RESEARCH TOOLS


Afternoon Hearing on Thursday, February 9, 2012

Max Clifford , Paul Dacre and Michelle Stanistreet gave statements at this hearing

Hearing Transcript

(1.55 pm) MS PATRY HOSKINS Ms Stanistreet, before we broke for lunch, we were about to turn to exhibit 1 of your second witness statement. Before we do that, I want to touch on two paragraphs of the witness statement itself, paragraphs 23 and 26. Have a quick look at those. I want to touch on the reasons why these journalists have remained anonymous. Paragraph 23: "I asked all journalists I spoke to whether they would be willing to speak publicly and on the record about their experiences. In an ideal world, this of course would be the best way of the Inquiry being able to learn first hand the reality of working life for many journalists. However, the response was unanimous that speaking out publicly was not an option." Can I summarise your evidence as this: you did actually try to see whether any of them would any individually would speak out publicly but the answer was no in every case?
A. That's right. And of course in the circular that I had disseminated, I did say I was prepared to take the experiences in confidence as well, and that's the basis on which many people replied. But yes, obviously the ideal would be that journalists could come here and could talk openly and honestly about their experiences of life in the industry, and sadly that's just not an option.
Q. The reasons they gave you, if you continue the same paragraph, were: fear of consequences, the reaction of their employers, the fear of never being able to work in the industry again, punishment for speaking out, worried about career blight, and the overwhelming fear that their reputations would be trashed in public by powerful media groups. Then you say this: "Those working in precarious employment relying on casual shifts of freelance work were particularly threatened about the immediate consequences of giving evidence openly. These fears were expressed vehemently by all." Then you go on to say at paragraph 26, essentially you give your comment on whether or not you think that the testimony you report can be dismissed as the gripes of an individual. Perhaps you could just elaborate a little on that. You conclude that these are not rogue reporters with individual gripes against individual newspapers but they present a coherent picture of what's going on in the industry. How did you come to that conclusion?
A. Obviously I've spoken to many journalists in the course of this Inquiry and in the process of trying to encourage people to talk openly or, if not, in confidence through me, and some of the testimony from those journalists is here today, but there's testimony that's not because people were not even some people were not even prepared or they didn't even feel able to speak in confidence to me, and they felt too scared about their experiences being shared through the Inquiry because they really were petrified that actually somebody would be able to identify them and that that would have negative repercussions on their career and on their future prospects in journalism. So I know that these are not isolated examples of unpleasantness in a workplace or isolated examples of unethical practice. It's also, of course, many of the officials who work for me deal with personal cases of journalists on a daily basis, and the issues that have been raised here in this testimony are reflected in many of the cases the union takes up all the time. Sadly, it's a sad fact that actually these problems are very prevalent within the industry today. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON We have to be rather careful, haven't we, Ms Stanistreet, to distinguish between what I might describe as employment-related issues and public-facing issues, because there is a difference.
A. Well, there is a difference, but I'm not talking about grievances, about industrial matters in a work environment. I'm talking about officials who deal with cases of bullying, of sexual harassment, of sexism within the workplace, of journalists who are put under intolerable pressure to deliver by bosses who are bullying them routinely. So they're also cases that aren't directly related to in the testimony but I know exist and the officials who work for me know exist within the broader industry, and that's why I think it's really important to state, and I'm absolutely convinced of the fact, that these are not 12 individual instances of abuses; these are a much greater collective experience of far too many journalists. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, of course there comes a time when it's very difficult for me to turn what is a qualitative exercise into a quantitative exercise.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I think I've said that in the last ruling that I gave. MS PATRY HOSKINS What we're going to do now, please, is go through your exhibit to your second witness statement. We're going to look at the 12 examples in summary form, if we can. What I will do is I'll paraphrase each testimony and if there's anything that you think I've missed out that's particularly relevant, then please draw it to our attention. Before I do that, though, two points: first of all, is it correct to say that all the journalists whose testimony is represented here are still working in the industry?
A. Yes, that's true.
Q. And secondly, you'll see that the exhibit has been significantly redacted to remove references to names and references to names of newspapers and also particular incidents have been redacted, but the News of the World remains in. Why has that approach been taken? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, I hope it's been taken because that's the approach I directed. MS PATRY HOSKINS Yes.
A. Yes, I haven't made the redactions, obviously, it's the Inquiry team who have made these redactions. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. MS PATRY HOSKINS I just wanted to get that across. We'll start with journalist number one. First of all, I should say that the exhibit is split into several parts in the sense that different categories of behaviour have been identified, and the first is bullying. We'll see that at the top of the first page. A number of journalists speak about bullying. The first journalist is a journalist of 30 years' experience across the industry, in recent years working as a casual reporter on a number of national titles. This journalist, I'll call him or her journalist number one, worked for the News of the World for over three years and says quite a number of things about the News of the World. Can I just paraphrase them in this way: first he says that when I say "he", I will mean he or she, it's just easier than saying he or she continuously. First of all, he says there was tremendous pressure at News of the World and that he was given absolutely impossible tasks and was told that if he couldn't achieve them essentially that he was a failure. He then talks about a number of individuals and we'll just have to skip over that because those names are redacted. Over the page at 1.5, explains that there was a real military chain of command, that you did what you were told when you were told, and it took a pretty brave person to take a stand. Life was made miserable, and he goes on to say: you'd quickly find yourself out of work You grit your teeth and put up with it. If you want a career in the future, you shut up and you keep quiet. There's a lot of that about at the moment." Paraphrasing, that's his experience at News of the World. At 1.6 he says: "But the reality is that what happened at the News of the World is not an exception. The culture is macho, it pervades the industry. I worked at [another title] it's absolutely petrifying there. They work you like dogs. The expectations for a reporter are ridiculous. There are always unrealistic demands." Again he makes the same point that if you do not achieve, you are made to feel like a failure and you are given a number of impossible to achieve tasks. Then goes on to say: "The culture is competitive, deliberately so. News editors throw reporters onto the same story, everyone's terrified of putting a foot wrong." He says at the end of that paragraph: "Even when you think you've done a great job, there's no reward or appreciation." He talks about the levels of paranoia and pressure and explained that applied not only to casual reporters but to staff reporters as well, but as a freelance, he explains, there's no security at all. Halfway through paragraph 1.8 he says this: "You worked long hours. You had to deliver, there was no mercy. The money's terrible. Freelancers are expected to use their own laptop, mobile and car. It's impossible to even get your expenses repaid sometimes. You are denied even the most basic tools of the trade. You're expected to pull stories out of the bag just like the staffers. You couldn't say anything in fear of losing your work." He then goes on to say, still I presume talking about freelancers: "There's been a creation of a second, third class culture of journalists. People on staff contracts, sometimes doing next to nothing, then there's people working really hard, with no security or contract, getting paid next to nothing." And explains that he himself is experienced and skilled but still made to feel that he's on a very low level. At 1.10 onwards he explains why it's impossible for him to speak out. He says: "Being pragmatic, there is that fear that if you do what Sean (Hoare) did or Paul McMullan, you don't work in the industry again. Their reputations have been trashed. But they were quite brave in doing what they did, in telling the truth. Can I pause there and ask you a question: was his evidence to you obviously him or her you heard him or her giving you this evidence, was the evidence there that he believed Sean Hoare and Paul McMullan to have spoken the truth?
