Morning Hearing on 21 December 2011

James Hipwell and David Pilditch gave statements at this hearing

Hearing Transcript

(10.04 am) LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Good morning, Mr Barr. MR BARR Good morning, sir. Our first witness is Mr Hipwell. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. MR JAMES HIPWELL (affirmed) Questions by MR BARR MR BARR Good morning, Mr Hipwell.
A. Good morning.
Q. Could you tell the Inquiry, please, your full name?
A. It is William James Quolian(?) Hipwell.
Q. You've provided the Inquiry with a witness statement. Are you familiar with the contents?
A. Yes, I am.
Q. And are they true and correct to the best of your knowledge and belief?
A. Yes, they are.
Q. We will take your witness statement as read, although I'm going to ask you questions arising from it. Can we start first of all, please, with your career history? You tell us in the first paragraph of your statement that you began a career as a journalist in 1991?
A. Yes, that's correct.
Q. You trained through Reed Business Publishing and started off in trade publications, first of all Sunday Business and then Business Age magazine?
A. Yes, that's right.
Q. In 1998, you were recruited alongside a fellow Business Age colleague, Anil Bhoyrul, to start a new daily business column in the Mirror?
A. Yes.
Q. That column was called City Slickers and it was designed to popularise business content?
A. Yes, that's correct.
Q. That column became very popular and influential, didn't it?
A. Yes, it certainly did.
Q. But unfortunately there was a difficulty, quite a severe difficulty, in that you were tempted into insider dealing, weren't you?
A. Well, I wasn't charged with insider dealing, I was charged with something else; but it is true that we sometimes owned shares in companies that we wrote about in the column, yes.
Q. I'll be precise, then. You were charged with conspiracy to contravene Section 47(2) of the Financial Services Act 1986, contrary to Section 1(1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977?
A. Yes.
Q. And in 2005, you were convicted at Southwark Crown Court and sentenced to six months in prison, half that sentence being suspended?
A. Yes, that's correct.
Q. And you pleaded not guilty at the trial, so it followed that you were disbelieved by the jury?
A. Absolutely.
Q. Whilst waiting for the investigation and trial, you worked for Punch magazine?
A. Yes, I did.
Q. And also for Max Clifford Associates?
A. Yes, that's correct.
Q. You then joined Dennis Publishing to work on a men's lifestyle magazine, Inside Edge?
A. Yes.
Q. Since your release from prison, you've worked mostly in online publishing, especially on two sports websites?
A. Yes.
Q. And you've also had a media column in the Sunday Express and have written for the Guardian and the Observer?
A. Yes, that's right.
Q. And you now live abroad where you continue to work as a freelance writer and journalist?
A. Yes, that's right.
Q. Against that background, can I now ask you more about life working for the Daily Mirror? First of all, can we deal with the topic of corporate governance?
A. Yes.
Q. How much corporate governance was there in respect of ethics when you were working for the Daily Mirror?
A. I don't think there was very much at all. I was not given a copy of the PCC code. I was not some we were not briefed on a regular basis, we were not about it. We were not asked whether we were ever sticking to it when we were writing stories. And this is the culture I worked in. You would never ever hear reference to the PCC code, and actually, the term corporate governance is not a term that most journalists would recognise. It's not as if we are accountants or whether we are company executives. Corporate governance is not a term that is ever used in a newspaper office. It's just a totally alien concept to most journalists. You're not asked, ever, whether you are sticking to the terms of the PCC code because it never came up.
Q. Looking at that in a little bit more detail, please, Mr Hipwell, first of all, by the time you joined the Daily Mirror, you'd been in journalism for seven years?
A. Yes.
Q. Including training with Reed Business.
A. Mm.
Q. Had you been taught about the PCC code at the academic stage?
A. I don't remember ever being taught about the PCC code. My training was in magazine journalism. It was a course recognised by the Periodicals Training Council. I suspect that if I had trained in one of the better known newspaper courses, that it might have featured more prominently, but as far as my own training went, with a PTC-recognised course, it didn't come up at all.
Q. Were you familiar with the code through your work on trade magazines?
A. No. Not at all.
Q. Mr Morgan in his witness statement refers to some fold-out copies of the PCC code available at the Daily Mirror. Did you ever see any of those?
A. No. I've never ever seen a copy of the PCC code whilst I was working at Trinity Mirror at all.
Q. Mr Morgan also gave evidence that the PCC code was displayed on the wall at the offices of the Daily Mirror. Do you recall that?
A. No, I do not, no.
Q. In the sentencing remarks made by Mr Justice Beatson, which you deal with in the middle paragraph on page 2 of your witness statement, the judge said: "There was no guidance from your superiors or from the in-house lawyers, and there was evidence of a culture of advance information about tips and share dealing within the office." LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I think you ought to read the earlier sentence than that, which is: "I also take into account the fact that at that time there was no formal code of conduct for journalists at the Daily Mirror." Then it goes on: "There was no guidance from your superiors or from the in-house lawyers, and there was evidence of a culture of advance information about tips and share dealings within the office."
A. Yes. MR BARR Thank you. Let's explore that a little more.
A. Sure.
Q. First of all, can we go to tab 6 of your bundle, please. This is a ruling by the PCC. It was made in 2006. This particular ruling was made following an application for a request for the original PCC investigation conducted in 1999 and 2000 to be reopened.
A. Mm.
Q. Of relevance to the comments that we've just heard, can I take you to the second paragraph under the subheading, that's the one by the bottom hole punch, where it reads: "The commission found that Mr Morgan had breached the code of practice by purchasing shares in a company, Viglen Technology plc, which had been recently tipped by his newspaper. It also concluded that Mr Morgan had not taken sufficient care to ensure that his staff were acting in accordance with the code and that his conduct, including the breach in relation to Viglen, had fallen short of the high professional standards demanded by the code." So it would appear that to that extent, ie criticism of the editor's care, that the judge's comments were supported by the findings that the PCC had made in 2000, and which are rehearsed here in 2006.
A. Sure. I totally agree with that.
Q. If we move to tab 10, please, where we have I think it looks like the press release from the PCC's ruling in 2000, we see a little more. There are a number of bullet point findings there on the page. Can I ask you to look at the third and the fourth. In relation to the third, it says: "The purchase of shares in Wiggins Group and Viglen plc by editor Piers Morgan were breaches of the code, in the case of the former share purchase only on a technicality, as both companies had been written about in the newspaper recently at the time of the purchase. The purchase of shares in Corporate Executive Search was not a breach of the code." And then the bottom: "There was inadequate supervision of City Slickers by the editor, whose responsibility it is to ensure that the code is applied rigorously on the newspaper. This also raised a breach of the code of practice." So we see there the finding that your editor was held in breach of the code in relation to supervision.
A. Correct.
Q. Below that it reads: "The Commission is pleased that Trinity Mirror has now revised its own internal procedures to ensure that such breaches of the code cannot be repeated." Just to be clear, were you around and able to tell us whether or not that in fact happened?
A. No, I'd left the company by then, so I have no knowledge of it.
Q. Thank you. Can I ask you whether you got any ethical training whilst you were working for the Daily Mirror?
A. No, none whatsoever.
Q. Did you see any visible signs of ethical leadership from any of the senior managers at the Daily Mirror?
A. No. I mean, this was not a subject that was of overriding concern for any of the senior editors. It just wasn't a subject that was addressed at all.
Q. Just to be clear about the line management relations, and I'm looking now at the third page of your witness statement, is it right that your direct line manager was Mr Morgan?
A. Yes. We were columnists, so we were outside of the news chain of command. We were outside of the control of the news desk. And although we had some early battles with the news desk, who wanted us to be within their remit, Mr Morgan was insistent that we were answerable to him and him alone. So there was no chain of command apart from us being, you know, sort of directly responsible to him and him only.
Q. How often did you see Mr Morgan in practice doing your work?
A. Well, a lot, because we were sitting next to the showbiz desk. He was a former showbiz journalist himself. He would you know, the thing about Piers is that he is was a very hands-on editor. He would not stay in his office like some editors do, take morning conference and run the newspaper from his office. He would be out on the news floor. He would be he was the beating heart of the newspaper. He would go up behind journalists and look at what they were writing on screen. He would point to maybe a paragraph sort of at the bottom of the page and say, "That's your story there, get it to the top". He was always on the floor. He would spend upwards of half an hour a day sitting with the showbiz team discussing their stories. He would it's probably true to say that he was less interested in the City than he was in showbiz, but because we sat next to them, he would also take a keen interest in what we were doing. He would ask us about the stories we were writing. He seemed very interested in the City. He liked money, he liked he wanted to know how it worked. It's probably true to say that he was disadvantaged by the fact that he didn't know a great deal about it, but he was certainly keen to learn and he enjoyed our column because it was very different from what the Mirror had had before in terms of its City coverage, and he was a great supporter of the column. In fact, I think he loved it. And for the first year that we were there, I think he held the column in very high regard and he thought it was a real contribution to the newspaper. He was, as I say, very hands-on and he took a keen interest in what we were doing.
Q. So you've described him standing over the back of a journalist
A. Yes.
Q. assisting and supervising what was on the screen.
A. Absolutely, yes.
Q. Did he do that with you?
A. Sometimes he did, yes. It's true to say that he had a better relationship with my fellow columnist Anil Bhoyrul. They were quite good friends. Most of his dealings on this probably went through Anil, I think that's true to say. But yes, he did, he would come over and he would have a look at what we were writing on screen. That is from what I understand certainly true of the Viglen story which is mentioned a lot in this bundle, and I understand from Anil that he saw the story on screen and he even made recommendations to changing it on screen. So there was that level of involvement.
Q. I'm getting the impression that this is involvement which the details might have varied from day to day, but we are talking, are we, about daily contact?
A. Yes. I mean, he was the editor. Everything stopped with him. The whole newspaper, you know, he was it seems appropriate this week, he was the Dear Leader, that the newspaper was edited and produced with the cult of his personality. He was a very strong-minded inspanidual and he had enormous charm and charisma, and he was the newspaper. It was you know, it was all about Piers and he did I think he did a very good job during the time I was there. I rated him very highly as an editor and I thought that he edited the paper with a great deal of flair and he produced a very fresh and inviting newspaper, and I was very happy to be involved with that.
Q. Can I now ask you a little bit about the showbusiness team? You've told us that you were sitting close to them.
A. Mm.
Q. Can I explore that? Just how close were you to the showbusiness team?
A. I was sitting within three feet of some of the journalists. The next desk.
Q. Is this an open plan office?
A. It's an open plan office, yes, nearer than I am to you now.
Q. How big a team was the showbusiness team?
A. I can remember at least ten people who worked on it.
Q. Did they all sit together in the same place?
A. Yes.
Q. Or were some of them
A. There was a showbiz desk made up of three desks, which were all arranged together, and the City desk was right next to it. So, you know, we were within six to eight feet of the showbusiness desk.
Q. For how long were you a part of that physical arrangement?
A. Throughout my time there, nearly two years.
Q. And what level of interaction did you have generally with the showbusiness team during the course of a day?
A. Well, they were they became our friends. We I think we enjoyed each other's company. We would certainly socialise with them in the pub after work. We sometimes went to the same parties. We had a very good relationship with them, and I think they liked us as well because we were, it's probably true to say, different from other City journalists.
Q. Against that background, I'm going to read the paragraph which starts on the third page of your witness statement, halfway down the page. You say: "Another example of the lack of corporate governance at the Mirror was the unfettered activities of its showbusiness team. I sat next to the Mirror's showbusiness journalists on the 22nd floor of Canary Wharf Tower and so was able to see at close hand how they operated. I witnessed journalists carrying out repeated privacy infringements, using what has now become a well-known technique to hack into the voicemail systems of celebrities, their friends, publicists and public relations executives. The openness and frequency of their hacking activities gave me the impression that hacking was considered a bog-standard journalistic tool for gathering information. "For example, I would on occasion hear two or more members of the showbusiness team discussing what they had heard on voicemails openly across their desks. One of the reporters showed me the technique, giving me a demonstration of how to hack into voicemails. "The practice seemed to be common on other newspapers as well journalists at the Mirror appeared to know that their counterparts from the Sun were also listening to voicemail messages, because on one occasion, I heard members of the Mirror team joking about having deleted a message from a celebrity's voicemail in order to ensure that no journalists from the Sun would get the same scoop by hacking in and hearing it themselves."
