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Met police representatives and crime reporters before Leveson inquiry this week

March 12th, 2012 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Legal

Copyright: Sean Dempsey/PA

The Leveson inquiry moves into week three of module two today, starting with evidence from Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick of the Metropolitan Police and Sir Dennis O’Connor, head of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.

On Tuesday Dick Fedorcio, director of communications at the Met Police, will give appear before the inquiry.

It is expected that Fedorcio will be asked about his relationship with journalists at News International and also about the advice he gave senior officers on socialising with journalists.

On Wednesday morning Jeff Edwards, representing the Crime Reporters’ Association, will give evidence, along with journalists from the Guardian, the Independent and the Times. A written statement from a Daily Telegraph journalist will be read.

On the last day of this week’s hearings evidence will be heard from the Sun’s Mike Sullivan, who was named in the press as one of four current and former journalists at the Sun arrested and bailed by officers from Operation Elveden on Saturday, 28 January.

See the full witness list here.

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Standard: Metropolitan police loaned horse to Rebekah Brooks

February 28th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Journalism

Another development in the News International/Metropolitan police story has emerged today – with the Evening Standard reporting that the Metropolitan police loaned Rebekah Brooks a police horse for two years.

The paper says it raises questions about the force’s links with Rupert Murdoch’s UK newspaper empire. A friend told the paper: “Rebekah acted as a foster carer for the horse. Anybody can agree to do this with the Met if they have the land and facilities to pay for its upkeep.”

The Metropolitan police said in a statement:

“When a police horse reaches the end of its working life, Mounted Branch officers find it a suitable retirement home.

Whilst responsibility for feeding the animal and paying vet bills passes to the person entrusted to its care at its new home, the horse remains the property of the Metropolitan Police Service.

Retired police horses are not sold on and can be returned to the care of the MPS at any time.

In 2008 a retired MPS horse was loaned to Rebekah Brooks. The horse was subsequently re-housed with a police officer in 2010.”

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Met to apologise for failing to warn phone-hack victims

February 7th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism

The Metropolitan police is to apologise to some of the victims of phone hacking for failing to inform them during its initial investigation in 2006 and 2007.

The high court ruled today that the force had “breached a legal obligation” to the claimants, including John Prescott and MP Chris Bryant.

The Metropolitan police said in a statement today that it “accepts more should have been done by police in relation to those identified as victims and potential victims of phone hacking several years ago”.

The force said it would be apologising personally to each claimant.

The statement reads:

It is a matter of public record that the unprecedented increase in anti-terrorist investigations resulted in the parameters of the original inquiry being tightly drawn, and officers considered the prosecution and conviction of Clive Goodman and Glen Mulcaire as a successful outcome of their investigation.

There are now more than 130 officers involved in the current phone-hacking inquiry (Weeting) and the two operations being run in conjunction with it and this in part reflects the lessons that have been learned about how police should deal with the victims of such crimes.

Today’s settlement does not entail damages being paid by the MPS and as the court has made clear, sets no precedent for the future. How the MPS treats victims goes to the very heart of what we do. It was important that this case did not result in such a wide duty being placed on police officers that it could direct them away from their core purpose of preventing and detecting crime.

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Metropolitan Police statement on dropped action against Guardian

September 21st, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Legal, Newspapers

The Metropolitan Police has said it will no longer pursue plans to apply for a court order which would force the Guardian to hand over documents revealing sources of some of its phone hacking coverage.

Here is our story on how the Met has dropped plans to order Guardian source disclosure. Below is the police force’s statement in full, as issued yesterday (Tuesday):

The Metropolitan Police’s Directorate of Professional Standards yesterday consulted the Crown Prosecution Service about the alleged leaking of information by a police officer from Operation Weeting.

The CPS has today asked that more information be provided to its lawyers and for appropriate time to consider the matter. In addition the MPS has taken further legal advice this afternoon and as a result has decided not to pursue, at this time, the application for production orders scheduled for hearing on Friday, 23 September. We have agreed with the CPS that we will work jointly with them in considering the next steps.

