RESEARCH TOOLS


Afternoon Hearing on Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Chris Elliott , Alan Rusbridger and John Witherow gave statements at this hearing

Hearing Transcript

(2.00 pm) LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Mr Harding, over the short adjournment, I've been thinking a little bit about your concern, which you identify as a political concern rather than legal concern, about amending an Act of Parliament. That caused me to go back to legislation with which I'm sure you're very familiar, the Constitution Reform Act, which enshrines in paragraph 3(1) the following: "The Lord Chancellor and other ministers of the Crown with responsibility for matters relating to the judiciary, or otherwise to the administration of justice, must uphold the continued independence of the judiciary." That's what the Act says, and I was thinking about whether your point could not be met by seeking to enshrine a series of potential principles and I'm not seeking to define them in such a way that you couldn't possibly tinker without running four square into the over-arching principles to which I've just referred. I don't ask you necessarily to respond now, because I've just put it to you. I don't require that you respond
A. In full? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON with your megaphone, but if you do have a view about that sort of approach or anything else, I would be interested to hear it. I am entirely open to sensible suggestions as to the way forward in a way that most certainly does protect the independence of the press and the freedom of speech, subject to law.
A. And what you're essentially suggesting there is that First Amendment principles, or those kind of ideas, are enshrined would be set out in any such legislation? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. I'm not suggesting a First Amendment I think that would be a little bit presumptuous of me but I am suggesting a mechanism whereby it would not be a simple matter of political expedience to put in a "not" or change a subprovision of an Act, which is what concerned you. Now, what I think of the concern is another matter, but I'm anxious to address it, because if you're thinking it, other people will be thinking it as well, and I am anxious to create a system that actually does what it says on the tin: encourages all that is good about the press, discouraging all that you recognise ought to be discouraged, and also provides a mechanism, perhaps, for the very much speedier resolution of those arguments that require timeous solutions. It is, to some extent, a failure of the system, however speedy, that it took Mr Hislop some months to overturn an interim injunction that was granted after the original injunction had been refused but pending appeal. That's a problem. But I can't simply promote privacy or press interest litigation above all the other types of action that are being pursued in court because everybody else would say, "Well, me too", and legitimately. That's the pressure that we're all under.
A. Thank you. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right. I don't ask you to respond further to that at this stage. MR JAY Just one final question, Mr Harding, which I omitted to pose before lunch. You referred to meetings that you've had with Mr Cameron. Are those meetings, as it were, private meetings or do others go with you?
A. It depends. Usually there are other people there. I'd go along with our political editor, for example.
Q. Have you ever been along with Mr James Murdoch or Mr Rupert Murdoch to any of those meetings?
A. No. There was a social function News Corporation has a party in the summer and so I've attended that, and all of those men were there, but when I've gone for meetings at Downing Street or with the leader of the opposition or with the chancellor, it's only ever either on my own or with other journalists and pursuing, as I said, journalistic enquiries. MR JAY Thank you very much, Mr Harding. Those are all the questions I have for you. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you very much indeed.
A. Thank you. MR JAY The next witness is Mr John Witherow, please. MR JOHN MOORE WITHEROW (affirmed) Questions by Mr Jay MR JAY Sit down and make yourself comfortable. Your full name for us, please?
A. Is John Moore Witherow.
Q. Thank you very much. Under tab 2 of the second file, you'll find, I think, your main witness statement dated 13 October 2011, signed by you and with a statement of truth; is that correct?
A. It is.
Q. You've also provided us with a second witness statement dealing with a discrete issue in relation to the former Information Commissioner's evidence. It's under tab 3 and dated and signed by you on 29 November; is that right?
A. It is.
Q. You are, of course, and have been since 1995, the editor of the Sunday Times, so you're one of the longest-serving editors in Fleet Street; is that so?
A. That's correct.
Q. I think it's only Mr Dacre who might have served longer, but in terms of your journalistic career, you went first to the Times in 1980 and then to the Sunday Times in 1983. Is that so?
A. That's correct.
Q. You tell us that you've covered stories such as the Falklands war and the Iran/Iraq war. I think on both occasions you went into the war zone?
A. Yes.
Q. I'm going to ask you questions first of all about your first statement, if I may, alighting on a series of discrete points. The rest of your statement we'll take as read. Paragraph 6, please, at page 7832. You say your associate editor is someone who you've appointed as ombudsman to take an independent view in relation to complaints, and you explain what his role is: to interview the writer or writers and subeditors and come to a dispassionate conclusion. How is it that the ombudsman can take an independent view, Mr Wit?
A. Technically he's quasi-independent because he works for me, but he's a very senior figure on the newspaper. He's effectively number three, and he has huge experience. He was a former foreign editor. So we use that experience for him to judge, where there is a complaint, how it should be dealt with. He does take a robust, independent view.
Q. Does he have a role before stories are printed?
A. Yes. Sometimes we might consult him in advance and say, "We're thinking of doing this. What's your view on it, with your experience?"
Q. Of course, with any Sunday newspaper, you tend to have more time than a daily paper, self-evidently; is that right? Things may reach a fever pitch on Saturdays on occasion, I imagine.
A. Indeed.
Q. Can I ask you about paragraph 7, journalists being written to and receiving a warning if they make professional mistakes. About how often has that happened in the last 16 or 17 years whilst you have been editor?
A. That journalists have been written to?
Q. Yes.
A. I can't give you an exact figure. I would imagine maybe fewer than ten times.
Q. Sourcing now, paragraphs 12 and 13. You explain your practice, which chimes with what we've heard from others. Is it your practice to require more than one source or will you proceed on the basis of one source alone?
A. Generally we try and get more than one source on a story. I think that's just good journalistic practice. Occasionally you will only have one source, and in the end you have to judge: where is that source positioned? What access to the information do they have? How good is it? What is their motive for telling you things? And you have to weigh it up. And we will publish stories on the back of one source if we judge it to be reliable, but as I say, generally we will try and get more. Sometimes we'll need more than two or three sources, and we've even held out a story where we have five sources because we're still not content that we have enough, because we think it's a contentious grey area where you need multiple sources.
Q. Yes. As you say, it depends to some extent on the nature of the story and also the potential for litigation, because if you look at the examples you've given us under paragraph 17 on some of these there may be a litigation risk, others there may not be, but of course, notwithstanding that, you'd always wish to be punctilious and careful. The first story you refer to, "Gordon Brown wants Ed Balls as chancellor", 31 May 2009, is this right, you proceeded on this story on the basis of only one reliable source because it was not possible to corroborate it?
A. Yes, and because that source was sufficiently reliable.
Q. Yes, and that was a judgment you were able to take and you tell us that of course you were right. That was in the last sentence of paragraph 17.
A. Yes.
Q. Another example: "SAS seized by rebel Libyans". This, again, is a story where there would be next to no litigation risk, is that fair, but you nonetheless wanted to establish its credentials and you say I think on that occasion you were able to substantiate the story, were you not?
A. That's correct.
Q. The next example I'm not going to go through all of these "Peer in flats scam fined ?125,000". This is October 2010. There was possibly a litigation risk here, is that fair, but you were able to get the story double-sourced and that presumably was from another reliable source; is that correct?
A. It was, and it was particularly important because it was a story we'd broken, so to take any development on, we had to be absolutely 100 per cent certain we were right.
Q. Thank you. Then the cash for honours story, paragraph 21, you had two sources there, I believe; is that right?
A. Yes.
Q. Can I ask you, please, about paragraph 25, stretching the rules and use of subterfuge. This is a theme you've taken up in more detail in JMW1, your piece in the paper. I think it was the news review section, but I may be wrong, on 17 July 2011, which I borrowed from for the purposes of my opening submissions, if you don't mind. Of course, the rules have to be stretched, but is there a principle which guides you as to how far you can stretch the rules in any given case?
A. Well, it is. I mean, the principle is: is it in the public interest? And it's something that we think about very hard and debate hard, and then look at the methods we can use to if we decide a story is in the public interest, then we consider the methods we can deploy to get that story. This is when subterfuge comes into play.
Q. Very often when you're looking at a story in advance, the assessment of the public interest is difficult because you don't know what the story is going to amount to. You may have fragments of a picture and you have to make an assessment then as to the degree of intrusion which may be justified to build those fragments up into a complete picture. How do you make that assessment when very often little is known about the nature and strength of the story?
A. That can be the case. Generally, in my experience, it's fairly clearcut. There's an allegation of serious wrongdoing or criminality or the behaviour of a politician that would seem unethical, and I think for most right-minded people, their definition of public interest is pretty clear. I mean, obviously we have the PCC code, which has a pretty good definition, but most of the time I think I can't think the cases that are brought to me have already been sifted, in a sense. The ones that aren't clearly, in the view of the senior editors, in the public interest don't even reach me. By the time they do, I think we can establish pretty clearly that it would be in the public interest.
Q. Are there situations where you work on a hunch because your instinct points in a certain direction, and therefore a degree of fishing is appropriate to substantiate that hunch because you know from past experience that it often is substantiated if you do go fishing?
A. No.
Q. Or it doesn't work like that?
A. We wouldn't do fishing. In fact, an investigation was proposed to me very recently where I don't think there was sufficient I didn't think there was sufficient allegations to justify it, and I concluded it was a fishing expedition LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I don't think you mean "allegation". You mean, if the allegation is there, sufficient basis to the allegation to justify it?
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Is that what you mean?
A. Well, the journalist had a hunch, and he didn't have the allegations, and that to me seemed like a fishing expedition, so we rejected it. I think you need serious allegations. MR JAY There are a number of stages, maybe. The hunch and suspicion may be the first page. The allegation, unsubstantiated, may be the second stage. Then the allegation substantiated by some evidence may be the third stage. And the stages, of course, tend to merge a bit into each other.
A. Yes.
Q. It's on as bit of a spectrum. But in terms of the subterfuge which the Sunday Times has used over the years obviously we know about Mr Mazher Mahmood and his methods, and I'll come back to him in a moment, if I may, but it's clear from what you say in paragraph 28 and from other evidence which is available that the Sunday Times has used blagging in the past; is that right?
A. Yes.
Q. And it has used impersonation?
A. Yes.
Q. But it draws the line at phone hacking and has never used that?
A. Correct.
Q. As a matter of principle, why?
A. Well, I didn't know about it, for a start, but it's illegal and it seems quite unethical.
Q. Okay. May I ask you now, please, about private investigators and external providers of information, which is paragraph 31. We have to be careful to define our terms and be clear what we mean by "private investigator" and "an external provider of information". An external provider of information may not go out with a grey cap and start snooping, but may or may not confine himself or herself to publicly available data. What steps do you take to satisfy yourself that your external providers of information are keeping to that which is in the public domain rather than potentially committing breaches of Section 55 of the Data Protection Act?
A. We've only used two private investigators in the past, and both are well known to our journalists and there's a clear understanding between the journalists who use them and the investigators that they must abide both by the law and the code.
Q. These are private investigators properly so-called. It's more the external provider of information who is sitting in an office, maybe with access to various data sources, some of which may be publicly available, some not. It's the extent to which you can police what they're doing, Mr Wit.
A. Yes. One may be we've used an actor in the past, for example, as part of a deception. That person is not a private investigator but it's part of subterfuge. The point is our journalists make sure that they behave in what we regard as a proper way.
Q. In relation to Operation Motorman, if I can take this quite briefly it was under your watch, of course, but I think the evidence demonstrates, after the correction was made to the Information Commissioner's table, that there were was it four taskings which one or possibly two Sunday Times journalists were involved in?
A. One journalist.
Q. Have you made any further enquiry into the circumstances?
A. We have. Because it's a long time ago and the journalist has left, we've had some difficulty, but we've established in one case that they were trying to trace the phone number of a former Home Office official who we couldn't obviously contact through the Home Office. They acquired the number of this person and telephoned him as part of a story. It was contacting them to respond to a story. So in my view it was just good journalistic practice to contact them.
Q. I won't debate the merits of the public interest defence in relation to that, but we hear your answer. Can I ask you, please, about external sources of information now, which is paragraph 36 and 37. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Just before you do that, would you agree that the editor must remain responsible for the conduct not only of his or her journalists, but also any third party that he or she uses to obtain information?
A. Yes, I think the editor is ultimately responsible. MR JAY Thank you. Paying fees to external sources of information. This occasionally, on my understanding of paragraphs 36 and 37, may encompass confidential sources. Is that correct, Mr Witherow?
A. Yes.
Q. But only very occasionally.
A. Very occasionally.
Q. You refer to it in the context of an exclusive interview, but there will be occasions when a source which wishes to remain anonymous comes to you with a story, is this right, and they'll be paid for that story?
A. Yes, rarely, but we do.
Q. You say: "Whenever possible, we try to make the payment to charity." Why do you do that?
A. Because there's always a suspicion that when you're paying for some information it may colour the nature of the information, and we try and exclude that as much as possible. If the payment is made to a charity, I think in some way it helps to cleanse that.