A. There was no physical evidence apart from that is this journalist's fervent belief, that everyone they have witnessed leads them to believe that actually what we've heard from Paul McMullan, what Sean Hoare had reported in the interviews that he gave, that they were being honest and open about the reality of working life in that newspaper.
Q. There's two final points which are important to make. In 1.11 he says: "What's striking is that there's nowhere to turn. I've always been a member of the NUJ but in [X place] the union's not allowed in. There was no sense that there was anyone internally who'd help." I'll come on to ask you about unions in other organisations in due course. The other point is at 1.12: "There is a real culture of journalists like myself feeling utterly betrayed at the moment, we've been vilified at Leveson, within the public domain. But we've also been betrayed by the newspaper management." Can you explain as best you can why there was an expression of feeling that journalists like him had been betrayed?
A. Because there's a very real feeling amongst journalists at the moment that ever since this scandal blew up, the News of the World and News International as one organisation did all it could for a long time to peddle an untruth that this was simply the act of a rogue reporter. We all know now that that's not true, and that since then and in recent months, there's been a deliberate attempt by major media organisations, by the bosses within the industry, to pin the blame on individual journalists and to scapegoat ordinary working journalists as somehow being to blame for these unethical abusive practices, that somehow they knew nothing about what was going on in their own newsrooms, and to any working journalist, that's fanciful, not true. Editors on national newspapers particularly are about as hands-on as they get. So there is a real prevalent feeling of betrayal amongst journalists, particularly those who have given their entire career and working life to particular news groups. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I wouldn't want it to be thought that the conclusion that this particular journalist expresses about journalists and journalism in general is one that I share. I've said more than once, and I'm happy to repeat, that I consider a great majority of the journalism in this country from all areas is very much in the public interest, and a very great credit. That's not to say that there isn't some in respect of whom I am likely to take, given the evidence, a different view. But I am keen to make it clear to you and just in response to this and it deals with a point that was made the other day that the mere fact that we are focusing on examples of poor behaviour or poor ethical decision-making shouldn't be taken as a view that this is what I think of the world. When Dame Janet Smith conducted the inquiry into the regulation of the medical profession following the activities of Dr Harold Shipman, nobody suggested that there were other doctors out there who were behaving as he did. Inevitably an inquiry of this nature requires focus on the areas that suggest change is necessary, but it's important that the context is provided, and if that reassures this particular journalist, and indeed everybody with whom this Inquiry is concerned, then I am pleased to give that reassurance. MS PATRY HOSKINS Ms Stanistreet, still under the heading bullying, we turn to journalist number two. This is a journalist with less experience, six years' experience, who explains at 1.13 that although he is still doing some freelance work, he's pretty much decided he doesn't want to be a journalist any more now, after what he has experienced. He also spent some time at the News of the World. That's apparent from 1.14, and explains again, as the previous journalist did, that he experienced pretty much constant bullying, and he gives some specific examples about emails being sent behind his back, comments being made about weight and then at 1.15 gives some other examples about young reporters being made to wear stupid costumes and parade around the office. Gives the specific example of a reporter having to go out addressed head to toe in meat for a Lady Gaga story, and explains that he considers the atmosphere to be sexist and degrading. Explains at 1.16 that simply if you don't do the job then you've not got a contract, you're existing on freelance shifts, and explains how quickly someone can lose their position if they don't toe the line. Again the journalist touches on some of the previous aspects: unrealistic deadlines, being shouted at, being made to be a failure if they did not achieve what they were asked to and then makes the same point about unions at 1.19 also: "There's a staff association, NISA, but you weren't allowed to go along if you were a casual and you couldn't raise stuff like bullying with them anyway. You know they are there to serve the company, not an individual journalist's interests. They don't even let the NUJ into the building." I'm going to go on to ask you about that when I'm looking at your third witness statement. I just want to touch on it for the moment. He then explains at 1.20 the very significant effect that all of this has had on them personally. We then turn to the second heading, the heading of "Stress", and we turn to journalist you touch on the evidence of Matt Driscoll, which we've heard, and then you turn to the third journalist, someone who has more than 15 years' experience. Again this person was at the News of the World and explains some of the same things: tough and unforgiving workplace, mistakes not being tolerated, and goes on to say at the end of 2.1 that three or four staff suffered physical collapses at the office, almost certainly to some extent as a result of the stress. At 2.2 makes a point about Mr Goodman. The journalist says this: "Mr Goodman enjoyed a high salary and big title as royal editor and came in for a lot of flak. He'd be publicly lambasted for a lack of stories or ideas in conference, probably more than anyone. It could be embarrassing for everyone when it happened publicly, as it sometimes did, in news conference in front of 20 to 25 other people." Then goes on to say at the end of that paragraph: "I am not suggesting this excuses his later actions, far from it, but there is no doubt in my mind that he was under intense pressure to deliver." Again he then makes a point about the NISA at 2.3, which we don't need to repeat. We then turn to the third heading, which is "Hacking and the dark arts", and we turn there to journalist number four. This is a journalist with over 32 years' experience in local and regional newspapers before moving on titles, broadsheet and tabloid, across Fleet Street and then into broadcasting. As far as you're aware, is that person still working in broadcasting?
A. Still working in newspapers and some broadcasting as well.
Q. This person goes on to describe in quite a lot of detail the dark arts that are practised. Can you give us a feel you absolutely cannot name any names or any names of any newspapers, but can you give us a feel for whether or not the dark arts were practised just across a certain type of title or across the whole range?
A. This journalist's testimony covers time spent on mid-markets, on red tops and in broadsheets.
Q. And this is evidence to the effect that the dark arts were practised in all of those?
A. Yes.
Q. I've been asked to ask you a question about journalist four. Do his experiences as described of phone hacking to obtain confidential information relate to his work in broadcasting only?