This decision does not mean that the investigation has been concluded. This investigation, led by the DPS – not Operation Weeting, has always been about establishing whether a police officer has leaked information, and gathering any evidence that proves or disproves that. Despite recent media reports there was no intention to target journalists or disregard journalists’ obligations to protect their sources.

It is not acceptable for police officers to leak information about any investigation, let alone one as sensitive and high profile as Operation Weeting.

Notwithstanding the decision made this afternoon it should be noted that the application for production orders was made under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE), NOT the Official Secrets Act (OSA).

The Official Secrets Act was only mentioned in the application in relation to possible offences in connection with the officer from Operation Weeting, who was arrested on August 18 2011 on suspicion of misconduct in a public office relating to unauthorised disclosure of information. He remains on bail and is suspended.

Separately, the MPS remains committed to the phone hacking investigation under Operation Weeting.

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Phone hacking: Harbottle & Lewis authorised to respond to MPs and police questions

News Corporation has confirmed that law firm Harbottle & Lewis has been authorised to respond to questions from the Metropolitan police and select committees on the phone-hacking case.

The firm was featured in a number of questions from MPs during the culture, media and sport select committee on Tuesday, when News Corporation boss Rupert Murdoch, his son James and former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks were asked about a file of emails, said to form part of the Harbottle & Lewis review, and the contents of which were said by Brooks to “put a new light” on information in the case later on.

Giving evidence, James Murdoch, chairman of News International, said the company engaged a law firm to review a number of emails and that it offered its opinion on those.

What I do know is that the company rested on that, rested on the fact that the police told us that there was no new evidence and no reason for a new investigation, and rested on the opinion of the PCC that there was no new information and no reason to carry it further.

It was not until new evidence emerged from the civil litigations that were going on that the company immediately went to the police, restarted this, and the company has done the right thing in that respect.

Yesterday (20 July) the law firm said it was restricted from responding to some of the comments because of client confidentiality, but News Corporation’s management and standards committee (MSC) has since announced that News International has decided to authorise the law firm to answer questions from the Metropolitan police and select committees.

The MSC is authorised to co-operate fully with all relevant investigations and inquiries in the News of the World phone hacking case, police payments and all other related issues across News International, as well as conducting its own inquiries where appropriate

According to a report by the Financial Times the firm is now reviewing what can be said.

While lawmakers questioned why the e-mails Harbottle reviewed were not handed to police, the solicitors’ regulatory code says that a duty to report criminality can be overridden by client confidentiality, except where lawyers suspect that clients may go on to cause violent crime.

The law firm has not responded to a request for comment by Journalism.co.uk.

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John Yates resignation statement

July 19th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Newspapers

Metropolitan police assistant commissioner John Yates resigned yesterday (18 July), after being told he would be suspended.

Yates becomes the second casualty in the Metropolitan police in the wake of phone-hacking allegations, after Britain’s top cop Sir Paul Stephenson resigned on Sunday.

The former assistant commissioner yesterday spoke to the media, paying tribute to the staff he served with:

It is with great regret that I make this decision after nearly 30 years as a police officer.

I wish to pay tribute to the many fine officers and police staff with whom I have served. I will miss them hugely, but I know that they will continue to do their utmost to protect the public and, of course, this great capital city.

Yates said that police, especially those in the “difficult” jobs, must be accountable:

When we get things wrong, we say so and try and put them right. As I have said very recently, it is a matter of great personal regret that those potentially affected by phone hacking were not dealt with appropriately.

He added that with the upcoming Olympic games, he could not allow the “situation” continue, claiming that a “huge amount of inaccurate, ill-informed, and malicious gossip” had been published about him.

I have acted with complete integrity and my conscience is clear. I look forward to the future Judge-led inquiry where my role will be examined in a proper and calmer environment and where my actions will be judged on the evidence rather than on innuendo and speculation as they are at present.

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LIVE: Former senior Met officers face MPs

July 19th, 2011 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Legal, Newspapers, Politics

Follow our live blog of today’s (July 19) Commons select committee appearances by former Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson and former assistant commissioner John Yates, and the director of public affairs Dick Fedorcio.

