RESEARCH TOOLS


Afternoon Hearing on Monday, January 16, 2012

Sly Bailey , Lloyd Embley , Andrew Penman and Tina Weaver gave statements at this hearing

Hearing Transcript

(2.00 pm) LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, Mr Barr. MR BARR Thank you, sir. Before I resume my questioning, I should say Mr Browne has helpfully confirmed the precise date when he says that his clients, certainly on the Sunday Mirror, last used Mr Whittamore. It was 2002. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. MR BROWNE : That is the Sunday Mirror. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. MR BARR Ms Weaver, relationships with the police. You explain in your witness statement I'm looking at page 14 that there is an important relationship between the press and the police, and you explain the relationship and its importance as you see it. At the end of paragraph 57, you say that you yourself have had very little personal contact with the police. Can I ask you, have you ever met a chief constable?
A. I think I had lunch with Ian Blair with a number of other people but it is so long time ago I'm afraid I can't remember much about it.
Q. Have you met with any of his successors?
A. No, I haven't.
Q. Do you know whether any of your staff have met chief constables?
A. I don't know, but I would have thought the crime correspondent would have.
Q. I see. You explain in paragraph 58 that the relationship is mutually beneficial and based on trust. What is it that you are seeking from the relationship with the police?
A. Stories. Information.
Q. And are off-the-record conversations between your reporters and the police things that are commonplace?
A. I'm not an expert on this, because it is something that would happen between my crime reporter and the police, but sometimes I think the off-the-record guidance is very important. One example that springs to mind is if somebody had been arrested and we think that's particularly significant, it could transpire that it's not at all and then the sort of appeals to witnesses decrease and people don't come forward. So sometimes the guidance would just be: "We've arrested somebody but we don't think it's particularly significant." I think everybody's aware of their mutual responsibilities and the legal process during those conversations. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But there is a risk with all that, isn't there? You must have heard the discussion that I had with Mr Wallace. There must be some concern that off-the-record gets translated and is potentially harmful?
A. Yes. Yes, you're absolutely right, sir. I'd have thought that is the case. However, I would add that I think any off-the-record guidance tends to be restricted to the crime reporters, who are members of the Crime Reporters Association, and they sort of know the framework in which we're allowed to operate. Often the police would give some information to the Crime Reports Association and they wouldn't use it. I think it relied on trust and respect in both ways, but I think because of what's happened at the moment, the News International situation, it does worry me it's almost moved too far the other way. There's an almost paralysis in the contact between the media and the police and all the useful functions of that we just won't have those benefits going forward. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand. MR BARR Can we move on now to relationships with politicians? You explain that you rarely have lunches with politicians. You've had one meeting and one lunch with the current Prime Minister before he was in power at his invitation. You met Gordon Brown on several occasions whilst he was in office, and equally, at several meetings and lunches with Mr Blair. Again, does that reflect the political leaning of the Sunday Mirror's editorial line
A. Yes.
Q. that you've seen much more of the Labour prime ministers?
A. Yes.
Q. What is it that they were seeking from you in these meetings?
A. I don't think they were seeking anything. I think it's a healthy exchange of views between an editor who has access to, say, 5 million readers, and the Prime Minister's views, and we might want some clarification on a policy. We might address our readers' concerns. We are representing our readers, and so if and we do a lot of polling of the readers. We have something called Mirror Mouthpiece, so all the issues that are primary in their minds we get to know about. So we might raise those sorts of concerns with them, or if we campaign for better treatment for amputees or if we consider there's been breaches of military it's something we might bring up in those meetings, so I think they work well. I don't think there's been a real issue outside of the recent controversy.
Q. So do you explain to the politicians what stories would meet with your approval as an editor and those which would not?
A. Do I explain what stories would meet with my approval?
Q. Yes.
A. I
Q. You like this subject, not this subject, like this policy, not that policy?
A. We might talk about policies, yes. We might discuss policies. I don't have many meetings, to be honest.
Q. Do you get the impression that the politicians listen carefully to what you say the editorial line will be in relation to a particular policy?
A. I think they probably pretend to but I suspect they meet an awful lot of people and I'm not sure it has that much impact.
Q. But would you agree with other witnesses we've heard from that there's no doubt that as the editor of a newspaper with a seven-figure readership, your paper has influence over people's views and therefore is of importance to politicians?
A. I can see why politicians would want to communicate with 7 million or less, about 5 million readers, but I think our readers are very intelligent. I think they form their own views and I don't think it's really impacted by a health minister writing a piece for us. Sometimes we will ask cabinet ministers to write a piece. It often explains this complicated issue in the news. I think we asked Yvette Cooper to write a piece for us at the weekend about police cuts, for example. So it works both ways, and it directly puts across views and explanations and background reasonings to the readers.
Q. But it must be of importance to the politicians what your editorial line is going to be on matters within the Labour Party, for example of party leadership?
A. I don't yes, I suspect with party leadership it is, but it doesn't really they don't influence what we do. Well, they don't influence what I do, and I don't think our editorial line or our stories really influence them. I think it's quite a healthy relationship.
Q. Why are there such interactions between very senior politicians and very senior journalists, editors, if you're not influencing each other?
A. Are you talking generally or specifically the Sunday Mirror? Because I think they're quite different questions.
Q. If you do think there's a difference, could you explain, please?
A. I think we know about what has been perceived as the News International situation. I know Mr Wallace talked about that this morning and I think everybody perhaps did become too close, but I don't believe that's the case at the Mirror. I don't think our circulations we don't have as many papers as News International so I don't think that's the case. The Mirror traditionally for many years now has supported the Labour Party so I don't believe Conservatives would think it would be worth coming anywhere near us. They probably wouldn't want to.
Q. If the details are perhaps a little different for News International and for Trinity Mirror and the Sunday Mirror in particular, the general principle holds, doesn't it, that you have a large number of readers in whose votes the politicians are interested?
A. Yes, that is true.
Q. Can we move now to the public interest test. You set out various examples of how you have applied it, starting at 73. This section of your witness statement is page 17.
A. All right, sorry. Yes.
Q. It starts with a preamble in paragraph 71 in which you say that you think that a privacy law has been introduced as a result of a series of judgments and you don't appear to be a fan of this development; is that right?
A. Sometimes I think the interpretation of what's in the public interest is too narrow.
Q. So you're not saying that there shouldn't be a law which takes privacy into account?
A. Not at all, no. I think everybody is entitled to a private life. It's just as editors we spend probably a disproportionate amount of time trying to balance up articles 8 and 10 in a way editors probably never used to 10, 15 years ago, and give it a lot of consideration. The Rio Ferdinand story we mentioned before. I think I sat on that story for a couple of weeks while I wrestled with the competing tensions and I decided to publish. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But isn't it good that you did that? Isn't that exactly what you should be doing?
A. No, it is good. It's what we should be doing. No, I agree. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Everybody says it's judge-made law. The fact is that the Convention, which was written by English jurists in the aftermath of the war, has been part of the international responsibility for years and what happened by the Human Rights Act was to bring it into our domestic law, so there it is.
A. Exactly. As I said, it's just the way the law is at the moment. The section 12, which is meant to have of course, being lawyers, you have particular regard to freedom of expression. Sometimes I feel that's not giving enough consideration. MR BARR If I understand you, you're saying in principle you're happy for freedom of expression to be balanced with rights to privacy in inspanidual cases, but what concerns you is where the line is being drawn and the additional time that it takes you to
A. No, the additional time is not an issue. I think it's really where the line is being drawn. I mean, it is very subjective, but it's really where the line is being drawn that concerns me. It's less of an issue now, but about a year ago there was a series of injunctions which seemed to rain down on us like confetti from rich, powerful men trying to keep their infidelities or wrongdoing out of the papers and I personally didn't agree with some of those injunctions.
Q. Feeling rather better about life since the Rio Ferdinand judgment, are you?
A. I'm feeling a lot better, yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Actually, it's the same law; it's just how you try and balance the factors.
A. It is subjective but I do think there is a wider test could be really: is it in the public benefit? And I think the readers should have a greater say, in many ways, what's in the public interest. The interpretation is decided by judges, quite rightly, sir, but sometimes LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You don't have to say "quite rightly", but the fact is that if you say it's decided by readers, then nothing would be kept out of the public
A. Well, no LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Because they have to decide.
A. Well, within reason and obviously subject to people's rights, but I do think that perhaps what the readers think is acceptable and that's the general public is a pretty good barometer of what, in this day and age, we should consider is in the public interest. MR BARR Can I be clear about exactly what you're saying here? Are you aligning yourself with Mr McMullan, who came along earlier to this Inquiry
A. No, not at all. Not at all. I'm promoting an idea, a suggestion that we are talking about suggestions and ideas going forward that I think at times the public interest is defined too narrowly today.
Q. So you're not
A. I'm not promoting obviously people are entitled to privacy. Of course they are. It's not a black and white area. It's a grey area. Each case turns on its facts. So I wouldn't be that stupid. But of course it's subject to people's rights, but sometimes it feels that what the public consider and I think they're the greatest barometer of what really is in the public interest isn't considered and there's a narrow definition under the PCC code that makes it quite clear it's not confined to that and I think sometimes LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You're getting quite close to saying what's in the public interest is what the public are interested in.
A. I am getting close to saying that but I am not saying that. I think the two overlap at times, obviously, but I just think it's been interpreted too narrowly at times and I think things which I would consider in the public interest and I think readers would consider in the public interest are often deemed to be private by judges. Is that fair? MR BARR Well, it's your view, which you've made clear. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You're entitled to your opinion.
A. It's just simply that, it's my opinion. MR BARR I can't go through all of the examples, many of which will have to be taken as read LORD JUSTICE LEVESON They're all in your statement and they'll all be available for everybody to see. MR BARR Indeed. Can I ask a question arising out of paragraph 76, which is about a kiss-and-tell story. Do you think there are ethical considerations about kiss-and-tell stories?
A. Could I just say we don't really use the word "kiss-and-tell". I will do a story about a relationship in which there's a legitimate public interest. It tends to be a word that commentators on broadsheets use to describe tabloid stories, if you don't mind me just saying that.
Q. Let's get down to the details. We're going to be dealing with theoretical mundane details before anybody gets excited. The version you give an example of, page 18 of your statement, Lord Strathclyde, is someone, a woman who comes forward to you
A. Yes.
Q. wanting you to publish a story.
A. Yes, that's correct.
Q. A volunteer. Perhaps the next grade is when a newspaper advertises for people to come forward to reveal infidelities. Does your paper do that?
A. We don't advertise to reveal infidelities. We do ask people to come forward if they have stories we might like to publish, but that's not necessarily about celebrities. That could be about any wrongdoing. In fact, I think we had a very good expose of bailiffs and the way they were treating the debtors as a result of one of those call-ins, so I mean, this story I wouldn't actually call a kiss-and-tell. It's a woman who's come forward who is a single mother, who turned to a cabinet minister for help with a CSA, so it's not quite a
Q. It's quite clear that this is a category, your story, of a volunteer. I'm asking you now about people who come forward because you have advertised that you are interested in stories and prepared to pay for them?
A. Yes.
Q. As I understand your answer, you're saying you don't specifically advertise for what I might have called kiss-and-tell stories, but you do advertise generally for stories?
A. Yes.
Q. And that would include people coming forward
A. Yes, you're correct, yes.
Q. with stories about infidelities. Finally, it would be a positive encouragement taking someone under the wing of the newspaper and giving them a bit of a steer as to who they might want to go out and try to seduce.
A. No, we've never done that.
Q. You've never done that. Do you think that's unethical?
A. As I said, I judge each case on its merits, but I can understand one thinking that the principle of that is unethical.
Q. I see. Your fifth example, which I think is the one you've just adverted to, the bailiffs, can I ask you about that? You used subterfuge in that story. Was it your decision to use subterfuge?
A. This was a few years ago. No, I don't think I was involved in the decision. I think the news desk would have probably taken advice from the lawyer.
Q. When someone in the editorial chain takes a decision that subterfuge is going to be used, is that recorded in writing?
A. No, it's not.
Q. Do you think that it might be good practice in the future for the use of subterfuge to be documented in advance and the public interest reasons for it recorded?
A. Yes, I wouldn't be opposed to that at all. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON These aren't very common, presumably, in the light of what you say?
A. No, they're not, really. The way the PCC code is that if for example, you can't just go on, as you call it, a fishing expedition. You have to be acting on specific information, which ironically I hate to refer back to something you asked about me earlier, but it is a bit of an irony, but the Starsuckers situation, for example. If a newspaper had done that I know there's a legitimate public interest in what he was trying to achieve, but it was largely a fishing expedition which sadly, had we done it on a newspaper, we might have found ourselves in breach of the code. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, of course the risk of all that is that the reporter says, "I have rock solid information about X. I'm not prepared to reveal who told me or why he or she told me, but this is all solid and therefore I want to do this", and without going to go back to it, one can't really test.
A. No, you're right. It's very difficult to make the decision in advance. I think in this particular case we were acting on information from a whistle-blower who had approached us, so we knew. But it is the difficulty of investigative journalism. You're hoping there's a public interest at the end of an honest endeavour to try and expose wrongdoing. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, I don't think I'd worry so much about that, because if there is a public interest in doing what you're doing, then you have the public interest even if the story doesn't emerge at the end. That, I think, is why Mr Barr was asking you whether it was a good idea to record your public interest reasons it might be subterfuge, it might be some other conduct which would otherwise be in breach of the code so that you have a record before it all happens
A. Yes, yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON as to what you thought, so that if nothing does come about it, then you can say, "This is why we thought what we thought."