Q. Does the source, out of interest, know that's where the money is going to go? Otherwise it wouldn't affect the integrity of his or her information.
A. Well, it is agreed with the source that it would go to charity.
Q. Aside from the of course it wasn't your story, was it, the Pakistani cricketing case that was the News of the World, not the Sunday Times but what sort of sums are we talking about here for these stories on the rare occasions that sources are paid?
A. Oh, very small. I mean, I don't know exactly. 1,000, 2,000, that sort of sum.
Q. Paragraph 38, please, Mr Witherow. Just two points. The first point: the code, you rightly say, notes that there is a public interest in freedom of expression itself. Of course, the code is clear, but it's an argument which is in danger of pulling itself up by its own boot straps and justifying any intrusion of privacy. Is that how you interpret it or is it just one factor in the balance?
A. I think it's one factor.
Q. How much weight do you give to it?
A. I think when we look at the public interest and the use of subterfuge, it's pretty clear cut that it is things such as criminality and exposing wrongdoing rather than a general freedom of expression argument.
Q. Okay. Then you refer to the concept and this is one which has been raised with numerous editors sitting in that chair: "We're not interested in the private lives of individuals unless it has a bearing on their public role." How would you define "bearing on their public role"?
A. That it would influence the way that they conducted their public business, probably in a detrimental way. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So it's not sufficient, as I think one of the witnesses I've heard has suggested, that because an MP is an MP, his or her private life is of sufficient public interest to justify publishing details about it?
A. I would be inclined not to do that, unless the MP had become a particular exponent of a policy which exposed him to hypocrisy, which would be a different argument. But generally, I think, we would respect it. For example, we have been given private information about ministers involving their financial affairs which we could see no public interest in publishing, so we haven't. MR JAY Are you looking for some sort of objective factor here in the context of bearing on their public role rather than whether there's a perception that a particular piece of private or confidential information might have a bearing on their public role?
A. I think we veer towards being very cautious about intruding into private life unless we can see a clear cut public interest.
Q. You give some examples starting at paragraph 42 of some public interest stories. First is the bribery in relation to the World Cup and Lord Triesman, who'd made some public general allegations about corruption and so you decided to go undercover, and my understanding is two reporters posed as acting for a US company; is that right? And therefore used subterfuge?
A. Correct.
Q. You say that the justification for it was the very public general allegations which Lord Triesman made and which therefore were the springboard for your investigation. You had an evidence base which justified you proceeding?
A. That and there were other widespread allegations about corruption within Fifa.
Q. Then the Baroness Uddin example. Insight, May 2009. This is dealing with a main home point outside London. Again, you say there was a clear public interest in proceeding with that story for the reasons you give and you have the evidence base.
A. Mm-hm.
Q. Unless you wish to, I'm not going to go into any of the other specific matters there. Can I ask you, please, some general questions before I move on. Your relationships with politicians, particularly high-level politicians: could you give us a thumb name sketch of how often they occur, who you have them with and who accompanies you?
A. We will see the prime minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer and senior cabinet ministers from time to time, particularly at party conferences, occasionally in Downing Street. Invariably, I go with my deputy or a political editor. It might be a lunch; it might just be a cup of tea.
Q. You can obviously speak from your perspective. What is your purpose in attending these meetings?
A. Obviously there's a mutual interest but our purpose is to establish what is on the minds of the politicians. The very fact of what they talk about, what's preoccupying them, gives us some indication of what's important in their minds, in the running of the country, and what they leave out can be almost as interesting as what they talk about. So it steers you very rarely get information that you would put in the newspaper, but it gives you background.
Q. It may be you're the wrong person to ask, but what do you infer to be their purpose in wanting to meet with you?
A. I think they want to maintain contacts with newspapers. They see it in their interests to do that. They may hope to argue a case about some particular issue of the day and persuade us that they're doing the right thing.
Q. The last election, the May 2010 election we had evidence about this before lunch who did the Sunday Times support?
A. The Tories.
Q. Yes. Why?
A. Because we thought they were the right party for the future of the country.
Q. You say "we". Who is the "we" embodied in that?
A. The "we" is about four or five senior editors on the paper will, in advance, sit down and discuss what we think. In our reporting of politics, we're generally pretty impartial, but our columnists clearly have views, and then we will, in an editorial in advance of the election, generally come down one side or the other.
Q. If we can go back a period of time, but not very long, to the previous Labour government, presumably you had similar interactions with the then prime minister; is that right?
A. Correct.
Q. From your perspective and from his perspective, the purposes of these interactions were more or less the same, were they?
A. They were. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You heard what I put to Mr Harding before lunch and it may be that it is just a perception issue that the important understanding of how public officials work is obviously of significance to you and to other reporters, whether they be politicians, generals, bishops, judges, whoever. It's the question of influence on policy that is at least the perception of difficulty. Do you have any observations to make about that? I mean, you heard me discussing it with Mr Harding.
A. Yes. Generally we're they're not to try and influence in any way. We're there to try and get information, to understand their thinking, to understand their arguments, why they're pursuing certain policies in the way they are, and that's valuable to us because that doesn't always come out. But actually, when you meet them in private, you don't often learn much more than you would from their speeches or when they're giving interviews on television. It's remarkable how little extra information you do gather. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. MR JAY Do you ever get the feeling that they are dangling ideas in front of you to see your tutored, your informed reaction in order to assess whether they're palatable ideas?
A. Not really, because most of these ideas will already be in the public domain. We will have commented on them. They'll pretty well know what our position is.
Q. Moving off that theme on to others, we've had evidence, Mr Witherow, that the Information Commissioner's office wrote to you on 11 December 2002 asking you to attend for interview under caution under Section 55 of the Data Protection Act. Do you recall that?
A. Yes.
Q. I think it related to cases involving Lord Levy and Lord Ashcroft; is that right?
A. It was Lord Levy, I believe.
Q. Not Lord Ashcroft?
A. Not to the best of my recollection.
Q. That invitation was refused through a solicitor's letter. Why?
A. Well, this related to a story we did about the tax affairs of Lord Levy and we had discovered that first of all, Lord Levy was an immensely influential figure in the country at that time. He was the chief fundraiser for the Labour Party and was a close friend of the prime minister, Tony Blair. We had discovered that he was paying far less tax in one year than in previous years. So we wrote a story saying that he was paying in that year I think only ?6,000 tax. We put it to him and he sought an injunction, and that injunction was heard by Mr Justice Toulson and he rejected it, and we used the basis of Mr Toulson's judgment to say to the Information Commissioner that we didn't think it was justified. There was a public interest defence in running the story and they seem to have accepted that.
Q. They didn't have power to compel you to intend for interview, of course, but you heard nothing further following the solicitor's letter written on your behalf?
A. That's correct.
Q. There was a story some time ago now, obviously, in your paper in which it was said that Mr Michael Foot, who of course became the leader of the option but he wasn't at the time, was a KGB agent; is that correct?
A. Yes.
Q. That story was incorrect, was it?
A. Yes, it was thank you for reminding me. It was very early in my editorship and it was 1994, I think. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It all comes out here, Mr Witherow.
A. It came from a very senior KGB defector, Oleg Gordievsky, in a book, and I think it's fair to say I overcooked it and cocked it up. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's not an expression which I've heard often. MR JAY It may be one could turn that around in your favour and say that lessons were learned from that. I don't know.
A. They were. Mr Foot successfully sued us, and I believe built another wing to his house on the proceeds.
Q. Can I ask you, please, some questions now about your second exhibit, JMW2, which is under tab 2B, I hope, in that bundle. Unfortunately, you're going to need quite good eyesight to scrutinise these. I'm going to take the second piece first, if that's okay, Mr Witherow. The second piece, towards the bottom of the page, concerns what happened in 2000, I think, when you carried out an investigation into one property deal which Mr Brown carried out; is that right?
A. Yes.
Q. Could you, in a nutshell, tell us what that was about. I'll ask further questions, but just give us the background.
A. The background to this was that Insight, our investigative team, were studying a number of financial arrangements of senior politicians and discovered that Gordon Brown, when he was shadow chancellor, had purchased a flat which came from the estate of Robert Maxwell and in which Geoffrey Robinson had played a part as a director. This followed came soon after Peter Mandelson had resigned as a cabinet minister because of a loan to Geoffrey Robinson, so we considered it worthy of investigation. In the process of doing that, we believed Mr Brown had purchased the flat at a cheaper price than valuers had put on it at the time.
Q. Yes?
A. Well, that was essentially the story, that it appeared, on the face of it, that he'd purchased a flat more cheaply than the market value would put.
Q. As this piece records in the third column it isn't that easy to read but I was able to do so yesterday evening, so I can do it again now. You say at the bottom of the third column: "At that time, the purchase price of the flat was publicly available information, [presumably because it was on the Land Registry but I think the position now with the Land Registry may have changed] but it was a long-winded process to get it, involving applications to the Land Registry. To speed up the process, a reporter asked Barry Beardall, a real businessman who sometimes acted as an entirely legal front for the newspaper, to check the purchase price by calling Allen Overy, who are Arthur Andersen's lawyers. Beardall, using his own name, discovered that Brown had paid ?130,000, at least 30,000 less than the typical price of flats in the area." So it's right to point out that the information was obtained without deception by Mr Beardall because he used his own name. Is that the inference one draws?
A. Partially. I think there was some subterfuge there because he didn't declare he was working for the Sunday Times.
Q. No. Allen Overy gave out the information to him in any event; is that right?
A. Yes.
Q. Can we just deal with the public interest justification for the slight degree of subterfuge which was involved, because you say: "Well, we could have done it by a long-winded process, and possibly one involving some expense." Given that you could have obtained this information lawfully, why use any subterfuge at all?
A. I can't answer that exactly. I assume they were just seeking to corroborate but I don't know the absolute answer.
Q. What happened later is that Mr Beardall acquired a criminal record for smuggling alcohol into this country, I think it is right to say, and I think he was convicted of that in either 2001 or 2002, but the Sunday Times didn't know that until after he was charged, and it was at that point that the Sunday Times dropped him?
A. Correct.
Q. As a separate matter can we understand this the Abbey National, which held Mr Brown's mortgage for the flat, wrote to you alleging that someone had called its Bradford call centre six times pretending to be Mr Brown and was given information. There was never any conclusive evidence to substantiate that matter; is that right?
A. That's right.
Q. But from your own knowledge or your own enquiries, did someone on your behalf pretend to be Mr Brown to blag that information?
A. Yes.
Q. Okay. The letter only emerged the week before this article, which I think was some time last year and then was made available, and you say in the penultimate column: "The Sunday Times is still trying to establish whether any journalist then on the paper sought to access Brown's authority information. Even if they had, such activities would have been legal, as the story was clearly in the public interest." So is this right: since this article was written, you've been able to ascertain that someone acting on your behalf blagged the information?
A. We're pretty certain, yes.
Q. But this has nothing to do with Mr Beardall; is that correct? It's someone else?
A. Correct.
Q. Okay, so that deals with one example of blagging in two different respects, really. The article on the top of the page is dealing with something else altogether. It's dealing with the Sun and Mr Brown and or Sarah Brown's child, Fraser, who was born in 2006, and it covers those matters and that is something entirely different. Could we just look at this, though, a little bit. This is really reportage on the activities of someone else, not, of course, the Sunday Times.
A. Correct.
Q. But can we be clear, though, what the allegation was. If you look at the third column
A. Which
Q. Sorry, it's this piece here. It's still the same exhibit.
A. All right.
Q. "So bitter and so wrong". LORD JUSTICE LEVESON This is all to do with medical details, isn't it, Mr Jay? MR JAY It is, which we're not going to go into, although they all are in the public domain. It's what you say about what the then prime minister was saying. If you look at the third column, which is quite short, perhaps beginning: "However, by summer 2009, Brown's leadership was unravelling." Do you have that?
A. Yes.
Q. "Behind the scenes, the prime minister raged at the coverage he was getting in News International titles, particularly over the war in Afghanistan. Eventually, he could contain himself no longer and rang Murdoch to remonstrate with him. Murdoch is said to have distanced himself from the coverage, pointing out that it was up to his editors how material was presented." What was your source for that information, can you recall, Mr Witherow?
A. No.
Q. It's separate, I think, from something which allegedly happened later, or did not happen later at all, which is the Sun switching allegiance to David Cameron, which was at the Labour Party conference in 2009, which you refer to in the penultimate column, don't you?
A. Mm-hm.
Q. I don't think it's suggested there that there was another conversation between Mr Brown and Mr Murdoch; is that correct?
A. Yes.
Q. Okay, well, that may tie up or not with some evidence we've heard recently. What influence, if any, does Mr Rupert Murdoch have over what goes in your paper, particularly when it comes to matters such as political allegiance? Would you help us with that?
