Scandal hits new heights

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Britain’s most senior police officer has become the most significant casualty of the phone-hacking scandal, resigning from his post following allegations of inappropriate links with a News of the World executive.

Scotland Yard commissioner and ex-Chief Constable of Lancashire, Sir Paul Stephenson (pictured), made the shock announcement on a day of high drama that also saw the tabloid’s former editor Rebekah Brooks bailed by police after spending 12 hours in custody.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson

Sir Paul joined a growing list of victims of the controversy, including ex-Downing Street communications chief Andy Coulson, News Corp veteran Les Hinton, former News International chief executive Ms Brooks and the 168-year-old News of the World.

Announcing his resignation night, Sir Paul said: “I have taken this decision as a consequence of the ongoing speculation and accusations relating to the Met’s links with News International at a senior level and in particular in relation to Mr Neil Wallis, who as you know was arrested in connection with Operation Weeting last week.”

David Cameron said he respected and understood Sir Paul’s decision, while Home Secretary Theresa May was “sincerely sorry” that he had resigned. Sir Paul insisted his integrity was intact despite pressure on him intensifying over the weekend after it emerged he accepted thousands of pounds-worth of free accommodation at a luxury health spa.

The Commissioner had already been under fire for hiring Mr Wallis as a PR consultant before the former tabloid executive was arrested for alleged mobile phone interception.

But, issuing his statement at Scotland Yard, he said: “Let me state clearly, I and the people who know me know that my integrity is completely intact.”