A. Yes, that would be a good idea. It would be very helpful. MR BARR Moving now from the examples that you've chosen to give to another example. This is the case of Mr Jefferies. Although your paper wasn't the subject of the contempt proceedings, it was nevertheless the subject of criticism for its covering of the story, wasn't it?
A. Yes, it was. It doesn't diminish the crime, if you like, but we did a very small five-sentence story, and I know you've heard from other editors, sir, but I'm afraid I was off at the time. It was new year and I wasn't in the office.
Q. Yes.
A. We said his favourite poem was Oscar Wilde's "Ballad of Reading Gaol" and there's obviously an issue with that and we apologised.
Q. On reflection, an English teacher teaching Oscar Wilde is not something from which anything much can be
A. With the details. We apologised and we did get it wrong, obviously. It was a bad decision.
Q. The articles are at the back of tab 5. It's rather lengthier than you'd remembered, if you look at pages 6 and 7. That was the actual coverage. I think you were referring, were you, to the column at the bottom right?
A. Sorry if I'm mistaken. I understood that the complaint was about the small story on the right. Obviously it doesn't diminish the impact it had on Mr Jefferies.
Q. Could you help us with where things went wrong and how a repeat of this sort of coverage could be avoided?
A. I'm sorry because I wasn't in the office. It was new year's eve, I think two nights before I was off that week. I wasn't, on this particular occasion, involved in the editorial decision-making so I don't quite know why that happened but I think people recognise it was a poor misjudgment.
Q. I see. Can I ask you now about whistle-blowing. You have a whistle-blowing policy, Trinity Mirror does, as a group.
A. Yes, a whistle-blower's charter, yes.
Q. Does it get used much on the Sunday Mirror?
A. I don't know. I don't believe so, but I believe they'll probably approach HR. No one's come back to me.
Q. So as far as you're aware, can you recall a single instance of the whistle-blowing policy being used?
A. No, I can't.
Q. Your second witness statement deals with the exchanges between Mr Owens and Mr Atkins. We are, for the reasons that Mr Browne explained this morning, treading carefully on this ground and I don't want to ask you about Mr Owens' state of mind. But you do say in this witness statement I'm looking now at page 5
A. Sorry, I was looking at clause 5.
Q. Look at paragraphs 17 and then 20. You say in paragraph 17 that while you were concerned by some of Mr Owens' remarks and he too realises that he did make some misjudged comments, it's only fair to point out that he did try and explain that a lot of information would be private and he did show he was conscious of the issue of public interest, and then you quote. What I'd like to ask you is: what realisation did he communicate to you that he had made some misjudged comments?
A. Sorry, I have I don't understand the question. What realise at what point
Q. You say: "While I was concerned by some of Mr Owens' remarks "
A. Oh
Q. and he too realises he did make some misjudged comments What I want to know is: what comments was it that Mr Owens realised were misjudged?
A. I can't recall which specific comments. I think there are a number, but I only became aware of this story when the Guardian contacted us and I spoke to Mr Owens at the time and he apologised and explained he had said some unhelpful things. But of course he didn't, at that time, have the benefit of a transcript. He was responding to the story in the Guardian.
Q. But his reaction when first questioned by you was apologetic?
A. Yes. He'd already realised obviously, you'll go into more detail when Mr Owens gives evidence but he realised that it wasn't in the public interest at some stage and he didn't even report his meeting to the news desk, and so the news desk were also unaware of this until the Guardian contacted us. And even if it had I would just like to say this story would never have been published.
Q. Yes, you make that very clear in your witness statements and set out the reasons. You say you formed the judgment that you don't think Mr Owens acted wisely and you say that you did speak to him
A. Yes, I did.
Q. once the story came to your attention. Having spoken to Mr Owens about the matter, did you circulate any reminder to your staff about anything arising from the Starsuckers film?
A. I didn't actually feel it was necessary because I think at the time there was sort of not disruption in the official but concern, and so we discussed it among ourselves but there was no formal email. But I did speak to the desk and inspanidual reporters who I spoke to about it who I was talking to about it.
Q. The
A. I think they realised, and I think Mr Owens did and I know he's not here but I would like to say: apart from this incident, he's a very, very good and professional reporter.
Q. The film was released and the Sunday Mirror didn't cover the release of the Starsuckers film or review it. Why was that?
A. We have one page of we're a weekly paper, we have one page of film reviews a week and to be honest, I don't think our readers would be that interested. I think it was a Channel 4 film, wasn't it? We tend to cover the big main releases which would have mass appeal. I don't think the film did very well. I think it had a quite limited appeal, if I recall. There's no specific reason not to.
Q. There were very many things discussed between Mr Owens and Mr Atkins. One was that Mr Atkins expressed a real interest in celebrity stories. Is it right that a newspaper like yours is very interested in celebrity stories in general terms?
A. Yes. I mean, we try to reflect a national conversation and most of our readers are interested in celebrity but actually it's not the prime reason for buying the paper. All our surveys say that big news stories is a first reason, sport the second and celebrity comes in third. So it's always been part and parcel of tabloid coverage for many years, but
Q. If I can ask you to turn in tab 3 to page 9, paragraph 50. Mr Owens said do you have that yet?
A. Sorry, I'm in the wrong place.
Q. Tab 3, page 9.
A. Sorry, I'm working off my bundle, not the one today. There are no numbers on my pages. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It's 49004 in the bottom left-hand corner. Right-hand corner, I'm sorry.
A. Got it, thank you. MR BARR Looking at paragraph 50, it says: "If someone has had that operation, then it is true, correct, and you go to them. The problem you can have, you always have, you can come to me and say, 'Fern Britton has had a gastric band', and we go to Fern Britton and she says, 'No, I haven't', and her agents say, 'No, she hasn't.' We are in a difficult spot then because it is a flat denial and it can happen. Often they lie. But then you are faced with a situation whereby we might say to you, 'Guys, look, we are not going to use this information, but can you give us anything else other than just your word? Is there a document somewhere, a piece of paper? Is there an email, something that would prove she had it?'" It seems there that Mr Owens is raising two possible uses of the material that was being offered. One, he's suggesting that if a newspaper has information about a story, it can be used to be put to the subject of the story and if the subject of the story confirms it, then it can be published. That's what he's suggesting, isn't it? In this case, using the example of Ms Britton.
A. It does appear to be.
Q. Would you agree with me that if the information in the first place is obtained illegally, that is problematic, isn't it?
A. Yes. As I said, we would never have published this story.
Q. Secondly, he says, the information could be used essentially to barter for a different type of story. "If we don't publish this, then will you give us a story on that?"
A. I'm not sure that is what he means. You would probably have to clarify that with Mr Owens. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I wonder whether he doesn't mean: "Here's a way of distinguishing the flat denial from the admission", because actually you have some mechanism to stand the story up.
A. Also, I think the problem is when you're meeting people and of course, we do have a lot of call-ins you don't know if they're hoaxers, liars or genuine people. So you go along and you assess and you evaluate and part of that process is engaging with someone, if you like, sort of pretending to get on with them. That's one of the things that journalists have to do. You meet all sorts of people you probably wouldn't want to spend your time with but you pretend to get on with them. I think that's all he was doing and I think obviously, I wouldn't attach the sort of importance to this as I would if he was here in evidence, giving evidence. These are things said on the hoof, trying to engage, and I suspect and I don't know, but I remember when I was a reporter, you're thinking: "Is this guy for real? Is he a liar?" So you are saying, "Are there any documents in existence?" It's very difficult. You come at it as if: "Everyone's lying to me. I'm sure they're lying. Let's see what they're actually going to provide." In his defence, by the time he got back to the office well, not by the time he got back to the office, but over the next few days, I think I haven't actually I'm not sure, but he'd realised that he couldn't proceed with this story, which is why he didn't mention it to the news desk. So I can see why this looks very interesting, but I really don't think although of course it's not up to me to make that judgment MR BARR We'll be exploring that with Mr Owens in due course.
A. Yes, of that significance.
Q. You gave an endorsement of Mr Owens' general talents as a general reporter.
A. Yes.
Q. It's rightly pointed out to me that if we go back to the end of tab 5, to the story we were looking at about Mr Jefferies
A. Mr Jefferies, yes. I'm afraid
Q. that it says: "Suspect in poem about killing wife. Exclusive by Nick Owens and Alistair Self." Is that the same Nick Owens?
A. He didn't write that story. His name shouldn't be on it. Because we were on a bank holiday weekend, he sat on the desk and he put the story through to the back bench, and he's rather upset his name is on it. He's obviously heard what Mr Atkins said in his statement.
Q. Well, if he put the story through to the back bench, does that mean he formed part of the production chain, as it were?
A. If he was on if he was in the role of news editor, but he wasn't. He was merely helping move copy through. He didn't write and story and he wasn't involved in it
Q. In its writing, but was he involved in its editing in the broadest sense?
A. No, he wasn't. He was literally a reporter who had or who had helped support the news desk on that particular day.
Q. So why is his byline on it?
A. It shouldn't have been. It really shouldn't have been. It's just one of those things. It shouldn't have been.
Q. A final question: do you think it is important that bylines are accurate?
A. I do. I do, and that shouldn't have happened. But in the heat of you know, newspapers work under enormous pressure and have to make very quick decisions a lot of the time when things get put through and he might have answered some I don't know. I don't know why it was put on, but it was a mistake and it shouldn't have happened. MR BARR Thank you. Those are all my questions. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you very much. Can I just ask you one of the questions I asked Mr Wallace: do you think that the interest in papers such as the Sunday Mirror would be diminished or the type of stories that you write would be reduced by the sort of approach to propriety and the ethics that we talked about being rather more clearly enforced?
A. I'm not sure, because obviously here, for all the right reasons, we're hearing all the negatives about the paper, but I actually think that my staff are sort of very businesslike, professional and ethical in their conduct. Of course over a period of time there will be you can find the worst examples. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But on that basis, the answer to my question is no, it wouldn't be different.
A. Exactly. No, it wouldn't be different. I'm wary of a constant log that people have to fill in, because I think it restricts just free flow of information, because people are wary just wary of things being written down about them, and the other more practical reason that you operate at a very fast pace and if we record conversations all the time, which is something I know you brought up with other editors LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The only log that I'm actually contemplating is in relation to these difficult decisions. If you're provided with a story about a news story which doesn't involve doing any more than gathering the news, and of course commenting on it, as you're entitled to do, then the story will speak for itself. If you've been given information by a person about themselves, then again there is no internal dialogue that's necessary. But if you are deciding: is this appropriate to publish for public interest, what is the balance?
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Which you've said occasionally happens
A. It happens very frequently, actually, weighing up the balance on the public interest, I'd say. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And should I publish should I do something
A. Subterfuge, yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Subterfuge or whatever. Why would it be so problematic?
A. Only because most of the main planks of stories do have elements of risk somewhere where you might not even know it's going to come. So to have to write an ongoing sort of audit of the dialogue between people on those stories, I just don't think we'd have the resource to do it. On the subterfuge calls, I agree with you, because actually I think it's mutually beneficial. You can illustrate that you really had considered the public interest. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You see, talk about the big stories. Take the Ferdinand story. You made it clear that actually you worried about that for some little time.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Would it have been so problematic for you to say, "Right, I have decided in the end, having thought about it "
A. No, it wouldn't be and my only concern would be: would that be legally disclosable? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But wouldn't it help you if it was?
A. Well, not well, actually, the way I've seen, you know, most counsel use material, they would in fact you'd risk that they'd infer a meaning that actually they were really alive to the fact that they shouldn't have done it in the first place, and so I'd be very cautious of what I put in that log for it being exploited by the LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, on the basis that then lawyers will come along and
A. Yes, which is LORD JUSTICE LEVESON twist what you say?
A. I'm sure they wouldn't do that, but there's a risk, sir, that that could happen. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, well
A. It LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The trouble is that if you don't have something, then you risk the line: "Well, you've made all this up later. This wasn't what you were thinking about at all. You just thought this was a wonderful story. You didn't give a monkeys about his privacy and you never thought about it." Whereas if you say, "Well, actually, I did, and this was my reasoning
A. Yes. No, there is very good reason to do it. I'm just highlighting concerns LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand.
A. which spring to mind, as you've just mentioned, but I can see the arguments for doing it. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand. Thank you. Thank you very much.
A. Thank you very much. MR BARR Sir, our next witness is Mr Penman. MR ANDREW WILLIAM PENMAN (affirmed) Questions by MR BARR MR BARR Mr Penman, you've provided an eight-page witness statement to the Inquiry. Are the contents of your statement true and correct to the best of your knowledge and belief?
A. They are, yes.
Q. Thank you. The topic of your witness statement is the subject of prior notice.
A. Yes.
Q. You tell us that you write the Penman and Sommerlad Investigate column in the Daily Mirror, which first appeared in January 1997.
A. Under a different name then. We had slightly different personnel at the time.
Q. And the purpose of the column broadly is to conduct consumer investigations into wrongs which have been alleged by the readership?
A. In the main, yes.
Q. You explain that in 2010 the column won the Cudlipp Prize for excellence in tabloid journalism presented at the annual awards ceremony by the Press Gazette. You have been shortlisted four times. You've twice won the Consumer Journalist of the Year award presented by the Trading Standards Institute, an award which is open to journalists in any media. Your statement is being taken as read and has been considered by the Inquiry, so I won't go through it all, but in short, you explain to us some of the problems that you had in practice tracking down people who are fraudsters.