A. He doesn't have any. You heard from Rupert Pennant-Rea. He will talk to me periodically, but I think you'll discover that the Sunday Times has taken a robustly independent line on political allegiance and we didn't support Tony Blair's government when other News International titles did.
Q. Yes, okay. How frequent, if at all, are your conversations with him?
A. Well, it will vary. Sometimes I won't hear from him for several weeks, and then sometimes I'll hear once a week he'll call.
Q. Is the picture fairly similar to the evidence we've received from Mr Harding, that a particular issue will interest him and that will prompt his call?
A. Yes. I mean, in the case of the Sunday Times, he is often interested to know what we're doing, what sort of stories we're covering, but then the conversations will often be very general about economics, the eurozone, American politics, that kind of thing.
Q. In relation to the eurozone, I think we know the position Mr Rupert Murdoch takes, but for those who don't know, what is it?
A. I think he shares our position, which is highly sceptical of the euro and the whole concept of uniting Europe.
Q. But that is, as it were, a coincidence? There's no causal connection between the two, his having that position and you having that position?
A. It's a coincidence.
Q. May I move on to another subject, if I may. Mr Mazher Mahmood. Is it right that he was originally employed by the Sunday Times but before you were editor?
A. Yes.
Q. Do you know the circumstances in which he and the Sunday Times parted company?
A. I do now.
Q. Right. Maybe we should wait until others tell us more about that, if it's relevant, but the circumstances in which he was, as it were, taken back following the demise of the News of the World, 10 July 2011 we know that Mr Mahmood is now writing for the Sunday Times. Why?
A. Because I think Mr Mahmood is an exceptional journalist. He's proved himself over many years in exposing criminality and the stories already he's done for us have been excellent. He only really uses subterfuge. That is his methodology. Through that subterfuge, already for us he's exposed how people can enter this country illegally using false ID. He's exposed insurance scams where insurance companies are being ripped off quite cynically. So all the sort of journalism he does I think is absolutely justified.
Q. Did you receive any assurances from him as to the methods he used and whether they were constrained within the bounds of legality?
A. Yes. Obviously I asked him before he joined us was he in any way involved with phone hacking. He assured me he wasn't. I made independent enquiries about that and got assurances there was no suspicion relating to him over it.
Q. Your independent enquiries, were they of former journalists at the News of the World or wider?
A. Both, and we made enquiries of the MSC, which has been investigating this.
Q. Thank you. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Just before you go on, were you concerned about what you've now read?
A. I didn't know that I knew the broad allegation in the past. I didn't know the detail until now. I think what happened I mean, when this is going back to the 1980s. I think reading the detail now, it seems incredibly trivial and I don't know why he did what he did, but I think it was he was a young journalist who panicked and did a silly thing, and I think that's what he would say, but I wouldn't let it influence me now because he has such a good track record since then. MR JAY One isolated example it's for others to decide really what significance to accord to this of a successful complaint. Under tab 44, which is the third bundle, this is a complaint to the PCC brought by Ms Clare Balding, who is a well-known broadcaster. We can see the circumstances. It was a piece by Mr AA Gill, reviewing her television programme, "Britain by Bike", and we can see the very pejorative term that was used. Did you seek to defend this one, Mr Witherow?
A. I did.
Q. Can you explain why?
A. Well, it was brought to my attention in advance. I mean, this, first of all, is a comment piece, a television critique by Adrian Gill, who is a well-known, acerbic and quite controversial writer. In the context of the piece it was about cycling around Britain and in the context of the piece he was very flattering about her and praised her, and the issue came up: "Should we include it?" It wasn't as if he was outing her. She was openly gay and that was fine but and we thought it was a matter of freedom of speech, that Adrian should be able to make a comment like that because we didn't regard it as pejorative in the context. There are, for example, several websites that use this term by gays.
Q. Is that really a good argument? Websites, unregulated, can use all sorts of terms, some flattering, some extremely pejorative. You wouldn't want to set them up as yardstick or litmus paper test, would you?
A. These are not pejorative websites. They are gay websites that use that term in a positive way.
Q. It's the meaning of "pejorative", whether, I suppose, a right-thinking person but I, of course, accept that that has an element of circularity in it would say that the term "dyke" is pejorative in this context. You say it isn't, but the PCC clearly thought that it was, didn't they?
A. That's right. They interpreted the code and concluded that it was. We wanted a debate about this. We thought it was worth the question of free speech. They decided against it, so we have taken that into account.
Q. What happened to the adjudication? It was naturally enough published in your newspaper, no doubt. Can you remember where?
A. Not exactly, no.
Q. Was it the subject of agreement or negotiation with Ms Balding and the PCC, can you recall?
A. Invariably the publication is agreed with the PCC.
Q. And you accept their advice, do you, as a matter of policy?
A. Yes.
Q. It may be an unfair question because you haven't been given notice of this, but how many successful complaints have there been against the Sunday Times, say, over the last five years? Could you give us some steer, some feel for that?
A. A very small number. I couldn't give you an exact figure. And many unsuccessful ones.
Q. Yes. Okay. I'm in tab 47. This is a very recent piece by Mr John Simpson, the extremely well-known broadcaster. There are many matters of opinion here which it's not necessary to go into. Naturally enough we've read it, but it's the two well, one personal example he gives and then one piece of comment at the end about Watergate. The personal example is on page 2 of 3, level with the upper hole punch. Do you see that?
A. Mm-hm.
Q. When, to cut a long story short, half a dozen freelance journalists and photographers descended on his ex-wife's house to get her version of a story. Then, according to Mr Simpson: "She refused, and from Thursday afternoon to the following Monday morning, they besieged her, taping down her bell so it rang for hours on end, phoning her in the middle of the night. The police refused to intervene. The entire, unpleasant exercise was mounted against an uninvolved woman, solely to score points against a couple of viable newspapers on a matter of no conceivable public interest." We don't know anything about the newspapers involved, but is this a familiar story to you or not? Familiar account of the sort of things which have gone on?
A. Well, it's familiar in the sense that pieces like this have been written, but I'm not personally familiar with it. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I don't think it was necessarily this story, but this approach, this way of dealing with people.
A. Personally, I think it's unacceptable. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, I accept that answer but I think the question is: is this a type of behaviour which is more than just once in a blue moon? Or was more. I'm not talking about since last July.
A. I don't know the answer to that. I mean, our journalists are instructed if they go to a house, they will ring the doorbell. If the person asks them to leave, they will leave and that's the end of the matter. Sometimes they will put a letter through the letter box. But we wouldn't do this. I have no idea how much this goes on. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But the mere fact that you've had to give that instruction to your journalists suggests that there is an underlying concern that other editors might take a slightly different view.
A. It's possible. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Is that fair?
A. It's possible. I don't know how much of this goes on at the moment. MR JAY Okay. Just one or two short points on Flat Earth News, under tab 49. I hope we've had it copied for you. Is it in that version of the bundle? It may not be.
A. No, it's not.
Q. We'll provide it to you. (Handed) According to this, page 274, the Sunday Times hired a former actor from Somerset called John Ford to work as a blagger; is that right?
A. Yes.
Q. How often was he used, do you know?
A. I don't know precisely, but he was used by Insight on various investigations. I think he was used on the Fifa one, for example.
Q. I think it's pretty obvious from his skills, but he was employed because of his skills for impersonation; is that right?
A. Sounds like it.
Q. Then Mr Davies covers David Connet, who was hired on a freelance basis as part of the Insight team but the employment tribunal felt that that wasn't right, he wasn't a casual employee, and awarded him compensation; is that correct?
A. Yes.
Q. The Insight team was closed in July 2005; is that right?
A. It wasn't closed; it was incorporated into the newsroom. It was a separate entity with a separate office and it just became part of the newsroom.
Q. Why did that happen?
A. Because we thought they should be better integrated with the news-gathering operation.
Q. It wasn't for reasons of finance, was it?
A. No.
Q. Because this was the famous team, I think, who were central to the thalidomide stories in the late 1960s and early 1970s, wasn't it?
A. Yes, and then their successors have done stories such as Fifa. The name continues.
Q. I know you wanted to tell us something about the Internet and the competitive disadvantage that places you in and also issues surrounding regulation. What assistance can you give us? What are your views on the unregulated Internet?
A. Well, clearly any kind of regulation that comes out of this process I think has to take into account what goes on on the Internet, and as we transit to digital platforms, we are bound by self-regulation at the moment and will continue to be so. But the great threat to us, I think, is that there will be out there unregulated media who can base themselves offshore and can avoid regulation, and I think this is a great dilemma facing us: how do we go ahead with a responsible press or digital media in this country while there are those rogue elements out there? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON There are two types of Internet that one would have to think about. First of all, there's the individual person who tweets, who has a personal blog which might be followed by a few people, or it may be followed by many, but who isn't in the course of a trade or business of publishing news, even if it's only recycled news. Then there are those who do offer a wider service, so-called, by publishing a lot of material and who also seek to obtain advertising revenue to make it commercial. Do you think there should be a distinction between the two?
A. I'm not sure there should. What we can't foresee is what will evolve from the Internet. You may have serious publications that begin to appear that have can afford investigative journalism, can break stories and can behave maybe in a reprehensible way. There'd be no particular control over them if they were based offshore. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, I don't know. They must be in the course of a trade or business then. They're doing it for money, because otherwise I mean, they have to pay their reporters.
A. You would assume they would be doing it, whether it's by advertising or by some means like that, yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So the question then arises whether there's any mechanism to bring them into a club, if they are based offshore, whether consensually or otherwise.
A. It may be the more responsible ones might wish to be part of self-regulation, because they could see advantages to it, but I think there's always the danger you're going to have rogue elements there that wouldn't want to be part of it and would actually extol the virtues of not being censored, so to speak. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand that, but that's not just an Internet problem.
A. Mm. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON People not wanting to be part of the so-called club.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So that's the Internet. There was some other matter that you wanted to MR JAY I think we're moving on now, Mr Witherow, to your ideas for future regulation. May I take it in stages. Is the answer you've given me today the same or a different answer than the answer you might have given me on 14 November 2011 when this Inquiry started?
A. No, I think we have learnt a lot from in Inquiry already. Some of the practices we've already begun to adopt certain methods which I think have emerged from this. For example, we always had a rigorous process over subterfuge: why should we do it? How do we justify it? Are we sure it's not a fishing expedition? But what we do now is we have a paper trail to ensure that if we need to go back on this, we have records. So whenever we discuss this, we keep minutes and we track it through as the process goes on, so we have a contemporaneous record of it and that's something, I think, that's come out of this. And I think in future if we use if we ever use private investigators, we would need a formal agreement with them rather than an understanding. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Mr Harding was concerned and I understand that concern that it could become bureaucratic and take up too much time. Obviously it depends upon the selection of those stories or investigations that fit into the category that you do that for.
A. Yeah, I mean LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Have you found that a problem?
A. Not a problem, because we don't do that that often, so there's not much bureaucracy. It's maybe one meeting a month you're minuting and then any follow-ups. So no, it's not a problem. I think it's just good practice. MR JAY Looking at the bigger picture rather than the particular practices you have adopted as a newspaper since the Inquiry started turning to the bigger picture of regulation and the future of the regulation, what are your views, please? Can you share those with us?
A. As you've heard from James Harding, I would have very serious doubts about some sort of statutory body that's been set up by Parliament for some of the reasons he said, but also, I think and I do think that in future politicians would be tempted to intervene. If you just think back on the BBC and the dodgy dossier, the huge furore that burst out over that and the resignation of the Director General. I think it was because Number 10 thought they had some stake and some control in the BBC, and if you had, in future, a row and the press is far more partisan and polemical than the BBC can be I think they would be sorely tempted in a similar sort of row to take some action because they already had a beachhead, in a sense, and a stepping stone towards amending it. So I broadly agree with that. I also think that Britain, when it as a kind of beacon for liberty and freedom of the press, has to consider its position. We already know our reputation because of our libel laws have created quite a lot of controversy around the world, the fact that scientists can be sued here. I think if Britain were to move towards some sort of statutory body, it would send a message worldwide that we were however much well-intentioned it was, that we were prepared to take a tougher line with the media. When you look at freedom of expression there's a body called Reporters Without Borders that track freedom of expression. Of the top 25 countries that are most free, 21 of them have self-regulation and two have the equivalent of the first amendment: the United States and Jamaica, I think it is. I think only one has a proper statutory control, Hungary, and I'm not sure if that's the sort of message Britain wants to send out to the world. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm not sure that I'm thinking of statutory control. You've heard the discussion this morning. You've doubtless read the Times leader. The fact is that it seems to me to be a concern and I've said this to a number of people, including this morning that over the last 40 years there have been a number of instances of great concern. Reports are set up, people earnestly strive to produce something, the press say, "Actually, we've learnt a tremendous lesson from all this and it will be much better", and so the last-chance saloon came into our lexicon, and then a few years later there's something else and a few years later there's something else. I just ask whether there doesn't have to be something else that prevents the need for this sort of Inquiry again and again.