A. No, to work in the range of newspapers and newspaper groups that I've just outlined.
Q. All right. At 4.1 this gentleman or woman, he or she explains why he cannot give evidence publicly and why he's decided to submit his evidence anonymously through you. He explains that he first became aware of journalistic practices during the 1980s, and on that occasion what he learned was that a journalist regularly employed the services of a private investigator. Then journalist number four came to work closely with that particular journalist and he shared many of his earlier exploits with journalist number four. He then met the private investigator and then worked with him on a number of stories. The private investigator, he says, was able to provide surveillance services which involved the bugging of homes and business premises as well as recordings from landline telephones, because of course this was before widespread mobile use, as he explains. He explains that the private investigator was always paid cash delivered in envelopes and invariably disguised in a rolled-up newspaper. "I saw the senior journalist carrying the cash", he says, "but never witnessed the actual handing over which either happened on my blind side or else when I was not present." He then goes on to explain the variety of targets that were targeted, which we don't need to go through, but at 4.5 makes clear that the same investigator was able to furnish the journalists in question, including journalist number four, with police national computer checks when they sought to learn about criminal convictions and cautions, and was also able to access social security records and could frequently provide the most up-to-date home addresses for people. This was invaluable if legitimate searches failed to find them. We see that at the end of 4.5.
A. Mm.
Q. He then goes on, if we move to 4.8, to say: "Initially the use of such techniques wasn't widespread in the newsrooms but instead it was restricted at that time to a few older journalists who had an investigative bent. This was also the situation in the other Fleet Street newsroom which I have worked in. It was known by all the staff reporters and some of the regular freelancers which journalist had the wherewithal to obtain things like ex-directory phone numbers, PNC details and/or medical records." He then goes on to describe his own personal circumstances, which I don't think we need to go into, but he concludes at 4.11 that he has no reason to think that any of this changed since he left that particular title and many of the very best practitioners of the so-called dark arts continued to work there, he says. He then explains that he moved to another title, we don't know what it was, where the contrast was that the news desk and other senior editorial executives spoke openly about the use of such methods. That's 4.12. Much more of an open secret. Then goes on to say at 4.13 that those who objected were routinely abused verbally publicly. Goes on to explain that there might be other sanctions if you didn't toe the line. He then gives other specific examples and concludes that: "A small but significant number of those reporters responsible for creating that climate or carrying out the dark arts have subsequently been promoted both within [title] and some to the most senior editorial positions in newspapers elsewhere in Fleet Street." He admits himself at 4.16 that he stole, bribed and cheated to obtain information, but what he objects to is the indiscriminate way this was carried out, in situations where there was a spurious public interest justification, and this is why he left and went freelance. The only other thing we need to add is 4.18. While freelancing he says he learned from serving police officers about a technique used to help convict paedophiles which involved placing a computer program into a computer in order to discover what was being stored on the hard drive. He quickly realised its potential for news gathering and over a period of about six months acquired the ability from computer programmers how to construct a Trojan computer program. After a period of trial and error he found he could obtain confidential information from this method better than from bugging, hacking or theft and bribery. He says in the vain hope that he might not be doing anything wrong, he targeted only people who worked abroad. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I don't think that's in the vain hope of not doing anything wrong. I think it's rather different. MS PATRY HOSKINS To deter any police investigation. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm not quite sure what using a Trojan computer is, if it isn't hacking. All right. MS PATRY HOSKINS He concludes: "I know from direct experience that [X] have also used Trojan programs and I have it from good first-hand information that the News of the World also utilised such techniques." Am I right in saying "I have it from good first-hand information" that's hearsay evidence, isn't it?
A. Yes.
Q. There wasn't anything else that he could provide you with?
A. No.
Q. Still on the same subject of the dark arts we have the fifth journalist who has more than 25 years' experience across many national newspaper titles including many years at the News of the World. We're not going to touch upon the bullying culture again, save to note that it's been repeated by this journalist and he also refers at 4.20 to the immense pressure which he faced again. We don't need to read that out. At 4.21 and 4.22 and 4.23 he explains that there were individuals at the newspaper who were obviously very difficult to deal with. Talks about ritual humiliation and so on. Then at 4.26 on page 11, he explains that an example of bullying or pressure, he would get calls on a Saturday night to say get on the plane at 7 am the next morning. When one girl complained of all the calls she was getting out of hours she got more calls every single week and it drove her out, she was incredibly upset. He makes this point at the end of 4.26: "The in-house staff association NISA, they're nice people but what are they going to do if you complain about your boss bullying you? He'd have denied it, they'd pay you off, you'd lose your job. Where would you go when there aren't many jobs in Fleet Street any more?" I think that's all we need to touch upon, unless there's anything in that particular statement you want to draw to the Inquiry's attention. We'll move on to journalist number six.
A. I think this particular testimony does really underline what a dysfunctional atmosphere working in this newsroom was in terms of the very competitive approach, the way that colleagues were encouraged to, as this journalist says, shaft each other. It certainly made for very uncomfortable listening to me interviewing this person, the extent of the bullying and the unpleasantness that people were expected to put up with day on day. I've dealt with many, many cases of journalists in lots of different circumstances, but I still found this really a very shocking piece of testimony.
Q. Journalist number six, who is a freelance photographer of over 15 years' experience. I just wanted to give one example of one particular event. This is a News of the World journalist who took the mobile number given to him or her by a homeless man and then said "Wait a minute" I paraphrase 4.35 called the number, gave that person on the other end of the line the mobile number that she had just been given, then within 15 minutes somebody called back and gave the name and address of the woman who the phone was registered to. And the journalist notes that this information could only have been obtained from a policeman or someone working for a mobile phone company, but it was unlikely that it was the mobile phone company because the homeless man was never asked which network he was on. There's nothing else we need to take from that. We then turn to the heading of "Unethical practice" and journalist number seven. This is a reporter who complains at length about their newspaper's continued negative coverage of Islam and the Xenophobic agenda of the newspaper. I don't think we need to read any of this out. Essentially this journalist gives a number of examples of things that they were required to do, stories that they were required to write, and makes clear that whenever they complained or removed parts of the articles that they were asked to write, they would somehow find that bits had found their way back into the article when they were published, and other such I don't need to read out every single example. At 7.6 the journalist makes clear that when the journalist complained or asked for their byline to be removed from the story, the journalist was portrayed as the token lefty in the newsroom, and then after that this particular journalist was targeted to produce the highest number of anti-Muslim stories. Despite the fact that this journalist never once put forward a story like that. The journalist quite forcefully described being in tears at being asked to do this, but nevertheless the behaviour continuing. The journalist concludes by saying essentially that they resigned. The only other thing that we need to touch on in relation to this journalist is paragraph 7.10, which is about making the story stand up. The journalist says this: "Time and time again when I was faced with a dubious story or one that was proving difficult to substantiate I was instructed to just put in some bystander quotes. Again we received verbal commands on the way those stories should run, to the extent of: put in 'an onlooker said this' or '[X]' in the third paragraph. There was no such onlooker and no direct quotes." Going on from there: "While I never and was never instructed to make up a story from scratch, I did add substantiating quotes, either under direct instruction from the news editor or just to sensationalise the story as per instruction and these were often entirely made up. I was by no means the only person doing so and often, if I did not incorporate any sexier substantiating quotes, I found they had magically appeared in my article by the final edit." Anything else you wanted to add to that before we move on to journalist number eight?