A. Yes. I mean, that is my that is my testimony and that is part of my memory. It is a long time ago, it is 12 years ago now, but that is what I saw, and there were people on the showbiz desk engaging in that activity.
Q. It's very important that you don't name any inspanidual names of the journalists on the showbusiness desk, but I'm going to ask you some more questions about this topic. What was your attitude towards what you were seeing? By which I mean: did you think that you were witnessing serious wrongdoing?
A. Well, it didn't seem to me to be an ethical way to behave, but it seemed to be a generally accepted method to get a story. It seemed to be perfectly acceptable to some of the Mirror's senior editors, and I saw it on a daily basis in 1999, especially the latter half of 1999, where I would go as far as to say that it happened every day, and that it became apparent that a great number of the Mirror's showbusiness stories would come from that source. That is my clear memory.
Q. Did you report to your superior, Mr Morgan, the fact that showbusiness journalists were hacking phones?
A. No. I mean
Q. Why not?
A. Because it seemed to me that what they were doing was entirely accepted by, as I say, the senior editors on the newspaper, and, you know, I just didn't I didn't do that. I thought it was a slightly I think it was seen as a slightly underhand thing to do, but not illegal. I don't think the illegality of it was ever even considered. It just seemed to be fair game, fair play. Any means to get a story. And this is, you know, as I say, it became, I think, a daily part of their news-gathering operation.
Q. Did the showbusiness journalists take any steps to hide their phone hacking activities from managers?
A. No.
Q. Did you ever see or hear phone hacking taking place or being discussed in front of Mr Morgan?
A. No, I did not.
Q. Is there anything which makes you think that Mr Morgan did or did not know that the practice was taking place?
A. Well, I mean, I've discussed what kind of an editor he was. You know, this is I cannot prove that he who knew what at what time, but looking at his style of editorship, I would say that it was very unlikely that he didn't know that it was going on, because, as I have said, he was there wasn't very much he didn't he didn't know about. As I think he said yesterday in his testimony, he took a very keen interest in the work of his journalists. Showbusiness is very close to his heart, he was a showbusiness columnist on the Sun, and a lot of the people on the showbusiness desk at the Mirror whilst I worked there had indeed come from the Sun themselves and they were old friends, and nothing really that happened on that desk happened without Piers knowing about it because of the amount of involvement. He would come and sit on that desk in the morning, very often in the afternoon as well. He wanted to discuss the stories. He's very interested in celebrity gossip, and he would discuss with them the stories that they were working on and necessarily, I should imagine, where the stories came from, although that would incorporate the legal department as well, seeing as some of the things they might be publishing would be potentially libellous and they would have to be legalled by the Mirror's legal department, the first question being, in my experience, anyway: if we're writing something contentious that could get us sued, is it defendable? What is the evidence? Are we going to have to are we going to be forced into an embarrassing retraction? Are we going to have to pay out libel damages? These are key questions and they can only be answered if the journalists concerned reveal where they get the story, and they would be happy to do that to an editor or a lawyer, because that is just what happens on newspapers.
Q. We'll return in a moment to the question of legal oversight and things like that. Returning to the question of who knew what about phone hacking, without naming any names, did you ever witness the showbusiness journalists talking about hacking or hacking in front of other managers at the Daily Mirror?
A. Senior editors are considered managers on newspapers. People who are senior editors, the news editor, the showbusiness editor, they are considered the newspaper's executives, although they are editorial, but I did not see hacking talked about in front of the sort of genuine management of the company, although I did see it discussed with senior editorial managers.
Q. Can we now look at some of the newspaper reports about phone hacking in which you have been quoted?
A. Yes.
Q. I'm looking first at tab 13 of your bundle, and an article from the Herald Sun published on 22 July of this year. It's right, isn't it, that the Herald Sun is an Australian newspaper?
A. Yes, it is. It's the same group as the Australian. But this appeared in the Australian, but I think it's obviously part of the same group and this was obviously put into the Herald Sun as well as the Australian.
Q. There are a number of quotations which cover the same ground that we've just been talking about. The one I'd first like to talk to you about is on page 2, on the second paragraph. It reads: "One of their bosses [and you're talking now about the showbusiness desk] would wander up and instruct a reporter to 'trawl the usual suspects', which meant going through the voice messages of celebrities and celebrity PR agents."
A. Yes.
Q. Is that report an accurate representation of what you said to that newspaper?
A. Yes, it is. Yes.
Q. Is it true?
A. Yes, it is.
Q. And you say "bosses". I don't want you to name names, or indeed to identify a post so closely that a name can easily be found, but can you give us an idea of where in the management chain you're referring to by "bosses"?
A. Well, it would be, you know, the head of a desk. The section. Each desk, your know, there's a political editor, there's a showbusiness editor, there's a royal editor, there's a health editor. Depending on how important these are in newspapers, you know, you have a direct chain of command. So a showbusiness editor would have a deputy showbusiness editor because it's such a big area for a tabloid newspaper, showbusiness news. You know, the health, maybe they might just have one journalist, a health correspondent. The news desk would be made up of the news editor, a deputy news editor and ten journalists, maybe, or 12, working underneath them on the news section of the newspaper. And then each editor looks after their independent brief. So whereas we, for example, wrote a daily business column, there was also a business editor who would write business news for the main section of the newspaper, but we were sort of, you know, part of the City desk, so that's how a newspaper works.
Q. I'd like to ask you now about the sixth paragraph down on the same page, where it reads: "Chris Hughes, a showbusiness reporter during Hipwell's time at the Mirror who has since become a defence correspondent, told the Australian Online that he had never hacked voicemails or been aware of the practice at the Mirror." Is it right that Mr Hughes was a showbusiness reporter whilst you were working at the title?
A. Yes, he was.
Q. And was he one of the people who sat in close proximity to you, as you've described?
A. Yes, he did.
Q. It would appear that his comments as reported here are in direct conflict with your own evidence, aren't they?
A. Yes. But that's a matter for him.
Q. You understand, no doubt, the importance of telling the truth on oath, don't you?
A. Absolutely.
Q. And despite this, do you stick by the testimony you've given?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. Can we move now to tab 15, please? This is a printout from the Guardian's website. It's an article on Friday, 11 August 2006. It says: "Hipwell: voicemail hacking rife at tabloids".
A. Mm.
Q. It again repeats what you've said to us, that there was widespread hacking at the Daily Mirror.
A. Well, I mean yes, on the showbusiness desk, because I can talk about this because I sat next to the desk. I sat within a few feet of people who were doing this. I have no knowledge of whether this technique was used on the news desk by the news journalists, so that's a matter for the senior editors on that desk at the time.
Q. I see. Four paragraphs down it says: "'Many of the Daily Mirror's stories would come from hacking into a celebrity's voicemail', Hipwell said of his time at the Mirror between 1998 and his sacking in early 2000." Do you have actual knowledge of information from hacking being used to support or find the basis of a story that was published?
A. Well, it's a long time ago. I mean, I can remember the practice, I can remember this was a very common thing for the showbusiness desk to do, but I can't remember inspanidual stories because I didn't work on them.
Q. It may be against that answer that you may not be able to assist me with my next question, but just in case, I'm going to ask it anyway. Are you able to help us with whether or not any front page splash on the Daily Mirror, whilst you were working there, was in any way supported or informed by hacked material?
A. I can't answer that for sure, but I would say yes, but that's conjecture.
Q. At the bottom hole punch, the article reads: "He said [and I think it's referring to you] the Mirror found out about Ulrika Jonsson's affair with Sven-Goran Eriksson from a voicemail left by the then England coach on the TV presenter's phone." How do you know that?
A. Again, that is part of it was industry gossip at the time. I did not work at the Mirror at the time. I had left the Mirror by then. I do not know how that story was put together, but at the time I remember the buzz in the industry being that that's that it involved a phone hack. That story. But again, I wasn't there so I don't know how that story was compiled. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's not quite how it's reported, is it, Mr Hipwell? It's reported in the article as a positive assertion, not just as a rumour.
A. But it's based on gossip. I did not work at the newspaper at the time, so I cannot I'm not sure how that story was put together, but from my conversations at the time with other journalists, and at this stage I worked for Max Clifford Associates, where I was in contact with a lot of tabloid journalists, this is how it came about. MR BARR In what terms did you report this matter to the Guardian? Did you assert to them that it had happened or did you tell them that it was just the word on the street?
A. I can't recall exactly what I said, but I remember Chris Tryhorn, who is bylined here, phoning me and we discussed it, and obviously at that stage phone hacking was in the news because of what had happened to Clive Goodman and the News of the World, and I think obviously it was a subject that the likes of the Guardian was interested in. I had already told them back in 2002 that this was happening. There's another article in my bundle to which I refer. So I imagine I must have been someone that they wanted to talk to, given I was at the Mirror at the time and I had already told them that this was going on.
Q. Can I move now, please, to the next paragraph, which says: "Hipwell added that while he and fellow city slicker journalist Anil Bhoyrul were under fire for writing about shares in which they had invested, a sympathetic colleague had hacked into the voicemail of the paper's editor at the time, Piers Morgan, in an attempt to track down any messages from Mirror executives." Do you have that?
A. I remember it happening, yes.
Q. Is it true that a colleague actually hacked into the voicemail of Piers Morgan?
A. Yeah. Yes, he did, yes. I mean, in front of me, yes.
Q. In front of you?
A. Yes.
Q. With what result?
A. I don't think it elicited a great deal of information, but he certainly he certainly tried. I mean, perhaps there was you know, perhaps there wasn't a message there, but he did use the technique to hack into Mr Morgan's phone in 2000, at the beginning of 2000.
Q. Can we go back, please, now to your witness statement.
A. Yes.
Q. I'm looking at the fourth page. It's the paragraph immediately after the one which I read a few minutes ago. I'll just let you find that. It's the one that begins "During my disciplinary proceedings "; do you have that?
A. Yes.
Q. "During my disciplinary proceedings with Trinity Mirror, one of the showbusiness journalists, who felt I was being treated unfairly by management, offered to hack into Mr Morgan's voicemail on my behalf to try to find out any information that would help my case against Trinity Mirror. It seemed to me that phone hacking was widespread on the showbusiness desk at the Mirror." So in this statement, you don't go so far as to say that the journalist actually hacked into Mr Morgan's phone; you just said that he offered to hack into Mr Morgan's voicemail. So was that an incomplete account of what actually happened?
A. I guess it was. But I mean I clearly remember him doing it, but I don't think it elicited any information which was going to be useful or interesting. So perhaps I didn't think any more of it. I can remember it I remember it happening, but, again, I mean, it didn't seem to elicit anything interesting.
Q. You've told us that some of the journalists who were working in the showbusiness team for the Mirror had come from the Sun.
A. Yes.
Q. You explained why you thought that there was hacking going on there too. Again, without naming names or titles, did any of the journalists who you witnessed phone hacking move on to other tabloid titles?
A. Well, I mean, the thing about showbusiness journalists who work on national tabloids is that they go from newspaper to newspaper. At any one time, half the members of the Mirror showbiz desk had worked on the Sun and vice versa. As I said, I can think of four people who worked on the Mirror whilst I was there on the showbusiness desk who had worked at the Sun. And they you know, they go from newspaper to newspaper. It's quite common for a showbusiness journalist to go from the Mirror to the Sun to the News of the World, back to the Sunday People, as and when jobs become vacant. And, you know, they fill the same roles on other newspapers. So, you know, I've always thought it's a nonsense to suppose that phone hacking at the News of the World was isolated an isolated incident on that newspaper, given that some of the journalists on the News of the World end up on other newspapers, newspapers that are part of Trinity Mirror. So I don't know why you would make the assumption that if they were conducting phone hacks for the News of the World, why they wouldn't do it on other newspapers, on the Sunday People or the Sunday Mirror or the Daily Mirror. You know, it's just a nonsense.
