Afternoon Hearing on 24 January 2012

Inayat Bunglawala , Fiona Fox , Gary O’Shea , Ryan Parry and Stephen Waring gave statements at this hearing

Hearing Transcript

(2.05 pm) MR JAY I call Mr Bunglawala, please. MR INAYAT BUNGLAWALA (sworn) Questions by MR JAY MR JAY First of all, please, make yourself comfortable, Mr Bunglawala. Could you provide us with your full name?
A. Sure. My name is Inayat Bunglawala.
Q. Thank you. You are representing an organisation called Engage, which is a limited company by guarantee. Can you tell us who Engage is and what its purposes and objects are?
A. Sure. Engage was set up almost four years ago now and it's a Muslim advocacy organisation which seeks to encourage greater civic participation on the part of British Muslims in our democracy. So we try during election time, we encourage voter registration drives, we encourage people to take an interest in politics, if they have concerns, to raise them with their MPs. We make this information available on our website so people can easily identify who their local politicians are. In addition to that, we also seek to ensure a fairer portrayal, a more balanced portrayal of the faith of Islam and in pursuit of that we're often in contact with the Press Complaints Commission and newspapers, with a view to seeking a correction of misrepresentations that we believe we have seen in newspapers.
Q. Thank you. You provided the Inquiry with a submission in writing dated 31 October 2011. Do you have that available?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. That submission, if you look at page 54254, third line, refers to a parliamentary briefing page on Islamophobia, which you enclose. It's not in the bundle which has been made available to the Inquiry but I have downloaded it from your website. It's an all-party parliamentary group on Islamophobia briefing note, dated September of 2010. I just touch on one or two points you make there in relation to Islamophobia in the media. I know you don't have the document in front of you but are there any specific points there you could highlight, your concerns about Islamophobia and the media?
A. Yes. At Engage we believe that as a society in recent years we've moved away from overt racism. We recognise that racism is wrong, we recognise that stereotypes of people are generally wrong, you know, to propagate these. We recognise it's important to be generally polite in our discourse, and it's wrong to be deliberately offensive. The one exception, it seems to us the one glaring exception, it seems to us, is that in recent years the coverage of Muslims has not improved. Sometimes we come across some very, very disturbing headlines which seem to us to be aimed at fermenting prejudice against Muslims. Rather than reporting facts, it's aimed at stirring up prejudice towards the British Muslim community.
Q. Thank you. In relation to that, in the briefing paper, although it's not in front of us now, you give some examples of headlines: "Muslim schools ban our culture", "Muslims tell us how to run our schools", "Britain has 85 [underlined] Sharia courts" and "BBC put Muslims before you". Those are examples from certain sections of the press which you draw attention to Parliament; is that right?
A. That's right. We believe these headlines are we believe these headlines only serve to increase prejudice towards Muslims and they are designed to increase it, which is actually the more disturbing fact.
Q. Can I put this general point to you before we look at your submission to the Inquiry: we all believe in free speech. How do you define or where do you see the boundary between fair comment on the one hand and unfair, unbalanced discriminatory comment on the other, if the answer isn't already to be found in my question? I apologise but it's defining the boundary, please.
A. I can fully accept that newspapers are there to report stories and if Muslims are involved in those stories, there will be facts about Muslims or the faith of Islam which they need to touch upon, especially in a time when we're facing a terror threat from Al Qaeda. It would be impossible for newspapers to avoid the subject of Island and Muslims. Where I think a line needs to be drawn is on a clear falsehood on where newspapers just tell plain falsehoods in their headline, where they seem to be fermenting prejudice, whereas if we replace the word "Muslim" with another minority group, we would very quickly recognise this is unacceptable. So I think the same standards should be applied to Muslims as to any other faith group or any other minority group community.
Q. Thank you. You're entitled, of course, to refer to clause 12 of the PCC code, which contains a general anti-discrimination provision, both in terms of race and religion.
A. Yes, that's right. I remember about ten years ago the Sun printed a terrible headline, something about the "gay Mafia" I think it was referring to ministers that were in Tony Blair's government at the time who happened to be gay and the Sun faced criticism from all quarters for that headline, and I don't think we've seen the Sun repeat that kind of homophobia again, or seen that overt homophobia, and I think it's a good step that we've moved away from that. I'd like to see something similar happen in connection with reporting on British Muslims as well.
Q. Thank you. In your submission, you provide some specific examples, Mr Bunglawala. If you look at 54254, this was a piece in the Daily Star: "Poppies banned in terror hot spots."
A. Yes.
Q. Can you tell us about that?
A. This was a piece in the Daily Star which claimed that the sale of poppies was banned in areas with large Muslim populations: Leeds, Bradford and elsewhere. We looked into this story it seemed incredible to us and very quickly found that they had no basis whatsoever. Just because poppies may not be on sale does not mean the poppies are banned. You know, poppies need to be sold by somebody in the first place. So we challenged the Daily Star to prove that a ban had been in place and they were unable to substantiate their story. It was taken up by the PCC and in the end a one-paragraph clarification was printed. It's not just that headline. If you look at the headline, "Poppies banned in terror hot spots", and then the subheading is "Muslim snub to forces". It's that headline which is very damaging. It's clearly meant to portray Muslims as being disrespectful of the armed forces, disrespectful of Remembrance Day and the sacrifices that soldiers have made in the past. The fact that the Star could not find any evidence to substantiate that story and responded with a one-paragraph clarification, I just find it it's almost you get you just get demoralised. You say, "I've gone through the process of trying to get it corrected. We've been to the PCC, and what we're seeing is a little one paragraph response." We have no idea how many people who's going to see that and how that can undo the damage done by the original headline. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Could I ask two questions, please. The first is: did the PCC accept a complaint from Engage as opposed to from an individual?
A. I believe in this case they did, sir. It is true that we've had an issue with third-party complaints in the past, but my understanding is that in recent years the PCC may have moved on a bit and may have been more willing to accept third-party complaints. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's interesting. The second thing is I think there's a typographical error in your statement and I just because I was surprised to read it.
A. It yes, I saw that. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON "This complaint was successfully resolved by the commission and the publication of a clarification which we felt It should have been "inadequately"?
A. Yes, exactly. I spotted that as well. You're a good editor. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON As it reads, it seems that you were satisfied with the correction.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Could we make sure that the copy that goes online has the correction put in, because otherwise it's positively misleading.
A. We can resend that to you, most probably. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON We might be able to do it I've just written in "in". MR JAY The second example, please, Mr Bunglawala. This relates to a story in December 2007 and a subsequent court case involving Lord Ahmed. Could you tell us about that?
A. Yes. Lord Ahmed is a peer. He was involved in a car accident at the time, in December 2007. A newspaper, in covering this case of the accident, referred to him as a "Muslim peer", and we wrote to the PCC because the PCC's code of practice says that a person's faith should not be mentioned in a story if it's irrelevant to the story, and we couldn't understand what Lord Ahmed's Islamic faith had to do with the fact that he'd been involved in a car accident. We thought it was fairly straightforward a fairly straightforward breach of the PCC code of practice. Unfortunately, the PCC did not uphold our complaint and said they believed that the fact that Lord Ahmed was Britain's first Muslim peer therefore made it relevant to the story of his car accident, which I mean, again, it just strikes us as totally contradicting their own code of practice.
Q. Thank you. I understand you'd like to pass over the third example but you do want to talk about the fourth one, a complaint to the Daily Mail. Again, to be clear, was that Engage's complaint or an individual's
A. Yes, this was a complaint by Engage. The article actually mentioned Engage. It was an article by Melanie Phillips.
Q. It was directed to your body, so of course you had the right to complain about it.
A. Yes.
Q. But the piece claimed that you were an extremist Islamist group funded by the government, statements of fact and/or opinion with which you strongly disagreed?
A. Yes. "Extremist Islamist group" I fear we might not get very far with that. Melanie Phillips, she has a particular world view in which quite a few groups seem to fall into that category, so I don't think we're going to get very far with that one, but she made a clear error of fact in that story where she claimed that Engage was a body funded by the government. So we wrote to the managing editor at the Daily Mail and made clear that we've never received a penny from the government, we've never applied for a penny from the government. So we wanted, first, an acknowledgment of the factual error that was in their story, and secondly an apology for making that error. It's been seven months since this story appeared and since we first complained to the PCC and it's still in the process of being resolved. What happened is we complained to the PCC. The PCC then forwards our complaint on to the Mail. The Mail writes to the PCC. The PCC forwards the Mail's response on to us. It's like a ping-pong game in which the PCC seems to be playing more of a postman role rather than the regulatory body it's supposed to be, and that is of concern. After seven months of this ping-pong, we still haven't got the word "apology" out of the Daily Mail. They're still refusing to acknowledge they made an error and because there was a paragraph we said we want this as an apology and they keep striking the word "apology" out of it. We just I think if I was to try to draw blood out of a stone, it might be easier than getting an apology out of the Mail, it seems.
Q. Thank you. "Muslim plot to kill Pope", I think we've seen that one before. It's a Daily Express front page.
A. Well, this was astonishing, Mr Jay, because this was a front-page story and normally newspapers are quite careful about if there's an ongoing criminal case and there are allegations against individuals, they will put words in brackets or in speech marks to denote that this is what people are saying rather than a statement of fact, but here there were no speech marks. It was just clear "Muslim plot to kill Pope" as statement of fact as opposed to anything else. Very quickly, it became apparent I believe within 48 hours or so that this was a non-story. The police released all the people that had been arrested in connection with this incident, without charge, but the Express had done a front page and two full inside pages, pages 4 and 5, given over to this story of a so-called Muslim plot to kill the Pope. When it came to a redress for this story, they printed a one-sentence clarification on page 9. Again, I hope the Inquiry will consider the way newspapers seek to redress the mistakes they make and damage they cause and whether it is in any way commensurate with the harm they are doing LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You don't know the sentence they said, do you?