A. No, I think it paints a very strong picture of life in that newsroom.
Q. Journalist number eight also has concerns about the reporting on immigration and asylum and saying it's simply not done in a neutral, even-handed way. I don't think there's anything unless there's something you particularly want to draw to our attention, I don't think there's anything we need to say. Number nine is a journalist of over 20 years' experience working across a number of national newspapers and this is about a proprietor. This journalist wants to make it clear that this particular proprietor, more than any other proprietor that this journalist knows, cared little for journalistic ethics: "He expected reporters to write stories that suited him when it suited him, for example negative stories on [X] on demand or anti-asylum stories and headlines whenever it suited. His intervention made it virtually impossible for anyone to resist him individually, and when as a union we did this and went to the PCC it was useless. I'm not sure that his editorial interference was or is any greater than some others, he was just very brazen about it. Once he came up to my desk and demanded a particular angle on something or else he did it for the editor." Journalist number ten is a journalist of 20 years working as a freelance and staffer in national and regional newspapers as well. At 7.22 the journalist makes clear from the outset that he was never involved in investigative methods which might contravene the NUJ ethical standards, but he witnessed a worrying erosion of those standards in almost every newsroom. Explains that in some detail, which we don't need to go through. Is there anything else you would like to draw to our attention?
A. No, it's fine.
Q. The last two journalists deal with the issue of casualisation and the first is journalist number eleven, a freelance journalist of 25 years working across the local and national press and magazine sectors. This journalist explained that when they refused to do a biased piece a features editor on [X] wanted me to do I was told I'd never get another commission again and I never did, not for that editor anyway." Then goes on to explain why being freelance is a constant challenge. Finally journalist 12, a very junior journalist, four years, working on two national titles doing casual shifts. Can you just help us with this. Is this someone who is relatively new to the industry?
A. Yes. They've been working as a journalist just for the last four years, had been working in a different career and had retrained to come into journalism.
Q. And still working in the industry?
A. Yes.
Q. This journalist says: "What people don't realise is that the culture in most newsrooms can be really intimidating, especially if you're a young journalist trying to make an impression, desperate to get a contract. I've been shifting for years now. I get paid holiday, just statutory. I do the same job as other reporters here but I'm paid peanuts. I drive myself into work even when I'm really sick, partly because I don't get paid for being off sick but mainly because I don't want anyone to think I'm skiving and that I'm not committed because that will go against me if a contract comes up." The journalist goes on to describe at 7.32 the bullying and explains that he feels unable to speak out. Can't afford to lose his job. Halfway through 7.32 says: "The other problem is the huge number of new journalists working for free on internships. It's incredibly competitive to get a foot in the door, so once you're there, you're desperate not to blow it. I think that makes it even easier for editors to treat you like dirt." And then at 7.33: "I've not hacked phones although there's someone in every newsroom who can turn around ex-directory numbers or come up with addresses and medical record checks. I've asked colleagues for this myself on the advice of the news editor. But I've seen the pressure people come under to break stories and to curry favour with the editor. There's no resources, no time to do things properly. You're just supposed to pull a rabbit out of a hat. It's hardly a big surprise that shortcuts are taken." Is there anything else that you wanted to draw our attention to there?
A. No, except just quickly to add that the increasing casualisation in the industry has really contributed, I think, to the problems that there are now in workplaces because employment is incredibly precarious for many journalists, but they're not freelancers in the traditional sense, they're not working for a variety of outlets and invoicing newspapers with their bills. They're paid on a daily set rate and many casuals work in newsrooms every day, every week, for months on end. Some of them even for years. To all intents and purposes, they are a member of staff except they don't have the same salaries, they don't enjoy the same sick leave or any of the other entitlements. They could be working alongside people who have enhanced holiday or enhanced sick cover, but they don't have those same perks, and they can just be told, "Don't come in tomorrow". Some newspapers even, when they get to the 12-month period of service, at the point at which they would accrue rights as workers, newspapers force a two or three-week break on them, an unpaid period of leave before they are allowed to come back and resume their duties as to all intents and purposes a member of staff, but it makes it even harder for those journalists, and this is why it's important to speak out or to challenge anything that an editor says because they don't even have the security of a staff contract.
Q. Can I turn to your third statement. This covers two issues: Mr Derek Webb, we'll come on to that, and the News International union, NISA. NISA?
A. NISA.
Q. Let me ask first about Derek Webb. You'll remember that Mr Webb gave evidence to the Inquiry and you tell us in fact it was on Day 18. You will recall that he was the gentleman who was a former police officer who became a private detective and then was asked to become a member of the NUJ if he wanted to continue working at News of the World. Look at paragraph 3 of your statement because I think there's a correction to make there. You explain halfway down: "The evidence is that Neville Thurlbeck, the news editor of the Sun, told Mr Webb that two conditions for his subsequent employment by the Sun were that he terminated his private et cetera et cetera." Can we correct that. Mr Thurlbeck is there a correction you'd like to make?
A. To change it from the News of the World to the Sun, yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The other way around, actually.
A. Oh, it's been corrected, sorry, in my version. Yes, the other way around. MS PATRY HOSKINS Mr Thurlbeck wasn't the news editor at News of the World. Our understanding is that he was chief reporter, so we make those corrections.
A. Yes.
Q. I want to make absolutely clear that that wasn't intentional. You explain that Mr Webb was absolutely right about that, he did become a member of the National Union of Journalists and you enclose with your statement his application form at MS2. I'm going to ask you questions about how one becomes an NUJ member but before I do that, can we look at paragraph 4. You explain that the requirement to join the NUJ is remarkable for two reasons. The first is that the Sun I think you mean the News of the World there together with every other News International title in the UK refuses to recognise the NUJ or indeed have anything to do with the NUJ, it's set up and funds NISA which shall we say ostensibly represents its staff but is in fact subservient to News International. And you say this: "This is not merely my view, it reflects a decision of the certification officer of 18 May 2001." And you set out the decision of the certification officer, which we're not going to go through, but can you confirm that was a decision in 2001 that NISA was not an independent trade union since it was liable to interference by News International. Can you assist us with whether or not that decision was ever appealed or whether any further application has been made for a certificate of independence?
A. Not to my knowledge, but News International could answer that.
Q. We've obviously heard the evidence of those who had the experience of NISA. Is there anything else that you'd like to say about NISA or that particular subject?
A. Just merely to say that a staff association that has been established by an employer as a way of blocking recognition to any independent trade union, an organisation that's financed exclusively by a proprietor, cannot ever provide a genuine independent voice in the workplace, and I think one of the journalists in the testimony earlier also makes it clear that people who work within NISA and who work to negotiate pay rises and things like that, they're nice people, that they've been supportive; however, within the very real parameters of what they can do, they're not someone that people could turn to and expect to represent robustly their ethical issues or issues of bullying in the workplace. There is no perception that they offer that independent voice and genuine representative body.
