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Leveson Inquiry: Dick Fedorcio Allowed NotW Journalist To Use His Computer

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Fedorcio, the Met's head of public affairs, told the press standards inquiry he was nearby while Panton was using his computer and she did not have access to any of his files or documents.
Fedorcio, the Met's head of public affairs, told the press standards inquiry he was nearby while Panton was using his computer and she did not have access to any of his files or documents.

Scotland Yard's communications chief let a News of the World journalist use his computer to file a story about a controversial senior policeman, the Leveson Inquiry heard on Tuesday.

The paper's crime editor Lucy Panton wrote and emailed an article about former Metropolitan Police commander Ali Dizaei, who was jailed for corruption in 2010, from the office of Dick Fedorcio.

Fedorcio, the Met's head of public affairs, told the press standards inquiry he was nearby while Panton was using his computer and she did not have access to any of his files or documents.

He said in a written statement: "She was being chased by telephone and/or text by her office to file this story, which they were expecting from her.

"To help her, and as she was under pressure, I offered to let her type the story, which she did from notes that she arrived with, in an e-mail on the stand- alone computer in my office. She accepted and wrote the story and sent it. I was present in the office throughout this time, and therefore got advance sight of a story about an MPS officer."

Fedorcio has been on extended leave from Scotland Yard since August pending an investigation into the awarding of a contract to Neil Wallis, former executive editor of the News of the World.

Wallis, who was arrested on suspicion of phone-hacking last July, was paid £24,000 by the Met for communications advice between October 2009 and September 2010.

Fedorcio and Scotland Yard commissioners met News of the World editors or deputy editors, usually over lunch or dinner, once or twice a year until 2009, the inquiry heard.

In 2004, 2005 and 2006 the police communications chief had more meetings with individual journalists from the Sunday tabloid than with those of any other paper.

He said he spoke Panton or her predecessor Peter Rose most weeks about the stories they were planning for the coming weekend's edition, and sometimes met them on Friday afternoons.

Fedorcio said in his statement: "The News of the World was one of the most challenging media outlets to deal with because of the nature and content of their coverage, propensity for sting operations and their reluctance to approach the MPS with questions or requests for operational support until the last minute on a Saturday.

"This was fuelled by a lack of trust and the fear that their exclusive story would be undermined by premature police intervention or leaked to another media outlet."

For example, the paper only informed Scotland Yard at about 3.30pm on the Saturday before it published a story in November 2002 alleging that there was a plot to kidnap Victoria Beckham.

Fedorcio told the inquiry he tried to gain the News of the World's confidence so it would contact the Met much earlier before publication, giving the force more time to prepare a response.

He said this strategy proved successful when editor Colin Myler approached him on a Friday evening in August 2010 to alert him to the paper's upcoming expose of cricket match-fixing by Pakistan players.

"(This) gave us far more reasonable notice to put an effective policing plan in place the following day which ultimately led to successful prosecutions," he said.

In December 2003 then-News of the world editor Andy Coulson sent a Christmas hamper to Scotland Yard's directorate of public affairs (DPA), the inquiry heard.

Fedorcio said in his statement: "I believe this was given as a thank you for the DPA's efforts in dealing with the paper's demands, often at short notice on Saturday afternoons."

Panton, who is married to a Scotland Yard detective, was arrested in December on suspicion of making corrupt payments to police officers. She was later bailed and has not been charged.

The inquiry also heard that Fedorcio felt that loaning a retired police horse to former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks might result in positive media coverage for the Met.

The then-Sun editor rang him in September 2007 to say she was interested in offering a home to one of the force's horses.

The communications chief arranged for Mrs Brooks, whose maiden name is Wade, to visit Scotland Yard's stables.

He said in his statement: "I felt this could possibly lead to some positive coverage about the care of retired police horses.

"Accordingly, I spoke to the then-commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, to make him aware (of) Ms Wade's approach and of the action taken."

Mrs Brooks visited the stables on September 19 2007, and met Mr Fedorcio and the commissioner for lunch later that day.

In the end the ex-News International chief executive looked after a retired Met horse called Raisa from 2008 until 2010.

The hearing was told that Mr Fedorcio's son Alex did work experience at The Sun while at school in 2003 or 2004 and again after university in 2007.

Robert Jay QC, counsel to the inquiry, suggested that Mrs Brooks' initial call to Mr Fedorcio about being loaned a police horse came at about the time that his son did his second internship at the paper.

He asked: "Was it the question - put bluntly - of favours being called in here?"

Mr Fedorcio replied: "I don't believe it was at all, not as far as I was concerned.

"The arrangement at that stage in 2007, I was not involved in. That was a matter between my son and The Sun direct."

Mr Jay went on: "Aside from the horse, do you feel Rebekah Wade was trying to get something out of you?"

Mr Fedorcio said: "No."

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