A. Unfortunately not. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It's not in the paper.
A. No. My apologies, sir. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right. MR JAY Okay. Maybe the sixth and seventh examples there we'll pass over. I think you want to tell us about a different example which isn't in here, a "Christmas is banned" headline in the Daily Express?
A. Yes. This was a headline in the Daily Express, a front-page story, actually, "Christmas is banned, it offends Muslims". I recall this story because it was one of the few times that I ever actually purchased the Daily Express, and I took this story home, I read it, and there was no mention in the story whatsoever of any Muslim who was saying he was offended by Christmas. It turns out that it was a council in south London which had renamed their festivities and renamed it to something called a "Winterval" just to make clear that they were celebrating a number of festivities over a number of time. So we contacted again the Daily Express and got no joy from them, saying that this was a headline they could not substantiate. There was no Muslim quoted to say they were being offended by Christmas, so how could they justify the headline? To this day, I've had no satisfactory response from the Express or the PCC. The only reasoning I could see was that it would help them shift papers, that it would help their front page become a talking point in all over the UK and get people worked up, get people get people's backs up. That to me seems the only plausible explanation of a story that had no substance whatsoever. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's not quite fair, because it does have a substance if the council had done it, but your complaint is slightly different.
A. Yes, yes, sir. There was no basis for the "it offends Muslims" headline. If I can just point out to the Inquiry that this particular front page was subsequently used by the far right, the British National Party, on their placards. The actual front page of the Daily Express with what headline, "Christmas is banned, it offends Muslims", appears on BNP placards now. It's clear that the far right, in the shape of the BNP, are making use of this headline to try to generate support and try to appeal to a wider section of the public for their own agenda, which is clearly an anti-minority one. MR JAY I think we've actually found or rather, Ms Patry Hoskins has found the one line in the Daily Express in relation to the "Muslim plot to kill Pope" story. It does look as if it's hidden away. It says: "Six men arrested and quizzed by counter-terrorism police probing a plot in London to attack the Pope were all were released without charge, Scotland Yard said yesterday." That, I think, was the day after.
A. Yes. See, they were very keen to highlight the Muslim angle when they were arrested, but when they were released, no word mentioned that they were Muslim then.
Q. That's a very fair point, Mr Bunglawala. Section 2 of your paper gives examples of successful legal challenges and third-party complaints to the PCC. Unless you specifically wish to, I don't think it's necessary to alight on any of those, but I think what we would like to hear specifically from you, Mr Bunglawala, is your recommendations, your suggestion for the future, which deal with two matters: one, procedure, how complaints can be made by organisations such as yours, and secondly, the substance.
A. Yes. A couple of points, Mr Jay. One is we would hope that if the Press Complaints Commission is going to replaced or reformed, attention will be given to the speed with which the body will deal with complaints. I mentioned earlier that we've been in negotiation with the Daily Mail now for seven months for a simple apology for a clear factual error and we still haven't got an apology or a clarification for that story. We question how valuable any correction will be months after the original story has appeared. So clearly there needs to be an improvement in the speed by which a body deals with complaints from individuals. Secondly, we have a concern about the make-up of the Press Complaints Commission and the fact that serving editors are often on the committee which adjudicates these complaints and it just seems to us there seems to be here a conflict of interest here, that when we're complaining about a story which may have appeared in their own newspapers, that they are sitting on the committee that adjudicates the value of these complaints. There must be a better answer. I believe the Inquiry has heard suggestions that perhaps former journalists should be on such a committee. That seems to us to be an eminently sensible suggestion. Just for another point we would like to make is that often the apologies that are made by these newspapers are very tiny. As you just saw, in one case it was one sentence LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That wasn't even an apology; that was merely an update.
A. Yes, you're quite right, sir. There was an update on a front-page story that appeared, so we hope the Inquiry will, again, look at ensuring that when retractions and apologies are made, they are in some way commensurate to the prominence given to the original story and the damage done by the original story. After a while, we have to question when a paper like the Daily Express or Daily Star keeps repeating the same mistakes in terms of inaccurate coverage of Muslims and keeps repeating one-sentence or a one-paragraph apologies, we have to ask how sincere those apologies are, of what value they are and whether these newspapers are taking it seriously. So we hope that the Inquiry will look at getting a proper redress for errors that are made. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You mentioned the PCC but you can't go to the PCC about the Express or the Star, can you?
A. Unfortunately not, no. As Mr Desmond made clear the proprietor of the Express made clear in his own testimony here, he has withdrawn his newspapers from being allowed to be adjudicated by the Press Complaints Commission, which again strikes us as a most mystifying position for us to be in, because the Daily Express and the Daily Star are perhaps two of the most egregious offenders when it comes to stories which are mistaken or incorrect or inaccurate when it comes to reporting about British Muslims, and now the PCC has no jurisdiction over them, which is a very odd situation to be in. MR JAY Thank you. That's very clear, Mr Bunglawala. I don't have any further questions for you, but Lord Justice Leveson may. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I think your characterisation of the position is very moderate. Thank you very much indeed.
A. Thank you very much, sir. MR JAY So thank you very much, Mr Buglawala. Before I call the next witness it has nothing to do with Mr Bunglawala I have been asked to show you, on behalf of the Daily Star, a file full of articles which relate to treatment of these issues. It's obviously not right for me to put it to the witness, but it is right that you should see them in due course. (Handed) LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you very much. Actually, this is a point that was made during the course of the evidence, wasn't it, and Mr Dingemans said that he would provide a bundle. MR JAY Yes, and here it is. I have obviously read it, but LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I shall read it. MR CAPLAN May I just mention one thing in relation to the last witness and the delay on behalf of Associated newspapers? Can I just say that my understanding is that the most recent position is that there is correspondence between the parties as recently as the 13th and 23 January, and it is all to do, in fact, with the final wording of the clarification, but it is LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It's not just gone on the back-burner? MR CAPLAN No. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. I'm sure that Mr Buglawala will be pleased to hear that, but his point about timeousness is real and I'm not seeking to apportion responsibility. MR CAPLAN I think it's near an end and there's a resolution in immediate sight. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm pleased to hear it. MR JAY The next witness, please, is Fiona Fox. MS FIONA BERNARDETTE FOX (sworn) Questions by MR JAY MR JAY Please make yourself comfortable, Ms Fox and your full name for the Inquiry.
A. Fiona Bernadette Fox.
Q. Thank you. You have provided a submission on behalf of the Science Media Centre dated 5 December 2011. It runs to 12 pages. Is that your formal evidence to the Inquiry which you're going to elaborate?
A. It is.
Q. Could you tell us, please, about the Science Media Centre. Who or what is it?
A. We are an independent press office for science set up by the whole of the scientific community in 2002, and we were set up after stuff that went wrong so GM, BSE, MMR to be on the kind of front line between the scientific community and the very, very controversial breaking science stories hitting the front pages.
Q. Thank you. And you're the chief executive
A. I am.
Q. of the Science Media Centre. The headline message which you wish to impart is probably to be found in the final paragraph on page 54258, a message which you then elaborate: "While the media was not solely responsible for the MMR scare and lessons have been learned by all concerned, some of the underlying values still remain in parts of our newsrooms the appetite for a great scare story, the desire to overstate a claim made by one expert in a single small study, the reluctance to put one alarming piece of research into a wider, more reassuring context, journalistic balance which conveys a scientific divide where there is none, the love of the maverick and so on." Those are the key themes which you develop. Is it also fair to say, if it's not putting it disparagingly, that the general public does not always apply a rigorous scientific method to its world view? Witness, for example, belief in astrology or, in the United States in particular, belief in creationism?
A. Indeed. I think our view is that the responsibility of the press is to allow all of those opinions to be reflected but that their facts are accurate.
Q. Right.
A. You're entitled to your opinions; you are not entitled to your facts. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, you're not entitled to your own facts. You have to have the facts. The MMR scandal may not be a very good example, given that, of course, that was supported by the peer review journal. I think it was the Lancet.
A. It's actually a wonderful example. Are there other people to blame? Yes, absolutely, and most of the responsibility lies with one individual scientist, who's been discredited, but I think on this one you cannot absolve the media, and the reason I would say that is because it was just a small study, it had not been replicated, nothing had been proven, it conflicted with all the previous scientific evidence, and so it should never have been splashed on the front pages. And I think the other crime of the media in relation to MMR was what we call false balance, where time and time again the editor demanded that the fact that 99.99999 per cent of medical science believed this vaccine to be safe had to be balanced in every article by Andrew Wakefield or one of his supporters. So you have the terrible situation where a MORI poll showed, at the height of this crisis, that nearly 60 per cent of the British public thought that medical science was divided. That's the bit on which the media let the public down. I mean, if you were sitting in a GP's surgery thinking that medical science was divided about whether this vaccine would give your child autism, it's a wonder that anyone vaccinated their children. Even Wakefield didn't do that. He never claimed that everybody agreed with him. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, I understand that, but I was actually sort of trying to provide the context of the support which Dr Wakefield received from a highly respected, peer-reviewed medical journal, which may have contributed to a lack of understanding, whereas some of the other examples you give don't have that defence. It isn't a full defence. I'll put the word "defence" in inverted commas. Partial excuse. Would you agree with that?
A. Yes, absolutely agree, and I think if you look at the role of almost everybody in that saga, nobody comes out smelling of roses. But as this Inquiry is about the role of the media, then that's the role LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Absolutely. But for balance purposes, without seeking to in any way remove the responsibility for the research from Wakefield, there was the support originally given to it by the Lancet. But the whole issue of balance is itself an interesting one. MR JAY Yes. You set out some ground rules, Ms Fox, at 54259, getting the basics right in relation to the empirical sciences and you explain the difference between various types of study, what it means when you say that the risk is doubled. This is all meat and drink to a scientist or probably someone with an A level in a scientific subject, but these are points which are not always caught up in media reporting of the sciences; is that right?