Q. Just to be clear then, are you saying that to your knowledge journalists who you witnessed hacking did move on to other tabloid titles
A. Yes.
Q. afterwards, including titles other than the Sun and the Mirror?
A. Absolutely, yes.
Q. Can we now move back to an issue which you raised earlier, which is the degree of legal scrutiny that you were under at the Mirror. I'm looking now at page 5 of your witness statement, in the middle of the page. You tell us there that the Mirror's in-house legal team was also heavily involved in assessing sources of information, primarily out of concern for potential libel suits.
A. Yes.
Q. You also tell us that the in-house lawyer, Mr Cruddace, was taking a special interest in your column and that the raw copy was sent to him in advance, in order to be assessed for legal risk, or words to that effect?
A. Yes, that's right.
Q. Why was your column a matter for special interest from the legal team?
A. I asked Mr Cruddace this and he said that we were getting quite a lot of solicitors' letters. I think I'm right in saying we were only successfully sued once by a Mr Victor Kiam from a company that he liked so much that he bought it. It made electric shavers and he was well-known for this catchphrase and we wrote something about him and his company that he didn't like and he sued and he won and the Mirror had to pay out. That was some time after Mr Cruddace came to me and said that we would have to send the raw copy from our column to him so that he could check it for defamation first. He would legal it first. So we would send it. We would email it to him or put it in a shared folder so that he could have a look at it before it went through to the page layout artist to put the page together. So we did that for at least a year before we left the Mirror, and it's true to say that he did take a very keen interest in our column and, you know, we were happy to I mean we just did what we were told and we sent our copy first, but I don't know whether that was unique to us. I just assumed that everyone else on the newspaper had to do the same, because obviously, as I've said, a newspaper doesn't want to face an embarrassing libel action and have to print a retraction, an apology, and maybe even have to pay out some significant libel damages as well.
Q. And was that every copy of your column, every single one had been scrutinised?
A. Yes. Yes, absolutely, yes.
Q. Moving now to the editorial team's interest in scrutinising stories, which you also mentioned, what sort of interest did you see from, first of all, the editor in relation to scrutinising stories before they were published?
A. You know, I've described what sort of editor Piers was, but I would often see him late at night, often maybe one of just a few people left at the paper, looking at stories on screen, changing headlines. I mean, this is you know, this might even be after the first edition has gone. He would sometimes be sitting there rewriting headlines. You know, in the so-called front of book, in the first six, eight pages of the newspaper, I would see him changing headlines, rewriting copy, rewriting first paragraphs. He had that level of involvement. He stamped his authority on every single page. As I said, the newspaper was built around the cult of the cult of Piers. He was the newspaper. You know, he was extremely hands-on. Nothing happened at the newspaper without him knowing. He wanted to know about the details of each story, especially if they were celebrity stories, and, you know, he wanted to know where they came from. Where did this story come from? How do we know? What's the evidence? The simple questions that all editors ask their journalists. That was his job and he did it very well.
Q. You tell us in your witness statement that there was a particular focus from the editors on the splash stories, the front page stories.
A. Right.
Q. They got particularly close scrutiny?
A. Of course, it's the front page splash, it's the thing that's going to sell your newspaper. It's the thing that the people in the shops who are going to buy your papers see and they often make their decision on whether they are going to buy it from the front page splash. What kind of story is it? Is it an exclusive? How interesting is it? The splash is the most obviously, by definition, the most important page in a newspaper.
Q. Were the sources of your stories things that your editor wanted to know?
A. Yes. Sometimes we had the splash. Very rarely. It being a tabloid newspaper, business stories rarely make the front page. We actually launched the column with a story which turned out not to be true about two large supermarket groups merging, Asda and Safeway. I wanted to run it as an item in our column, which was at the back of the newspaper. Piers saw it and thought it was a good enough story to splash the newspaper with, so we ended up launching our column on the very first day splashing on a story which turned out not to be true.
Q. To what extent
A. But Piers was content to run the story. He asked where it came from. I told him. He thought the source was good enough. He ran the story.
Q. If you wanted to keep a source anonymous and not reveal the source, was that possible?
A. No. I mean you don't really have too many secrets with your editor. I mean, he's the editor. He's your boss. He's the one who makes the key decisions. It's so you know, it's not a game of you know, you can't try to pull the wool over anyone's eyes. You have to answer all his questions correctly. That's just how it worked. And he was good at that.
Q. Were you aware of any journalist working on the Mirror who did withhold a source from the editor, but informed the editor otherwise of how the story had been obtained?
A. No. I don't think so. I mean, if it comes to getting if it comes to a journalist being under pressure to reveal a source, then they're not going to reveal it, but they are going to reveal it to their editor. They might not reveal it to anyone else on the newspaper, but they will almost certainly reveal it to their editor.
Q. Can we focus on page 5 of your witness statement, the last sentence in the first paragraph where you're dealing with this topic and you conclude by saying: "Of course reporters can reserve the right to withhold names to protect their sources, but they would still have to convince their editors on what basis they can run with the story." How do you square that with what you've just told us?
A. It's up to the editor to decide what to do with a story, and often an editor will decide what to do with it, based on the strength of the source. If it's not a particularly good source, or it's someone who is deemed unreliable, then, you know, the editor might consider that it is not such a good story, he might still run it, but he might run it, you know, further down the newspaper. If it was a great story from a good source, he might run it on the front page. But he cannot make that decision unless he knows where the story came from.
Q. Can I just be clear what your evidence is? Is it that a reporter can reserve the right to withhold the name to protect a source from the editor or not?
A. They can, but in my experience that doesn't happen very often.
Q. Can I now turn to what you say generally about cultural attitudes and ethical attitudes of reporters? You tell us that every journalist you've ever met has "come into the profession with a strong sense of wanting to be a force for good in society and to hold people in positions of power to account, to be a voice for the dispossessed and to fight injustice".
A. Yes.
Q. But it would appear, wouldn't it, that once they move into the real world of work as journalists, that they come under ethical pressures, don't they?
A. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. Most as I have said, most people, I think, come into the profession to be a force for good. You certainly don't do it for the money. You do it because it can be highly enjoyable, can be extremely rewarding, and you can change people's minds. As I said, most journalists, I think, do go into the profession to be a force for good and a number of them achieve it.
Q. The way you describe it in your witness statement, I'm looking at page 7 now, is you say: "There is, however, an undeniable pressure to deliver scoops. Exclusives sell newspapers, especially Sunday newspapers, and every journalist is under pressure to bring them in. For example, Mr Morgan would regularly send out all-staff emails berating his journalists for not bringing in enough exclusives, and these emails would often be quite menacing in tone." Did you hear Mr Morgan's evidence yesterday?
A. I think he agreed with it, but said that he had some question mark over the word "menacing".
Q. Yes. That's what I want to ask you about. Were the emails menacing in tone?
A. Well, some of them undoubtedly were. It was quite common to be threatened with the sack. Frankly, if a journalist doesn't bring in enough exclusives or enough stories, then what use is he to a newspaper? This is a highly competitive industry. You can easily be replaced. It takes you years and years to get to you know, to get onto a national newspaper, very often, and, you know, you don't want to blow it by not pulling your weight, and the fact is if you don't bring in great copy, great exclusives, you're not going to last in the job. And that would be made very clear to people by some of Mr Morgan's emails. I think that's menacing, but then again, you know, most tabloid journalists have a pretty tough hide, tough skin, and, you know, what might be menacing to other people might not be to a tabloid journalist, but, yeah, I'm happy to I stand by that I'm happy with the description.
Q. You also tell us in that paragraph that amongst the pressures, one that isn't there is financial because you tell us there's no financial incentive for getting a scoop?
A. No, not in my experience. You were just paid to be a journalist on the newspaper. You were paid the same whatever.
Q. Can I move now back to the share dealing matter?
A. Yes.
Q. I'm looking now at tab 27 of the bundle at another internal printout from the Guardian. This time it's an article dated 3 May 2001. In this article, according to the introductory paragraph, you've launched a "stinging attack" on the paper's editor, Piers Morgan, and we see the contents of that. Perhaps if we pick it up at the third paragraph, it says: "'In reality, Piers is the one who got off lightly,' wrote Mr Hipwell. "'There is no difference between what we did and what he did, save the volume of trading. We might have bought into a few more companies but, in the main, his investments were larger, as you would expect from someone on ?300k a year.' "He continued: 'And whereas we got fired for gross misconduct, Piers got editorial control of another newspaper'." Can I take it from that that it's your opinion that Mr Morgan was as guilty as you were, but got away with it?
A. I've always thought so. I mean, I can understand why people think that I have an axe to grind against him, but it has always been my contention that neither Trinity Mirror nor Mr Morgan took their responsibility for what happened, so, yes, I think I did trade on the same information that he did. You know, as far as some of the companies went, his investments were very much larger than anyone else's on the newspaper. With one company in one company called Viglen, chaired by Sir Alan Sugar who was then a Mirror columnist himself, Piers' investment was as large as ?67,000.
Q. You tell us in your witness statement that he bought those shares, they were for him and his wife, the day before the share was tipped by your column?
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I don't think we're going to reinvestigate this case for reasons which are pretty obvious.
A. Okay. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I am, however, concerned with one of the underlying issues to this episode, because it bites on custom, practice and ethics. You said at the beginning of your evidence that you never saw a copy of the code, you don't recall ever being taught it, but I just want to press you upon that, if I might, Mr Hipwell.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Are you saying that in your time as a journalist, you didn't know there was a code?
A. No, I don't think I did. I never saw a copy. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And what about the principles which you had to apply when advising on the acquisition of shares? Running a City desk or running a City column, one would expect that you'd be aware, for example, of insider trading requirements. Did you know nothing at all about the propriety of your dealing in shares which you were mentioning in your columns?
A. Well, we weren't regulated to give investment advice. It's true to say that initially I did not want it to be a share-tipping column. Actually, you know, in the first few months after we launched the column, my co-columnist Mr Bhoyrul went on holiday. During that week I quietly dropped the tip of the day, which was the main share tip, I dropped it from the column. Within the same week, maybe three or four days later, Piers came to the desk. He had spotted that this particular feature on the page had been dropped and asked me to reinstate it, which I did. It's also significant that this column was produced at a time when there was the most incredible bull run on the stock market. I don't think it would be possible to do a column like that now. We were seeing these companies come to the market capitalised at just a few hundred thousand pounds one week. Three months later they were capitalised at 10, 15 million pounds. People were trying to acquire these Internet stocks. There was a real public appetite for it, and that the zeitgeist, if you will, is what we wanted to tap into. I think we did it very well. It's true to say that we got carried away, we traded more enthusiastically than we should. I'm extremely sorry and regretful that that happened. I apologised then in the pages of the Press Gazette and I apologise now. It was something we should not have done. And it is right that we were held to account. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I wasn't actually asking you to revisit your own personal wrongdoing as found by the jury, but rather thinking about the concept. You were brought in to start a column. Surrounding that column is all sorts of legal ifs and buts, if you like.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And I'm just wondering what you did, because you'd come from a business environment, media environment, what you did or what you were encouraged to do or what was put in place for you to find out what the four corners of the regime ought to be.
A. We just wanted to produce a really lively, interesting column, which reflected what was happening in the stock market at the time, and I think we did that. I didn't really think about the ethics of what we were doing. Certainly there was no ethical management from our superiors on the newspaper. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It's not just ethics, it's law. There's sometimes a correlation between the two, perhaps not always, but sometimes.
A. Yes, but that was never discussed. It wasn't a consideration. It should have been, but it wasn't. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You had to cope with people who obviously hadn't had such a column before. So when you were brought in to start this column, did you raise the question, "Well, we have some things we're going to boxes we're going to have to tick on all this" or not?
A. No, I didn't. I did raise with Mr Cruddace, the Mirror's in-house lawyer, the possibility that we should put in a disclosure at the bottom of the page, like other financial publications do. Investors Chronicle does this. Our journalists sometimes own shares in companies they write about. You used to be able to see it in the Investors Chronicle. Not now, I haven't read it for a while. His response, and I think he was certainly cross-examined in my trial about this, was that we're not the Investors Chronicle, we're the Daily Mirror. We are not regulated to give investment advice and we will not carry that disclosure. You can read that from the transcript of his evidence during my trial. But I did raise it with him. I did LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's what he said, is it?
