RESEARCH TOOLS


Afternoon Hearing on Monday, December 12, 2011

Neville Thurlbeck and Neil Wallis gave statements at this hearing

Hearing Transcript

(2.00 pm) MR JAY Mr Thurlbeck, may I take you back quickly to paragraph 81 of the judgment of Mr Justice Eady, which is page 31228 of our bundle. It might be easier if you turn it up in the file.
A. I have it on the screen here.
Q. Just in the email five lines down, the sentence: "Please take a breath before you get angry with me!" It's quite a sort of personal touch. That's not your language, is it, rather than Mr Edmondson's?
A. I can't remember. I can't remember now this particular phrase.
Q. Okay.
A. I can't remember why it was put in.
Q. It might be because you were striving to find a degree of apparent empathy as part and parcel of an email which was all yours. Would you accept that possibility?
A. I can't remember the precise circumstances of the wording, how the email became to be worded.
Q. But you were telling us before lunch, I thought, that it was Mr Edmondson's
A. Yes, well, you know, I'm telling you the process by which we arrived at the email. Ultimately, as I've said, I accept responsibility for sending it. I accept responsibility for discussing how it should be phrased. I accept that. So going forward from that, I put my name to it and I'm quite prepared to hold my hands up to it.
Q. Okay. You were asked questions about the email and the surrounding circumstances by leading counsel for Mr Mosley and they're recorded in the judgment at paragraph 87, page 31231. You probably remember this part of the judgment, Mr Thurlbeck, but the answer you gave Mr Justice Eady in answer to cross-examination is, perhaps unsurprisingly, similar if not identical in purport to the answer you've given this Inquiry about the choices you were giving the women. Do you see that?
A. Yes.
Q. At the end of the citation at page 31232, Mr Justice Eady says: "It seems that Mr Thurlbeck genuinely did not see the point that it is elementary that blackmail can be committed by the threat to do something which would not in itself be unlawful." So Mr Justice Eady is making it clear here that his interpretation of the email and perhaps it was, frankly, the only reasonable interpretation is that this was blackmail. You didn't follow that at the time when Mr Price, Queen's Counsel, was asking you questions, but do you see it now?
A. Look, I've explained before the break precisely what the logical reasoning was behind sending that email. It was offering the girls a choice. A decision had been made, not by me but by others, that the part 2 was going to be the girls' testimony. We knew who they were, we had photographs of them, and at that time, even though it wasn't published ultimately, at that time, the intention was to publish that story. However poor story that might have been, that was the intention. So to that end I was asked to communicate with the girls and draw to their attention the fact that this would be the story, they would be named, they would be pictured. However, my newspaper wanted to give them the opportunity of giving us full testimony and in return we would be willing to grant them anonymity. That was the reason behind it. Now, Mr Justice Eady and others might indeed interpret that as being a blackmail attempt.
Q. Mm.
A. We didn't feel it was that at all. We were offering them a way of presenting us with their testimony in an anonymous fashion.
Q. I think what you're saying is you still don't genuinely see the point; is that right?
A. The point that Mr Justice Eady makes is that it could be interpreted as being blackmail. I don't interpret it that way, and we didn't at the News of the World. Nobody at the News of the World nobody, from the editor down has discussed or accused me of blackmailing these girls. Now, if I had, I would have expected Mr Myler, who was a very fair-minded man, to have reprimanded me severely. We didn't have a conversation about it because it simply was not the case. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON This may be very, very important evidence about custom, practice and approach to ethics. Did anybody or did you give any thought to the Article 8 rights of the women?
A. As I say, we the newspaper LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, no, Mr Thurlbeck, I'm sure that question can be answered "yes" or "no".
A. There was no discussion about that. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm sorry. Did you personally give any thought to the Article 8 rights of the women?
A. We didn't we were offering them a choice. The Article 8 rights were never discussed, were never mentioned in any discussions that I had. I was asked to communicate with them, ask them to come on board, give us a testimony in return for anonymity. That is what I did. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And you intended this was the idea you were going to publish the names, the faces, all the detail about these women? That's what you intended?
A. You're saying it's what I intended. I didn't intend to publish. It is not my decision to publish. I am asked to report, and in reporting, I was asked to communicate with the girls to get their testimony in return for anonymity. But it wasn't my intention to publish, but my intention was to speak to them and write an article. There is a big distinction. MR JAY You had to do all the necessary legwork and additional work to set in chain a process without which no one could publish; isn't that right?
A. That's correct.
Q. The general attitude in News of the World, if one is trying to identify culture, practice and ethics, was that following the judgment of Mr Justice Eady, there was nothing wrong with what you did or anybody else did; is that correct?
A. We analysed the story. We wondered whether we'd missed something. We looked at the evidence again. We saw what we believed then and many believe now to have been very strong Nazi overtones in the evidence that we were provided with. So during our sort of post-mortem, if you like unofficial post-mortem we were still convinced, not in a spirit of self-righteousness but in a spirit of what the evidence presented to us, and the evidence was the facts spoke for themselves, we thought then and we think now. There was a lice inspection. There was simulated rape. There was beatings of the prisoners. There was the chanting of "We are the Arian blondes". These things, then and now, led to believe that this was strongly influenced by a Nazi theme.
Q. Mr Thurlbeck, I've allowed you to give that answer without interrupting, but I must say you haven't answered the question. The question was: "The general attitude in News of the World, if one is trying to identify culture, practice and ethics, is that following the judgment of Mr Justice Eady, there was nothing wrong with what you did or anybody else did; is that correct?"
A. It is correct, yes, and nobody questioned me about what I did or how I did it.
Q. The attitude, really, was that Mr Justice Eady does not represent a sensible, right-thinking view of the common man, he is out on a limb, we can ignore his judgment. Is that also true?
A. No, that wasn't the case. We didn't ignore his judgment and we didn't appeal against it. We took his judgment on board. It's fair to say, however, that there was a feeling at the News of the World and there was and is a feeling even across a cross-section of the media that and certainly the journalists all the journalists that I've spoken to on rival newspapers, broadsheet or tabloid, as well as the man in the street, they've all concluded that there was, in their opinions, a strong Nazi theme. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Mr Thurlbeck, Mr Justice Eady reached a conclusion.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You, your paper, whether you were involved in the decision or not, decided not to appeal it.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You could have appealed it.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The Court of Appeal would have reviewed the facts and would have examined the law. That was open to you.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Right.
A. I accept that. MR JAY Instead, there was an application by the News of the World for scoop of the year, wasn't there?
A. I understand Mr Myler put the story forward for that award, yes.
Q. But as you were the chief reporter and you'd penned the story, he must have raised it with you before he made the application, didn't he?
A. Actually, he didn't.
Q. He didn't?
A. No.
Q. It was another decision he made without reference to you?
A. No, he didn't consult me on it. The editor decides what stories he's putting forward for awards and he didn't mention it.
Q. But maybe it doesn't or didn't surprise you that he made such an application because, from what you're saying, you remain quite proud of this story; is that fair?
A. I make no comment on whether I'm proud of it or not. All I say is this: I think we got the facts correct. The facts are indisputable, and I think therefore they speak for themselves.
Q. Let's look a little bit more at what Mr Justice Eady said about the facts being correct, because he criticises you not merely in relation to those emails I refer to, but also in relation to a transcript of an interview which you asked Woman E to sign. This is paragraph 88 of the judgment at 31232, please, Mr Thurlbeck.
A. Yes.
Q. The circumstances here is that there was a meeting with Woman E in Milton Keynes on the day before publication of the follow-up article. So that, I think, takes us to 5 April 2008; is that right? It's a Saturday, anyway, is it not?
A. I believe so.
Q. And you presented her with what purported to be a transcript of an interview which you asked her to sign?
A. Yes.
Q. Didn't you?
A. Yes.
Q. Had there been an interview?
A. There had been numerous sort of conversations over the course of a week or so, which had been hadn't been recorded because they were done sort of ad hoc as and when. Perhaps in a haphazard unexpected way, she would reveal facts. So I correlated all these facts that I could from memory, put them into a memo and asked her if this was a true and accurate reflection of what she'd been telling me, and if so, would she sign it, and she agreed and she did.
Q. She signed it, is this right, as Mr Justice Eady records, making no adjustments or corrections?
A. I can't remember if she made any corrections.
Q. That's what the judgment says. Do you see it? About six lines into paragraph 88?
A. Yes.
Q. Then Mr Justice Eady continues: "He [that's you] then subsequently added further material to it, some of which was attributed to Woman E on the article. When challenged by Mr Price about this, he responded that it was all based on telephone exchanges with her over several days and that the interview represented a genuine reflection of what she had told him."
A. Yes.
Q. "There are unhappily no written notes to confirm this claim, which may be thought surprising for a journalist of Mr Thurlbeck's experience."
A. Yes.
Q. That's true, isn't it?
A. Yes.
Q. Paragraph 89: "The interview contained one sentence, however, which was demonstrably false. He attributed to her the following remarks: 'It wasn't a one-off. Max has been hiring us to do this for years. He's addicted to sado-masochistic sex involving Nazis and beatings." This contrasts [I'm reading Mr Justice Eady again] with the contents of paragraph 38 of Mr Thurlbeck's witness statement, in which he said: "'It was clear to me from speaking to Woman E on 27 March that the party the next day was the first time she herself was involved with the claimant in a party with any Nazi or military theme.'" So there was a massive discrepancy there, wasn't there?
A. I think this is what Woman E told me when I first met her and I'm not quite certain about the second part. I think I'm incorrect, that it wasn't the first time, because she had referred to it before. I think my second statement there is inaccurate. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The witness statement?
A. I think the witness statement is inaccurate. My statement there it should not have been "the first time", because she had mentioned to me before that this had happened in the past. MR JAY One shouldn't overlook, and maybe you are overlooking, paragraph 90 of the judgment, 31233, where Mr Justice Eady deals with all of this very carefully, as one would expect an experienced High Court judge to do and that's precisely what he's done.
A. Yes.
Q. "Mr Thurlbeck explained this by saying that Woman E had changed her story between 27 March and the signing of this draft article on Saturday, 5 April." So pausing there, do you remember giving that explanation in court?
A. Yes.
Q. "Such a fundamental shift would surely have rung loud warning bells as to her reliability as a source. Whether this was so or not, he undoubtedly knew that she had known the claimant only for a very short time (a matter of months). It could not, therefore, possibly be true that 'Max has been hiring us to do this for years'. Mr Thurlbeck thought it would be wrong to construe the word 'us' as including Woman E. He thought it should be taken only to convey the impression that the claimant had been employing the group as a whole for years. This seems, in me, to be a disingenuous interpretation of the words. The allegation was plainly false and he must have known it to be false when it was put into the article." So you know what Mr Justice Eady is saying. He's saying that you made it up.
A. No, I
Q. Deliberately.
A. I didn't make it up at all. If Woman E changed her version of events slightly, you know, this was not an uncommon feature of most people who went through very detailed interviews with me. They would some details would change sometimes in the telling, and they would revise what they'd said before, for accuracy. I wasn't overly concerned, from memory I mean, it's so long ago I can't precisely remember now, I have to say, but I wasn't overly concerned that there may have been a shifting of emphasis. What I was more concerned about with was what was on the tape when it actually took place, when it actually happened. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But when you've compiled your witness statement, you were doing it for High Court proceedings, which were incredibly important to you and your newspaper.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So you'd want that to be 110 per cent accurate.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Now you're saying to me it's wrong?
A. Well, I can't remember the circumstances of why they might differ, you know, from the it being the first time to it have happened before. My memory is that she'd said it had happened before. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And not only is it wrong; you didn't say that to Mr Justice Eady.
A. I can't remember now. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I think he probably would have noted it if you had, Mr Thurlbeck.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right. MR JAY Mr Justice Eady refers to your journalism, paragraph 170 of the judgment you probably remember this as "at least casual and cavalier".