A. Yes, certainly. Fraudsters, by their nature, tend to make it hard to be found, not just by journalists like me but possibly by the police or trading standards, and not least by the people they've ripped off, who are likely to be quite unhappy. Some can go to great lengths to hide, others are less successful. My concern about prior notification is that if it becomes an obligation to contact someone before you write about them, then the crooks, who are most successful at going to ground, are the ones you won't be able to write about. It also follows, I think, that they are the ones who have been the most successful rip-off artists because they then have the wherewithal to, for example, incorporate their company overseas or set up overseas PO Boxes or even be physically based overseas. I was going to give you a quick example of two people running the same scam. One was quite easy to track down, another very hard. There was a more successful one who had made millions of pounds by ripping off the public who had fled overseas with his money. Very briefly, the situation was this. It's a fairly modern scam and a rampant one. It's called land-banking. The FSA estimates that the public loss is about ?200 million. Late last year, I looked at this issue and I found actually I found three people who had been running land-banking scams, which, very briefly, involve selling plots of fields to the public, saying that the value will rocket when the land gets planning permission for, say, housing. This never happens and the poor investors are left with worthless bits of field somewhere in the country. I found the directors of three directors of two companies that had been put into compulsory liquidation in the High Court in the public interest in various parts of the UK, partly because they were stupid enough to have personal licence plates on their cars, which made them a little bit easier to find than might otherwise have been the case. There was a director of a fourth company, and this particular company had ripped off the public for around ?20 million. That's not my guess; that's the figure given by the liquidator of the company, and the inspanidual, the sole director, had done a bunk. He'd left to a last heard of by the liquidator in Cyprus and even the liquidator had no the liquidator had met him in Cyprus but in neutral territory, it was a hotel, and had no further contact details for this person, and I certainly had no way at all of getting in contact with him. So if prior notification is going to become the law, the result will be: I could have run a story about those first three directors who I found and contacted, but not about the fourth director, who was the biggest offender and who ripped off the public for the largest sum of money.
Q. If we accept the principle, for the purposes of argument, that giving fraudsters advance notification is difficult and sometimes impossible, and the better the fraudster, very often the better hidden he is as well, you raise a concern about compulsory prior notification. You then go on to discuss in your statement and I'm looking now at paragraph 17 the possibility of having some exemption, if there was, against your wishes, compulsory prior notification, and you discuss the sorts of bodies that might need an opt-out: the Advertising Standards Authority, the Office of Fair Trading, district councils, parish councils and so on. We see that it might not be an altogether easy solution. Can I suggest this to you for your consideration: one of the things you do say in your statement is you generally do give prior notice, don't you?
A. Yes.
Q. Would it be right to say that you give notice when you can?
A. Yes. Yes, in the main.
Q. And very often, it actually elicits more information for you?
A. Oh, contacting the alleged culprit who we have had complaints about from our readers or even wider members of the public, yes, proves very fruitful on occasions.
Q. Very often it seems to be a pattern you find them driving very expensive cars?
A. Routinely, yes.
Q. So if your desire is to give prior notification and that is the normal practice where you can find people, would you object to a system which required prior notification except where that was either impossible or not reasonably practicable or had some similar qualification?
A. The phrase "reasonably practical" fills me with horror. I mean, is this going to be a lawyer's dream, where we can argue in court ad infinitum about what's considered reasonable or practical? I fear it being made compulsory under really any circumstances.
Q. If it's not made compulsory, isn't the problem that people whose privacy is invaded wrongly have no opportunity to prevent that invasion of privacy in advance?
A. I should say first of all this is an area of journalism that doesn't so much concern me. I write about crooks and conmen and I would always argue there's a public interest defence for how and when I contact them, if at all.
Q. But there may be cases where you contact them and they're able to prove their innocence?
A. In which case we wouldn't run the story.
Q. Indeed, but in which case prior notification serves a very valuable purpose.
A. Well, it would have done, but those are circumstances I've not come across.
Q. So accepting that in striking a balance between privacy and prior notification and the practical problems that can emerge, particularly in your line of work
A. Yes.
Q. isn't some qualification such as whether it's possible or practicable, even if that has been decided in a contentious case by some form of tribunal or judge isn't that a reasonable compromise?
A. Well, I don't know. We're still left with the difficult position that anyone can attempt to avoid publicity which they don't want simply by making themselves uncontactable. Wouldn't that be the net result?
Q. On that test, if the person was uncontactable, and you tried and you can't contact them or you've made reasonable efforts to find them and can't, then you would be able to publish without prior notification.
A. Yes. Again, I'm just concerned by the word "reasonable". I mean, if you take, for example this is quite a common situation I come across. Readers complain that they bought something off a business that's web-based only and their money's been taken and they haven't got their goods and can't get a refund and I'll have a look at the website and you click the "Contact us" button and you get no contact details at all. This is fairly common. You've probably seen it yourself. All you get is a blank form to fill out to put in your contact details and press "send" with your comments, and you hope the company will see it and they may or may not get back to you. If we're going to argue, does that mean I'm being reasonable in attempting to contact them? They might say, "Look, we get 8,000 emails a day. How can you expect us " LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All of them complaining? That's pretty good evidence.
A. Indeed. If mine's just one query amongst lots of other complaints, then they could reasonably, a lawyer might argue they could argue that I didn't fairly try to contact them.
Q. Not argue successfully though, in those circumstances.
A. I don't know. I would never like to say what a court might find. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I think we've got the point. MR BARR Thank you very much. I have no more questions. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The critical significance of your evidence, it seems to me, Mr Penman, is that you are engaged in a very worthwhile occupation, namely protecting the consumer rights of readers, and therefore you want to be able to do that as effectively as you can and in as untrammelled a way as you can?
A. Well, that's I do, but that's to look at it slightly selfishly. I'm genuinely worried though that there is a public interest right here. We've heard a lot about the right to privacy, quite understandably. I do think there's something about the rights to publicity call it free speech, if you like which is if someone's been the victim of an injustice, I believe they have the right not just to tell their close families or mates down the pub; they have a right to shout it from the rooftops, and that's where the press can come in. So if the press is stifled, then the public are stifled. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I don't actually think that anybody was thinking about stifling the press or the public in relation to disclosing acts of moral obloquy or criminality.
A. Though I do fear that if prior notification becomes compulsory LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, I've got the point.
A. Okay. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you.
A. Thank you. MR BARR Sir, the next witness is Mr Embley. MR LLOYD WILLIAM EMBLEY (sworn) Questions by MR BARR MR BARR Good afternoon. Could you give the Inquiry your full name, please?
A. Lloyd William Embley.
Q. You've provided two witness statements. To the best of your knowledge and belief, are the contents true and correct?
A. Yes.
Q. You tell us that you are currently the editor of the People and you assumed the position of acting editor in November 2007?
A. That's correct.
Q. When you were appointed as acting editor of the People in November 2007, were you given any particular training for that role?
A. No.
Q. Were you given any training when your position as editor was confirmed?
A. No.
Q. Were you given any briefings or instructions particular to your role as editor?
A. As both acting and being made editor, confirmed as editor, I had a conversation with the chief executive and when I was made acting editor, I had a conversation with the chairman.
Q. You tell us that you had a production background in your career prior to becoming editor
A. At the Daily Mirror, yes. Before that, eight years in regional newspapers, but at the Daily Mirror.
Q. And you explained to us what production means, which is, for example, deciding where to place stories in the papers, how to project the story, writing headlines, selecting the pictures, drawing the pages, rewriting the copy to fit the projection, checking facts and details and taking information feeds from a number of different sources; is that right?
A. That's correct.
Q. We've seen some examples of headlines and a lack of fact-checking causing problems. One was the Charlotte Church story, the Marry-oke(?) headline and the following story, which, I think you would accept, turned out to be completely false?
A. I do accept that and we carried an apology. Proceedings are active as well. I just point that out.
Q. Indeed. Can I ask you this: what was it that went wrong that led to an inaccurate story being printed with the headline "Marry-oke"?
A. Ultimately the decision that having put in a number of calls to Charlotte Church's representatives and not hearing back, at approximately 5 o'clock on a Saturday afternoon I made the decision to go ahead with the story. My mistake.
Q. Was it a single source
A. Single source. I based my decision on the fact that the reporter, the freelance reporter who had provided the story was someone of extremely good reputation, a former chief reporter of the Daily Mirror who had been a provider of stories in the past but had never posed a problem, I believe from the same source, and on that basis I made the decision to carry on the story. Clearly that was incorrect.
Q. So the difficulty arose from relying on a single source and not having actually made contact with the subject?
A. Made contact; not having heard back. Several answerphone messages were left.
Q. So on reflection, presumably the answer would have been to leave it for the next weekend and to get in touch in the meantime?
A. That would seem to be the right course of action, especially as Charlotte is obviously after damages of up to ?100,000 now, so presumably the ?100,000 she didn't get from Mr Murdoch's birthday party singing. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Be careful, Mr Embley.
A. Sorry. Also, just to point out, we did ask Charlotte's people whether we could go to a third party, ie. a QC, and decide as to whether asking someone if you wanted to marry them was defamatory or not, and clearly it's but proceedings are active so perhaps we should leave it there.
Q. What I'm going to ask you about next is not about the substance of whether or not it was libellous, but this. It's about the timing of the apology. I think there was an apology issued, wasn't there, the day before Charlotte Church gave evidence to this Inquiry?
A. That's correct, yes.
Q. Was the timing coincidental or not?
A. The timing was based on the fact that the story happened, unfortunately from my perspective, embarrassingly, only a few weeks before the Inquiry started, and the decision was taken by me that it was more important we were trying to get agreement with Charlotte Church's lawyers on wording of an apology, et cetera, et cetera. They weren't happy but I took the view that it was better to put something in to correct the facts of the story, at least, and down the line we can decide what needs to happen between us and Charlotte's lawyers.
Q. So is it right that the apology that was issued was a unilateral one at the time and not an agreed one?
A. Correct.
Q. Moving to now, the next section of your statement deals with financial commercial pressure and incentives.
A. Yes.
Q. Do you ever discuss and I use the word "discuss" deliberately; I'm not suggesting anybody's telling you what to do the line the paper takes, the editorial line, with the board?
A. No.
Q. Do you ever discuss it with advertisers?
A. No, although I do meet with advertisers.
Q. And shareholders?
A. No.
Q. You explain buying an exclusive story doesn't always guarantee a circulation lift, so a sense of balance is required when considering buying such stories, and you say that in terms of the title's profit and loss account, the biggest impact you have is managing costs?
A. Correct.
Q. If you have to keep costs down in order to keep profit up, does it mean that you have to be careful about how much you spend and the lengths you go to check a story out?
A. I'm not sure I follow the question.
Q. Do you have to be careful about how much you spend checking a story out?
A. How much a spend checking a story out?
Q. Yeah.
A. No.
Q. Could you take the view that it's just going to be too expensive to get to the bottom of whether a story is true and accurate and therefore decide not to pursue it?
A. I can't think of an occasion where that's happened.
Q. Do you get circulation boosts ever from exclusive stories?
A. Yes, and not necessarily exclusive stories. Sometimes stories. They may not be exclusive. Jimmy Savile's unfortunate death was not by any means an exclusive story. I put it on the front page; others didn't. I received a circulation lift.
Q. So what is it, in your opinion, that keeps circulation high?
A. Well, it's a combination of things. You build up loyalty over a period of time. Marketing is the most effective tool for a weekly spike, as we would call it, but a good story can occasionally sell extra copies, of course, yes, and in some cases a lot of extra. Richard Hammond for example, when I was at the Mirror, Richard Hammond's near death sold a lot of copies, as did Paul Burrell.
Q. Can I ask now about the PCC. Do you have a view about whether or not the PCC or whatever body should regulate the press in the future should have more teeth?
A. I believe it should have more teeth, yes.
Q. What teeth do you have in mind?
A. "Teeth" I think probably means money.
Q. So fines?
A. There needs to be some kind of fines system, I think. That has to be yeah, some kind of contract, possibly, between us clearly, all publishers have to be involved. What we have at the moment obviously doesn't stand up to a great deal of scrutiny because we have one publisher who is out of it.
Q. What do you advocate is the best mechanism for ensuring that everyone is included?
A. I think a contractual obligation is probably the solution I have in my mind at the moment. Whether that's the right one or not, I don't know. Of course, if someone says no, I don't quite know I haven't, in my mind, got to where we are with someone who says, "No, I don't want to join, I'm not signing the contract."
Q. So you recognise there may be some shortcomings with that?
A. Well, clearly, yes, but the overriding view as far as I'm concerned is that we have to get everybody involved.
Q. How is independence guaranteed? Independence both from government and from being seen as a regulator which is just far too close to the press?
A. Whatever the new body is I think needs to have more than one arm, for sure. It would be dangerous if there were not some current journalists involved in the process. Apart from anything else, particularly when you talk about the popular press, I'm not sure there are necessarily past journalists out there who you would want on the body anyway necessarily because time has passed and the way we operate has changed so much. So I think there needs to be some kind of representation of current editorial. Having said that, that may be a far less important part of the new body and not connected to, possibly, the other arms. The arm that may be responsible for fines, for example.
Q. You say towards the end of paragraph 21 of your witness statement, Mr Embley, page 5
A. My first witness statement?
Q. Yes. I'm reading the last two sentences of paragraph 21: "In my opinion, the regulatory framework has been subjected to recent criticism as a result of a series of events that happened some time ago (and which also led to the establishment of this Inquiry). In my experience there has not been a failure to act on previous warnings about media misconduct." I'd like to ask you to reflect on that statement for a moment.
A. Yes.
Q. It was rather a long time before I was born, at least, the Royal Commission in the immediate post war years. We then have had Calcutt. Since then we've had the ICO writing about data protection issues and now we've had the hacking scandal.
A. Yes.
Q. Even as long ago as the 1980s, the media was described as being in the last-chance saloon. In the early 1990s, the PCC was said not to be working properly. Nevertheless, the system continued but we've had the scandals we have had. Is it really your considered view that there has not been a failure to act on previous warnings?