You will need to refresh this page for updates.

 

12:43pm: Julian Huppert says that he cannot find any public declaration of Stephenson’s hospitality at Champneys.

Stephenson says that he put it into the hospitality register, and it will be published in due course.

12:42pm: Stephenson is giving assurances to Keith Vaz that he never met Andy Coulson and Neil Wallis together.

He adds that Wallis had “a minor part-time role” through which he received a small amount of advice.

Vaz asks whether Stephenson was consulted before Wallis was employed.

Stephenson says he was, along with Dick Fedorcio, but stresses that he now regrets that contract as it has become “embarrassing”.

He says that he was confident Fedorcio would conduct the proper checks on Wallis at the time of employment. Stephenson says that he was not involved in the procuremnt process of Wallis, and did not know that Wallis’ daughter was also employed by the Metropolitan police, and only found out at the weeklend.

12:41pm: Labour’s David Winneck asks Stephenson about the assurances he gave to the Guardian in July 2009, after the newspaper published fresh allegations about the case.

Stephenson says he suggested that Guardain editor Alan Rusbridger speak directly to John Yates.

12.40pm: Stephenson is asked if there are question marks about a person involved receiving such hospitality? Wouldn’t a superior be asking questions about this sort of relationship?

Stephenson said it was declared and put in his hospitality register, even though that was not needed. It was not a secret, he said.

12:39pm: David Winneck says he is not questioning Sir Paul’s integrity. But asked, leaving aside Wallis’ position, was there not a situation which was inappropriate for any police officer to receive such substantial hospitality.

Stephenson says he does not think so. He says the owner of Champneys is a family friend connection, he paid for many treatments and it enabled him to get back to work very quickly. “I think it was damnedly unlucky Wallis was connected, he said.

12:38pm: Stephenson says the connection to Champneys was a family connection, and that it was not inappropriate but “damnably unlucky”.

12:37pm: Stephen McCabe asks Stephenson about his knowledge of Wallis’ business connection with Champneys, where Stephenson stayed after accepting a week’s free hospitality there.

Stephenson says he knew of no one that knew Wallis was conected with Champneys.

McCabe asks whether, “in normal circumstances”, he should expect his senior officers to know that Wallis was connected with Champneys, especially given that John Yates said he was a “personal friend” of Wallis.

12:35pm: Nicola Blackwood asks Stephenson about his statement that he has no reason to suspect Wallis was involved in phone hacking. And yet in the year he met Wallis, the ICO report was released stating that there was a “widespread” market in police information to journalists.

News of the World was listed in the report, with 228 transactions. Blackwood asks, do you not think that should have alerted you to the possible that Wallis could have been involved?

Stephenson says that Wallis was not named, and reiterates that his job was to prioritise risks. He looked at high-profile risks.

He says there was no reason for the ICO report to be on his desk, above the nightstalker case or the Stephen Lawrence case.

12:33pm: Julian Huppert asks about the morale of the Metropolitan Police going forward.

Says he was stopped by a Metropolitan Police officer who said he was embarrassed by the senior officers.

Huppert asks about what his successor can do to improve morale.

Stephenson says he has spoken to many police officers following his resignation who have spoken about their pride, and says it is proper to walk away before interfering with an investigation.

12:31pm: Stephenson is asked why, prior to his resignation, he did not tell the prime minister about Wallis.

Stephenson says he “would not want to open to the prime minister or anyone else to such compromise”.

Adding that he has not told the prime minister or home secretary about any other suspects in the case.

Stephenson says he would also not want to compromise the mayor, and so did not tell him about the arrest of Rebekah Brooks in advance either.

12:29pm: Bridget Phillipson asks Stephenson whether he should have been alerted sooner to the issues concerning Wallis.

Stephenson says he could not have been alerted sooner, that there was no one able to suggest there was a potential conflict of interest, except for Wallis himself, if indeed he could.

The contracting of Wallis, he says, was of no relevance until we knew he was a suspect. And to go public with that before we had evidence would compromise him.