Q. Let me ask you about Mr Webb then. You've enclosed his application form. I think there was some surprise expressed at the time as to how he could have become a member of the National Union of Journalists, given that he was not, I think it's now accepted, a journalist. Look at the form very briefly and see how he describes himself in that. He describes himself as a researcher. Under "About your job" he says he works for News International freelance and is a researcher, describes himself as a freelance researcher. Over the page, he then has a proposer and a seconder. Is that all he was required to do? Can you explain this to us: fill in a form, have a proposer and a seconder, and then he would acquire membership of the NUJ?
A. We have a system. Applications come into the union centrally. We have a longstanding system of potential members needing to have a proposer and a seconder, and that's because obviously the NUJ cannot hire a private detective to investigate every potential member and find out whether they're not telling the truth on an application form, there's an element of good faith, but the fact of the proposer and seconder is that they are members in excellent standing within the union. What tends to happen in the cases of workplace applications is that the people who propose and second tend to be NUJ members who are more active, who are members of the NUJ chapel committee, for example, and that's how most workplace applications tend into come into the union centrally. There's a level of processing that's done at our head office in London for UK applications and then they go out, the application forms are sent to branches, local branches, so that in this case it would have gone to our freelance branch in London, and again the applications are all discussed individually at that meeting of members. We suggest to prospective members that they go along to that meeting so that they're physically there to answer any questions that might happen. They're not obliged to and it didn't happen in this case, in this application, but that's another element of the checking process that takes place, but the proposer and the seconder were members in excellent standing.
Q. So you don't rely necessarily on being able to check that the person actually does the job they say they're doing. You rely on the fact that a proposer and a seconder of excellent standing within the NUJ have vouched for this person and that's the basis on which this application was granted?
A. Yes. Ordinarily, if it was a freelance most freelance applications, prospective journalists are asked to supply evidence of their work. Now in the case of researchers it's obviously not necessary, you don't have the bylined material in the same way as if you were a writer or a different type of journalist. We have many researchers within membership in the NUJ, for example at the BBC. It's perfectly valid criteria of membership within the union. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Have you researched the position with the proposer and seconder?
A. I have carried out checks in that regard, yes, and they believed the person to be doing journalistic work. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But they clearly didn't know him very well.
A. The proposer had got to know this person to a degree. I think, I believe the work had turned into work of a journalistic nature, not as a private detective. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Do you think what Mr Webb was doing was journalistic?
A. I think some of the work that, you know, in terms of some of the work is work that journalists would do in the course of their duties. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's not quite the same question, is it?
A. No, I don't believe he was eligible for membership of the NUJ, no. I also find it staggering that an organisation would instruct, as Mr Webb alleges, would instruct somebody who's been a private detective for them for a long period of time to suddenly transform themselves into a journalist and that the way to do that in the eyes of that executive was to gain a membership of the NUJ and to secure one of our press cards, not one of the cards that News International dispenses to its staff. I find the whole thing staggering. Staggering. The conceit of it from an organisation that does not let the independent union for journalists across its threshold. MS PATRY HOSKINS I'm going to ask you about Mr Dacre's proposals for press cards in a moment, but before I do that, let's complete the circle. In what circumstances would an NUJ press card be withdrawn or somehow taken away in some form?
A. I should say at the outset that not all members of the NUJ hold a press card. All members of the union have their union membership card, but it's only members have to demonstrate that they're bona fide news gatherers and working in that way in order to then gain the press card. There's a separate application that they make for that. It's not an automatic entitlement or something that we automatically dispense. There is another process
Q. Right.
A. to that. And if a member leaves the NUJ, they're obliged to return their press card, if they're a member who has one. If they when it comes up for renewal, if they've moved to a different sector of work, for example if they've moved into PR or if they've become an academic lecturer in journalism and they are not actively involved in news gathering any more then they're no longer entitled to a press card as a consequence. Of course if a member was expelled from the NUJ, we would also ask that they return their card and ensure that that takes place.
Q. In relation to Mr Webb, was any investigation started with a view to removing his card or
A. That process had started and Mr Webb resigned from the NUJ. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON He had a press card, did he?
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So he's not only a member but a
A. Yes. And he's been asked to return that card. MS PATRY HOSKINS Mr Dacre came to give evidence recently and proposed a system of press cards. He explained that there were a number of bodies producing press cards and went on to suggest that owners should register their reporters for a centralised industry-run kind of accreditation scheme, if I can put it that way, for kitemark journalists and publishers. He explained that there would be various advantages to this system. Did you hear him give evidence or read a transcript of his evidence.
A. Yes I read the transcript, yes.
Q. Do you have any views on the proposal that he put forward?
A. I think it's a ridiculous idea. I don't think it would work in practice. I don't understand the premise behind it. Why would the industry, why would the newspaper owners be in a position to somehow guarantee things that don't happen at the moment as a result of the press card gatekeepers? I think this is yet another example of how as an editor, a very high profile influential member of the industry is trying to again pin the blame on individual journalists. They want a system in place that's run by the industry, controlled by the industry and where individual journalists, if something happened, if there was an issue with reporting or example of bad practice, then that journalist's livelihood and card is somehow revoked. Where does the blame lie? Again it lies with the ordinary reporter from that perspective. It does absolutely nothing to move us forward from where we are today. And it doesn't tackle at all any of the issues about the culture, the practices and ethics within the press. So it's not at all a notion that we would support, and I have seen since the widespread reaction to it from many seasoned journalists and from many academics in the industry is that it's a ridiculous notion, it would never work, and again it doesn't account for the fact that journalists operate in a culture that is imposed upon them from above, from the likes of Mr Dacre and others within the industry, and yet under his model he would have all the power and none of the responsibility for that. It's also pretty much akin to the licensing of journalists, which of course the NUJ would absolutely oppose, and would damage press freedom within the UK, which I know is something that hopefully, you know, within the broader Inquiry is something that we all don't want to go down that path, so it's not a practical model and it's not a solution to the problems we're all sharing here in this Inquiry.
Q. I understand that the NUJ does have some worked out proposals on the future of press regulation, but having spoken to you beforehand, I think you've made it clear that you would rather submit those proposals in writing to the Chairman rather than spend time now discussing them in any detail, so I'm sure that we'd be very grateful to receive the NUJ's proposals in due course. Is that acceptable, sir? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's absolutely right. As I've made clear to everybody, any proposals will be considered and thought about. The determination that I have to find an answer that works for everybody, that is the industry, the journalists and the public, remains absolute. MS PATRY HOSKINS Thank you, Ms Stanistreet. Those are all my questions. Do you have anything that you would like to add?
A. I'd just like to say I'm very grateful for the fact that the evidence of these journalists was allowed to come before the Inquiry. There was a lot of tussling about it and I'm very pleased with the decision you've taken because I think it's really important that in their own words that the Inquiry gets a flavour and the wider public gets an insight into what many journalists are having to face on a day-to-day basis, and it's incredibly regrettable that you don't have a succession of journalists who feel able to come here in person and to be able to tell you in their own words and have their evidence tested, but it's for the very really reasons that I've outlined, it's a real culture of fear. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand that, Ms Stanistreet. You, of course, will equally understand the impact that the absence of that testing inevitably has upon the weight that I can put on what any of them actually say.