A. Perhaps incorrectly, but this last sentence here, as all of my statement does, relates to my time as editor of the People. That's
Q. And we should understand it in that context?
A. Indeed, and if you put it in that context, I would still completely stand by it. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I wonder, Mr Embley. Your statement was dated 14 October, so you did it quite timeously with my request and I'm very grateful, but since 14 October, you've heard three months of what I've been listening to. Has what I've been listening to changed your view about this at all?
A. In my experience, since I've been editor of a newspaper, I have not experienced anything, so therefore, if it did happen in the past and clearly it was in some publications it's not now. Therefore, there has been learning and there has been an improvement in behaviour. That's what I was trying to say. Perhaps not for MR BARR Looking at the historic picture and the media in general, do you think that there has been a historic failure to act on warnings?
A. Possibly, yes.
Q. So far as your own newspaper is concerned we can come to the details in a little while, but so far as the ICO's reports in 2006, shortly before you became editor
A. Yes.
Q. was there any investigation by the People of whether or not transactions by People journalists with Mr Whittamore were legal or illegal?
A. As you say, I became acting editor in November 2007.
Q. But do you know whether or not there was any investigation?
A. I do not know. I do not know.
Q. Did anything change as a result of the ICO's reports?
A. I think, as we've heard, there was a meeting or two with the chief executive and the then editors, of which obviously I wasn't one, where the zero tolerance policy was made clear. So in my time, certainly, we have not used private investigators.
Q. In terms of the hacking scandal, as that broke, what was done on your newspaper to deal with that as an industry issue?
A. What was done on it?
Q. Yes.
A. In terms of
Q. Can you tell me whether anything was done?
A. No. I do not believe any hacking has occurred on my newspaper. I'm certainly not aware of any. I've never asked anyone to hack a telephone. I've never seen anyone hack a telephone. I've never heard anyone else ask anyone else to hack a telephone.
Q. That wasn't quite my question. My question was really directed at whether your newspaper did anything to prevent such occurrences.
A. No, because I was reassured in myself that it wasn't occurring.
Q. So when you say that there's not been a failure to act on previous warnings, you're really saying nothing's been done, but you don't think anything needed to be done?
A. Certainly since I've been editor, that would be my view, yes.
Q. You go on to tell us a little bit about the People. You sell 800,000 copies or thereabouts every Sunday. You have a readership of 1.8 million, an average age of reader of 52. Like your sister papers, you run campaigns.
A. Yes.
Q. You explain some of those to us, particularly those concerning energy and saving at the great British high street. Unlike your sister papers, you're politically independent in alignment?
A. We are now, yes.
Q. You tell us that that is the case having historically supported Labour and you tell us that you took that decision personally.
A. I did.
Q. Can I ask you a bit about how that decision took place? Did you tell any member of the board that you were proposing to change the allegiance of
A. I spoke to the chief executive about it.
Q. Did you speak to anybody else on the board?
A. No.
Q. Did you speak to shareholders?
A. No.
Q. Did you speak to advertisers?
A. Not before. Afterwards I did, as part of my because it was part of a wider relaunch of the entire paper. So having relaunched the paper, part of which was to move it to being politically independent, I then went and made presentations to 10 or 12 media buying agencies, at which point it was discussed, yes.
Q. I see. So before the decision was made, you're saying that it was your decision, one which you consulted the chief executive about?
A. That's correct.
Q. Was the chief executive supportive of the decision?
A. Yes.
Q. If the chief executive had not been supportive of the decision, what would have happened?
A. I guess I probably would have tried to argue my case more strongly.
Q. And if that had failed?
A. I don't know. That's a matter of supposition. She was completely supportive from the start.
Q. Really, do you not know? If the chief executive had not wanted the paper to change allegiance, would you really have tried to force it through?
A. I would have argued my case, yes. We're in the grounds of sort of complete hypothesis now, because she didn't.
Q. I appreciate she didn't in this case. I want to ask you
A. She's sitting over there.
Q. I know, and she's going to be the next witness, but I want to ask you: if the answer had been that she was dead against it
A. Ultimately, if my boss completely and utterly says no, it's not a good idea, and there's a risk to then I wouldn't have done it, no. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Who is responsible for the editorial decisions of your paper?
A. Me. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Right, thank you. MR BARR Contact with politician. You explain that you have had a number of meetings with politicians during your time as editor, including the leaders of the main political parties. Can you give us some idea of frequency with which you've met party leaders?
A. Incredibly infrequently.
Q. Has it been at your instigation or at theirs?
A. Theirs, I would say, and several of them one with David Cameron was also with the chief executive and Richard Wallace and Tina Weaver and Mr Coulson, and Nick Clegg I have had lunch with in the boardroom at Trinity Mirror along with editors from the regions. We regularly have lunches where regional editors are invited down to speak to politicians, meet with politicians, and because of the political independence of the People, I am often invited to those as well.
Q. So in terms of high level politicians, not necessarily party leaders but ministers and shadow ministers, what sort of frequency do you see them?
A. Very, very infrequently.
Q. When you do meet senior politician, what are you seeking from them in general terms?
A. I am not seeking anything from them. My move to political independence, I think, says quite a lot about where I stand on my view is that I represent and my paper represents the views of its readers, and my view on why I moved it to be politically independent is because I think politics has changed so much and the parties are so closely aligned on so many policy issues that it seems wrong to me just to follow one party. I felt it enabled me to stand up for my readers best. I'm not after anything from meeting with a politician.
Q. What do you think they were seeking from you then?
A. Probably some feedback about what our readers were thinking. That's normally if I take the lunches in the boardroom, for example, that is always the question that they ask, particularly of the regional editors, but that is always what they want to know: "What are your readers thinking about this, that or the other?"
Q. Were you not, as the last witness but one said, looking for stories?
A. Not in those kind of situations, no.
Q. Has the move in alignment to a more neutral stance
A. Completely neutral.
Q. Completely neutral. I want to draw an analogy between your position as a neutral editor and the floating voter. Have you got a lot more attention from the politicians interested in trying to influence your view on particular policies one way or the other?
A. I don't think so. But my political editor I have a very longstanding highly regarded political editor, something which perhaps came as a bit of surprise to a lot of people. A lot of people thought the People didn't have one because politics didn't feature highly in the paper, but he's been there for 26, 27 years, and I think he could answer that better than me whether he's had more attention. I think possibly yes.
Q. Can I move on to the question of contact with police. You say on the same page I'm looking at paragraph 35 of your statement: "If a story being worked on requires police reaction, we will make contact through the relevant force's press office."
A. Yes.
Q. What happens if you want more than a reaction, if you want information? How do you go about getting that?
A. The same way. I don't have a crime correspondent and I have very few staff, so either a crime story a moving crime story. I'm trying to think of an example. Raul Moat. So official calls to the local press office and reporters on the ground knocking on doors.
Q. For the purposes of your title, do you find that the press office system works well?
A. I think that my news desk and reporters would say it varies considerably according to the police forces. Some far more than others.
Q. Have you ever had lunch with a serving chief constable?
A. Possibly in about 1989, I think, Northamptonshire, possibly.
Q. Yes I get the picture, thank you.
A. Yeah.
Q. Can we move now, please, to compliance on your paper with both the law and the code of practice. Am I right in thinking there's no compliance officer as such?
A. That's correct.
Q. Do you think a compliance officer would be a good idea?
A. Yes, I think it probably would be.
Q. Does your paper offer ongoing training to its journalists?
A. In some areas, yes. Well, the company rather than the paper.
Q. I see. Does that include ethical training?
A. If training on, for example, changes in relation to the Bribery Act could come under ethical training, which it probably could do, yes.
Q. Do you have any system for recording and auditing ethical or legal problems? Do you keep track of them in any way?
A. I now have a weekly meeting with the paper's lawyer to discuss all legal issues and we have very recently introduced with relation to public interest defence, we have introduced a system where we will now start keeping a record from the moment a public interest defence is
Q. Are these actions arising from the recent review carried out
A. Yes.
Q. at board level?
A. Yes, correct.
Q. Before that, did you have any way of auditing and recording legal and ethical problems?
A. Well, the legal department would obviously record the legal issues. But no, that's an improvement in our working.
Q. On the question of prior notice, do you have a view as to where the balance lies?
A. I think I'm with the European Court, that it's so that everything the nature of stories is so varied that I can't see it working in practice.
Q. As the chairman pointed out earlier, what they found was it wasn't a breach of Article 10 not to give prior notice.
A. Right. I wasn't I missed that, sorry.
Q. In practice, do you give prior notice whenever you can?
A. Generally, yes.
Q. For what reasons do you withhold it?
A. I can't actually think of an example where we have withheld it, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it wouldn't occur.
Q. Do you have a corrections column?
A. Yes.
Q. Where is it?
A. It is now on page 2, as is the way with all the Trinity Mirror titles. It was previously I did previously have a letters page, which I had very far forward in the paper in fact, I say that in my statement, but since then I have actually, through space constraints, actually moved the letters page back. But the corrections and clarifications column has moved onto page 2.
Q. I see. If we move on to editorial decision-making. You give us various examples of the decisions you have made. You tell us about the decision you made in a case involving Mr Huhne's private life.
A. Yes.
Q. Then you tell us about an example of a 13-year-old alleged father, Mr Patten.
A. Alfie, yes.
Q. At 55, you tell us how you followed up the Sun's break of that story
A. Yes.
Q. by questioning whether Mr Patten was indeed a father and running a story headlined "I want a DNA test".
A. Correct.
Q. Can I just ask you: did you consult Mr Patten before running that headline?
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Are we talking about the 13-year-old boy or his father?
A. His father. MR BARR Strictly speaking I should say Master Patten.
A. We spoke to both of them.
Q. You spoke to both of them?
A. Yes.
Q. Were they both supportive of that story?
A. Yes.
Q. Before publication?
A. Yes.
Q. If the position had been otherwise, would your judgment call have been different?
A. I wouldn't have had the story to run. The story was based on speaking to both Alfie and his father.
Q. Finally, you give an example of pole-dancing children and you tell us you decided it was in the public interest to publish the story but you thought it was appropriate, because children were involved, to black out and pixelate the faces of the children and their parents?
A. Yes, to protect the identity of those who didn't yeah.
Q. Did you have any complaints as a result of that story?
A. No.
Q. When it comes to sources we've already had one example of a single source story how common are single source stories on your newspaper?
A. They are quite common, but more often than not we try to find a second source.
Q. Quite common? Are they a minority or a majority?
A. To start off with, it's probably a majority. By the time the story gets into the press, one would hope it would be a minority. It's always better to have more than one source. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Some stories don't need a second source. Your discussion with Mr Patten and his son
A. Absolutely. They were the LORD JUSTICE LEVESON They are the story.
A. They very much were the story, yes. MR BARR Moving on your dealings with photographers, in paragraph 61, you tell us that you spend more money on photographs than you do on text?
A. Yes, I think I probably we spend more if I added together my news and features budgets, actually that is slightly more than pictures, so I apologise for that error, but the department with the biggest single budget, which is what I probably should have said, is the pictures.
Q. Given its importance, can you tell us about the checks that are in place, if any, to ensure that a photograph that you publish has not been taken in intrusive circumstances?
A. My picture editor, as you are aware, has submitted a statement, and goes into quite some which I think is probably in here as well goes into quite some detail
Q. From your editor's point of view
A. From my point of view, I will be speaking to the picture desk about any pictures that they put up in conference and I would say every week there are two, three, four, five sets of pictures that maybe get shown in conference that are ruled out simply on the grounds of intrusion. Probably more.
Q. Is that a phenomenon which is a recent one or has that been the case for a long time?
A. No, that's been the case since I've been there. We have a slightly different way of doing it now because we now have a computer mounted on the wall so that in conference we can all see the pictures that are being discussed. Previously I didn't have that and it was printouts that were handed around, but same principle.
Q. Are you prepared to publish stories without knowing the source?
A. I did in the case of Charlotte Church.
Q. Is that something that you do occasionally, frequently or
A. Very occasionally, and it would be dependent on having and utter confidence and faith in the person who has submitted the story.
Q. Again, like the last editor we heard from, in paragraph 62, you say: "The final decision can sometimes be a matter of gut instinct based on years of experience." Again, can I ask you: are you there saying that you lob it in if it feels right, or are you referring to a more sophisticated exercise of judgment?
A. We definitely do not lob it in. We agonise.
Q. You published a story which you tell us about at paragraphs 65 and 66 of your witness statement.
A. Yes.
Q. About a man who had fathered a large number of children by a number of mothers that was almost as large.
A. Yes.
Q. I think probably I ought to mention you did that despite the fact the father cannot want to give you his side of the story?
A. He didn't want to talk about it, no, that's correct. But his mother did.
Q. Yes, the mother wants to talk about it. His mother?
A. Yes, his mother, who was desperate to stop him, I think.
Q. But he didn't, so you made the decision to intrude into his privacy on the basis of what you had. Can you explain to us what your analysis was of where the public interest lay in that case?
A. In terms of going ahead and publishing?
Q. What you've chosen to do there is you've chosen to expose the private life of the father in order to hold him up to moral censure, haven't you?
A. Yes, because his mother and mothers of the children involved I think have every right to freedom of expression, and that's exactly what we did. It hasn't worked, because he's had another one since.
Q. Were there any complaints about that story?
A. No.
Q. You tell us that sometimes politicians write in your paper in return for payment.
A. Occasionally.
Q. Is there any editing or control of the stories which they write in your paper, or do they have completely free reign?
A. On the rare occasion that a politician would write, we would have probably we probably would have invited them to write on a specific subject.
