Detective in Phone Hacking Inquiry Is Arrested
By SARAH LYALL
Published: August 19, 2011
LONDON — A Scotland Yard detective has been arrested on suspicion of leaking details about the phone hacking case to the news media, the police said on Friday.
Reporter Known for Scoops Is Held in Hacking Inquiry (August 19, 2011)
The detective, described as a 51-year-old man, was arrested at work on Thursday “on suspicion of misconduct in a public office relating to an unauthorized disclosure of information,” the police said. He has not been charged, but was released and ordered to report back for further questioning on Sept. 29. He has been suspended from his job.
The police would not identify the detective, but said he was assigned to Operation Weeting, which is looking into allegations of phone hacking at the now-defunct tabloid The News of the World and other newspapers.
Leaking to the news media is technically a criminal offense. But such disclosures have long been common practice for some police officers who work frequently with the news media, and it is highly unusual for an officer to be arrested on suspicion of merely leaking information.
A second investigation is looking at charges that some reporters and editors paid the police for information, but no officers have been arrested in that case.
A person close to the investigation said it was likely that the Operation Weeting leaks at issue in Thursday’s arrest were recent ones, perhaps having to do with the disclosure of the names of people arrested so far on suspicion of phone hacking. The police typically do not name suspects until they have been formally charged, identifying them instead by gender and age.
The arrest of the suspected leaker seems designed to send a signal that the leader of the investigation, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers, is angry about the disclosures and is determined to keep details of the investigation out of the public domain.
“I made it very clear when I took on this investigation the need for operational and information security,” Commissioner Akers said in a statement. “It is hugely disappointing that this may not have been adhered to.”
She added that the police department “takes the unauthorized disclosure of information extremely seriously and has acted swiftly in making this arrest.”
A former Scotland Yard official with knowledge of the inquiry said it was both surprising and unusual that the first arrest of an officer was for reportedly leaking information to the news media about the phone hacking investigation rather than selling information to The News of the World. A separate Metropolitan Police inquiry is investigating e-mails that suggest police officers sold classified contact information about public figures, including members of the royal family, to reporters and editors at The News of the World.
The police also said that a second man was arrested on Friday as part of Operation Weeting, bringing to 14 the number of people arrested so far on suspicion of phone hacking or illegally accessing voice mail messages. With the recent addition of 20 new officers, there are now 65 investigators working full time on the case.
The man, 35, was named by Sky News as Dan Evans, a former reporter for The News of the World. The newspaper suspended Mr. Evans in the spring of 2010 after his name emerged as part of a civil suit brought against it by the interior designer Kelly Hoppen. Ms. Hoppen, the stepmother of the actress Sienna Miller, claimed that her phone had been hacked into.
Ms. Hoppen’s case began with information seized by the police in 2006, when the first phone hacking case — involving Clive Goodman, the former royal reporter for The News of the World, and Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator hired by the paper — came to light. At the time, the police seized 12,000 pages of documentation from Mr. Mulcaire that included lists of cellphone numbers, PINs and names of people whose messages he might have illegally intercepted.
Both Mr. Mulcaire and Mr. Goodman were convicted in 2007; each served several months in jail.
But this arrest seems to stem from a more recent episode. If that is the case, it would contradict assertions at the time by the paper’s parent company, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, that after the arrests The News of the World cracked down, putting a stop to phone hacking.
Until last winter, the company said that the hacking had been limited to one “rogue” reporter — Mr. Goodman.
According to Sky, the detective arrested on Thursday is suspected of leaking information to the newspaper The Guardian, which has consistently revealed more details than its competitors about the hacking arrests.
On its Web site, The Guardian said it would not comment on the allegations, merely saying, “We note the arrest.”
The paper quoted a spokesperson as saying: “On the broader point raised by the arrest, journalists would no doubt be concerned if conversations between off-the-record sources and reporters came routinely to be regarded as criminal activity. In common with all news organizations we have no comment to make on the sources of our journalism.”
News International, the British newspaper arm of the News Corporation, said it was cooperating with the investigation and would have no comment about the arrests.
Don Van Natta Jr. contributed reporting from Miami.