Leveson Inquiry: Summary of week 16

Neil Wallis said journalists "live or die" depending on the strength of their contacts

Football matches, Mayfair meals and weddings... all were occasions at which senior journalists had entertained top police officers, the Leveson Inquiry heard in its 16th week.

But the "chit-chat" at such social events would have revolved around Britain's Got Talent, rather than operational policing matters, former News of the World (NoW) deputy editor Neil Wallis said on Monday.

It was a week when witnesses seemed at pains to point out they had not quaffed champagne with any senior officers.

Asked if he had ever bought bubbly for former Met Police Assistant Commissioners John Yates or Andy Hayman, Mr Wallis replied: "I don't like champagne... I prefer a white wine."

However, he described cultivating relationships with former Met Commissioners Lords Condon, Stephenson and Stevens - even advising the latter two on how to get the top job.

"Journalists live or die depending on their contacts... I nurtured those contacts," Mr Wallis pointed out.

"I won't accept that me going to dinner with a police officer is different to a civil servant going to dinner with a businessman."

The Met has faced criticism over the decision to hire Mr Wallis as a PR adviser in October 2009, months after NoW journalists were accused of hacking the phones of thousands of people in a Guardian investigation.

Just 'banter'

Tuesday saw more denials of champagne-supping, this time from former NoW crime editor Lucy Panton, who said she was not present when Mr Hayman splashed £47 on a bottle of Veuve Clicquot at a Chelsea restaurant.

She did say Mr Yates was a guest when she tied the knot with a Scotland Yard detective, describing him as a "working friend".

Lucy Panton, journalist: "There were a few people at my wedding who I would class as working friends"

When asked about previous evidence that a news editor told her to "call in all those bottles of champagne" to get inside information about a terrorist plot from Mr Yates, Ms Panton said it was just "banter".

"There were no bottles of champagne. I think he was putting pressure on me to get a story," she said.

Ms Panton described being invited on a police raid to arrest the multiple murderer Levi Bellfield, who was later convicted of killing 13-year-old Milly Dowler.

But she pointed out: "I was told nothing about the operation, but asked not to publish any information we had. On the day of his arrest, I was allowed along with a photographer to witness it."

As a crime reporter, she had wished her contacts to be "more forthcoming" than they were, she added.

On Wednesday, the focus turned to the Met's handling of the now infamous "For Neville" email, which is claimed to suggest the NoW's phone-hacking went further than a rogue reporter and investigator.

Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer said he experienced "a degree of pushback" from Mr Yates when he suggested the email should be re-examined in the light of the Guardian's revelations.

Mr Starmer was told, he said, "in confident terms" that he need not be concerned and that nobody else was implicated in the investigation.

But he added: "I became increasingly concerned about the confidence with which those answers had been given to me."

The email, he felt, was a "flag" suggesting police should "dig more" into the situation.

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