A. My journalism?
Q. In this respect, this story.
A. All right.
Q. Fair judgment, isn't it, page 31521?
A. Mr Justice Eady is entitled to his opinion, but my all I would say is this, in defence of this particular story: we were absolutely certain that we got the facts right and nobody has come forward to show me that what I said had happened did not happen. You know, it was a factual account of what went on between those four walls.
Q. You say "nobody", but the one individual who counts, the individual who'd heard the evidence, seen the tape, judged the credibility and reliability of witnesses, including you, did come to that considered conclusion, didn't he?
A. Yes, he did.
Q. May I ask you whether you have read and considered the evidence of Mr McMullan, which the Inquiry heard about 13 days ago now? Do you have the transcript?
A. I read the transcript and I saw it live.
Q. The picture he paints, is it one with which you are familiar?
A. Which particular aspect?
Q. Perhaps I can ask the general question: any of it? Then I'll ask particular questions. You might say, "Well, it completely resonates with my experience", or you might say, "It completely conflicts with my experience." So help us, please. Or maybe it's a bit of both?
A. It doesn't reflect my experience of the News of the World at all. My experience of the News of the World is that it was a highly professional organisation. It was staffed by some of the best journalists on Fleet Street, who worked with great diligence and integrity, and continue to do so. I don't I was proud to work alongside all of my colleagues. I have enormous respect for all of them. You know, there may have been a small caucus of people who gave us a bad reputation now. Unfortunately, the bulk of those very decent journalists have been tainted by that and are now finding it extremely difficult to get work. But I have to say that my experience of working with the vast majority of the people on the News of the World was wonderful. They are an exemplary bunch of people who could work on any newspaper of the world. It has to be said that the News of the World wasn't the biggest selling newspaper in the world for nothing. It was there because it was put together by some of the most gifted journalists of their generation. That might seem a very unfashionable thing to say in the light of what's going on now and the light of recent events, but that was a tiny part of the News of the World's 168-year-old history, and I was privileged to be part of that organisation, and I don't recognise the picture that was painted by Paul McMullan.
Q. May I seek to draw out different aspects of the picture so that you can comment?
A. Yes.
Q. One point he made and this is in transcript for Day 9 at page 32. We can make it available to you if you wish to see it but let me paraphrase it for you. He said that you had to have published a number of stories a year I think he said it was 12 stories but if you didn't get enough bylines, the consequence was that you got fired. Is that correct or was that correct
A. It wasn't part of the News of the World rule book, but there was a kind of an unofficial recognition that bylines were a reasonable performance indicator, and if your byline count was low, then obviously your job would be in jeopardy, but I think that happens on every newspaper. In fact, it does.
Q. Public interest, which he deals with first of all at page 39. The question which was asked at line 12 of page 39 in relation to blagging the answer was more general. Question: "When you did that, did you give any consideration as to whether or not it would be in the public interest to blag?" Answer: Yes, it was always in the public interest. I mean, circulation defines what is the public interest. I see no distinction between what the public is interested in and the public interest. Surely they're clever enough to make a decision whether or not they want to put their hand in their pocket and bring out a pound and buy it." Now, does that represent common thinking at the News of the World?
A. No.
Q. And why not?
A. Well, it's plainly, you know, a travesty of what the public interest is all about. I mean, we all understand that there is a vast difference between the public interest and what the public are interested in. They're two completely different things. The public interest was always something that we would be aware of, that we would discuss. I don't recognise that at all.
Q. Although you told us before 2008 it was a consideration which was less punctiliously adhered to?
A. No, we were talking about privacy then, weren't we, not the public interest? But no, the public interest features very, very highly on a sort of on the yardstick of how we judge whether or not a story goes in the paper. I don't recognise that at all, and frankly it's a million miles away from the truth.
Q. So what considerations then did you take into account in assessing the public interest balance?
A. In the Mosley case?
Q. No, I'm talking more generally.
A. More generally? Well, we would look at you'd have to really give me a kind of specific example of a story here but you know, if we were exposing a drug dealer, then we'd have to decide whether or not there was evidence of a crime being committed, and if there was, then clearly it would be in the public interest to reveal the fact that a crime was taking place in a school or a public place or wherever. We'd have to look you know, before somebody appeared in the News of the World, there would invariably be a public interest discussion about it.
Q. Mr McMullan continued at page 40, line 9: "The reason why the News of the World sold 5 million copies is that there were 5 million thinking people and that's what they wanted to read. That's what drove the paper. We were the mirror to society, the daily mirror in fact." Did that represent your and other people's thinking at the News of the World?
A. The readers were very important to us. There's no question about that. But they were important to us in the sense of we had to decide or find out, we had to discover what particular stories they were interested in. In the 1960s/70s, it was crime. In the 1990s, it was royals. In 2000s, it was showbusiness. So we'd be responsive, obviously, to what the public were interested in. There's no question about that. But, you know, to say that there was a that the public interest and what the public were interested in were somehow blurred is completely false.
Q. But you were acutely aware at all material times of the matters which did interest the public, weren't you?
A. Yes.
Q. In that respect, you were a mirror to society, weren't you?
A. We had to respond to what our customers, if you like, our readers, wanted to read. But that doesn't mean because they wanted to read it, it gave us carte blanche to publish anything they were interested in.
Q. But subject be libel, which you've clearly explained the News of the World did not want to get sued for libel the only real and practical constraint before the outcome of the Mosley case was whether you assessed whether or not the story was true. That was where your enquiry began and ended, wasn't it?
A. No, that's certainly one criteria and one of the most important criteria that we would use, but not the sole criteria. You know, one had to decide whether or not it would be in good taste, for example. Many stories came out where that simply didn't cross that threshold. So regardless of whether or not the public would be interested in it or whether it was in the public interest, it simply wouldn't end up on the news list because it was a matter of bad taste or it was unfair, unjust or whatever. But it wasn't the sole criteria that we used. The libel laws weren't the sole sort of barrier to publication, if you like.
Q. Did these good taste considerations enter into the equation at all in Mr Mosley's story?
A. We felt that it was many aspects of it were distasteful, especially what we believed was the sexualisation of the plight of the Jews, and we thought that it was vital that Mr Mosley, who was an elected representative of 100 million people, many of whom could have come from the Jewish faith that they had a right to know, regardless of whether the information was tasteful or distasteful. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But, you see, that's a very fine stand, Mr Thurlbeck. What I don't understand, therefore, is why you didn't put it to him, because if it was an unanswerable story, that each one of you was satisfied was rock solid, why make a decision and I appreciate you didn't, but why should it not go to him?
A. I'm afraid that is really a question you need to address with the editor. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, I'm asking
A. Because it wasn't my decision. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Do you think it should have been put to him?
A. Right. If we'd put it to Mr Mosley, we all know that Mr Mosley would have sought an injunction. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes?
A. The likelihood is that there would have been an interim injunction granted until the event until the matter had been considered properly by the judge. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, maybe.
A. In that event, the story would have leaked out and become the currency and property of our rivals. So this, I imagine, is a decision that an editor would have when he's deciding what to do with regard to presenting, you know, potential people who are potentially appearing in the newspaper, but as I say, it's not my this is not my opinion. This is not my decision. They were made by others. But you're asking me what my opinion is of what process of thinking they might have gone through LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, no, I actually asked you what you would have done.
A. What I would have done? I really don't know. I don't know. Under the circumstances, it's a difficult call. If my newspaper had spent a lot of time and maybe thousands of pounds on an investigation and the legal process was going to ensure that my property was going to become the property of a rival, what would I do? It's a very difficult judgment call. If we did that every time, we would simply be handing our rival newspapers with the property that we'd paid very dearly for. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But you had the video. Nobody else had it.
A. Yes, but they'd have the if this was the matter of an injunction, the newspapers wouldn't need the video because they would have the qualified privilege it would take from a court hearing. They could report it as fact. MR JAY The injunction hearing would have been in private, wouldn't it?
A. Yes, but these things always leak out.
Q. That's why your newspaper took such careful steps to limit the people who knew about the story?
A. You'll have to ask Mr Myler about that. As I keep referring you back, this is not part of my decision-making process.
Q. Although you are fully aware, it seems, from your last series of answers, what the decision-making process was in Mr Myler's mind?
A. Yes.
Q. That's true, isn't it?
A. I don't know what his decision-making process was. You'll have to ask him. I'm saying this is probably the thought process that he would have gone through.
Q. I want to go a little bit further than that, Mr Thurlbeck. I appreciate your apparent diffidence, but had you been the editor it would have been precisely your decision-making process because you wouldn't have wanted to run the risk of losing such a glorious story. That's the truth, isn't it?
A. I really don't understand why you want to find out what my opinion would have been if I was the editor because I wasn't the editor. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm actually thinking about your ethical approach, Mr Thurlbeck, because you represent one of a number of journalists who are giving evidence from News of the World and that's what I'm required to consider.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's the terms of my reference.
A. Mm. MR JAY Humour me to that limited extent and try and extrapolate and enter the world of more generalised debate. What would your decision have been?
A. On the Mosley case?
Q. Mm.
A. I don't know. I haven't sat down and seriously considered what I would have done if I was the editor.
Q. Okay, Mr Thurlbeck, I'll move on to another point. We've heard that answer. Back to Mr McMullan at page 97 of the transcript, where he talks about the culture in relation to expenses. His evidence was, page 98, line 5: "In some regards, we weren't that well paid. My leaving salary as the deputy features editor was only ?60,000 and as a way to bump up salaries, we were given a certain amount of leeway. So I claim, I don't know, another 15, 20 a year, of which 3 was legitimate. Is that what you mean? Is that legal? It's not. I mean, that was just the general ethos." Does that chime well your experience?
A. No, it most certainly doesn't. The managing editor at the time, Stuart Kuttner, was the man who signed all our expenses, and a more forensic examiner of newspaper expenses I don't know of. Everything had to be receipted. If there was anything that looked as if it might not be legitimate, it would be returned with a question mark in black felt tip on it and a demand for an explanation. I don't know who was signing Mr McMullan's expenses, but it certainly wasn't Mr Kuttner.
Q. He gives us one example this is page 99 where Mr Kuttner himself you probably don't know about it on getting back from Kosovo and Swiss Air flying out the last plane, so there was a five star hotel in Greece and a first class Swiss air flight. But you may not know much about that; is that correct? The picture you're painting, is this right, is entirely different? It's 180 degrees in the other direction, as it were, from Mr McMullan's?
A. Yes.
Q. Doesn't chime at all?
A. Correct, absolutely.
Q. Can I ask you next, please, about the use of private investigators. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Just before you leave Mr McMullan, I'm going to ask, because I think it's only fair: do you know of a reason why Mr McMullan should come along and tell me what you describe is a complete tissue of fairy tale?
A. I have no idea whatsoever. It was an enormous surprise to me and my colleagues. It's not a place I recognise. MR JAY Okay. Use of private investigators.
A. Yes.
Q. Can I ask you about Mr Derek Webb. What was your involvement, if any, with him?
A. He would be employed to observe people, report back to journalists on activities that we might be investigating for the paper. He would compile a report. A journalist would then act on that report and investigate further with him or alone.
Q. The question was: what was your involvement with him? And your answer was: he would be employed.
A. Yes.
Q. I think the question was more directed to you. did you employ him?
A. I did, yes.
Q. Do you remember approximately when you first started engaging him?
A. I think it was at the beginning of 2002 or 2003, something like that. I'm not quite sure.
Q. That matches up with the witness statement he has provided. Can you remember approximately how many assignments you gave him?
A. Dozens. I can't put a number on it, but several dozen, I would think.
Q. Can you assist us with the type of assignments in general terms?
A. Yes. We would the newspapers, for decades, have been involved in observing human behaviour and reporting on it. Derek Webb was especially good at observing and he would observe and he would compile evidence on all sorts of activities, illegal or otherwise, and he would come back to us and we would act upon whatever he was reporting on.