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right. As I say, it goes to culture and practice rather than the specifics of this incident. Right, thank you. MR BARR The question I was going to put to you about your feelings towards Mr Morgan, him having got away with something, is LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Could you pause a moment? The transcription system has failed. Just a few minutes early, let's have a little break. (11.07 am) (A short break) (11.18 am) LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Just before we start, are you satisfied that we've captured everything that we've done to date? Thank you. If this happens again, please don't wait for some break, say something. Yes, Mr Barr. MR BARR Thank you, sir. I'm touching wood when I say we think all the problems are sorted out now. We understand there was a power problem. I'm almost finished, Mr Hipwell. I was asking whether your beliefs about Mr Morgan and that he got away with something, have they influenced the evidence that you have given about him in any way?
A. No. I don't spend my life thinking about Mr Morgan. It's a long time ago now, it's 12 years ago. I've had two major organ transplants since I left the Mirror, I've moved on with my life. I do not really think about my time at the Mirror. I'm not obsessed with getting back at him. As I've said, I think he was an engaging and charming character, and I thought he was a very talented editor whilst I was there. But when what happened happened, he displayed characteristics that personal characteristics that I do not like in people, moral cowardice. He did not face up to what happened, he did not take his share of responsibility, and that is part of my evidence. So, yes, he did not take responsibility for what happened. Neither did Trinity Mirror, and obviously my evidence should be seen in that light.
Q. Can I ask you finally now about your time working for Max Clifford?
A. Yes.
Q. During the time that you worked for Max Clifford, was advice given to clients to take protective measures to prevent their phones being hacked?
A. I can I don't think Max personally gave information to any of his clients, including Simon Cowell, about his mobile phone. There might have been other people in the office who did. I think I did myself to some of our clients. I don't think Max did, and obviously Max's phone was hacked, his own phone was hacked, so he can't have given that advice to clients, given that he didn't do it himself, but I certainly did to some of the clients that I managed whilst I worked for him.
Q. In dealing with the tabloids on behalf of your clients, how important was copy approval?
A. Whilst I worked for Max?
Q. Yes.
A. Max does his own thing. He you know, he I wouldn't necessarily know everything that he got up to. I mean, certainly there were instances when copy approval was required. I think that's pretty common, in publicity agents' offices; it was then and I'm sure it is now, but again, I worked mainly on Max's corporate clients, people in business who came to him and wanted help with a problem. There was a lot of crisis management. I worked on, to give you an example, the account of a personal injury insurer which had been all over the Sun and also featured on the consumer programme Watchdog, and I would provide advice to his corporate clients, of which there were maybe five or six, whilst I worked there. Max concentrated on the big showbusiness exclusives and buy-ups and that kind of thing, and he would obviously help people to market their story if they walked into his office, he would often negotiate for them and I think his advice was normally excellent. MR BARR Thank you. Those were all my questions. Discussion re procedure LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. Mr Browne? MR BROWNE : Sir, as last night with Mr Morgan, who is not directly my client, I've considered whether I could assist the Inquiry by seeking leave under Rule 10 to cross-examine Mr Hipwell. I won't speculate as to what ruling you would have made if I had done that, but I do want to explain, and it's only fair to my clients that I should take a minute or two to do so, why, notwithstanding that we do not accept Mr Hipwell's evidence, we do not think it productive to challenge it by extensive cross-examination. It would hold up the progress of the Inquiry and it could very easily lead into the "you did", "I didn't" form of cross-examination. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You will have gathered from what I said that the precise detail was not what I am concerned with. MR BROWNE : Indeed. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Although there are two features which do concern me and which I do think are relevant. The first is the observation of Mr Justice Beatson, who obviously conducted a lengthy trial and was in by far and away the best position to reach conclusions which he did, and secondly, the overall question of the way in which the column was set up and, as it were, managed legally in line with the questions that I myself asked. So those seem to me to be relevant to the issues that I must address, rather than the specific detail. I hope that's helpful to what you wanted to say. It may not be. MR BROWNE : Well, it is, sir, and it's why we've reached the conclusion that it is best addressed by our giving evidence when our time comes, focusing on those matters. But it has not been easy for the core participants to know how to proceed in this matter. To take an example, this morning Mr Barr gently led from Mr Hipwell the allegation that Mr Morgan was guilty of an offence. That was something investigated over many years, I think four years, by the DTI inspectors, and no proceedings were brought. Now, that wasn't put to Mr Morgan, and yet it was led out of him before the adjournment by reference to something that Mr Hipwell had said, I think, to the Guardian, and it was returned to by Mr Barr again when we sat after the breakdown in the transcription system was cured. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I think that's when I interrupted. MR BROWNE : Well, I'm not capable of entirely accurate telepathy, but if your Lordship was as concerned as I was at that stage, it would only be natural. Similarly, yesterday with Mr Morgan, he was cross-examined at some length by Mr Jay as to why it was that the PCC were not told initially that the total holdings of him and his wife in Viglen were 67,000 and were led to believe that it was the acknowledged lesser figure of 20,000. Now, the explanation for all of that is copied in the very document Mr Barr referred to, the 2006 ruling of 7 May, which I think in your bundle is tab 6. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. MR BROWNE : I don't know whether you've had an opportunity to read that, but it demonstrates, first of all, that Trinity Mirror and Mr Morgan were open with the DTI inspectors about the 67,000 figure from the start, but believing that they had been lied to by Mr Bhoyrul and Mr Hipwell and that knowledge of the fact that the figure in reality was 67,000 rather than 20,000, they withheld it from the PCC because, to use their words recorded in the PCC ruling, that was almost a touchstone of the veracity of Messrs Bhoyrul and Hipwell LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, my concern about this is nothing to do with the Trinity Mirror, I say immediately. My concern about this aspect of the case relates to the PCC and I anticipate that whether that reasoning stands up may be relevant to what is considered about the way in which the PCC has conducted itself. But I'm not going to come and look at this or reinvestigate or reconsider the DTI investigation or anything to do with it. MR BROWNE : Well, I think, with respect, it's only fair that one should say publicly on behalf of Mr Morgan, who was subjected to that line of cross-examination, that the PCC's conclusion in deciding not to reopen their 2000 investigation was that there didn't appear to be any evidence to support the contention that the motive for not revealing the higher figure was to try to protect Mr Morgan or to minimise the Commission's criticisms. Now LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand that. MR BROWNE : Thank you. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And I go further, Mr Browne. I know that that will be online and I know that the very detailed statement that Mr Morgan made about Mr Hipwell's evidence is itself part of the evidence in the Inquiry, so I'm very conscious of that. MR BROWNE : Indeed, and that is important because, of course, when Mr Morgan tried to refer to it, perhaps not surprisingly he was told that he wasn't the one making speeches or asking questions, but for me at any rate what is critical, which has not been challenged by counsel to the Inquiry, indeed quite the contrary from the evidence led from Mr Hipwell, is that the matter was, as Mr Morgan says in paragraph 29 of his second witness statement, never raised at the time with Mr Morgan or with senior managers, and now of course we are 12 years down the track, only one of about a dozen people who are embraced in Mr Hipwell's charges has been named, Mr Hughes, and we know from him that he has explicitly denied it. Now, I think that's all I want to say, save this. Yesterday, and this explains why I've risen to expand our thinking and our position, Mr Sherborne made the point in relation to Mr Nott's evidence that it had not been challenged by Trinity Mirror. That's a fair point in adversarial litigation. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I entirely agree with the point that you are about to make. This is not adversarial, this is inquisitorial and I understand the point. MR BROWNE : It's inquisitorial, and for those acting for core participants it leads to some difficult and delicate decisions as to how they should pursue matters with witnesses and it's on that account that I wanted it to be known publicly and beyond this tribunal why it is that I'm not cross-examining Mr Hipwell. He is on his own account an acknowledged liar. It is remarkable that it is led by him from Mr Barr that he understands the importance of telling the truth on oath in the light of what happened at the Crown Court and it must be the first time in history that any courtroom in this building has heard as evidence what is described by the witness as mere buzz. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Mr Browne, just on that topic, I think that it's not entirely fair to characterise some of the all the evidence I've heard as lacking credibility, albeit I must recognise and allow for the fact that courts and investigators have examined various of these transactions in the past and reached conclusions on far more evidence than I will ever have and could ever obtain unless this Inquiry were to proceed for an eternity. MR BROWNE : Sir, you will recall that "buzz" was the phrase used in relation to the suggestion that the story about Ulrika Jonsson had involved a phone hack. I wasn't using "buzz" to describe all of Mr Hipwell's evidence, I was simply reminding you about what he said about that part of his evidence related to phone hacking. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON We've actually had it both ways, haven't we? Because yesterday we had Ms Marshall and Mr Morgan moving away from positive assertions in material they had written to saying, well, it was only rumour. This morning we've had it the other way around. MR BROWNE : Thank you. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you very much, Mr Browne. Thank you, Mr Hipwell.
A. Thank you. MR JAY Sir, the next witness is Mr Pilditch. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. MR DAVID PILDITCH (sworn) Questions by MR JAY MR JAY Please sit down, Mr Pilditch, make yourself comfortable and tell us your full name.
A. David Hamilton Pilditch.
Q. You'll find in the bundle in front of you, I hope under tab 2, your witness statement has been signed and contains a statement of truth. Do you stand by this evidence?
A. Yes.
Q. I'm going to ask you first of all to tell us something about yourself. You have been a journalist for 26 years now; is that correct?
A. That's correct.
Q. You started at a local paper, you were formally trained by the National Council for the Training of Journalists. You worked for a national news agency. For eight years you were at the Daily Mirror and then you moved to the Daily Express in 2003; is that correct?
A. That's correct.
Q. I think you are still at the Daily Express as a general news reporter; is that right?
A. That's right.
Q. In relation to the Madeleine McCann story, you tell us that you went to Portugal in 2007, indeed you were there a total of six times until February 2008, and you were six weeks in the country at your first visit; is that correct?
A. Yes, that's correct, six weeks, yeah.
Q. Can I ask you first of all, please, in your own words to tell us about the "uniquely challenging" aspects of covering this story? It's paragraph 4 of your statement. I'm not going to ask you to read it out, but to tell us why it was uniquely challenging.
A. Well, it was obviously a story of great interest and the problem was sort of accessing information from the police because of the secrecy of justice laws, which meant that it was illegal for them to discuss any details of the case or the investigation. Normally in a story like that, you would expect the police to be organising appeals and they'd have a strategy of dealing with the media and the press. But it wasn't there in this case.
Q. They didn't have a formal strategy because under Portuguese law it was forbidden to speak to the press; is that correct?
A. That's right.
Q. Then you tell us in the final sentence of paragraph 4: "Quite frankly this was a ludicrous state of affairs which made covering the story near impossible."
A. That's correct.
Q. Did you mean by that getting to the truth of the matter or did you mean by that well, what did you mean by that?
A. Getting to the truth, yes. I mean, it was as if you'd been transported like Dr Who into some Orwellian nightmare where the truth is impossible to find.
Q. It might be said if the truth is impossible to find, a journalist cannot properly say anything?
A. Well, that's right, because certainly in relation to the police investigation, in a story like this you'd expect that the primary information would be coming from the police, and in this case that just wasn't happening, so you are in an impossible situation because obviously you're trying to do everything to make sure that you can get to the bottom of what's happened to Madeleine McCann. The parents were in the end left to do that job that the police would normally do.
Q. Did you feel under any pressure to produce stories in relation to this case?
A. There was obviously a lot of pressure because there was newspapers and TV networks from all over Britain and Europe there, and the interest was in the story. You've obviously got to you can't sort of not cover the story of something that that's why I'm saying it's ludicrous, because you have to be in a position to cover the story. That's in everybody's interest.