A. I think it's possible to come up with a tougher self-regulatory system that will prevent this. I'm not sure it would always prevent it. I think there is always going to be controversy in the press and the coverage of the freedom of speech in this country and I'm not sure that's a terribly bad thing. I think there should be controversial debate. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm content about controversial debate but I'm equally concerned that we should look forward with any equanimity to the sort of Inquiry that I've been charged with conducting at great public expense and expense, of course, to all those who are participating, particularly if there isn't an understanding from everybody that they all have to be involved, because if some people are out, for whatever reason, then the whole thing becomes extremely difficult, doesn't it?
A. It does, but I would have thought there are methods one can use to encourage, indeed coerce people to participate. Financial penalties. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, now, tell me about that.
A. Well, if you didn't LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm not trying to sound too enthusiastic. I'm just trying to learn what I can learn.
A. I wonder if you were not part of a self-regulatory body and you end up in court, that the courts could take a particularly tough line on you for not being part of regulation LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But that would have to be statutory. Whether one likes it or not, courts are governed by the operation of law, and if I sat in a the story that it's all the length of the chancellor's foot, I'm afraid is long since gone. If I sat in a court and said, "Right, well, because you don't take part in the regulatory system, I'm going to award exemplary damages or aggravated damages", then somebody would challenge me and say, "On what principle of law does that operate?" and unless I can point to a statute that permits me to do it and that might be the answer. I think there is great force in the point. But unless I can point to a statute that allows me to do it, then it's going to be very difficult. If I can point to a statute that allows me to do it, I have to have set up that statute. So to some extent, the answer becomes self-defeating of your ultimate aim.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm not trying to catch you out, Mr Witherow.
A. I know. We're trying to think of ways too. VAT we've explored. I would have thought there would be some financial penalties for not being involved. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, if all those who are working on it have any ideas, I'll be very pleased to receive them. MR JAY You've given us some emerging ideas. Any further thought you could share with us?
A. I think your ideas on arbitration are very interesting. Or mediation. We used mediation in some defamation cases. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I think they're interesting too, but more significant than that, again, if you're going to require people to go down that route, there has to be a framework that requires it. You'd have to set up an arbitral system
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON which allows it to happen very quickly, but that would be law again.
A. Yes, and it would replicate the courts, in a sense, wouldn't it? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON In one sense, I don't mind that. What bothers me is that if it is purely consensual, those who have the greatest financial muscle to take on the press may say, "Well, I don't want to bother with that. I'd rather use my financial muscle to bludgeon the paper that I want to sue into submission, because I can overwhelm it", and that was a point that got Mr Barber thinking and I'll doubtless hear from him at some stage when he's come up with a solution.
A. But again, the courts can take into account if somebody chose not to go to arbitration. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Absolutely. But it would all require some basis in law which permitted the judge to take that course. That's my point, I think. MR JAY Are you likewise in favour, Mr Witherow, as is Mr Harding, of harmonising the public interest defence across all areas of the criminal law, including the offence of hacking, to use the vernacular, under RIPA 2000?
A. I think we have an extraordinary anomaly now where only the Data Protection Act gives us that protection. Other Acts don't. So in a sense, you're challenging the press periodically to break the law because they think it's in the public interest. Is that a good thing? Well, then the DPP would turn a blind eye because it was in the public interest. Wouldn't it be better to put it into the Act that there was a public interest? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You might do it on the basis that you invite the director to identify his policy on public interest. So then there are lots of levels. I think I've said this before. First of all, there's a decision for the director to make: can I prove the offence? What do I think of the public interest point? Then there are potential arguments on abuse of process. Then there's well, on the basis the judge has rejected that, then there's the jury, and one doesn't have to go far back in the past to see what juries have sometimes made of these cases. Then actually there's another protection. It's called the judge, who can decide that however much this was a crime, and even though it isn't quite in the public interest, because the jury obviously can't say that, there is a great force in the argument and therefore impose a nominal penalty. There are lots of routes.
A. But if you had a public interest, you could probably avoid some of that. I mean, we are constantly presented with the dilemma: should we break the law because we believe it's in the public interest? The Bribery Act, for example. If we could expose criminality by a bribe, I think we'd do it and I think the point is to say we'd be open about it. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand. Was there any debate at the time of the Bribery Act about the problems that it would throw up?
A. Yes, there was. I think several newspapers made representations asking for a public interest LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And Parliament rejected the idea?
A. The Secretary of State did, I think. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, and then Parliament.
A. Mm. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Do you think the climate is rather better now or rather worse? You don't need to answer that, Mr Witherow.
A. Thank you. MR JAY May I conclude, Mr Witherow, with two final general questions: first of all, what is your vision for the paper and in what way will you realise that in the way you lead your organisation?
A. Newspapers are caught up in an absolute revolution at the moment. We've never had a challenge like this in more than 200 years, far greater than radio or television, because we're being challenged by the printed word online, digitally, and the vision for any newspaper is: how do you continue to publish in print and digitally and seek to try and make enough money to fund good journalism? Going forward is that transit is: how long will print survive? How do we make digital tablets and the Internet profitable? And it's one of the biggest challenges facing publishing since we first started.
Q. Finally, in what respects does your organisation, in particular the culture of your organisation, reflect your leadership?
A. You have to remember the Sunday Times is a very big newspaper with multiple sections. The culture might vary from one to another because they're aimed at different readerships, if you take style or the business section, for example. The overriding culture must be that we strive to produce excellent journalism with integrity, accurately, and that both informs and entertains people. MR JAY Those are all the questions I have for you, Mr Witherow. Thank you very much. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Mr Witherow, unless there's anything you wish to add, thank you very much indeed.
A. Thank you. MR JAY Sir, in relation to today's witnesses, there are two statements to be read. Pia Sarma and Darren Singer. They will be formally incorporated into the Inquiry's record and placed on the website. There may be one more, but we're looking into it. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right. I ought to make it clear that you've said several times over the last few days that we'll take this part of the statement as read or you've identified the names of witnesses. I wouldn't want anybody to think that by not going into evidence orally, it is of less significance. It's merely a consequence of the amount of material which the Inquiry has to ingest and the time available within which to ingest it. Thank you. MR JAY Sir, amazingly we have overrun by only two and a half minutes. May we pause now before moving seamlessly or otherwise to another newspaper altogether? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Certainly, we'll have a break now. (3.17 pm) (A short break) (3.25 pm) MS PATRY HOSKINS Good afternoon, sir. The rest of this afternoon will be taken up by two witnesses from the Guardian newspaper, Mr Elliott and Mr Rusbridger. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Very good. MS PATRY HOSKINS In advance of that, there are a number of statements which need to be read in which have been prepared either by the Guardian or the Observer. They are witness statements from Dame Elizabeth Forgan, Mr Andrew Miller, Mr Darren Singer, who was mentioned by Mr Jay but is in fact a Guardian witness, Mr Phil Boardman, Ms Gillian Phillips, Mr James Robinson and Mr John Mulholland. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you very much indeed. I have read all those statements. MS PATRY HOSKINS Thank you. First of all, I'm going to call Mr Chris Elliott. MR CHRISTOPHER MARTIN ELLIOTT (sworn) Questions by MS PATRY HOSKINS MS PATRY HOSKINS Sit down and make yourself comfortable. You should have with you your witness statement and some exhibits that you've prepared there too.
A. Yes.
Q. Could you confirm your full name to the Inquiry?
A. Yes, it's Christopher Martin Elliott.
Q. The witness statement you've prepared is my version is not signed. Have you signed the version you have?
A. I have, yes.
Q. Can you confirm to the Inquiry that the contents of the statement are true to the best of your knowledge and belief?
A. They are.
Q. I'm going to start, please, by discussing your background briefly. You explain that you are the reader's editor of the Guardian, a role that covers both print and web. You explain your career history at paragraph 3 of your statement onwards. You explain that you became managing editor of the Guardian in February 2000. In 2007, you also became a director of Guardian News and Media, but you stepped down from the board last year when you also relinquished your role as managing editor of GNM and you successfully applied to the Scott Trust for the role of readers' editor?
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's interesting. So it was to the Scott Trust that you went to be readers' editor, not to the editor?
A. Yes. I was interviewed by a panel of three trustees. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Just help me, because I've not really thought about this before: are the Trust responsible for all staff?
A. No, and the point of this is to give me this measure of independence within the Guardian. So my responsibility is to the chair of the Scott Trust and to the Trust, and I am appointed by the Trust and I can't be dismissed unless it's by a vote of the entire Trust. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So that gives you your absolute independence
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON should you need it, from Mr Rusbridger?
A. Yes. MS PATRY HOSKINS You've anticipated my next questions. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm very sorry. I've done that before. MS PATRY HOSKINS That's fine. You're appointed by the Scott Trust and only they can dismiss you?
A. Yes, that's right.
Q. We're going to just discuss, very briefly please, your role as readers' editor, paragraph 5 and onwards. You say that your role is set out in the terms of reference. That is in appendix A, which we'll look at in a moment. Your role is broadly to investigate and respond to readers' complaints and views about Guardian journalism in print and on the web?
A. Yes.
Q. Then you explain that a complaint may be a simple allegation of inaccuracy or it may be more complex, such as an allegation that Guardian journalists have breached the principles of journalism promulgated by CP Scott. Then you set out the essay prepared by CP Scott.
A. Yes.
Q. You go on at paragraph 6 to explain that each week you write a column that runs at the foot of the letters page in which you may report the investigation of a particular complaint or discuss a particular ethical issue, and that's an important way, you say, to demonstrate that discussing the ethics of the way that journalists works is natural and to be encouraged?
A. Yes.
Q. Could we turn to the terms of reference, appendix
A.
A. Yes.
Q. That sets out in some detail your role. Could we look starting at the top, you collect, consider, investigate, respond to and, where appropriate, come to a conclusion about readers' comments, concerns and complaints in a prompt and timely manner. But if we look two-thirds of the way down, it says this, just by the bottom sort of hole punch, if you see that: "In consultation with the editor and/or the managing editor, [you] can decide whether and when a correction should be published and/or apologies tendered where deemed necessary. Insofar as any correction apology is not the subject of or may be prejudicial to a current complaint to the PCC I don't need to read the rest of it.
A. Yes.
Q. So in terms of the remedy, the correction to the complaint or an apology, that must be done in consultation with the editor and/or managing editor?
A. No. The decision is mine, and occasionally there are differences of opinion as to whether it is an apology or an expression of regret or merely a correction or a clarification, and it is my decision when it's our process is being used as to which one of those should be. But of course I do consult the managing editor and the editor, and actually the journalist involved in this.
Q. So you must consult with the editor, but the final decision is yours?
A. Yes.
Q. What if the editor strongly represents to you that he thinks no apology or correction should be made?
A. Well, I mean obviously you listen carefully to that, but if, in the end, you think it's the right thing to do, you can fall back on the fact that you are employed by the Trust I'm employed by the Trust and I actually think they're wrong and we go ahead and I do what I see fit.
Q. If you move to the second-last paragraph within the terms of reference, it says this: "The readers' editor can refer to the external ombudsman any substantial grievances or matters whereby the Guardian's journalistic integrity has been called into question." What role does the external ombudsman have from any decision that you have made?
A. Well, on occasion, you carry out an investigation I carry out an investigation and no matter how much time one spends on it, in the end the complainant still feels that they have not been treated fairly or that my decision is wrong. If they don't want to go to the PCC, there is always the external ombudsman, and this has happened a number of times over the last 14 years, and I can refer it to the external ombudsman, they can ask me to refer it to the external ombudsman, and I don't think we've ever had a compelling reason not to do it once an individual has us to do this. The external ombudsman, a man called John Willis, who is works for the Guardian, very much externally. He's not a member of staff and he comes from a different discipline. He's actually from the discipline of television. But he's had very wide experience and he will go into it in some detail and then he will prepare a report about the way in which we've carried it out. Essentially, he will look at the processes, the way we've actually carried out, rather than try to reinvestigate it. What he's trying to assess is whether the readers' editor has done it fairly and competently.
Q. Leave aside the terms of reference, can you turn back to your statement, please. At paragraph 7 onwards, you discuss the day-to-day workings of your office. You explain the type and number of complaints and queries dealt with and so on. Now, you've helpfully provided us at appendix E with an analysis of the main sorts of subjects that readers raise. I just ask you to turn that up. It's one page.
A. Yes. My bundle is arranged slightly different so I'm sorry if I'm taking a little bit longer.
Q. Not at all. "Readers' editor email analysis, main subjects". Perhaps you could just talk us through this briefly?
A. Yes. There are some really basic complaints around the journalism and we spelling, grammar, factual errors, fairly straightforward issues of accuracy. Graphics. And then we move into things like whether a photograph was tastefully used or wrong or misleading statements or misrepresentation. One of the things that a lot of our readers are very hot on is the area in terms of whether we're stereotyping, the language around things like mental health, gender, et cetera. Then also things like the stigmatisation of the oppressed or misunderstood minorities, ethics, taste and decency and there's an important one around plagiarism, which are rare but potentially very damaging in a reputational way and important to get right, and children. These can take between a day or even a couple of weeks. We did have one particular one which took which my predecessor took about two months to do because there were somewhere in the region of 40 aspects to the complaint, and that was extremely difficult. So that is that's around the journalism.