A. I think that's right, but I do think that if you one of the points I haven't made yet, which I'm really keen to make, is that the best ally of science are the science reporters. We have some fantastic science journalists in this country and I believe that if you put them in a room with very eminent scientists and members of the public that it would take them a couple of hours to come up with these basic guidelines for science coverage. It is things that are very straightforward. If you say that taking aspirin doubles your risk of heart disease or cancer, that sounds massive. If you look at the actual figures, and that means a rise of cancer from 1 in 1,000 to 1.5 in 1,000, then people will make different judgments. So there's a really basic thing, that you will ask journalists: don't just put the increased risk in percentage terms or doubling or trebling terms; also give us the numbers. Very basic, not difficult. The reason newspapers don't do it is because it doesn't have the same impact, so then it becomes a question about the news editor wanting to terrify us with the scary figures, and we're saying that actually the science journalists and health journalists don't agree with that. They want a more balanced message.
Q. You also point out there's a difference between a small experimental study on a rat on the one hand and a series of randomised control trials testing efficacy on homo sapiens on the other hand.
A. Indeed, and I think this takes us back to MMR and it's slightly, very slightly, a defence of the Lancet here because it was a very, very small study. I think it was 12 children. Most studies are preliminary and provisional. The vast majority will not be replicated, and indeed will be overturned because they're small. They're very important scientifically, but they're not important to the public at that stage. I mean, the irony, of course, is by the time we've proved the risk or by the time we've proved that the treatment works, it will be boring to the newspapers because it will have been through massive trials with tens of thousands of people. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Of course, to be fair to the Lancet I have to try to be fair to everybody there was the issue about where the sample came from in the first place.
A. Indeed. That's right. They were lied to. That's very difficult to check for. The peer review system doesn't actually check against that. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, I'm just trying to be balanced to everybody.
A. I think it's very, very relevant because we are not saying that we don't want the media to report on these. I mean, that would be going back 20 years to where science was in a ghetto and wasn't covered. We want all these studies to be reported, we're delighted to see them but we want them on the inside pages. They should not be on the front can I give you an example from the last couple of days? MR JAY So we get our bearings right in our submission, if you go to 54260, please, you deal with the issue of headlines. It's a big point I know you make, Ms Fox, that you're concerned about sensational, misleading or sometimes down right inaccurate headlines as much as the underlying text. You've found for us a very recent example which illustrates that point, I think.
A. I brought a couple of examples. I think it's important to say that no matter what day or what week I had come, I would come with topical examples. I mean, this is routine, and what you have is very, very excellent science journalists who take care to write an article, accurate, balance, measured and third party experts, but they leave at 8 o'clock and the subeditors, who don't seem to go out in daylight hours, arrive at 9 or 10 o'clock, skim-read the article and put often a very inaccurate headline on it, and I think that causes especially now with new media, very often it's the headline that gets tweeted, and if that headline is that red wine gives you cancer, then that can be alarming. The one from today
Q. I have been asked you to slow down.
A. You can ask. I shall try. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It's actually important for a different reason. It's very important that what you say is available to everybody who wants to read it, and the only way it will be available to everybody is if this lady can manage to catch it all.
A. I apologise. So this was a lovely story from yesterday, which I don't know if you were just watching Leveson on the television but was on the news last night, of a stem cell break through, and the first proof in a safety trial that stem embryonic stem cells could actually be safe to give to humans, which is extraordinary in itself, it's a real break through, it's been a long time coming, but it was not an efficacy trial. It didn't test for whether these stem cells will cure blindness; it was just a first trial to check that the stem cells get to the place they're meant to get and are not rejected by the immune system. As it happens, the two only two patients who have been given the treatment showed a tiny, tiny improvement in their sight, but that's not what it was testing for and those two patients may have shown that improvement totally by chance. Yet we wake up today to a headline which says "Once they were blind, now they see patients cured by stem cell miracle". No patients have been cured. It is not true that they were blind and now they see. This is just inaccurate. I know that hundreds of thousands of people with (inaudible) degeneration who are blind will have been given false hope by this. We all hope that it will turn out like this in the end, but it has to LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm going to try again.
A. Okay. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Please slow down. It's a subject obviously you feel extremely strongly about.
A. I do. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm very keen to hear it but I'm actually keen that everybody else hears it as well. MR JAY As you point out, with all these ethical trials, the first trial, once you've moved past your rats, is a safety trial on human beings and the purpose is only to determine whether the drug is safe, not whether it works. If it's established to be safe, you then move on to the efficacy trials, that's right, and this was a safety trial
A. Yes.
Q. which showed a very slight improvement but in no way LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And then you'll do it qualitatively and then quantitatively; is that right?
A. Indeed. I mean, you go into the next set of trials and then phase two trials and then face three and then you try in the population. As I said earlier, we do think these stories should be reported because they are breakthroughs in a sense, but they are nowhere near a cure. They're nowhere near a miracle. We shouldn't be seeing "miracle" or "cure" on stories unless they are proven to be such and this study wasn't even asking this, and therefore it cannot be proof. MR JAY Thank you. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand. MR JAY Ms Fox, towards the bottom of 54260, you offer a gentle bouquet to the Guardian newspaper, which you say is the first paper ever to appoint a news editor and three subeditors with specialisms in science and environment, and by implication you're hoping perhaps not expecting to see that pattern replicated elsewhere; is that right?
A. Yes. Strangely, many of the science, health and environment journalists stay on that beat. They hope to be promoted to become science editor or health editor but they rarely go down the editorial route. So you do find that the newspaper which is packed with humanities graduates tends to have editors and subeditors who don't understand some of the basic rules of science. We're not saying everyone has to have a science degree. We're not saying they all have to go through arduous training, but we do think for some subeditors and news editors on the paper, as well as the specialists, to have some understanding in the basics of science would benefit it would see the end to some of these either overhyping headlines or terrifying headlines.
Q. Thank you. Taking the extremes, 54261, this deals with the issue of probability and what happens at the outer end of your probability graph or curve. Could you develop for us that issue, particularly in relation, please, to the 65,000 swine flu death figure?
A. Yes. This is a tricky one, because what self-respecting journalist is going to hear our chief medical officer telling us that 65,000 people could die of swine flu and not report it? I don't in any way ask them not to report it, but I do think there is a special responsibility to make clear that that was the very worst possible outcome, and that was explained very clearly by Liam Donaldson, the chef medical officer. It was from a model. These modelling exercises are not absolutely exact science. They give a range of probabilities. Ironically, as I said, what happened was the media a year later kind of turned on the medical establishment and on Liam Donaldson: "You told us 65,000 people were going to die, you hyped this, you did it in order to sell or buy the vaccine from GSK", et cetera, et cetera, and actually he had never said that. Scientists were worried about swine flu. They were right to be worried. Again, it's about the headlines and the top line reflecting the range of possibilities. On something like this which really matters I think the climate change one was a classic example, you know. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Take it slowly. Let's just focus on swine flu and then we'll go onto climate change.
A. Okay. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I just have to take it slowly. So right to identify there's a range, wrong not to provide the context, and absolutely wrong to criticise when it comes within the range but not at the extremes.
A. Correct. MR JAY It's a similar point analytically in relation to climate change, because 11 degrees is at the outer level of probability?
A. Yes.
Q. In other words, very unlikely.
A. Yes, and that particular press briefing the Science Media Centre ran and there were four scientists on the panel and I watched them at such pains to repeat time and time again because the questions were coming from the floor, you know: "Will it be like The Day After Tomorrow? Will London freeze over because of this 11 degrees?" And time and time again, the four scientists said, "90 per cent of the models come back and show us it's likely to be around 2 degrees warning, but some a tiny minority of models show us 11 degrees." And what did every newspaper do the next day? Everybody splashed with 11 degrees. In fact, one newspaper, that was the front page, a massive big "11 degrees" with a picture from "The Day After Tomorrow", which is a terrifying blockbuster movie. So again and I think I said in the evidence that again, a year later, Radio 4 did a documentary accusing the scientific community of exaggerating the impact of climate change and cited this briefing, which was incredibly unfair and I actually emailed each of the journalists who had been present at that press briefing and asked them for an email back to send to these producers on Radio 4 to say that it was not the scientists. In fact, many of them were very upset that their peers would no longer trust them because they'd gone out and told the media that we were going to have 11 degrees warming.
Q. Thank you. A related theme but it may be all part and parcel of the same point: extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence, which I suppose, as a matter of logic, must be right.
A. Yes.
Q. You give an example of the human clone story. An extraordinary claim which needed extraordinary evidence; in fact there wasn't any evidence.
A. Yes. In some ways, I think this possibly could sum up our 12 pages of evidence and sum up my view, that the disjuncture between the scientific community and your average newsroom is that within science extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence. Within a newsroom, I actually think it's the exact opposite. The more extraordinary, the more shocking, the more sensational, the more the rush to publish. So "MMR leads to autism" was extraordinary. This was a very safe, effective vaccination campaign that had wiped out these diseases. Of course it was extraordinary, but for the newsrooms, that was the reason to splash it on the front page. For me, that was a reason to step back, ask some questions, see whether those results had ever been found before, wait until they were replicated or at least put it on page 10 with those caveats. But that's not the case and I think there's an element of that that we've seen today in this coverage.
Q. Then you point out that very often claims even in scientific journals, although they usually are very heavily caveated, turn out not to be true. That, I suppose, is the life history of science, that most claims in science turn out not to be true.
A. That's right. The example I give of the XMRV virus again, I don't know if you know anything about chronic fatigue syndrome or ME LORD JUSTICE LEVESON For the purposes of everybody else, tell us.