Q. Were your primary surveillance targets politicians and celebrities?
A. I would say they formed a large percentage, yes.
Q. In relation to celebrities take them first were the assignments in the main directed to finding out about their private lives?
A. Only if their private life came into conflict with their public life.
Q. That wasn't the question.
A. It was
Q. Did the assignments in the main relate to their private lives?
A. Yes.
Q. In other words
A. Their activities.
Q. their intimate relationships?
A. Not always.
Q. But usually; is that right?
A. I wouldn't say usually. Sometimes it could be their intimate relationships or sometimes it could be drug-taking or sometimes it could be maybe fraternising with undesirables, but it was right across the spectrum.
Q. Can I take those three in turn. Drug-taking. In cases where Mr Webb was put onto a celebrity in relation to drug-taking, did you usually have evidence that suggested that drug-taking might be involved?
A. We'd receive a tip-off and then research it.
Q. Is that your usual practice or occasion practice? That you had a tip-off?
A. It was always 99 per cent of the time, I would say we had it was a tip-off to the news desk or to me directly from a contact and then we would research you know, we would research that information.
Q. In relation to the second category, which I think was personal relationships, what information did you have, in advance of putting the private investigator onto a case, that there was anything worse examining or exploring in relation to the personal relationship of the particular celebrity?
A. Well, the information would normally come either to the news desk from an informant on the outside, somebody knowledgeable about the person's life, or it would come direct to me from a contact or a source that I'd established over the years. So it would either come from the news desk or from one of my contacts.
Q. You didn't, as it were, go on any fishing expeditions? Is that the position, Mr Thurlbeck?
A. It was too expensive to go on fishing expeditions, as you say, and it's just not something we would do. Fishing expeditions weren't part of our sort of make-up. We would get information from contacts. That's the way it worked.
Q. So fishing expeditions, wholly anathema to the culture and ethos of the News of the World? Is that your evidence?
A. Well, it wasn't something that we did, to my knowledge. I certainly received information from contacts and acted upon it, but I can only speak for myself.
Q. How often did Mr Webb's activities substantiate the tips that you received, in relation in particular to snippets about sex?
A. I can't put a percentage figure on how many ended up in the newspaper.
Q. Again, that's not quite the question. How often did his activities substantiate the snippet?
A. I would say very often. He was as very, very effective operator.
Q. Do you have any idea how often? You're not making this up as you go along on that point, are you?
A. How many times did I use him?
Q. No, how often he actually yielded anything for you.
A. Well, it was considerable. I mean Derek Webb's assistance was considerable, so it was a considerable number of times.
Q. How many stories, then, approximately, were you able to publish as substantiated by his work?
A. I can't put a figure on it, I really can't. Several dozen maybe? Or I don't know. I don't have a log of the stories that Derek Webb helped me out on over the years.
Q. Does it follow that often he wasn't able to substantiate your story?
A. Sometimes he would be put on a story and then, for whatever reason, after two days or a day in other words far too soon he would be called off in order to do something else for somebody else. So very often the story his investigation would not be completed. It would barely be started.
Q. What about your third category, which I believe was fraternising with undesirables, in relation to setting Mr Webb onto a case. What do you mean by that?
A. An example might be a police officer maybe consorting with known criminals or a teacher consorting with a drug dealer or whatever. That sort of basis might be the start of an investigation, but not necessarily the end of it. You know, we'd need to establish the facts.
Q. In deciding whether or not to set Mr Webb or someone like him onto a case, what consideration did you give to the public interest?
A. Well, we'd have to, you know, decide whether or not the activity that was alleged was worthy of reporting because it was in the public interest. You know, sometimes we might have to investigate further in order to establish whether or not there was a public interest justification. But these are decisions that are made as you're going through an investigation, at the beginning and ultimately at the end.
Q. Were these decisions ever documented? The public interest decisions, that is.
A. I don't think they were.
Q. You don't
A. No, no, I don't think so.
Q. Did you use other private investigators? That's to say well, did you use other private investigators as well as Mr Webb?
A. Mr Webb was the main private I think several had been used over the years by different people at the newspaper, but my the person that I dealt with most of all was Derek Webb.
Q. Do you remember using Mr Whittamore?
A. I don't remember but I understand my name is there as having called him several times, many, many years ago, I believe. So yes, I think it's safe to say that I have used him, yes.
Q. It's a long time ago now. You probably don't remember the circumstances
A. I really don't, I don't.
Q. Was there any uneasiness in the News of the World I'm speaking generally now about the use of private investigators, particularly looking at the private lives of celebrities and, on occasion, politicians?
A. Well, specifically the use of private eyes was merely an extension of what journalists always do anyway, and that is to observe and report on human behaviour. It so happens that Derek Webb had very specialised skills in this area, which is why he was used as an extension of the journalistic process, if you like. So we didn't have any objections to using Derek Webb. He was or concerns. To my knowledge, he didn't do anything illegal, he didn't do anything that would cause us or him to be embarrassed. He was a very, very effective former detective and we were very grateful for his services. He was a particularly good operator and very genuine and very above board.
Q. There must have been occasions, though, where Mr Webb truly struck gold and came out with an extremely confidential and potentially salacious piece of information which you and others in the office would read before making a decision whether or not to publish the story. Did you never feel any uneasiness about the ethics of doing that?
A. About the ethics of what?
Q. Reading the type of information I've referred to. Highly confidential. When I say "salacious", I mean intimate. Usually involving sex, to be more explicit.
A. Well, you know, if, for example, a trade union leader was being followed by Derek Webb and that trade union leader was having an affair and he was married with another woman and he was staying at a hotel and that hotel was being paid for by his union members, then clearly we would be in a very great public interest scenario. And the salaciousness of it, as you put it, is gives us no concern. What we were concerned about is the public interest justification, and that example I've just given you is actually a very real one. So we'd have to weigh up one against the other. The salaciousness in itself is not the justification for writing the story. That is the detail of the story.
Q. It's sure enough what sells a story, though, isn't it?
A. Well, as I say, you know, you'll the 5 million, 6 million readers of the News of the World, more, you know, obviously bought it for these reasons. They liked the mixture of the stories that went in.
Q. If I were to ask you in your own words to define the culture of the News of the World at all material times, give us four or five key bullet points, please.
A. The culture was one of thoroughness. There was the first thing that struck me when I joined the News of the World in 1988 was when I first started working there, was how thorough their journalism was. There was no stone left unturned. They were extremely fastidious journalists and I entered that culture with the belief that we had to make sure the story was correct, and in 26 years in journalism, I've never been successfully sued for libel and I have never had a PCC ruling against me. Our newspaper had it instilled in us that we had to be thorough, that we had to be extremely rigorous in the stories we wrote because the reputation of the newspaper rested upon us getting it absolutely right. That was the overwhelming that was the culture there. All my colleagues were off the same breed. They were, by and large, by and large I accept that this is not, by any manner of means, 100 per cent, but it's rather like saying because Nick Leeson brought down Barings, then Barings was therefore a toxic institution. The News of the World was not a toxic institution at all. The people who were there when it was closed were some of the finest journalists, as I've said, that I've ever had the privilege of working with. I did not recognise Paul McMullan's evidence at all, and I think if you were to call before this Inquiry every other journalist on the News of the World, they would say more or less what I am telling you now. That was the culture, one of rigour.
Q. We'll take up that offer in part, I think, Mr Thurlbeck, but not obviously in full. You are, I understand, very concerned that I don't go into the detail of the Bob and Sue Firth story; is that right?
A. All I would say on this matter is that the PCC investigated the allegations made by this couple LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Mr Thurlbeck, I think I've said this to you twice. I am looking at the customs, practice and ethics of the press.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON One of the questions I have to consider is whether the PCC provided an effective remedy for those who complained about stories.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So the PCC endorsement is not definitive.
A. No, I understand that. All I can say is this: that the adjudicator of these matters in our industry, the only adjudicator, the PCC, did adjudicate in this matter in 1998. It examined all their evidence and it examined all my evidence. It exonerated me. It declared that the article was "justified" and in the public interest, end quotes. My editor, deputy editor and managing editor went to review all the Firths' evidence and the conclusion from those three people was that there was no impropriety. Now, beyond that, for the reasons that I've explained today you privately and to your team, I intend to say no more on the matter, with respect. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, you can I'm not going to force you to respond, but you must understand
A. I understand, sir. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON that I am looking at this issue, along with many, many others, and I want to make sure that you do have an opportunity to respond
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON to complaints and criticisms and concerns that have been articulated to me because I want to be fair.
A. Yes, I understand. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Now, if you don't want to take the opportunity to do so, then that's up to you. But I do want to give you the chance. MR JAY So would you like to answer questions on this issue or not?
A. I've given you my full statement on the matter, Mr Jay.
Q. So that we see the full position, I will read out the PCC adjudication. Whether or not you have an objection to that
A. No, please go right ahead.
Q. It's addressed to Mrs Firth, who was the complainant, obviously. It's dated 13 November 1998. We can make copies available if necessary. "The Commission took the view from the evidence you had provided that the bulk of the article appeared to be accurate and that a sexual service was provided for guests. Under these circumstances, the Commission did not consider that the main allegation in the article referring to sexual services was significantly misleading, though the sexual service referred to was hand relief. However, it made no finding on the complaints regarding the allegations that you had offered full sex or that your husband had had sex with clients." Then they go on to say that the use of subterfuge by you was in the public interest. But wouldn't it be fair to say that the Commission ducked the principal allegation, namely that relating to full sex, which you had made in your article?
