RESEARCH TOOLS


Morning Hearing on Monday, January 9, 2012

John Edwards , Duncan Larcombe , Kelvin MacKenzie and Gordon Smart gave statements at this hearing

Hearing Transcript

(10.12 am) Housekeeping LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Before we start the evidence sessions for 2012, it seems to me to be worthwhile to raise a number of what might be described as housekeeping points following the evidence prior to Christmas. The first topic concerns the wider questions. Going back to the morning of 16 November, it may be recalled that following Mr Rusbridger's opening submissions on behalf of the Guardian, which was the last set of submissions from a core participant that was a newspaper, I raised a series of questions. They can be found in the PDF transcript for that morning between page 38, line 14, and page 44, line 23. These questions were not simply addressed to Mr Rusbridger but to all core participants, and I wanted to remind everyone about them, because as we move through the titles in the next week or so and then on to other areas, including the PCC, I want to ensure that everyone has responded to the concerns that I raised. The detail is in the transcript, but the topics were: first, the issue of anonymous evidence of culture. That was subsequently argued and the ruling is subject to judicial review, to be heard later this week, although I have, of course, already heard some evidence based on hearsay, which goes both ways. The second issue concerned the arguable differences in views about ethical propriety and culture in different types of newspaper. That was concerned with the criticism of the availability of expert assessors from the tabloid and mid-market papers. Nobody has yet suggested that there is or should be a difference of approach, although the subject matter may be different. The third issue concerned safeguards for journalists exercising moral choices, a so-called conscience clause and the possible impact of such a provision. The fourth related to issues of oversight and governance, along with a definition of the test of public benefit. The fifth was the question of pre-publication notification, which linked to the sixth: the possibility of some arbitral system cheaply and simply to resolve some issues of privacy or libel and perhaps pre-publication notice. That was also linked to what I will call the seventh issue, which concerned the involvement of those who were not presently part of the PCC and wider news promulgators such as to be found on the Internet, along with the question whether the issue of state regulation and self-regulation was a binary choice. Finally, the last topic, which has not yet been addressed at all but will only emerge in hearings later this year, is the issue of competition plural plurality. As to these issues, I asked for the assistance of all, not merely Mr Rusbridger. I would be grateful if they could be addressed, along with any other general issues the core participants consider need to be considered in preliminary form by the end of the evidence on module one, which is due to be 9 February. I anticipate that I will be forming views on these issues while the other modules are proceeding, so that by the time I come to module four, the future, I can provide something by way of emerging findings, which can inform any further seminars and the final submissions that I intend to come to before the summer. I will not hold core participants to any preliminary views which they seek to advance in their final submissions but I am keen to obtain as much as assistance from all at every stage. In that way, I am seeking to pursue the collusive nature of this Inquiry. The second topic concerns Mr Sherborne, who on the same day, 16 November, in the morning, page 54, line 17, promised to provide the Inquiry with written submissions before the evidence started on the following Monday concerning legal issues as opposed to evidential ones, and I think I am still waiting. If anybody else wishes to do the same and supplement what has previously been provided, I would be equally grateful. The third general topic concerns the evidence moving forward. So far, all the material which I've received has taken the form of written statements supplemented by oral evidence. That has largely been because of the significance of what the witnesses wished to recount but it will not be possible to continue that approach irrespective of the circumstances. A large number of witnesses have provided a large quantity of evidence of a formal nature, written compliance procedures and written mechanisms for governance and oversight, along with other material which forms an essential part of the background but which is not considered contentious. I say immediately that I am very grateful to everyone who has submitted material, whether under compulsion or otherwise, for the very real care that has been taken to put it together. Given the constraints of time, however, it will not be possible for it all to be the subject of oral evidence, and I will have a number of statements formally submitted into evidence before the Inquiry and then published on the website, some but not all of which may be summarised. The failure to call the maker of the statement is not intended to be discourteous and neither does it mean the evidence has less significance. It's merely that the material will speak for itself and does not require oral elaboration. All the material put into the Inquiry record will be considered, as will a summary of the contact made with the Inquiry through the website or otherwise by members of the public. The fourth topic concerns the evidence surrounding the hacking into the telephone of Milly Dowler. Since before Christmas I have had an account from the Guardian, and I am waiting, although I anticipate I am just about to receive, a review conducted by the Metropolitan Police with the assistance of the Surrey Police. Before distributing to other core participants, I want the Metropolitan Police and the Guardian each to have the opportunity to review the detail in the light of what the other has said, and to make submissions in private about the need for redactions intended to avoid prejudice to possible criminal proceedings. The Guardian certainly anticipate that redactions will be necessary to their document, and I agree. I then intend to ensure that this evidence is brought before the Inquiry and placed in the public domain. In response to suggestions that I have seen advanced, I can make it clear, however, that whatever the outcome of this new evidence, I have no intention of suggesting, either to the Home Secretary or the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, that as a result this Inquiry is no longer justified. The fifth topic is a matter which I understand that Mr Jay wishes to raise. MR JAY Yes, I wish to deal with the short piece printed in the Times last Friday reporting on Mr Neville Thurlbeck's blog, to the effect that I told Mr Thurlbeck that in my view the News of the World was, I quote, "nothing but smut". These words were allegedly uttered when I introduced myself to Mr Thurlbeck in a meeting room close to this Inquiry room. Now, Mr Thurlbeck's recollection is incorrect and the belief attributed to me about the News of the World in general is not one which I hold. The purpose of my meeting with Mr Thurlbeck in the presence of the solicitor to the Inquiry and his own solicitor was to identify the lines of questioning I was minded to pursue with him. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's a course you've adopted with all the witnesses? MR JAY Yes. Towards the end of the meeting, which was otherwise frank and amicable, I indicated to Mr Thurlbeck that I was minded to ask him about a specific story he wrote in 1998 concerning Mr and Mrs Firth. Mr Thurlbeck stated in strong terms that he did not wish to discuss that story, pointing out that he had been exonerated by the PCC. He became quite agitated about this. I countered by stating that the Firth story was of interest to the Inquiry because there did not appear to be any public interest in its publication. I went on to say, although I cannot now recall the precise words I used, that in my view, the story was "smut". I might well have said that it was "nothing but smut", but I cannot be sure of that. However, this appellation was reserved for the particular story which we were discussing at the time, and it was not addressed, nor could it reasonably have been interpreted as having been addressed, to the News of the World as a whole. I adhere to my characterisation of the Firth story in these terms, and had Mr Thurlbeck been prepared to answer questions about it before you, I would have used the term "smut" to make the point. Consideration is now being given to whether further evidence should be adduced before the Inquiry to address the Firth story. Finally, I do not recall stating, as the Times reports, that I do not know why anyone would read the News of the World. Again, this is not a viewpoint which I hold. I may well have said, because it is the case, that I have not myself read the paper, and I may well have also have said, because it is the case, that I read the Economist. The solicitor to the Inquiry, Ms Kim Brudenell, has provided a statement to the Inquiry giving her recollection of this meeting. This is broadly to like effect and will be made available on the Inquiry website. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. I saw the blog and the article. Although the Firth story clearly provided evidence about culture, I did not consider it was necessary to trouble Mr and Mrs Firth for their account, not least because of the lapse of time since the incident. Bearing in mind the point that Mr Thurlbeck has made, however, I equally understand that it may now be of greater importance that I am formally able to form a view about the public interest value of the story. I made that possibility very clear to Mr Thurlbeck when he refused to answer questions about it. Mention of the coverage of this Inquiry and the commentary upon it allows me to raise a further point. At one stage, there was a comment that I had not seen a particular day's report of the hearing. I ought to make it clear that I am receiving a cutting service covering all the press coverage of the Inquiry. I am also aware of coverage by certain periodicals, including Private Eye. I am not concerned about any criticism that might be made either of the Inquiry or of me. That is the critical and all-important virtue of free speech and a free press. Putting comments about the Inquiry to one side, I am presently minded to put all this material into the record as itself providing some evidence of the practices and cultures of the press. The fact that it may relate to the conduct aimed at other titles need not matter, particularly if it is a further example to add to those that I've already seen of attack being considered the best form of defence. If what is reported is said to be untrue, I will, of course, consider it further. To date, I recognise the Inquiry has focused on areas which are subject to considerable complaint and criticism. That inevitably is the focus of any Inquiry such as this and is likely to remain. I am equally clear, however, that there is much to applaud in the way in which the press go about their business, and it is of critical importance to maintain the context of the entire picture. I have no doubt that some of the balance will be provided in certain aspects of the evidence to which we are now about to turn. Right. MR JAY Sir, we have six witnesses today, all of the Sun newspaper or formerly of the Sun newspaper. We're going to deal with them, insofar as we can, chronologically, and the first witness is a former editor, Mr Kelvin McKenzie. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. MR KELVIN CALDER MCKENZIE (sworn) Questions by MR JAY MR JAY Please sit down, Mr McKenzie and make yourself comfortable. Your full name, please?
A. Kelvin Calder McKenzie.
Q. Thank you. Mr McKenzie, I hope you have a file which looks like this. In that file, under tab 7, you may well find a witness statement which you provided to us, I think in September of last year.
A. Yes. Well, I know I have it, anyway. Carry on.
Q. You haven't put a statement of truth on that statement. It doesn't matter. But is this your formal evidence to the Inquiry, Mr McKenzie?
A. It is.
Q. We've also provided a transcript of the presentation you gave to one of our seminars on 12 October. Now, it was made clear to you and the Inquiry stands by that that you are not going to be held to anything you said at the seminar. They were informal occasions. But is there anything in relation to what you said at the seminar that you wish to supplement or subtract from?
A. No. No.
Q. Thank you. So we are clear about your evidence, you were editor of the Sun between 1981 and 1994. Then you moved away from the Sun into commercial broadcasting, and today you own a TV sports channel and you are a columnist on the Daily Mail; is that right?
A. Correct.
Q. Can I ask you, please, first of all in relation to your statement and the issue of corporate governance, which is paragraph 2 you say: "I didn't spend too much time pondering the ethics of how a story was gained, nor over-worry about whether to publish or not. If we believed the story to be true and we felt Sun readers should know the facts, we published it and left it to them to decide if we had done the right thing." So that encapsulates, does it, your thinking at the time?
A. It does.
Q. Did you have any particular or any regard to issues such as privacy?
A. Not really, no.
Q. You said in your seminar but I should make it clear this is in the context of a particular story, the Elton John story, which culminated in litigation and in compensation paid to Mr Elton John: "Basically, my view was if it sounded right, it was probably right and therefore we should lob it in." Do you stand by that, Mr McKenzie?
A. Yes, I do. I suppose what it comes down to is the verb "to lob".
Q. Yes.
A. Which I would say, if you analyse it I looked it up on the online dictionary and it says "to throw in a slow arc", which I think is probably preferable to another verb, which would be "to chuck it in". So the point I'm making is I wasn't trying to make a humorous point there; I was making a point that we thought about something and then put it in.
Q. You, of course, have been observing the printed press since 1994, and presumably the Sun as well.
A. Mm-hm.
Q. Do you think that that philosophy remains the same or has changed since 1994? Since then, we know there have been four or five editors of the Sun.
A. Yes. First I'd like to answer the question in two ways. First of all, there is no certainty in journalism in the same way as there's no certainty in the legal world. You have a Court of Appeal, you have huge miscarriages of justice. Not everything is correct, no matter how hard the law tries, and journalism is the same. If you took my rather bullish approach towards journalism, which was by and large the sort of First Amendment approach, the American approach, in which the constitution guarantees free speech and I had worked as the managing editor of the New York Post, and I had seen it working. I basically took I personally took the view that most things, as far as I could see, should be published. However, I did 13 years as the editor of the Sun. When I left, that attitude certainly changed. The editors were more cautious and were probably in a changing world, more right to be cautious.
Q. Would you elaborate on that, please? You've made a number of points but you've said editors were more cautious, and secondly, you've made a judgment about that, that they were right to be cautious. Why do you say those two things?
A. Well, I think in the end of the day, you are a commercial offering and if the atmosphere towards what you are doing is different from before, then you must change with it. You know, this is what they say this is about what they say about opinions, you know. When the facts change, you change your opinion. So even towards the end of my time as editing, I was less bullish than I was, for instance, perhaps during the 80s.
Q. Was there any fallout from the Elton John story, in particular from the proprietor?
A. Well, let's put it this way: he wasn't pleased. I remember sending him a fax, so that's how long ago it was. So you have to get the historical content of my editorship, which was after all, I haven't edited now for 20 years and I started 30 years ago. I remember sending him a fax which simply said: "Have sat down with Elton John's people and with the legal people at the Sun and we have agreed to pay ?1 million in libel damages in full and final settlement of all issues", the whole point simply saying: "I think we should settle." Anyway, if that went at 1.01 he was in New York at the time, Mr Murdoch, so 8 o'clock his time the phone then rang at 1.01 and 7 seconds and I then received something like 40 minutes of nonstop abuse for the issue. It wasn't so much the money, of course; it was the fact of the shadow which it sort of cast over the paper. So the idea that Rupert Murdoch simply took these things on the chin as part of the sort of commercial biff and bat of life is wholly ridiculous.
Q. Can you offer some insight about the relationship between yourself and Mr Rupert Murdoch, Mr McKenzie? Was he a hands-on proprietor or did he leave you to get on with it?