A. I don't know how we disagree, but it is a disease which affects many, many people which causes chronic fatigue and many people cannot work. Some children have MECFS but they have never found a biological cause. They've found many things that contribute to it and there are treatments that are effective, but for many people, to discover that a virus has been found in the samples of, I think, 60 per cent of patients was extraordinary. We found a biological cause. And not only that, it promised an effective treatment. The treatments we have can alleviate the symptoms but they don't cure the disease. So this was huge hope for everybody. It was published in a good journal and it was run on the front pages, but again, I think the question newsrooms should have asked is: this is extraordinary. Has it been replicated? Has it been found before? The answer is is: no. No one has ever found it before and this is the first study. Let's put it in the inside pages. In fact, in the States, people were running out buying tests for this virus, buying treatments which had helped alleviate other symptoms of this virus and then, within months, a group from Imperial College London came to the SMC. They tried to find it, couldn't find it, a group in Holland, a group in the States, and now we've had about ten studies. They cannot find it, and it ends it up it was contaminated samples. Again, it was in Science. It was in a good journal. It's right that the journalists write it up but not splash it on the front page. It's too preliminary. So we love science on the front page and there's some fantastic science stories. There's plenty of opportunities but I think it would resolve a lot of problems if journalists just didn't overclaim for these studies. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON When Mr Dominic Mohan was here from the Sun, he spoke about having engaged a scientist to write science stories in a straightforward, user-friendly way. I can't remember the name of the scientist.
A. I imagine it's Brian Cox. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It was Cox.
A. He's not an ordinary scientist. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Did I say "ordinary"?
A. No. He's wonderful. These very, very, very media friendly. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I didn't call him "ordinary".
A. No, no. What I'm reflecting is that wouldn't work with many scientists. They wouldn't be able to write and communicate in the way that Brian Cox can. He's now a celebrity scientist, and I say that in a good way. I think you know, to stress it's very important that I stress this again and again. The science, health and environment journalists who write for the tabloids and on newspapers are brilliant. They are genius. Every single day they communicate very complicated and very important science to a mass audience. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I think you've just created tomorrow morning's headline on this subject.
A. I hope not. MR JAY Trying to bring together themes in the context of getting the balance right, point number one, you're not, of course, arguing in favour of any form of censorship; you're seeking to attain the right balance between different reviews. Secondly, you recognise this is under the heading "Inconvenient truths" that some issues are very heavily politicised and polarised. For example, GM crops; for example, climate change. In terms of practical recommendations for this Inquiry, given those matters, how would you recommend that the right balance is achieved?
A. I'm very pleased how many science journalists supported our recommendation for guidelines because ten years ago the scientific community recommended guidelines and they were very fiercely rejected by journalists. But actually most of the science journalists themselves say that these guidelines would help them to win the arguments with their editors and their news desks about the kind of prominence to give to these stories. So I think as long as the science reporters were involved in drafting those, they could then be used for training, for editors and subeditors and general news reporters as a part and parcel of journalist accreditation. They could also be used by a PCC or a strengthened PCC to adjudicate on a complaint. So I think that's probably our most solid proposal, apart from that Leveson has given us this wonderful opportunity to step back and just to dream about the kind of culture change in newsrooms which would eradicate many of the problems. Most scientists owe a huge debt to our newspapers for communicating science. There's actually quite a small amount that needs to be done to really assuage their main concerns and to stop damaging the public interest. I do you know, the whole theme of this Inquiry is about public interest, and I have to say sometimes it doesn't matter but sometimes it really does. With the example of MMR, with the examples of GM, which is a technology that the British public and policy-makers have rejected based on inaccurate claims about its damage to human health you know, these things matter. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON When you say it would be the work of a couple of hours to create guidelines, have you put your mind to them?
A. The list that I came up with in the evidence took me two minutes and quite a few people agreed with it, but there is actually a new project funded by government, which is a national science journalism training coordinator which has only just come about and we're very excited about, and he is actually in the process of putting those guidelines together. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well
A. Would you like to see them? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Do you have a timeframe?
A. He probably has something he could it may be work in progress and it could be improved on, but I think he probably has something he could deliver very soon. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. MR JAY Thank you. Please clarify 54264, under the heading "Columnists". Precisely whom are you referring to there?
A. Oh, there are many, many columnists. We love columnists, we love opinionated people. We're quite opinionated at the Science Media Centre. Our beef with these columnists is that sometimes, much like the previous witness said, they are stating things that are blatantly inaccurate and we question whether newspapers can disregard accuracy when it comes to their columnists. The complaint that came alongside my complaint from UEA, the University of East Anglia, was about Phil Jones, the scientist whose thousands and thousands of emails were stolen, hacked into and put out on the Internet about climate change. It was a very difficult time for him at the time. Now four independent inquiries parliamentary inquiries, university inquiries, independent inquiries have ruled in his favour, that he was not guilty of lying about climate change, presenting some big hoax, and yet you still have columnists like Delingpole who, under the masthead of the Daily Telegraph, continue to write, persistently, that he is a liar and a fraud and a hoaxer, and I know that UEA went to the Press Complaints Commission on that particular issue and the response was: "James Delingpole has robust, strong opinions and it was all in the So I think, again, there is no strong recommendation here. There are different views within the scientific community but there is just a sense, getting back to one of my original points, that this thing about: you are entitled to your opinions; you are not entitled to your facts, and that there should still be some requirement for factual accuracy on issues like climate change, vaccines and things which matter so much.
Q. You did provide us with the ruling of the PCC in relation to the UEA against the Daily Telegraph case and Professor Jones. It is quite complex, and if you don't mind I'm not going to go into the detail of it, although I've studied it. I've passed it on to Lord Justice Leveson. Maybe that's something I can take up with the PCC, if there's time. Can I ask you, please, moving on through your paper we haven't looked at the case studies at 54267. All four of them are interesting, but the two I'm going to ask you about, the first and the last, the stillbirth and sleep position paper in the BNJ and then recognising the link to longer lifespan. Can you tell us briefly about those, please?
A. I have to say I don't know much more about those than was presented in evidence. I wonder if you would object if I went through a couple from this week instead with similar messages; is that okay?
Q. Certainly.
A. One was just from last week from the Sun. I don't know if you can see it was a full page in the Sun, which is quite hard to achieve: "Breast cancer risk all over shops' shelves." And basically what the story is saying is commonly used chemicals that are all around us in products are linked to breast cancer. It's a classic example of an article which should not have been given this prominence or headline. It was a very small study, it has several flaws in it, it was in a relatively obscure journal and it showed that traces of these chemicals are found in the breast tissue of women with breast cancer but it didn't test the breast tissue of women without breast cancer, healthy women. So it didn't do a control. Now, it's interesting that the traces of these chemical was were found many toxicologists would have expected them to be found but it certainly is not terrifying and there's no evidence that the chemicals cause the cancer. Neither has there been any study ever before showing that these chemicals cause breast cancer, so I'm aware that three major cancer research charities wrote to the Sun about this. Again, the Sun does fantastic health and science coverage on many occasions, but you don't have to go many weeks before you will get the what we call the scare quotes. My final one was, again, from last week. It was a story the Science Media Centre launched again, another very exciting story about the prospect that we will be able to stop the transfer of mitochondrial diseases, terrible incurable diseases like muscular dystrophy. There was a patient case study where a woman had seven children, all of whom had died very, very tragic and last week the government announced that it's going to have a year-long public consultation on a new approach where you would take some healthy mitochondria from the donor and replace the mother's damaged mitochondria, and so the child could but it's quite a radical technique. It's quite new. But all of the papers every single one of the papers went with this "Child with three parents". Nobody in the whole of science none of the patients I've spoken to, the clinicians, the researchers, the stem cell nobody I've ever spoken to about this technique believes that this is going to be a baby with three parents. They think it's going to have some material from a donor in the way that you do when you have a kidney transplant, but we have: "Children with three parents to be born in two years", "Babies with three parents planned" LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's the Financial Times?
A. It is. "Babies with two mothers and one father within three years", "Three parent IVF closer to approval", "Three parent IVF." Does it matter? The articles were beautiful, and in fact, most of this story was reported in a way that I would say is the best of science reporting, but we are about to have a year-long national debate. It will culminate, in a year's time, in a parliamentary debate because they have to enact legislation to legalise this. Is it helpful that it's going to be framed forever in this and when I have spoken to the science journalists, the point they make is: "Our news editors love it. It's controversial. They love it." And maybe we should be scared what we wish for because maybe if it wasn't controversial, it wouldn't get any coverage. MR JAY It is remarkable in that case that every one of those newspapers has chosen the same headline.
A. And some of them are in inverted commas but nobody uses it. Not even the opponents of this technique use it. It is a creation of news editors because they like it. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON What's possible is that everybody's written up the story, somebody has written it up under this headline, then, as everybody scans each other's online editions, the next paper says, "Hmm, that's a good way of putting it", and lifts an equivalent headline and so it goes virally around the newsrooms of Fleet Street. I'm not saying that's happened
A. I think that's entirely possible. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It's rather more plausible than everybody
A. It may not matter, but I just think the fact that we are powerless to change it, I think that was the point I wanted to make to you. The framing has been set because it's controversial and because it works for the news editor, we are landed with it. It will be impossible to change it. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Ms Fox, this is very, very interesting, but why isn't this covered by a simple requirement for accuracy?
A. Very good question. That's what we are asking for. We're not asking for special treatment or regulation but we're asking for the best possible standards of accuracy in relation to these LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The code requires accuracy.
A. I know, yes. As you heard from the previous witness, there is also the situation which we've raised where only the individual scientist involved in the article that's inaccurate is able to go to the PCC. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Have you been able to go to the PCC?
