imprisonment of two men,” he said. “I had no reason to believe this was anything other than a successful investigation. I was unaware that there were any other documents in our possession of the nature that have now emerged.”
Stephenson also denied that he knew Wallis may have been involved in the scandal when he hired him. “I have heard suggestions that we must have suspected the alleged involvement of Mr Wallis in phone hacking. Let me say unequivocally that I did not and had no reason to have done so,” he continued.
“I saw senior figures from News International providing evidence that the misbehaviour was confined to a rogue few and not known about at the top,” Stephenson added.
Read the full statement here.
Earlier Sunday, Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of News International, which publishes all of News Corp’s U.K. newspapers, was arrested on charges of illegally intercepting communications and organizing improper payments to police officers. She had resigned from her position on Friday.