A. He was the Sun was a much more important aspect of his worldwide assets in the 80s than it is today, and therefore his interest in the Sun was much more hands-on and I would speak to him most days. He was interested in the gossip, he had a view about the paper not in the sense of saying, "I don't know why you made that the 11 lead", or something like that, but he'd have a general view about the feel of the paper, whether it was upbeat enough and those kinds of things. He didn't really get into the detail of the editorial but he had a general sense of whether he liked the paper or not.
Q. You say in your statement, under paragraph 9, that Rupert Murdoch "often felt the paper had gone too far under my editorship". What did you mean by that?
A. Well, I mean Elton John would be an example. And, you know, part of my character is to be out there being punchy, sort of anti-establishment sort of feel to it all, and I think he sometimes felt that, you know, we may lose too many friends by the general nature of the Sun.
Q. Can I ask you, please, about your answer to point 8, which is ethics. You remind us about what the dictionary definition of "ethics" is and then you say: "They were not issues I bothered with." Would you say the same if one substituted for "ethics" the terms "appropriate standards" or "right conduct"?
A. It's very difficult in relation to journalism to work out what is the right standard. If you discovered something I mean, I I mean, this is this Inquiry was set up under the guise of phone hacking and therefore if you discovered if you had Tony Blair's if you had Tony Blair's mobile number and you hacked into it and discovered that he was circumventing the cabinet in order to go to war, as has now emerged in the Iraq Inquiry, and you publish that, if you publish it in the Sun, you get six months' jail. If you publish it in the Guardian, you get a Pulitzer prize. So it's very heart to know, to be truthful, what are standards when you're trying to discover truth. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Do you mean that, Mr McKenzie? You think that the attitude to the publication of a significant story would be different depending upon the newspaper in which it was published?
A. Well LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Do you really mean that?
A. Yes, I do. I sort of three-quarters mean that. What I mean is that there is a tremendous amount of snobbery involved in journalism, as there possibly is in the law I've no idea and the Sun, during my rather successful period as editor, rather enjoyed that view. But my basic point, sir, is that standards are really defined by the outcome, not by the income, if you see what I mean. So that I would I think David Leigh made the same point, the Guardian guy. He would say, "Well, there are stories which I feel phone hacking would be entirely appropriate." SPEAKER: Ask him about Michael Stone! LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, no, please, please SPEAKER: (overspeaking) 14 years in prison! LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Please sit down. THE WITNESS Perhaps we should have an inquiry. How about that? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Please sit down. If you can't, then you'd better leave. SPEAKER: Am I in contempt, my Lord? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm not going anywhere there. Please sit down or leave. SPEAKER: Ask him about Michael Stone! LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Sit down or leave. SPEAKER: I've written you a long letter anyway. Am I in contempt? Am I in contempt? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Just leave.
A. I'm sorry. MR JAY Sorry. Carry on, Mr McKenzie.
A. I've really made my point. The point I'm making is we were dealing with standards, sir, and my only area there was that people view the Sun, I think, at the bottom of the pile, and for as long as it exists, I think they view papers like the Guardian as the top of the pile. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I want to just pursue that for just a moment, because David Leigh was making a slightly different point. He was saying that the public interest could justify the publication of a story even if that involved the commission of a criminal offence.
A. Mm-hm. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON He wasn't saying that he could publish it because he wrote in the Guardian, but he couldn't have published it if he wrote in the Sun, and I would have thought that there were examples of newspapers which did publish public interest stories which may or may not have involved breaches of the law I don't know and I'm not sure that the nature of the title would affect your approach to the story. That's what I was really pressing you about.
A. Well, I think if you look at it in sort of a dry High Court room, it may look like that, but from the outside, the perception of people is different towards the less successful papers, ie the Guardian and the like, and big red tops. It's just a different atmosphere. Different atmosphere. I mean, let's take the Milly you've gone into a good area here. Take the Milly Dowler deletions of those calls. Had that been the Sun, the Sun would have come very, very, very close to being shut down, right? Ie, had they got that story wrong. The Guardian sticks it away on page 10 and hopes they can get away with it. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But I don't well
A. Don't you think there is a difference, sir, between the way that the Guardian got that story completely wrong and basically nobody has taken it up, and if the Sun had done the same thing if a Rupert Murdoch title had done the same thing, don't you think that might have been different? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I think it's quite interesting that you assert that the Guardian got the Milly Dowler story completely wrong. I think that's an interesting assertion.
A. Mm. MR JAY Okay, Mr McKenzie, moving on through your statement, paragraph 11, please. Can I deal with the issue of payment to public officials?
A. Mm-hm.
Q. Your answer is not altogether clear. Is it your evidence that the Sun did pay money to public officials to whistleblow and that stories were published as a result of that?
A. Well, the way the Sun worked is depending on what the amount of money was I think I put ?3,000 in the thing it wouldn't come my way, to be fair. So I don't know how much was going on. But if you are asking me that if somebody is in a state business or actually in any business, where they would reveal a piece of information which we thought might affect Sun readers, then I would write a cheque.
Q. Did that include payments to police officers?
A. Not as far as I know, but when you get stories from police officers, you get them for many, many reasons officers wanting to drop their senior colleagues in the cart, sometimes they feel that stuff is being covered up which they wish to see a larger show. So you don't have to write you literally don't have to write cheques to police officers because so many of them want to see some form of justice and they think publicity is often justice.
Q. Yes, but putting aside those cases and of course, we agree they exist were you aware of payments being made to police officers in order to obtain material from them which could form the basis of stories?
A. I wasn't. I wasn't, but it wouldn't surprise me if they were.
Q. As for the use of private investigators this is paragraph 13 you say: "We did not use private investigators, although we would have [I think some words may be missing] used people to supply ex-directory numbers when we wanted to speak to somebody."
A. Yes.
Q. Who were those people?
A. Well, I don't know, but it's not an unknown way of doing business, in which you need to contact somebody, so you pay somebody to give you an ex-directory number. I don't know whether that still exists today, and I'm you know, if you want to get the other side's version of a story, it's only fair that you contact them. If you don't know how to get hold of them and there's a way of paying a hundred quid for it, I don't see what the problem is. I'd rather have their denial of the story. The reality is if you don't speak to them, if you haven't tracked them down and, in my words, lobbed the story in, I could face a massive libel action, so ?100 is a reasonable investment on behalf of the reader, the person who is being named and possibly the commercial effect.
Q. Can I ask you, please, some general questions and then some specific questions relating to evidence we've heard. In your view, looking at the Sun now from the outside, has the culture of the Sun changed since you left?
A. Definitely.
Q. In what respects?
A. I think they're much more the paper changed under Rebekah Brooks and has continued, I think, to change under Dominic Mohan, in the sense that I think they are much more cautious in their approach. Now, whether that's right is not for me to say, but there's definitely a sense of caution.
Q. Can I ask you, please, about the ombudsman who was there for a time in the early 1990s, a Mr Ken Donlan, I think. What, in a nutshell, was his role?
A. Basically, if we had readers' complaints, he would try and deal with them ahead of them going to the Press Complaints Commission.
Q. About how long did he operate in that capacity?
A. I suspect he operated literally probably for about five or six years, and he died.
Q. It was probably after your time
A. It was.
Q. but do you know why he wasn't replaced?
A. I think what happened was there were so few readers' complaints. I know that sounds bizarre if you're selling 3 or 4 million a day, but I think there was, and I think this role was taken over by the managing editor and I think that's probably the right and proper place to do that, to have him do that.
Q. Okay. Can I ask you, please, about the evidence we heard from Anne Diamond and this relates to a front page story and photograph which we have in your bundle under tab 33.
A. Mm-hm.
Q. This is the photograph of her, her husband and the coffin of the dead child. Have you read the transcript of her evidence to the Inquiry?
A. I have.
Q. I'm going to ask you this general question: is there anything you wish to tell us which either agrees with or might contradict what she told the Inquiry?
A. Well, I'd sort of like to deal with the issue in the reverse order. She chose to say that she had had a conversation with Mr Murdoch at some do or other, in which she had said something like: "How can you sleep at night?" and da di da da, and that that in turn had led to Mr Murdoch indicating in some rather curious way that the Sun and other titles in the News International stable should go after her. Well, I've had the advantage, as distinct from Mr Diamond, of working with Rupert Murdoch for 13 years, and closely and I've never heard him say, "Go after anybody" under any circumstances, whether it's a Prime Minister, a failing breakfast show host or anybody. He has never said it and why she should believe that her career has suffered because of one conversation is beyond me. We then move on to the second issue and I'm taking this in reverse order. The day after and I only know this because I called up a colleague, having read the statement from Ms Diamond. The day after that picture emerged, two senior colleagues at the Sun were invited up to Birmingham to see Ms Diamond and her then husband and sat down and worked out the details of the cot death charity which the Sun set up with her as the face. That charity raised ?250,000, which I suppose today would be a million quid, which is a lot of money, considering these are Sun readers, and which then beggars the question, going back to the beginning, where the picture appears on the front page of the Sun and I then have a conversation with Ms Diamond now, I have no idea 20 years later what the detail of that conversation was. All I'm saying is it couldn't possibly have happened in the way she said it. Why would she have invited us up to Birmingham to then launch a campaign which lasted for five years, which raised a quarter of a million pounds? I have met her on two occasions since then. She's never mentioned the fact that she was forced into doing anything.
Q. Just press you on that a little bit more.
A. Yes.
Q. Her evidence was and may I invite you, please, to look at it. It's under tab 32. This is the transcript of the evidence she gave the Inquiry on 28 November. It starts, really, at page 71, looking at the internal numbering in the transcript, line 23.
A. Page 71, line
Q. 23.
A. Mm-hm.
Q. This is the photograph itself, Mr McKenzie. You can see under tab
A. Yes, "Our little love", that one?
Q. Yes.
A. Mm-hm.
Q. If this is the headline, presumably it's the headline you chose, isn't it?
A. Mm-hm.
Q. The question at line 23: "Perhaps I can stop you there and ask that the second photograph that you kindly provided is displayed. Is that the photograph? "Answer: That's the photograph. If you pull it out, you'll be able to see that they took the entire front page. Now, we had written to every editor begging them to stay away, and this was the front page of the Sun."
A. Mm.
Q. Do you remember receiving a letter from her, Mr McKenzie, begging you to stay away?
A. I don't, no. But why would I remember that? It's 20-odd years ago. I mean, I don't know unfortunately, the Sun editor's office is not like the Leveson Inquiry. It's a massive, you know, hourly upon hourly sprawl of phone calls and general rioting, so, you know, I don't know why I would be expected to remember that letter.
Q. But if you had received such a letter, what would your response, do you think, have been?
A. I don't think that's fair, is it? Had I received a letter? I take it I did receive a letter, and I presume that was the reason that when we were sent the picture, which I presume came from a freelance photographer, that I would have rung her and asked for permission to run the photo.
Q. The evidence in relation to this is page 73, line 6.
A. Right.
Q. "In fact, my now ex-husband reminded me this morning when I spoke to him that we were aware there was a photographer at the funeral on the public highway. Within a few hours of the funeral, the editor of the Sun [that's obviously you] rang my husband and said, 'We have a picture and it's an incredibly strong picture. We would like to use it.'" Do you remember saying that?
A. I don't, no. No. But I don't remember the conversation. I don't know why anybody would expect anybody to remember a conversation 20-odd years ago, but I don't remember the conversation, but I'm not saying you know, I'm not saying one way or the other about that.
Q. But is it the sort of thing that that you might have said? In other words
A. No, I'm not answering "is that the kind of" questions. I'm just not answering that kind of question. That's not a reasonable that is not a reasonable question.
Q. I won't press it then LORD JUSTICE LEVESON We can put the question this way: was your attitude at that time that if you had a photograph which you felt extremely strongly would sell newspapers, that you would publish it?
A. But you don't can I say, sir, you don't think like that when you're an editor. You don't say "would sell newspapers". What you think is it would improve your newspaper, yes, or that the readers might like it, yes, but the selling the idea of the day-to-day thought process of selling more newspapers does not happen in that manner. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I could articulate the same question changing the verb then.
A. Mm-hm. Well, I well, in changing the verb, did I think that the paper would be better with that picture in than not? Yes. The answer is yes. MR JAY Looking at the picture now and it's under tab 33 do you think that it is or was an incredibly strong picture?
A. Yes, I do, and I think I think remember, 20-odd years ago, cot deaths were most of the people connected with cot deaths were considering by a sort of mass opinion to be murderers. Today they know that none of this is true. So I'd say that that picture and the five, seven-year campaign against cot deaths created the climate in which a lot of people have had guilt removed from the top of their head.
Q. But you're then using the ends to justify the means
A. No, you just asked me a question. I'm just explaining the circumstances.
Q. Fair enough, but can we just carry on with the evidence that Anne Diamond gave the Inquiry? At line 12 on page 73, she carries on: "My husband said, 'No. We've asked all of you to stay away. No.'" This is in answer to your point: "We would like to use it." And you then said: "We're going to use it anyway. We'll use it with or without your permission." Might you have said that?
A. I've no idea. I've no idea. They seem to remember conversations 20 years ago. I don't, and I think I'm the more reasonable one in this circumstance.
Q. But you told me about seven or eight minutes ago that Anne Diamond's evidence was wrong.
A. I'm talking about the two bits that I know about, which is, one, 13 years of working with Rupert Murdoch, he never said "go get" anybody. The second one, the following day they were so upset that they sat down with Sun executives and took part in a charity campaign which raised 250,000 and lasted for five to seven years, right so why would this conversation be any truer than the previous two points? That is my point. I say she's a devalued witness.