A. As I say, I'm not going to go any further on the statement I've made. My position is clear. I was exonerated by the PCC that is the main adjudicator of these matters by my editor, my deputy editor and my managing editor. MR JAY Well, I'm not going to press that any further. Thank you very much for your patience, Mr Thurlbeck. MR SHERBORNE Sir, there are a number of points to correct in Mr Thurlbeck's evidence. I'll stick to the more significant ones. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Just hold on. Are you applying to ask him any questions? MR SHERBORNE I'm not, sir, no, but there are a number of factual points that I need to raise. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON By all means, you can do that, as I've allowed others to do. But Mr Thurlbeck needn't stay there. MR SHERBORNE It's a matter for Mr Thurlbeck. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, he's no longer giving evidence. Therefore it's not a matter for him; it's a matter for me. Thank you. (The witness withdrew) MR SHERBORNE Sir, the first point is that contrary to the evidence given by Mr Thurlbeck in answer to Mr Jay, Mr Thurlbeck did admit at trial that prior to the filming of the Sieg Heil episode he had previously had discussions with Woman E about the Sieg Heil. Can I read very briefly from the transcript of the trial. It's Day 3 for your record, sir, page 66, and he was asked this question at line 38 by Mr Price, after there had been some questioning about the Sieg Heil and Mr Thurlbeck had given the answer which he gave this morning in relation to the wording, which he said was somewhat convoluted. He was asked this: "You had discussed the question of a possible Sieg Heil with Woman E before, hadn't you? "Yes." Said Mr Thurlbeck. "In what context? "I realised that if there was going to be a Nazi theme and if Mr Mosley was to give the Sieg Heil salute, then that would be a very crucial image for us to capture. It would be a very powerful and very emotive image and I saw it as being my job to make sure that if Mr Mosley did give the Fascist salute, that our girl had sufficient instruction and we had a camera able enough to catch that image, and that is what I'm talking about." LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. MR SHERBORNE Secondly, Mr Thurlbeck, as you will recall, gave evidence that the story about Mr Mosley should not have been published if there had not been a Nazi theme. In response to Mr Jay asking whether from the start, it had always been understood to be a Nazi party that was to take place on 28 March or whether in fact it had started as something different, Mr Thurlbeck, you will recall, rejected that suggestion and said this and I think it's page 109, line 21 of today's [draft] transcript: "The first conversation with Jason [Jason was the tipster, as you'll recall] indicated that there was a Nazi theme, so it was very firmly in our minds by the time we went down to see him." In fact, the witness statements that Mr Thurlbeck put in at trial, paragraph 9, said this: "Jason did not mention the Nazi theme at all on this first telephone call. At this point, I envisaged that any article that might be published would simply expose the claimant's fetish for sadomasochism and his use of prostitutes and a dominatrix." That recalls very firmly to mind, sir, you might think, paragraph 97 of Mr Justice Eady's judgment where he said this: "The real problem, so far as Mr Thurlbeck is concerned, is that these inconsistencies demonstrate that his best recollection is so erratic and changeable that it would not be safe to place unqualified reliance on his evidence as to what took place as between him, Woman E and her husband." Thirdly, turning to the blackmail emails, whether or not Mr Thurlbeck passes them off as written by another's hand, what he can't pass off is the fact, as was evidenced at the trial, that he made two further telephone calls to Woman B subsequent to the emails. Can I just read very briefly from Woman B's evidence? You'll find it I'm not sure you have it in the bundles. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON If I don't have it, I think the better thing, Mr Sherborne, is that you put it in and you put it in as evidence so it is evidenced, and I'm rather concerned, I think, that it ought to be MR SHERBORNE It's an exhibit to Mr Mosley's evidence. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON If it's exhibited, then I'm very grateful because I want to make sure that everything that is before me is evidence-based. MR SHERBORNE Sir, I had believed it was and I've just had confirmation it is. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Fine. MR SHERBORNE Paragraph 36. She says: "To make things worse, I was contacted by Neville Thurlbeck on the afternoon of 2 April 2008 by telephone. He called several times before I finally answered the phone at approximately 6 o'clock. He told me his name and asked if I had received his email. I said no, as I'm in full-time work and I'm only free to check my private emails after work. I suggested he could tell me now and then what he has written in his email. He told me his name again and told me he had written the article in News of the World. I was frozen on the phone. He said he's watching a video of us which was four hours and 27 minutes along. I remember the words precisely. I was amazed he would have the nerve to call me, having written the article. Words cannot describe how angry I was and remain with him. I think his actions are inexcusable and disgusting. After the initial phone call, I received several emails from Mr Thurlbeck, offering to buy a story from me about Mike in return for anonymity. "Mr Thurlbeck called me again on the morning of 3 April 2008 on my mobile and said, 'We can play this one of two ways. Either I'm co-operative and my name is blacked out and I get shedloads of money, or if I'm not willing to cooperate, he will show the faces of all girls involved in the newspaper.' I felt this was extra pressure as I was concerned for my friends also. He said the newspaper was going to run another story this coming Sunday. He told me he knew my identity and he would send me pictures of myself. I felt already blackmailed. I will never forget this phone call. "In the afternoon, I received a further email, in which he said, 'Here's the offer. It's ?8,000 for an interview with one of you and for anonymity.' I did not reply. I believe that the emails and calls from Mr Thurlbeck were an attempt to blackmail me and put me under pressure." This evidence was not challenged at trial. Finally, I'm not going to deal with Mr Thurlbeck's so-called exposition of the facts which apparently led him to believe in the Nazi theme, despite the glaring inconsistencies in them. They were roundly rejected by Mr Justice Eady, and as you yourself said, sir, Mr Thurlbeck and his legal advisers and the advisers of News International did not think it worthy of an appeal. I'm happy to deal with them if you really wish me to do so, but you may already feel that Mr Thurlbeck's culture, ethics and practices are abundantly clear. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, I won't respond to the implied invitation to identify what I'm thinking. If there is anything that you want to put in on this topic perhaps you did some analysis before the final speeches in the trial you're welcome to do so. MR SHERBORNE Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But I don't insist upon it. MR SHERBORNE Okay, I'm very grateful. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. MR JAY It may be a convenient moment to hear from Mr Garnham before we break and then deal with the final witness, but we're in your hands. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Certainly. Yes? Submission by Mr Garnham MR GARNHAM Thank you, sir. Sir, you may have seen that there were a number of articles in the press over the weekend, and in fact again this morning and during the course of the day, relating to the evidence you received from Mr and Mrs Dowler about the hacking of their daughter's mobile phone. Those articles follow the submission to your team of a statement prepared by the Metropolitan Police and the subsequent disclosure of the substance of that statement to Mr and Mrs Dowler's solicitor. The first draft of that statement was sent to Mr Jay last Thursday and the final draft on Friday evening. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I am very conscious, Mr Garnham, that you are anxious to make this statement to me, conscious that it was likely to enter the public domain very quickly. MR GARNHAM Yes, I'm grateful for that indication, sir. The articles in the press, although they attempt to correct previous errors, are still not wholly accurate. May I indicate now where the MPS investigation on this issue has got to? On 21 March 2002, Milly Dowler went missing. According to the witness statement of Sally and Bob Dowler at paragraph 14: "In or around April or May 2002, [they] went with the police to look at CCTV footage of the Bird's Eye building in Walton-on-Thames." Their evidence, both in their witness statement, paragraph 15, and in oral evidence, 21 November, page 17, was to the effect that they had been repeatedly calling Milly's mobile phone in an attempt to reach her. A large number of voicemails had been left so that the voicemail box became full. As a result, whenever they called her number, they would hear an automated message saying that the voicemail box was full. Whilst in reception of the Bird's Eye building, Mrs Dowler phoned Milly's mobile phone again and was shocked, she told you, to hear Milly's personal voice message instead of the automated mailbox full message. Mr Dowler told you she was elated because she thought there was a possibility that Milly had accessed her voicemail and was alive. Mr and Mrs Dowler explained that later on, shortly before the criminal trial, they were told that their phones had been hacked by Mulcaire and Mrs Dowler made the immediate connection with the incident at the Bird's Eye building. It has been widely reported, both before and after the Dowlers gave their evidence to you, that the reason Mrs Dowler was able to get through to her daughter's voicemail was that Glenn Mulcaire or, alternatively, some unidentified journalists, had deleted messages to free up space for further recordings. On 4 July of this year, the Guardian reported: "In the last four weeks, the Met officers have approached Surrey Police and taken formal statements from some of those involved in the origin enquiry who were concerned about how News of the World journalists intercepted and deleted the voicemail messages of Milly Dowler. The messages were deleted were deleted by journalists in the first few days after Milly's disappearance in order to free up space for more messages. As a result, friends and relatives of Milly concluded, wrongly, that she might still be alive. Police feared evidence may have been destroyed. The Guardian investigation has shown that within a very short time of Milly vanishing, News of the World journalists reacted by engaging in what was standard practice in their newsroom. They hired private investigators to get them the story." Sir, the MPS do not know where the Guardian got this information, although that matter is the subject of further investigation. Mr Mulcaire has subsequently denied deleting voicemail messages from Milly Dowler's phone. The MPS have been investigating the suggestion that Mr Mulcaire deleted voicemail messages on Milly Dowler's phone. Although their investigations are not yet complete, they are presently able to say this. First, the visit by the Dowlers to the Bird's Eye building occurred on 24 March 2002. Second, Mr Mulcaire was not tasked in relation to the Dowlers until some time after that date. Third, and accordingly, it's unlikely that anything Mr Mulcaire did was responsible for what Mrs Dowler heard when she called Milly's phone during that visit. It is not yet possible to provide a comprehensive explanation for the fact that on that occasion the automated mailbox full message was not heard. It is conceivable that other News International journalists deleted the voicemail, but the MPS have no evidence to support that proposition and current enquiries suggest that it is unlikely. The most likely explanation is that existing messages automatically dropped off from the mailbox after 72 hours. The relevant phone network provider has confirmed that this was a standard automatic function of that voicemail box system at the time. There were approximately 72 hours between Milly's disappearance and the visits to the Bird's Eye building. The MPS, sir, wanted to speak to Mr and Mrs Dowler to provide them with this information. They spoke to the Dowlers' solicitor, Mark Lewis. Mr Lewis thanked the MPS for the approach but indicated that the Dowlers would prefer not to be spoken to by the police at this stage. Mr Lewis was informed of the substance of this statement shortly after it was passed to the Inquiry. Some of the press reports I referred to suggest that the MPS told Mr and Mrs Dowler that News of the World journalists had deleted Milly's voicemail so as to make room for other messages. It's notable, I would suggest, sir, that Mr and Mrs Dowler did not say so to you. Furthermore, I can say from MPS records that the Metropolitan Police did not tell the Dowlers that voicemails had been deleted, for the simple reason that they did not know of any such deletions. Sir, thank you for the opportunity to say that. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. It's right to say, isn't it, that Mr Lewis has made a statement which I've seen in the press. I don't know, Mr Sherborne, whether you want to add anything? I then will want to the say something. MR SHERBORNE Yes, sir, I would want to the add one or two things, both in my capacity as representing Sally and Bob Dowler, and secondly because I have had the benefit of seeing disclosure in relation to this issue in the course of the Chancery Division litigation. I will be careful as to what I say, but there are a number of points that can positively be made. I'm not going to contradict what Mr Garnham says but it is important to set them in context. We do know definitely that News International accessed the voicemails of Milly Dowler and that, as a result, they would have been deleted automatically, even if not deliberately at some point. What Mr Garnham says is that currently it's believed that Mr Mulcaire would not have been responsible for those deletions, which led to the voicemails on 24 March, which is the time when Sally, as she gave evidence, felt that false wave of euphoria because she had finally got through to her daughter's voicemails. It is said that that is not the result of Mr Mulcaire because he was not tasked to use Mr Garnham's words until after the 24th. Of course, I believe I understand the basis on which he says that, but it doesn't mean that no one else at News International was responsible, by another means, for accessing those voicemails in that time, and indeed we do know that there was a particular journalist at News International, whose name I will not mention, who was in possession at that time of Milly Dowler's mobile telephone number and pin number, but not through Mr Mulcaire. What we also know is that on 24 March, all of the voicemails in Milly Dowler's mobile phone were deleted. That cannot be, as a matter of technical information, the result of an automatic deletion which takes 72 hours, because of course there were voicemails that had been left between the 21st, which is when the 72-hour period starts, and the 24th. As you are recall, Sally Dowler gave evidence that she repeatedly called her daughter's voicemail, only to find that it was full. So what we know as a result is that someone was continuing to access that voicemail between the 21st and the 24th and did delete those voicemail messages, which gave rise to Sally Dowler being able, finally, to get through to her daughter's voicemail on 24 March itself. If it wasn't the police, as is said, and it wasn't the family of Milly Dowler, and it wasn't Mr Mulcaire, then with respect, there are only so many culprits. Sir, that is all I have to add. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Right. It strikes me that this information is of significance, bearing in mind the importance of the original announcement in the context of the setting up of this Inquiry. What I am keen to understand, therefore, and to think about, is how and in what way the Inquiry should grip this information. I think I am correct in saying that in addition to the Metropolitan Police investigation, which doubtless covers this issue, there is also an investigation being conducted by the IPCC in relation to the Surrey Police end because of course we're talking about 2002 when it was the responsibility of the Surrey Police to conduct the enquiry into Milly Dowler's absence. MR GARNHAM It was. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I would like some thought to be given to whether and to what extent it is appropriate for me to look into this issue. I say "whether" because of the ongoing investigation. I say "to what extent" because I would be unhappy if it had to be left to part 2 of this Inquiry to get into the detail, because I would anticipate that the public would want to know what definitively was the upshot of the Inquiry. So what I'd like consideration to be given to is how we should deal with this without in any sense prejudicing ongoing investigations, but in such a way that I can express myself satisfied that I have got to the bottom of what happened. MR GARNHAM Yes. What I said to Mr Jay was that the Metropolitan Police were anxious that that correction was on the record as soon as possible but it was well understood that you would want this in evidential form at some stage. Accordingly, I suggested to Mr Jay that certainly at least in the first instance, we should give some thought to preparing a witness statement from DAC Akers, who is the senior officer in charge of Weeting, to cover this ground. I'm happy to do that, or if you or Mr Jay think an alternative mechanism is more appropriate, we can do what. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm happy for you to discuss it with Mr Jay. I'm not sure that it can simply involve Weeting and the Metropolitan officers who are concerned with this investigation. It might have to go back to Surrey. I declined their application for core participant status. I don't think that matters. I think it's perfectly feasible for them to put in evidence to such extent as it's felt appropriate for them to do so, but I don't think I can leave it hanging in the air just indefinitely. MR GARNHAM It hadn't been my intention LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Mr Garnham, I didn't think it was, but I wanted to share with everybody here my current thinking and allow them all to make some short submission about the point and about the way in which I presently am minded to navigate my way through this development in the understanding of what happened. MR GARNHAM We will take steps. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you, Mr Garnham. Mr Sherborne, do you want to say anything about what I've just said? MR SHERBORNE Not at all. I endorse your approach. I was going to say that it's Surrey Police who know the name of the News International journalist who had the number. It is not something which the Metropolitan Police knew and that's why it's right that it should be the Surrey Police who provide this material. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. Mr Rhodri Davies, I'm very conscious this must be something of a fast ball? MR DAVIES Yes, it is. I didn't know these statements were going to be made. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON What I'm perfectly content for you to do, in the light of what you've heard, is if you and Mr White take instructions and consider the matter. MR DAVIES Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I am absolutely open to suggestions as to the best way of proceeding. MR DAVIES Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I do think it's likely to have to be addressed at some stage. MR DAVIES Yes. Very well. I'm sure we will co-operate in getting to the bottom of it, but what we don't want to do is to cause any further pain if we can possibly avoid it. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Mr Rhodri Davies, I entirely agree. Thank you. The same probably so in relation to the Guardian. Obviously, questions are raised and I'm not for a moment suggesting that I'm going to start requiring identification of sources, but I do think that some thought has to be given to how this picture has been put together so that we can see what actually it is legitimate to say is the proper conclusion to reach about what happened in 2002. Anybody want to say anything else on this topic? Right, we'll give the shorthand writer a break and then we'll come back and hear the last witness. Thank you. (3.20 pm) (A short break) (3.27 pm) LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Right. MR JAY The next witness is Mr Wallis, who needs to be sworn or affirmed, please. MR NEIL JOHN WALLIS (sworn) Questions by MR JAY MR JAY Mr Wallis, sit down and make yourself comfortable and provide us with your full name.