A. No, although I think it's quite important to say that when we set up in 2002, we decided not to go down that route, that we would our philosophy was that the media will do science better when scientists start to do the media better. So our focus apart from this half an hour that I've got in this room, most of my life is aimed at persuading scientists to accept what they've got, to live with it and to engage much effectively and actually, over ten years we've seen a dramatic improvement in coverage of science, partly because of the wonderful science journalists but also because more and more scientists LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Don't feel you have to speak quickly because it's only half an hour. I can extend the time.
A. Okay. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm just concerned that smoke seems to be emanating from the shorthand writer.
A. I'm sorry. MR JAY Well, those are all my questions. In fact, it's 35 minutes on my watch. Not that we're counting. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I think it's a very interesting area because it seems so easy to fix. If you're pleased with the reporting, the general stories, then it doesn't seem to be beyond the wit of man to devise a mechanism for ensuring that everything else flows from that. But it may underline a slightly more serious problem, which is all about the culture in the sense, not in the normal sense we've been using it during the Inquiry but in the sense of needing a headline that grabs attention and the extent to which sufficient attention is paid to the link between the story and the headline. That's not just in science; that's in criminal justice, to my certain knowledge, and I'm sure many other fields as well. As regards the climate change story, presumably there are all sorts of potential remedies open to that particular scientist if he's been defamed.
A. I only know of one complaint that he's made to the Press Complaints Council and that has not been upheld. I don't think he feels like that. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right. Having got your time, is there anything else that you would like to share with us?
A. Let me just have a quick LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Take a moment just to check you've said all you want to say, because I do agree it's very important.
A. No, I think you have managed to get all of my points out of me. Thank you very much. Thank you for the opportunity. We really appreciate it. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you very much indeed. MR JAY Thank you. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'll rise for just a few minutes. (3.12 pm) (A short break) (3.19 pm) MR JAY The next witness is Mr Ryan Parry, please. MR RYAN LEE PARRY (affirmed) Questions by MR JAY MR JAY Thank you. Make yourself comfortable, please, Mr Parry and first of all could you provide us with your full name?
A. It's Ryan Lee Parry.
Q. Thank you. In the file in front of you, probably under tab 4, you'll find a witness statement dated 13 January this year and signed by you. Is this your formal evidence to the Inquiry in answer to a notice which was served on you?
A. It is.
Q. You are employed by the Daily Mirror and have worked there since the year 2000, having joined as part of its graduate training scheme; is that right?
A. Yes.
Q. You've won a number of awards, which you haven't referred to in your statement, but could you just tell us what those are, please?
A. They were mainly in connection with the Buckingham Palace intruder story in 2003. There were a couple of British Press Awards: scoop of the year and the Hugh Cudlipp award for excellence in tabloid journalism, and there was a What The Papers Say scoop of the year and the London Press Club.
Q. Thank you. It was Mr Morgan who told us a little bit about this. It is covered in his book. You were sent undercover into Buckingham Palace as a footman. You put in a proper application and everything else.
A. Yes.
Q. Although you didn't say you were a journalist. Indeed, there's a photograph of you on the balcony here and you left just as George Bush was arriving. That's more or less it, isn't it?
A. Yes.
Q. I'm not going to go into that. Mr Morgan said there was a huge public interest in that story and you would doubtless agree?
A. Absolutely, yeah. I mean, there was very much a security scandal there. The vetting procedures were shameful, actually. There was just one woman in a personnel office. They did very cursory checks, other than a CRB check. They didn't check into my background whatsoever. They didn't check who I was being paid by LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, they probably thought you were being paid by them.
A. Well, of course, but on the same front I could have been in a training camp in Afghanistan for the past four years rather than working for the Daily Mirror. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON There's an interesting comparison.
A. As a result of the story, the government appointed Dame Butler-Sloss to head up a security review and that review concluded Her Majesty was at risk and they appointed Brigadier Jeffrey Cook as the head of security to oversee vetting procedures. So I think that's a clear indication of how they viewed the story. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I wasn't belittling the story, Mr Parry, in any way.
A. Thank you.
Q. The substance of your evidence is about the Christopher Jefferies story, with which you were first involved on the evening of 27 December 2010. You went down to Bristol and in terms of the chronology, Mr Jefferies was arrested on 30 December. Can I ask you this general question: did you receive any briefings from the local police, the Avon and Somerset police, in relation to any aspects of the story and/or in relation to Mr Jefferies?
A. Personally I did not receive any briefings in relation to Mr Jefferies. We were in constant contact with the police press office. We did attend the press conferences at the Avon and Somerset police hours, where we were given guidance and briefings as to how the investigation was progressing, yes.
Q. Mr Jefferies, as I said, arrested on 30 December. That sets the clock running or the possibility of liabilities arising in the context of the Contempt of Court Act. Presumably you were aware at the time of the existence of the Act and the obligations it imposed; is that correct?
A. Yes. Of course, I was fully aware that proceedings were active once an arrest has been made, but ultimately my role was to it was to compile a background article on Mr Jefferies, as would be normal practice with any murder investigation.
Q. Can I ask you this: how can you provide an article which gives full background if any of that is going to be negative, how do you reconcile that with the Contempt of Court Act? Is there not a possible tension at the very least?
A. Yes, I accept that there is a tension, but the argument for that would be not all negative information would prejudice a fair trial, and in compiling this article, the aim was to be as balanced as possible, while providing our readers with a full and in-depth view of the person arrested in connection with this death.
Q. The first of the articles which you had some involvement with was published on 31 December 2010, and your evidence starts to deal with this at paragraph 13 of your witness statement. The upshot was that the Mirror was receiving information from sources, both by phone and email, to the general effect that Mr Jefferies was eccentric, he was highly intelligent, he was well read and he had wild blue hair; is that right?
A. Yes.
Q. You then had anonymous reports from neighbours and a former tenant called to offer information as well, but that call was dealt with by someone else, not you; is that correct?
A. Yes.
Q. The article which you were responsible you deal with at paragraph 19. Could I ask you, please, to look at tab 2, page 31975.
A. Yes.
Q. This is the front page of the Daily Mirror for 31 December. The front page is not your responsibility; is that right?
A. Yes.
Q. Nor indeed is the article we see at 31976.
A. Yes. Although, as indicated in my statement of claim, I did have a minor role in some of the quotes towards the end of that article.
Q. The right-hand side of the top article on 31976. The piece, however, which was largely yours is at 31978; is that correct?
A. Yes.
Q. Can I just ask you a few questions about this. The headline "The Nutty Professor", you make it clear the Daily Mirror were not the only paper to use that. Was the headline your decision?
A. No.
Q. Can I ask you about the subheadlines: "Bizarre past of Joanna Yeates murder suspect." Again, is that your decision?
A. No.
Q. The decision of a news editor or subeditor presumably; is that right?
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Just looking at them now, do you see that they may cause potential prejudice to jurors?
A. Well, obviously hindsight's a wonderful thing, and looking back, we everybody at the Daily Mirror is very regretful of the coverage and we do apologise to Mr Jefferies for vilifying him in such a way, but you have to understand at the time it was such a high profile murder investigation. There was huge public interest and concern over the tragic death of Joanna Yeates. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand that. Actually, let me share this with you, Mr Parry: that's one of my concerns, that everybody in retrospect will say, "Well, that clearly went too far and this clearly was wrong and that shouldn't have happened and we'll put in place mechanisms to try to prevent it in the future" until the next enormous story comes along and it all just drains away.
A. I accept that, but I think you'll find that this particular story was perhaps, you know, a watershed moment for the industry. It wasn't an eye opener. It wasn't just the Daily Mirror. It was a number of newspapers who fell foul of this. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand that, and that's what lots of stories people might have said the same after the death of the late Princess of Wales, or after all the problems surrounding the McCann story. But here it is. It comes around again. A watershed moment? Well, I hope so, but I'm concerned about it and I'd be interested for your view.
A. Sure, absolutely, but, I mean, what can we do as an industry? As a reporter, as a journalist, I am happy with the way I conducted myself on this particular story. I tried to present as balanced an article as possible and the decisions that are made at an editorial level are out of my hands. I can only advise my content desk as to which direction I feel the story is going, and from the feeling on the ground of you know, from speaking with other reporters, but all we can do is learn from this and hopefully improve for the future. MR JAY The general impression given by the article, your choice of language, your phraseology we see "local oddball" four lines from the top. We see "arrogant and rude" about 15 lines down. We see "odd, lonely young man who was never seen with a girlfriend" towards the bottom of the left-hand column. We see, rather oddly, in the next column: "He was a strange boy, quiet but restless." Then lower down: eccentic manner long-term bachelor status sparked unfounded school gossip that he was gay." Then finally there's a story about throwing books and pens across the room. Of course it's unfair, as I've just done, to take out isolated phrases, but if you aggregate them, you have a certain picture, don't you?
A. I agree, but if you're going to aggregate those, I'm point out a few of the positive lines.
Q. Fair enough.
A. We have, in the third column along: "He was very positive and pastoral in school." In the final column, a former master was quoted as saying: "He was dedicated in his job, strongly academic and deeply involved. He was respected and his students used to get good results." And then towards the end of the article, a Mr Gervin(?) is quoted: "He's a witty man, very sociable, pleasant and gregarious, a man who enjoyed the company of others. I am absolutely stunned by his arrest, I really am. It is extraordinary."
Q. It's whether those positives the effect they have on counterbalancing the negative, really, and the impact of the negative in terms of an ongoing criminal investigation and the Contempt of Court Act. Do you see that?
A. Yes, I do see that, but I was trying to present a true reflection of this man's character, and having gathered information from many different sources, past and present, in the life of Mr Jefferies, this was the picture that was painted.
Q. It's a collection of anecdotes from those who knew him, many of them a long time previously. Is that not a fair way of putting it?
A. Well, some of the anecdotes were from many years previously, but there were some quotes from neighbours who obviously knew him very recently.