Q. Can I pause there and ask you a question about the stereotyping and stigmatisation complaints.
A. Yes.
Q. Are these the complaints by, say, groups who have a particular interest in ensuring that particularly a group of people or a particular minority is not represented in the press?
A. Yes, it can come from a group or it can come from an individual and I take each of those as seriously. For instance, around mental ill health, it's the kind of language that you use and it's society's changed a great deal in the last 20 years and, you know, the way in which we use the word "bonkers" for mental ill health or describe someone as "mad" in headlines or in text has completely changed, and there have been real advances in actually not stigmatising people by using that kind of language. But they occasionally slip in and it's for me to look into whether we have misused language and what we do about it: correction, apology, delete it online and go from there.
Q. Sorry, I interrupted you while you were taking us through this analysis.
A. Sorry, yes. Generally there are complaints about overall editorial, the whole business of how the paper is delivered and what it means. I mean, the paper's gone through many changes over the last few years and every time that happens, people are extremely wary of change and they want to talk about it. Guardian readers in particular feel very close to their newspaper, so they feel they have a real stake in it and they want to have that conversation and I spend time trying to have that kind of conversation with them. Then of course, if we get letters from lawyers, I am able to deal with complaints which are presented by lawyers, providing the lawyers actually want to use our processes, but always then I would contact our in-house legal department. Then there are incredibly simple things that what we hope will happen will very often be dealt with by our automatic reply. People don't always know where to go if they haven't had one of their nine sections on a Saturday delivered and we give out telephone numbers in our automated reply which enable people to go straight to the right department. Otherwise, if that doesn't work for them, then we'll talk to them and let them know what it is. People want to pass things on to journalists who have written pieces, and one of the things which is really growing is the number of people who want to change stories that have already appeared online. We have an extensive archive I think we have about 1.5 million pages now and it's quite an issue, the number of people who say, "I co-operated in this story seven years ago, but now I'm concerned about this aspect, that aspect. Will you delete that?" That's really quite a big issue for us and that's another thing which takes up quite a lot of time.
Q. How many complaints do you deal with per year?
A. Last year I think it was 26,700 emails. They're not all complaints, but they're complaints or queries. On any day of the week, we publish three or four corrections or clarifications, six days a week, in print, and since we've begun a rolling corrections for online, there can be anything from another four, five, six or seven on there, and some of these can be done within an hour and some of these take a lot longer.
Q. I'll come on to corrections and clarifications and where they appear in your newspaper in a moment. Can I ask you this: a complaint's come in. You've decided that prima facie there's some merit to it. You would then approach the journalist who wrote the piece, presumably. To what extent do journalists co-operate in general?
A. Well, the readers' editor's office has been in place for 14 years now and so people are used to dealing with it, used to co-operating with it. They understand, because it's in our editorial code that both staff and freelance journalists are obliged to co-operate with the office, and overwhelmingly we get quite a lot of support. In fact, some of the errors that we've made are actually referred to us by the journalists themselves. They can see that they've made an error and they'll drop a line to us and say, "Look, I can see from my notes I've either misquoted or I've got this name wrong. We really ought to do a correction." So on the whole I get a great deal of support.
Q. On the whole. What if the system breaks down and the journalist doesn't wish to co-operate? What's the backstop?
A. The backstop would be I would go, normally quietly, I hope without too much fuss, to their line manager and say, "Look, we've had this complaint, I think it warrants investigation but I really need to talk to X and X is being really prickly about it and feels that it's not worth it." I say, "Look, you know that we need to talk about it, so would you have a word with him?" That has happened once or twice in 18 months and on both occasions that individual has come forward and we've dealt with the matter.
Q. Now assume the complaint has come in, you've spoken to the journalist and you've decided that you do want to publish a correction or clarification. You tell us that the Corrections and Clarifications column appears within the newspaper
A. Yes.
Q. on the letters page.
A. It's just moved to the letters page from the leaders page.
Q. Can you ensure that a correction gets equal prominence in terms of that? The correction or clarification may not refer to a piece that appeared on the letters page; it may, of course, relate to any article that's appeared in the newspaper.
A. That's right.
Q. Does anyone ever say, "Look, I'm just not happy with it appearing on the letters page; I'd like my clarification or complaint, whatever it is, to appear with equal prominence to the article I'm complaining about"?
A. Mostly that's lawyers who say that to us rather than members of the public. Their real mostly, readers and members of the public are just concerned to get it fixed as soon as possible. That's what they want done. The point about our Corrections and Clarifications column is that it has been there for the leaders and the letters page is at the heart of the newspaper, and it's well established as to that's where it is, and so overwhelmingly people are happy with that. They're very interested in whether they're going to get the lead correction or not and how that correction is going to be expressed, but they're perfectly happy that it goes there. Now, that's not all the time. If it's a lawyer, sometimes they'll say it should be there should be a front page sign-off or it should be somewhere else, but mostly people are perfectly content that it's there. We did have a bit of a boost it's some time ago now, but in 2002, Mr Justice Morland said he felt that it was a place of proper prominence when he was deciding a libel case in which our readers' editor's prompt and efficient work on a particular thing led to damages which would have been 30,000 reduced to 10,000, and that was a significant boost for our belief that it's in the right place and we're doing the right thing. If the industry, at the end of this Inquiry, feels differently about it and there is an industry standard, I think that's a debate we'd very much like to be involved in and will be perfectly happy to take part.
Q. You told us briefly about your Open Door column which appears weekly at the foot of the letters page.
A. Yes.
Q. We can see an example of that at appendix D. We don't need to turn it up.
A. Good.
Q. What does that add to your role?
A. I think it's very important in again, it's on the letters page so it's at the heart of the paper. It shows that we're willing not only to admit that we're wrong but to discuss why we've got things wrong. Sometimes it really is quite difficult to unravel how some things go wrong and very often it's about an awful lot of people doing a thing and things slipping through the cracks, and trying to explain that in a connection doesn't work, but in Open Door we are able to explain: "This is why we got it wrong", and very often spell out what we're going to do to change it. If we found a faulty or flawed process, that will often lead to changes. In fact, the most recent updating of our editorial code contains one or two things which had come out of errors that we'd spotted. Sorry, one last thing.
Q. Of course.
A. I think I also ought to say and this was the view of my colleague, Ian Mayes, who began the readers' editor's office. It's a signal to everyone there that a culture of discussing journalism and what goes wrong and sometimes what goes right is encouraged within the office and that's why we think it's a very useful thing.
Q. I want to ask you about the section of your witness statement which starts at paragraph 21. Here you're dealing with the factors that contribute to the success and those that limit the effectiveness of the role of a readers' editor.
A. Yes.
Q. You tell us that legal costs are down significantly, 25 per cent, in paragraph 29.
A. Yes.
Q. Since the inception of the office "because we are able to offer prominent redress more quickly". Is that PCC complains, fewer libel privacy actions?
A. Actually, some time ago in fairness, it is some time ago since we actually did that calculation, but broadly it is fewer privacy and libel actions. Especially the web has really put a lot of pressure on people to want to get things fixed quickly online and for public recognition that something is wrong. If they can get that within 24, 48, 72 hours and I would I think we should do more detailed analysis than we've done, but I would say anecdotally that most of our stuff is fixed within three or four days then they're much happier with that than the more lengthy procedure. Although I think the PCC does have a lot of good people whatever disagreements I may have about the structure, I think it has a lot of good people I think that it takes a bit longer when it's a PCC complaint. That's nobody's fault. It's just you're going to external bodies.
Q. In terms of other advantages, we've discussed, of course, the independence from the editor and the general culture, just accepting that making mistakes is something which you can deal with in this way. Can we move on very briefly to disadvantages? You've told us that you deal with tens of thousands of complaints, requests for clarification and other issues per year. Is it realistic, in your view, that the role can continue to provide the fast and open remedy with this number of complaints?
A. It does concern me. I would like to get to things faster. While I stand by what I said, that I think the really significant errors are dealt with significant errors, where everyone is happy to use our process within the readers' editor's office, are dealt with within three, four days. I do think there are some things which take longer and that's because of the volume. One of the things that I do is I deal with the more complicated complaints, and my colleague, Leslie Plommer, deals with the daily column and therefore the things that can be normally fixed quickly, maybe within 24 to 48 hours. Of course, some of the things that I deal with are sometimes for the larger organisations, often the more aggressive organisations, and they can be very difficult to resolve and that does take longer. It also takes you away from some other stuff that, given a clear run, you might have done a bit faster.
Q. Can I pick you up on something you said? You said: "I'm satisfied that we'd be able to deal with the more significant errors."
A. Yes.
Q. How do you judge what is a significant error?
A. I think basically if you're dealing with life and limb for instance, someone says, "You've identified my daughter and you may not realise it but she was under 16", that's a significant error. If you have written a piece in which you have a set of statistics so badly wrong it renders the piece unreadable or useless or something, all those kind of things, they're the really significant errors, and they sort of they advertise themselves. If you have someone who wants to talk to you about the Guardian's use of the subjunctive, I'm not saying that's not a worthy subject for discussion, but it would sit behind some of those other things, and if you've been in journalism for some time, you have a feeling a judgment for what is more significant.
Q. I understand. Finally, can I just ask your views on this issue: there's been a lukewarm response, if I can put it this way, from editors that we've asked the question of to date we asked the Independent editor what he thought of a readers' editor. We asked the Financial Times editor what he thought of the concept of having a readers' editor. The issue that's come back, time and time again, is the issue of cost. Do you have any views on whether or not a reader's editor is really appropriate in all newspapers and in all publications? I'm thinking, for example, of magazines, which may have a very small staff. Do you have any views on that?
A. I think that the web in particular I think in broad terms, if you want to build on build a trust with your readers, it's a very good thing and it's an important thing. I know that the CP Scott 1921 essay is brought out so often that it's dangerous some of the best lines have become cliches, but actually they are very good lines and a lot about that is trust and the relationship with the reader, the contract with the reader. So for us, it's incredibly important, if we're going to survive and move into a digital age and people are going to trust our copy, and I think that will be true of everyone who's trying to cope with an industry which, over the next three to five years, is going to diminish and consolidate and I think it's extremely important that I would suggest it's important for everyone to say you know, we no longer have this high-to-low relationship with our readers where we talk down to them, we tell them things and we allow them one or two letters in each week. Every time for instance, if we write about Fukushima and we get our microsieverts and our millisieverts mixed up, we have something like within half an hour to an hour, we'll have about ten nuclear scientists on our tail online telling us that. And people say, you know: "This really matters." People regard you "You are the Guardian. People take you seriously. You have to get this right." So I would say that for everyone who wants to survive and thrive in journalism, which is really all about I think it would be I think it important and useful.
Q. Regardless of cost?
A. I think cost is a factor, which is why I wouldn't use this as a sneaky pitch in front of so many execs to try and get more resource, and you wouldn't at this particular time, but I think (a) if you do it well you can reduce your legal costs and (b) it is so important, I do think it's a commercial decision too to do it. It's not just the right thing to do we happen to think it is but it's also a commercial decision to build that trust and use that facility. MS PATRY HOSKINS Mr Elliott, those are all my questions. Was there anything that you wanted to add?
A. No, thank you. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Let me. You've identified how many thousand communications you have.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON What proportion of those are the more serious type?
A. It varies, but I would say I would say maybe one a day. That's an allegation. It's not necessarily something that will be well-founded. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, I understand that entirely. It's not difficult to distinguish between incorrect use of apostrophes and substantial complaints about stories. So one a day I understand. This is a full-time job for you?
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I've read with interest the reports that are annexed to Mr Rusbridger's witness statement from the external ombudsman. These are very substantial pieces of work.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON This isn't a one-page review. The one I've just turned up runs into six very closely small typed sheets.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So there's a lot of effort into that. How many does he see in a year?
A. He doesn't see that many. I've only had to refer one to him so far in the 18 months or so that I've been doing it, and I would say overall he would get maybe one or two a year. But I would be prepared to ask him for advice. I mean, both those cases took up an enormous amount of time. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, it's quite clear that they did.
A. And thankfully we don't get too many on that scale. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You say you have one substantial complaint that you have to look at, or concern, whether valid or not I'm not interested in the validity of it.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm just trying to get a feel for what's going on, how many of a similar sort of complaint say, "No, I don't want to use your system, I'm going to go to the PCC"?
A. Well, in 2011 the Guardian had 31 complaints go to the PCC. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes.
A. Around 10 involved people who were not entirely happy with my findings. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes.
