Innocent, presumed guilty: How I was made to sweat for TWO years untill the Attorney General stopped the investigation because they fear me.
Journalists eyes are opened to the Horror of the new Police Powers and the injustice that defendants, innocent or guilty, have to pay for their own defence costs if they have saved any money or own any property.
They learned that the state have unlimited resources to pursue you but you will be forced to rely on poorly funded legal aid. Niel Wallis 62 was a high profile case but thousands of elderly people like him lose their life savings because of a system without sense or compassion. When these journlists were pally with the Police they did not seen to care about injustice.
So the Attorney General has stepped in and saved News of the World Journlaists because long investigations are a great hardship but what about the THOUSANDS of compliants against the Police where corrupt Police office have ruined peoples lives. What about the whistle-blowers who lanquish in jail.
Comment by NEIL WALLIS, former executive editor of the News of the WorldOn Friday morning, the Crown Prosecution Service announced they would not be charging me as part of their inquiry into the phone hacking scandal. I will not stand trial, won’t go to jail. I’m not ruined. Well, not exactly.
From where I’m standing, nearly two years after I was first arrested, my life is in turmoil. I have said goodbye to more than £200,000 in lost earnings and had the case gone to court, it would have cost me at least another £250,000.
The car’s gone (a Renault Espace) and at times I worried our West London home might have to go. My family has been put through hell, and for many nights I haven’t been able to sleep without the help of pills.
If I’d known what was to follow that morning they came to take me away 21 months ago, I might have done the unthinkable. If someone had said, “Look, plead guilty, take three months and it will all be over”, I’d have been sorely tempted. Even though I knew, and know, I am innocent.
And I’m sure others would have been tempted, too. At least two colleagues have attempted suicide since they were arrested as part of the same investigation. I didn’t reach that point but I understand how it can happen.
Life in turmoil: News of the World former executive editor Neil Wallis said goodbye to more than £200,000 in lost earnings
And if they knew the reality of this investigation, I believe most would be shocked to learn that many have been arrested on nothing more than fishing expeditions.
Today, in this country, there are more journalists under arrest than there are in Iran. People don’t know because none of us have been able to speak out while under arrest. I am the first. In my case, it was blatantly clear police arrested me without any evidence and assumed they would find some form of wrongdoing. They didn’t. But they spent nearly two years trying.
I was arrested in a dawn raid at my London home. When the 6am knock on the door came, I wasn’t surprised. A week earlier, The Guardian had published an untrue story alleging News of the World reporters had erased phone messages of the murdered schoolgirl, Milly Dowler. And I was the only former senior executive at the paper who hadn’t been pulled in.
The police entered my house mob-handed, stripped my office, trawled my laptops and took phones, notebooks, everything. (I was one of the lucky ones. When a colleague was arrested, two young teenage girls were made to stand outside their bedrooms at 6am while policemen searched their underwear drawers.)
I was taken straight to a cell at Hammersmith police station and left there. Next followed hours of endless questioning, much of it ridiculous. I was asked constantly what I thought about allegations NoW reporters hacked Milly’s phone. ‘Er, Mr Wallis wasn’t working at the newspaper when Ms Dowler disappeared,’ my lawyer told them repeatedly. They went on to ask me about the alleged hacking of the phones of the Soham victims instead. I wasn’t there then, either.
The officers hadn’t done their basic homework. It was surreal. I was a trophy arrest. Their modus operandi seemed to be if we ask him enough wide-ranging questions, he will end up confessing to something.
It shocked me. I’ve always had huge respect for the police. This was like being questioned by the Stasi. It didn’t matter what I said, they wanted their scalp. I kept thinking, so this is Britain? The land of the great British bobby and this is what we’re reduced to? Political arrests?
There has been a sustained campaign of intimidation by politicians in the wake of the expenses scandal. The Met, too, had a point to prove after their initial investigation into hacking at the News of the World was deemed substandard.
When I was released on bail, I thought if that was not the end of it, it would be over soon. I couldn’t have been more wrong. In the intervening 21 months, I had to return to police stations several times for questioning. Each time I was rebailed on a seemingly arbitrary basis.
Freedom of the press: At least two colleagues have attempted suicide since they were arrested as part of the same investigation, Mr Wallis said
Last October, the pressure became even more intense. A change in the law meant that if the CPS decided to press charges, I would have to pay most of the costs of my defence, even if I was found innocent. The £250,000 it would have cost me could have meant financial ruin.
Luckily, that hasn’t happened. And while I’m relieved, I’m still angry. I will rebuild my career and my life. At the age of 62, I’m going to university part-time, taking an MA in criminology.
US criminologist Malcolm Feeley coined the term ‘the process is the punishment’. I know exactly what he means. I may have been cleared but I’ve already served a sentence, lost huge sums of money, had my career massively interrupted and watched, helpless, as my family have been put through constant anguish. And for what?
And what about the dozens of colleagues still under arrest? How long before they are allowed their lives, or what’s left of them, back?