A. Neil John Wallis.
Q. You have provided a detailed and lengthy statement which runs to 28 pages. It doesn't have a statement of truth, at least the version I've seen, nor has about been signed, but can you confirm, please, that this is your evidence, Mr Wallis?
A. Yes.
Q. May I just confirm one matter. You, I think, have been arrested by the police in relation to phone hacking issues; is that correct?
A. Correct.
Q. As is your entitlement, you do not wish to speak about phone hacking matters; is that correct?
A. Correct.
Q. So I won't ask you about such matters. Your career in LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Just before you go on, Mr Jay, it ought to be said that there has been some observation that it's rather odd that hear I am conducting an Inquiry that at least has the background of it being based in phone hacking and then I am not asking questions about that subject. I think it has to be understood that the Inquiry, which is into the custom, practice and ethics of the press, includes phone hacking and other activities but the reason the Inquiry has been split into two is specifically so that I don't prejudice the investigation of criminality, if such there has been, or the potential prosecution of those responsible, and by making it clear to all those who are involved in that investigation that they have their own rights which they're entitled to rely upon, I am not in any sense doing anything that was not appreciated from the very outset, or in any sense undermining the rights that each of the witnesses has. MR JAY I tried to make that clear in my opening submissions but it's been overlooked. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You did but it's a point that clearly needs to be repeated. MR JAY The third bullet point, about eight minutes into my opening submission. Mr Wallis, if I could first of all ask you to speak to your lengthy career in journalism, and if I can seek to do it in this way. First of all, you were working in Manchester at the Manchester Evening News as a crime reporter; is that correct?
A. Well, I did things before that, but yes, I was a crime reporter on the Manchester Evening News.
Q. Then you moved over to the Daily Star?
A. Yes.
Q. From Manchester to London. You were headhunted by the Sun in December 1986 and you worked your way up to become deputy editor of the Sun; is that correct?
A. Correct.
Q. In about 1996, 1997?
A. Around then.
Q. You then, if I can move a little bit further forward to page 4 of your statement I'm just dealing with your career, but in 1997 you were head-hunted to become editor of the Sunday People; is that right?
A. End of 1997, early 1998.
Q. You stayed there for six years until you became deputy editor of the News of the World; is that right?
A. Correct.
Q. And the editor at that time was probably Mr Andy Coulson. Do I have that right?
A. Correct.
Q. You stayed there until approximately when, Mr Wallis?
A. 2009.
Q. 2009. Then we'll cover your career after that in due course. So a lengthy history in journalism. You tell us, in the first page of your statement, that you gave talks to police officers on training courses about police-media relations. Can you give us a thumbnail sketch about what those courses included, very briefly?
A. It would be the value of police-media relations, how to go about the mechanics of them and why it was worth doing.
Q. Anything about any ethical considerations which might arise or not?
A. No.
Q. Okay. I'm going to take quite a lot of your statement as read, Mr Wallis, if you follow me
A. I suppose there was an element of as part of that, saying that there is a virtue in being open with the media because the media are your voice to the general public, who you look after. So there was some discussion like that, why it was right to consider police-media relations.
Q. Okay. I might come back to that later, Mr Wallis. As I was saying, I'm going to take quite a lot of you statement as read but seek to bring out a number of matters, if you permit me to do that.
A. Okay.
Q. First of all, the three diagrams which you provided as exhibit NW1. The first one is at our page 704.
A. Uh-huh.
Q. This is the basic structure, on my understanding, of virtually any newspaper one would care to choose and perhaps all the newspapers you worked in; is that right, Mr Wallis?
A. I have a very bad copy here. Can you put it there, it's fine. Yes, sure.
Q. Is this something you've prepared for us?
A. Yes.
Q. Thank you. We can see how it works. I'm not going to take time over it. I'd like to take a little bit more time about the next page, 7705. We really need to start at the top right; is that correct? With the tip which starts off the story?
A. Yes.
Q. Which may go to the news desk. The reporter is assigned. The reporter then works back with the tip. Legal advice is then fed in and then the story is fed back up, is that correct, from the bottom of the middle column to the "Story Produced" box near the top? Do I have that right? Then it starts going left.
A. Yes.
Q. Unfortunately my copy is not coloured. I don't know whether the no. So we can't see the key that you've prepared in colour, but we can work it out perhaps. Maybe we can't. Then the final diagram LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, no, no, it's not unimportant this. I'm very grateful to you for doing this. It's useful. But can you tell me what's blue and what's purple?
A. No. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No?
A. I just have black and white here as well. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, no, you prepared this document. I understand that MR JAY We're going to do better now.
A. Could I have a look at it? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, please. I was rather making the assumption that as you had prepared it, you would probably know, but
A. It's some months ago. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Oh, fair enough.
A. Oh right, yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Just talk us through it.
A. Hold on. There's one it hasn't actually appeared on here, hasn't copied onto here. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Oh, the colours?
A. That's where we might have an issue. MR JAY I think the yellow is quite faint, so it hasn't come through.
A. Yes. (Handed) LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you very much. Oh, the yellow line is from the news desk down to the lawyer, and from the lawyer to the back bench night editor departments, and it's all blue except for
A. Those two. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The yellow is lawyer to news desk and lawyer to back bench, and the purple is lawyer to subeditor and lawyer to reporter?
A. Mm-hm. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Then also lawyer all the way up round the back to the editor?
A. Mm-hm. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Right. Thank you. I am going to do this and then I'll give whoever's copy this statement is back again. MR JAY You might need the next page for internal finance diagram, which I hope is in colour in that version we've just handed you. 07706. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Just give me one moment. (Pause) Right. The likely communication is not visible at all. It's from the reporter to the news desk. The news desk to the editor and the rest is all in light blue. Right. Give that back to the gentleman who was kind enough to provide it. Let Mr Wallis see it. (Pause)
A. Thank you. MR JAY Those are your diagrams, Mr Wallis. Return to your witness statement at page 4. You tell us that whilst at the Sun, you conceived the idea of the National Police Bravery awards, which are still in being; is that correct?
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And that, to be fair, is one of the examples of the real contribution that a tabloid newspaper has made to the public good?
A. I would say so. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, I'm feeding you the line for you to agree with me.
A. I'm glad we agree, my Lord. MR JAY Thank you. At the bottom of page 4, you deal with the Press Complaints Commission.
A. Mm-hm.
Q. You were a member of the PCC between, is this right, 1997 and 2003?
A. Probably 1998 to 2003.
Q. When you ceased to be editor, is this right, you came off the PCC but you remained on the Code of Practice Committee? Do I have that right?
A. No, I then went to the Code of Practice Committee.
Q. In relation to the Code of Practice Committee, who comprises that committee?
A. The Code of Practice Committee consists entirely of editors from across the media.
Q. The current chair is Mr Dacre; is that correct?
A. Yes.
Q. Between which dates approximately were you on the Code of Practice Committee?
A. From 2003, approximately, until I left journalism in 2009.
Q. You say in the middle of page 5: "It seems to me that at this time in particular, and in the wake of the tragic death of Princess Diana, national newspapers patently became much more careful and considered in their treatment of stories, both legally and in regard to the PCC." Are you intending to convey by that your view that since 1997 or thereabouts national newspapers have "behaved" much better?
A. Certain isolated events apart, I absolutely believe that, yes.
Q. Is this in relation to libel in particular or are you also intending to cover privacy matters?
A. No, libel, as I say, has withered very successfully, but post the 1997 election, the legal profession has very successfully managed to transfer their interest into privacy.
Q. It makes it sound as if that's been finessed or driven by the lawyers, rather than by the market, namely that there's been a need for it because of the way newspapers have behaved. What are you saying, Mr Wallis?
A. I'm saying that there has been a change as libel dropped out, privacy became the field sport.
Q. The hunter being the lawyer and the hunted the newspaper, not the targets newspapers might have; is that right?
A. No. To be serious, it is evident, I think, that the libel the amount of libel withered. I think that that probably had something to do with newspaper realities, looking at the world they were working in, and at the same time 1997, of course, brought in the Human Rights Act and that opened up a completely new field, which was then explored and has developed ever since.
Q. You had a direct involvement in the A v B v C case. This is the bottom of page 5 of your witness statement.
A. Yes.
Q. Because you, I think, were the editor of the Sunday People at the time?
A. I was.
Q. Do I have that correct?
A. Yes.
Q. Have you seen Garry Flitcroft's evidence in regard to that piece?
A. Yes.
Q. The transcript is available under our tab 14.
A. Do you want me to look at it?
Q. Please. At the time, Mr Wallis, how much were you aware of the detail as to how the story was being obtained on the ground?
A. How much of the detail?
Q. How much the detail were you aware of, of the nature of the story, about what the journalist was finding for you?
A. What I can't remember is what I knew at the time because it's 11 years ago. What I can say is that it wasn't a it made itself into a major story. It wasn't a major story when it first came on my radar.
Q. Is this because kiss-and-tell stories of this genre were fairly common fare for the Sunday People?
A. Throughout the popular media.
Q. Perhaps there was nothing much to distinguish this story from the run-of-the-mill kiss-and-tell stories; is that correct?
A. Only from the eventual legal intervention.
Q. Fair enough. Were you aware and this is page 54 of the transcript for Day 5 that one of the women contacted Mr Flitcroft and effectively blackmailed him? On his account, which he gave to us, unless he paid ?5,000, she would go to the press with her story.
A. Is this the second woman?
Q. It is, I believe, the second woman, yes.
A. I don't think I was aware of it literally as it was happening. I did become aware of it, but this was had become an issue for me about press freedom rather than the specifics of this case. This wasn't about Mr Flitcroft. It was about what newspapers could or couldn't do and if the if this was correct and I reread the judgment last night, and I think the Lord Chief Justice at the time said it had been accepted it didn't alter the run of the court case, if you see what I mean. The second lady came on our horizon long after the first injunction.
