Wallis dubs hack probe 'vindictive'

Lancaster And Morecambe Citizen: Former News of the World deputy editor Neil Wallis, who has been charged with conspiring to hack phones
Former News of the World deputy editor Neil Wallis, who has been charged with conspiring to hack phones

Former News of the World deputy editor Neil Wallis said he is "devastated" to face a "swingeing, indiscriminate charge" of conspiring to hack phones, more than a year after he was told he would face no further action.

The journalist, nicknamed "the wolf man", and former features editor at the tabloid Jules Stenson are both accused of conspiring to illegally listen to voicemails between January 2003 and January 2007.

Wallis said in a statement: "I am devastated that more than three years after my initial arrest, this has been brought against me. My family and I have already paid a huge price from the police's very public attention.

"Perhaps it is inevitable that after being such an outspoken critic of the collateral damage and pain caused by this endlessly vindictive and enormously costly investigation the ire has been turned on me for something that occurred at News International which I was not party to and have always said was wrong.

"Sadly, legal reporting restrictions prevent me commenting further on this sad day."

They were both charged as part of Operation Pinetree, a Scotland Yard investigation into allegations that News of the World features staff had obtained information in this way.

Wallis was previously arrested under the main phone hacking investigation, Operation Weeting, in a dawn raid in July 2011, and was told in February last year that he would face no further action due to lack of evidence.

Today's charge is under Pinetree, a strand of the investigation specifically looking at the newspaper's features department.

Gregor McGill, from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said: "The CPS has authorised the Metropolitan Police to charge Jules Stenson, former features editor of the News of the World, and to summons Neil Wallis, former deputy editor of the News of the World, with an offence of conspiracy to intercept communications in the course of their transmission, commonly known as 'phone hacking'.

"These decisions were taken in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors and the DPP's guidelines on the public interest in cases affecting the media.

"We have decided there is sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and that a prosecution is in the public interest."

Stenson and Wallis will both appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court on August 21.

Six other journalists who were also held as part of the inquiry have already been told they will face no further action.

In February last year, Wallis's solicitor said the journalist had suffered "a terrible ordeal" by being left in limbo for nearly two years.

He was employed by then-Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson as a PR consultant before his arrest in 2011, and Sir Paul was pushed to resign after the journalist was questioned by police.

The former News of the World deputy editor also had close contact with then assistant commissioner John Yates, who also resigned after criticism of his links to the newspaper and the decision not to reopen the inquiry into phone hacking.

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