Q. And when they do that
A. There are a couple of occasions where a politician, I think I think an acting politician has written the political editor's weekly column in his absence, where they would have a little bit more of a free reign, but I can only think of a couple of occasions, and it may be past politicians, actually, not acting ones.
Q. When they write on a subject, do you get into a debate about altering what they've written or do you just let them write
A. No, I don't get into any such debate.
Q. Can we move now to the detail of the ICO reports. If we turn to tab 13, please, page 10 of 13, which is a table.
A. Yes.
Q. We see that your paper is listed there.
A. Yes.
Q. With 37 transactions and 19 journalists. You've already confirmed to me that as far as you're
A. Sorry, page 10 of tab
Q. Tab 13.
A. Yeah.
Q. RJT2.
A. I'm a page behind, I'm sorry.
Q. There should be a table there. Do you have that?
A. I have a table, but I'm not sure the numbers relate to the numbers that you've just told me.
Q. If you move down the left-hand column and find the did People
A. Yes: "Number of transactions positively identified: 802." LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Page 336 in the bottom right-hand corner.
A. Yes.
Q. You're looking, I think, at the Sunday People, aren't you?
A. I beg your pardon, right. Keep going down, the People.
Q. The Sunday People was 802, 50; the People are 37, 19. Of course The People and The Sunday People are the same paper but different points in time.
A. Hence my confusion, sorry.
Q. You've already explained to me that this was before your time as editor and to the best of your knowledge no investigation was done. I put to the other editors that given that the question is whether or not there was a public interest defence in these cases, it appears that the Sunday People and the People together having 839 transactions, it seems rather unlikely, doesn't it, that they all had public interest?
A. I've no idea. These numbers relate to prior to 2003? Is that correct?
Q. Yes.
A. I was on the Mirror and I became, as I said, acting editor November 2007. I have no idea, I'm afraid.
Q. Can you help us: from your time on the Mirror, did you know about the use of Mr Whittamore?
A. Not at all, no.
Q. Now, I understand that you might be able to help us with the publication of photographs involving the royals, and that you were recently offered photographs and had to make a judgment about whether to publish them?
A. There's a couple of examples recently where I have been offered pictures, one of Kate and one of William and Kate. The William and Kate was Thursday of last week and I was offered exclusively pictures of them walking along the beach in North Wales. I spoke to St James' Palace myself on Friday and was told that they were that the palace had serious concerns about use of the pictures, particularly because they were concerned that the photographer involved had been, in their words, following/stalking William and particularly Kate, and on that basis I didn't use the pictures.
Q. Do you know whether anybody else has?
A. Well, they were purchased for quite a considerable sum of money by People no relation People magazine in the United States, and I believe other publications as well and are on the Internet, which I still think it was the right thing not to publish but in terms of how we operate going forward, the palace were very keen to make the point that they don't want people stalking Kate, but clearly if these pictures are being used abroad and substantial sums of money are being paid for them and they're available on the Internet, I don't see how that's going to stop that problem. I believe we did the right thing by not publishing them, but a similar thing happened a few weeks before a couple of months before with Kate in Tesco in Anglesey, I believe, and again, I was offered the pictures. I didn't personally speak to the palace on that occasion but one of my staff did and we received similar advice and we didn't publish the pictures. The Daily Star Sunday did and so did one of the glossy magazines, but I can't remember which one it was. I don't want to get the name wrong. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Who are the picture agencies? Are these sole agencies or inspanidual photographers?
A. Inspanidual photographers. I believe it was the same photographer or the same photographer and a relation of his who are responsible for both of the pictures involved in those cases. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So what can be done about that?
A. I think that by raising it, I think I'm trying to say that it's possible to do the right thing, which I believe we did, but that may not stop the action that the palace have raised as a concern. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand that, which is why I asked the question I did.
A. Yes. I raised it because I think it is a concern. I don't know what the answer is, because obviously we do not have jurisdiction. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It's nothing to do with you. You've just said no.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But
A. As to the wider issue of the Inquiry and clearly the way we operate going forward, it's something we need to think about, and as I said, I don't really have the answer, but it was the palace's particular concern. MR BARR Turn to tab 20 of the bundle.
A. Yes.
Q. This is the witness statement of David Brown, prepared for employment tribunal proceedings.
A. Yes.
Q. In this statement, Mr Brown makes a number of allegations about what was happening on Trinity Mirror titles. He worked for the People, didn't he?
A. Yes, he did. I know it's sounding boring, but before my time.
Q. Did you know him?
A. No.
Q. I see. Are you able to help us at all as to whether or not the allegation that he was sent on the story about Ulrika Johnson on the basis of a hacked phone
A. I'm afraid I'm not, no.
Q. He says that other people's messages were monitored that he names in paragraphs 24 and 25, and various celebrities. Are you able to help us with any of that?
A. Insofar as this document I have only recently seen as a result of the Inquiry. This is the first time I have seen it. I was asked to look into a couple of things to reassure myself that what he said was not an issue for us, and that was by the company secretary. There are very few members of staff left. I did speak to some people and who do still work for us and I am of the view that what he said is incorrect or unsubstantiated. I was unable to shed any light on it at all.
Q. How many people did you speak to?
A. Two.
Q. It's fair to say that you weren't, at this remove in time, able to perform a comprehensive investigation?
A. No, because the people involved
Q. There's an allegation that an agency was used called SUGARbabes to supply male and female models to pose for real life stories.
A. Yes.
Q. During your time as an editor, was that agency used?
A. No, that's one of the things I wanted to check to reassure myself.
Q. You, of course, have been able to assist me to only a limited extent, through no fault of your own, because you weren't there at the time. Can I ask you now about your time at the Mirror.
A. Yes.
Q. You were the assistant night editor in the late 1990s, weren't you?
A. Yes.
Q. That was when Mr Hipwell was working for the detail Mirror?
A. That's correct.
Q. When you were working as the assistant night editor, did you have any contact with the showbusiness team?
A. Only if I were ever writing headlines or drawing pages involved in show very, very rarely. I sat at the other end of the room. I was on the back bench and the showbiz desk was about as far away from that desk as you could possibly get in our office.
Q. Did you see or hear about any phone hacking by the showbusiness team while you were assistant night editor?
A. I didn't. I've never seen any phone hacking.
Q. Am I right that part of your function as assistant night editor, as you set out at the beginning of your statement about the production function, includes checking and sources?
A. Not sources, no.
Q. Checking of sources?
A. No.
Q. So what does it involve?
A. It production roles, however senior they are I think at the time I was probably about number three or number four on the back bench, as we call it. Before I joined the People, I was head of production at the Daily Mirror and as I tried to explain, but perhaps not brilliantly, our main role is prominence and projection, but nothing to do with provenance.
Q. So it was no part of your role
A. It is not part of the job.
Q. If it was not obvious what the source of the story was
A. No, it's not part of the job.
Q. Can I now ask you, on a fairly limited basis, for the reasons outlined this morning, about your second statement which deals with Ms Jellema's conversations
A. Yes.
Q. with Mr Atkins.
A. Yes.
Q. I'm sure you're familiar with what Ms Jellema is recorded as having said about the PCC?
A. I am.
Q. Do you share that view of the PCC?
A. As I say in my statement, I absolutely do not.
Q. Does it bother you that one of your reporters appears to have said that about the PCC?
A. Yes, and when I saw it, again, as I say in my statement, I was really rather angry. I immediately called in my department heads. I made them watch it. This was, I think, in October, so the first I knew of it. Sarah Jellema had already left the paper by this point. I showed the clip to my department heads and I, in no uncertain terms, told them to go out and make sure that no one else is of that opinion.
Q. Kiss-and-tell stories. I'm looking at tab 4. Page 16 of 29.
A. Yes.
Q. Paragraph 80 says: "A later scene in the film on this topic looked at how kiss-and-tell stories are often engineered by tabloid news desks. We looked at the case study of Amy, who was encouraged by The People to sleep with certain celebrities in return for payment. This was while Amy was addicted to cocaine and alcohol and Amy claims that The People editors used her addiction to manipulate her into sleeping with particular celebrities in return for money to feed her habits. In an interview used in the film, Dave Reid, who represented minor celebrities as well as kiss-and-tell girls, called this side of the industry 21st century prostitution." Can I ask you: first of all, would you agree that if this happened it was unethical?
A. Yes.
Q. Did it happen?
A. Not this sorry, I'm just trying to familiarise myself and remember again where we are. It certainly hasn't happened while I've been there, and I'm unaware of who Amy is and I'm actually not interested in kiss-and-tell stories particularly anyway, much. It certainly hasn't happened.
Q. I see. And you would condemn it if
A. Completely, 100 per cent.
Q. The film Starsuckers was not covered when it was launched by your title, was it?
A. Probably not.
Q. Why not?
A. If we did have a film column at the time and I'm not 100 per cent sure that we did, but I think we did, at most we would only review two films, and I think they would be mainstream films. MR BARR Those were all the questions that I had for you. Thank you. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You heard the questions that I asked Ms Weaver and Mr Wallace. Is there anything that you want to add on those general topics?
A. No. I think earlier in my testimony I think I probably covered my thoughts as they are at the moment with regard to regulation moving forward. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you very much indeed.
A. Thank you. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON We'll have a five-minute break. (3.40 pm) (A short break) (3.48 pm) MR BARR Our final witness today is Mrs Sly Bailey. MRS SLY BAILEY (sworn) Questions by MR BARR MR BARR Good afternoon, Mrs Bailey.
A. Good afternoon.
Q. Could you look at your witness statement and confirm your full name?
A. Sly Bailey.
Q. Are the contents of your witness statement true and correct to the best of your knowledge and belief?
A. They are, Mr Barr. One amendment I should like to make is that when I submitted the statement to the Inquiry, we published 160 regional newspapers. We now publish 140.
Q. I see. Just before we continue, the microphones seem to be booming quite a lot. Are they working properly? Your witness statement sets out, Mrs Bailey, that you're the chief executive of Trinity Mirror, and it explains that you've been appointed chief executive in December 2002, joining the group on 3 February 2003. Are those dates both correct?
A. They are.
Q. So you became chief executive before joining the group?
A. No. It was announced that I would be, but I wasn't actually appointed to the board until that day in February 2003.
Q. Now I understand. You explain that you joined Trinity Mirror from IPC Media. Your witness statement, which we're going to take as read, sets out your very successful career at IPC up to the time of your appointment at Trinity Mirror and you tell us that as well as being chief executive at Trinity Mirror you're also the non-executive director, or have been at various times, of the EMI Group?
A. Yes.
Q. Now is it Ladbroke plc? And that you're a non-executive director of the Press Association. In addition to that, you're on the panel advising the government to review the BBC's royal charter. You did that in 2006.
A. I was in 2006, correct.
Q. And you're a trustee of the English National Ballet School and the president of a charity, NewstrAid, which assists people in the newspaper and magazine business.
A. NewstrAid, yes.
Q. At Trinity Mirror you explain to us what your role is as chief executive on the board. You sit with Mr Vickers, Mr Vaghela and the non-executive chairman is Ian Gibson. Your responsibility, you tell us, is for developing the group's strategy, and that you have delegated authority from the board to execute that strategy and the group's operations. Your role also covers investor relations, maintaining relationships with key Trinity Mirror customers and suppliers and dealing with public affairs and corporate communications. You tell us also something about who the leading shareholders are. Does that mean that in distinction to some of the newspaper groups we've heard of who have identifiable human proprietors, what distinguishes Trinity Mirror is that there is no single identifiable human proprietor; you are answerable to your shareholders?
A. Yes. I'm human, but I'm also the proprietor.
Q. You are?
A. Yes.
Q. Forgive me. Insofar as you are the human proprietor of Trinity Mirror group, can you help us then with the level of contact that you have with shareholders?
A. Liaising with the shareholders is one of my primary responsibilities. There are at least four times a year which I would formally see shareholders: after our preliminary interim results twice a year, at our and following our trading statement, if shareholders want to see us then. It's customary that as chief executive of a plc, once you've announced your results, you go on something called an investor roadshow, and that I do with my finance director and head of corporate communications. Those are the main meetings that we have with shareholders, where we update them on strategy, the performance of the business and they get the opportunity to raise any issues that they may have with us about the business.
Q. And you meet with major shareholders or talk to major shareholders at other times?
A. From time to time, they may ask for a meeting, either with me or perhaps with the chairman. Good governance certainly would see the Chairman also meeting with shareholders, perhaps on an infrequent but still regular basis. So I'm there to see them whenever they wish to see me.
Q. There's a suggestion in Mr Morgan's book that there might have been attempts by shareholders in 2004, when he lost his position as editor, to pressurise you and the board of Trinity Mirror, particularly from American shareholders, because they didn't like the anti-war stories which were being published by the Daily Mirror at the time. Were there any such attempts to influence
A. No.
Q. the company?
A. No, there weren't. There weren't any at that time from either any UK or indeed American shareholders. It's not anything that I have ever encountered. The only phone call that I ever received, after we'd published those photographs in 2004, was from one shareholder who was interested as to what the advertiser response had been, ie had we lost any advertising as a result of it. But that's the one and only call that I ever received.
Q. Had you lost advertising?
A. No, we hadn't.
Q. As we know, Mr Morgan did lose his position as editor following the publication of those photographs, and that was your decision, was it?
A. It was a board decision, but it was certainly something that I talked to the board about that they supported me in.
Q. And if fell to you to communicate the decision?
A. It certainly did.
Q. Since you've had the experience of having to terminate the employment of the editor of a national newspaper, can I ask you: what are the reasons for terminating Mr Morgan's employment?