Q. You're now, as it were, commenting on the evidence someone else gave, rather than giving your
A. Well, what can I say? I've said I can't remember and I've explained the two bits that I do know about and I don't remember this. I don't know what's wrong with that.
Q. You might, for example, in answer to my question, have said, "I certainly would never have said that because had I been told that consent was not given for the use of the paper, I would not have published the photograph."
A. I take that QED from the earlier two that I would never have said the third bit, so but I can't remember the detail. It's astonishing that some people can, but I can't remember the detail. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Hang on, Mr McKenzie. Do you really think it's surprising that somebody who has just buried their child, who's obviously gone to some trouble about wanting to keep it private, might remember conversations that impact on that?
A. Well, sir, they didn't get the other two aspects to which I do know right, so one of them are actual details of 13 years of knowledge, so why on earth should everybody accept what she says and not accept my version of events? MR JAY Mr McKenzie, the overwhelming factor is surely this: you had an strong picture in your hand. You knew that that picture, if published, would have an impact on your readers; is that correct?
A. Yes.
Q. Whether or not that picture would increase circulation of the Sun, which we can see may be debatable, the overwhelming impetus here was surely to publish the photograph which you had over the wishes of those who were in the photograph. Would you not agree?
A. Well, no, I don't, because if that were the case, then the following day she would presumably never have sat down with Sun executives who were responsible for the decision and worked out how to start a charity and raise money. I mean, it just doesn't make sense, does it?
Q. The evidence in relation to that is further down page 73. It was a few days later, the deputy editor of the Sun who I think was Mr Neil Wallis at the time; is that right?
A. Well, he wasn't the deputy editor. I think he was the features editor.
Q. All right. Well, according to her statement, I think it was
A. No, it was the features editor.
Q. The precise identity doesn't necessarily matter. The gist of it was that he wanted to meet with her to discuss how the Sun could help her raise more funds into cot death research and her position was and I paraphrase that she was, in effect, being emotionally blackmailed here, that if she refused the request, then a worthwhile charity would be denied, if she acceded to it, it would appear as if she had in some way agreed to the publication of the photograph, but after a lot of agonising about it, she agreed to participate in the charity. Doesn't all that ring true?
A. No. No. You would have thought if she had felt as strongly as she appeared to have felt at Leveson, you would have thought 20 years earlier she would still be massively hostile to us, and she wasn't.
Q. Can I ask you, please, about a separate matter: your dealings with politicians.
A. Mm-hm.
Q. Did you, whilst editor of the Sun between 1981 and 1994, have private meetings with politicians?
A. Yes, I did. Yes, I did, mm-hm.
Q. About how often was that?
A. It varied. I suppose I'd see I'd probably see Mrs Thatcher, I don't know, twice a year. Might see individual cabinet ministers, you know, perhaps six or eight times, ten times in a year.
Q. In a nutshell, what was the purpose of those meetings?
A. If you know politicians, the purpose of it was to for them to explain their views and what geniuses they were to you. That was basically the point. And it was interesting to me to meet intelligent people, powerful people.
Q. It went a bit further than that, didn't it, Mr McKenzie? We all know that in the 1980s, and indeed in the early 1990s, the Sun was a strong supporter of the then Conservative government; is that correct?
A. Yes, absolutely.
Q. And the motive may well have included this: a desire to continue to hold the support of the Sun. Would you agree?
A. Yes. I was always astonished that a prime minister would want to meet a tabloid journalist with one GCSE. I was I wondered where the equivalence was in that discussion.
Q. I think you diminish your importance, Mr McKenzie. You were in a position of immense power. You had 4 million plus purchasers of the paper, many more people reading it. You held influence over public opinion, and unsurprisingly, politicians wanted to retain that influence. Isn't it as simple as that?
A. Yes, I don't doubt that. I don't doubt that.
Q. You give us one anecdote and I ask you to confirm this in what you told the seminar. It's on the last page of tab 8.
A. Mm-hm.
Q. "When the Sun decided to endorse the present Prime Minister for the next general election Which would have been, I think, in the summer of September 2009, because you
A. I think it was yes, it would either have been the September or October of 2009, yes.
Q. And then you say: "Of course, the endorsement blew away Brown's speech off the front page. That night a furious Brown called Murdoch and, in Rupert's words, 'roared at me for 20 minutes'." Can I ask you what the source of that statement is? Is it Mr Rupert Murdoch who told you?
A. It was Mr Murdoch, yes.
Q. Then your seminar contribution continues: "At the end, Brown said, 'You're trying to destroy me and my party. I will destroy you and your company.'" Is that what he said?
A. Yes, he did.
Q. According to what Mr Rupert Murdoch told you?
A. That's what Mr Murdoch told me, yes.
Q. Can I ask you finally, please, Mr McKenzie it's a general question for any assistance you could give this Inquiry as to either the constitution of any future regulatory body or the powers it might have.
A. Right. Well, I have one, I think, important change that I would make in the running of the Press Complaints Commission. In the end, newspapers are commercial animals. They try and make money, although papers like the Guardian and the Times fail lamentably in that area, but they try to make money. I would be in favour of fines and heavy fines for newspapers that don't disclose the truth to the Press Complaints Commission. One of the issues that happened with the PCC in relation to phone hacking and I think if you get the former PCC director here, she'll tell you Baroness somebody-or-other, I don't know her that they were lied to by News International. And that was quite wrong, and they should pay a commercial penalty for doing that, and I think you'd discover that a financial constraint not that I ever expect anything like this ever to happen again anyway, under any circumstances, but I think the threat of financial penalty will have a very will have a straightforward effect on newspapers. No editor, no managing director, no proprietor, would dream of lying under those circumstances.
Q. I've been asked to put to you another question.
A. Okay.
Q. I'll put it to you in two phases, if I may. First of all, were your relations with or respect for Mr John Major as good as they were with Baroness Thatcher?
A. No, they were no, we didn't have a no, we did not have a particularly good relationship. He was no Thatcher, John Major.
Q. Okay, and then specifically I'm asked to put to you this question: after the ERM debacle, which I think was in September 1992, did you tell Mr Major that you would throw a bucket of something unpleasant over him?
A. That makes it sound as though I was being discourteous to the Prime Minister and it wasn't quite like that. What happened was he called up on the night of the ERM, which, for members of not familiar with political history, we'd seen interest rates rise all day in an attempt to beat off people who were investing against us staying in the ERM, and it reached literally 15 per cent or something ridiculous.
Q. It did, yes.
A. And he called me up I mean, why you would call up the editor of the Sun when you were involved in this terrible economic catacomb, I have no idea and said to me: "I'm just calling you up, Kelvin, to find out how the story is going to play in the paper tomorrow", and on that basis I simply said, "Actually, I have a bucket of shit on my desk, Prime Minister, and I'm going to pour it all over you." Now, the only reason anybody knows anything about that is because Trevor Kavanagh, our political editor was sitting there, and he was otherwise nobody would have known about it. MR JAY Okay. I think you've confirmed what I've suggested to you. Thank you very much. There may be some more questions. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You said at the beginning of your evidence there's no certainty in journalism I understand that and you've compared it with the law. You said no matter how hard you try, you make mistakes. But in relation to facts, not opinion, which is legitimate and entirely appropriate, to what extent do you believe that it's appropriate that journalists do ensure that they're getting the facts right?
A. But, sir LORD JUSTICE LEVESON To such extent as they can?
A. Yes, I agree. But we're both I know this sounds bizarre, but both the law and journalism are in the uncertainty business. We don't know what the truth is. If you have a car crash two people giving their verdicts on the car crash it's incredible. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Let me give you an example, and the example I take because it is something which I happen to know something about. It's not because I am at all concerned about what you said about me you're entitled to your view about me, whatever it is but one of the comments you made at the seminar concerned the nuclear veterans case.
A. Oh, yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Actually, that's presently before the house of the Supreme Court, who may reverse it, and that's entire appropriate, but the facts you surrounded that comment about related to the suggestion that simply by turning your back on an explosion, you'd avoid radiation. Did you do any work at all on the facts? Because if you had, you'd have known the case wasn't about that at all; it was about low dose radiation concerned with eating fish that had been in the water or swimming in the sea. So a fact that's just wrong is what concerns me, which was easily ascertainable.
A. Well, actually I mean, I was connected with my email box is full of families connected with this Inquiry this particular case, many of whom, as you well know, sir, are dying while waiting for judgment in this matter, and actually I got it mainly from one of those, actually. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But did you think about looking at the decision?
A. No, I didn't. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Either of the High Court or the Court of Appeal?
A. No, I didn't, no. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The basis upon which the case was brought in the end?
A. I can either look, you are the judge in the case. You obviously know about it much better than I do. I'm talking about people who email me and who are involved in the thing, and they sometimes people get things wrong. There is no absolute truth in any newspaper, nor there is an absolute truth in any court. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, I agree with that.
A. This is the area that I'm dealing with. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The question is the extent to which it's appropriate to research facts before putting them in the public domain.
A. Okay, I accept that. I do accept that. This is another issue, though. There are time constraints, where sometimes you literally get things wrong, either because in this case I'd be quite interested to see what my email box looks like, having had this conversation, by the way, because I suspect there will be lawyers and various other interested parties who basically will say to me that you were right in this case. I've no idea. That's normally what happens in these kinds of battles. I recognise entirely I am saying that I accept what you say may be correct, but I can also tell you that by the time let's say about 10 o'clock tonight, I would have probably received 150 emails from various people connected with that Christmas Island Veterans Association saying something completely different. I'm just saying it's so hard, in life, in the law and in the press, to get things 100 per cent correct. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. Well, I'm merely quoting from the judgments in the Court of Appeal as to how the case was put. I understand that many people have different concerns but I'm talking about how the case was put.
A. Okay, sir. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I only mention it because it's as ascertainable fact. I readily recognise that time constraints may very well mean that the same accuracy cannot be obtained if you have to make a decision very quickly, and mistakes can be made, but would you agree with the proposition that where it is possible, where it is ascertainable, facts should be accurate?
A. Oh yes. And you will never find you know, 20 million journalists. Nobody is ever going to say that anything is going to be done, but in politics, you can take a fact, in economics you can take a fact, even in journalism you can take a fact and make it look like something else. Statistics would be a prime example. It is very, very hard, very, very hard to be 100 per cent accurate. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The reason that I mention this is because it goes back to the very first comment you were asked about, namely: "Well, if it looks right, we'll "
A. Yes, lob it in. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON lob it in."
A. Yes, well LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I just wonder whether it merely looking right is a sufficient test of accuracy.
A. Okay, supposing I overegged the pudding there, but I said if it looks like and it feels right, but the analysis of it it was the Elton John case that saw me out the door on what is the truth. And you know yourself, miscarriages of justice, where you have the cleverest people in the land analysing facts, the finest police officers, the greatest witnesses, and it turns out to be completely wrong. The Gilfoyle case, the guy who did 17 years for a murder he didn't commit. The idea that this could all come down to a Sun editor or a Sun royal reporter getting something slightly wrong or even getting something majorly wrong and it being a terrible, terrible indictment of the press is simply wrong. It's simply wrong. Journalists try to get things right. People tell you lies. Sometimes they think it's the truth and then you drill down into it, and you think it's the truth and then you get a phone call the following day and somebody says, "That's completely wrong. They weren't there." It is a massively difficult problem being a particularly being a print journalist today. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Getting facts right, of course, is a difficult exercise for the very reason you've identified, and I entirely endorse the view that retrospectively looking at events and trying to find out where the truth lies is sometimes extremely difficult.
A. Mm. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But that's not an excuse for not having a go.
A. No, I agree. I agree, and I may have misphrased that slightly, but not a lot, to be honest. Not a lot. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON My only concern is to ensure that the tenets of the code, which everybody seems to consider broadly fit the bill, which include accuracy, are followed, and that people have regard to what ultimately they're putting in the papers which go to so many people.
A. And I agree with that. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm very pleased that we can end on that note. Mr Sherborne? MR SHERBORNE It's not a question. I briefly wanted to remind the Inquiry what Ms Diamond's evidence was, given that it's been mischaracterised by Mr McKenzie on a number of occasions. You'll find it in her witness statement. It relates to not that she was told by Mr Murdoch that he had it in for her, but what she understood as a result from watching, as many others did, the Channel 4 documentary that is referred to in her witness statement at paragraphs 4 and following, where she said it was Mr Townsend, Mr Murdoch's former butler, somebody who presumably knew Mr Murdoch a little more intimately that are Mr McKenzie, perhaps, who had said on the programme that after that evening when she'd asked the fateful question of Mr Murdoch: "Do you know what it feels like to ruin other people's lives?" he had then and I pick this up at paragraph 8 recalled that: "'Do you know this woman Diamond? She was very rude to me the other night about me destroying people's lives.' "The way it is described in the documentary by Mr Townsend is that Mr Murdoch's call to his editors left them in now doubt that they were to go after me." Then she explains why that belief seemed to be borne out in reality by the experience she suffered almost immediately and then following that for a number of years at the hands of the Sun. I remind you of that because that's of course an ascertainable fact on the Inquiry's website, but of course, if Mr McKenzie's story sounds right, et cetera, et cetera. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right, thank you.
A. Could I just take up the point by Mr Sherborne there? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You may.
A. The butler would not know Mr Murdoch better than I have. I have worked for Rupert Murdoch pretty closely now for 30-odd years. He's been an investor in my company. I have worked for him, I have taken phone calls from him every single day. I think he went to jail in the end, that butler, Mr Sherborne? Didn't that butler go to jail for fraud? MR SHERBORNE I don't answer questions.