Q. You're making it sound, maybe this is the case, that you were on the horns of a dilemma. On the one hand you were under pressure to cover the story; on the other hand you couldn't cover it because you couldn't get to the truth. Is that a fair characterisation?
A. That's right. But you want to make sure, as a journalist, that you've got facts and proper information that you're dealing with, but without the police co-operation it's impossible to do that.
Q. You say in paragraph 6: "The lack of official cooperation between the police and the media in my view fatally flawed the investigation into Madeleine's disappearance from day one."
A. Yes.
Q. Why do you say that?
A. Because of these lack of appeals, there was just no the things that should have been done, the strategies that should have been put in place by the police were not there, so at the time when it was most important that people were alerted to what was going on, that didn't happen. And throughout the whole investigation, I think this lack of information meant that and there were leaks of information as well, which meant that, as I say, there was no strategy. It was just confusion all round, where there should have been focus. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But isn't that then the story?
A. Well, the story is to find out what's happened to Madeleine McCann. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, isn't the story the lack of focus and the accusation? And obviously to find Madeleine, but isn't that the position rather than just repeating
A. That was the story that we were writing in the early stages. The story about the confusion, about the lack of information. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm running ahead of Mr Jay and I shouldn't. MR JAY Paragraph 13, please, Mr Pilditch. You make it clear that the police could not be an official source of information, but you tell us in paragraph 13: "My stories were compiled using numerous sources of information." Can we just list, please, your sources of information? You say first of all: "I interviewed witnesses, many locals connected with businesses, resort workers, holidaymakers and expats." What information did they give you which bore on the Madeleine McCann story which was relevant?
A. Well, the police had been round the resort and other areas on their own enquiries, and we were finding out lines of enquiry that the police were pursuing through speaking to local people and they'd been given descriptions of potential suspects, things like that, and you'd get a whole load of witnesses giving you the same description, then you have a pretty good idea what the police are working on, and then you go to the police and they can't tell you if that's right or wrong.
Q. So the suspects, are these people who were suspected of having abducted Madeleine; is that right?
A. I think that's right, yes. I mean, the police were putting out a description of a particular man that they I think witnesses had described being near the apartment, a potential suspect.
Q. Okay. And what about the locals connected with businesses? Is this the same sort of enquiry you were making?
A. That's exactly what I'm saying. I mean, in the early stages, when we arrived on the story, did what we do on all stories, which is go around speaking to people in the vicinity and trying to find out what they knew.
Q. So during this phase, is this right, you were under the impression that the police focus was on an abductor?
A. Well, it certainly was, and I mean, there were various lines of enquiry that emerged, but certainly in the very early days they were putting out various descriptions and there were also potential sightings that were reported as well, but this information wasn't coming from the police directly.
Q. You say in paragraph 18, when you're dealing with other sources of information, you'd previously identified Mr Clarence Mitchell as being the McCanns' official spokesman, which we know about. Paragraph 18: "In addition to quoting from Portuguese newspapers and the Drs McCanns' official spokesman I approached my own sources." Could you make it clear for us, please, it's dealt with in paragraph 19, who your own sources were?
A. What I'm saying is that we were looking at the Portuguese newspapers every day and that gave you a sort of starting point, very often, of what sort of lines you might be pursuing on a particular day. But then, as it became apparent that the police weren't going to co-operate directly, I had to try and make contact with them in whichever way I could, and the way I did that was by identifying journalists who had from the area and crime reporters who'd got very good police contacts and they were in daily contact with them, with the most senior officers in the case, as I've said, who were investigating the crime.
Q. You identify three sources, don't you, who provided you with information, you say. Two were Portuguese journalists who, you say, were in daily contact with the most senior officers investigating Madeleine's disappearance. The third was a translator who worked for the Portuguese police and translated, interpreted in the Portuguese legal system.
A. Yes.
Q. Is that right?
A. Yes.
Q. So they were, as it were, your sources? You haven't given their names, but in terms of who they were
A. Yeah.
Q. these are the inspaniduals we're talking about?
A. These were my best sources. I mean, during the course of the time I was there, there were other people, but these were the ones that I used on a regular basis.
Q. So is this right: the senior officers in the Portuguese police who, under Portuguese law, were not supposed to brief Portuguese journalists, were doing just that, unofficially, and then you were, as it were, picking up on the scraps of their briefings from your contact with those journalists? Is that right?
A. Yes. And if there was I was able to sort of develop a dialogue with the police through these third-party sources, so sometimes in the Portuguese newspapers they didn't there was only just one or two lines that weren't developed that may need more developing, so I was able to ask questions to the police, not directly, but through the journalists who were talking to them every day.
Q. So you put a question to the journalists, the journalists to the police, and the answer came back; is that what you're saying, Mr Pilditch?
A. Well, the answer didn't always come back, but yeah, that was the process that I was working through.
Q. You say in paragraph 21: "Despite the barriers thrown up by the Portuguese criminal justice system, I was able to obtain an accurate and truthful insight into ongoing developments within the police investigation at that time." Is that right?
A. Yes.
Q. But in truth, is this not also right, that the best you could do was to obtain from your Portuguese journalists their report of what senior officers were apparently telling those Portuguese journalists?
A. Sorry?
Q. The best you could do was to obtain from the two Portuguese journalists who were your main source their report of what they were apparently being told by senior officers within the Portuguese police service?
A. Yes.
Q. You say in paragraph 21, five lines down maybe I should read the preceding sentence: "Indeed, by this point in time, one of my contacts Is this one of the three you had identified previously?
A. Yes.
Q. was informing me of day-to-day developments as they were taking place and before they were being written about in Portuguese newspapers. This enabled me to verify the accuracy of the information I was being given." Would it be fair to say that enabled you to verify some the accuracy of what you were being given?
A. Yes. It satisfied myself that this wasn't just information that was being given to me that wasn't very good information; it confirmed that my source was dealing, as he said, with the most senior officers in the case.
Q. Can I ask you about paragraph 22: "Although I was confident of the veracity of the reports I was writing, due to the secrecy of justice laws they were impossible to prove, to any satisfactory legal standard, at that time. The fact is that every newspaper, TV network or media organisation that reported on details of the investigation into Madeleine McCann's disappearance were in the same boat."
A. Mm.
Q. You're effectively saying there that given all the problems you've identified, in particular the restrictions imposed by Portuguese law, on one level, at least, what you were writing about was impossible to prove to any satisfactory legal standard. Is that what you're saying?
A. Yeah. I mean, I knew that the reports were correct, but I also knew because they there was no confirmation, that there were going to be difficulties if any complaints were made because they just weren't from a publicly declared statement.
Q. I appreciate your role as journalist is not to obtain legal advice, not to edit the story, but these difficulties which you are frankly referring to here, did they cause you to hesitate at all in writing the stories you did?
A. Yeah. You feel uncomfortable writing stories where you're being put in a position where you can't do it in the way that you're used to, to be certain that what you're saying is fair and accurate, and the only way I felt that I could get round that would be to just explain the information in terms of this is where the information's being sourced from. So if it was this information's coming from the Portuguese police, I don't know if it's 100 per cent correct, but I know that it's coming from the Portuguese police.
Q. Your discomfiture, was that something you discussed with your news desk?
A. Yeah, I mean we had dialogues all the time, every day, and I explained to them the problems that we were having and, as I say, you couldn't just not write a story, particularly in the early stages of the enquiry, where what you were doing was basically launching appeals and trying to get people to come forward. So basically, every day when I'd speak to the news desk, normally you'd say, "Look, this is what we know, this is what the police are saying, and that's taken as being fact", but the conversations I was having with the news desk were explaining the information I had with all the caveats that were attached to it.
Q. Did you tell your news desk that which we see in paragraph 23 of your statement, namely: "Due to the restrictions of the Portuguese law, anyone who was unhappy about something that had been written or said about them and wished to take legal action would almost certainly have been successful." Was that sentiment shared with your news desk at the time?
A. Well, this is what I felt on the ground. I'm not a legal expert, but I felt that just the situation as it presented itself, that that was the case, and I'm certain that the news desk would have had conversations with lawyers about this, and there would have been discussions, ongoing discussions, and that was the situation that we were in and there was no way around it.
Q. I must persist with the question.
A. Sorry, yes.
Q. Yes. Did you share your discomfiture with your news desk?
A. Yes. I said "If we're going to have any problems, we may not be able to defend these things because we just cannot get any confirmation", and that was the difficulty.
Q. And what was the reaction from your news desk, if any?
A. Well, they took my comments on board and as I said, you're in a situation where it's a story of great interest and you've got newspapers and TV from all around the world who are covering it and you know that your rivals are working on similar information and they've got similar issues, and it's the sort of process that, you know, reporters go through every day when they're explaining what information they've got, and, you know, I knew that all I could do was present it in the with sort of explaining the sources that the where the information had come from.
Q. You told us about three or four minutes ago you couldn't not write the story.
A. Yes.
Q. And then you went back to what the position was at the early stages with the missing child
A. Yes.
Q. and all of that, but the position we're talking about now with the defamatory articles, they were written between September 2007 and January 2008.
A. Mm.
Q. The McCanns were given arguido status under Portuguese law I think on 7 September 2007?
A. Yes.
Q. It might be said, well, you could not write the story. There was no imperative to write stories which you knew wouldn't stand up to legal scrutiny. Do you see that point?
A. Yes. But the position that we were in was that this was probably the most significant development that had happened up to that time in the investigation.
Q. Sorry, what was, Mr Pilditch?
A. Well, when the McCanns were named arguidos. It's not something you could ignore. It's not something where you could just present a story that was based on a comment from the McCanns' official spokesperson. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Did you do any work to find out precisely what that meant in Portuguese law?
A. Yes, a lot of work, yeah. We spoke to lawyers in Portugal, and it was explained to me that there were subtle differences between arguidos and suspects. There's no legal equivalent. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON They're merely entitled to have legal representation and have other advantages, isn't that right? That's what Dr McCann told us, I think. I remove the word "merely" from what I just said.
A. No, we were given a completely different version by the lawyers in Portugal. We were told that effectively an arguido is a suspect. It gives the police an opportunity to put much tougher questions than they could to a witness, and they were allowed legal representation and I think the McCanns themselves were given some very, very tough questions from the Portuguese police. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So proceedings in English terms would be active?
A. There are subtle differences, but I don't think they were arrested or anything like that. But effectively that was the was what was explained to us by the lawyers in Portugal. MR JAY Yes. I'm not sure whether you fully saw the point of that last question, Mr Pilditch.
A. Sorry.
Q. That it brings into play contempt of court issues.
A. I see. Well, I mm, yeah, I don't can't, really. The problem is that the McCanns' spokespeople were briefing the press at this time and explaining that even sort of the extent where sort of things that the Portuguese police were accusing them of.
Q. We have a situation here where the McCanns are accorded, if that's the right verb, arguido status under Portuguese law. They are prevented, in any event, from speaking out.
A. Yes.
Q. To say that, this is right, they face a maximum two years sentence of imprisonment if they do. You can't speak directly to the police because that is also prevented under Portuguese law.
A. Yes.
Q. I'm just concerned with what are the imperatives, if any, which drive the stories which we know you come to write?
A. As I'm saying, this was a very big development in the story, and there were newspapers and TV networks reporting what was going on, and obviously there would be discussions on the newspaper from lawyers and all sort of parties that would be involved, and I think, you know, the actual legal sort of aspects would be something that the lawyers would be discussing.
Q. You make it sound as if the story acquires a life of its own and almost defines itself, and then, like a large snowball, runs down a snowy incline. Is that fair or not? I suspect you'll say it isn't, but could you help us with that?
A. I think if you put it into context of the story, the story was such a huge story, and I suppose you're right, I mean there is a sort of a vortex, isn't there, that is created.
Q. You keep on using the term "the story". What do you mean precisely by that?
A. The disappearance of Madeleine McCann.
Q. Yes. But we're moving away from that, aren't we, with the particular pieces you write?
A. Well, I was just reporting on day-to-day developments and that's what my job was to do.
Q. Okay. You say under paragraph 25 that all your stories were checked with more than one source prior to publication: "Once Clarence Mitchell was appointed as [their] spokesman, it was agreed that all stories would be bounced off him rather than the Drs McCann directly. This was strictly adhered to." In relation, though, to the stories which we know were by agreement deemed to be defamatory, did Mr Mitchell comment on all such stories?
