Cleared NoW executive ‘went through hell’

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iol news pic Neil Wallis Reuters File image - Neil Wallis, former deputy editor at the News of the World. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

London - A former top executive at Rupert Murdoch's News of the World said Friday he had gone through “hell” after British prosecutors finally cleared him of phone-hacking nearly two years after his arrest.

Neil Wallis, 62, the one-time executive editor and deputy editor of the tabloid newspaper who went on to be a paid advisor for London's Metropolitan Police, was arrested in July 2011 and had been on police bail ever since.

Wallis tweeted on Friday: “After 21 months of hell for my family, CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) have just told my solicitors that there will be NO prosecution of me re my phone-hacking arrest.”

Minutes later Alison Levitt, the principal legal advisor to the Director of Public Prosecutions at the CPS, said there was not enough evidence to prosecute a journalist arrested on suspicion of phone-hacking.

“Having carefully considered the matter, the CPS has concluded that there is insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction in relation to that journalist,” Levitt said.

The prosecutor did not name Wallis, in line with British legal procedure for suspects who are arrested but have not yet been charged.

Scotland Yard confirmed that a 62-year-old man arrested on July 14, 2011, under Operation Weeting, the police investigation into phone-hacking launched in January 2011, would face no further action.

He had been due to return to a London police station on bail next week.

Wallis's lawyer Phil Smith said the journalist's reputation had been vindicated.

“Since he was arrested at dawn in July 2011, Mr Wallis has been subjected to a terrible ordeal,” Smith said in a statement.

“Whilst he is relieved that this is at an end he would now like the opportunity to reconstruct his career and his and his family's personal lives.

“His trauma cannot be overstated but at the end of this affair Mr Wallis' integrity is not only intact but his reputation has been significantly enhanced by his vindication.”

Wallis was one of a group of 13 suspects about whom British police passed files to the CPS in June and July 2012.

Eight of those suspects - including former News of the World editors Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson - were charged last year with phone-hacking while three others were told they would not face charges.

Of the remaining two Wallis is now in the clear while one journalist remains on police bail, the CPS said.

Wallis's close ties to the then-head of the Metropolitan Police, Paul Stephenson, led to Stephenson's resignation in July 2011 at the height of the scandal.

British police have made more than two dozen arrests as part of the phone-hacking investigation.

Sixty-one public officials and journalists have been arrested as part of a separate police investigation into illegal payments made in exchange for information.

Murdoch shut down the News of the World in July 2011 amid public outrage in Britain over its activities.

News International, the British newspaper arm of his US-based News Corp. empire, has since paid out millions of pounds in damages to hacking victims.

A judge-led public inquiry into the scandal launched by Prime Minister David Cameron concluded last year that the British press needed a tough new watchdog underpinned by new laws. - Sapa-AFP


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