A. Do you not? Can I just raise it to the court? Mr Sherborne may not know, but I suspect that the butler went to jail. Anyway, the point I'm making is if you took the butler's evidence against mine, on the basis of whether I knew him better than the butler, the answer is: I would know him hands down. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm not going to resolve the issue between the butler and you, Mr McKenzie. Thank you. MR JAY Thank you, Mr McKenzie. The next witness is Mr Gordon Smart. I'm working on the basis that we cover at least three witnesses in the morning because Mr Mohan may take a bit longer. MR GORDON MURRAY SMART (sworn) Questions by MR JAY MR JAY Sit down, please, and make yourself comfortable and give us your full name.
A. Mr Gordon Murray Smart.
Q. Mr Smart, I see that you don't have any bundles in front of you.
A. Ah, the one that no.
Q. We're going to make some bundles available to you, I hope, so that you can see your witness statement. If those are the right bundles, please look at file 2 underneath tab 3. You'll see first of all a witness statement dated 14 October of last year, to which you put a statement of truth. Is that correct?
A. That's correct, yes.
Q. Is that formally your main evidence, Mr Smart?
A. Yes, it is.
Q. On Friday afternoon, you provided a second witness statement together with one exhibit, which deals with the evidence of Mr Chris Atkins. Is that also correct?
A. That's correct, yes.
Q. I think that statement is in your right hand?
A. I have that here, yes.
Q. We haven't, in fact, Mr Smart, had the opportunity of a chat to discuss your evidence, so we will proceed without that benefit. But can you tell us, please, who you are in relation to the Sun newspaper?
A. I'm the showbiz editor of the Sun newspaper.
Q. And you have been for how long?
A. For four years.
Q. How does that differ, if at all, from the Bizarre column? Could you clarify that?
A. I was promoted in 2009. I think it was more of a pay rise issue, really. Originally I was promoted to be the editor of the Bizarre column. I was given more responsibility in 2009.
Q. Do you still, in effect, edit the Bizarre column?
A. That's correct, yes.
Q. We can see how the Bizarre column works, that there is a photograph of yourself in a banner with "Bizarre" on it. Do I have that right?
A. That's correct, yes.
Q. Can I ask you and this is now paragraph 4 of your statement to deal with how you address ethical issues. Could you tell us about that in your own words?
A. We have a daily discussion. I list stories in conference to the editor. After my staff have presented me with their stories for the day I have four staff on the newspaper and two online I make a decision about which stories I should list after questioning them about the sourcing, and then from there, possibly a discussion with other staff on the paper before making a decision about what I list at the top of my daily news list before I go into conference.
Q. In terms of assessing ethical dilemmas as and when they arise, are those matters then discussed at the conference you're referring to?
A. They are, yeah. They're discussed before that. I discuss it with my colleagues on Bizarre. If I'm in any doubt, I'll discuss it further with more senior colleagues, and I'm not afraid to take advice, because there are people in the office with a lot more experience than I have.
Q. We'll cover that in a moment. Do you ever take advice from the PCC directly?
A. We do, yes. We often sit in the managing editor's office and we'll call the PCC direct. If there's a story I list that raises any alarm bells that I haven't spotted, the managing editor will often mention it to me after the conference and we will have a discussion direct with the PCC, yes.
Q. You say in paragraph 7 that it's important to maintain good relations with celebrities. Are we to understand by that that that usually entails giving them prior notice of any story you are minded to publish?
A. That's correct, yes, but the bigger picture as well. Something I've really tried to do in my time at the paper is to improve relations with celebrities. I think it's really important that we have a mutual trust. You have to remember that I have to spend a lot of time in their company, and it's not particularly easy if you've crossed swords and there's a bad relationship there. So I take it very seriously indeed and it's something I encourage in my staff as well.
Q. You talk quite generally about the need to maintain mutual trust, but how specifically do you work towards achieving that end, Mr Smart?
A. Well, we discuss all stories with the PCC and we're respectful to people's individual right to privacy. It is a balancing act. You have to weigh it up on a daily basis and I'd like to think that most of the time we get it right. Very occasionally we will get it wrong.
Q. We're going to come to specific examples of balancing later on in your statement, I know, but in paragraph 8 you deal with recent changes to procedures on cash payments. There's a new payments policy, and we've seen evidence of that in one of the bundles. Four signatures are now required before the money is paid. What, in a nutshell, was the position before that policy was introduced, Mr are smart?
A. In the past, if I had to pay cash I would normally get the news editor's signature and the managing editor's signature or possibly the editor's signature before I could pay cash.
Q. Was that up to any particular amount or was it without limit?
A. All cash payments, really. Every cash payment.
Q. What, under the old regime, which I know has been superseded what information, if any, would the editors you spoke to ask for before the payment was authorised?
A. I'd be asked about the contact and the sources of the story and I'd always reassure my line manager or the news editor about who it was.
Q. Okay. Checking sources of information, Mr Smart, this is paragraph 9. You take full responsibility, you rightly say, but you regularly discuss with your staff the context of their sourcing. You make it clear that that does not entail knowing the identity of the source. Have I correctly understand understood that?
A. We have a moral obligation to protect the sources if they want to remain anonymous but I will always question them about their sources. Ultimately, it's my face at the top of the column so I do take is very seriously indeed, yes.
Q. Can I just understand how this works practically? If you don't know the identity of the source, how are you able to probe to satisfy yourself that the source is reliable?
A. I'll always ask where the story's come from, if they're a regular contact, if it's from a PR, if it's from the celebrity direct, if it's somebody they haven't dealt with before, if it's a ring in, which occasionally happens people phone up with tips. I'll be very specific and rigorous about where that contact has come from and how they have the information.
Q. So always asking about where the information has come from, has that been your consistent practice while working on the Sun newspaper?
A. That's correct, yes. Since day one, it's always been drummed into me, yeah.
Q. Looking at the practice of others working on the Sun newspaper, whether it's people of equivalent status above or below you, has that also been their practice, in your view, since you've been working on the Sun newspaper?
A. I believe so, yes, and I'm hugely proud of my colleagues at the paper. I think they operate very responsibly and ethically, yeah. Good professional people.
Q. Right. Then in paragraph 9 you deal with the issue of corroboration, and this is picked up again in paragraph 10. I mean, how often is it that you might publish a story without it being corroborated?
A. Very rarely, I have be honest. We have to check stories as thoroughly as possible and the best way to do that is to corroborate with different contacts. The beauty of the Sun is that I have colleagues who have better contacts in certain areas who I can rely on to help me stand stories up.
Q. You deal with the sort of contacts you're referring to, whether it's people who are around the celebrity in their circle, as it were, whether it's their agents or whether it's someone within the newspaper who also knows them. Have I correctly characterised the different sort of possibilities?
A. Sounds correct, yes.
Q. Okay. You give some particular examples about checking of sources in paragraph 12. The first one is getting some photographs of a female pop star. You satisfied yourself then that the photographs were being offered to you in breach of copyright. Have I correctly summarised that piece of evidence?
A. That's correct, yes.
Q. Then, in (ii), a tip that a celebrity was pregnant. This is an issue which may often arise, whether it's before or after the 12-week scan. What, in a nutshell, is your policy in relation to that?
A. The PCC states very clearly that you can't write about it before the 12-week mark and it's something that we respect and take very seriously indeed, as I'm sure the editor will fill you in on later as well.
Q. Thank you. Then another example in paragraph (iii). This is involving an alleged assault by a footballer on his ex-girlfriend. Once that evidence was corroborated, as it were, from the French police, you went ahead and published the story; is that right?
A. That's correct, yes.
Q. Paragraph 13 we have dealt with already, but can I deal with paragraph 14, where you deal with the concept of ethics. What do you understand by the term "ethics" in the context of newspapers, in particular your column?
A. Well, it's about the balancing act, I think, really, between the public interest and the individual's right to privacy. There often is a grey area there, but I think it's something we we walk that line every day and I do think we get it right more often than we get it wrong. You know, there is a PCC argument for public interest and free speech, but we also take it very seriously that people have a right to privacy.
Q. Can I ask you to clarify one sentence in paragraph 14. It's the fifth line. You say that you believe there's a clear public interest in exposing truth and setting the record straight. Logically, that might suggest that the one thing which matters is whether or not a story is true, regardless of the private rights of individuals. Would you like to comment on that, please, Mr Smart?
A. Yeah, it's our job to check that the story is true. We run it by an agent. We run it by the celebrity directly. That's our first obligation, to make sure the story is correct.
Q. Maybe I misunderstood it. Are you saying that that is just one consideration which you weigh up, and it may be the first consideration, whether the story is true, but having ascertained whether or not it's true, if it is true, you then go on to weigh up other public interest and also the private interests of the subject of the story; is that correct?
A. That's correct, yes. If there is hypocrisy I believe is going on then we will expose that, yes.
Q. Can I ask you about hypocrisy. What do you mean by "hypocrisy", Mr Smart?
A. If you had a pop star, for example, who was seen as a role model and privately they were behaving in a way that wasn't a role model and they'd spoken publicly about, you know, a certain issue and that was clear to us that privately they weren't behaving in the way they had reported in the press, then I feel that would be an opportunity LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But do they have to do that? They have to have done something
A. Yeah. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON other than simply being a celebrity?
A. I believe so, yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So it's not good enough that a celebrity might be behaving in a way which the public may not approve of, if they're not in any way setting themselves up?
A. That would be the basis for it. If they were setting themselves up, yeah. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But short of that, it's
A. We write a lot of trivial stories. That's the thing. A lot of material will appear in the paper that you might argue isn't in the public interest, but there is a grey area there. And generally if it's not damaging, then I would see it as fair game to report it. MR JAY I think there are two possible themes which come out of that last answer. You see the difference, maybe, between someone being a role model because they have expressly articulated they have stated a position on an issue, and then they've acted in a way in their private life which contradicts that express statement, and someone being a role model in the looser sense. They've said nothing about any issue, but people might think, well, they occupy a certain position, therefore they ought to be behaving in a particular way. Do you see that distinction, Mr Smart?
A. I do, yes.
Q. Is it the policy of the Sun that it's only in the first category of case, namely someone who has expressly taken a position on a particular issue, that it would be appropriate to publish contradictory material which might relate to their private life?
A. Sorry, I don't really understand the question you're asking.
Q. Is it only if the situation where someone has expressly taken a position on a particular issue
A. That's often the case, yes.
Q. But is it the policy of the Sun that even in the second case, when someone has not, as it were, taken an express position but they are, some would say, a role model, that you would nonetheless publish something relating to their private life if you felt it was necessary to expose the truth and set the record straight?
A. It's the nature of celebrity, I think, that we will write stories about people in the public eye, yes.
Q. That's regardless of whether they've taken and an express position on a particular issue?
A. Yes.
Q. Is that right?
A. I would say that, yes.
Q. Is this because you take the view that a lot of what you do, in your own words, is trivial and not particularly damaging?
A. Some of it is trivial, but at the same time, in my career at the Sun I've interviewed an alleged rape victim who bravely waived her right to anonymity. Last week I did an interview with a victim of domestic violence, so sometimes I write about trivial issues, sometimes I write about serious issues. I work for a mass market newspaper. My job is to provide entertainment, and in that paper I provide entertainment, but alongside that we will discuss a lot more serious issues.
Q. Can I put to one side the serious issues you've rightly addressed and talk about the issues bearing on celebrity.
A. Sure.
Q. Is this your position: "Well, a lot of what we do is trivial and not particularly damaging, therefore celebrities are fair game. We can publish what we like about them regardless as to possible intrusion into their privacy"? Is that the Sun's position?
A. Free speech weighs heavily in the balance for me, yes. I think we do take it very responsibly and we act ethically and we act responsibly at all times, yes?
Q. Sorry, is the answer to my question "yes" or "no"? I think it might be "yes".
A. Yes. I think it probably is, yes.
Q. In paragraph 15, you deal with another particular case about a band reunited for the first time after an acrimonious split. That was a situation where you did decide to publish the story, notwithstanding the circumstances in which the photograph had been taken and you're quite clear about it by a pub barman at the wake of one of the band member's mothers. Wouldn't that be a clear case, I would gently suggest to you, of intrusion into privacy?
A. Yeah, I understand that argument wholeheartedly, and it's something I pained over at the time. Intrusion into grief is something I take very seriously indeed, you know, and I weighed that one up. The picture was taken at the wake, it was taken by a barman in the pub and the band members who were reunited agreed to pose for the picture, so they were happy to pose up for it in a public place, and I thought the detail the circumstances of the story might have been difficult, but overall it was a case of every cloud having a silver lining. It was a story that brought a lot of happiness to a lot of our readers, and actually, a couple of months later, in the press conference when the news was announced that the band were back together, they said exactly, that every cloud has a silver lining, there were difficult circumstances, but on the whole it was a great, great thing to happen. I weighed that up. One thing, as showbiz reporters now, that we have to deal with is we're accountable very quickly on Twitter. If there's an issue at all, then I know about it as soon as the newspaper hits the news stands. In that case, for example, the family involved got in touch and I was in dialogue with them, they weren't happy, and I think I showed a responsible attitude by taking their feelings on board, and I'd like to think that after they'd gone through the curve of grief, as people call it, that they realised that I'd acted responsibly in that case.
Q. The conversation you had with the members of the family was after the event, wasn't it? It was after the photograph had been published? You make that clear, don't you?
A. We did put the story to them beforehand, yes, and I spoke to the PR involved and through mutual friends of the band as well, I let them know that this story would be running.