A. Well, he commented on every story, and very often, you know, in quite strident terms, just explaining that this was part of a black propaganda campaign and that there was no evidence to back up what the police were saying.
Q. Then you make it clear in paragraph 25, and this would have to be the case under Portuguese law: "On every occasion, Portuguese police refused to comment on grounds that the enquiry was subject to judicial secrecy."
A. On the record
Q. In other words, in order to get to the truth or otherwise of the story, which is what you were writing about, you couldn't, because the police were refusing to help you. Is that fair?
A. They were refusing to tell us on the record. At the same time, they were at this time leaking particularly aggressively.
Q. Some people within the police were leaking for whatever reason; is that not right?
A. Well, it was the senior detectives working on the case.
Q. Doing it off the record; is that right?
A. Yes.
Q. Just look at some of the inspanidual pieces, please. These are under tab 4. It's part of exhibit JM2. I'm going to look first of all at page 31647. It is right to say that all the pieces I'm going to refer to, I believe all of them, are agreed to be defamatory pieces and very substantial compensation was paid, so I'm not, as it were, concerned to reopen that matter, which won't and can't be reopened.
A. Mm. Sorry, I don't know where I'm looking.
Q. I'm immediately looking at the wrong page. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, because this is not an article written by this witness. MR JAY My note is suspect. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON What's the date of the article, Mr Jay? Do you know? MR JAY 29 November. No, my notes are just wrong. I think we're going to do better with 31645 on 1 December 2007.
A. Yes, okay.
Q. This is one we see you co-author.
A. Mm.
Q. Can I be clear first of all about one matter. It says at the start: "Gerry and Kate 'still the prime suspects'." That's the headline. Were you responsible for that headline?
A. No.
Q. You say that with confidence. I'm sure in line with usual practice, it won't be in dispute that the editor or subeditor is responsible for that. Do I have that right?
A. Well, it's not the subeditor, it would be the editor or the night editor. I'm not too sure who writes headlines, but it's not the subeditors. They just fit stories into space.
Q. I think it's important for our purposes today to establish it's not you, okay?
A. No.
Q. Is that always the case with these headlines; it's never the journalist, it's always the editor?
A. Well, it's never the journalist. You know, something that I think the editor or night editor I mean, I'm not too sure, to be honest. The editor would have a final say about it, but
Q. But we can see from the first line of the text: "Kate and Gerry McCann are still regarded as the prime suspects in the disappearance of their daughter despite inconclusive findings from DNA evidence."
A. Yes.
Q. So that's your wording, isn't it?
A. No.
Q. You don't think it is?
A. You see, I didn't really write this story. This has Nick Fagge's name on it. Normally, if you've got somebody who is named first, they are the people who do most of the writing. I do remember this one because I'd just arrived in Portugal that day and I think Nick Fagge was being replaced and there had been a meeting going on between the British ambassador and senior police officers at police headquarters in Faro, and I went straight from the airport to the police headquarters and basically I provided a bit of colour from police headquarters. I wrote about sort of official cars coming out of these sort of colonial style police buildings and things. That was my role in the story. Because nobody wanted to talk to me, so I was just sort of stood outside the police headquarters.
Q. Fair enough, but the general tenor of this is that the line of investigation within the Portuguese police was seeking to establish the truth of a hypothesis that Madeleine died as a result of an accident in the flat and the parents then hid and disposed of the body; is that right?
A. What, this particular story?
Q. Mm.
A. I can't comment on this particular story.
Q. Let's look at another one that you might be able to. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But your name is at the top of it. Should that be just ignored?
A. No, I explained why my name is on the top of it, because I played a role in the story, but that's all I did, stand outside police headquarters. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You didn't read the story before it went out under your name?
A. No. I would have filed my bit of copy to either the news desk or to Nick Fagge, who was compiling the story, and it would have just been inserted into the story. Very often reporters write stories and don't get their bylines in the papers because somebody else is the main reporter who is pulling it all together. Very often there could have been more reporters or could have been more input into this story, but I don't think there was. I think Nick Fagge wrote the story and I, as I say, arrived at the airport and went straight to the police headquarters in my hire car, so that's all I did, and then informed him of what had happened at the police headquarters, which was just I was witnessing what took place at this meeting. MR JAY In terms of the procedure, though, Mr Pilditch, the assumption I was making, but it may be incorrect in the light of what you're saying, is that this is emailed back to London; is that right?
A. Yes. I can't remember whether I emailed my part of it to London or if I emailed it to Nick Fagge, but it would be one of the other, I think.
Q. Isn't it standard practice that if, on the face of it, a story is being coauthored, that the copy is sent to you imagine Mr Fagge is the primary author for comment, you approve it or not, and then, you having made any contribution you see fit, the text is emailed to London?
A. No.
Q. Probably here by Mr Fagge. Is that not what happens?
A. No. I wouldn't have seen the whole article. As I say, I would have simply passed on the part of the story I was doing to the news desk or you know, I think that's what would have happened or the reporter who was compiling the story.
Q. Okay. So which part of this piece do you say you did write?
A. To be honest, I'm not even sure if anything went in, because, as I say, I went to the police headquarters where this meeting was taking place.
Q. Yes?
A. And I would have written some colour about, you know, what I saw. I saw the police officers and I saw the people that I recognised, who I knew who they were, but there was a whole load of, as I say, official cars. Basically, I was stood outside the police station and when the meeting was over, I saw the people who were involved, or some of them, leaving the police headquarters and I'd have just filed some colour about what I saw at the scene. That was my involvement in the story.
Q. I think it looks as if, from what you're saying, that in truth Mr Fagge was the sole author, your name shouldn't have been on this at all.
A. No, because
Q. We're not sure where we're seeing the colour you imparted.
A. It looks like someone's knocked it out of the story. Doesn't look like it's made the cut. The only thing that made the cut was my name.
Q. But we do see from the penultimate sentence: "The McCanns were named as suspects on September 7."
A. Yes.
Q. Are you sure that's right?
A. Well, I didn't write this story. That's what I'm saying.
Q. Let's look at one which we can be sure that you did write. 31643, dated 3 December. Just cast an eye over it. Your source here is someone within the Portuguese police speaking to a journalist, who then speaks to you; is that correct?
A. It looks like it. I mean, it doesn't source any doesn't say that there was any other I mean, I haven't attributed any other source to it, so
Q. The only attribution, but this is not going to help us much, is at the very end: "The source added: 'Once interviews have been conducted the filed will be passed '." So whoever the source was, was close to the police investigation, as it were, and we know from the evidence you're giving us it's likely to be one of the two journalists, isn't it?
A. Yeah.
Q. In terms of the colour, though, which you refer to in the context of the previous piece, which you say you didn't have a hand in, the term "fingers of suspicion", whose was that?
A. I don't know. I can't say at this
Q. Might it have been your term, Mr Pilditch?
A. No. I mean, it's not I don't really know what it means, to be honest.
Q. Well, because some of the language here might, by some, be said to be somewhat loaded.
A. Mm.
Q. For example: "Portuguese detectives could fly to Britain to sit in on make-or-break interviews You're making it sound as if guilt or innocence might turn on the result. It is quite heightened, isn't it?
A. Well, I mean, we certainly knew that this was something that Portuguese police were considering at that time.
Q. Okay. And then what about the sentence about eight lines down: "Detectives want to focus on the 10 issues that have haunted them "?
A. Mm.
Q. That must be your terminology, mustn't it?
A. Well, they were obviously struggling, weren't they, the detectives? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm sorry, Mr Pilditch, I'd just like to understand this. In the first sentence it says "10 'fingers of suspicion'". Are you saying you didn't write that?
A. I can't recall whether that was my specific wording or not. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, do you read the articles when they come out in the paper and think about whether they've been changed back in London? Or do you not bother?
A. What I'm saying is I wrote this story four years ago, and I can't remember if those were my specific words or not. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And "10 issues that have haunted them", Mr Jay's question, is that your word?
A. I'm saying the same thing. I mean, I can't remember if I used that word. The thing is that I file my story and there are other processes involved after that, so if I'd written this story last week, then I'd know exactly well, even if I wrote it last week, I wouldn't know exactly my specific words, without referring to the original copy that I'd sent. MR JAY Did you not assemble forgive me for putting it in these terms these ten issues from what you'd gleaned from reading Portuguese newspapers and then turned it into a story in your own language?
A. Well, I think it would have been speaking to my source. I wrote a story, I presented a story the way I'd written it, and I can't tell you for certain whether this is the story that I wrote word for word. I doubt that it was, because it normally isn't, but I don't know which words I used and which words were used in part of the subediting process.
Q. Your source was only telling you that interviews could take place. I think my question was in order to work out what the subject matter of the interviews might be, you looked at Portuguese newspapers and assembled what you thought were the ten key issues which might be put to the McCanns. Is that not a fair supposition?
A. Well, this is what my source would have been telling me, yeah.
Q. Are you sure about that?
A. Well, I mean why wouldn't it be?
Q. Can I just pick up on one of the ten points. The forensic findings, do you see that?
A. Yeah.
Q. though not conclusive that Madeleine's body was in the spare tyre
A. Yes.
Q. You're suggesting there, aren't you, that there were findings presumably this is a reference to DNA evidence which established, although did not do so conclusively, that Madeleine's body was in the spare tyre well in the boot; is that right?
A. Yeah.
Q. The DNA evidence did not go anything like that far, did it?
A. Well, I think at this time it wasn't known how far it had gone.
Q. That's precisely the point. You're making it sound as if there were findings, when in fact the DNA evidence, if you're going to properly characterise it, was at best inconclusive.
A. I think we know that now, but I don't think we knew that at this time.
Q. Well, what did you know at the time about the DNA evidence?
A. Well, that there was DNA evidence that was being examined.
Q. But you didn't know what the results of the examination were, did you?
A. No.
Q. The McCanns' evidence, at page 35 of the transcript
A. Transcript?
Q. Sorry, pardon me, Mr Pilditch, it's under tab 5.
A. Yeah.
Q. The question which was put at the bottom of page 34: "The overall flavour or thrust of this article [not the article we're looking at now, but it doesn't matter, the point is the same] was that there was DNA evidence which linked your daughter with a hire car. What do you say about that? "Answer: The first thing to say, it's simply untrue. Madeleine's DNA was not uncovered from the hire car. That's the first thing."
A. We know that now, but I don't think we knew that then. The police were saying that it had been.
Q. The police were saying that some what might have been human tissue was found in the car.
A. Yes.
Q. And that they had done some tests in Portugal on it and the results were inconclusive?
A. Well, I think the tests were carried out in Britain.
Q. And they were also inconclusive, weren't they?
A. Well, they were, yeah.
Q. I'm just troubled by
A. I'm just explaining what the police
Q. I'm just troubled by the use of the term "findings" in relation to this eighth or ninth finger of suspicion. I must suggest to you it is wrong and unfair to have characterised them as findings at all.
A. Well a finding
Q. Whether or not one adds in parentheses that they are not conclusive.
A. A finding is something that you found, isn't it? I don't know. But they found something and it was something that was being analysed.
Q. There are two different senses in which the word "finding" is being used. The first is, "We've found something which we believe to be human tissue", and the second is, "We've analysed the human tissue and our finding is X", the finding may be it is the DNA of a particular inspanidual.
A. Yes.
Q. We never got, did we, to that second stage at all; do you see that?
A. Well, I was explaining what the findings were. I mean mm.
Q. I think I've taken that point as far as I reasonably can with you. I'm not going to look at all of these, but you did write quite a few of these articles. There's another one at 31640.
A. Mm. This is is this before or after that one? Yeah.
Q. Although it's earlier in the bundle, we are working
A. Backwards.
Q. chronologically forwards, I hope, because the previous one was dated 3 December.
A. No, you're right, yeah.
Q. Here you are reporting what the police theory was at that point, at least the theory which was being apparently put out by some in the police to Portuguese journalists.