Q. May I move on, please, to the second article, which was published on new year's day 2011. Paragraph 28 of your statement. In particular, paragraph 29. The theory that you were exploring, whether Ms Yeates' killer had been lying in wait in her flat. You say you obtained specific confirmation from the police that this was a line of inquiry that they were not ruling out?
A. Yes.
Q. Along with a whole range of other lines of inquiry they were pursuing, though; is that right?
A. Yes.
Q. Can I ask you, please, to look first of all, before we look at the article, at tab 5, and an email which is it is 54686.
A. Yes.
Q. This, I think, is this part of the copy for the new year's day article?
A. This is part of the copy for yes, it was.
Q. I had more specific questions actually about another email. It's 54703, which was forwarded to you. Have you found that one?
A. Yes.
Q. This comes from a pupil who was at the school between 1989 and 1994, who knew Mr Jefferies. A lot of this is extremely positive, isn't it?
A. Yes.
Q. Can I just identify that which is positive? If you look six lines down from the top: "To be honest, it is quite inconceivable to think that Mr Jefferies could be involved with something like this for a number of reasons. Firstly, he was not an aggressive man and certainly not violent, contrary to many others' comments, although as stated, I didn't experience him for a prolonged period of time. He was also very intelligent and articulate, so his solution was normally a witty retort to express himself rather than anything remotely physical. This can be characterised by what may be an urban legend about him that was bounded about by teaches also of an event in which he was approached We needn't go into that particular example. "He was a slight man that appeared quite weak and never did any sport and at 65 [I think there are some words missing] I don't think that he could easily overpower a young active woman, rather than the opposite." This is very strong evidence in his favour, isn't it?
A. Yes.
Q. Did you capture that evidence in your article, do you think?
A. Yes, I feel we definitely did bear in mind that this article wasn't the background article of the previous day. This was mainly focused on developments in the investigation, so obviously we're constrained when it comes to space of how many words we can get in there, but towards the end of that article, if you see there, it's quoted: "Another former pupil added: 'He's not an aggressive man and certainly not violent. He was also very intelligent and articulate, so his solution was normally a witty retort to express him rather than anything remotely physical.'" And that was taken from that email that you referred to.
Q. Yes, but there's only just part of it, though. I think the point I'm trying to make is that there was much more, as I've already read out: "quite inconceivable to think that Mr Jefferies could be involved, "not strong enough to overpower a young active woman". Then if you look at the next page of the email, 54704, it's really the last three lines: "Also being eccentric, introverted and slightly wacky does not make you a killer. Even if it did, then I could name at least six other teachers at Clifton that could be suspects, and I'm sure that most other public schools have similar characters!!" The point I'm trying to make is that rather sums it up, doesn't it, in a well-expressed and insightful email? Would you agree with that?
A. Yes, I would agree with that, but that was one of many emails we received on Mr Jefferies. I did try to get a flavour from all the correspondence and all the sources that we dealt with into all the articles.
Q. Did that particular email, when you read it and you assessed it, presumably, not just in terms of its substance but the way in which it was expressed, its use of language, the precision with which the author has expressed himself. You must have thought: "Well, this man has taken the trouble to write this, he's done it rather well, this is rather important evidence." Did you go through that thought process at the time or did you go through a different thought process?
A. I imagine I will have gone through that thought process, but as I say, we only have limited words on the page and we have to edit down substantial quotes like that to pick out the ones that we feel are the most relevant, and the fact that we used the quote "He is not an aggressive man and certainly not violent" to describe a person who has been arrested on suspicion of murder I would say certainly negates anything else that we're talking about.
Q. There's other material. I just refer to it. 54690: "Mr Jefferies was my English teacher 25 years ago. I find it impossible to believe he could be the murderer." 546919: "He spoke nicely, had a nice voice and he always appeared totally harmless." There was a lot of convergent material which suggested, okay, he's a bit eccentic, okay, English teachers at public schools are a bit eccentric, or sometimes are, but that's all it amounts to. The whole story is built on this very flimsy piece of timber, isn't it?
A. The story is built on what I felt was a true reflection of Mr Jefferies' character. I mean, the article on the 31st was intended to be a background article into Mr Jefferies as a man, taking in several different sources, and if he came across as an oddball, as an eccentric, then that's because the evidence suggested that he was. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The trouble is that once you start down this exercise, then where do you stop? You know, how much do you go? Then you really are stepping into somebody else's territory, namely an active criminal investigation. MR JAY We haven't looked at the front page and article itself. We should. It's tab 2, 319868, Mr Parry. Evidently the headline is not yours. We know that. The point the Lord Chief Justice made, both in the context probably of the headline and more generally, was if you look at the opening words of your piece: "Joanna Yeates' killer may have been waiting for her inside her basement flat as she returned home." Then there's some DNA studies: "They were also given until Tuesday to continue questioning of the landlord." Lord Judge said: well, the person who had access to the flat was obviously the person referred to in the headline but the only person you identify as having that access was Mr Jefferies, so we have a link here which put Mr Jefferies clearly in the frame, regardless, perhaps, of the headline. Would you accept that?
A. Yes, I would.
Q. I think you had some involvement with 31987. Indeed, you referred to it. Although Mr Smith is the byline, this was a joint effort, I think, was it not?
A. Yes.
Q. I think it's the reference in particular on the right-hand side to "peculiar ways". Where do you feel that that was an appropriate turn of phrase in the context of someone who had been arrested for this particular type of offence? Do you see that?
A. Yes, I see that. Again, that wasn't a word that I would have put into my copy.
Q. You mentioned lessons learnt. In terms of your own journalism of course, there hasn't been normally case quite like this overt last 13 months, but are there any pieces, articles you want to draw to our attention which you feel demonstrate that this case might properly be seen as a watershed?
A. None that jump to mind, I have to say, but I don't have any involvement with those decisions. I mean, that's certainly something for the content desk and the executives of the newspaper.
Q. Sorry, one last question or series of questions. One factor operating here is that you're not the only journalist on the ground. Is this right: you are quite friendly with many of your colleagues on other papers, although you complete with them?
A. Yes.
Q. So are you aware generally on the grapevine, the discussions you're having at the time in December 2010, of the sort of things they may be writing about at the same time as you're writing about them? Is that right?
A. Yes. I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't know that.
Q. No. But is there a sense that there is a pervading pressure almost to outdo your colleagues and present a story in a way which is particularly powerful, particularly impressive, particularly eye-catching? Do you feel that that's a possible factor operating on you on this occasion?
A. No, I wouldn't say that at all. There's a pressure on you, as a reporter, to deliver and furnish the content desk with all the relevant facts and all the stories of the day, all the best information that's around and that's a part of a journalist's role, and if I didn't do that, I wouldn't be doing my job properly.
Q. I think you're saying you discount the possibility that these outside pressures were operating on your judgment, I'm not saying to distort the picture but to paint and describe the picture in a particular way, namely a way which some might argue is sensationalist and hyperbolic. You don't accept that?
A. I don't accept that, no, because as I say, we went to a number of different sources on Mr Jefferies and everything that we heard seemed to gel with the picture painted in that article, that he was a very eccentric, highly intelligent character, and that is why the term "the nutty professor" was used, whether that was right or wrong, but certainly it was a true reflection of the man. MR JAY I think I've covered in my questions to you what other evidence there may have been, but thank you very much, Mr Parry. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Mr Parry, I appreciate that you are a reporter on the Mirror. I was told by somebody but it may not be the Mirror, it may have been News International that there was an application to go to the Supreme Court in connection with this case. Do you know anything about that?
A. No. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'd like to know what the position is.
A. I think we're appealing, certainly. MR BROWNE
: Still no decision of the Supreme Court. We'll let the Inquiry now. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'd be very grateful. MR JAY The Sun has withdrawn its application, or rather NGN has, but the Mirror are still maintaining theirs. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you very much. I would certainly like to know because it's not unimportant. MR JAY Thank you, Mr Parry. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you, Mr Parry. MR JAY Mr Gary O'Shea next, please. MR GARY TIMOTHY O'SHEA (sworn) Questions by MR JAY MR JAY Thank you, Mr O'Shea. Make yourself comfortable and if you could give us your full name.
A. Gary Timothy O'Shea.
Q. Thank you. I hope you have to hand a witness statement that you signed dated 17 January of this year, which has two exhibits. This is your formal evidence to the Inquiry pursuant to a request which was served on you; is that so?
A. That is correct, yes.
Q. You've been employed by NGN, the Sun, since 2003 as a journalist and you wrote a number of pieces in relation to Mr Jefferies on 1 January 2011, together with others; is that right?
A. Yes, that's correct.
Q. Can we just trace the genesis of one of the pieces. You deal with this at the bottom of page 54911. I can summarise the position: a staff reporter had a conversation with an ex-pupil of Mr Jefferies and she taped it and transcribed it and that is exhibit GTO1, but I don't think you saw GT01 at the time. Instead, you saw GTO2, which was a memorandum which the staff reporter prepared based on her interview with the ex-pupil. Is that so?
A. You're almost correct. What actually happened was the transcript was drawn the full transcript was shown just more recently for the benefit here of the Inquiry. My colleague, Caroline Grant, who carried out the interview, just produced the memo, as such, the memorandum, and she extracted from the taped interview the quotes which she believed were most pertinent, put them in the memo and the memo was put to me. We've put the transcript together for the benefit of the Inquiry so that the Inquiry can see that we quoted this gentleman faithfully and accurately in the piece. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. That's very helpful. MR JAY Thank you. I'm not going to ask you to look at GTO1, but GTO2, 54880, just a couple of points on that, maybe how they struck you at the time in the context of a piece which was under the headline "Obsessed with death". It's under tab 8 if you're working from the same bundle, Mr O'Shea.
