Charges against a top UK police officer who had ties to the Cayman Islands have been dropped in a phone hacking scandal.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission, Britain’s law enforcement watchdog, announced Wednesday that it was dropping its investigation into four former top police officials, including former Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Yates.
Commissioner Paul Stephenson resigned amid allegations that police didn’t properly investigate the wrongdoing at the News of the World because of their close ties to the Murdoch empire — accusations that have shaken Britain’s most important police force at a time of budget cuts and rising social unrest.
Misconduct probes into Mr. Yates and Andy Hayman, both former assistant commissioners, were also dropped, as was an investigation into Peter Clarke, a former deputy assistant commissioner, the police watchdog said.
Cayman Islands residents will be familiar with Mr. Yates as the police commander who oversaw a two-year, $10 million corruption investigation into the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service known as Operation Tempura. Mr. Yates was instrumental in the hiring of the probe’s Senior Investigating Officer Martin Bridger, an audit later found.
Operation Tempura and subsequent spin off investigations have never led to the conviction of anyone for anything. A former member of the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly and a suspended deputy police commissioner were brought up on charges in connection with Tempura, but both were acquitted at trial.
Mr. Yates was the police official who decided in 2009 not to reopen a police inquiry into the UK phone hacking and alleged police bribery by journalists with the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid News of the World. Mr. Yates said at the time he did not believe there was any new evidence to consider in the case. He acknowledged in a hearing before Parliament last month the decision was a mistake.
The watchdog’s deputy chair, Deborah Glass, said that while revelations about senior police officers’ close ties with Murdoch executives — including meetings, lunches and dinners with people who’ve since been arrested — had had an impact on public confidence in the force, her organisation had to identify “what is, and what is not, conduct that needs to be investigated.”
In the meantime the taint of Britain’s phone hacking scandal was creeping closer to media baron Rupert Murdoch on Wednesday as journalists dissected a trove of correspondence that appeared to cast doubt on denials given by some of his most trusted lieutenants.
New documents published by UK lawmakers investigating the scandal apparently contradict claims made by the News Corp. chief’s former right-hand man and challenge testimony delivered to Parliament by his son James Murdoch.
Among them is a letter claiming that illegal espionage was pervasive at Murdoch’s now-defunct News of the World tabloid.
Former Murdoch confidante Les Hinton said in 2009 that he’d seen no evidence that phone hacking had spread beyond a single rogue reporter at the tabloid. Yet Hinton is among those copied in on the explosive letter.
Three former executives are also challenging assertions by James Murdoch that he wasn’t told the full facts about the scandal.