12:27pm: Stephenson: “Prior to Wallis becoming a name related to phone hacking, I had never heard him connected to hacking.

“Why would I raise with anyone a very minor contract? I had no reason to suspect he was involved.”

12:25pm: Stephenson is asked about not disclosing the information about Wallis to the home secretary, also.

“Why was this a matter that you felt you could not disclose? This has been interpreted negatively.”

12:23pm: My understanding is that it was exactly the advice from a senior officer in Number 10 that we “don’t compromise the pm”. Which is why, he says, he did not tell Cameron about Wallis.

“I work very hard not to compromise people.”

“It was only several weeks ago that I knew Wallis was involved, and only last week that I knew he was a suspect.”

12:21pm: Reckless asks Stephenson about his non-disclosure of the employment of Wallis,

Stephenson says he had no reason to doubt Wallis, or connect his name with phone hacking.

“I had no reason to disclose a very minor contract with someone who was advising my DPA.”

12:20pm: Responding to Reckless, Stephenson is describing his work as commissioner, saying that he “manages risk”, rather than investigating crime.

He says that he had close involvement in the case of the nightstalker, and the case of Stephen Lawrence, but never asked any questions about phone hacking, says he had no reason to suspect the investigation was not going well.

12:19pm: MP Mark Reckless asks Stephenson if he is surprised that his comments are being interpreted as an attack on Cameron.

Stephenson says he cannot control the press and reiterates that he made no such attack on the prime minister.

12:18pm: Stephenson says he was trying to draw the contrast that he had no reason to doubt Wallis’ integrity or to link him with hacking.

“I meant to impune the pm or no one by it. I just meant to give an example that Wallis’ name was never related to hacking.”

12:16pm: Stephenson says that “we live in a world in which the media speculates, and I was taking no such swipe at the prime minster”.

“Of course that the employment of Coulson and the employment of Mr Wallis was different.”

12:15pm: Vaz asks Stephenson about his comment about David Cameron, and whether he was “taking a swipe” at the prime minster, which has “excited a lot of comment“.

12:13pm: Vaz has asked whether anybody asked him to go. Stephenson says no, that the mayor felt the resignation was wrong and that the home secretary was very upset.
He took the decision against the advice of his colleagues and his wife, he says.

12:12pm: Vaz says that when he spoke to Stephenson last week, resignation was not in his mind. Asks him when he made up his mind when he had to go.

12:11pm: He says, “clearly there were significant stories about me,” and says “we are in extraordinary times”.

“In the run up to the Olympic year, if there is going to be continuing speculation about the commissioner, then if I was going to do something I had to do it quickly.”

12:10pm: Stephenson says that he made it very clear when he took the post he would never allow the story to become about him.

12:09pm:
Committee chairman Keith Vaz begins questioning Sir Paul Stephenson.

Vaz asks Stephenson why he resigned, despite claiming that he had “done absolutely nothing wrong” and having no knowledge of impropriety.

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Met commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson’s resignation statement

July 18th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Legal, Newspapers

Metropolitan police commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson resigned yesterday in the wake of new arrests and allegations in the News of the World phone-hacking scandal and payments to police.

Here is his full resignation statement:

“I have this afternoon informed the palace, the home secretary and the mayor of my intention to resign as commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service.

“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.

“Firstly, I want to say what an enormous privilege it has been for me to lead this great organisation that is the Met. The recent example of the heroism and bravery of Met officers in chasing armed suspects, involving the shooting of one of my officers, is typical; but is in danger of being eclipsed by the ongoing debate about relationships between senior officers and the media. This can never be right.

“Crime levels in the Met are at a 10 year low. You have seen the Met at its glorious and unobtrusive best on the occasion of the royal wedding; the professional and restrained approach to unexpected levels of violence in recent student demonstrations; the vital ongoing work to secure the safety of the capital from terrorism; the reductions in homicide; and continuing increased levels of confidence as the jewel in our crown of Safer Neighbourhoods Teams serve the needs of Londoners.

“I am deeply proud of the achievements of the Met since I became commissioner.