A. Seven of which were either not proceeded with by the PCC or not upheld it might be eight, actually and I think two are outstanding. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right.
A. So that's the sort of order. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right. Do you find that this process has reduced the number of people who go to a lawyer and then commence proceedings?
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON 20 per cent
A. That's the 20 per cent. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you very much indeed. MS PATRY HOSKINS Thank you, Mr Elliott.
A. Thank you. MS PATRY HOSKINS Sir, the final witness is Mr Rusbridger. MR ALAN CHARLES RUSBRIDGER (affirmed) Questions by MS PATRY HOSKINS MS PATRY HOSKINS Could you please state your full name to the Inquiry.
A. I am Alan Charles Rusbridger.
Q. At tab 8 you should find your witness statement. Could you confirm that the contents of it are true to the best of your knowledge and belief?
A. Yes.
Q. We only have rather a short time this afternoon, so I'd like to also remind the Inquiry of the other evidence that you have produced, which will have to be taken largely as read, and I'll take them chronologically. First of all, we had your presentation to the seminar, I believe on 6 October. It's contained at tab 10. You don't need to turn it up. Are you content for that to be formally taken as evidence to this Inquiry?
A. Yes.
Q. Then we had your opening submissions to the Inquiry, which have been recorded on the transcript. Then we have a skeleton argument LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Are you happy for that to be incorporated as evidence?
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON There's a difference, you'll appreciate.
A. Yes. MS PATRY HOSKINS There is. Thirdly, you've provided or the Guardian has provided a summary of evidence, a skeleton argument, if I can call it that, to the Inquiry, on corporate structure and so on. Yes. Then finally, you've also produced a supplementary statement dealing in some detail with the questions which the chairman asked you shortly after your opening submissions had concluded. Again, is that something that you're happy to be taken as formal evidence?
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Mr Rusbridger, thank you very much indeed for that. I think I said at the moment that you were the one that got it in the neck, but you were the last of the press core participants to speak. It's actually intended to be dealt with by everyone.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm not sure that everyone has dealt with it. MS PATRY HOSKINS Not yet. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yet. MS PATRY HOSKINS Mr Rusbridger, if you turn to paragraph 5 of your statement, you there set out your career history. It's lengthy and I'm not going to take you through it all, but it's fair to say that you've been a professional journalist since 1976. You've been editor of the Guardian since 1995, although the precise terms of that role have changed since 1995. You have worked for the Guardian in a number of different guises and one of the roles was writing a diary column. It's probably a bit late and I know you said not to tell any jokes that's for the chairman but you also seem to have trodden the well-trodden path from showbiz journalist to editor of a national newspaper.
A. My diary column wasn't that exciting. It was
Q. But so far as the Guardian has a showbiz column, that was you?
A. It had no showbiz. Showbiz-free area.
Q. Both your statement and the skeleton explain how corporate governance works in practice at the Guardian and the Observer. I don't want to ask you much about that, but at the back of the summary of evidence or the skeleton, there's a helpful diagram which illustrates the rather complex structure. I point that out so that the chairman you have that, sir. Can we simply summarise it in this way: ultimately, the Guardian and the Observer do not have a traditional proprietor?
A. That's right, yes. We're owned by a trust.
Q. It has no shareholders. In fact what was a Trust but is now a limited company
A. Yes.
Q. with the name Trust still in it. The Scott Trust owns Guardian Media Group. It doesn't pay dividends and it exists solely for the purpose of securing the financial and editorial independence of the Guardian in perpetuity and since 1993 this has been broadly the same with the Observer as well. As such, the whole corporate structure is designed to keep the management of the editorial and commercial aspects of the group's business separate and to maintain editorial independence. It's a complex structure but have I accurately summarised it?
A. That's more or less it, yes.
Q. I'm right in saying the Scott Trust engages you at editor and only it can fire you?
A. Yes.
Q. You've heard no doubt other editors say that although they do have traditional proprietors, none of them interfere in editorial matters. Let me ask you this question: one of the central objectives of the Scott Trust is that the Guardian has to remain faithful to the liberal tradition. Is that not an agenda in itself?
A. When you're appointed, the only thing the Scott Trust tells you is to carry on the paper as heretofore, and it's left to you to interpret the traditions of the paper in the light of the current circumstances. I think it's a liberal small "L", and occasionally, about once every ten years, we discuss what the meaning of that is, but it's not liberal politically. It doesn't mean that.
Q. Can I ask you about the editorial code, oversight of practices and so. First of all, the Guardian code. You explain at paragraph 6 of your statement that the Guardian has its own editorial conduct, a code of conduct, and has had since 2002. The most recent version of it is dated August 2011. That's within tab 9 hopefully. The number at the bottom of the page should be 02903.
A. Got it.
Q. The editorial code does incorporate the PCC code, but goes slightly further.
A. Yes.
Q. If I can just explore some aspects of the editorial code. First of all, can we look at the summary. It's at the top of the second page. You explain the most important currency is trust and you explain that the purpose of the code is, above all, to protect and foster the bond of trust between GNM and its readers. Then it says this: "As a set of guidelines, this will not form part of a journalist's contract of employment. Nor will it form part of disciplinary, promotional or recruitment procedures." So presumably this means that you can't be disciplined for breaching the editorial code insofar as the PCC code is not touched upon; is that correct?
A. Yes. It's supposed to be a set of guidelines about how we behave, and as it says there, the PCC code is written into the terms of the contract.
Q. So the PCC code is part of the contract?
A. Yes.
Q. This editorial code is not. Turn to the next page under the heading "External assistance".
A. Yes.
Q. You've explained in your witness statement that you don't use private investigators now, although people who are recruited from other newspapers sometimes ask if they can use private investigators. What I want to understand is, under the heading "External assistance", how this works: "Journalists should not engage the paid services of external non-journalistic agents or assistants without the prior knowledge and approval of the editor-in-chief." Does that mean in terms that if someone wanted to use a private investigator for any reason that would have to be approved by you personally?
A. Yes.
Q. Turning over the page to the heading "Privacy". Again, this goes beyond the PCC code. You set out, under the heading "Privacy", the Omand principle, the five questions you say journalists should ask themselves about the situation where the journalist is considering intruding on privacy. I'm not going to read them out. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You identified them all when you spoke MS PATRY HOSKINS Exactly, you've identified them for us in any event and we have them recorded in a number of places. The question is this: to what extent is it rather easier to comply with these principles on the basis that you are the Guardian newspaper and you don't, as you yourself say in the statement, publish private life exposes and so on?
A. I think it's for every editor sort of to set the dial of where they want their privacy settings to be, and we set them pretty high. But I think these questions are useful ones that any editor should be able to ask themselves because I think they're pretty fundamental questions. They're questions of harm versus good versus proportionality versus authorisation and they deal with fishing expeditions. I think they're good principles and whether you worked on the News of the World or the Guardian or the FT, they ought to apply.
Q. Can I pick you up on something you said? You said that each newspaper has to decide where on the dial it is in respect of privacy issues and so on. Does the Guardian have no interest at all in the private lives of, say, public figures? Is the dial set so high that it could never justify any intrusion into someone's privacy?
A. No, I don't think you'd get any editor who said the dial was set at nought, but I think you just have to give general guidelines because you can't be there at all times of day, 16 hours a day and lots of people have to take general decisions without constantly referring them upwards, so I think most people on the Guardian know generally where we stand and that generally informs what we think.
Q. Someone said, Mr Rusbridger, that you get around this whole concept by publishing stories about private lives once they're in the public domain. You get away with it in that way. Is that something which you agree with?
A. Well, I think there's a big difference between setting in train the enquiries or activities that would bring something to the public domain and I think we very rarely do that. I can't think of an example, in nearly 17 years as an editor, where we have set about to expose somebody's private life. We almost never do it. I think that's different from reporting the world as it is. So if let me give an example of Tiger Woods. If Tiger Woods, a very famous person, engages in behaviour which becomes the subject of worldwide coverage, can you say at some point you have to say, "We can't ignore this, even though we would never have done it ourselves." So in the real world, you're confronted endlessly with stories that are brought into the public domain by other people and on which they may comment on themselves and at some point you cover them. I don't think that makes you a hypocrite.
Q. Do you have a system for recording difficult ethical decisions when you're making this kind of decision? Is there an audit trail?
A. Well, I'm going to say the same as other witnesses. I think increasingly we are, and those Omand questions are an example of the sort of questions that you might want to note and just keep an informal note of so that if people challenge you. But in some respect it's not so very different from the so-called Reynolds rules which our investigative journalists and other reporters have been using for a long time. Because it's helpful. It's helpful to be able to keep a log of what you have asked people, when you put it to them, what their answers were because it may give you some protection in law.
Q. Before I come to my final question on the editorial code, let's just follow the same train. Can you answer some questions about prior notification? First of all, is it the Guardian's policy to notify someone in advance if it was going to run
A. In general, yes.
Q. How do you feel about mandatory prior notification? Should there be exceptions to the principle and so on?
A. Well, I would be against it being mandatory with the state of law as it is, because there are examples where you have it could be a vulnerable source who would be put under pressure by the person you're putting it to, or somebody may try and discover who your source is. Somebody may go to court and injunct on a matter I'm not talking about private lives; I'm talking about matters of high public interest. People may suppress the documents that you have. You're often torn between a circumstance in which you want to keep documents because you may need them if you're sued for libel, but on the other hand, if you're going to be whipped into court pre-publication by somebody who is trying to get the documents back or to discover the source of the documents, you may want to destroy them. So there are all kinds of dilemmas pre-publication, and I think having a rigid rule that said, "In all circumstances, you must go to the person that you're about to write about" would be difficult as the law stands.
Q. Is there any alternative to a rigid rule, in your view?
A. I think a strong guideline, and I think in lots of the things that we're looking at, I think it could be taken into account if you didn't. So, you know, in the same way that we're talking about an audit trail, if I took the decision that we weren't going to go to somebody, I should probably note my reasons for that and a future tribunal or court could take that into account in terms of any damages or any sanctions that they wanted to take.
Q. Is there anything else you wanted to add about prior notification before we move on?
A. No.
Q. Finally on the editorial code then, look at the heading, "Subterfuge". It's the last page of the code before you turn to "Personal behaviour": "Journalists should generally identify themselves as GNM employees when working on a story. There may be instances involving stories of exceptional public interest where this does not apply. That needs the approval of a head of department And so on. What is exceptional public interest and why have you chosen to put a higher test than a public interest test here?
A. Because I think it's a serious matter. I think generally you should do most of your journalism by saying who you are and being transparent about it. An example of where we have used subterfuge in the last couple of years would be a reporter who wanted to find out the truth of what the English Defence League was really like, and became a member and he obviously didn't announce himself as a Guardian journalist at the point that he became a member, but that gave you an insight into this organisation that you wouldn't have been able to do had you announced yourself at the door.
Q. So would the wording suggest that the head of department makes the decisions as to whether or not
A. Oh yes, that's a
Q. there is an exception of public interest?
A. Head of department or I would have thought a decision like that would go to the managing editor or to me as well.
Q. Just a few additional governance questions. The editorial code applies to freelancers but what oversight is applied to freelancers to ensure that they do abide by the code?
A. I think anybody who is a regular freelancer I hope would be sent the code. It's on our website so anybody can look at it, and I would hope and expect that anybody contracted to us in any way would be aware of it.
Q. The Guardian does have as whistle-blowing policy. It's attached to your supplementary statement. What's the value in having that? We've heard some editors saying that there is simply no need for a whistle-blowing policy because someone can either approach them personally or the HR department. Where's the value in that?
A. I would have thought that's an old-fashioned view, and that virtually all modern companies in modern life have some form of whistle-blowing policy because it's so difficult being a whistle-blower and you do need some kind of protection. That's why they're increasingly common.
Q. Can I ask you about conscience clauses. Are you a supporter of having a conscience clause in a journalist or staff contracts?
A. Yes. It's a sort of continuation of the same ethos that drives a whistle-blowing policy, but I think I think, for instance, a lot of what was going on at the News of the World a lot of the journalists there were uneasy about, and I think it ought to be open to journalists to say, "I don't think you should be asking me to do that and it doesn't fit with my professional code or my personal conscience to be able to do that", and there ought to be some form of protection for journalists who want to be able to exert that kind of LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It only has a very limited value, hasn't it, because inevitably, once the concern is out in the open, one might protect people in law but it's quite difficult to protect them from insidious
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON issues.
A. You would hope that there is a union or, at the very least, a staff association who would be able to give some protection to a journalist who wanted to trigger that clause. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. MS PATRY HOSKINS You will have heard a number of editors being asked about the sources. Does the Guardian ever publish single-source stories, and if so, in what context?
A. Yes. If the archbishop of Canterbury told me that he was about to resign, ie. a person of trust was telling you something about himself, I don't think I would go for a second source on that. If someone told you that the archbishop of Canterbury was going to resign, that's something where if somebody else told you, even if it was a bishop, you would want a second source on that. I am using that as an example. There are circumstances in which you're dealing with people and information which they are perfectly placed to know about, but generally I agree with my colleagues that with most information, it is better to try and get corroboration.