Q. It's correct to say that it's not a matter which altered the judgment. The Court of Appeal ruled in the newspaper's favour?
A. If she hadn't have if Ms D had not appeared, we would have continued.
Q. But it may be quite often a feature of these kiss-and-tell stories that their genesis is tied up with a blackmail threat to the man involved, because it's usually a man involved, the man says no and the woman then goes off to the newspaper with the story. That's quite a common pattern, isn't it?
A. I have no knowledge of what you've just said. I accept that it is said here and it was accepted in the judge's thing, but I have heard on a number of occasions of men who are subject or people who are the subject of this sort of injunction claiming things like that, and in fact Mr Flitcroft made a similar allegation about the first lady but was never able to produce evidence to verify it.
Q. Have I correctly understood your answer: it is then quite a common pattern or allegation that the genesis of this story, as it were, arises in blackmail, but you don't always accept
A. No, no, I wasn't say that.
Q. You wouldn't say that?
A. No, no. I'm saying I have heard of examples of it, but in the main, most kiss-and-tells come from a very distressed and angry usually angry young woman, who feels that she's been misused in some way and wants to get her own back and then says to herself: "Well, I'll try to make some money off it as well." Revenge is the main motive that I've ever come across in kiss-and-tells.
Q. So a mixture of revenge and a financial motive; is that right?
A. In the context of revenge and: "He's used me, so therefore why shouldn't I?" and being aware that there is the ability to make money out of newspapers for these sorts of stories.
Q. Mr Flitcroft was asked a question about the public interest at page 64 of this transcript, Mr Wallis, line 4. The question was: "I think I can probably guess the answer to this question, but do you think it was in the public interest for the Sunday People to tell the world about the fact that you'd had two extramarital affairs? Answer: "No, it was private. It was between me and Karen and there's no reason why my private life should be in the public interest. You know, people I was a footballer and the Sunday People printed this story because it was probably interesting to the public, but at the end of the day, it wasn't public interest. If I had been done for match-fixing or taking cocaine, then that's in the public interest." Do you agree or disagree with that?
A. Do I agree with Mr Flitcroft?
Q. Yes.
A. No.
Q. Why not?
A. He was the captain of a Premiership football team. He was extremely well known. He'd played for Manchester City. He was extremely well-known in the northwest of England. His private life was also known, and the two ladies both wanted to tell their version of how they felt used and abused by him. If you look at the evidence that they both gave, there were striking similarities. To both of them, he'd said that he was single. To both of them, they both thought they were having a relationship with him. Then eventually he told them that he was in fact married. They felt betrayed and abused by him so they got angry and one of the ways that they used to get back was to come and offer this story to my newspaper. Do I think that someone in that position has a public image? Do I think it's of public interest? I agree with the Lord Chief Justice at the time, who agreed to the lift the injunction.
Q. Had Mr Flitcroft made any statements about his private life in a public forum?
A. It's 11 years ago. I mean, I can't remember the specific detail. But the general position I would have taken at that time was that he was the captain of a top Premiership football team, I think the year before they won the League. You know, they're on television week in, week out. They are role models to my son, you know, who wants to be a football star, and they look up to these people as heroes.
Q. Okay, and that's sufficient, in your view, to bring this into the public eye, is it?
A. It was not a major story. It became major because of the legal action that was taken. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But the impact on him was major, whether it was challenged by way of injunction or not. The impact on his wife and on his kids was going to be enormous. Now, I can agree there's a balance of the article 10 rights of the two ladies. That's a different question. But just focusing on him and his family, the fact that it wasn't a big story to you doesn't say that makes it any less important to justify, does it?
A. I understand your point. All I'm saying is that at the time, I thought he was a public figure. The issue of him and his wife were his decision about whether to betray his wife in this way. And, you know, it was that wasn't our decision. His private life, in the sense of how he lived his life away from his wife, made the story become known to us because he was very well-known on the scene, if you like, of the northwest, and in my view, as captain of a major premiership football team, I thought he was a role model. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand the argument and I've read the Lord Chief Justice's view. You make the point in your statement that later judgments in other cases went the other way. MR JAY It was ultimately, though, your decision which brought this into the public domain. Had you not made the decision to publish, everything would have remained private as between Mr Flitcroft and the two women concerned, would it?
A. Well, obviously I don't know about that, but it would have left a situation whereby a pregnant wife was in ignorance of the fact that her husband was cheating on her.
Q. Yes, by definition. Can I move off that topic and maybe ask you whether your view of the public interest balance, which you've clearly explained to us whether that's changed in any way since 2002, 2003, when you made relevant decisions in relation to Mr Flitcroft?
A. I think that the world has evolved. Yes, I do.
Q. And in what way? Which direction?
A. I think I'm a realist and I look at what has happened with the law, I look at the privacy adjudications. I think as you look at my entire industry, or what used to be my entire industry, I think there's been a very clear shift away from these sorts of stories to some effect.
Q. Is that a shift which you welcome or is it a shift which responded to pressures from elsewhere? How would you analyse it?
A. I think that most senior journalists that I know are above all pragmatists and occasionally you get something that you can fight on and you fight on it. If you can't, you get on with your working life and do the best you can.
Q. I'm not sure I quite follow the gist of that, Mr Wallis. Could you make it a little more explicit for us?
A. It is because of the development of privacy, the privacy laws, if you like, it has been much harder to be able to publish those sorts of stories. That's a reality. So as a very hard-working national newspaper journalist, you focus on what is productive rather than banging your head against a wall.
Q. Okay. Can I ask you, please, a little bit about your work on the Code of Practice Committee. You tell us it met or meets about six times a year; is that correct?
A. I think it's a bit less than that, actually, having revised all these minutes. I think it's about four times a year.
Q. Can I ask you about a couple of minutes. First of all, under our tab 5, there's a document which ends with the number 3130. It's a committee meeting on 23 September 2004. At the very bottom of 03130, you'll see, under the heading "Specific changes and forward" are you with me?
A. Yes.
Q. You suggested that: the fact that the code was written for editors by editors should be referred to unqualified as its strength, without referring to perceived weakness. This was agreed." I think you're referring there to the editor's code book, which is an interpretation and expansion of the code. Are you with me?
A. Mm-hm.
Q. What were you intending to refer to there by "perceived weakness"?
A. I think there was an original draft put forward and the it was put forward as a debate in that forward, that, if you like, some say a strength of the code is this, some say a strength of the code is that. My view was that the strength of the code was that it was written by the editors and I didn't think that that was a perceived weakness and there's no point of flagging up something that was, you know, questioning the whole point of the exercise, if you see what I mean.
Q. Okay. Can I ask you about another meeting, this time on 6 April 2009, which is under our tab 10.
A. Yes.
Q. Page 3168, under the heading "Accuracy", towards the top of the page.
A. Yes.
Q. "Obligation of care. Schillings solicitors suggested that the code should state that where there was an intention to publish serious allegations, the relevant parties should be given an opportunity to reply and the gist of their response published. They claimed this reflected PCC policy. The secretary said that in fact, PCC policy was that a failure to give all relevant sides of a story, if unremedied, could lead to a breach. Committee members agreed on the general principle of giving all relevant sides of the story, but felt there were circumstances where there would need to be exceptions. The chairman said these would be difficult to codify. Neil Wallis said that it had always been policy for the News of the World to make a 4 o'clock phone call to the subject of an expose that was now impossible because of the risk of being successfully injuncted at the hands of Saturday duty judges." Can I just understand the position? Until about what time had it been policy to make that 4 o'clock phone call? Can you help us?
A. Probably well into the 1990s and early 2000s.
Q. Am I right in saying that that policy, therefore, ceased in the early part of the previous decade? Have I correctly understood what you're saying?
A. Well, shall I try to explain?
Q. Yes?
A. As the success of late-night Saturday injunctions increased, for reasons that were subject to debate and some discussion in the media and in the legal profession, it became clear that whatever the rights and wrongs of a case, it was becoming much more easy easier for a judge to grant an injunction. If you if that injunction was granted, that means (a) that you all that hard work had to go on hold, and (b) it stopped becoming yours, because it then became out to the rest of the world. Because if you fought the injunction, it would be heard on a nice comfortable Thursday or Friday morning in the High Court and you, as a Sunday newspaper, have your story all over the daily newspapers.
Q. Right.
A. And that's quite apart from whether or not you felt the injunction was justified, and believe it or not, there have been occasions when injunctions have been overturned.
Q. Am I right in saying that it was that consideration which, as it were, became overriding and it led to a change in policy at News of the World not to make that 4 o'clock phone call, therefore?
A. "Policy" sounds a bit hard and fast. There was no meeting where we all sat down and said, "Right, this is what we're going to do." It evolved that way as it became clear that it was getting harder and harder to get through. But the upshot of that, of course, is what I said earlier, that because of these difficulties there are now far less of these stories appearing because of the success of privacy injunctions.
Q. But if the News of the World weren't making the 4 o'clock phone call any more, the story would be published without the target having the opportunity to apply for an injunction and the only remedy now would be damages?
A. Sure.
Q. That would follow, wouldn't it?
A. Sure.
Q. In the end, it was commercial considerations which drove the change of policy, wasn't it?
A. I'm just thinking about your use of the word "commercial". LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, it's your story. You want to keep it.
A. Pardon? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It's your story. You want to keep it.
A. I'm sorry, I didn't think that was the question he was asking me. What I meant was it changed because of the practicality and there was no point in bashing your head against a brick wall, I guess, which is why you see less kiss-and-tell stories.
Q. In your long experience, is there a correlation between publication of exclusive stories and increases in circulation or, alternatively, increases in advertising revenue?
A. No. What there is is there are two I think I covered this in my statement, actually. If you have an absolutely massive story, like a world famous footballer allegedly having a relationship, that can create a spike. Sadly for journalists and they find this very uncomfortable most circulation graphs bump along like this. Sadly, most circulation graphs are bumping down like this at the moment, but that's a different issue. The things in truth that create sales significant sales growth is marketing. So if you look at the great success of the 2000s in marketing terms was the Mail on Sunday and free CDs. Probably everybody in this room somewhere has got a CD for Christmas that came with the Mail on Sunday. They bump up circulation significantly, and what you're trying to do, as a journalist, is so that when you went and bought your copy of the Mail on Sunday or the Sun or the News of the World that day, because it had got Nana Maskouri Sings the Blues, you then read the paper and you think, "This is good." So you put together a consistently good package, and it's that consistently good package you are trying to maintain and that's about great stories, exclusive stories, hard-hitting material, moving stories, great magazines. It's a whole mixture of things. But it's very rare, in sad truth, that a great page one goes like that.
Q. But it's part of the mix, isn't it, that a newspaper like the News of the World and of course, the other papers, presumably were the Sun and the Sunday People would be selling exclusive stories which would be of interest to the public and would have the tendency, at least, to either retain their loyalty to the paper or, at best, increase circulation. That's fair, isn't it?
A. Yes.
Q. Moving on through your statement, you tell us at the bottom of page 7 that you were regarded as a bit of a pain in the backside for insisting on adherence to the code. There was an adverse ruling by the PCC in relation to the TV serial, a finding that that was a fishing expedition. At the top of page 8, which is 07682, the editor instructed, at your instigation, that there must always be a written memorandum spelling out the specific reasons for suspicion before you carried out any such investigation in future. To your knowledge, was that policy, the need for a written memorandum, abided by or not?
A. I believe it was. I believe that what it successfully did was to stop the fishing expeditions.
Q. Would there be, for example, a series of written memoranda somewhere which evidenced the basis of suspicion in each case before starting on an investigation?