“Let me turn to phone hacking and my relationship with Neil Wallis. I want to put the record straight.

“I met Mr Wallis in 2006. The purpose of that meeting was, as with other journalists, to represent the context of policing and to better inform the public debate carried out through the media on policing issues.

“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. 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.

“I have acknowledged the statement by John Yates that if he had known then what he knows now he would have made different decisions.

“My relationship with Mr Wallis continued over the following years and the frequency of our meetings is a matter of public record. The record clearly accords with my description of the relationship as one maintained for professional purposes and an acquaintance.

“In 2009 the Met entered into a contractual arrangement with Neil Wallis, terminating in 2010. I played no role in the letting or management of that contract.

“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. I do not occupy a position in the world of journalism; I had no knowledge of the extent of this disgraceful practice and the repugnant nature of the selection of victims that is now emerging; nor of its apparent reach into senior levels. 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.

“One can only wonder about the motives of those within the newspaper industry or beyond, who now claim that they did know but kept quiet. Though mine and the Met’s current severe discomfort is a consequence of those few that did speak out, I am grateful to them for doing so, giving us the opportunity to right the wrong done to victims – and here I think most of those especially vulnerable people who deserved so much better from us all.

“Now let me turn to the suspicion that the contractual relationship with Mr Wallis was somehow kept secret. The contracting of Mr Wallis only became of relevance when his name became linked with the new investigation into phone hacking. I recognise that the interests of transparency might have made earlier disclosure of this information desirable. However, my priority, despite the embarrassment it might cause, has been to maintain the integrity of Operation Weeting. To make it public would have immediately tainted him and potentially compromised any future Operation Weeting action.

“Now let me turn to the reported displeasure of the prime minister and the home secretary of the relationship with Mr Wallis.

“The reasons for not having told them are two fold. Firstly, I repeat my earlier comments of having at the time no reason for considering the contractual relationship to be a matter of concern. Unlike Mr Coulson, Mr Wallis had not resigned from News of the World or, to the best of my knowledge been in any way associated with the original phone hacking investigation.

“Secondly, once Mr Wallis’s name did become associated with Operation Weeting, I did not want to compromise the prime minister in any way by revealing or discussing a potential suspect who clearly had a close relationship with Mr Coulson. I am aware of the many political exchanges in relation to Mr Coulson’s previous employment – I believe it would have been extraordinarily clumsy of me to have exposed the prime minister, or by association the home secretary, to any accusation, however unfair, as a consequence of them being in possession of operational information in this regard. Similarly, the mayor. Because of the individuals involved, their positions and relationships, these were I believe unique circumstances.

“Consequently, we informed the chair of the MPA, Mr Malthouse, of the Met’s contractual arrangements with Mr Wallis on the morning of the latter’s arrest. It is our practice not to release the names of suspects under arrest, making it difficult to make public details of the arrangements prior to Mr Wallis’s release the same day. The timing of the MPA committee that I appeared before at 2pm that day was most unfortunate.

“Now let me briefly deal with the recent story in relation to my use of Champney’s facilities. There has been no impropriety and I am extremely happy with what I did and the reasons for it – to do everything possible to return to running the Met full time, significantly ahead of medical, family and friends’ advice. The attempt to represent this in a negative way is both cynical and disappointing.

“I thought it necessary to provide this lengthy and detailed account of my position on aspects of the current media questions and speculation concerning my conduct. I do this to provide the backcloth to the main purpose of this statement.

“There are a great number of things I value as part of my professional life – very high in this list are my reputation for judgement and integrity.

“On judgement: running a large and overwhelmingly successful organisation like the Met must be dependent to a great extent on others providing the right information and assurances. I could reiterate that I had no reason to doubt the original investigation into phone hacking or be aware of the documents and information in our possession and only recently provided by News International. I could point to the many other successes of the Met. I could point to the long history of how and why the relationship between the Met and media has developed a way of doing business that has brought real benefits but perhaps runs the risk of misinterpretation or worse. In this particular regard it is clear to me that the current furore marks a point in time, a need to learn and change.