Q. We'll come back to bishops, I promise. Readers' editor is my next topic. We have heard Mr Elliott tell us about the readers' editor and its role. You explain in your statement that both the Guardian and the Observer have readers' editors. From your point of view, why have a readers' editor? What's the main benefit for you as an editor?
A. I lived in America in the mid-1980s and it was quite commonplace there. I hadn't come across it before. While I was living in America, I also came across that book by David Broder which I quoted to you, which made me think about the imperfect nature of journalism, that journalism is bound by its very nature to be imperfect and that error is implicit in journalism. I came back to the UK and when I became an editor I thought: why can't we just be honest about that and build it into what we do, that we do make errors but that it is the right thing to apologise, and to correct and to clarify? So I wanted to make it routine in the way that it is in America. I was also conscious of the power when you become an editor, you are conscious of the very great deal of power that you have, and I thought it was good to have a form of independent challenge so that I, as the person who was responsible for the story I'm not necessarily the best person to go to in order to correct that story and it's been a tremendously liberating thing to have somebody else reach an impartial view of whether something is right or wrong and deserves correction or clarification and I think it's a really good model.
Q. I touched on remedies with Mr Elliott. The readers' editor can do lots of things, but the terms of reference suggest that an apology or a correction is agreed in consultation with the editor. How do you deal situations where there it is a fundamental disagreement between you and Mr Elliott or his predecessor about a story?
A. In the end, if you're going to have one and this may explain the reluctance of some editors to go down this route you are giving away a significant degree of control. The moment you sign the moment I signed Mr Elliott's contract saying that I can't intervene in what he does, I'm giving away control over part of my newspaper, which is quite a significant thing for an editor to grant. So in the end, if he thinks we should correct or apologise for something, it doesn't matter what I think. He's going to go and do it.
Q. What's the point in consulting you? Simply to take into account your view?
A. I think it's partly a matter of courtesy, but I suppose it's almost like the sort of the prior notification business. He says, "I'm about to say this; is there anything you want to say to change my mind?" Sometimes I try and change his mind, and usually he ignores me.
Q. Can I ask you some questions about the practicalities of having a readers' editor in every newspaper, every magazine, every publication? You may have heard other editors saying they simply didn't feel they needed one or some lukewarm responses from others. We haven't yet heard from the regional press, the Scottish press and so on. They may well be lukewarm too, we simply don't know yet, but how can this work across the board in terms of cost, practical implications for magazines and so on?
A. I've talked about the issue of control. If people were honest, that's one of the reasons why people are nervous about having a readers' editor, because of the loss of control. On the question of need, I don't think actually until you have a readers' editor, you can't really tell whether you need one. I heard some editors saying, "We only publish X corrections a week", but it's only by having an independent system and encouraging people to tell you so I'm pretty sure that if the Guardian makes a mistake, that we're going to know about it because we are appealing for people to identify them. In terms of spotting the systemic weaknesses within the paper or of individuals, it's difficult, I think, for anybody to say they don't need that if they don't have it. In terms of cost, I've also heard my colleagues saying there's usually somebody on the paper who deals with these things. It might be part of the managing editor's office. So it's not a given that having this person is going to be an additional headcount, because somebody usually editors don't have the time to deal with this personally. There's usually people within your organisation who is dealing with this. I would say I agree with what Chris Elliott said about why it is good commercially in terms of building trust and in reducing legal cost. In terms of the much smaller papers I was trying to think if there was a rule of thumb. We have two readers' editors per a headcount of about 600. I would have thought that any paper with a staff of over 100, to have one person who is doing this would not be an excessive use of resource. In the case of regional chains, I would have thought a group like Trinity Mirror or Johnson, if they had one readers' editor who dealt with five or six or maybe even 15 titles, that would be a way of getting around the business of having one per title.
Q. Is there anything you would like to add on the equal prominence argument? There have been some criticisms of the fact that the Corrections and Clarifications column is buried, some say, in the newspaper. Other newspapers put their Corrections and Clarifications column on page 2. Is there anything that you'd like to say about that?
A. Well, it certainly simplifies things if I think it's good practice to have it in one place. I regard the leader spread as a very prominent part of the Guardian, and it certainly cuts out a lot of argument. If we just say that that is where we correct because otherwise it just gives lawyers more to argue about. So to clarify, it helps if we can just say, "That is where, as a matter of policy, we correct." We have, on one or two occasions, published where we've got things badly wrong and where it was serious, we've published a little front-page teaser to say there's a correction on the readers' column, but as Chris Elliott said, if the if there's going to be an industry standard where everybody does it on page 2, I don't have a problem with that either.
Q. Finally on this issue, you have a readers' column at present, four days a week, on the leader page. What's the thinking behind that?
A. The response column?
Q. Yes, the readers' response column.
A. It was really and ironically within the last week we've reduced the frequency of that, but it's a chance to allow people to respond at greater length than in a letter, especially if it personally refers to them. The reason we reduced it was that actually we found that we were having to commission it, because people weren't although it was there every day and was quite prominently there, people weren't making use of it, so it seemed a bit silly to be actually trying to commission these pieces, but if anybody wants to be able to reply to something at about 700 words instead of the average length of a letter, which would be about 150 words, it's there and we'll continue to use it.
Q. Is it a right of reply column?
A. No, it's an opportunity to reply. I think nobody has the right to reply.
Q. Do you edit any of its content?
A. There is an editor of the column, who will edit it, yes, but I mean, as to the point of it, it's to allow somebody to respond. It's not edited too heavily.
Q. Before I turn to the PCC and future regulation, I'd like to ask you general questions which you may have heard asked of others. First of all, your relationship with the police and senior politicians, please. Do you meet with senior political figures? Prime ministers, shadow
A. Yes, we have an open editorial conference every day on the Guardian. Every Wednesday, we invite somebody in to come and talk to the staff as a whole and quite often they're politicians. Sometimes we'll have lunches. I meet them at conferences and very occasionally you'll get bidden to Number 10 or Chequers to meet the prime minister. It's only I've met David Cameron once since he became prime minister. There's something else which has changed in the last six months, which is now all cabinet ministers and I think shadow cabinet ministers feel obliged to keep a record of if they meet an editor. I am not convinced that's necessarily a great step forward.
Q. Why not?
A. If we have Vince Cable to lunch was it Vince Cable? Yes to lunch a few months ago and he said, "If you're here, I'm going to have to declare this. If you're not here, I'm not going to have to declare it." So I'm not sure what the rationale of that is, particularly LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Sorry?
A. I'm not particularly sure why LORD JUSTICE LEVESON If you personally were there?
A. Yes. If an editor speaks to a cabinet minister, it's different from a political editor speaking to a cabinet minister. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I see. So him coming to your office where he might meet political editors and staff
A. As I understand it, that doesn't have to be declared, which I think is good, because I think it would be a strange world in whichever every contact between politicians and journalists has to be logged. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well
A. But for some reason, if an editor's there, it becomes something that is declarable. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I suppose the well, you appreciate what the concern is, I have no doubt. Let me just try and grapple with that for a moment. I tried with Mr Harding this morning. It's not surprising if you want to meet politicians, senior people from any walk of life in the country the examples I've given are bishops, generals, judges, anybody merely to understand the issues which they are confronting, not to deal with specifics of any sort. The question is whether, in relation to politicians, that creates an opportunity for lobbying or abuse either way, and that's really what it's getting at. It's not to cover the general issues of the day, but rather more insidious relationships. Is that a problem, do you think, or not a problem, realistic or not realistic, something that ought to be addressed? I'm coming back to it later on in the year.
A. Well, I think I think it would be a shame if a minister or a politician couldn't talk to an editor without that necessarily becoming a public event, but maybe that is the world in which we're living. It was certainly a surprise to me in July to see the extensive contacts between David Cameron and senior editors in News International, and especially when it emerged under questioning that David Cameron had discussed the BSkyB with them, albeit, he said, in innocent terms. So I can see there is a problem there. But equally, if you make it too rigorous that you have to note every single meeting, then I think that probably militates against the flow of information between politics and the press. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. I think therefore you're recognising there is a distinction between the two types of contact I've just mentioned.
A. Yes. MS PATRY HOSKINS When you've had these meetings with senior politicians, to what extent do the you've heard some editors say that the politician will run a particular policy past them with a view to ascertaining how that policy would go down with their readers. Is that your experience?
A. I think it used to be far worse in the past. I mean, Alastair Hetherington, my predecessor, used to be having almost weekly meetings with Harold Wilson. Lloyd George used to run his cabinet changes past CP Scott before he did them, so I don't think this is a new problem. I don't think I I can't remember ministers road-testing policies with us. But, you know, it was useful when Labour was in power to be able to occasionally meet the prime minister and talk through our concerns over it could be the environment, it could be civil liberties to get our environment editor so it wasn't always political editors in the same room and say, "Why aren't you doing green issues more priority?" I think that's a good thing to be able to do with a prime minister.
Q. You think it's important that editors, political editors, et cetera, should continue to be allowed to meet with senior politicians to
A. Certainly to meet. I suppose my only slight niggle is over whether they will have to be logged.
Q. Right. Do you meet with senior police officers?
A. I think all the heads of the Met bar the present one I have met over lunch or had dinner or a cup of coffee.
Q. Again, what's the purpose of those meetings?
A. Generally, again, they're useful meetings in which they can explain the background of what's going on on their patch or the difficulties that they're facing, and occasionally during the phone hacking saga I've written about this or talked about it. There were two occasions where very senior Met officers came to see me in effect to try and talk me out of the story. So that was a qualitatively different kind of meeting which had a particular purpose.
Q. Okay. Did they succeed, for the record? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I think not.
A. They didn't, and Sir Paul Stephenson, when he resigned, was gracious enough to say that he was glad I ignored his advice.
Q. I said I'd come back to bishops. Do you meet with bishops, senior judges and so on? Another editor said that he did, so I'm wondering.
A. Yes. We meet bishops, imams, rabbis and judges. It was sometimes you will be invited in to go and have lunch with the judges at the Old Bailey or the High Court. I once went to talk to a meeting of High Court judges and ditto the security services. I think all these things are useful.
Q. Can we turn now to the role of the PCC and recommendations for future regulation. First of all, I'd like to ask you about your resignation from the Code Committee. If you turn to tab 9 in the bundle you have, you'll find the first page of that is your resignation letter. For those who don't have it, it's dated 12 November 2009 and it's a short letter to Mr Paul Dacre which makes clear that you consider that the PCC performs a very valuable function and that you've enjoyed sitting on it under the chairmanship of Mr Dacre, and then you say this: but I am afraid that I am personally out of sympathy with the PCC at the moment. Its code is excellent, its mediation work is often very valuable, but to my mind, it is not suited to the task of regulation as most people would understand that term." Can you perhaps explain what you meant by "I am personally out of sympathy with the PCC at the moment"?
A. That letter was rather prescient, because it goes on to say, "I don't think this is a sustainable position in the long term." First of all, just to correct you, I was resigning from the Code Committee, not the PCC. I was never on the PCC, and I think there I was saying that the PCC that the Code Committee performed the valuable function.
Q. Yes.
A. I stand by that. I think the code is a perfectly good code and I was impressed by the work of the Code Committee and Paul Dacre was a very good chair, so I didn't have a problem particularly with the Code Committee. But when the PCC's report into phone hacking came out, I thought that it was, crudely, a whitewash. It was worse than a whitewash because it not only couldn't find anything wrong; it was factually wrong about matters that were in the public interest, and for some reason whoever wrote it felt they should try and put in a little sneery swipe at the Guardian's reporting and I just thought that was such an inadequate way to proceed and that it so undermined the principle of self-regulation that I couldn't really be identified with the body by actually playing any active role in it.
Q. So your view, in respect of the phone hacking allegations, is that the PCC failed to act as a competent regulator?
A. I don't think it I mean, we wrote an editorial at the time saying it wasn't a regulator and I was interested that when Lord Hunt took up his position, the first thing that he said was to say that the PCC wasn't a regulator.
Q. All right. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But it's right to say that prior thereto, it had always said that it was a regulator?
A. It had been yeah, it described itself as a regulator and members of the industry described it as a regulator, but it plainly the phone hacking thing exposed the fact that it had none of the powers that you would expect of any regulator. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Did it have no power? I thought the PCC constitution did permit it to do certain things which might have given it rather more authority but they just didn't do them.