Q. Yes. Can I understand what your evidence is about that? Was it made clear to you that members of the family did not want the photograph published?
A. It wasn't, no, not before publication. At the time the family happened to be in LA. These stories move very quickly as well. If I hadn't got it in the paper that night, then it would have appeared on Twitter and we would have lost the exclusive.
Q. This is my last question on this topic. Didn't you feel or maybe, looking back on it, do you not now feel that there was a reasonable expectation of privacy, namely a photograph taken at the wake of one of the band member's mothers?
A. As I explained, it was a balancing act and I weighed it up and I spent a lot of time thinking about it because I was very sensitive to that issue and I think I was I made the right decision on that one. I really believe that.
Q. Thank you. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON One of the things that arises out of what you've just said is that in time gone past you did have rather longer to make your mind up about these issues, but if you're concerned about deadlines and Twitter and stories entering the public domain through some other route, you don't have any time at all any more?
A. We do have time. It's a combination of those things. The way we are in newspapers at the moment, those are big considerations for us now, to consider social networking, social media. We do have pressure with deadlines there's no escaping that but we do take time to consider the full implications of a story. I had a conversation with more than one person in the office about whether I was making the decision or not. MR JAY Out of interest, do you monitor what's on Twitter, for example?
A. You can't help not monitoring. Yes, I do, yeah. I take some of it with a pinch of salt.
Q. There will be inevitably a variety of responses, but the question was whether you monitor what you read, and it probably follows from that that you do take into account what you read; is that right?
A. I absolutely do, yes.
Q. Can I ask you about paragraph 18 of your first statement. This is dealing with the issue of incentives and bonuses. You say: "The production of exclusive and important articles for the paper is a fundamental means of building a career in news or showbiz journalism. It is an essential part of the job, rather than something extra for which we are rewarded." All of that may be pretty much self-evident, but does this not create a constant pressure on you, Mr Smart, to deliver, because if you don't, either you won't be promoted or, at worst, you might lose your job?
A. I think that's true, yeah. There's a huge pressure on me to deliver. There's an old analogy in the Sun newsroom about working for the Sun is like playing centre forward for Manchester United. If you don't score, then you get the hairdryer treatment and get dropped. I have to deliver exclusives. That's my job. I'd expect that pressure if I worked in the legal profession or any other business.
Q. That saying about being a Premier League centre forward, that still holds in the Sun?
A. I still hear it mentioned, yes. Although I'm a Hibernian FC fan, and we're not quite as good.
Q. Can I ask you about another matter, namely payment for stories. I think on the Bizarre page, or perhaps on page 2 of the Sun, there's a telephone number, where you can phone in directly if you have a story and members of the public are encouraged to do so; is that correct?
A. That's correct. On page 2 and at the top of the Bizarre column and we have our email address at the bottom of all the stories we write on news and the Twitter address appears at the top of my page as well.
Q. You also make it clear that cash payments have become rarer in recent years, although presumably payments by other means, by bank transfer or whatever, those often remain the case; is that correct?
A. That's right. Almost all of my contacts are paid directly into the bank, yes.
Q. Is there an issue, in your mind, about the reliability of the stories you're receiving because you're having to pay for them?
A. We always ask the questions to make sure we're comfortable with that. Ask rigorous questions.
Q. How do you satisfy yourself, in circumstances where you're having to pay for the story, that you are getting a reliable story?
A. Seek corroboration, check with the PR, and often and in a lot of the cases now, I'll speak directly to the person involved. That's one thing I really want to point out, is that I do have a close relationship, and my staff do, with a lot of the people we write about, so it with be quite easy sometimes to get rid of the stories that don't stand up very quickly indeed.
Q. You've rightly made it clear that your practice is usually to seek corroboration either from the person involved or their agent. Are you able to give a percentage, Mr Smart, as to the number of occasions or the quantity of stories in your column which in fact have been substantiated, either by direct contact with a celebrity or their agent? Is it 50 per cent, 80 per cent?
A. It's quite difficult to put a percentage on it. If you look at the column, on average I'll write ten stories a day, so over a week 60 stories, 3,000 stories a year. There's a lot of material that goes through. The lead on Bizarre, for example, and the second lead, are the most prominent stories, so we'll always make sure they're checked out, but the more trivial stories, the shorts, as we call them, we might not put calls in on them.
Q. So is the issue more (a) the prominence of the story and then (b) the relative triviality of the story?
A. Yeah, that's fair to say. You have to remember my position. I'm a reporter and an editor so last week, for example, I wrote two front page stories, a feature, which is 1,200 words in the paper, as well as six double page spreads in the week along with my team. So there's a lot of material that passes through as well. Very busy people.
Q. Were you involved at all in the Hugh Grant piece, a short piece in the Sun I don't think it was on the Bizarre page involving his visit to a London hospital on a health scare?
A. I was involved in that story, yes. It was a member of my staff who received the call about that story from an agency.
Q. Yes. How was the public interest weighed up in relation to that story, Mr Smart?
A. It's the balancing act we've talked about already. We were given the tip-off from a reliable source and we put the call in to Hugh Grant's agent. He came back I think, from my memory, it was about two days later. They confirmed the story although they refused to comment. At the time, he'd been in the public waiting room so a lot of people had seen him, and so the story was written up that he'd turned up short of breath, as I remember, and we filed the story through to news, and at that point the backbench and the editor will make a decision about whether they want to publish when they weigh up the public interest argument there.
Q. Maybe the question is more fairly directed at the editor rather than you because you did not personally weigh up the public interest in the story against the private rights of Mr Grant. Is that
A. I don't want it to seem like I'm passing the buck. I've dealt with my member of staff about it and I've discussed the public interest issue there, in that case, because I realised it was sensitive, because I know Hugh Grant doesn't particularly like being written about in the papers. I handled it very sensitively, sent it through to the editor and allowed him to make a decision. I think it appeared on page 3 as a six-part(?) story, which would be probably the least important story on that page.
Q. In your own words, Mr Smart, what was the public interest in publishing the story? Was it not entirely a private matter, namely a health issue relating to Mr Grant?
A. I understand that argument, but he is one of the most famous actors in the country and he had turned up in a public place in front of other members of the public and I think it was our duty to investigate that story because it might have been for a more serious incident, perhaps a car crash or maybe somebody had tried to mug him. We had to check it out and we did check it out. We put it to the agent.
Q. But you knew that it wasn't a serious incident, fortunately. You knew that the story was only I say that advisedly a minor health scare, but I think the point I'm making is that nonetheless it was purely a private matter. True, he chose, as we all might, to go to an Accident Emergency department, which, in a sense, is open to other members of the public, but it was entirely a private matter, wasn't it, Mr Smart?
A. I see the argument, yes, I do, and on the scale of health stories, you know, it is a very small issue, but I think because he's such a famous person in the country, we have a duty to report news to our readers.
Q. So is this right: it was the fact of his celebrity which tilted the balance?
A. Yes.
Q. Thank you. Mr Smart, in paragraph 28 of your statement, you deal with three further examples of weighing up the public interest in publication against the private interests of the individuals. If you don't mind, we'll take those as read but we're grateful for those examples and no doubt you could give us many more. These are just illustrations.
A. That's correct.
Q. Can I ask you about your second statement, which deals with the evidence of Mr Chris Atkins. Can I summarise it in this way, because we've read the statement may I check that you've received the statement? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I've read it. MR JAY Good, thank you. The point is that Mr Atkins arranged for two spoof calls to be put through to the Sun. I think both of them were to the Bizarre desk. I mean, they weren't, it might be said, earth-shattering stories, but that doesn't matter. One of them related to the reading habits of one of the members of Girls Aloud, I think. She was reading one of Steven Hawkins' books. The other, I think, if I remember rightly, related to an incident with Mr Guy Ritchie and something that happened in a restaurant. But the outcome was that both of these stories ended up in the Sun, although it happened neither was true. Is that correct?
A. Well, I would disagree that they weren't true. To put it in context to start off with, we do receive a lot of crank calls. At that time in particular, Scott Mills on Radio One was ringing up regularly trying to broadcast spoof calls. Every time he did that, off the back of it, we'd receive numerous calls from teenagers trying to mimic what he had done, as well as a TV series called Facejacker, one called Phonejacker who'd ring us up regularly. Not just us; the news desk regularly received crank calls. On top of that as well, we received regular emails with misleading information. But in the process of checking this story, both my member of staff rang a PR and checked it out, even though it was quite a trivial issue, and also they informed me about the story at the time. I think I put a call in as well. The interesting thing here as well is that I know Sarah Harding personally and I know Guy Ritchie personally and the assumption was that we don't know these people. With Sarah Harding, for example, last week I was in her house and she had quite an impressive library, actually. And Guy Ritchie as well, I've got good contacts around that. Around that time, I knew he had been in the restaurant and I managed to corroborate the fact that he was drunk and misbehaving in that restaurant, so one or two paragraphs about him injuring himself juggling I thought was really trivial.
Q. But in that particular incidence incorrect, I think we agree, don't we? The juggling of the cutlery part was incorrect?
A. It's such an insignificant part of the story. It was one paragraph at the bottom. Who knows? I think Mr McKenzie pointed out that there will be some issues in these stories. It's a trivial story. He injured himself in a restaurant when he was drunk.
Q. It might be said, with respect to what you do, that the whole thing is trivial and therefore why publish any of it?
A. I share your frustrations and I find it incredible that we're discussing this, you know. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Actually, what we're discussing is the suggestion somebody deliberately made up a story and phoned you up and then it appeared in the newspaper. I don't consider that's entirely trivial. Do you?
A. No, I don't, and we take it seriously. We called the PR, we checked it out, and he said he had no issue with the story. He didn't want to ring the person, Sarah, directly about it because he said it sounds like her. He said, "It wouldn't surprise me at all if she owned a book like that", and that was a green light for me to publish. On Guy Ritchie, I checked with the restaurant. They said he was drunk and misbehaving. I didn't really want to hassle him at the time. I think he was having quite a difficult time. I didn't want to ring and ask if he'd hurt himself juggling cutlery, so MR JAY So you lobbed it in, maybe?
A. We wouldn't lob it in. We place our stories, Mr Jay.
Q. We know that part, Mr Smart I mean, I know it's slightly cheeky of me to put it in those terms but we know the bit about the juggling of cutlery was untrue, don't we?
A. You could argue that, yes.
Q. You're not saying it is true, are you?
A. We don't know. Maybe I'll give Mr Richie a ring afterwards and ask what precisely LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It would be quite a remarkable coincidence if Mr Atkins invented a story that sounds bizarre and it happened to be true. That would be remarkable.
A. It is bizarre. That's the name of the column. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right. Well, it's a mindset, isn't it?
A. It is. MR JAY Thank you. Do you have any knowledge of phone hacking at the Sun or not?
A. To the best of my knowledge, no.
Q. What does that mean?
A. I have no knowledge of phone hacking at the Sun.
Q. Is your evidence that phone hacking, to your personal knowledge, did not take place at the Sun?
A. That's correct. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Do you remember the News of the World in 2003/4?
A. I worked there for three months, yes. I was a very junior member of staff at that point. MR JAY The same question needs to be asked: do you have personal knowledge of phone hacking going on at the News of the World?
A. I didn't observe that, no.
Q. The final point is in relation to the evidence of Charlotte Church, tab 14. On the pagination at the bottom right, the last numbers are 33142. Do you see those numbers?
A. Yes.
Q. Did you have any involvement with this story?
A. Not that I recall, no, I don't think I did. I might have been involved at some point speaking to the agent if that was 2007
Q. That's right.
A. but it's John Coles' story, so he would have handled it. He might have rung me and asked me for a number for an agent to put the story to at some point, as is often the case at the paper.
Q. It's right to point out it's not your byline.
A. It's not my byline, no. MR JAY Okay. Thank you very much, Mr Smart.
A. No problem. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. We'll now take seven minutes. Thank you. (11.53 am) (A short break) (12.O2 pm) MR JAY Sir, the next witness is Mr Duncan Larcombe, who is under your tab 4. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. MR DUNCAN ROBERT PRICE LARCOMBE (sworn) Questions by MR JAY MR JAY Sit down, please, Mr Larcombe and first of all could you provide us with your full name?
A. Duncan Robert Price Larcombe.
Q. Thank you. In file 2, from those three files in front of you, under tab 4, you'll find located your witness statement of 14 October of last year.
A. Yes.
Q. You've provided a statement of truth at the end of the statement and signed it. Is in your formal evidence to the Inquiry?
A. Yes, it is.
Q. You currently are the royal editor of the Sun and have been since January 2011; is that correct?
A. That's correct.
Q. Before that, you were defence editor for a period, you were a royal correspondent between 2005 and 2009, and you first joined the staff of the Sun in October 2002; is that right?
A. That's correct.
Q. Although you are described as the royal editor, is it fair to say that you are really a reporter and you don't have any reporters working under you?
A. That's right.
Q. Can I deal first of all, please, with some general matters. Your relationship with the press office or press officers of the Royal Family at Clarence House or elsewhere, how does that work?
A. Being the royal correspondent or editor, I'm the kind of person who would be the go-between between the paper and the palace. So as part of that, I'm expected to build a very good relationship with both Buckingham Palace press officers and Clarence House press officers to make sure that there's a dialogue, basically, and they have someone they can come to and we have someone that we can go to.
Q. Is your relationship with Buckingham Palace and Clarence House good?
A. I think it's very good. We have our moments, but overall I think we get on well.
Q. Has it always been good in your time there?
A. Yes. When I took over as royal reporter, I was invited to go and have a cup of tea at Clarence House to meet the team, and ever since then we've got on fine, I think.
