Met expands inquiry to police who leaked but were NOT paid
Almost 200 Scotland Yard detectives are working on the three investigations linked to phone hacking and the scope of their probe has now got bigger, it has emerged.
As the total cost to the taxpayer reaches Â£17.5million, the arm of the operation looking into bribery of public officials – codenamed Elveden – has been asked to look at unpaid informants.
Experts say the decision ‘crosses a Rubicon’ and will stop genuine police whistleblowers speaking to journalists because they will be scared of arrest.
Two officers been held by the Met in the past month for allegedly passing information to reporters, but there is no suspicion either asked for any money for it.
Concern: As the cost of the three inquiries linked to hacking break through the Â£17.5m barrier an area looking at payment to public officials had widened its scope
Human rights lawyer Simon McKay, warned of the Elveden expansion today saying: ‘I think the Rubicon has been crossed here. This is a deeply troubling evolution of the investigation in my opinion and raises really serious civil liberty issues.
‘The relationship between a public official and a journalist of itself cannot be criminal,’ he told The Guardian.
Julian Panayiotou, of the Independent Police Support Group, added: ‘Officers are being frightened into not speaking to journalists. This will act as a deterrent to other officers coming forward to report corruption in the police.
‘The systems in place in police forces and the IPCC for dealing with public interest disclosures are not trusted and ineffective.’
Scotland Yard has three parallel investigations sparked by journalists at the News of the World: Weeting into phone hacking, Elveden into corrupt payments and Tuleta into computer hacking, and 185 officers are working on them.
Weeting has 96 officers and has cost Â£11.2million, Elveden has 70 officers and has cost Â£5million and Tuleta has cost Â£1.3million and has 19 officers.
It will all cost Â£40million in total and run for at least three more years, the Met says.
So far around 108 people, including more than 70 journalists, have been arrested in relation to the three linked inquiries.
These include former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks and DavidÂ Cameron’s former spin doctor Andy Coulson, have been charged with offences linked to hacking.
Others have been charged with perverting the course of justice over claims they attempted to conceal evidence including archives and computers.
They include Brooks, as well as her husband Charlie and four former employees including her driver, security guard and personal assistant.
Held: Frank Armstrong, the former Assistant Commissioner of City of London Police, has been arrested over alleged leaks to a journalist
Scotland Yard investigators have seized 12 terabytes of data, the equivalent of one million phone books.
Operation Yewtree, the police investigation into alleged sexual abuse by paedophile Jimmy Savile and others, has only had 30 officers installed at a cost of Â£2million.
This month detectives arrested a former deputy chief constable who wrote a scathing report about a breach of security at Prince Williamâ€™s 21st birthday party over alleged leaks to a journalist.
Frank Armstrong, 52, until recently the Â£130,000-a-year second in charge of City of London Police, is the first chief officer to be arrested as a result of inquiries arising from Scotland Yardâ€™s Operation Elveden
Investigators arrested Armstrong on suspicion of misconduct in a public office but stressed that â€˜at this stageâ€™, no money is alleged to have changed hands between him and the reporter.
His arrest at his home in South-West London came just two months after he was awarded the Queenâ€™s Police Medal for distinguished service and followed an illustrious career which included a spell as head of Tony Blairâ€™s Special Branch protection team.
Weeks earlier another respected senior officer, Met Chief Superintendent Andy Rowell, was arrested over alleged disclosures of confidential information to the media.
He, too, is not suspected of receiving any payment from the media.
PHONE HACKING INQUIRIES: FACTS
Operation Weeting: Probe into phone hacking.
Set up in January 2011 it has 96 officers working on it and has cost Â£11.2million so far.
Operation Elveden: Probe into corrupt payments to officials.
Elveden has 70 police investigating and has cost Â£5million.
Operation Tuleta: Probe into computer hacking.
Set up in June 2011, Tuleta has cost Â£1.3million and has 19 officers on its staff.
Total arrests across all three: 108
Nearly 200 officers now working on Â£17.5m hacking probe