A. Mm.
Q. Namely, Madeleine died in an accident and then the parents covered up the crime and later disposed of their daughter's body. You do rightly say in this piece, about eight lines down: "Months of painstaking analysis on DNA uncovered in Portugal had so far failed to produce conclusive evidence." That was the position. And then there were going to be further tests, I believe, in this country; is that right?
A. I can't recall the chronology of when the tests were carried out and what point the investigation had reached at this point.
Q. Did you make any personal assessment, did you ponder in your own mind about the inherent plausibility or otherwise of the police position as apparently reported?
A. Well, I mean, I didn't know what was going on, but my assessment was that, you know, there must be some form of plausibility in what a modern police force is telling you in the 21st century in a European country. You wouldn't think they would just, you know.
Q. You were telling us earlier that the Portuguese police investigation was fatally flawed, and that was the view you formed from the outset. That's in your witness statement.
A. Yeah, I'm talking now about the lack of appeals and the the investigation didn't get off the ground, but I don't know what's going on with experts examining forensic evidence and all this sort of thing. That's just a different part of it.
Q. And then at 31634, 10 December, again this is your piece.
A. Mm.
Q. The thrust of this piece is that Portuguese detectives were apparently fearful of the fact that British police would not properly interrogate the McCanns; is that right?
A. Yes.
Q. Did you think at the time there was any basis for that fear?
A. Yeah, I did, yeah.
Q. From your own knowledge of British police and Portuguese police? Did you really think that?
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON What did you think, that the British police would go easy on suspects?
A. No, that the Portuguese police believed that. There seemed to be lots of I don't know if it was cultural differences, but there seemed to be lots of disagreements going on behind the scenes between various authorities, and the officers who were investigating this case, the senior officers, this is what they were saying. They believed that I think they were concerned they'd complain that they'd ask for information and were upset because they only got one piece of paper or something, background information. There was obviously issues going on behind the scenes between the Portuguese police and other authorities. MR JAY Okay. There's only one other piece I'm going to ask you about, it's 31629, please, Mr Pilditch, 12 December 2007. This is the piece about the priest. Do you remember this one?
A. Yes.
Q. Your source, I think, three-quarters of the way down the page, is a "close friend of the priest"; is that right?
A. The priest?
Q. Yes.
A. Yes.
Q. Are you able to give us any further information about that?
A. Um well, this was information that was passed on to me by people who were in contact with the priest. I mean, I was speaking all the time to parishioners and worshippers in Praia da Luz.
Q. You think it might have been one of those inspaniduals who passed it on to you; is this right?
A. Yes.
Q. This is, if I may say so, a rather loaded story because the suggestion is, do I have this right, that the priest felt under tremendous emotional strain because some sort of confession had been given to him by Dr Kate McCann. That's what you're getting at, isn't it?
A. Where have is that part of the story?
Q. Yes. Right in the middle of the page: "Investigators became convinced Kate had confessed to him but the tormented priest insisted he would stand by his vow to take the secrets of the confessional to the grave." Are you sure about that sentence, Mr Pilditch?
A. I know that the police interviewed the priest and nothing came from it, and I think this is what the police were saying.
Q. It might be said that you were drawing a bit of an inference here, that you knew from what you were told that the priest had been interviewed by the police, but it's just the clause "the tormented priest insisted he would stand by his vow to take the secrets of the confessional to the grave", I'm troubled a bit by that, whether that's a bit of journalistic licence on your part. Are you sure about the accuracy of that statement?
A. I think the accuracy is that priests that's how confessional works, isn't it?
Q. As a matter of general proposition it may well be, but you're going a bit further than that, because you're suggesting that not merely would the priest stand by his religious obligation, but he would also be taking the secrets of the confessional to his grave because he was given a confession by Dr Kate McCann. Isn't that what you're getting at?
A. I think the Portuguese police were saying that they'd interviewed Father Pacheco and they hadn't got anything of any use. The problem with a lot of this stuff was the way the information was leaking out, it was like thinking out loud, really.
Q. Yes.
A. These were the sort of conversations that in a police sort of a, you know, force in this country would be the sort of things that officers would be talking about behind the scenes. But
Q. But all you knew as a fact, if your source was to be trusted, and let's assume for the purposes of this exchange that your source could be, is that the police had interviewed the priest.
A. Yes.
Q. But everything else was an inference that you might have drawn, indeed did draw, in particular the bit about the tormented priest insisting he would stand by his vow to take the secrets of the confessional to the grave. You weren't told that by anyone, were you?
A. I think the police were explaining why they thought they wouldn't get anything from the priest, because he was duty-bound not to tell them anything.
Q. Mm. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Do you not get the point that Mr Jay is making?
A. Sorry. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That the inference in the sentence goes rather beyond that and suggests that the priest had a secret to take to the grave?
A. It says "investigators became convinced". I mean, that MR JAY Yes. Absolutely. If you read the whole lot as one piece, it reinforces precisely that point.
A. Mm.
Q. Because here we have a very well, I've made the point already, Mr Pilditch. I'm not sure that you're fully seeing it, though.
A. No.
Q. Okay.
A. What I'm saying is this is what the investigators they interviewed the priest and got nothing from him, and I think they probably thought that they were just going through a routine of interviewing a priest. I think they suspected that they wouldn't get anything from him. So I'm just saying what was going on, what the police were how they were as I say, this is like a bit of thinking out loud by the police that was in the public domain and it's the sort of thing that normally police officers wouldn't sort of tell you, really.
Q. To be fair to you, Mr Pilditch, can we be clear about two or three matters? First of all, you don't, of course, have a lawyer advising you as to what to put or not to put into your copy?
A. No.
Q. We know that, it's not standard practice for that to happen. That happens higher up the chain, doesn't it?
A. Yes.
Q. And secondly, it's ultimately the editor's decision, not yours, as to whether to publish any particular story that is put up by you or any other journalist; is that right?
A. Yeah.
Q. And in terms of the chains or lines of communication, the standard line of communication is between you and the news desk, and then the news desk and the editor; is that also right?
A. Yeah.
Q. Did you have any conversations with the editor at any stage about any of these stories?
A. No.
Q. I think you've told us earlier that any misgivings you had about the accuracy of the stories and the difficulties you were having were shared with the news desk; is that correct?
A. Yes.
Q. Is that something you think might have happened once or something that might have happened more than once?
A. Sorry?
Q. Your discussions with the news desk?
A. Yeah.
Q. In particular about misgivings in relation to the story and the difficulties you were having in verifying a story.
A. I think every day you would have conversations with the news desk throughout the day and you'd explain the information that you had and where it had come from. As I say, you'd explain the caveats that were attached to it.
Q. My final point is, is this a possible explanation for what happened here in relation to, to use your term, the story: the McCanns are declared arguidos by the Portuguese authorities on 7 September 2007, and the direction of the story changes?
A. Yeah.
Q. And instead of being a standard story about child abduction, it becomes a rather more sinister story, in inverted commas. It's that story or version which starts to dictate the direction in which people like you are writing their copy? Is that a fair characterisation of what might be happening here?
A. Well, at that particular point in time, I was reporting on the sort of day-to-day developments that were going on on the ground, and this is pretty much what was happening. During this time, there was also there were contradictory reports. You know, the Portuguese police at different times were saying contradictory things. One day they're saying that, you know, they're going down one route and the next day they're heading off in a completely different direction. So not all the reports were of this nature, but at this particular point in time when the investigation had reached this point, then this was the sort of information that was coming out.
Q. Okay. There is one more question, I hope you don't mind me putting this. I appreciate that it's the editor's decision as to whether this material is published.
A. Yes.
Q. But did you have any personal concerns about this material going up to the editor with the likelihood that it would be published simply on the human basis that we have already a tragic situation, parents have lost their daughter in the sense that the daughter has disappeared?
A. Yes.
Q. Absolutely clear. They are in a state of emotional turmoil?
A. Yeah.
Q. And then to add to that natural emotional turmoil, what is being written about them.
A. Yeah.
Q. How does this factor into this, if at all, from your perspective? Not from your perspective now, but from your perspective at the time?
A. At the time, I really didn't know what was going on. I knew that the police investigation was headed down this particular path and, as I say, I'd have no idea why the police were heading down this path and, well, this is the point that we were at and this was I didn't know what happened to Madeleine McCann, I still don't know, so I'm just saying that at this time, this was what was happening and I was reporting on the developments that were happening, but I didn't know if the police were barking up the wrong tree or if, you know, as I say, you'd expect them to have some form of competency.
Q. I'm not sure you have answered my question. Can you remember what it was? I can repeat it again.
A. Yes, if you could repeat it, yeah.
Q. You already have a huge amount of emotional turmoil: a four-year-old child has disappeared. It goes without saying.
A. Yeah.
Q. And then people like you, if you don't mind me putting it in those terms, are writing stories which imply that the child has not been abducted, something far more sinister has happened.
A. Right.
Q. The propensity of those matters being written about would naturally add to the emotional turmoil which is already immense. It's whether that enters into your thinking at the time at all when you are writing these stories?
A. Well, I think I explained. I mean, there is emotional turmoil, but I'm reporting on what's happening on the ground.
Q. Okay.
A. On that particular day. MR JAY I think I understand, Mr Pilditch. Thank you very much. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I have a slightly different point, which is this: you may not understand the Portuguese law, and that's entirely fair enough.
A. Yeah. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But you do understand, I'm sure you would agree, that stories have to stand up?
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And that your paper is at risk of massive damages claims if you write something that's defamatory?
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That you can't then stand up?
A. Yes. Well, I think I've said that in my statement. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand. You were getting all sorts of tittle-tattle
A. Right. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON from different people in circumstances when you knew the police couldn't officially talk, is that fair?
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And as far as you were concerned they were going off in very different directions, one day this, one day something else; that's your assessment of what they'd been doing?
A. But at this point in time, they were very much focusing on this. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So be it, but you had the experience of what they had been doing.
A. Mm. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Did you ever have any concern that you wouldn't be able to stand up this story?
A. Yeah. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And did that give rise to concern that you shouldn't be writing it as it was written?
A. I think I was writing it in the only way I could write it, because I was explaining where my sources were coming from and I was explaining that this isn't something that I can prove or confirm. But those sort of decisions would be made further up the chain about the law. But I was just writing on developments that were going on on the ground at that time. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So you saw your role purely to reduce whatever you heard, from whatever source you heard it, into a story?
A. It's not tittle-tattle, you see. This was LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Isn't it?
A. No, because it was information that was coming from the senior detectives investigating the case. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Or so you were told.
A. Well, I know now that it is, because there's files that have been released and there's LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, but you didn't know at the time.
A. No, but I knew at the time that these were genuine lines of enquiry and this particular line was the only line the police were pursuing at that time. I didn't know the truth. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But the evidence you've got, that you've now seen, doesn't in fact justify some of this stuff, does it? Because the DNA was not in this condition that you described it in your article.
A. Yeah. The police were claiming it was in a I think the police were telling lies and trying to claim they had more than they actually had. But in 2008 in July when the police released their official file, this was some time after this period, there's lots of documentation and there's lots of all sorts of statements and the whole file that they'd been investigating. It's only when that was published that you could see that actually this whole thing was based on a false premise. The police went as hard as they did down this line and they had no reason to do it, they had no evidence to back them up. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So all the stuff, for example, about what the priest might have been told, it's all fluff. There's nothing to it.
A. It's all things that were happening at the time. But if you look at things now, knowing what we know in the public domain, it's a very different picture. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I agree, and that's why I asked you whether you were concerned at the time that you couldn't stand the story up with the risk that your paper was exposed to massive damages claims, as indeed they were.
A. Well, I was uncomfortable writing stories like this, but I felt it was the only way to write it, but the sort of decisions about the risk were taken by lawyers and by executives on the paper. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Did you write a piece, perhaps not for publication, but for your editors, to underline the extreme fragility of this information?
A. They were well aware of that. I mean, this was the only way you could operate in Portugal at that time. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I see.