Q. Thank you. Can I ask you this other general question: you've been at the Sun now for nearly ten years. Has the culture of the Sun changed at all during that period?
A. I think overall probably. I mean, when I first started, you'd sit down and to your left you might have someone with 35 years' experience, to your right, someone with 30 years'. I think now the staff probably they don't have that sort of level of experience. They're younger. It probably feels slightly more like a it's certainly a younger newsroom now. But culturally? No. It's still a great place to work. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I don't think Mr Jay was asking you about the atmosphere in the office.
A. No? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But the approach to the business of journalism.
A. Okay. No, the culture at the Sun there's been an obsession with getting stories right and I don't think that's changed at all. MR JAY Can I ask you finally this general question: do you have any knowledge of phone hacking at the Sun?
A. No.
Q. Dealing, please, with your witness statement, you make it clear in paragraph 3 that the staff handbook makes it clear there's an expectation on reporters to adhere to the PCC guidelines in the course of their employment. Has there been a change in the handbook, to your knowledge, over the years?
A. I don't I'm not aware of there being a change. I think that obviously new measures have come in, which I think I touch on in the statement, but whether that relates in the handbook or not, I'm not sure.
Q. Okay. You deal with a specific example where an ethical question arose in paragraph 4. This relates to a flying course at an RAF base which the two princes were taking part in in 2009. You published the story in a way which would not identify the property; is that correct?
A. Yes.
Q. That was following discussions with Mr Dudman of the PCC; is that right?
A. That's correct.
Q. How often are you in contact with the PCC over stories or potential stories?
A. I've never been in direct contact with the PCC personally. Obviously that's the managing editor, Graham Dudman, or previous managing editor. To be honest, on the royal beat, it doesn't kind of get that far because, you know, when you are discussing a story ahead of publication, if there are issues that might potentially involve the PCC, my first point of call would be the press officers of either Buckingham Palace or mainly Clarence House.
Q. What percentage of royal stories in the Sun are notified in advance to other Buckingham Palace or Clarence House before they're published? Can you give us a feel for that?
A. I can. Obviously if I've put out a press statement, you don't have to check it with them, because they've done it, but in terms of exclusives, 100 per cent. If I have an executive story about the royals, I will always try and notify them before we publish.
Q. Yes. But are there occasions when you publish a story having failed to notify them, notwithstanding your attempt to do so?
A. If I have, it's only on sort of very, very minor stories that it frankly wasn't worth even bothering them on, but we speak probably well, pretty much daily with the palace and we know them well, so we know it's not unusual for us to call. But I think it's particularly important with royal stories that you get it 100 per cent right.
Q. Why do you say that?
A. I think well, from my point of view, the Sun is a very pro-royal paper because I think our readers are very fond of, for example, William and Harry, and I think if we get royal stories wrong, then the readers may well be on the princes' side rather than ours, which may not quite apply if you're writing about a paedophile, perhaps. I just think the one thing Clarence House asked for in that cup of tea that I had when I first met them was they will say, "We will never lie to you or mislead you on a story, we won't leak a story if you come to us with an exclusive, but we would really appreciate if you could give us the heads up before you publish." So that's what I do, and wherever possible I don't try and phone them five minutes before deadline; I try and tell them as early as I can in the day to give them time to come back to me.
Q. Yes. If I can summarise the matter in this way. Are there two powerful factors in play here: one, the continuing good relationship which you need to maintain with Clarence House and Buckingham Palace, and secondly, your assessment of where the sympathies of your readership lie? Is that fair or not?
A. Well, yes, I suppose that's fair, but also there's the added one that I don't particularly want to write stories that are wrong because the credibility as a specialist writer on a particular area is important to me.
Q. I wasn't seeking to downplay that, but I think we've got the picture. There are three factors you would put in the balance, in no particular order maybe, or maybe the third factor should be the first? You tell me.
A. I haven't thought about it.
Q. In paragraph 10 of your statement, you tell us that you can recall that after the original phone hacking arrests all reporters were briefed by desk heads on News International's zero tolerance approach to law-breaking by members of staff in the course of their work. That was clearly in or about August 2006, because we know the date of the arrests. Was the briefing limited to phone hacking or did it go wider?
A. No, I think that would have been after well, it may have been after the convictions, actually, rather than after the arrests. No, I mean that was specifically in relation to phone hacking. I mean, that was the issue that had come up in court. I just remember us all being told, basically, that if anything if any of us act in that way, then we'll be out the door.
Q. Who gave that briefing? Can you recall?
A. I've been trying to. I can't remember. I thought it was an email, but I haven't been able to find like a staff email. It may have been that, but it certainly would have been probably from the news editor or head of news at the time.
Q. Were there any rumours going around the Sun at the time that this sort of activity wasn't limited to the News of the World?
A. In other papers or the Sun?
Q. Well, that would include the Sun but it would also include other papers.
A. Well, there were rumours that the dark arts, as it's sort of been written about since, happens because journalists like to gossip about each other, but certainly there was no rumours about it happening at the Sun, from my point of view.
Q. Did you personally hear any of this gossip?
A. Well, yeah, I mean, it's not sort of phone hacking stuff, but just the dark arts. You know, I must say, I'm massively surprised at some of the things that have come out about the News of the World in terms of allegations and the scale of it and some of the people that were allegedly targeted, but not massively surprised that if there was the technology there, it might have been being abused by some journalists on some papers, I suppose. I mean, you think of historically things like the Camillagate tapes, for example, or Squidgygate tapes. I can't for a minute imagine that that was anything other than something to do with technology, so you sort of know that that can happen on Fleet Street, if that makes sense.
Q. Yes. But in terms of the gossip and rumour that was going around, what other sorts of activities were being discussed in that way? Can you recall?
A. Maybe I'm making more of this than not, but obviously I think it would be impossible for one of the reporters to be arrested for that kind of allegation without everybody wondering if anybody else was at it, if you like, sir.
Q. Okay. In paragraph 11, you explain what has happened more recently and briefings from the new chief executive. We'll be hearing from him next week. He'll tell us a bit more about that. In paragraph 12 and following, you deal with the issue of checking of sources. The evidence you give here is similar to evidence we've heard from others. Is this right: that you very often won't know the precise identity of the source if the source is not your source, but you will always want to stand up the story; is that correct?
A. I wouldn't say very often I don't know the source, but yes, my desire would be to make sure I can stand the story up independently.
Q. But in the small world in which you operate, how often will it be that you don't know the identity of the source?
A. Probably a small percentage, maybe 5 per cent, if that.
Q. Then you explain in paragraphs 15 and 16 the system of making check calls to the palace, which you've already told us about in general terms.
A. Yes.
Q. In paragraph 17, that the palace makes exceptions when it concerns health matters of the royals, for obvious reasons.
A. Yeah.
Q. Then paragraph 18 you give us some good illustrative examples of the checking process. The first one relates to a memory stick which had been stolen.
A. Yes, that's right.
Q. Because these are public proceedings, would you like to tell us in your own words more about that example?
A. Sure. It was quite a typical example. The news desk took a phone call from a member of the public. It involved a royal thing. He was claiming he had pictures of William and Kate on their holiday. They had just returned from the Caribbean. Immediately that was given to me, as the royal man, so I phoned up the tipster, was just given the phone number by the desk, and arranged to meet the guy that afternoon. I went to Paddington to meet him where we'd arranged. He didn't turn up. I then thought obviously I was thinking: "I wonder if he's gone to another newspaper" or whatever, but primarily, if you'll forgive me, he didn't exactly sound like an old Etonian on the phone and I was slightly confused as to how he might have got hold of these pictures so quickly after they'd just got back from the Caribbean, so I contacted Clarence House press office and flagged it up to them and said that they might want to check if anything's gone missing recently because this is what we were being offered. Then the guy did turn up and he claimed that he'd found them in the street. He came back to our office. They were after ?25,000. The tipster then had another guy with him. They handed us over the memory stick and then I got a phone call from a police sergeant, I think, saying that this car had been broken into Kate's sister's car had been broken into that morning and that in her bag that had been stolen was a camera. I must say, I didn't exactly fall over with surprise, and I think the two guys were then arrested the next day and I gave a statement. I think they pleaded guilty in the end and it didn't go to court. Well, I didn't need to go to court.
Q. Can I move you forward, please, to paragraphs 22 and 23. We've read your other examples, Mr Larcombe, and we'll bear those in mind. But at paragraph 22, you deal with the agreement you made not to publish photographs of Kate Middleton, as she then was this was in 2007 unless she was with Prince William and therefore under the protection of trained officers. Is that an agreement which other newspapers have followed, to your knowledge?
A. Yes. I mean, it was Les Hinton, the former chief executive of News International, that made it a company-wide News International policy, so it covered all the titles. It didn't happen straight away, and I know that other papers did that year publish I think there was a picture of Kate at a bus stop on the King's Road in the London Evening Standard, I believe. I hope that's not wrong. Forgive me if it is. I think gradually now obviously, Kate's married now so she does have protection officers, but I certainly think that had quite a big influence on the behaviour of the paparazzi.
Q. Then in paragraph 23 this was after you became royal editor, early last year you met with a number of freelance photographers and underlined that "we would not publish pictures where there had been pursuit, harassment or invasion of privacy of members of the Royal Family". How do you make that assessment in an individual case, Mr Larcombe?
A. If we're sent in a picture it might be a picture of, say, take Kate smiling and looking lovely and happy, but really we've no way of knowing, just by looking at the picture, whether or not, after the picture was taken, she was chased by 10 photographers. So what we did with Clarence House was agree that every picture that we were potentially going to publish involving the royals, we would phone them, check with them. I assume what they do is they then speak into the protection officer that would have been there when the picture was taken, and you know, I wouldn't say I've heard horror stories but they've come back to me at times and said, "Actually, the photographer jumped in front of the vehicle", or: "They were chased after that had been taken", or they'd got the picture because they'd chased. So you do hear horror stories and in those situations, we don't publish the pictures. I'd probably say it's more than 50 per cent we don't publish, actually, in terms of paparazzi pictures.
Q. Which percentage? 50 or 15 per cent?
A. I'd say it's more than half that we don't publish, I would say.
Q. Is that because the photograph is simply not of an adequate standard
A. No.
Q. or is it because there's been some breach of the principles you set out in paragraph 23?
A. Exactly. The three you know, the palace are reasonable people. They're not like some celebrity agents that will do anything and say anything to keep pictures and stories out of the paper. If it's a reasonable picture taken in a reasonable way within the PCC rules, they're not going to say, "You can't use that or we'll complain." So when they tell you: "Actually, that was a pretty nasty incident", or: "We believe that that was private" you know, Prince Harry was in Las Vegas recently and we ended up pulling the front page, I think, at about 7.20 on a Monday night because there were pictures of him taken inside a club with 300 people there. When I put that to the palace, they said he was just sitting there, like anyone his age, having a beer, I suppose, and the palace's argument was: "He's got a reasonable expectation of privacy and we'd really rather you didn't use the pictures." I think there was then a discussion between the communications director at Clarence House and my deputy editor and we pulled the story and never used the pictures at all. But that said, they then appeared all over the Internet around the world, which I think is another consideration. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's part of the problem, isn't it, that if members of the Royal Family are to have any privacy at all, everybody has to respect it, if and if they don't, it becomes very difficult?
A. Exactly. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And if paparazzi feel they can try it on with you all the time, the fact that they lose 50 per cent means that they win 50 per cent.
A. Yes, that's true. That's one of the it's like the elephant in the room, really. You have the Internet there. When Princess Diana died, it wasn't an issue, and the paparazzi were able to make lots of money by chasing her all over the place. But now you have a global market. I could think of several examples of royal pictures recently which, frankly, no one in the British press would touch, not just because of Clarence House, just because if you want to put it to ethics or whatever that then are plastered all over websites and the Internet, and stories as well. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But are these individual photographers or are these commercial organisations of photographers? What are they?
A. Well, I'd even go further than that. The problem is nowadays every member of the public is a potential paparazzi photographer because they have cameras on their phones. So it's not just even actual photographs; it can be a member of the public that sees Prince Harry in a club or a pub and then the guy has to deal with the fact that that could be all over the Internet. So he's going to be, you know, completely have no privacy at all unless he's hiding inside one of his castles. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's the problem.
A. Mm. MR JAY Thank you. I'm not going to ask you about the issue of payments for stories and for tips, because others have dealt with that.
A. Yes.
Q. The system now for making cash payments has changed recently. We've also heard evidence as to that. I do have a question for you about paragraph 38, Mr Larcombe.
A. Yes.
Q. The particular example you give there under (i) is a picture of the newly enobled, I suppose, Duchess of Cambridge it was the Thursday after the royal wedding, so it was within a week or so after the royal wedding pushing an empty supermarket trolley in the car park of a supermarket near her home in North Wales. You took the view that the picture could be published in the public interest; is that right?
A. That's right, yes.
Q. What, may I ask, is the public interest in publishing that photograph?
A. As I say, it was the first time Kate had been seen in a public place since 2 billion people had watched her on television. Rather than go straight on honeymoon, William and Kate went up to Anglesey and William did a few shifts, because that's relevant, because we'd agreed not to go near the honeymoon or even publish where the honeymoon was.
