The Met expands police bribery inquiry following arrests of journalists on The Sun
A top policewoman declared yesterday that there is “very legitimate public interest” in investigating leaks to journalists.
Sue Akers, a Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner told the Leveson Inquiry into press standards that the Scotland Yard team investigating allegations that newspaper journalists bribed police officers to obtain information is to be expanded by half - following four past and present journalists on The Sun being arrested just over a week ago.
Akers told the inquiry that the Operation Elveden team will increase from 40 police officers to 61 to deal with the extended scope of the investigation which is running in parallel with the Met's phone-hacking investigation - Operation Weeting.
The Guardian reports today that Akers said the Elveden inquiry into alleged illegal payments by newspapers was important because it would "erode" public confidence in police officers.
She claimed that there was "very legitimate public interest in investigating this".
The Guardian said that in updating Lord Justice Leveson on the status of the various Met investigations into alleged newspaper malpractice, Akers pointed out that that between June and December, the Elveden team had focused only on former News of the World journalists. She said the journalists that Elveden had focused on were "reasonably senior".
However, that changed after News Corporation's in-house management and standards committee handed over email information relating to journalists on The Sun, which the police then further analysed, and that led to the arrest of four past and present Sun journalists on January 28.
14 people have so far been arrested as a result of Operation Elveden, including three police officers.
Akers said it had proved harder to identify police officers as suspects because journalists did not reveal the names of their contacts in internal emails that the Elveden team had examined.
Akers also spoke of the progress of the Weeting phone-hacking inquiry, agreeing with the characterisation put to her by Robert Jay QC, counsel to the inquiry, that she was "closer to the finishing line than the starting gun".
She said there were 829 likely phone-hacking victims as identified primarily from notes seized from Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator who was paid by News of the World between September 2001 and January 2007 - the month he was first jailed for hacking offences.
Of those, 581 individuals could be identified by name. A further 17 had not been contacted for "operational reasons".
Akers also said there were a total of 6,349 potential victims in various evidence collated by the Weeting team, although only a small proportion of these could be identified as likely phone-hacking victims.