A. And other newspapers were doing it. There was no other way of doing it. All I could do was exactly spell out who was saying what. I was saying if it was a police source, this is what the police are saying. Or if it was somebody else, I'd say this is what they were saying. As a journalist, as a reporter, you want to write stories based on fact when you know it's fact, but because of the secrecy of justice law in Portugal, you had to do it in a different way, an unsatisfactory way, but the only way you could do it, which was to say, "I don't know that this is fact, but this is what people are saying about these different things". LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, well, I think we've probably done that point. Thank you. Discussion re procedure MR DINGEMANS May I ask some questions? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, you may. Just before you do, Mr Dingemans, I think Mr Sherborne also wants to. I think you would probably rather ask after Mr Sherborne. What's the topic, Mr Sherborne? MR SHERBORNE Sir the topic is really one of the topics that you raised in the questions you asked Mr Pilditch. It's in paragraph 24 of his witness statement, and it refers to his assessment, if I can put it that way, of the police files. You've heard Mr Pilditch say more than once now that the police files have revealed that the articles he was writing were truthful and accurate, and I'd like to pick him up on that comment and take him through one or two of the articles to demonstrate how that's simply incorrect. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But I don't think he's quite saying that and I don't think we need to go too much into the facts. As I understand what you're saying, as I understand what the witness said, he was accurately reporting that which the police were thinking; he wasn't accurately reporting that which the police could actually prove, because that's not what the police were telling him. MR SHERBORNE What he says in his statement, sir, is: "Under the Portuguese system, the authorities released the official police file Then he refers to the documents in there, then says: "Through the release of those documents and subsequent legal actions in Portugal it is now a matter of public record that the reports I was writing between September 2007 and January 2008 were truthful and accurate." So that is a fairly sweeping statement and it is one which, very simply, can be demonstrated to be untruthful and inaccurate, and I would ask you to be able to do so. I can do it, as I say, relatively shortly, and then there are one or two supplemental questions I'd like to ask him on behalf of Dr Kate and Dr Gerry McCann. MR DINGEMANS Sir, may I make submissions to my learned friend about whether this is appropriate? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You may, but I think, in the light of my understanding of the evidence of this witness, the truthfulness and accuracy is not intended to reflect the facts as revealed by the evidence, but as revealed by the police concerns.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But you can ask that question and then I mean, nobody is suggesting, and he certainly isn't suggesting, as I understand the witness, that any of the allegations in relation to DNA or in relation to these other features are established by the facts in the record; merely, as I understood it, by what the police believed, even though they couldn't prove a single word of it. MR SHERBORNE Indeed. I don't think Mr Pilditch could possibly suggest for one minute that they were true. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. MR SHERBORNE But what he does suggest is that there were documents and other material in the police file which support the truth of what he was saying the police were saying, if I can put it that way. And that is simply incorrect. I can demonstrate that by three articles, and I can do it very quickly. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Right, let me hear what Mr Dingemans says about that. MR DINGEMANS Sir, the whole purpose of your Inquiry is inquisitorial. It is at this stage not going into dissent of adversarial fact-finding matters. There has been no notice from this core participant. Contrast a matter when we wanted to raise questions of his witnesses, we would put them through counsel to the Inquiry, and we respectfully submit that you would permit this whole Inquiry to be hijacked into fact-finding matters which are not suitable for this stage of this process. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand the point, but I have raised concerns, as you heard at the very end of the witness's evidence. MR DINGEMANS Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The witness has made it clear the limit of his reporting. It's probably not going to advance the customs, practice and ethics analysis to look at whether the way in which the allegations dribbled out of the Portuguese police were picked up and reported, but on the other hand, in the same way that I've been content for various core participants to stand up and make a correcting statement simply so that the public domain so there isn't a misleading impression given, I don't think it's appropriate to prevent Mr Sherborne from doing that, and maybe he can do it by way of statement, because I've got the evidence of the witness on the topic. But to cut it out entirely runs the risk of leaving a potentially unfair picture. But whether it goes to customs, practise and ethics, I take your point. MR DINGEMANS My other point is questions to this witness. There's been no notice that he was going to be asked questions on behalf of this core participant. I have no problems, and, sir, it's entirely up to you whether you permit people to make statements, but in our submission there shouldn't be a practice of standing up to ask questions simply because they want to ask further details when there's been no notice to the relevant witness. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, I don't know whether this is a topic which Mr Sherborne informed Mr Jay about. MR DINGEMANS He didn't, according to the information I have. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I certainly required all core participants to do that, so that we could make a decision, and I think that was the approach that I adopted. MR DINGEMANS Sir, that's only my point on this point. The only reason for objecting is if one is trying to prepare fairly witnesses for what may happen and then people decide to pick up points that they haven't decided or bothered to notify to counsel to the Inquiry. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right. Well, Mr Sherborne, that seems a not unfair point. MR SHERBORNE Can I deal with that point before I deal with my substantive one, and that's this. You'll appreciate that this witness statement was only provided I think to us yesterday afternoon. That's the first I saw of this witness statement. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'd be very surprised, but MR DINGEMANS It was provided to the Inquiry two weeks ago. I can't talk about my learned friend. MR SHERBORNE It may have been provided to the Inquiry two weeks ago, I did not see it until yesterday afternoon. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right. MR SHERBORNE But that perhaps is a point of lesser importance. A point of greater importance is that this paragraph 24 was a matter that only was raised by you, sir, in your question to Mr Pilditch, and that's when he relied on it to positively reinforce the fact that what he had published by way of reports of what the police were saying was truthful and accurate, having had sight of the Portuguese police file. That is why I stand to ask those questions. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, no, Mr Sherborne, that doesn't work, because, as you will know, the statement would be going on the Internet in any event, so it's a public document for all to see, and if the point had to be made, the point was going to be made as soon as you read it, even if it was only last night. MR SHERBORNE Sir, when a witness seeks to reinforce evidence he's given in response to a question you've asked, it assumes far more importance than it would do in the pages of the witness statement that have been provided. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Identify to me your three examples, please. MR SHERBORNE Sir, I can do it by way of a speech. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, I don't want you to make a speech. I want you to identify the three examples. MR SHERBORNE The three examples are firstly, and they're examples that I tried to pick on examples as Mr Jay was going through, which are not the same articles. October 1, 2007, which is an article I don't have the exhibits, so I can't tell you the page. It's entitled "Now police say she fell down the steps: the hunt for Madeleine". It's one that Mr Pilditch co-wrote with Mr Evans, but on this occasion, since his name comes first, I assume he will accept that he was responsible for it. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Let's just see it. I'm concerned with the facts so that an impression should be an incorrect impression should be put right. So 1 October, did you say? MR SHERBORNE Yes: "Now police say she fell down the steps" is the front page headline, "The hunt for Madeleine". And the opening words are: "Madeleine McCann's parents faced new smears yesterday after it was reported their daughter died falling downstairs. It is claimed Portuguese police are 100 per cent certain Madeleine was killed in an accident at her family's holiday apartment and Kate and Gerry covered up the tragedy." LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Right? MR SHERBORNE "The theory is Madeleine, four, wandered out, stumbled" LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right, but what's the point? MR SHERBORNE The point is this: there is nothing in the Portuguese police file to suggest that Madeleine had been harmed in any way. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, but MR SHERBORNE There is also LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But are you able to say that the police were not putting that out? MR SHERBORNE There is nothing in the police file which suggests that the police had found evidence that Madeleine had been harmed in any way. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. My question was rather different. Are you able to say that the police didn't put that out? MR SHERBORNE What I'm able to say is there is no suggestion the police were putting that out in the police file. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right. MR SHERBORNE That's why I say this is not about disproving that the articles were true or that the facts suggested were true because it's not even stated they are. It's about disproving that there was evidence or that the police were suggesting there was evidence to support these allegations. And there is nothing in the police files to suggest the police were suggesting that. If one turns then to 17 October, this is a point that was raised not in relation to this article, this article is Mr Pilditch's article alone, entitled "Parents' car hid a corpse. 'It was under carpet in boot', say police", and refers to the DNA evidence. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. MR SHERBORNE It's right to say that there is nothing in the police files to suggest that Madeleine's DNA was found in the car. Indeed, as the police files show, and as Mr Pilditch would know, the McCanns only hired the car after Madeleine had disappeared. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, but that's the same point about the conclusive/inconclusive DNA, isn't it? MR SHERBORNE It's a similar point, but as I say, what the police files show is that no DNA of Madeleine was ever found in the car, so there's nothing in the police files to support the suggestion that DNA of hers was found, which is what is stated in the article. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right, and the third point? MR SHERBORNE And the third for example relates to one that I think Mr Jay did take Mr Pilditch to, which is the priest bans Madeleine, the 12 December article. It relate to this. I don't know whether you have that article. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. MR SHERBORNE It refers to the investigators becoming convinced that Kate had confessed to the priest, and of course again there is nothing in the police file to say that Kate McCann had confessed to the priest. Indeed, the witness statement of the priest makes perfectly plain, and that is in the police file, that no such confession was given. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right, I understand the point. Thank you. Mr Pilditch, I am going to ask you the question in this way: you've obviously seen this entire file.
A. I've seen it some time ago. I have seen it. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, you can consider over the no, I won't ask you to do that.
A. Could I just say something in relation to this? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right.
A. It's not just the police file that I'm referring to here. I'm talking about statements that have been made in courts, and in fact the chief the head of the police inquiry has written a book, and I'm talking about a whole series of different sources of information that are now in the public domain LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Oh, well, then
A. that weren't in the public domain at that time. It's not just the police file in isolation I'm talking about. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Then actually your sentence is quite wrong in paragraph 24, because your sentence in paragraph 24 says: "Through the release of those documents [that's the police file] and subsequent legal actions in Portugal, it's now a matter of public record that the reports I'm writing were truthful and accurate."
A. Yes. MR DINGEMANS Sir, the legal action was concerned to put My learned friend Mr Sherborne was seeking to cross-examine on a false premise anyway, because he's ignored the legal actions. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I've got the point. But more significantly it's, as I expressed the view, slightly dependent upon the brief that Mr Pilditch was fulfilling the extent to which decisions thereafter were made, which were appropriate. Right. I understand the point. MR SHERBORNE With respect, sir, I wasn't allowed to cross-examine. If I had cross-examined, it would not have been on a false premise. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm not going to get into the issue between you and Mr Dingemans. I'm not going to go down the route of trying to unpick what one Portuguese police officer said, either in a book or in a legal proceedings or in the record. Everybody is agreed that there is absolutely no foundation at all for the allegation that emerged throughout the public hearing throughout the press at this time, that Dr and Dr McCann were involved in any way in any inappropriate conduct in relation to the disappearance of their daughter. So that doesn't need to be established for me and in the same way that I wasn't going to go into what happened in relation to the City Slickers column, this is very much a side issue. I understand the point, and I understand the reason why it is very important for your clients to make that position critically clear, and I am happy to emphasise it and I am sure that Mr Dingemans wouldn't want to say anything to the contrary, and he is nodding, so I put that into the record. But further than that I simply don't consider it necessary to go. If I say, because of my natural sympathy for Dr and Dr McCann, that it's appropriate, then actually I have opened a door which I cannot prevent other people from seeking to examine in different ways and I haven't sufficient requirement to go into these areas to justify it. MR SHERBORNE Sir, I accept that. It is simply this. You need to consider, obviously, in terms of the culture, practices and ethics of the press, whether it was responsible or, as one might say, utterly irresponsible to publish this kind of information. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I think you'll find that the question I asked was designed to that very issue. MR SHERBORNE I understand that, but it is the statement you've seen in paragraph 24 of the way in which it's being said these stories were being put together that is necessary to be tested and that's why I asked for it to be tested in the way I did. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand. Right. Thank you very much, we'll resume at 2.05 pm. (1.05 pm)


Gave a statement at the hearing on 21 December 2011 (AM) ; and submitted 1 pieces of evidence
Gave a statement at the hearing on 21 December 2011 (AM) ; and submitted 1 pieces of evidence


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

Journalism & society
View more
View more
View more
Future of journalism
View more
Background & history
View more
Subsequent developments
View more
Ethics & abuses
View more