A. (Nods head). LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But I'm very grateful to you and I'm grateful to you for the work that you've done to take up the difficulty that the Inquiry was clearly learning about surrounding the fact that there were journalists who were anxious to contribute but weren't prepared to come forward and be named, so I'm very grateful to you. Thank you very much.
A. Thank you. MR BARR Sir, good afternoon. The next witness is Mr Max Clifford. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. MR MAXWELL FRANK CLIFFORD (sworn) Questions by MR BARR MR BARR Mr Clifford, could you give the Inquiry your full name.
A. Maxwell Frank Clifford.
Q. Are the contents of your witness statement true and correct to the best of your knowledge and belief?
A. Yes.
Q. Can I start, please, by having a little look at your career. You are a public relations consultant, very well-known, both within the industry and indeed internationally. You started off with a brief career in local journalism, then you joined EMI Records in the early 1960s as a press officer and promoted EMI artists and their records. In 1971, you formed your own public relations company, Max Clifford Associates, initially representing pop stars and entertainers, but more recently your business has grown to include many different types of client, including not only stars but also companies, organisations and events.
A. Yes.
Q. In addition to your commercial work, you do a great deal of charity work in public relations. You tell us that you spent most of your time working, broadly speaking, in public relations, but also a significant minority of your time breaking stories and giving interviews to newspapers, magazines, radio and television. Perhaps the most well-known side of your business is the story side of your business, but you tell us that in fact that only forms about 15 per cent of your business' overall work; is that right?
A. Yes. In terms of my time and in terms of the money it brings into the company.
Q. You are yourself a victim of phone hacking. You tell us in your witness statement that you were contacted in 2006, first of all by your mobile phone company and then afterwards by the Metropolitan Police, who notified you that your voicemail had been accessed. You subsequently learnt that you were hacked by Glenn Mulcaire, acting for the News of the World. Is that right?
A. Yes.
Q. You came to a settlement with News International, didn't you?
A. Mm-hm.
Q. And it was unusual in that you negotiated it yourself directly with Rebekah Brooks; is that correct?
A. Yes.
Q. Could you tell the Inquiry briefly what the terms of the settlement were that you negotiated with Rebekah Brooks?
A. It was over a quiet lunch not long after Rebekah had been made chief executive, I'd known her for many, many years, Mews in Mayfair, just around the corner from my office and it was ?220,000 a year for three years plus all my legal costs.
Q. In return for the ?220,000 per year, did you agree to provide stories for the News of the World?
A. It was continuating. I had a working relationship with the News of the World, as I did with all newspapers for many years, so but when I fell out with Andy Coulson, I stopped working with them, I wouldn't deal with them. That went on for a few years, which is when my phone was being hacked. I agreed with Rebekah that, as part of our commercial settlement, I would recontinue my relationship with the News of the World, who I'd had a close relationship with for 30 years before Andy Coulson, under a succession of editors, and I was happy to do that. Although I wasn't dealing with the News of the World for those years, I was still dealing with the Sun, the Times and the Sunday Times on a weekly basis.
Q. Is it right that News International also paid all of your legal costs?
A. Yes, which was I think somewhere over ?300,000. The whole package came to just under a million pounds.
Q. Was there any confidentiality agreement?
A. Yes. We shook hands. There was no contract. We shook hands on the understanding I wouldn't reveal the details of my settlement, which I didn't until News of the World lawyers revealed the details of my settlement, even though they got it slightly wrong.
Q. Can I ask you now to cast your mind back. Was there a point in time when it became common rumour within the media industry that mobile telephones were being hacked?
A. Yes. I mean it was something that I was aware of, and various journalists and people in and around the industry had spoken to me about and had spoken to each other about when I was there. Probably from early 2000. Although I will say that many, many years before, you know, I was warning clients about when they were in this country about being very careful about what you say on the telephone, because things that were taking part in conversations were certainly appearing in the newspapers. I remember having those conversations with people as different as Muhammad Ali and Marlon Brando, and that was long before this. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's telephones, not mobiles?
A. I'm not too clever about when mobile phones really got going because I was a late starter, but it was just phones, yeah. Phone messages or phones being overheard, listened to, you know. MR BARR You're talking about things like people listening in on an extension, that sort of thing?
A. Yes.
Q. Was there similarly rumour within the media industry that confidential information was being obtained by blagging from various people?
A. Bagging?
Q. Yes, pretending to be somebody they weren't and getting information that way?
A. I think as time went by, the years went by, and the competition got fiercer and circulation started to subside, so methods became more and more creative. Any means. What happened, what mattered was getting a result. So in my view that's what was going on, and particularly with a you know, I suppose a significant minority of Fleet Street's finest. I mean, I would stress that in my experience, the vast majority of journalists I've worked with and the vast majority of journalists I've been closely involved with for 45 years or more, press, television, radio, wouldn't get involved in anything like this, and the tiny minority that did, some of them were forced. Some of them had no choice. If you don't, you're out, you're sacked, you're finished. That's my belief. But it was a tiny minority. It was a cancer which hopefully now is being cut out.
Q. Is the source of your information simply the many conversations that you have with people within the industry or do you have anything more specific?
A. No, no, it's not specific. I mean, it isn't something that I was making a detailed study of or survey of. It was just something I became increasingly aware of as the years went by, particularly over the last ten years. And with regard to stars and phones, you know, bugs would be put in rooms where they were staying in hotels and things like that, and that's long before the phone hacking, mobile phones.
Q. Do you have any feel for what's going on at the moment? Has the scandal which broke last summer had a chilling effect on the types of methods which are being used now to obtain stories?
A. I mean hopefully yes, I mean, it's frightened people and made them stop those kind of things, which is what I believe and sincerely hope, but also the effect of this Inquiry, I think, has frightened editors, so, you know, for example, in recent months there's several major stories which would have dominated the headlines that I'm aware of which haven't come out.
Q. I don't want you on that topic to say anything which would invade any individual's privacy, but can you give us some idea of what exactly it is which is holding editors back from publishing the sort of story you have just mentioned?
A. Well, I think it's a backlash. It's a public backlash. I mean, what really got the British public angry was Milly Dowler and the McCanns, wasn't it? People like that. You know, stars having their phones tapped, people like myself that are successful, wealthy, have done very, very well out of the media or films, television, so what, those people don't care, they have far more important things to worry about. But when they read and heard about Milly Dowler, when they read and heard about the McCanns, I think they were shocked and horrified. That had an effect. And that sent shock waves throughout Fleet Street, particularly the tabloids. So editors, I think, in more recent times, I know, because of conversations, because of things have come up, because of things I'm aware of, wouldn't run with something because of the Leveson Inquiry. So it's gone from one extreme to the other. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You'd better tell me, Mr Clifford, excluding the possible impact on your business, is that a good thing or a bad thing?