A. No, sorry, that's not what I said. What I meant was this was an example of it was a Christmas party that they knew about and so they went along on the off-chance that they could spot any mischief. They were found against by the PCC and effectively what that did was it was a way of policing to make sure that that sort of cold calling, if you like, that sort of fishing expedition stopped. So if somebody had a I don't remember an example again, shall we say, of someone coming and saying, "We've heard that the Inbetweeners' Christmas party is going to be full of heroin-injecting lunatics." It didn't happen. It just sort of went away then. It was a way to say, you know
Q. Because it would be a fishing expedition?
A. Precisely.
Q. Turning it the other way around, if you didn't think there was a fishing expedition, there would be a written memorandum evidencing the suspicion. Were there ever any such memoranda?
A. I can't remember. I'm sorry, it's a long time ago.
Q. Can I ask you, please, about corporate governance. Am I right in saying that your evidence on this issue is that corporate governance was what the departmental heads decided in individual cases; is that correct?
A. I think it's more subtle than that. It was made known very clearly from the top, the position of the paper. It was then that we had highly experienced, very able departmental heads working in conjunction with the legal department, whose job it was to go away and bring us stories. And they would bring us stories that would say, "We're happy that this is accurate. We're happy it's legally fine and PCC fine."
Q. Let me see if I can unpick that a little bit. The position of the paper was made known at the very top and then the message, is this right, was disseminated down through the departmental heads and checked and policed by them and the legal heads. What do you mean by "the position of the paper was made known", Mr Wallis?
A. We didn't want to fall foul of either legal problems or the PCC. An editor is not going to survive very long if he has a series of legal judgments against him. An editor is not going to survive very long if he has a series of PCC adjudications against him. It costs money. Fighting a legal case is extremely expensive. Who needs that? Who needs the problems of that? It just doesn't make sense, so what you plainly try to do is to say, "I don't want to risk either libel or privacy or the law or the PCC unless it's a conscious decision by me."
Q. Beyond that, namely the common sense wish not to travel outside the law in all its various manifestations, were there any systems in place to ensure that journalists adhered to these principles?
A. With respect, it was more than just a common sense thing. It was a very active view from the senior executives. In terms of practical systems, do you mean in a sense of I don't know, in the FSA, that sort of thing, do you mean?
Q. Maybe not quite as regimented as that. When one's talking about corporate governance, one is usually talking in terms of systems which would be a system of dissemination of information, quite often usually in written form, and a system of oversight, which would be reasonably formulaic.
A. So we made sure, for instance I remember at one point, for instance, we sent a copy of the PCC code to every single reporter, to their home address. Another time by the time I was on the Code Committee, we sent a copy of the PCC handbook to every member personally at their home every staff member personally at their home address. The senior executives it was made constantly clear to them exactly where the paper stood, and it wasn't in any way secretive. It was very well-known that we were not interested in the idea of breaking the law or of breaching the PCC or risking libel claims or spending a load of money on privacy laws battles. It just occasionally we would look at something and make a decision. Sometimes we would think, "Yeah, this is worth taking the law on, yeah."
Q. Okay. May I ask you about ethics then, which is page 7685.
A. Sorry, I'm lost.
Q. Page 11 on the internal numbering.
A. Oh yes.
Q. You start off by asking a series of questions. "Is this story accurate?" Here, of course, you're dealing primarily with libel issues and also paragraph 1 of the PCC code, aren't you?
A. Yes.
Q. "Is it right to print?" Well, what do you mean by that?
A. Again, in relation to the PCC code, but also in relation to: will this story do more harm than good?
Q. To whom?
A. To the subjects or to the institution or whatever.
Q. Of course, the subjects and those around the subjects, usually the family of the subjects, will always be harmed by privacy stories, won't they? Almost always, anyway.
A. I don't think that's a I think there's an impact, yes.
Q. The next question you pose: "Could someone be wrongly damaged by publishing?" Could you give me examples. What do you mean by "wrongly damaged" there?
A. Yes, I remember a I was editing the Sun one day on a Sunday and we had a story about a major captain of industry and his personal life and the guy rang me and we had a conversation and I made a decision that it would be wrongfully damaging and I didn't run it. I've done that on a case of someone whose child, I remember, was in a severe mental severe health condition and it would have tipped the child over the edge.
Q. Of course, as soon as you embark on that line of inquiry in an individual case and receive more information, you're lying to receive evidence of impact as an editor which might well cause you not to publish the story, but that's not usually an inquiry that's undertaken, is it?
A. I'm sorry, I didn't understand that.
Q. As soon as you do start to embark upon a line of enquiry, either proactively or someone phones in and explains the likely impact on them, you are likely to receive information which is going to cause you to hesitate about publication because human nature being as it is, publication of stories about privacy will always have a deleterious impact somewhere, won't they?
A. It would make you think, yes.
Q. But did it ever make you think more generally, Mr Wallis?
A. I've been dealing with these sorts of stories for 20-odd years. Of course I think about it.
Q. Yes, and are you suggesting that there was ever much hesitation in your mind because of the possible human or the probable human
A. It's a balance you make, yes.
Q. You bring to light a specific type of case, which many others, of course, have done on the next page, 7686. Just above the first hole punch, the heading "Financial commercial pressures". You say: "There are too many instances to recall of politicians or celebrities who have built careers around a false public image when, in reality, their private life is starkly different." Are you referring there to false public images which are expressly created; in other words, they're express statements or representations made by the politicians or celebrity, or are you referring to cases where you can infer, deduce or imply a public image because of a public position which someone might occupy?
A. I'm not totally sure of the difference between you the two. Could you explain? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Let me put it this way. You will remember, I have no doubt at all, the then-Conservative government ran a Back to Basics policy and it became open season on any politician who had allied themselves to that campaign about whose private life the press had some other information, and they were all collected together by Mr Matthew Paris in his book, Great Parliamentary Scandals. But do you think that simply because somebody is an MP that inevitably means that the public interest permits you to publish details of their private life?
A. I don't think it's quite as black and white as that, but I do believe that if you put yourself forward for me to elect you and you sell yourself to me, then I probably have the right to know an awful lot about you. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON What about if you put yourself forward as the editor of a newspaper?
A. I didn't put myself forward to you. I put myself forward to the proprietor. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But you're encouraging the public to buy your papers.
A. That's completely different, isn't it? I do not Lord Leveson decides he wants to become the MP for Wigan. You go out there and you say to the people of Wigan: "Elect me for this, this, this, this and this reason", and 56,000 people out there decide that based on what you have told them, that you are just the fellow for them. It's a heck of a difference from whoever owns the Wigan Observer, which does exist, actually saying, "You know what, he's a very good journalist, him. I'm going to make him the editor." And yes, I talk to them, but they can reject me every single day, can't they, whether they spend their 50 pence or whatever. They can choose. They can vote with their 50 pence or a pound. All I'm saying, sir, is that if you choose, you elect to go and get elected, then I think you've chosen to put yourself in a public position and I think that I was warned I mustn't pontificate like this, so apologies, but I genuinely believed that when someone is elected, they elect great parts of you. They want to the know you, which is why it's interesting, isn't it, how MPs who do get themselves in a scandal are treated by their constituents later. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Sometimes.
A. Sometimes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But you said just a few moments ago that it's not as black and white as that.
A. No, exactly. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The story you've just given me, the account you've just given me, suggests it's very black and white. Once you say, "My name is going on the ballot paper", that's it. I'm only trying to find out where the balance lies.
A. With respect LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's all right.
A. I've had LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That doesn't normally mean that, Mr Wallis.
A. Yeah, I know. Yeah, with respect, I remember some years ago being told some stories about a very, very famous public figure. Delightful person, and essentially the suggestion was that this person had a very, very severe drink problem. So we looked into it and this person in fact had a very serious illness. Now, eventually the person chose to make that public, but we and most of the rest of the media knew about it for a long time while that person continued in public office. You make decisions depending on what you know and what the circumstances are and how you read it. Do I have a lot of problems with a married MP with a family, who then, it turns out in his private time, that he runs around and pays rent boys? I'm afraid I see that as being in the public interest and fully acceptable to report it. MR JAY Okay. The section on financial and commercial pressures I think you've covered, save to this minor extent, that would you agree that the pressures on newspapers have increased as the market has dwindled for newspapers generally?
A. I think the financial pressures on newspapers and the media are simply appalling now, and I think it's an absolute dilemma. You look at a great newspaper like the Guardian. It's losing ?30,000,000 a year. Its circulation is in free fall and it has this amazing website. They're wrestling with how to translate putting all their efforts into the website while surviving with the printed version and whether that printed version of the Guardian will still exist in five years time, it's extremely hard to debate. The issues of advertising revenue, of circulation revenue, are all absolutely terrifying at the moment and there are some great newspapers that are going to fold, and it's very interesting because what you might see is newspapers being bought up more and more as ego vehicles for very, very rich people who will use them as their play thing. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I recognise that's a very important point and that's one of the issues that was addressed in the seminars, and the impact of the Internet on print media and the way in which the print media should position themselves to cope with the constant 24/7 availability of information, whether it is always factually accurate or not but that is available on the Internet, is a very real one. Nobody has yet suggested a particular way forward for that.
A. That may be because it hasn't appeared yet, but sir, can I just say this to you? If you put together the circulations of the Guardian, the Independent, the Times and the Daily Telegraph combined, that does not go anywhere near matching the Sun's daily circulation. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, I've said that a few days ago.
A. The chosen newspaper of this country is the Sun and the red tops. The Great British population do not want the broadsheets. Not only that; the Telegraph makes money. Yes, thank goodness. Neither the Times, the Guardian, the Independent or Sky News and certainly not BBC News channel or the parliamentary channel none of those makes money. And at the bottom line, if you're going to leave this country with a media, sir, I think that it needs to be recognised that the bits which are still clinging to profit are the ones the people out there want to read, and they voted with their pound coins, et cetera. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But is that an argument for saying, "We have to be allowed to infringe people's privacy and to do these things which actually are coming up with all these criticisms because that's the only way we'll get people to buy papers"?
A. I'm not saying that at all. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But isn't that the consequence of what you're saying?
A. Sorry, I was going on to say LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes?
A. It isn't at all the consequence of what I'm saying. I suppose what I'm saying is that there is plainly an issue that has had to be addressed. Whether or not it is on the scale that requires this, considering the changes that have been in newspapers in my lifetime is an extremely interesting question, and particularly the way those newspapers that have been targeted by this Inquiry are trying to survive, have altered to survive, and the danger of "be careful what you wish for". MR JAY I move on to a separate topic now, Mr Wallis. I'm hoping to take this one largely as read. Budget, which starts at 07687.
A. Yes.
Q. We've heard from Mr Thurlbeck the quite substantial sums which are paid for kiss-and-tell stories. Can I understand this: that those would require, would they not, at least the authorisation of the departmental head, if not the editor. We're talking at a sum of
A. What level of figures?
Q. apparently an average of ?15,000, but could go substantially above that, depending on where the story is going to be placed and the nature of the story?
A. I'm sorry, I'm not totally sure what the question is you're asking me.
Q. Well, if we're talking about a kiss-and-tell story which would cost ?15,000, that would require editorial approval, would it not?
A. Oh yes.
Q. Can I ask about the expenses culture. Have you had the chance to have a look at Mr McMullan's evidence to this Inquiry?
A. Sorry, can I just backtrack on something. We talk a lot here about kiss-and-tell. I think if you look back at the newspapers over the last decade, the numbers of kiss-and-tells I think have fallen dramatically.
Q. I think you did make that clear earlier.
A. It's just you mentioned the word kiss-and-tell again. You see, for instance, I remember paying something like ?15,000, say, for a video some soldiers in Iraq who had dragged some young rioting kids off the street and they'd dragged them into a compound and proceeded to beat them to a pulp. I remember we paid something like ?15,000 for that. We paid large amounts of money. I remember there was another military-linked one that was a beasting of an initiation ceremony. We spent an awful lot of money on that. I wouldn't like you to think that all tabloid investigations, that all tabloid expenditure is about kiss-and-tells. Of course some of it is.