A. Yes, I have it here in front of me.
Q. First of all, there's a reference to a Holocaust film. Its given its German title and then translated, "Nacht und Nebel", which is "Night and Fog", a film about Nazi death camps. That film was made, we know, in 1955. The source had given a slightly different description of it. It probably doesn't matter much. He said it was "Night and Day", made just after the war, so the facts were slightly wrong but someone must have corrected it at NGN. But then the source said, I quote: "It was filmed at Auschwitz and he [that's Mr Jefferies] just wanted to show us death." I just wonder what the significance of that is in the context of a film about concentration camps, why there's anything remarkable or objectionable about it.
A. I never said there was anything objectionable about a teacher showing an historical film on the Holocaust on the pupils. What we did was this pupil was giving his memories of Mr Jefferies, who was his teacher. His memories were not always flattering. They were not always kind. A decision was made that we would carry his memories in the newspaper. We quoted him fairly and accurately, I believe, as you'll see from the transcript, and we have accepted and I'm happy to accept here that our tone of coverage should have been more neutral and dispassionate, and I can accept that including this material in the piece which appeared on that day that we didn't adhere to perhaps our obligations to report on this case in a dispassionate and neutral manner.
Q. Some degree of editorial decision is made by you. The starting point is this is under the rubric or headline "Obsessed with death". The evidence that Mr Jefferies is said to be obsessed with death is based on a film about the Holocaust, which obviously is all about the systematic murder of millions of people, but why is that worthy of remark, save perhaps favourable remark because that's exactly the sort of thing that school children of a certain age should be shown because it is so important.
A. The "obsessed with death", as you can see there from the memo and from the transcript which we've provided to you is that's a verbatim quote from this gentleman. That was his mature recollection, looking back on his memories of Mr Jefferies. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON "Mature"? You're talking about 25 years here.
A. Yes, that's what I say. He was looking back, this was his memory, and as I've acknowledged, it's not a very flattering memory but I guess at the same time it's probably not unusual for a pupil sometimes to look back on whatever teachers they had and perhaps not have very fond memories of some of them. This was a case in point. This pupil contacted us. He wished to share with us his memories on Mr Jefferies. He didn't seek payment from us. He didn't receive payment from us. These were his honest recollections and a decision was made to include those recollections in the newspaper. MR JAY Would you agree, though, that in a negative context, because of the use of the term "obsessed with death"?
A. As I said to you a few moments ago, we've accepted the fact that our coverage of this story should have been more neutral and dispassionate. We made a libel settlement with Mr Jefferies and I believe that's an acknowledgment of the fact that we our presentation should have been different than it was.
Q. The article itself, let's have a look at it now. The front page is under tab 2 at 31983.
A. Tab 2. Yes, I have it in front of me now, yes.
Q. The headline itself is not your responsibility, but we see "obsessed with death" four lines into the piece, don't we?
A. Yes. Once again, the headline is the verbatim quote from the gentleman who contacted us and a decision was made by a subeditor in the office or the editor of the day that that was what they were going to use for the headline. I don't have any input into the presentation or the headline process.
Q. No, no.
A. I was in Bristol at the time. Those are decisions that would have been made in London and I was geographically divorced from that decision-making.
Q. Of course that's accepted. The way you then put it: "The former student said eccentric English teacher Jefferies made them watch films about Nazi death camps and scared some children with his macabre fascination". Now, "macabre" is your choice of adjective, isn't it?
A. I don't have my original copy as I filed it to London, so looking back a year on, I can't tell you whether I chose that particular word myself. Perhaps we can make enquiries at the office to see if that copy is available as I filed it and come back to you on it. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON We could do, if you feel that for your own purpose it is would be worthwhile. But you're an experienced crime reporter, I assume?
A. I'm not a crime reporter. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You're not?
A. No, I don't move in those circles. I'm a general news reporter and there was a group of three or four general news reporters on the ground in Bristol at that time. I was one of them. We worked together every day, I guess, as a co-op of equals, I suppose. We would, in a diplomatic fashion, decide each day what each of us should be doing and we would take guidance also from the desk in London. I'm not a crime reporter, I'm not a crime specialist, no. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Are you aware of the contempt of court legislation?
A. Yes. Now, with contempt of court, there are various legal nuances, there are shifting interpretations, shifting applications with those announces, and I take the view, not unreasonably, that there are people at my newspaper, lawyers, who were better able than me to make judgment calls on that and I defer to them on that. MR JAY So you feel that "macabre" might not have been in your choice
A. I'm not saying it was or it wasn't. It's just a year on, I can't give you an honest answer, but I'm sure we'll endeavour to get you one.
Q. I think we'll leave that one with you. It's not going to matter in the big picture.
A. Okay.
Q. The piece continues at 31985.
A. I have it before me.
Q. It's just what you meant by "academic obsession" in the left column three paragraphs down.
A. I think, looking back on that now, the gentleman contacted us. I don't think he used the term "academic obsession"; I think he was quite straightforward and he just said "an obsession with death", and perhaps we were trying to qualify it by pointing out that this was not necessarily a straightforward obsession with death but perhaps how death is presented either cinematically or poetically or in literature, and I think there was reference to that a novel as well, a Victorian novel that Mr Jefferies had taught as well. So
Q. It may be the point, really, that because Mr Jefferies had shown some interest in a Victorian murder novel and because he'd shown his or some students, I understand, at a film club, but the precise context doesn't matter these were adolescent students who obviously are 15, 16, 17 a French film which was extremely highly regarded in France and the Continent, a well-known Holocaust film, didn't really justify, did it, the soubriquet "obsession with death", which in this context might lead one to think that he was the sort of person who might want to kill people. Would you accept that?
A. Again, these were the recollections of one of his former pupils. I don't know Mr Jefferies personally. I did meet him twice down there in quick succession, but once again, these are the honest recollections. The transcript is there. You have the transcript and I hope you'll agree we have faithfully reported what that student said to us. I think, yes, what I'm happy to concede is that there should have been filters applied to the material from that gentleman, and we should have taken we probably shouldn't have quoted him at the length that we did and we've acknowledged that. We've put our hand up to that, and yes.
Q. One thing that you weren't aware of from exhibit GTO2, because it wasn't available, it hadn't been transcribed, was that the source told your colleague this is in GTO1: "To be honest, my school I have really bad memories of it so I basically destroyed everything when I left." So this person had a very negative memory of this particular school, which might
A. He did.
Q. indicate that he wasn't giving an altogether objective picture in relation to Mr Jefferies. Had you known that fact, would this article have been differently phrased, do you think?
A. I think this pupil didn't come to us in isolation. There were other pupils who either spoke to us directly or spoke to news agencies that were working the story or they were quoted at length in other newspapers. The content in this story chimed with what we were hearing from other people who had attended this school. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Not all of them, because we've just seen a different account.
A. Yes, but you've seen a different account via emails that came into the Daily Mirror office. I have no access to LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Of course you haven't. I am not for a moment suggesting that you have, but it's one much the problems if you start to do this sort of job where proceedings are active. You run the risk of creating a prejudicial climate which could impact on a subsequent trial. I know what you've said and I understand that, but that's the risk, isn't it?
A. As you know, we've been found to be in contempt of count. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, yes.
A. What you're saying to me is a given. I can't argue with that because the courts have ruled on that. We're bound by that and that's something that we have to take into account in the future. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You see, it raises the question that I actually asked Mr Parry as well, that I hope and I have no doubt that every single time there's an incident, people say, "Well, we must learn", and that works until there's another groundbreaking, very important story, and then, because everybody else is doing it, understandably perhaps, everybody does it.
A. I understand that that's an issue that you're grappling with in your intention to perhaps formulate some sort of a mechanism whereby a situation like this happens again. I understand that. What I would say is this: we don't often go wrong, we don't often make mistakes, and I think when we do make mistakes, they're honest mistakes and there's a constant referral process within the newspaper whereby when a reporter like myself has a dilemma, I can go to my news desk and put that dilemma to them. They in turn can go to the managing editor, Richard Caseby, and he can pick up the phone to the Press Complaints Commission. So there is internal processes whereby dilemmas can be sorted out. As I say, we don't often go wrong and when it does look like we're about to go wrong, we're usually put right. MR JAY The final question is really the same question I put to the Mr Parry, whether you felt at the time or feel now that you were under competitive pressure, flowing either from your general position at the newspaper or because your competitors were there on the ground, to present the story in as pungent and as powerful a way as it could possibly bear. Do you feel that's a fair observation or not?
A. It's fair to say that it's a competitive business. It's fair so say that we're competitive people and that I'm a competitive person. But I'd like to think that my own competitive instincts don't blind me personally to going about my job with, you know, a fair and even-handed manner. I acknowledge one much the things that I wanted to acknowledge when I came in here that our coverage, our tone, should have been more dispassionate and neutral. As I say, though we are competitive people, I don't let those competitive instincts blind me whatsoever in how I go about my job. MR JAY Thank you very much, Mr O'Shea. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you, and thank you for starting and concluding your evidence in the same way. Thank you. MR JAY Sir, finally Mr Stephen Waring, please. MR STEPHEN WARING (sworn) Questions by MR JAY MR JAY First of all, please, Mr Waring, your full name?
A. Stephen Waring.
Q. Thank you very much. You provided us with a witness statement dated and signed on 16 January this year with five exhibits. Is this your truthful evidence?
A. It is.
Q. Thank you very much. You are currently the publishing director of the Sun. You've worked at the Sun for 24 years in various positions and you were the duty editor on 31 December, 1 January 2010, 2011; is that right?
A. That's correct.
Q. Because Mr Mohan was on holiday; is that correct?
A. Correct.
Q. Did you have any dealings with Mr Mohan about this particular case?
A. I spoke to the editor on Sunday, which was the day of the January 1 edition. We had a general chat about the coverage and he said to me he thought we should be more balanced. Following the January 1 publication, the Attorney General issued an advisory notice as well and I took that on board and we were more balanced from then on, but we had had an advisory on the Saturday as well.