A. You can imagine it was an awful time for the business after we had published those photographs. We were literally in a maelstrom of interest in the business and media interest and frankly, it wasn't so much the publishing of the photographs themselves, which I do believe that Mr Morgan did in good faith at the time, but what happened was that in the intervening period the board lost confidence in him as editor, and that was why we fired him and that is exactly what I said to him when I did so.
Q. Because of things that he said and did in that intervening period or was it because of the maelstrom, as you've described it, and the reaction of external bodies?
A. It was a combination of both of them. You'll see in our risk map that we talk about one of the risks being catastrophic editorial error and indeed that was what happened in this case. We did publish an apology. After Piers was dismissed, the team and it was their decision, under the deputy editor at that time published an apology the next day and we lost a lot of readers as a result of that episode, so it was a catastrophic editorial error.
Q. Your statement goes on to tell us a little bit of an overview of Trinity Mirror, something about the size of the operation. You have in the region of 6,350 people. You've altered the number of titles down to about 140 LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It's 145. It's 140 regionals.
A. Regional titles. 160 to 140 since I wrote the statement. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON One of the seminars had a paper from Claire Enders on the commerciality of newspapers. You'll doubtless remember it. We are going to hear some regional editors and I am very conscious that they have a very important story to tell, but without disclosing any commercial confidences, could you elaborate upon the pressures which Trinity Mirror are facing in relation to regional newspapers? I'm conscious that if in a few months you've gone down the number you've gone down, that itself tells its own story.
A. Indeed it does, sir. The pressures on the business over about the last five years have been intense, and the businesses face two challenges. One, which is structural, as we see the growth of new devices you know, first of all we saw the Internet and now we're seeing new tablet device and smart phones and the proliferation of news and information on those sources, and at the same time the business has been under the most intense cyclical pressure as a result of the poor economy. My view is that the cycle has been much worse for us than the structural issues. I think we've coped pretty well with that and were coping pretty well with that. You can see in my statement that we publish more than 500 websites so we have a similar publishing strategy online in our local markets that we traditionally had in print, that what we seek to do is to have the products and services that our readers and advertisers would want to find, whether that's in print or whether that's in digital, and indeed our strategy is to build a growing multi-platform media business. But the important thing to understand are the differences in the business model between nationals and regionals. A national newspaper is predominantly a circulation-driven business certainly tabloid national newspapers, I should qualify that as with traditionally 60 per cent of the revenues coming from circulation from cover price, and that, of course, is driven by the mass of the frequency and the number of copies that we sell at the price that we sell them at. And the advertising is display advertising driven, so large corporates that you would know the names of that traditionally reside on the high street, with very little classified advertising. Regional newspapers and this is the big issue have an inverse business model, where 70 from advertising, only 30 per cent comes from cover price. They're smaller, they're often weekly, so you just don't get the economic effect of the cover price in the same way, and perhaps most instructively in terms of advertising, it traditionally hasn't been display advertising-led; it's traditionally been classified, so the key elements of that being recruitment, property, motors and then community services like births, marriages and deaths. Clearly, as we've seen a worsening of the economy pretty much since 2007, the category that's been hit hardest, which is our highest yielding category which really supports our news-gathering activities, in terms of that's the revenue that we generate to support the business that we're in, is recruitment advertising. So at the peak, we had around ?150 million recruitment advertising supporting our titles, and last year we had less than 20. And when you're facing that happening to a business, then you have to reduce your costs effectively and quickly to ensure that you have a business and that you can come out the other side of that. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And property advertising?
A. Property advertising has less of an impact because it's traditionally been a much lower yielding category. So yes, the same thing has happened in broad terms in terms of the decline, but the real problems for us have been with recruitment advertising. It is an interesting area because I think there's a received wisdom that it's all gone online. Now, clearly some of it has gone online. Indeed, we've been launching and buying businesses in the area of classified recruitment over the last five years, but the majority of the sorts of jobs that you'd have seen if you'd opened the pages of the Liverpool Echo or Newcastle Chronicle would be what we call everyday jobs for everyday people. They're not legal directors or finance directors; they would be jobs in the public and private sector, lower level administrative jobs in the retail sector, baggage handlers if we're near an airport, taxi drivers, hairdressers, and that has all but dried up. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Just gone, full stop? Or
A. You know, I'm sure you read the headlines all the time where there will be a retailer that, you know, is recruiting staff and there will be thousands of people queueing around the block for it. So the liquidity in the market is simply not there to drive the need for clients to advertise for those positions. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But that suggests that that's economy-driven
A. Exactly, so that's LORD JUSTICE LEVESON rather than
A. Exactly. I'm not saying that there aren't any structural issues there. Clearly, there are. What I'm saying is we've built such strong positions in our local markets that we understand an awful lot more about that, and unlike in a property market where there is a dominant player in the form of Rightmove that has emerged in the property market, where you can see there's been a structural shift, there isn't one online dominant player in the recruitment market which would absolutely bear out my thesis that actually this is mostly driven by the cycle and mostly driven by the economy. But clearly the longer the economy is as challenged as it is, and structural change continues to happen, then the less likely that we'll see 100 per cent of that. I believe we'll see some come back but it won't come back in the way it was. That has been the primary issue, is the it's almost like a falling knife that's been getting sharper on the way down as we have gone through the cycle and we're bumping along the bottom but it's yet to improve. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON This might be a little bit away from the core concerns that I have in this Inquiry, but I am concerned to know whether there is any structural change that would assist what I believe is a vital part of local democracy which is provided by local newspapers.
A. The best thing that we can do is to remain profitable so that we can come out the other side of that. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, I don't think I can make a recommendation to that effect.
A. No, but clearly in good times what happens is in terms of portfolio management, where you're looking for maximum economic return in any market, then you will push out in geographies and you will launch new titles, new websites, and you will add to your portfolio. When the revenue shrinks in the way that it does then you have to pull the portfolio back. A grain of comfort that I could give you, sir, if I may, is that we have been doing an awful lot of reengineering and restructuring the business using technology, not trying to do the same things with fewer people, so we can continue to offer the service that's so valued by our readers in markets. That's very much front of mind for us with any changes that we're making. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But if there is anything that you feel that is structural which falls within my terms of reference that could impact on the commerciality of local newspapers that report on local authorities, on local health interests, on courts, then I would be very interested to know about it.
A. I guess the biggest concern is a regulatory one, where I remain unconvinced that the regulator is seeing the market for what it is now, ie. it's still applying those very narrow definitions of print markets and allowing any further consolidation or M&A activity in the regional newspaper market rather than understanding now that we are competing for readers' eyeballs and advertising revenue in a much broader sense than we have ever done before. So the BBC online locally is a big competitor. Google will be a competitor. Rightmove will be a competitor, because you know, that's just simply what's happened to our business. But I do fear that despite an enormous amount of work that we've done over the last few years, that that's still not well enough and properly understood. And that's the biggest thing that could hamper that should for us, should consolidation be in the interests of our shareholders, the concern would be that that wouldn't be allowed to happen. I can't say that it wouldn't but it's a concern and we saw LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It's a plurality problem.
A. It is a plurality problem and we saw it demonstrated only a couple of months ago with the Kent Messenger Group unable to purchase the titles from Northcliffe that they wished to, and after that we saw a number of title closures, which to your point, sir, cannot be a good thing, where regulation is having almost the inverse or the wrong impact on the market. So that remains a concern in the background. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON There's a real problem about trying to find the way to create a regulatory framework which covers all these spanerse activities.
A. Yes, I mean, this clearly is one for the competition authorities, but in your asking me of concerns, that would be one of the biggest concerns that actually touches on plurality and the hugely important role that we fulfil in our communities, yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. Sorry for that spanersion. MR BARR Not at all. I've been asked to ask you to slow down a little so that the transcript shorthand writer can keep up.
A. I'll do my best.
Q. Thank you. You go on in your statement to tell us about the activities of Trinity Mirror under the heading "Corporate responsibility". You refer to the Pride of Britain awards which we've heard about from another witness, how Trinity Mirror has won six successive gold awards from RoSPA and about the group's environmental and health and safety credentials more generally, and also about its charity work. You then move on to the culture of ethics. Can I ask you: it's conspicuous in your disclosure that Trinity Mirror has a large number of paper systems as part of its system of corporate governance. To what extent do you think that in addition to those extensive paper systems and processes it is incumbent upon the chief executive of the organisation to provide an ethical and professional lead?
A. I think it's terribly I think it's terribly important, Mr Barr. You know, I would see ethics as being a set of principles by which you live your life, both your personal and your business life, that drives the highest standards of integrity and personal conduct, and I hope your know, I think that the reinforcement of that through the chief executive in everything that you do, in the way you conduct your business affairs as well as documenting it at every opportunity, the importance of it in your policies and procedures, and I think you can see in the bundle that we do take the opportunity to reinforce, you know, how the high standards of conduct are important to the company at every opportunity we can.
Q. How do you personally spread that message in addition to the paper systems?
A. One way that I do it is that I have a call with my top 200 managers every month. In that call, I update them on the performance of the business, challenges that we're facing, good things that we have done, performance and progress around the group which is, you know, reinforcing all the things that we're about that we're working towards, that a part of our strategy in a way that it takes the form of our operational performance. When those 200 managers get back to their desks, there is a briefing document of all of the things that I have said. The job of those managers is then to cascade that through the organisation, and the way the system works is we think it's important that everybody should hear that. Some people don't have computers, and if you're a van driver, for instance, or you're at the print site, that those messages are communicated to you and you have a personal briefing. I think that's just an example of one of the things that we do. I spend a lot of time out in the businesses, talking to people, and again, I do believe that a lot of the culture of the business is indeed vested in the chief executive, yes.
Q. Do you keep track of chief executive level of, for example, the number of libel actions which your titles are facing?
A. Keep track, but once a year we would have, you know, a legal report to the audit committee and I have ongoing discussions with my group legal director. So in that way I couldn't say I would be aware of all of them as they're happening.
Q. So for you, it's an annual
A. No, it would be more frequent than that. The formality is the fact that all legal cases pending not just libel would be captured formally at one point, but that I would be updated through the year not on everything.
Q. But that seems to me, if it's all types of legal action, to be just a facet of the running a business and looking at the legal risk. What I'm interested in is trying to filter out the ethical dimension. So do you promulgate any instructions about ethics personally in addition to the systems that we've seen?
A. Yes, I think I do it in the sort of general source of business and the conversations that I have and the if you like, enforcing the policies and procedures that we have and the way that we go about doing our business, whether it's our relationship with suppliers or advertisers or readers, yes.
Q. One of the things that I haven't seen in your documents is the incorporation of a conscience clause. The Editors' Code is incorporated into the contracts of employment, but there isn't a specific conscience clause. Have you considered whether or not that would be a good idea for employees and that within the group?
A. I haven't, but I think I might.
Q. You explain to us that corporate governance is rated by proxy voting agencies and that Trinity Mirror has done very well in such ratings. Are those assessments of your systems of corporate government or the actual performance and delivery at the coalface?
A. No, they're an assessment of our systems. We, as a plc, comply with the UK code of corporate governance and that's quite prescriptive, of course, as well as the listing rules, and that is what we are being benchmarked against, and that would be done very much in the annual report and accounts, and the corporate governance report in that. It would be the way the board is functioning, the board evaluation, the board committees and the way that the structure works and shareholders' confidence.
Q. High level stuff?
A. Yes, but I think that corporate governance, I think, frankly, aren't two words that are often used outside of the boardroom. I think that what happens is that when corporate governance leaves the boardroom in the form of systems and controls and policies and procedures, it really becomes, for the rest of the business, good management practice. That's not something I'm concerned about but I'm just saying to you that I think that that's something they're words that the very high level team would use, rather than lower down in the business. It doesn't mean to say they're not doing them because it's not the way that they would normally think about referring to them. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That good management practice incorporates a mechanism of oversight, which presumably works?
A. I believe that it does. I think that no system of corporate governance can be completely bomb-proof, but what it does is it minimises the risk of error, it minimises the risk of wrongdoing, it makes people think very hard about judgment in the way it lives in the culture, and it helps you to catch things quickly if they are going wrong. But I do believe that we have a robust system. MR BARR Your statement goes on to tell us about the expertise and the experience of the trinity board members. I'm looking at page 11 of your witness statement onwards. Having looked at this, it does appear that there isn't a single person on the board please do correct me if I'm wrong who has journalistic experience on a newspaper, a person with experience of being a legal manager on a newspaper, not anyone who is a dyed in the wool journalist. Is that fair?
A. It's factually correct to say that, yes.
Q. Since the businesses is in publishing of newspapers and magazine, do you think that is a weakness of the Trinity Mirror board, that it doesn't have a journalist on the board?
A. No, I don't think that it does, and I think in a plc, you are looking for directors with a broad range of experience. You're looking for spanersity in terms of experience and most certainly gender, and I think you know, the primary functions not exclusively, but the primary functions of the board are the strategy of the business is that the right one? Will it determine the best results for shareholders? The performance of the business. Is it performing in the way that it can and should be? Governance, as we've talked about earlier, and risk management. It tends to spend most of its time not necessarily at a high level, but the board can go wherever it wants to go, but broadly it where it focuses would fall into those categories, and it would not be usual for the detail of editorial matters, which is a matter for editors as you've heard today, to be discussed at the board. I provide the board every month with a fairly lengthy chief executive's report that gives them my views on the business and performance and not just the numbers. We're trying to give greater clarity and understanding, but that's so that they can keep pace with the business as we're developing it. It's a fast-moving business now with lots of changes and that is the way that that is covered. But, no, I do not believe that Trinity Mirror has a gap that needs to be filled by not having that.