“However, as commissioner I carry ultimate responsibility for the position we find ourselves in. With hindsight, I wish we had judged some matters involved in this affair differently. I didn’t and that’s it.

“I do not believe this on its own would be a matter for me to consider my position as commissioner.

“However, the issue of my integrity is different. 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.

“Nevertheless, I must accept that the intense media coverage, questions, commentary and indeed allegations, as demonstrated by this weekend’s attempt to misrepresent my arrangements for my recovery from illness, not only provide excessive distraction both for myself and colleagues, but are likely to continue for some time. In particular the public inquiry must take time, with even the first part scheduled not to report within a year. A year in which the Met must face not only the enormous challenges that are the staple diet of this incredible organisation, but also the Olympics.

“This is not a 12 months that can afford any doubts about the commissioner of the Met, I have seen at first hand the distractions for this organisation when the story becomes about the leaders as opposed to what we do as a service. I was always clear that I would never allow that. We the Met cannot afford this – not this year.

“If I stayed I know that the inquiry outcomes would reaffirm my personal integrity. But time is short before we face the enormous challenge of policing the Olympics – this is not the time for ongoing speculation about the security of the position of the commissioner. Even a small chance that that there could be a change of leadership must be avoided.

“Therefore, although I have received continued personal support from both the home secretary and the mayor, I have with great sadness informed both of my intention to resign. This will allow time for the appointment of my successor and for that person to take a firm hold of the helm of this great organisation and steer it through the great challenges and necessary change ahead, unencumbered by the current controversy. I will miss many things, but most of all it will be the overwhelming majority of honest, hard working professionals who it has been such a great pleasure to lead.”

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BBC: Ken Livingstone calls for ‘arms-length relationship’ between media and police

July 12th, 2011 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Editors' pick, Legal, Politics

There has been “far too close a relationship” between the media and police involved in investigating the phone hacking scandal, former mayor of London Ken Livingstone said today.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme Livingstone, who was mayor of London at the time of the previous Metropolitan Police investigation into phone hacking, called for an “arms length relationship” between the press and politicians.

He also insisted that meetings between senior figures on both sides should never be held in private.

How on earth can the prime minister of Britain or mayor of London have a private meal with someone at the centre of a criminal investigation? … It’s just not credible.

Reflecting on the circumstances of the previous inquiry Livingstone said the argument that police had other more serious issues to focus resources on was a “completely spurious defence”.

The police had more police than at any time in their history. The idea they had much more pressing things to do is nonsense. This is a scandal that goes right to the heart of the establishment.

Five senior past and present Metropolitan police officers are to appear before a parliamentary select committee beginning today to be questioned about the force’s investigation into phone hacking.

Assistant commissioner John Yates will appear first before the home affairs select committee. He reviewed the initial investigation into phone hacking in 2009 and ruled there was not sufficient new evidence to reopen a police inquiry.

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New arrest in phone hacking investigation

June 23rd, 2011 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Editors' pick, Legal

A woman has been arrested in West Yorkshire by police investigating allegations of phone hacking, Scotland Yard confirmed this morning.

The arrest was made by the Metropolitan police’s Operation Weeting team, which was set up when Scotland Yard relaunched its inquiry into phone hacking at the News of the World in January.

This latest arrest follows three others made this year as part of the new investigation, the first two at the beginning of April and the third later in the month.

According to a statement from Scotland Yard the woman, 39, was arrested on suspicion of conspiring to intercept mobile phone voicemail messages and was taken to a West Yorkshire police station for questioning.

The BBC reports that owner of the News of the World, News International, had issued a statement saying the arrest “did not relate to a current employee or a former full-time staff member”.

We have been co-operating fully with the police inquiry since our voluntary disclosure of evidence reopened the police investigation. Since then we have been determined to deal with these issues both on the criminal and civil side. In April we admitted liability in several civil cases and we are attempting to bring these to a fair resolution.”

Related content:

Phone hacking: Andy Gray accepts £20,000 settlement

Norman Fowler calls for government inquiry into phone hacking

Phone hacking: News of the World apologises to Sienna Miller in court

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