Q. You knew where it was, did you?
A. We did, yeah. Had they been on honeymoon in Anglesey, then we wouldn't presumably have taken that picture. I think for me it was just such an incredible picture, because it showed this girl who's just entered the Royal Family in front of 2 billion people, and what does she do? She just pushes a trolley and goes shopping on her own. She's not followed by 25 flunkies and butlers or whatever, and it told the story of what Kate really is like. She's a very down-to-earth, normal person. But since then I mean, that would be my argument to use that in the public interest, weighing balancing it off. Since then, there was a picture taken of her shopping in Tesco, I think in about October or whenever, and we were offered that picture but we didn't use it because: so what? Kate's shopping in Tesco's? It's not the balancing act is totally different, although I think one paper did use that picture.
Q. So you felt that in the particular circumstances of this case, namely so soon after the royal wedding, she was carrying out a mundane activity in an ordinary way, and the public interest outweighed her private rights? Have I correctly summarised it?
A. On that instance, but as I say in the statement, if you'll excuse referring back to an earlier witness, with royal stories, if I'd adopted the view on many occasions just to lob the story in, I would be lucky if I was even working in Tesco's myself. It doesn't work like that on royal stories, and it frankly doesn't work like that on Fleet Street any more, but
Q. It may be the sense of your evidence but contradict me if I'm wrong that there's a greater sense of deference shown to royalty, for whatever reason, than there might be towards celebrities. Is that fair or unfair?
A. I think that's slightly inevitable. I mean, we have a good relationship with the palace. The boys and Kate recently came to our military awards exclusively with the Sun, but I would say, to sort of caveat that, I think that's only really possible, to have that deference but that have relationship with the palace, because of that key principle that I know I can phone up the palace with a story that I believe is true and they won't lie to me if it is true. They may say, at worst, "No comment", or they will guide me. If you could have that dialogue with celebrities, and possibly even with people that find themselves thrust into the limelight, then it would be a lot easier on Fleet Street to make the judgment calls, but as I think my colleague Gordon said, sometimes you are desperately seeking accuracy and it's not always possible to get it. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But you don't necessarily feel yourself bound by the palace because the photograph to which you've just referred was a photograph which the palace said they would prefer you not to publish?
A. That's right. We'll have the dialogue, we'll have the discussion, and there was one between Christmas and New Year which I won't give the detail of, but it was a picture taken in a private club of a member of the Royal Family dancing on a table with their arms out. We would have liked to have used that picture. We had a discussion with the palace press office. They said they felt it was private, and we didn't use that picture, and as far as I know, that picture hasn't been used. But could I have that same discussion if I was a showbiz reporter and I wanted to ring up Steve Coogan? I suspect I probably couldn't because his agent would probably not Steve Coogan but anyone. If you can't trust celebrity agents, than frankly I don't know why people would even bother ringing them. MR JAY Are you suggesting that one can't trust celebrity agents?
A. Yes. I shouldn't have mentioned Steve Coogan because I don't know his agent or have dealt with him.
Q. We'll airbrush him out of your answer
A. That's what he wants, isn't it? I think he'd quite like it, wouldn't he?
Q. I think you might have been a more general point.
A. I was trying to make a general point, yes.
Q. Although it's right that you did mention his name, but what are you suggesting in relation to celebrity agents in your experience, compared with Clarence House and Buckingham Palace?
A. I have had direct experience early in my career, before I started working with royals, where I know I have been lied to or deliberately misled when I have been trying to legitimately tried to put a story to a celebrity agent and I'm frankly quite pleased that I don't have to deal with them any more and I get to deal with the guys at the palace.
Q. I think the final question, Mr Larcombe: we know of one example where you, as it were, overruled Clarence House, or rather they said they would prefer that you didn't publish the photograph, but you nonetheless did. How many other occasions can you recall where you've come to the same conclusion?
A. Well, my colleague and I wrote the "Harry the Nazi" story. I'm sure the palace would have preferred we didn't use that one, but we did. They're pretty good. They know that if they can't object on the grounds of the PCC, you know, they're going to allow us, if you like they might not like it but they will accept that we are a newspaper and that royals are of interest or in the public interest to be written about.
Q. I'm not sure we've got a sense on how many occasions you've
A. Oh, sorry, yes, yes.
Q. Is it just a handful?
A. Where we go against the direct wishes? It's quite rare, to be honest. If they say I mean, there was one in the summer where William and Kate were in Holyrood Palace grounds in the park with the public and there was a guy playing frisbee in the background of the pictures. There was no real reason why we couldn't have used those pictures. They just asked us a favour to not use it and we didn't. We knew that they were going to come to our military awards and the relationship's there. It wasn't really going to set the world on fire, so we dropped it. MR JAY Thank you very much for your evidence, Mr Larcombe. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you very much.
A. Thank you. MR JAY I think we can start our next witness. It's Mr John Edwards, under tab 11. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. Mr JOHN GERARD EDWARDS (sworn) Questions by MR JAY MR JAY Mr Edwards, sit down and make yourself comfortable. Could you start off by giving us your full name?
A. John Gerard Edwards.
Q. Thank you very much. If you look at the second file, you'll find under tab 11 a copy of your witness statement, which is signed by you and dated 19 December of last year; is that correct?
A. That's correct.
Q. You've appended a statement of truth to the statement. Is this your formal evidence to the Inquiry? Can you tell us about yourself? You've been picture editor of the Sun since the year 2000?
A. I have.
Q. Is that right? Can you tell us a little bit about your earlier year?
A. Yes. Before I was made picture editor in 2000, I joined the Sun in 1992 as an assistant picture editor. I began my newspaper career in 1988, operating an electronic picture desk, which is an area of the desk where all the wire pictures from AP, Reuters, Press Association come into. You would then sort of print those out and give them to the picture editor.
Q. Thank you. And it runs in the family, since your father, as I understand is he still the royal photographer of the Sun?
A. Yes.
Q. And has been for more than 30 years?
A. Yes.
Q. In paragraph 2, you explain the circumstances or manner in which photographs are provided by the Sun. You have five staff photographers; is that right?
A. We do. We have a royal photographer out of those five, we have a royal photographer, a sports photographer, we have one based in Bristol, one based in Manchester and another news photographer based in London.
Q. Thank you. So that accounts for the five. Then you have a pool of 20 regular freelancers who get a commission and a percentage of syndication fees?
A. Yes. I mean, some of those freelancers would be guaranteed five or six shifts a week, so, you know, you could say they're all they're staff but in name, really.
Q. Then there are picture agencies who from time to time provide the Sun with photographs which the Sun either accepts or rejects; is that correct?
A. Yeah. There's a constant stream of pictures. I think at the end of that paragraph I could mention to you that on an average day we get between 15,000 and 20,000 images for consideration.
Q. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Can I just understand how that breaks down? What proportion of those would be from your staff or freelancers, what proportion would be from picture agencies and the like, with whom you are a commercial relationship, and what proportion will be absolutely from anybody under the sun?
A. A smaller proportion would be from staff because there's such a small number of them. The majority of the pictures, I guess, are from agency, and as technology increases with camera phones, we do are seeing more pictures from the public. I think Duncan may have mentioned the picture of the Duchess of Cambridge in Tesco's. That would have been a picture from a member of the public. So the majority of the pictures, in answer to your question, would probably be from agency. We have a constant stream of pictures coming in from all round the world, from Associated Press, Reuters, AFP, and from all round the country, indeed from Press Association. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Do you have contractual relationships with these people?
A. With AP, Reuters, PA, yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Do they describe the circumstances in which the picture must have been taken?
A. No. With those agencies, we've been dealing with them for years and we've never had any problems. We can trust them completely. MR JAY We'll come to that issue in a moment, Mr Edwards. The term "paparazzi". By some it may be regarded a little bit as a term of abuse, but in which category or any would they be working? Obviously they're not going to be working as one of the five staff photographers?
A. No.
Q. That would be quite wrong. Probably it wouldn't apply to the regular freelancers either. Into which category with they fall?
A. I mean, they're freelance photographers, effectively. They work for themselves. I mean, I don't know for sure if any of them have any contracts anywhere, they do regular work for any other sort of titles, but a lot of them are associated to agencies. Showbiz agencies, news agencies. I mean, I do think the paparazzi name does actually make a more it's not a great name, in my opinion. It makes them sound I mean, I think we've all come to think that "paparazzi" is, as you say, a rather a nasty word, but they are effectively freelance photographers.
Q. Working for particular agencies?
A. Yeah, they work for agencies. Some of them work alone.
Q. But inevitably then the Sun will be receiving, amidst the 15 to 20,000 photographs a day, some taken by paparazzi?
A. Indeed, indeed.
Q. By what process, if I can ask the question generally in those terms, does the Sun or you satisfy themselves or yourself that a photograph has been taken in a non-intrusive fashion?
A. Well, I work with a very experienced team and we've worked together for a long time now. If we have any sort of concerns that we think maybe a picture's been taken in a private environment or there's children in the picture, we would speak to the photographer or indeed the agency boss, probably more than likely I have great relationships with a lot of the main agency bosses and we would establish the facts on how the picture was taken, what environment it was, how the subjects, you know, was treated, if you like, how the photographer behaved. If we were comfortable with that, we would put that forward to the night editor, editor, for consideration.
Q. How often is it possible for you to check with the subject of the photograph that he, she or they are satisfied
A. Recently I think I mentioned it somewhere in my statement, but I can't be sure where we took some pictures or an agency took some pictures of Lily Allen shopping in Central London somewhere. I think Lily has now had the baby, but at the time she was heavily pregnant. One of my colleagues I was working with that day, she showed me the pictures and sort of said, you know: "Do we feel comfortable about this?" She looked quite happy in the pictures, I have to say, but were we comfortable with the fact she'd had her picture taken? It was on a public street but she was obviously pregnant. We decided that with Gordon's help we would speak to Lily's agent, and indeed, even though, like I say, she was laughing and joking and happy in the pictures, it did turn out that she didn't want those pictures published and indeed we didn't even offer them up for publication.
Q. Okay. You give other examples. First of all, under paragraph 4.2, if I could invite you to look at that, please, Mr Edwards, in the middle of that paragraph, you say: "However, there are frequent examples where I have refused to publish a photograph on the grounds that it may have been taken in a context of harassment, or without regard to privacy, some of which I have referred You do give us particular examples, but
A. I think I mention another example in 5.1. The singer Robin Gibb, who I think it's well-known is suffering is quite ill at the moment. There were pictures of him attending a medical appointment, and we kind of it was actually one of my colleagues again who spotted it and we decided straight away that was never offered up for publication. It just didn't even reach the back bench, if you like, or the night editor, who is the man who puts the paper together.
Q. Yes.
A. So there's self-regulation going on there.
Q. There are certain celebrities who appear to be particularly the targets of paparazzi photographs, and if you've been following the evidence given to this Inquiry, you'll know who they are. Do you take any particular steps in relation to those celebrities to satisfy yourself that the photograph in question was not taken in an intrusive circumstance?
A. Yeah, yeah. Like I said earlier, with a lot of these agencies, I've been dealing I've been picture editor for 11 years and I have great relationships with a lot of these agency heads and picture editors. You know, we ring up all the time asking if we have concerns, we ring up all the time to say, "How did this happen?", again: "How did the photographer behave? Where was it taken?"
Q. How often would you say you get a complaint after the event in relation to the publication of a photograph?
A. How often do I get one? I mean, I can't recall one right now. I mean, I'm happy to go away and check, but I can't recall one.
Q. You're the picture editor?
A. Yeah.
Q. Would it not follow that any complaint about a photograph, if it's alleged, for example, the photograph was taken as a result of harassment, would come to you?
A. But that would come to the managing editor's office and then he would speak to me.
Q. So you would get to know about
A. I would absolutely, and then I would take it up with the agency boss straight away.
Q. I think my question then was: how often has that circumstance arisen, approximately?
A. Not very often. There's not been one I can't recall one recently. But as I say, I'm happy to go away and check and report back if you like. I mean, I can't think of one right away. Not one in the last sort of few months.
Q. But over the last 11 years? Are we talking about a handful
A. Yeah, I would say so. I would say there's been a few. I mean I can certainly with the photographers under my control, I can't think of any. With the ones under my direct control, I can't think of any, but there may have been instances with agencies. I can't recall any now, as I say, but I'm happy to go away and research that.
Q. I'm not asking you about particular examples. I'm asking you to try and give us a feel for approximately how many, and you've told us, I think.
A. Yeah, a handful.
Q. In paragraph 7.1 you give us some further examples. Can I ask you I've probably touched on this. At the very bottom of this page, 53350, you say: "With certain public figures or celebrities, we do not offer any pictures for publication except for those that have been taken at a photo call or film premiere because of their previous experience of extreme paparazzi harassment or involvement in privacy litigation."
A. If there's certain people we've have problems with in the past, then we will avoid them, yeah.
Q. About how many people are we talking about?
A. A handful, I would think. I can think of maybe Sienna Miller being one, and again, I mean I can't think of the names now, but a handful, yeah.
Q. Is that because she, to your knowledge, has obtained an anti-paparazzi injunction? That obviously carries with it certain legal
A. Yeah, I mean yeah.
Q. But how is it that you get to know whether a particular public figure or celebrity has had previous experiences of extreme
A. That would come from, again, the managing editor's office or the legal department would inform us. They would regularly get correspondence to inform us of what's going on in that respect.
Q. So is there a sort of list of people who you know
A. Yeah, we get printed notes and we also get regular emails from the legal department. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So if somebody says, "Look, I've had a lot of trouble with this", they can, as it were, encourage the press simply to reject all photographs?