A. I think it's a good thing, because they're being far more responsible and it has no impact on my business because LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right, I was just trying to make sure.
A. Sure, okay. MR BARR You were asked whether you were aware of any other forms of hacking and what you tell us in your witness statement is that you worked with Rebecca Leighton, who was the nurse who, it turns out, was wrongly accused of poisoning her patients by tampering with saline drips, and you tell us in your witness statement that you have real concerns about photographs which were taken from her Facebook account and then used in national media stories. I don't want to ask you about the technical details, because I understand that you're not a Facebook user
A. No.
Q. yourself, but it was a concern that those photographs had been obtained when they shouldn't have been?
A. I mean, this was basically she came to me for help because she was being destroyed by the media, she said unfairly, the same as Robert Murat did years before over the disappearance of Madeleine McCann. I introduced her to Charlotte Harris and it was Charlotte that basically came up with this and brought this to my attention.
Q. Thank you. You have previously described the British media as being the most savage media in the world.
A. Mm-hm.
Q. Apart, perhaps, from the slight chilling effect that you've described a moment ago, do you still think that that is true?
A. I mean I think it's a bit gentler at the moment, but potentially, yes, they destroy people. I mean, they also do a lot of wonderful things, a lot of very good things, and if we didn't have a free press, we wouldn't know about MPs fiddling their expenses and all kinds of things that we must know about and we must have a free press. It's the best chance anybody's got, otherwise we're like Chinese and Russians and just slaves to the system. But are they savage? Can they be savage? Absolutely right. Of course some of the most successful papers are the most savage because an awful lot of people would much rather read nasty things about other people than nice things.
Q. Perhaps that's a useful introduction to look at some particular aspects of your public relations work. I'd like first of all to turn to the story side of your business.
A. Mm-hm.
Q. On Max Clifford Associates Limited's website there it is a page which carries a heading "Got a news story", and it explains essentially what it is that you do. It says that you've been responsible for over 170 front-page exclusives within the last 18 months. Is that broadly speaking correct?
A. Quite probably yes.
Q. And that what you do is that if someone has got a story that you think is worth pursuing, that you will broker the story for the highest possible price?
A. No, not necessarily. It depends what people want. Sometimes they don't want money, they want justice. Sometimes they want to clear their name. Sometimes so it just depends on what it is. Every situation is different and every time anybody comes to me, it's a different sometimes a different scenario. Sometimes it's purely just a question of stopping things which are damaging them. For example, when the News of the World came out with their story about Max Mosley, which I had nothing to do with, within a period of time the woman who had organised Mr Mosley's entertainment contacted me. Can she come and see me? So she did, and she explained that she was there and I think she'd arranged the other ladies that were there entertaining Mr Mosley, but there was no Nazi theme to this at all. What she said was "The News of the World now are trying to get me to say there was, and if I don't, they're going to put my name and pictures all over the papers." I contacted people at the News of the World and stopped it. That kind of things happens all the time. There's no money involved, but you're in the middle of all kind of things like that all the time. When people come to me, I check out the story, or people that work for me check out the story, and if we believe it to be true and if we want to get involved, then it's a question of contacting the newspaper or it might be Panorama or it might be and set up meetings and then it goes in or it doesn't go in, according to what the newspaper, television or whatever discovers and what proof there is.
Q. I see. I'll be coming back in a little while to the people that you've helped protect from publicity, but for the moment, dealing with those that you have helped to break stories.
A. Sure.
Q. Typical examples might be Rebecca Loos or Bienvenida Buck or Daisy Wright, who was Jude Law's nanny?
A. Yeah.
Q. Have you noticed that the recent developments in the law of injunctions, have they had an effect on kiss-and-tell stories?
A. Yes, they have, because injunctions or superinjunctions is something that obviously protects the rich and famous. Unfortunately, it's not available to ordinary members of the public, but fortunately, because of Ryan Giggs, I think that hopefully that's on the way out.
Q. You're on record as having said to a reporter from the Guardian, or it's published in the Guardian, at least, that only 20 per cent of the stories that you've placed in your career would qualify for publication on the grounds of public interest, and I'm reading a quotation, "a real public interest".
A. Yeah, I would say that 20, maybe 25 per cent. I mean, you know, we're going back 40 years. And there's probably 50 per cent that are could be debated, with a very strong argument for both sides, and then there's another 25 per cent that there's no way, or 20, 25 per cent. I couldn't ever justify Freddie Starr and the hamster as being in the public interest. I wouldn't try to.
Q. Has there been a trend? Are there now about the same or more or less stories that you could put your hand on your heart and say are genuinely in the public interest?
A. It hasn't changed at all.
Q. On that question of factual detail, there are stories which you've been involved in which have become famous because of details which turned out not to be true. One of the most famous was the "Freddie Starr ate my hamster" headline. What role did you play in that false headline?
A. As I say, 80 per cent of my business is and has been public relations. I'm paid retainers by clients. Freddie Starr was a client for years. Someone went to the Sun when Kelvin MacKenzie was editor, 1986, claiming that Freddie had eaten her hamster. She had a boyfriend Freddie was on good terms with. They'd fallen out and as an act of spite and vengeance. So Kelvin MacKenzie, editor of the Sun, called me and said, "We've got this great story on Freddie Starr". "What is it?" "It's he ate a hamster", et cetera, et cetera. I said "Can you give me an hour and I'll get back to you". I phoned Freddie and he denied it. I phoned his manager, Leon Fisk, and he said as far as he was aware he'd never seen Freddie eat a hamster and he was with him most of the time in those days and they both said could I stop it? My decision was to say to Kelvin, "Freddie denies eating a hamster, but I'm more than happy for the story to go in because he's about to do a British tour and I think it would be great publicity for him". Fortunately for me it worked out that way.
Q. Did you see any ethical difficulty in effectively giving Mr MacKenzie the green light to publish
A. Not at all.
Q. a false story?
A. No. I told Mr MacKenzie that Freddie had denied it. He said to me, "Have you ever seen him do anything like that?" and I said, "No, I've seen him put some very strange things in his mouth over the years, but never a hamster", because that is the truth, I haven't. But I was happy to encourage it because I was looking after Freddie's career and his PR and I believed it would be something which would help him.
Q. So effectively you passed the decision to Mr MacKenzie?
A. Yes.
Q. To make
A. In spite of my client wanting me to stop it.
Q. The other perhaps infamous example was the detail that was given of David Mellor's affair with Antonia de Sancha. Is it right that the detail about the Chelsea football shirt was completely made up?