Q. But wouldn't a director with journalistic experience, when touring around various publications, be much better placed to understand what's going on, particularly ethical nuances and to get a finger on the ethical pulse, as it were? Would you accept that proposition?
A. But I think that when you're a director of a business in a public company, it's very important that the board are able to all contribute to that wider set of responsibilities that they have, as I've just outlined, that they don't, you know, pop up and just speak about I would put to you that would not be the right sort of board that would not function well, if you only had people that were focused on a particular area, and I think the board feel that anyone they wanted to invite into the boardroom tomorrow to talk to them, they could do.
Q. Can we move now to your system of risk management. You have a committee, one of the subspanisions of the board, as I understand it, the audit and risk committee.
A. That's correct.
Q. You've kindly provided the terms of reference for the audit and risk committee. I'm looking now at page 15 of your witness statement. Its remit appears to be high level oversight of the systems; is that right?
A. No, I think it's more than that, actually. We have an independent, highly experienced, very diligent chair of our audit committee. The risk map is central to the way that we manage the business on a day-to-day basis, not just something that's a document that goes to the audit committee. As I've outlined, we have 27 top risks in the company right now, and what we do is we review the risks in the business and analyse them for their probability and their impact, should they happen. We then analyse the policies and procedures that we have in place to minimise that, and then what flows out of that are a set of systems and controls. We have a very strong internal audit function. We have an ongoing work programme throughout the year, which is a rolling programme, and I think importantly the head of risk and audit reports jointly to me and to the head of the risk and audit committee, who's not a member of the executive team, as an additional check and balance. So they have to deal with high levels of data and information about the company, whether that be you know, looking at the accounts, the auditors, the performance of the business, the integrity of the financial statements, and the numbers, analysis of us as a going concern, intangible assets all of those things that I would say, yes, are higher level for the audit committee, but they will also look in much more detail than that because of the audit plan that's provided to them by the head of internal audit.
Q. When they're looking in detail, are you saying they're looking in detail to ensure that the systems are in place?
A. Yes. And that the control environment is in place.
Q. When you say
A. Not just the systems.
Q. Could you explain to us what you mean by "the control environment"?
A. So what are the policies and procedures and the management actions that are taken. So what would be the authority levels, for instance, what would be the expense levels, what are the protocols that are built into IT systems to ensure that things either happen or can't happen. So those are the sorts of things that they would be looking at.
Q. So auditing the systems themselves but doing so in detail?
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Are these RAG-rated?
A. Sorry, I don't understand. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm talking about my experience of the Court Service. The impact and the probability of risk is each scored. So there's a very high risk, red, then a medium risk, amber, and then low risk, green.
A. Yes, we have exactly. We have and those will change. You know, I mean, as an example, there was a very real issue with the supply of news print because of what was happening in the global market last year, when we had very real concerns about our ability to source the amount of news print that we had. So that risk was put further up the agenda and we looked at what we could do to ensure that that didn't happen and indeed it didn't. So it's very much a living document, in that it does need to be constantly analysed because the business is changing. The macro-environment is changing and it needs to be kept under constant review. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right. I think you'd better slow down again. The speed at which you're talking because I can see the extent to which the shorthand is writing "inaudible", and that's not because you are inaudible, but because it's actually impossible to keep up.
A. Okay. MR BARR Would I be right that this committee in its work doesn't measure what's actually happening on the ground; it's measuring whether the systems are in place on the basis that that should reduce the risk of things going wrong?
A. I think in so doing it is looking at things that are then happening on the ground.
Q. So what I want to know is: is there a system for looking at the ground truth, for looking at, since we're considering ethics and practices, looking at how many complaints there have been to the PCC, looking at how many legal actions there've been, looking at how many apologies have had to be printed and so on and so forth?
A. The board would leave that very much for me to do, but then there would very well be things that I would draw to their attention. The point about the CEO's report is to keep the board updated, so those sorts of things would regularly be a feature of my report.
Q. Do you collect data for that sort of indicator systematically or do you just ask for it when you feel that you need it?
A. It would depend what it was. I, for instance, do know that we've had, across the group, 12 PCC adjudications against us in the last five years.
Q. Do you know how many libel actions and that sort of hand?
A. I don't have that to hand, no.
Q. If you don't have it to hand now, is that data collected or not?
A. If I asked for it, I could certainly have it.
Q. I get an impression it's on request rather than something that's served up to you periodically to be monitored?
A. Yes.
Q. I'm not criticising the systems you have in place; what I'm trying to identify is whether there's a gap. If you have the systems in place, you still need to measure the output, don't you?
A. Yes, you do, but I think that the areas that, if I'm right, perhaps you're talking about are matters of judgment where perhaps systems and controls tightening or changing of systems and controls would not necessarily change the output of that. In some instances, they would. I think that you know, following the closure of the News of the World, I instigated a review of our editorial controls and procedures. The last one we had done post the last full one that we had done in that form was post the death of David Kelly in 2004 and with what had happened at the BBC. So that's something that I put
Q. That's reviewing the controls, but if I may stop you there. I was asking you about measuring output. Does it come to this: that having gone to extensive efforts to put in place and to ensure that there are in place complicated systems for controlling risk, including ethical risks, that what happens after that if there are complaints and there are successful claims, do you just regard that as an unavoidable fact of running a media business?
A. Not in a way that we would wave it away as an unavoidable fact, most certainly not, but I do think that there is a point where risk management stops and judgment starts and that we understand the board understand that the business that we're in does rely on the good and sound judgment of our editors. We're not producing products that, you know, roll off all looking the same off a production line. We literally reinvent our business every day, and that is not without risk and it does rely on an enormous amount of judgment.
Q. So what is the view of the chief executive to the evidence which you've patiently listened to all day? You've heard a number of examples of where things have gone wrong: the Jefferies case, the Sienna Miller photograph and a number of other examples that I've put to your editors. What is the chief executive's view of those? Are they the unavoidable residue of having to make judgment calls, the unfortunate consequence, or are they more than that?
A. I think sometimes clearly our editors do get it wrong and that's very regrettable. I think you can see from Richard's evidence today how very seriously and how very sorry he is, you know, regarding the articles published about Mr Jefferies, and indeed he called it himself a black mark on his record. He has assured me, as he did I think to you today, that in the future he will be more cautious. So I think that he has learned from that and taken it extremely, extremely seriously, as we all have. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm sure that's right. I'm sure that's right. The concern I have and maybe there's nothing to say about it is that that's what everybody says when there's been some disaster, until the next fabulous story comes up and suddenly one sees a tremendous story and then things go wrong again. Sometimes. Not always, obviously.
A. No. I would say that in the case of Richard, since 2004 he has made thousands and thousands and thousands of judgments, and usually he gets them right. This one he got wrong. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I wasn't actually personalising it.
A. Sorry, but I think what I'm saying is: ours is a business that, despite all of those things I talked about, does also rely on judgment and therefore is not without risk. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Not least because if all the other papers are doing it, then there's a bit of a herd mentality about them.
A. Well, I would hope that we I think ours is a very competitive industry, but I would hope that we didn't have a herd mentality. It's certainly not something that's encouraged. MR BARR Very much not being personal now but looking at the wider picture, at the start of this Inquiry there was a good deal of evidence from a large number of people who had fallen victim to reporting which should never have been made. Are you accepting that there is a problem which needs to be fixed?
A. A problem that needs to be fixed?
Q. This Inquiry is dealing with the culture, the practices and the ethics of the press. Is it your view, having heard the evidence today, knowing about evidence generally to this Inquiry, that the present system for the regulation of the press needs to be changed?
A. I do think we need to make changes and I think we've all reflected very hard to what's happened over the summer and can see that changes need to and should be made. You know, I run a company which depends on the as much as they possibly can be, the confidence of investors and the certainty that they feel about the business. From a chief executive's perspective, having uncertainty around our industry and future regulation and what it might mean is not good for is not good for the business. So yes, it is something that needs to be looked at.
Q. We'll come back to the details of that later, but for the moment, if I pick up in your witness statement, you tell us about the risk management certification system and your editors have done so too. You'll have heard the questions I put to them. Can I ask you: from the chief executive's perspective, what's the purpose of those certificates?
A. Executives know that they have to fill them in at the end of every year. We feel it's important in terms of reminding them of their responsibilities that they have to take those responsibilities very seriously and I think when people have to sign something, it makes them think very hard about it. Again, it's part of the control environment in a plc.
Q. Can I ask you now about the Information Commissioner's reports in 2006. You, of course, were the chief executive at the time. Did the reports, "What price privacy?" and "What price privacy now?" hit your desk when they were published?
A. In 2006?
Q. Yes.
A. Yes, they did.
Q. You've explained in your witness statement that a meeting was called to reiterate to very senior figures in the group editors and so on,what the corporate position was and that you weren't declaring an amnesty but people had to comply with the law. Can I ask if anything further was done, and specifically would I be right in thinking there was no internal investigation commissioned by Trinity Mirror to ascertain whether or not Trinity Mirror journalists had acted illegally?
A. We took our cue very much from the Information Commissioner who was, we saw, taking a forward-looking stance across a number of industries, not just our own. We made it very, very, very clear what was acceptable and what was completely and absolutely unacceptable, but we were told that he wouldn't be providing us with the details, it would have been difficult to hold an investigation, but that wasn't the reason we didn't hold an investigation; it was really about taking a forward-looking approach and taking our cue from the Information Commissioner, also informed by the fact that three of our journalists were interviewed under caution in 2004, and no further action was taken against them.
Q. Because, of course, if you'd wanted to initiate an internal investigation you would have your own documents to show what had been sought from Mr Whittamore and with what result, wouldn't you, so you say it could have been done but wasn't?
A. But as I said, we took a forward-looking approach.
Q. When you saw the table in the second report, it's a feature of that table that a number of your titles are pretty high up in that list, aren't they? Did you not think, given that what the Information Commissioner was talking about was activity which, unless the subject of a public interest defence, was illegal, that there was a need, in order to manage corporate risk, to look into and investigate what had been happening?
A. I had been very clear that this sort of behaviour would not be tolerated and I felt very much that that was being complied with. The editors gave me their assurances that it was.
Q. That's the forward-looking part, but in essence, are you doesn't it amount to this: by not investigating, you do not know whether or not your journalists have acted illegally in the past or not?
A. I don't know that they did or what was in the public interest or wasn't, because we didn't have the data to do that.
Q. But as your editors have said rather frankly, given the sheer number of transactions, it would be very surprising
A. They may have been, but I don't know that. As I said, we took the decision at the time in 2006 to take a forward-looking approach.
Q. Doesn't that amount even if in terms you'd said there would be no amnesty, doesn't it mean that de facto there was an amnesty because nobody looked back to see what wrongdoing there was or was not historically?
A. That's not how I saw it.
Q. The ICO recommended amendments to the Data Protection Act legislation. Do you have a view on whether or not the amendments he proposed are a good idea or not?
A. Sorry, which specific amendment
Q. It's the section (overspeaking) LORD JUSTICE LEVESON He wanted to increase the scope of the public interest defence to make it subjective as well as partially objective, but then increase the maximum penalty. Those were the amendments which were passed into law, but which haven't yet been implemented.
A. I would not have a problem with that. MR BARR Thank you. You then deal in paragraph 72 of your witness statement with events when Mr Goodman and Mr Mulcaire were convicted and again essentially you gather around the same group of editors and executives and give a message that this sort of behaviour is not going to be tolerated in the Trinity Mirror Group.
A. It was reiterating our existing policies, and clearly the PCC code and the criminal law.
Q. Can I ask you, presumably that was quite a serious and solemn meeting?
A. It was.
Q. Why was such a serious and solemn meeting needed if, what News International were saying, Mr Goodman was a lone rogue reporter?
A. I simply thought it was an appropriate point to reinforce our policies, procedures and the criminal law.
Q. Had you heard by that stage that Mr Morgan was saying that you'd listened to a message left for Heather Mills by Sir Paul McCartney?
A. I don't believe that I was, I can't be sure but I don't believe that I was.
Q. Were you aware of Mr Hipwell's allegations that hacking on the showbiz desk at the Daily Mirror had been rife in the late 1990s?
A. I did listen to his evidence last week, yes.
Q. Were you aware of those allegations in 2007?
A. I might have been. I'm not sure.
Q. Were you aware generally that there were rumours flying around that hacking might be more extensive than had actually been proved beyond reasonable doubt in the criminal court?
A. I think lots of journalists were speculating on that in media pieces, but certainly without any evidence.
Q. As the News of the World found out, to its cost, illegal phone hacking is a potentially terminal business risk.
A. Indeed.
Q. It would be right that in 2007, after the convictions, Trinity Mirror didn't investigate whether or not there had been phone hacking within Trinity Mirror?
A. No, we didn't.
Q. Why didn't you try and investigate to see whether there was any truth in the allegations that were flying around?
A. I can't remember the specific, as you put it, allegations that were flying around, but there was certainly no evidence and we simply therefore didn't see a need to do that.
Q. Because it's right, isn't it, that people move around within tabloid newspapers, and indeed people who are now under arrest and are being questioned about events, one presumes, at the News of the World, have also in the past worked for Trinity Mirror titles?
A. I think that was one of the reasons for reinforcing what we said in 2007 to make sure that our editors were being very clear in reminding their people what was acceptable and, you know, our absolute adherence to the code and the criminal law.
Q. And two of the editors I asked this morning confirmed that the culture of the different tabloid titles is not discernibly different. All of that suggests, doesn't it, that if there was a widespread practice, you needed to nip it in the bud, or at least look to see whether it was there and infecting your titles?
