Hacking inquiry 'more Clouseau than Columbo' jibe

Deborah McGurran
Political editor, East of England

image copyrightReuters
image captionAndy Hayman wanted to know why MPs were laughing

The former Chief Constable of Norfolk, Andy Hayman, is no stranger to controversy. During his time in charge of the force he introduced big changes which didn't go down well with everyone.

Then he joined the Metropolitan Police where he was dogged by allegations about his private life, his expense claims and a couple of botched anti-terrorist operations.

And now the retired assistant commissioner finds himself at the heart of the phone hacking scandal.

He appeared before the Home Affairs Select Committee supposedly to re-assure them that his original inquiry had been as thorough and professional as possible. But he left MPs exasperated.

'More Clouseau than Columbo'

"Quite incredible," exclaimed Cambridge MP Julian Huppert (Lib Dem) at one stage.

"The public will see you as a dodgy geezer," said Lorraine Fullbrook, the Conservative MP for South Ribble.

"More like Clouseau than Columbo," said chairman Keith Vaz (Lab, Leicester East).

Mr Hayman oversaw the original inquiry which resulted in the conviction of the News of the World's royal editor and a private investigator. But while the inquiry was going on he continued to have dinners with journalists from News International.

Mr Hayman didn't see anything wrong with this. "Any suggestion that these were cosy candlelit dinners where state secrets were shared is rubbish. It was often with our director of communications and they were business-like," he said.

Michael Ellis, the MP for Northampton North, suggested that it was improper for a policeman to have dinner with journalists while they were being investigated. Mr Hayman did not accept this.

"There is no way I'm going to disclose to them what's going on... not to have had that dinner would have been more suspicious than to have it."

At that point the room burst into laughter: "Why are you laughing?" demanded Mr Hayman.

"We are astonished by your answers," replied Mr Vaz.

'Grubby' allegations

Mr Hayman gave the impression that there wasn't much to worry about.

He said the recent revelations about phone hacking were "a horror story" but he believed that the inquiry which he oversaw was well run. It would have been investigated more deeply, he said, if he had had more resources.

He described as "grubby" allegations that were made in the New York Times suggesting that News International had threatened to publish allegations about his private life if he dug too deep.

"Any hint of being in their back pocket is unfounded - I refute that," he said.

"Even if I had a motive that was unethical, how could I have ever stopped a line of investigation? Peter (Peter Clarke, his deputy) and SOI (special branch) would have instantly been on to me."

And as for taking a job as a columnist with the Times, he said it was a "different stable" and he had no problem working for the company which he had investigated.

Mr Vaz concluded the session saying that he normally summed up a witnesses' evidence but on this occasion he felt that Mr Hayman's evidence "speaks for itself".

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