I can't imagine I am the only one who has noticed the way in which spokespersons for the printed media, many of them anonymous, are beginning to issue statements critical of the way in which the police are conducting their investigations into the sleaze allegations against the Murdoch empire. Others are openly whingeing about the way the Leveson enquiry is getting closer and closer to some seriously unpalatable facts. I wonder who is driving this campaign.
What this enquiry is doing is lifting up some of the biggest rocks in the murky world of police-press relations, and allowing the public to get a look underneath at the grubby activities which have, apparently, been common currency among certain senior policemen and the hacks for many years.
We have been entertained to some horribly revealing evidence in recent days, as senior cop after cop has wilted in the spotlight of counsel's questions, while giving answers that simply beggar credulity. Former Met Commissioners, in turn, have given evidence in the case. Their information has done little to give any comfort to the people of London, indeed, the whole of the 5th floor at the Yard has been exposed as a nest of pompous, petty, spiteful, self-serving back-stabbers, who leaked like sieves to the Murdoch empire, when they weren't cosying up to their executives, or going out to expensive dinners with them at exclusive restaurants.
AS the Guardian observed, the most awful experience was watching Robert Jay QC for the Leveson inquiry '...questioning two former assistant commissioners at the Met, John Yates and Andy Hayman. It was a masterclass in forensic examination and the conclusion that these two powerful men buried the evidence of widespread wrongdoing that lay in Glen Mulcaire's notebooks, because of their relations with Murdoch's people, was unmistakable...'
John Yates squirmed while an email sent from a member of staff at the News of the World to the paper’s crime reporter, Lucy Panton was read out: "John Yates could be crucial here, really need exclusive splash line, so time to call in all those bottles of champagne,"
Yates's response that, "those perceived favours had never been called in," and dismissed it as a "turn of phrase," were clearly the best he could muster in the circumstances, but didn't seem to influence anyone.
The inquiry heard that Yates and Neil Wallis, the former deputy editor of the paper who has since been arrested in the new Scotland Yard investigation into phone hacking, had dined and drank together at London restaurants Scalini, Scotts and Bar Boulud at the Mandarin Oriental.
Mr Yates said he did not declare these meetings in the Scotland Yard hospitality register because they were private and not work-related, but they do appear in his diary. Well that's his story and he's sticking to it!
When I was a detective at New Scotland Yard, we were taught that journalists were among the most dangerous contacts any detective could expect to meet, and that they were to be treated with extreme caution. If you were a detective who was active and going to court regularly, you got accustomed to being approached by Fleet Street's 'finest' and asked for stories or comments. If you had any sense, you referred them to the Press Bureau, and made sure you had another officer present to witness the conversation.
If they were from the tabloid red-top press, or from the grubby 'Sundays', you tried as hard as possible not even to be seen having any conversation with them at all.
So why, with all this knowledge and hindsight, have some of the most senior policemen at the Yard been caught, literally with their noses in the Murdoch trough. What did they think was on the journo's agenda, more importantly, why did they put themselves in harm's way in such a manner, because they must have known that one day there would be an accounting, a pro quo for the quid, to use a mixed metaphor?
But there it is, they ate and drank at the expense of the most powerful man in the world of sleaze journalism, the guiding mind behind the editor of the aptly-named 'News of the Screws', and engaged in close relationships with executives from the Sun, that beacon of liberal reporting, 'whose readers don't give a flying fig who runs the country as long as she has got big tits', to quote the old joke about the country's newspaper reading habits.
Did they think that one day, those editors who signed off the expense accounts wouldn't call in the favours, possibly at a time of greatest embarrassment to the police? If they didn't, then they weren't very acute detectives. If they did, and ignored the fact, well.....!
Now, suddenly, an anonymous complainant has alerted the Attorney General's office to remarks made by DAC Sue Akers in her evidence to the Leveson Enquiry, suggesting that they might prejudice any future prosecution.
Dominic Grieve's office is reportedly examining the testimony given by Sue Akers to the Leveson Inquiry last month after receiving at least one complaint. She told the inquiry that the Sun newspaper had a "network of corrupted officials" across bodies such as the police and Ministry of Defence. One individual had received £80,000, while one journalist made payments to sources totalling more than £150,000 over a period of years, she said.
Here is evidence of a massive red herring being trailed across the track of the most important enquiry into public sector corruption ever in this country. First of all, no-one has yet been charged with any offence, and in any event, evidence to the enquiry is privileged. Even if anyone is later charged, is anyone going to seriously seek to argue that any potential juror was not aware that the whole enquiry might have been about alleged corruption in high places, and involving the 'News of the World' and the 'Sun' newspapers? I seriously doubt it. If it happens, the proper place to make this allegation will be at the trial of any putative defendant, and let the judge make the decision. I am confident it will fail!
No, this smear has been planted by someone with considerable experience of placing such disinformation, possibly an old Fleet Street hack, but just as easily by an unreconstructed cop or former cop, there are still a few of them hanging around the bars and restaurants where journos frequent, but the sad fact is the AG's office have to go through the fiction of saying that the AG will examine it, when, if he has any sense, he will wait for the enquiry to finish and Leveson's findings made public. Those findings will obscure any irrelevant arguments about Ms Akers' evidence, which was open, transparent, and possessed the ineluctable ring of truth!
We should be extremely grateful for the Leveson Enquiry. It has only just begun, I suspect, to deconstruct the extent of public sector corrupt practice that was allowed to develop between elements of the Murdoch press and some in the Metropolitan Police hierarchy. It is a truly shameful story, one which reflects no credit whatsoever on those officers who were seduced by the sleazy atmosphere of backhanders for leaks, expense-account meals in classy restaurants, or bottles of Champagne.
I am sure that I am not alone among my former colleagues who served the people of London in the Metropolitan Police to say that I am utterly disgusted by these allegations, and ashamed to discover that the reputation of the Force that I and so many others served, I hope, with dignity and honour, has been damaged so badly.
It is now up to DAC Sue Akers and her team to begin to restore that reputation, and that is why her work is already being undermined by some bastard who realises that she is getting very close to a greater truth than anyone involved in this sleazy exercise wants to have made public.