Socialist Worker

Met commissioner Paul Stephenson resigns in disgrace

by Matt Foot, human rights lawyer
Issue No. 2261

Paul Stephenson lasted just two and a half years as Metropolitan Police Commissioner before he, like his predecessor Ian Blair, resigned in disgrace.

Ian Blair clung to office for over three years after his disgraceful untruths about the police killing on 22 July 2005 of Jean Charles de Menezes, which finally forced his resignation. By contrast, the current crisis over News International’s links to police is of such a magnitude that Stephenson’s quick departure was followed the next day by the resignation his deputy John Yates.

There is a shocking connection between the Blair and Stephenson resignations. The Metropolitan Police failed to reveal during their initial “investigations” into the News of the World telephone hacking that Jean Charles cousin’s mobile was on the hacker’s list. The Jean Charles de Menezes Campaign has called for an inquiry.

Now, unbelievably, the police have replaced John Yates with Cressida Dick, the very officer who oversaw the operation that killed Jean Charles!

Stephenson resigned without apology. The facts are these:

  1. Stephenson stayed for FREE for five weeks at the luxury Champneys health farm.
  2. Stephenson had hired Neil Wallis, head of Champneys’ public relations, to handle his PR in his role as Met Commissioner.
  3. Neil Wallis was also a former News of the World executive.
  4. The police failed twice to investigate News of the World for extensive and illegal phone hacking.

There is more. Stephenson had more than a dozen meetings with representatives of News of the World. He personally attended a meeting with the Guardian in December 2009 to slam its reporting of the hacking story—two months after Wallis was hired by the police to deal with his PR.

The truth is that Stephenson had little choice but to jump ship so quickly.

Nevertheless, Stephenson bleated: “I and the people who know me, know that my integrity is completely intact.'

Stephenson claimed he resigned to stop prolonged unwelcome media attention for the Met. How ironic given his previous proclivity for press announcements.

During the student protests on 9 December 2010, Stephenson organised a live press conference asserting that anyone seeing the disorder, 'including peaceful protesters who want to make a point, will condemn what has happened'. This was just before the BBC showed police horses charging into a crowd that included thousands of children in scenes reminiscent of the 1984-5 miners’ strike.

Incidentally Stephenson denied there was any horse charge on students until he was confronted with video evidence posted on Youtube.

Stephenson then considered banning protests and looked into getting water cannon for the police to use.

Stephenson imaginatively claimed in his resignation speech that the police had showed “the professional and restrained approach to unexpected levels of violence in recent student demonstrations”. Jody McIntyre and Alfie Meadows have a different view. Jody was videoed being pulled out of his wheelchair and dragged off by police; Alfie needed emergency brain surgery after he was hit by a truncheon.

Indeed, Stephenson hates demonstrations. He dismissed the people protesting at Parliament Square in May 2009 against the massacre of tens of thousands Tamils in Sri Lanka as a “huge drain” on resources.

Stephenson was also responsible for introducing kettling against entirely lawful protesters. On the second student protest, many school children (including my sister) were kettled and held against their will for up to ten hours in the cold without any facilities. This was their punishment for daring to protest against the undemocratic tuition fees.

Even the courts have criticised the policing at the 2009 G20 protest. That will not bring back Ian Tomlinson, who died after being shoved by a police officer. The inquest found he was unlawfully killed. Naturally enough, his family received no support from Stephenson during their struggle to obtain some justice.

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