A. There was no evidence and we saw no reason to investigate.
Q. Is it right that you've still not investigated? I know you've told us that there's been a review of systems and processes, but it's right that you've not actually sought to investigate whether the allegations of phone hacking in your group are true or false?
A. We have only seen unsubstantiated allegations and I have seen no evidence to show me that phone hacking has ever taken place at Trinity Mirror.
Q. I understand what you're saying, but my question is rather different. You haven't looked, have you
A. We haven't
Q. for that evidence?
A. You're correct, Mr Barr, we have not conducted an investigation.
Q. Do you think on reflection that it would be a good idea to have a look to satisfy yourself whether or not there has been phone hacking?
A. No, I don't.
Q. Why is that?
A. I don't think it's the way to run a healthy organisation is to go around conducting investigations when there is no evidence to say that our journalists have hacked phones.
Q. Even in the extraordinary circumstances that the media now finds itself?
A. I think what we have done is send a letter to our I can't remember whether it's 43 or 44 senior editorial personnel across the group asking three very specific questions of them, which clearly shows the company's position and how we would never condone such activity, and I take comfort from the fact that they all signed it.
Q. Even though the BBC is publishing allegations of phone hacking, which don't seem to have met with anything other than an informal protest?
A. The BBC in July are you referring to the Newsnight piece? I think that's a terrible piece of journalism, as we pointed out to them at the time, and they have no evidence and have not come back to us with any evidence. They were running unsubstantiated allegations as if they were fact, and I think that's terrible journalism.
Q. Can I take it then that your personal knowledge is you've no personal knowledge of phone hacking at the Daily Mirror or any other Trinity Mirror title
A. I have not, Mr Barr.
Q. The review that you did carry out, we have in the bundle. What progress has been made with implementing the recommendations?
A. Good progress. I'm chairing a compliance committee and reporting back to the board. I last chaired well, I chaired the last compliance committee on Thursday of last week and we are meeting monthly and I'm satisfied that we're making very good progress with the recommendations.
Q. One of those recommendations is a training plan should be developed to ensure all journalistic staff are fully aware of the need to verify sources and of the relevant legal and regulatory compliance issues which may affect the approach to obtaining a story. What was behind the training need that was identified?
A. I think that we saw that across the group there were examples of very good practice and there were examples of some not such good practice, perhaps in terms of frequency of training, so we thought that it would be a good idea to introduce more standard practice across the group, and we are we have contracted the Press Association to do that and we are putting the finishing touches to that training programme now.
Q. Another recommendation was that there should be a formal guidance note issued to all editorial staff dealing with workings practices when considering the public interest, in particular establishing a protocol for the editor signing off in advance of any actions that might be taken when a public interest defence would later be relied upon, and we've heard from the last witness that that's in place, at least at the People now. Is that now in place across
A. Yes, it was a very key part of the review. It is in place. That guidance note has been issued and it also resides on our internal intranet.
Q. Is that a practice which you would commend to your competitors?
A. Yes.
Q. Is there any reason why that step wasn't taken before now? Because it seems to be a fairly, if I may say so, obvious, commonsense way to protect and justify
A. Indeed. I think on lots of our titles it would indeed have been happening and would have been standard practice. I think what we've done is add an additional control by saying, "This is our expectation, this is our process, this is how things must happen."
Q. Were you aware of the Starsuckers programme and the allegations that were made against journalists from the Trinity Mirror Group?
A. I have become aware of it, but I couldn't be sure exactly when I became aware of it.
Q. Perhaps we can try and roughly identify in time. What was it around 2009 when the film was released or was it around 2011 when it began to feature in this Inquiry?
A. I really can't be sure. I'm not sure that I've ever seen the film myself.
Q. If you hadn't seen the film, were you aware of the allegations?
A. I'm certainly aware of them now. For the record, I think that some of the things that our journalists said were regrettable and my preference would have been that they wouldn't have said them. I do take comfort from the fact that we didn't pay for anything, we didn't publish anything, but I would still prefer journalists not to talk in those terms.
Q. You tell us also about the weekly review of legal issues and so has one of your editorial witnesses. Do you think there's any further room for tightening practices with third parties? I'm thinking here of picture agencies. There seem to have been more an a fair share of regrettable instances involving pictures. What's your view of that?
A. We've also, as part of the review, written to third parties and made it very clear to them as to what our expectations are and the fact that we expect them to comply with those. Certainly what we discussed last week was making them part of any future contracts, should any contracts be in place, next time we negotiate them, so making it even more explicit than it is now.
Q. Again, would you commend those proposed improvements to your competitors?
A. Yes.
Q. The question now about the relationship between the chief executive and the editor. I understand that the editor has the last say on editorial matters, it's his or her responsibility, but I'm interested in exploring how in practice things work, and I asked Mr Embley about the People's shift in political allegiance to a neutral stance and he described having discussed it with you and you agreed, as it happened. Can I ask, have you ever disagreed with one of the editors about any significant decision on the line, the editorial line that a newspaper in your group should be taking?
A. No, I don't believe that I have, and I think that there are some important key differences in our portfolio. For a start, all of our regional newspapers are apolitical. That's enshrined in their articles and they're very much champions of local issues and local causes. Insofar as The People, I thought it was a terrific idea. As Lord Justice Leveson has pointed out, The People and The Sunday Mirror actually do compete with each other on the newsstands, so there are a number of points of differentiation in their total packages but having another point of differentiation and that being a political one I thought was a terribly good and inspired idea from Lloyd. My job is to is certainly to hire editors and to put them in post and then allow them to do their jobs and to edit and to ensure that they have the resources and the support to be able to do that, and so I assure myself that that is so by having regular conversations with them. But they will really be directionally about the paper and I need our editors to be on top of their game. It's a tough business that they work in, it's pretty relentless, and in my conversations with them, "What do you think about this, how are you thinking about that?", part of my job is to ensure that they can discharge those responsibilities and they are on top of the agenda and what's going on. But I think also if you look if the Mirrors, they are very sure-footed in terms of their political positioning and it would just simply be unthinkable that that would change or I would attempt to change that or influence it. I mean, I'll give them points of feedback. I can remember, if you want an example, during the last American elections, when I felt that Richard's coverage was assuming a level of understanding that our readers would have about American politics that certainly I didn't have and I doubted whether they would have, and I gave him that feedback and said that more break-out boxes and explanation as to the system because we want to take our readers with us and make them feel good about what's going on and give them the currency to be able to discuss those things with friends, family, over the dinner table, and generally inform them. So I simply said to him: "I'm having difficulty with this, I think we could do a bit more explaining", and left it with him to think about that. The biggest area that I've ever given any feedback on is the area of TV listings. I'm an ex-TV listings publisher, as you heard from
Q. Slow down a little bit, please.
A. As you heard from Richard, listings are a key driver of the paper and as an ex-listings publisher, there are very technical ways of presenting listings that make more or less appealing to readers, so that would be, frankly, the biggest area that I have ever given feedback on. But I think it would be extraordinary for me to be totally disinterested, as chief executive in our content, but I've been in the business for a very long time and I know how to discharge those responsibilities.
Q. Okay. Can I move on now to ask you about political influence. Do you meet politicians regularly?
A. I wouldn't say regularly. From time to time. What I tend to do is host regular lunches for senior politicians, cabinet ministers, predominantly for our regionals editors. If you're an editor of a national newspaper, you can pretty much get to see whomever you want to. It's not quite the same if you're the editor of a regional newspaper. A politician may want to see you when they want to come to your city or town because they have a particular reason for doing that, but it's very important that our regionals editors are aware of the broader political agenda and it's good use of everybody's time. So I would invite a cabinet minister to lunch at Canary Wharf, I would host the lunch and they would agree to come on the basis that it will be a very good use of their time because they will get the editors from Coventry, Liverpool, Newcastle, Birmingham, Cardiff all in the same room at the same time, so it would be a very productive lunch. Some of those issues that would be discussed would be local issues of concern. Others would be national issues, whether it be defence, education, health, whatever the editors wanted to raise with that minister.
Q. What about the police? Do you have any contact with senior police officers?
A. I don't have any. I never have.
Q. Moving to the question of external providers of information, first of all private investigators. You tell us there's been a ban on these investigators implemented this year at group level. Do you know when Trinity Mirror titles stopped using Steve Whittamore or is that at a level of detail that doesn't cross your desk?
A. No, I can't be sure. I think it was around 2005, I think, but I can't be sure.
Q. Expenses. We've heard evidence of a culture, in certain quarters at certain times, of abusing expenses. Is that a real risk in your business that needs to be tightly controlled, the abuse of expenses?
A. I'm fanatical about expenses. I would fire people if they abused expenses without immediately.
Q. Is that because it is a real moral hazard in this business?
A. I think that whatever business you're in, expenses need to be claimed as part of business. We have a very tight system in which expenses can be claimed, so I think it's just I see it less as a moral hazard and more about the fact that it's just the way one should do business. MR BARR Sir, I want to explore two related topics to do with the PCC and to deal with the future, but before I do so LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm conscious of the time. How long do you think this will take? MR BARR About 10 or 15 minutes, sir. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm sure you would rather conclude, but I'm just a bit concerned. Okay, carry on, but a lot of the material we have covered, and it may be sufficient to investigate the extent to which Ms Bailey agrees or wishes to adumbrate upon what the three editors from MGN that we've heard from have to say.
Q. For the future, that's what I'll do and for the present state of play, there are just two matters I want very quickly to put to you. The first is at tab 32 of your bundle. This is a letter from Sir Christopher Meyer at the Press Complaints Commission to you, dated 10 October 2007. In the second paragraph, it refers to the Commission's recent report into undercover news-gathering methods. Do you see that?
A. Sorry, this is 10 October?
Q. Yes. The second paragraph
A. Yes, yes, I do.
Q. Later on in that paragraph, it says: "Nonetheless, the board of PressBoF has asked me to write to the industry to find out what its response is to the report. I am pleased to say that the Commission's inquiry was welcomed by the government and our recommendations endorsed by the Culture, Media and Sports Select Committee, and has been credited with diminishing the appetite of Westminster for taking things any further. It seems likely that sooner or later we may be asked about their implementation across the industry." Is that sort of comment, greeting favourably no extension of action in regulation, typical of correspondence from the PCC?
A. I don't tend to have a lot of personal correspondence with the PCC, but you will I mean, you can see how I responded to it. They would tend to write to me or have done on more specific matters if they felt they really need drawing to my attention, like the Aldershot case, for instance.
Q. Yes, that's what I'm coming to, the Aldershot case. You're familiar with the documents. This is a case where one of your regional titles, the Aldershot News and Mail, printed a story in August 2010 which identified victims of sexual assault, and that was a plain breach of clause 11 of the code. I think it is clear from the correspondence that what appears to have happened is that there was failure at multiple levels within that title. The reporter himself and then three layers of editing above all failed to spot this glaring howler, which was regrettably printed. What we have in the bundle is a course of correspondence between Trinity Mirror and the PCC in which the Trinity Mirror lawyer takes issue with the approach of the PCC. The PCC regarded it as a very serious matter which should be drawn to your attention personally and publicly, didn't it?
A. Yes.
Q. In the light of a breach, which is a clear breach and a serious breach, and one which has involved failure at multiple levels, serious systems failures, what is wrong with a sanction which simply means that the chief executive has the breach publicly drawn to her attention so that the PCC can be assured that something is being done about it?
A. Mr Barr, I don't think there is, really. I think we perhaps got caught up at that point on I would hate to diminish it by calling it a technicality but caught up in process. I think the concern was that there wasn't malice aforethought from our legal team, that there wasn't malice aforethought here, so what could a greater sanction be, but I'm not disagreeing with you in terms of the import of LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The criticism was one of proportionality.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON "What worse penalty can be imposed than bringing it to my attention publicly when it wasn't a case of deliberate misconduct?"
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That raises a question of the proportionality of sanctions and what sanctioning should be available generally.
A. Yes, but I think that we never queried the points that you made. MR BARR Thank you for that answer. It brings me on nicely to the final area of questioning, which is about future regulation. First of all, do you think that regulation in the future, there should be more teeth to the regulator? Fines, for example?
A. Yes.
Q. Anything else?
A. I'm taken with the discussions that I have seen so far at the Inquiry. Potentially let's call it the sort of three pillars. I think we want to continue to be able to resolve complaints swiftly. I think that a standards arm yes, a compliance arm, a standards arm, call it what you will, with far greater powers than they've had before I would support. And the third in terms of, you know, the whole issue of libel and perhaps the first tier that one could take that through at the PCC. So I think that perhaps the current discussions with Lord Hunt and the industry haven't gone quite as far as that at the moment, but I think the last discussion pre-dated some of the discussions or ideas that the courts that Lord Justice Leveson is having, but it seems to me that we are working towards a model that we could all have confidence in, yes. MR BARR Thank you. Those were all my questions. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. Let me say that allowing the process to be iterative, and by throwing out ideas for people to think about was specifically in order that editors and those concerned could contemplate them and see what good could come from them. So that's exactly
A. I think that's working, sir. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON the purpose that I intended.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you very much indeed for coming and for being here throughout the day when all your editors have been present. Thank you. 10 o'clock tomorrow. (5.03 pm) (The hearing adjourned until 10 o'clock the following day)

Witnesses

Gave a statement at the hearing on Monday, January 16, 2012 (PM) ; and submitted 1 pieces of evidence
Gave a statement at the hearing on Monday, January 16, 2012 (PM) ; and submitted 4 pieces of evidence
Gave a statement at the hearing on Monday, January 16, 2012 (PM) ; and submitted 1 pieces of evidence
Gave statements at the hearings on Monday, January 16, 2012 (AM) and Monday, January 16, 2012 (PM) ; and submitted 3 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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