A. It could certainly have done a better job than it did with the powers that it had, but that was the excuse that's been mounted since, that they've held their hands up in a rather hang-wringing way to say, "We didn't have the powers, we were lied to", but even when they were lied to by the biggest, most powerful media player in the country and the most prominent member of the PCC, there was nothing they could even do about that. So I think its inadequacies were fatally exposed by that episode. MS PATRY HOSKINS I'd like to take you to the way forward from here, if I can. Behind tab 11 you'll find a copy of your Orwell lecture, a lecture on journalism and the phone hacking scandal which you gave on 10 November 2011. The reason I take you to that is because you set out in some detail your proposals for the future. If we look at page 10, at the top of the page you should find there's 20 pages internally and if you turn to page 10 of 20, you'll see the first of the proposals that you put forward. Do you have that?
A. Yes. Where it says "readers' editors"?
Q. Yes. I'm going to take you through each of those in turn. I don't think we need to discuss readers' editors. We've already touched on that. Is there anything you wanted to add to that particular proposal?
A. No.
Q. "A regulator with teeth" is the next proposal. Without reading out the entire section, it's clear that you suggest that the regulator should have investigatory powers, should have power to sanction, and have a "polluter pays" principle. Can you talk us through that particular proposal in more detail?
A. I gave the example there of in 1998, we published a piece that alleged that a Carlton TV programme had essentially been faked and what happened there was that a very distinguished QC, Michael Beloff, went in with a couple of assessors and I imagine that was quite a costly inquiry in terms of getting to the bottom of that. They came to the conclusion that our story was right and Carlton TV paid for that inquiry. The ITC, which was then the regulator of ITV, also levied a ?2 million fine on top of that. Let's set the fine aside. I think that idea of where there's prima facie evidence that something has systemically badly gone wrong within a newspaper, the idea of sending a figure like that in, whose credibility is going to be dependent on not having the wool pulled over their eyes in the way that the PCC had, is quite a good one and that the organisation should bear the cost of that.
Q. Is there anything else you wanted to say?
A. No. I think this is probably now uncontroversial. I would guess that the industry and Paul Dacre said when he gave evidence here he was talking about an ombudsman and I think the fact that a figure like Paul Dacre would come out with that is significant.
Q. The third proposal, you've renamed the PCC the PSMC, a one-stop shop, a Press Standards and Mediation Commission. You say it should be a one-stop stop disputes resolution services so that people never have to go to the law to resolve their differences with newspapers. It could be quick, responsive and cheap. Again, could you flesh that out for us?
A. This is something that's been talked about much in the last couple of weeks. It's trying to work out whether there's an arbitral or adjudicatory wing that could be applied to the regulator that would get over some of the problems that the press is always complaining about. We all you've heard us whingeing endlessly about the cost of libel and the chilling effect that libel to. I thinking it would be a challenge to see whether we could deal with privacy too, because none of us likes having to submit to the courts. So if that's our stance, that we hate the way that the courts deal with libel and privacy, why don't we use this opportunity to show that we can do it ourselves? That is what I was trying to say. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON By "ourselves", it doesn't necessarily mean editors. It may be set up, this arbitral system.
A. No yeah. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But you have to address the issue, which you've probably also heard me talk about, that it's either consensual, in which case those with the money will say, "I'm not interested", or it is a part of the mechanism that is provided as opposed to court to resolve disputes.
A. Can I break that down into three, because just because I think it might help the discussion about this use of statute. The first use of statute I think these terms are becoming confused. There's a question about whether the regulator needs to be set up by statute or whether it could be something that recognises the powers of the regulator. I was trying to clear my own thinking on this and rang up the Irish ombudsman this morning because it looked to me as though the Irish Press Council had been set up by statute, and he said, "No, that's not quite right; it was set up in a piece of legislation in the Defamation Act that recognised the role of the regulator." So that's one bit. The second bit is this mediation and adjudication role. As I understand the law, we should be talking about adjudication rather than arbitration, and there are parallels in law where it can be compulsory to submit yourself to adjudication before going to the courts. I'm told I'm obviously not a lawyer that this is common place in construction law. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's because there is an agreement to that effect.
A. Yes. So I personally if you're saying that there would need to be a statute passed in order to give that force, I wouldn't be against the use of statute. If you made that it was written into law so that the powers this regulator had in order to be able to perform this adjudication function if the law needs to be changed by statute in order to do that, I would have thought that is something the industry ought to welcome because it's going to help us out of this problem of libel. The third bit, which is the most wriggly and difficult bit, is how you deal with refuseniks and whether you need a statute in order to compel everybody in in order to be able to then have the system that works for everybody, and I think that's the most difficult bit. In a way, it's connected with the first bit, ie. do you set it up by statute or are you just recognising this organisation by LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I agree with the analysis, but that doesn't although in the second of your three points you identified what you could find acceptable
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON you've been remarkably coy in saying so in relation to that.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So far.
A. Do you want me to keep on talking? MS PATRY HOSKINS Yes.
A. To the extent that we're all talking about carrots and sticks, I think if this adjudication bit could be built into the role and acknowledged by law in libel let's come back to privacy later and that there were significant advantages in costs and in the speed and ease of settling these disputes, that would be a significant imperative for any publisher to come in. I was also interested, talking to the Irish ombudsman, in something else I didn't know about, the way they constructed this in 2009, which is that the ombudsman in Ireland, as well given absolute privilege in anything that he or she wants to say about the members who are members of the Irish Press Council. He was talking aloud to me about whether did he what he wants to do is to get the doyle(?) to extend that so that he could have absolute privilege in talking about non-members. So I was thinking about the refuseniks here and why a regulator couldn't just go ahead and regulate them anyway, and if you granted them absolute privilege, they could say anything they liked about the refuseniks, and anybody else could correct and publish about the things that were happening in the refusenik's paper. These are all things that are short of statute, but I think they are quite significant carrots and sticks. Let me pause there. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right. MS PATRY HOSKINS Moving on through the Orwell lecture, number 4 is: "Agree on what we mean by public interest and stick to it." You say you think that the PCC definition of public interest that exists at present is actually pretty good, but you say essentially what needs to happen is that newspapers need to believe in it and be prepared to argue it.
A. The longer this Inquiry goes on, the more public interest becomes the two most common words.
Q. Indeed.
A. And you realise that public interest is at the heart of everything we do believe in, we argue for and we should believe in. So I think we have to have a very clear idea of what we mean by those words and I think the PCC code is good, or adequate, and I think the more that outsiders and academics have been drawn into this Inquiry, the more we've become aware that there are ways in which it could be improved. I'm not saying it's the final word on public interest. But I think, having agreed it, particularly if we want to create this kind of one-stop shop, then that should become the cornerstone of what we're talking about, and I think that does come into play in questions of privacy, and what I think has been the case pretty frequently recently in a lot of the so-called super-injunction cases in the courts have involved papers who go along and argue these cases, but when the judge asks the papers, as he's obliged to do, he or she is obliged to do under section 12, "Are you claiming that this complies with the public interest section of the relevant code?" the answer more often than not is, "No". I think if we're going to have a public interest clause and we're all going to sign up to it, it should be something we believe in and argue for.
Q. The final recommendation is learning from others, and you include the Omand principles. I don't think there's anything we need to go back to.
A. No.
Q. Can I ask you briefly about changes to the industry, the growth of online format, and so on, and whether you believe that regulation will threaten or stimulate the newspaper industry?
A. It's a fact of life that we're all on the path to being increasingly digital organisations and that brings us into competition with a whole digital world that didn't exist ten years ago. You can't escape the fact that the more regulated we are, that is going to place us at some disadvantage to people who aren't, but I think I would like to play up the advantages of that, because I think, again, if the argument that we're making for journalism is that we operate to a professional standard of professional code of standards and ethics, that should be an advantage in branding what we do and we shouldn't worry too much and become too obsessed by all these people who are out there who aren't who don't operate by that kind of code.
Q. Finally, maybe you've heard this question asked of others: what's your biggest priority for the Guardian going forward from here?
A. Well, it is it's the same answer that others have given, that there is this ferocious digital revolution coming along and we're in the teeth of that at the time of maximum economic disruption. There are huge opportunities there. I made the point in my supplementary statement that the Guardian is now a very considerable global player, but there are huge challenges in terms of making of finding the convincing business model, so I want to see Guardian journalism continue and thrive, although whether and to what extent that is in print or in digital is a sort of second order matter.
Q. I'm conscious, Mr Rusbridger, that you've produced a very large amount of evidence to this Inquiry and that we've not been able to touch on a very large percentage of it. Is there anything that you would like to add particularly?
A. No. MS PATRY HOSKINS Thank you very much indeed. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Let me just ask this: in the period which has elapsed since you spoke at the seminar, you've made a number of speeches, you've opened this submission, you've made a number of speeches, we've travelled, I think, a fair distance. Ultimately I will make some recommendations, but I would be grateful for your view as to whether your attitude to the subject matter of part 1 of this Inquiry has changed as a result of the last three months, if only to give me a weathervane as to the impact, which is quite important for me to assess as well.
A. I think there isn't a journalist in Britain who hasn't found a lot of what has been heard in the last few months sobering. And it's been a very I mean, there is no industry that could no industry or body or profession that could go through this kind of scrutiny and enjoy it. But I think there have been it's been a very harsh and uncomfortable light thrown on some things, as well as the opportunity for everybody to come along and talk about the good things and the realities of the challenges that we face. But I think what the Inquiry has done, as well as open up that light, has drawn in other voices. It's brought editors out into the public in a way that they're not often brought out. That's uncomfortable, but I think it's also good and fits in with the age of transparency that we expect of others. And I think it's drawn in useful voices from outsiders and academics and broadcast journalists and people with different kinds of experience, and I think there's been a huge move within the industry and we talked a bit about things that weren't commonly said about the PCC a couple of years ago that people now regard as commonplace, and there have been incredibly constructive moves by people like Paul Dacre in terms of what he's done in terms of corrections and clarifications and what he's said about ombudsmen. So I think there are voices being engaged in ways that simply wouldn't have been engaged six months or a year ago. I think the phone hacking saga was an uncomfortable catalyst for that but if good things and I think good things already have come out of the inquest into that, that will be a good thing. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You will appreciate that the one concern I have is that this inquiry shouldn't follow the litany of other inquiries or the list of other inquiries over the years where all sorts of assurances are being provided and then everything just drifts away. That's quite an important part of what I have to achieve. Would you agree with that?
A. I agree with that, and that's why I think this debate about statute is a fairly central one. Again, I think most editors, most people in the industry six months ago because of course, we all utterly reject anything that looks like state licensing and we reject anything that looks like politicians or the state having any kind of say in the content of newspapers. So I'm not surprised that LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I think I've made that quite clear right from the very outset.
A. Of course, sure. But I'm not surprised there's a kind of visceral rejection of it, but I think one of the things the Inquiry has done is to open this up as a more nuanced question than perhaps it would have seemed to us I include myself in that previously. In my previous answer about these different types of what we mean by "statute", I hope I've shown that I have moved in my thinking and that there are significant challenges to all of us to think about that if we want to reap what could be the benefits of what I hope you'll propose as well as you know, I think what the blunt truth about our industry is that we've been underregulated and overlegislated, and if we can get a better balance of better legislation and better regulation as a result of it, then that, to my mind, is a good thing. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Right. We inevitably are going to have to come back to the whole issue of the Milly Dowler phone on the basis that it's appropriate that it is resolved. I don't want to ask you about that but if there's anything you want to say about it, then I feel I ought to give you the opportunity, considering you're sitting there.
A. Yes. Well, I think from the fact that it's taken some time to resolve indicates that it's not a simple question. We've put one we've now put two submissions in and I think the best way for this to be resolved is for the various parties to be able to interrogate each other, because I think there's other source material which, if you really want to get to the bottom of it, would help you, and I'm not sure that we have yet seen all the evidence or had all the answers to what is a is self-evidently a complex question. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes.
A. Because otherwise we would have got to the bottom of it already. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. I'm sure you appreciate that although I'm very keen to bring all that out into the open, I don't want to get sent down a siding which diverts me from the important task which I've been given within the timeframe broadly that I've been given it, but I am conscious of the point.
A. Yes. I mean, I think it is to some extent, it is a siding. I think there are people who are trying to elevate this into a primary issue now who didn't think it was at the time, and I don't think anybody thinks that well, I think when you track back the reasons that were given for the closure of News of the World at the time, they certainly weren't that. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, I understand the point. I think that as we're set up, I have to address it, as I am trying to, but it's not a primary focus. Mr Rusbridger, thank you. MS PATRY HOSKINS Sir, that does conclude the evidence for today. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you very much indeed, and I'm sorry to everybody, including the shorthand writer, for yet another long day. Thank you very much. (5.00 pm) (The hearing adjourned until 10 o'clock the following day)

Witnesses

Gave a statement at the hearing on Tuesday, January 17, 2012 (PM) ; and submitted 7 pieces of evidence
Gave statements at the hearings on Wednesday, November 16, 2011 (AM) and Tuesday, January 17, 2012 (PM) ; and submitted 4 pieces of evidence
Gave a statement at the hearing on Tuesday, January 17, 2012 (PM) ; and submitted 4 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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