Q. So Mr Mohan expressed that view to you on the Sunday, which I think would have been or rather was 2 January 2011; is that right?
A. Correct.
Q. There are three articles with which we are concerned, all published on the same day. We were looking most particularly at the front page. It's under tab 2, I hope, Mr Waring, page 31983. You'll see the front page. It continues on 31985. Are you with me?
A. Yes.
Q. Mr O'Shea has told us about that. Were you responsible for the headline or was someone else?
A. I was responsible for it and I'd just like to make a point on record that I'd like to express my sincere personal regrets that my actions contributed to and exacerbated the acute personal distress felt by Mr Jefferies, his friends and his family due to the articles that we published. I apologise personally and on behalf of the Sun newspaper for not taking more appropriate precautions to prevent this. Yes, I was responsible for the headline.
Q. Did you have any discussions with Mr O'Shea about it I appreciate he was 120 miles away at the time in Bristol or was this a discussion you had with the news editor before this was published?
A. As I say in the statement, it was my discussions were with the news editor. It's not practice to talk directly to reporters on a normal basis.
Q. Look at page 31984. I think there are two separate pieces, one on the left-hand side, which I think you call article 2
A. Correct.
Q. in your statement and then the main piece. Mr O'Shea told us he had no involvement in this. When you see a piece like this and before it's published, do you subject it to a line-by-line analysis? What do you do, Mr Waring, to satisfy yourself that it's within, as it were, the Contempt of Court Act and within the law of defamation and, insofar as it is relevant, the law of privacy?
A. It's quite a lengthy process that ends up with a line-by-line analysis. On this particular day, the Attorney General had made some comments to the BBC World At One programme, which he it wasn't an advisory notice, but he said words to the effect that: "I don't want to comment on today's particular coverage, but I would point out that the contempt of court rules are there to protect the rule of law." Clearly this story was going to figure as a major piece in tomorrow's edition. It had been on the front page of the previous seven edition of the Sun and other papers and it would actually stay on the front page for ten more editions. Now, I immediately spoke to our senior lawyer by phone while he was on his holiday, Mr Walford, who I think gave evidence a couple of weeks ago. We discussed that morning's coverage in the other papers, in our own paper. I hadn't edited the previous day but I was in charge, obviously, of this edition and I talked to him about the Attorney General's comments, and we discussed the need for a fine line to be drawn as to how far we could go. Clearly we'd subjected Mr Jefferies to some unfavourable scrutiny throughout that previous edition. There was even more on the news list for that day's edition, including I was asked if we wanted to pursue some lines in some of the other papers, two of them being that he was an associate of a convicted paedophile and that a murder from 1974 was being reopened into Glenis Caruthers' death as a result of his arrest. Both of those lines seemed to me to be far beyond the mark of where we should be going, and also some of the material supplied even in these transcripts and other stories were too strong. I perfectly readily accept that what we did publish was too strong, but I attempted with the lawyer, and the night lawyer when he came in in the evening, to try and strike a balance between what we could say and what would keep us the right side of the law. Obviously those decisions were wrong, we made the wrong decision, we committed contempt of court and we committed a libel, for which we apologise.
Q. Can I just ask you, please, about the headlines, all three of them, or subhead lines. The first one, "What do you think I am a pervert?" Did you choose that?
A. Yes.
Q. The one underneath, "Landlord's outburst at blonde". Of course, a different blonde woman but Jo Yeates was blown. Was that your choice of
A. Yes.
Q. Then the one at the top, and one has to read it over the top of the next page: "Murdered Jo: suspect followed me, says woman." The combined effect of that was to suggest that Mr Jefferies was the sort of person who might follow a blonde woman and be accused of being a pervert, which, even without the advantage of hindsight, was straying way over the line, wasn't it?
A. I agree it was. The overall impression here is far too strong and there was a distinct lack of balance. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Help me, Mr Waring. It's very easy for lawyers to look at these things in the cold light of day and to criticise. I'm conscious of that, and I'm conscious that it's equally very easy to do so when the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales has made his views perfectly clear. But you are a very experienced editor. This is a job you've done many, many times for a very, very large number of editions.
A. Mm. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Help me, because to my untutored mind untutored in the way of the operation of newspapers this isn't even close, and I'm just interested to know your thinking. I'm not suggesting you decided: "I'm going to try and test the laws of contempt here", because I don't for a moment think that, but I am keen to understand, if I can, if you can now reconstruct your thought process that suggested that this was appropriate, permissible, on the right side of the line. I understand what you've said now, but I'm just trying to understand.
A. I'll take that to me there are three elements to this. There's the material we'd previously published the day before, ie the first day of Mr Jefferies' arrest, and there was a lot of critical comment about his character from four unnamed pupils, ex-teachers, people former acquaintances, and that set a particular tone, which coloured my judgment wrongly, but that coloured the judgment. There was the nature of the story, which, just to put it in context, this story had been, as I say, on the front page for seven previous editions, there was a general bafflement as to the motive for this appalling murder, and Mr Jefferies' inconsistency, as it was perceived in his story the day before he was arrested seemed, wrongly, to be the great breakthrough, and this led to a great outpouring of adverse comment about his character. The police felt that he said something about seeing Jo and two acquaintances outside her flat, which was inconsistent with something else. Whether the rights and wrongs of that, that's one of the reasons why he was arrested and this story had been the focus of national attention for a long period of time. Certainly his character became part of the scrutiny. But the key aspect of this is the light in which this was legalled. I can't speak for the lawyer's own mind, but we are talking about an era where there was a far more liberal interpretation about what we could get away with in print. I'll give you two specific examples, one of which is the arrest of the Night Stalker, Delroy Grant, and another one, the 21/7 bombers' arrest, both of which under the present Attorney General, I'm sure, would have produced contempt of court summons. Since the new Attorney General took his post, he's made it clear that he wants a strict application of contempt. In an address to the City University last month, he said, "Before I was appointed, I perceived a tendency in the press to test the boundaries of what was acceptable in the reporting of criminal cases", so he made it clear that he wanted to tighten up that law. Since he was appointed, he's brought more contempt of court cases than were brought in the previous ten years, I believe, and he has certainly changed our attitude as to how we report arrests and we have changed the culture of the paper on the back of the Jefferies' case. I know it's been described as a watershed moment, but it genuinely is, for our newsroom. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's a word that was used by somebody earlier. But it's not just contempt, is it? It's also defamation and all the rest of it.
A. Mm-hm. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And it comes on the back of all the concerns about McCann and all the other breaking stories of enormous interest. You heard me ask, I think, each of the previous witnesses whether sometimes a story is so big that perhaps not as much attention is paid to how far it is appropriate to go.
A. I agree, under the licence that we felt we'd got previously. I mean, the law is on the statute books, but it's the application of it which counts. When the contempt case was brought against us over Mr Jefferies, there was another huge story six months later where we had a heated debate about whether we should cover material that we'd got. This was the conviction of Levi Bellfield for the murder of Milly Dowler. We got an enormous amount of material about Mr Bellfield, as you might imagine, which we knew our rivals also had, which we wanted to put in the paper, but the Mr Justice Wilkie still had another charge overnight of the attempted abduction of Rachel Cowles. The jury was still out. There was a long conversation about whether we should use this material and Mr Jefferies' name obviously came up and the procedure and the mistakes made over Jefferies and we talked about it in great detail and decided not to put any of it in the paper. So we reported that day's court action and none of our background material. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And those who went further?
A. Well, two of our rival papers published a lot of detailed background material, which was good exclusive material, had a commercial value, you might say. The exclusive story of what a monster Mr Bellfield is. The Sun didn't have that. But they were brought summonses for contempt. They're currently facing those charges. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The Sun is?
A. No, not the Sun; the two rival papers. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The other two papers, that's the point.
A. Yes. Beyond that, in the autumn there was a high-profile murder again with an arrest which we had interesting background on which we left out. This year there was another arrest relating to Stepping Hill Hospital. It's something which has affected us and changed our attitude. That change of attitude would have come in if there had been no Leveson Inquiry, no Bribery Act, no investigation into media standards. It came about because the Attorney General decided he was going to change the way he interpreted contempt and he was going to apply it that's changed our attitude. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Interesting. MR JAY The final point, Mr Waring: is it possible that there was a mindset 13 months ago which worked like this: that, given what you knew or thought you knew in relation to inconsistencies in Mr Jefferies' story and the picture which was building up of someone who was eccentric, that you felt in your waters, as it were, he was probably guilty and it's that feeling which led you to test the margins of what was permissible or not?
A. No. No. I didn't act on that behalf on that belief at all. Mr Jefferies was an unusual character, we've vilified him, we didn't present it in a balanced way, but it wasn't through a conviction that this was a guilty man. MR JAY Thank you, Mr Waring.
A. Could I just say one other thing? Please don't judge my colleagues by the errors I've made in this edition, because they are a bunch of very committed, hard-working individuals, the finest journalists in Fleet Street, and the Sun is a very vibrant paper that is a compassionate paper. We produce 100,000 items a year. We got this one badly wrong and I admit that, but these mistakes do happen. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand. Thank you. MR JAY Thank you. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON We've actually finished before 4.30. MR JAY There we go. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Right. Thank you very much. 10 o'clock tomorrow. (4.23 pm)


Gave a statement at the hearing on 24 January 2012 (PM) ; and submitted 2 pieces of evidence
Gave a statement at the hearing on 24 January 2012 (PM) ; and submitted 2 pieces of evidence
Gave a statement at the hearing on 24 January 2012 (PM) ; and submitted 1 pieces of evidence
Gave a statement at the hearing on 24 January 2012 (PM) ; and submitted 1 pieces of evidence
Gave a statement at the hearing on 24 January 2012 (PM) ; and submitted 1 pieces of evidence


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