Q. Can I move off that to expenses and Mr McMullan's evidence.
A. Yes.
Q. My question was: have you had the chance to look at his evidence or
A. Unfortunately I watched it.
Q. The picture that he gave of the culture of the News of the World at a certain time, was that one which you found familiar or unfamiliar?
A. Can I just say that McMullan left the News of the World quite some time before me. I think that he I think McMullan left was it in 2000 or 2001? I don't know. And I arrived in 2003. I don't know whether he explained the circumstances of how he left the News of the World or how he left his next job or how he left his next job, and he's now running a pub in Dover or somewhere. All I'm saying is I arrived after Mr McMullan worked at the News of the World and I did not recognise in any way his description.
Q. He said it was quite common practice to overegg one's expenses claims because, after all, the levels of salaries were not particularly high. Is that something you would disagree with or not?
A. I thought he was quite well paid for what he was, to be honest. I think it would be true to say that newspaper journalists are not unknown to be creative in their attempts at their expenses sheets. However, an earlier witness mentioned an esteemable man called Stuart Kuttner, who did not allow anything like that. He was scary.
Q. It's implicit in that answer that Mr Kuttner would know in any given case what he was authorising. Would you agree with that?
A. He would know if someone presented an expenses sheet in front of him that did not look to him to be accurate, he would query it, yes.
Q. You, though, permanently were not involved with budgetary matters until 2008. You tell us that on page 17 on the internal numbering. Is that correct?
A. Yes.
Q. Can I ask you about the issue of freelancers at page 7692, page 18.
A. Yes.
Q. The papers on which you worked, in particular the last one, can you give us a sense of the extent to which reliance was placed on freelancers as opposed to established members of staff?
A. Sorry, do you mean on the News of the World, the last one on this page?
Q. The News of the World.
A. On the News of the World. I think a lot was placed on freelancers for tips.
Q. Tips rather than the stories which might have flowed from the tips; is that correct?
A. It would depend, really, on who the freelance was, how well we knew them. So, for instance, you know, an agency like Mercury Press in Liverpool has worked with all the national newspapers for donkey's years, and if they came up with a story, you would be, in the main, quite happy for Mercury Press to work on it because you knew Chris Johnson, you knew how straight and reliable he was. Other people you would know but perhaps might not know as well as Chris Johnson, so you might send your own staffer up there and simply treat it as a tip. Sometimes you would use Chris Johnson, you know, depending what it was.
Q. So you say the freelancer would provide the tip and that would be the spur to the story but not the story itself. Have I correctly understood it?
A. In the main, yes. If it's a hard news event car crash on the M62 then plainly, that's a straightforward news event. But very often a freelancer would be the generator of a tip.
Q. Once the tip is generated and you cover this more generally at page 07693, second paragraph on the page, page 19 on the internal numbering you would be dealing with the offering up of material, whether it be by freelance journalists, an agent, a PR or a special interest group. Are you with me, Mr Wallis?
A. Yes.
Q. How does it work? The tip is provided, the material is offered up, however you want to describe it, and then a staff journalist would write up the story; is that correct?
A. No, I wouldn't have thought so. You offer me a tip. I decide I'm interested in it. I then task a reporter to go and make that story work, see if that story will work.
Q. It's your first diagram, isn't it?
A. Yes, precisely.
Q. Which we looked at earlier. So are you saying there's always a process of verifying the story as it moves forward?
A. From a freelancer, yes. Very rare that you would you know, please don't misunderstand me. There's, you know, a very well-known freelancer based in Germany called Alan Hall, who has an enormous reputation. And if Alan Hall filed you a story, you would think: "Oh, that's pretty secure. That's Alan Hall."
Q. Can I ask you about some specific stories which this Inquiry has been looking at during your time at the News of the World. First of all, the story in relation to Kate McCann's diaries. Were you involved in that in any way?
A. No.
Q. Were you involved in any aspect of the McCann case? Can you recall?
A. Only initially in the sense of when it happened, I was still the deputy editor then, so I was obviously interested in what are we doing, what are the stories, where is it going, et cetera, et cetera. It's a big breaking news story.
Q. Were you involved at all in the Max Mosley story?
A. No.
Q. Bear with me one moment while I check one reference. (Pause) Were you involved at all in any of Mr Mazher Mahmood's stories?
A. Some of them, yes.
Q. Maybe you covered these at page 7695 the, page 21. The dirty bomb plot, were you involved in that?
A. Yes, I was, yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON At that time, was there a practice of requiring some audit trail to justify the story being pursued in writing?
A. I don't think so. Sorry, how do you mean, an audit trail? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, I'm actually asking about the extent to which you ensured that there was an evidence base for the public interest in pursuing particular stories so that if anybody ever questioned them, you could demonstrate that they weren't fishing but were based upon material that you had available.
A. On the dirty bomb plot, as soon as we got this tip-off, realised the person was serious, the first thing we did was sit down and agree to call in Scotland Yard straight away, because although I think someone made some sort of negative comment about it the other day, that was an investigation that almost from the off was actually run by Scotland Yard, and our investigators became effectively tools at the hands of the anti-terrorism branch, and everything they did was done with the evidential needs of Scotland Yard rather than ourselves. And of course, it did go to a trial. Yes, it was the the charge was dismissed, but the decision to go to trial was by the CPS and the anti-terrorism branch. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I wasn't necessarily asking specifically in relation to that case. I'm talking about generally.
A. No, I don't think so. There would be working emails flowing around or working memos, but not as a plan, if you like, to have a procedure. An automatic procedure. MR JAY You tell us in relation to this is all under the heading "Police", isn't it? I'm on page 7696, the internal numbering page 22. Four lines down, you say: "These successes results from longstanding, established relationships between police and journalists, usually at senior levels and with a substantial element of trust." Can you tell us, please, about how those relationships between police and journalists were fostered?
A. Same way as relationships were fostered between journalists and politicians, journalists and lawyers, journalists and civil servants. You came across these people, you got to know them, you grew to trust each other. You, to some extent, co-operate because you are playing in the same ballpark.
Q. As you made clear in the context of politicians, there would be hospitality shared between the police and journalists. Is that correct?
A. Hospitality shared between police and journalists?
Q. Yes.
A. Press and journalists, judges and journalists, civil servants and journalists. That's what we do.
Q. The consideration would be limited to hospitality. By "consideration", I mean the payment, would it be limited to hospitality or not?
A. (Shakes head)
Q. You may not like to answer that.
A. No, not at all. I've never heard of either a politician, a policeman, a civil servant or a lawyer wanting me to pay them for information.
Q. You've never heard of that?
A. Oh, I hear rumours. We all hear sort of gossip, but whether or not in my professional life I think I've ever actually been seriously asked by somebody: "Will you give me some money for from somebody like that, then I don't believe so.
Q. After you left the News of the World, you, through a company called Shami Media, provided PR advice to the police; is that correct?
A. Yes.
Q. What sort of advice did you provide through your company?
A. I provided expert knowledge, some speech-writing, some guidance about the public perceptions, anything they wanted to ask me, basically.
Q. What do you mean by "expert knowledge" in that context, please, Mr Wallis?
A. I've spent 30 years at the top of mass media communication. I know how to reach an audience. I know how to get in touch with people out there. That's a useful skill.
Q. I now refer you to an article in the Daily Telegraph, which is in our tab 20. It's the one after the contract between Shami Media Limited and Metropolitan Police Authority, which I'm not going to go to. It's headed "Phone hacking Neil Wallis given Met role after undercutting rivals". Do you see that?
A. I'm not sure what number it is. I have seen that somewhere
Q. It's the last tab in the bundle.
A. Hang on, yes. Which one?
Q. It's an article
A. Yes.
Q. in the Telegraph.
A. Yes.
Q. The article says: "Neil Wallis, who had dined with the Commissioner on eight occasions in the three years before he won a 1,000 a day contract at Scotland Yard, was given the job after undercutting rival bids from two other communications firms." First of all, is it factually correct that you had dined with the Commissioner on eight occasions in the three years before 2009?
A. The Met says it is, so I'm sure it's right.
Q. It may be suggested here that it is News International's relationship with the police which in some way gave you a fillip in getting the job.
A. No.
Q. Why do you say that so firmly, Mr Wallis?
A. It had nothing to do with News International. It had everything to do with me.
Q. Okay. You worked for them, I think, for nine months or so; is that correct?
A. A year, I think. MR JAY I've not covered every point in your witness statement, having regard to the time and everything else, but those all the questions I have for you, Mr Wallis. I don't know whether there may be any others. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I have one. Thank you for the part of your statement that makes a number of recommendations, which I shall consider with some care, but I'd just like to ask you to look at paragraphs 4 to 6, which are on page 26 7700 is the number where you're talking about the PCC.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You speak about the vital requirement that self-regulation continues and you identify the funding problems, which I recognise. But then in 5 and 6 you speak about, first of all, the right effectively to subpoena, and secondly the requirement of compulsion for members of the PCC. I'd just like to ask you whether you see a conflict in those requirements or whether you identify the possibility that there can be self-regulation by the media involving independence, by editors and journalists, involving independent people, of course, but that the requirement that something sits behind that which provides for the compulsion in paragraph 6 and the powers in paragraph 5 is consistent with that self-regulatory model?
A. It seems to me that my main point, sir, is the opening few words of number 4. It's vital that self-regulation continues. It seems to me that to do that, the media, which is already under tremendous financial pressure, needs to find even however hard it is, needs to find the money to make number 5 possible, and I think that's as very expensive thing that I'm asking for there. I think that number 6 is similarly essential, and I have no doubt that there is sufficient brains in this country to find the way to say that self-regulation and 5 and 6 are not mutually impossible. I absolutely do not believe sorry, turn it around the other way. I absolutely believe that the day there is any kind of statutory control over the media in this country is a disaster and it comes back to the classic "be careful of what you ask for". But I do believe that the PCC can be made to work with those number 5 and 6. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. Of course I understand the point you make about statutory control very clearly. But once you use a word like "compulsory", doesn't it require some sort of structure, however much in the background, that provides for the mechanism of self-regulation? There have been lots of examples. Doctors, solicitors, all the rest of them.
A. Yeah, yeah. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But something in the background that allows the press, with its independent representation as well, to do the job itself
A. Sure. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON against that background?
A. Sure. Am I not right in thinking that newspapers are licensed by the GPO, by the post office, as it were? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, that's an interesting question. We'll find that out.
A. Because if it was, then part of the requirement to get that licence, as it were, would be membership of the PCC. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, but the real problem about licensing is that then somebody's going to say, "You can't licence journalists."
A. I'm not suggesting that at all. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I know you're not.
A. Trust me, because that is a classic example of LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand. I've spoken about this already in exchanges with different witnesses. I don't think that's the route at all. But it's how it will all work together.
A. I mean, I appreciate your position, because the logical corollary of what you're saying is licensing of journalists. Licensing the newspapers is similar. LORD LEVESON That's the point.
A. Yes, I do see that, but I think that for you, going forwards, if I may be so bold, there has to be some sort of development, and I have to say that I think both of 5 and 6 are useful ways forward, in the same way that I think 7 that I've read in some supposedly intelligent places is simple wholly impractical. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand the problem, but I just wanted to give you the opportunity to develop the links between 4, 5 and 6.
A. Sure. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Does anybody have anything that they want to raise? No? Mr Wallis, thank you very much indeed and thank you for the obvious effort you put into creating the statement.
A. Thank you. MR JAY Tomorrow it's not before 11.30 we're starting. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you very much. Yes, that's true, and it's entirely my responsibility for reasons which I've previously identified. (4.55 pm) (The hearing adjourned until 11.30 am the following day)

Witnesses

Gave statements at the hearings on Monday, December 12, 2011 (AM) and Monday, December 12, 2011 (PM) ; and submitted 2 pieces of evidence

Themes

Understand all the key topics and the context behind the Inquiry's findings

Journalism & society
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Regulation
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Politics
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Future of journalism
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Background & history
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Subsequent developments
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Ethics & abuses
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