Yard press officer kept in the dark

Yard press officer kept in the dark

The former executive editor of the News of the World Neil Wallis was paid by the Metropolitan Police for communications advice

Sara Cheesley did not know the Met Police had hired Neil Wallis until the phone-hacking scandal erupted

First published in National News © by

A senior Scotland Yard press officer was not told the force had hired an ex-News of the World executive until the phone-hacking scandal erupted last summer, the Leveson Inquiry has heard.

The Metropolitan Police paid Neil Wallis, the Sunday tabloid's former executive editor, £24,000 for communications advice between October 2009 and September 2010.

Sara Cheesley, Scotland Yard's senior information officer for specialist operations, including counter-terrorism, said she was surprised that she learned about Mr Wallis's contract only last July.

She told the press standards inquiry she knew nothing about the former News of the World executive's involvement during the year he was working for the Met.

Asked about her reaction to finding out about Mr Wallis's employment so late, she said: "I was a bit surprised, yes.

"Clearly, at the time the Met was under a lot of scrutiny and the spotlight, and I suppose it was the perception other people might have around his recruitment."

Inquiry chairman Lord Justice Leveson said: "I am just surprised that you didn't know anything about him at all."

Ms Cheesley replied: "Well, I had the chief press officer, who is my direct line manager."

Scotland Yard detectives arrested Mr Wallis on suspicion of phone-hacking on July 14 last year. He was bailed and has not been charged.

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