A. Yeah, they can, yeah. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Just
A. Yeah. I mean us, the Sun, yes. I mean newspapers, yes. There's a wider market, as you know. I mean, there's a huge market abroad for a lot of these pictures, and websites, et cetera. I mean, I think that does drive a lot of the that does encourage certain pictures to be taken. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Is that an informal arrangement or is there something formal about it? Namely, is there some device that some celebrity or person could use to know that if they wanted to
A. It's informal, I would say. Yeah, informal, unless their lawyers contacted the legal department. Then it would become official. MR JAY Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But you're content to respect that sort of arrangement?
A. Yes, we are, yeah. Very much so. MR JAY Can I just understand a little bit more? Is it a case of you receiving an email from your legal department to the effect: "Don't publish photographs in relation to X unless they've been taken in a particular circumstance, namely a photo call or film premiere"?
A. Yeah.
Q. So you are obeying advice given by your legal department. Or is it a case of the celebrity letting it be known
A. It's a case of listening to the legal department.
Q. So it becomes a question, then, is this right, of simply responding to legal advice, rather than any other sort of informal arrangement?
A. Yeah. If you're asking: will a celebrity or agent ring the picture desk and say, "Please don't take pictures of us", that's never happened in my experience. There's a route they go and, you know, we then listen to the advice given to us.
Q. But that route may often then be litigation; is that correct? Or you wouldn't necessarily know?
A. I wouldn't necessarily know.
Q. Okay. In paragraph 8.1, you deal with the issue of digital alteration and you point out that that's not something that you can police; is that right?
A. Well, we can police it in the office but I can't police it outside, no. If one of my photographers was caught doing that, they'd be out the door, simply. It's just not acceptable. You know, we watch out for it, but I think that I can't recall an occasion, certainly in the last four years, where that's gone on.
Q. Okay. Before we look at the specific examples in paragraph 9, can I ask you this general question: do you, as picture editor, apply any different standard in relation to the publication of photographs as between the print edition of the newspaper and the Internet edition?
A. Yeah, I mean, I am effectively the picture editor for the online edition. I have a person on my desk who specifically deals with the online edition and he comes to me all the time to ask me advice on whether can we put this picture up, can we put that picture up. So "yes" is the answer.
Q. Sorry, if the answer is "yes", you're suggesting there is a different standard
A. I'm sorry, no. I've got a bit confused.
Q. Fair enough. Your evidence, I think, is that the standard is exactly the same?
A. Yes, it is exactly the same. Sorry, I got a bit confused.
Q. Even though there's someone else
A. Yeah, but he reports to me directly. He sits on my desk.
Q. Thank you. Paragraph 9, you were asked to deal with some specific examples.
A. Yeah.
Q. The first one relates to Ms Tinglan Hong, who is the mother of Hugh Grant's baby, and you were asked some specific questions about that. The child was born, I think, on 26 September of last year, Mr Edwards, to give us the sort of chronological fix.
A. Yeah.
Q. You tell us that the Sun did send one of your regular freelance photographers to the woman's home on 2 November?
A. Yeah.
Q. In your own words, why did you do that?
A. Following the announcement of the birth, we sent a freelance photographer down to the home. He was there, I think, from about midday on that day. I think when he arrived he may have seen well, I know he saw Ms Hong on the public street and took a picture of her. She wasn't with the baby; she was just simply walking down the street. Do you want me to carry on?
Q. Yes.
A. We also sent I think, from memory, it's the same photographer back the following day, on the Tuesday. I think he may have stayed probably most of the day until he had a conversation with Mr Grant where I think Mr Grant was asking him what he was doing here. By that time, he'd already taken Mr Grant's picture. He said he was there to cover the story and I think Mr Grant left and more or less at that time he left or left the immediate vicinity. I think at that point, probably twenty minutes later, half an hour later while he was in his car away from the address, we received the letter from the PCC asking us to leave and we did so straight away and haven't been back since.
Q. Yes. The request from the PCC was on the grounds of privacy, wasn't it?
A. I believe it was. But I haven't I have to point out here, by the way I meant to say this at the beginning this information I was on annual leave when this happened.
Q. Okay.
A. But this is all information I've obtained from my deputy who was in charge that week, so
Q. Yes. I think the obvious question is: why wait until you receive a privacy request from the PCC?
A. I think we left the before that. We left the area before that.
Q. I think what your statement is telling us is that you got the privacy request, which had been channelled through the PCC.
A. Yeah.
Q. Your internal lawyer then passed that on and you then complied with the request?
A. He did, yeah. I've since spoken to the photographer and he tells me that he was away from the area when the request was received. I mean, we're only talking half an hour or an hour, but I think once he'd had the conversation with Mr Grant and taken his picture, he had left. He did leave.
Q. I appreciate that you were on leave at the time.
A. Yeah.
Q. Wasn't it obvious from the circumstances, though, that this was a private situation and there shouldn't have been a photographer there at all?
A. It's a difficult call. As Gordon was saying, Mr Grant is of huge interest to our readers, and I think you know, he's an A list Hollywood actor who everyone's very interested in. I think I mean, we were there two days. I don't think we were I mean, he'll probably tell you different, but I think we were didn't we weren't causing that much grief. We weren't harassing him. We weren't harassing her. We were simply there in the hope of maybe getting a picture a happy picture of him and his girlfriend or him and the baby. I don't know. Celebrities have posed before with their babies on doorsteps or outside houses or outside wherever.
Q. But you knew full well, from the circumstances and from what you knew of Mr Grant
A. Again, as I say, I'm not trying to look for excuses. I wasn't in that week. I mean, I'm not trying to use that as an excuse, but
Q. Wasn't the overwhelming consideration the one you frankly told us about, that Mr Grant is of overwhelming interest to your readers, as you put it, an A list Hollywood celebrity? That trumped all other considerations. Would you accept that?
A. I don't know. I think it's a difficult line we walk sometimes. I do, really. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I suppose it's unfair to ask how you would have walked it if you'd been there rather than on holiday?
A. Pardon? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON What decision would you have made if you'd been there rather than on holiday?
A. I think I would probably have made the same decision. We didn't as I say, we left the area before we had the note from the PCC. MR JAY Okay. There were some more photographs. You can skip the next paragraph, Mr Edwards, which deals with something else, but at the third paragraph on the page, you say: "We were offered another set of pictures of Ms Hong after the news broke of the birth. These had been taken some weeks before, on 21 September So that's five days before the baby's birth, I think. by a freelance photographer. Along with several other papers, the Sun bought and published these images." Is that right?
A. Yeah.
Q. Can you remember anything about those photographs?
A. I don't think we bought them on 21 September. I think we may have bought them once with the news of the birth had come out.
Q. Indeed, that's what you're saying here.
A. Yeah, yeah. From memory, pictures taken in the street, I don't think there was any there was nothing bad as in regard there was no bad behaviour by the photographer, as far as I can see, and I'm sure that was all checked out at the time.
Q. I think from the evidence we received, it's clear that one of the photographs and that may have been the one taken in January 2011, or it may have been taken in April, my recollection may not be right about this was taken with a long lens. But it was certainly in a public place.
A. It was in a public place.
Q. But it might be said with a reasonable expectation of privacy. How do you assess that last factor: reasonable expectation of privacy?
A. Well, in a private I mean, I think it's in the PCC code, isn't it? I mean, in a private place. They were on a public street. There were no visible signs of distress. I'm sure we checked it out at the time. There doesn't seem to be a problem. There's pictures of celebrities doing it all the time, I think. They're on a public street. I don't think we have a problem there. I mean, as I say, we always make these checks. If we think there's if people are uncomfortable, then we ask the question.
Q. Isn't there an inconsistency here, in that you've told us in relation to someone else this is the singer Lily Allen, who was heavily pregnant
A. Yeah.
Q. This is paragraph 5.1 of your statement. She was in a public place. She was wearing a happy expression. What's the difference between that situation and
A. Sorry, could you repeat that for me, please?
Q. Yes. You can refresh your memory about it. It's in your statement under 5.1. Can you remember that? You told us about it about 15 minutes ago.
A. Yeah, Lily Allen.
Q. The Lily Allen photographs. The woman is heavily pregnant, she's shopping in central London, so it's a public place. She appeared to be wearing a happy expression but you called her agent and you decided not to publish the photographs.
A. Yeah.
Q. But you didn't adopt it may be that you were on holiday at the time when this was being considered. You didn't adopt a consistent approach, though, did you?
A. Well, she I think perhaps the fact that Lily Allen was heavily pregnant would have been a major consideration for us.
Q. You think that tipped the balance; is that right?
A. I think so, yeah.
Q. But why not, at the very least, telephone the agent of Hugh Grant and find out whether he would be agreeable to the publication of such a photograph?
A. Sorry, I've gone blank on that. Say that again?
Q. Why not, at the very least, telephone the agent of Hugh Grant to ascertain whether he, his client, would be agreeable to the publication of such a photograph?
A. I don't think we thought there was a problem with the picture, to be honest with you. It was in a public street. There were no visible signs of distress, like I say. I don't think we felt any need to ring the agent, to be honest. I think with Lily Allen the other example Robin Gibb was a medical appointment. Lily Allen was pregnant. I think we were trying to be considerate in that event.
Q. There were certain other photographs of Hugh Grant which the Inquiry was told about. One was allegedly it wasn't born out by an examination of the photograph holding hands with a German woman. I don't know if you have any knowledge about that?
A. I know this is going to sound like I'm copping out but this is all the same time, I think. But referring to that picture, I think that was a miscaptioned image from normally a very, very good agency.
Q. Okay. Then you deal with Dr McCann. I note the time. I only have another five minutes or so. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right, carry on. MR JAY That should finish it. This is towards the bottom of page 53352. You tell us what happened here, Mr Edwards. You did photograph the McCanns on their return from Portugal. Photographs were provided by the Press Association after their arrival at the airport, and you did continue to cover the story in the days that followed, and the Sun was part of the press and TV crews who were stationed on public land at the exit to the housing development where they lived. Then you say: "From this vantage point, our photographer took pictures of them leaving and arriving home by car." Have you seen photographs where there are also children in the car?
A. I have.
Q. Are you aware of the McCanns' evidence to this Inquiry that distress was caused to the children, not necessarily by Sun photographers, but at least by
A. I've read that evidence, yes.
Q. Did you have any comment to make about that?
A. I do. You know, I'm a dad of a little girl when I say a little girl, not so little now, but she would have been seven at the time, and, you know, I felt tremendous sympathy with the McCanns and their situation. You know, looking back on it now, I don't think it was right that Mrs McCann had to drive through that crowd of photographers and TV crews, no. I'd like to talk to you quickly about when they were in Portugal, the relationship the Sun had with them in Portugal was excellent. My photographer, Lee Thompson, got on very well with them. We'd often arrange picture times to take pictures. If we met them in the morning, we would leave them alone for the rest of the day, for example. Sometimes Lee would shoot the picture as the only photographer and supply the other papers. And looking please God this never happens again, but I do think that if it if something similar does happen again, I think we have to maybe limit the amount of photographers to maybe one photographer and one TV crew to cover it for everybody.
Q. I think from that answer you accept that certainly the quantity of photographers and television cameras created an oppressive atmosphere?
A. If I were going through that, I wouldn't be happy, no. With children in the car, of course not.
Q. Was that assessment made at the time, though?
A. Probably not, no. I mean, as I say, I've thought about it a lot this last weekend, knowing I was coming here today, and we got it spot on in Portugal, in my view, but we may have not got it we may not have been so good when it came back to Leicestershire, no.
Q. Okay. Thank you for that, and we can read the rest of your evidence there and indeed in relation to JK Rowling and Charlotte Church. I need to come back, though, since I missed a point, or at least didn't make it clear enough, in relation to Ms Hong, Mr Edwards. Some of the photographs which you were offered after the news broke of the birth and we know that the birth was on 26 September of last year were photographs which had been taken some considerable time before, for example, in January 2011.
A. That would be the picture of the two of them together, yeah.
Q. That's right. But you also say in the last paragraph of this part of your statement that some of the photographs, on the other hand, had been taken on 21 September 2011 by a freelance photographer.
A. Mm.
Q. Doing the obvious work which one can do in relation to the chronology, that was five days before the birth.
A. Yeah.
Q. So I think the question I put to you in relation to the singer Lily Allen, heavily pregnant, and the lack of consistency which the Sun showed, was valid, wasn't it, in relation to those particular photographs? Do you follow me?
A. No, I'm not sure I do, sorry. I understand the Lily Allen pictures, yes.
Q. Some of the photographs which you were offered
A. On 21 September, yeah. They were taken then.
Q. were taken on 21 September
A. Yeah.
Q. which was five days before the birth of the child.
A. Yeah.
Q. So Ms Hong, by definition, was heavily pregnant.
A. Yeah.
Q. The question is: what's the difference between her case and the case of Lily Allen, who was also heavily pregnant? Both ladies were heavily pregnant.
A. There's no difference. I mean, perhaps we should have checked.
Q. Okay. You say "perhaps" you should have checked; it would have been obvious from the photograph.
A. Yeah. MR JAY Thank you very much. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you very much indeed. We'll break now until 2.05 pm. Thank you. (1.08 pm)

Witnesses

Gave a statement at the hearing on Monday, January 9, 2012 (AM) ; and submitted 1 pieces of evidence
Gave a statement at the hearing on Monday, January 9, 2012 (AM) ; and submitted 1 pieces of evidence
Gave a statement at the hearing on Monday, January 9, 2012 (AM) ; and submitted 1 pieces of evidence
Gave a statement at the hearing on Monday, January 9, 2012 (AM) ; and submitted 2 pieces of evidence

Themes

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

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