Police, reporters and the security excuse that will not wash

25 July 2011

The excuse deployed by the police to explain their failure thoroughly to investigate the
News of the World hacking allegations is quite persuasive: national security was a priority, and this seemed like something of a sideshow.

During the first decade of 21st century, police officers found a new — and sometimes glamorous — role for themselves at the forefront of the battle against Islamic terrorism. Some
politicians and journalists have always been impressed by rough, tough coppers. But these guys were on the front line of the war on terror. Dead impressive.

For much of this period I was Home Affairs Editor of the Observer and I often heard politicians tell me how impressed they were by Andy Hayman. He walked and talked like a real policeman (unlike
that Oxbridge softy Ian Blair).

What we all didn’t know at a time is that Hayman himself had always wanted to be a journalist and his wish was granted.

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There is now a picture building of a cosy revolving door policy between the Met and News International, which extended to mutual backscratching expressed through work experience opportunities for
lucky siblings. We now know how close that relationship was in some cases. And Hayman was certainly not alone.

I now believe it is essential that any investigation into phone hacking should look into exactly how much time senior police officers were spending with journalists and newspaper executives during
this crucial time for our national security.

I remember very well the days and weeks immediately following July 7th 2005 when journalists were understandably desperate for any scraps of information. I also remember how easy it was to get Andy
Hayman on his mobile. At the time I thought it was odd that he was spending so much time talking to hacks (I can only assume that every 10 minutes on the phone to The Observer was matched by
lengthier calls to the tabloids).

Why does this matter? Isn’t it part of the job of the police to communicate to the public through media outlets? Well, yes and no. Hayman was the Assistant Commissioner with direct
responsibility for investigating the 7/7 bombings (and the later failed attempts on July 21st). It was important and right for him to have a relationship with senior journalists.

But what happened when things go wrong — as they did when Jean Charles de Menezes was killed on 22 July 2011, when he was mistaken for a terror suspect.

By this time, Ian Blair’s authority was being severely tested by off-the-record briefings from his senior officers. Considerable amounts of information was reaching the public through
informal lunches of the Crime Reporters Association, including, quite possibly, the first revelation that the Menezes shooting had been a mistake.

And that very weekend, senior officers were briefing journalists with an even more sensational story: that the 7/7 and 21/7 bombers had attended the same training camp in Snowdonia and might turn
out to be linked. Was this an attempt to distract attention from the catastrophe of the Menezes killing? As one of the journalists fed the story, I would certainly like to know.

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Show comments
  • WetherspoonThree

    We have been told that the senior London police officers felt compelled to have close relationships with the press so that they could jointly discuss something called ‘context’.

    What exactly is ‘context’ and why did it require so many meals to discuss it?

    And how many of these ‘important’ meetings between the press and London’s senior police officers, to discuss ‘context’, were held in the offices at News Scotland Yard, or in the Officers’ Mess or perhaps an interview suite.

    Or is it the case, that this type of conversation – to discuss ‘context’, can only be conducted in an expensive London restaurant far away from Scotland Yard.

  • ButcombeMan

    Frank P
    Read about this chap at MetPol. Look at the shambles he inherited.

    I believe he has an explosive book to come out soon. I do not suppose it will be kind to Ian Blair.

  • Frank P

    Butcombe Man


  • escapedRoger

    Churchill once said ‘ People sleep safely at night because rough men do violence to protect them’. But he didn’t mean the police! The Met has grown into a paramilitary goon squad and we, the people ,should demand a complete rethink and a return to a constabulary with something else in reserve (Oh!, we’ve got an army who shouldn’t be in Helmand, they’ll do).
    The Met are a complete disgrace, their so-called Trojan ARV unit kill more people with their cars than with their guns. The misuse of totalitarian legislation is endemic.

  • ButombeMan

    Just maybe the (Labour) politicians of the time liked Hayman because he was hitched alongside them pushing his utterly silly “90 days” before charge. It is important to remember he pushed that ridiculous notion, that Labour loved it and thought they were using it to outsmart the Tories on law & order.

    The briefing against Hayman and others came not so much from senior Officers but more from the auditors who had found massive internal problems (some such as misuse of Amex cards have been linked to Hayman) and could supposedly not get these issues dealt with by Ian Blair.

    There remain questions about the de Menezes shooting, who was the mysterious male in the control room, why did the log notes have to be altered? Why were they made so late? Why was Ian Blair not told the wrong man had been shot for about 24 hours? Where WAS Ian Blair at that time?

    Why was Cressida Dick promoted soon afterwards? On any normal measure she had cocked up? Why did she say (utterly amazing this) that she would do nothing differently?

    The reign of Ian Blair will come to be seen as one of the most damaging for MetPol since World War 2.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    It’s Ok, I know you think this is print, and you are not obliged to post regularly or to return to answer the questions of your commenters. But it is online, and properly done it is interactive. If you can’t deal with that, why not go back to the day job, we won’t miss you.

  • Rhoda Klapp


  • Keith

    Back in the good old days the only time you ever saw coppers on the telly was when they were appealing for information. These days they are always on it, slapping themselves on the back over some celebrity arrest or high-profile conviction, and expressing their views on the issues of the day.

    I myself can’t see why they need to be on the television at all. The Home Office has plenty of spin-doctors. Let them manage the media. Let the policemen get on with the, err, policing.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    A smell of empire-building also comes from the anti-terror bunch. It seems as if nothing was outside their purview. Phone hacking? Climategatr emails? All taken over under the auspices of anti-terror. Do you know there’s an outfit called NDET which is apparently part of the ACPO racket and provides ‘counter-terrorist support’ for police forces for money? This has all been going on in the open, police chiefs having been filling their boots, and their close mates in the press did nothing and said nothing, because the briefings kept coming. This is no time to get on your high horse about it Martin, come back here and explain what you thought you were doing.

  • Frank P

    “As one of the journalists fed the story, I would certainly like to know.”

    And as one who read the story I would certainly like to know what the meal cost?

    It takes two to tango, Martin.

  • cuffleyburgers

    rubbish the met’s job is to jail criminals, including bent coppers, jouranlists and politicians; terrorism is the responsibility of MI5 and special branch.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    How much better if you had warned us about this cosy relationship when you were part of it.

  • Herbert Thornton

    Police, reporters and the security excuse that will not wash? Ridiculous.

    It’s obvious to everybody that the Norwegian bombing and massacre, not to mention the existence of many Islamic terrorist cells, show that the News of the World hacking allegations are, in comparison, very small potatoes indeed.

  • In2minds

    Proof of the decline of a once great nation? Andy Hayman was in charge of security.

  • Matthew Blott

    I certainly thought the excuse not to investigate was bollocks. A modern police force with a multi-million pound budget – in excess of anything it’s ever had in the past (including the height of The Troubles) should be able to cope with more than one major investigation at a time. And it was clear to the police from what we now know that the hacking was on an industrial scale. I’m afraid the more plausible explanation is that the police were corrupt. Sadly, I can’t say I was that outraged by journalists hacking phones because I wouldn’t expect any less of a lot of them. But I did hold the police in higher regard and their behaviour is the real outrage of the phone hacking scandal. I hope some of them end up behind bars.

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