Durham police chief: Media dealings ‘open’

A POLICE chief told the Leveson Inquiry the culture within his force regarding dealings with the media was “healthy, open, honest and transparent”.

Durham Constabulary’s Chief Constable, Jon Stoddart, has been in London giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry, an investigation into the phone-hacking scandal by sections of the press.

Mr Stoddart told the inquiry there were no known issues regarding bribery and no payments had ever been applied for, made or authorised between the media and Durham Constabulary.

He added that he was unaware of any leaks to the media or private investigators.

Mr Stoddart, who gave evidence alongside Barbara Brewis, the force’s media and marketing manager, said the force and local media “work on a basis of mutual trust” and added that he has never been approached to provide information for favours.

He said in 13 years in a senior role he had only had one dinner with the national media, along with his Deputy Chief Constable, Mike Barton.

He said this was part of an ongoing operation to raise national and local interest into an impending operation into an Organised Crime Group and the two officers took three journalists for a curry and paid for the meal, while the journalists paid for the drinks.

Mr Stoddart, who also led a review into Operation Weeting, the Metropolitan Police’s investigation of phone-hacking, said this was declared in the force executive hospitality register.

He said relationships with local newspapers were “positive and healthy” and said he was disappointed by what the inquiry had uncovered. He added that he believed it would help change the culture throughout the police service.