A. Well, I mean the only person that knows what David Mellor wore was Antonia de Sancha and David Mellor. I didn't give the interview. I wasn't in the room with the journalist when Antonia de Sancha gave the interview. She had to swear, I would assume, an affidavit that that's exactly what happened. So, you know, everyone has always said, "Well, you made it up". I didn't make it up. And even if I had have made it up, she was doing the interview and I had nothing to do with that interview. I don't tend to sit in, because to be honest with you, I don't particularly want to hear about what David Mellor might have been up to in the bedroom. It does nothing to entertain or even interest me. Again, to be honest with you, I'd much rather enjoy a sex life than read about other people's.
Q. I'm thinking because that was perhaps a detail, unlike the Freddie Starr story, that did actually have consequences because it was one thing for Mr Mellor to face the consequences of what he did actually do; it was quite another for him to suffer the humiliation of being ridiculed for something that he didn't do.
A. Well, if he didn't, the only two people that know that are David Mellor and Antonia de Sancha.
Q. You've described to the Select Committee back in 2003, and two others, how you've witnessed celebrity culture in this country change over the decades.
A. Mm-hm.
Q. Do you think that the British obsession with celebrity has reached an unhealthy level?
A. I think it's unhealthy that celebrities have so much influence over young people, and stars, for lots of different reasons. I think there was a survey just a few years ago of 8-year-olds asked what they wanted to do, a national survey, when they left school, and a huge amount said, "Be famous". Well, that's sad, and of course because so many celebrities are famous when they've obviously got absolutely no talent at all, then I think it obviously can be worrying. I think I've always tried, whenever I speak on television or in the media or at universities or to explain my thoughts about stars and celebrities as being generally much ado about nothing, a world full of very selfish people who generally are only interested in one person, and often, including major stars, people who are very unhappy because no matter how big they become, they're jealous of somebody else or petrified of someone else coming up behind them. So I would agree with what you're saying, but it's not something I've ever tried to promote or believe.
Q. I wasn't suggesting that you were, I was just trying to establish what your view was. And also from your inside view and enormous experience of the industry, is it right that the media industry has deliberately built up and then knocked down celebrities?
A. Well, it's commercial. It sells. You know, there's a huge market grown up in the last 10, 20 years. You only have to look at the girlie magazines and the fact that most tabloid newspapers now have a huge amount of stories about so-called celebrities, and, you know, columns in all the big national tabloids about celebrities, which obviously journalists have to fill every day. To me, it's always been much to do about very little, but it's become a very big industry. As to whether it's right or wrong, I mean, you know, that's basically controlled by the British public. If they don't want to read it, they don't buy it, in which case the magazines and papers won't write it. But because it's seen to be successful and market research must have shown that, it will continue.
Q. Can I move now back to the subject of the ordinary people caught up in stories who you've helped. You mentioned a moment ago Robert Murat. This Inquiry has heard quite a lot of evidence about the disappearance of Madeleine McCann and the effects that this had on media coverage and the suffering of the McCann family. Can I ask you, in your work with Mr Murat was the PCC of any use?
A. No.
Q. Why not?
A. Well, I mean, they were nowhere on the horizon. No, Robert Murat came to me, initially his mother and then his aunt, incredibly upset because of what was appearing in the British press about him, and asking me if I'd be prepared to help him. They explained he didn't have any money, but this was a man who was bordering on suicide. They were being spat at in the street. So I said, "Well, I am happy to", you know, if I sit down and listen to what he has to say, and I did, and I got involved. And what I tried to do was to help him stop this problem.
Q. If I could just pause you there, for a man who is there on the brink of being destroyed by the media in a fast-moving story, what sort of measures are really effective at preventing the damage?
A. I've had this discussion for many, many years. The only really effective way is you have to have a strong Press Complaints Commission, an independent Press Complaints Commission, which isn't financed by Fleet Street, which is prepared to be proactive, not just for stars and the so-called celebrities. They get plenty of protection, more protection than many of them deserve because they can afford to employ rich lawyers and expensive PR people like me to protect them. Ordinary members of the public in my view have got no one at all and no protection from anybody. Certainly not within the law. I mean, I've known of dozens and dozens of examples of people whose lives have been damaged, destroyed, by excessive media activity. And there is no one there for them. It's vitally important that we if one good thing comes out of this Inquiry, I hope that that's what will happen.
Q. So what you're envisaging, if I'm understanding you correctly, is at least some part of a future regulator which is capable of reacting very quickly when an ordinary member of the public comes to them with a complaint about press conduct?
A. It's not just that, it's more than that. It's a lot more than that. Anticipation. The biggest part of public relations in terms of damage limitation is anticipation. If you're aware of a potential problem, you can do something about it. When a member of the public is suddenly contacted by a national newspaper with a story which potentially is going to be incredibly damaging to them, their family, they should be able to call someone who will help them, and if necessary, that person has the power to stop that story until they've had a chance to show, see the proof, see the justification. Afterwards is too late, the damage has been done.
Q. Can I take it from your answer that implicit in that is you think that prior notification of damaging stories is utterly essential?
A. Absolutely. I'm not talking about exposing major security risk, terrorists, paedophiles, all these kind of things. I'm talking about ordinary members of the public that suddenly something's happened in their family and they're thrown into the media spotlight. They need to be able to contact a professional body which will take care of them so that they can say, "This newspaper has contacted me and they want or they're threatening or we don't want to have anything to do with them, this is a private matter within our family, or what they're coming out with is totally untrue, unfair" and this body will have to say to the editor, "You don't run that until we've had a chance to look into it, on the understanding that if it stands up and if it's justified, that newspaper still gets the exclusive, so that the competition can't take advantage of that". That's your only way it's ever going to be remotely fair for the vast numbers of people that are put in this situation, like the McCanns, like Robert Murat, like dozens and dozens of others.
Q. So it follows that that sort of regulator needs to have really quite significant powers
A. Of course.
Q. to dictate to the press at those times?
A. Absolutely, they have to have the power to stop the excesses, to stop the wrong.
Q. In terms of funding, you said that you didn't think it should be a body funded by the press. Why do you say that?
A. It's not going to be independent. They're paying their wages. So it has to be funded by, in my view, Parliament, because we must have a free press, but we must have a responsible press in any healthy democracy. It should be also funded by newspapers. They should contribute, but they mustn't have a controlling interest financially or in any other way.
Q. No doubt that thinking translates in your mind to who should be making the decisions on such a regulatory body. Do you think there is any place at all for a serving newspaper editor on such a body or not?
A. No.
Q. Do you think there is a place on such a body for a retired newspaper editor?
A. Depends on the individual. I mean, I wouldn't like to see Kelvin MacKenzie on the board.
Q. Do I take it from that that what you think is the single most important quality for somebody in any regulator is someone who the public are going to have confidence will act fairly and impartially?
A. You want a fair and strong and independent man or woman, men and women making those decisions, with no bias, with no advantages from newspapers or anybody else.
Q. It might be said for those in the PCC that they have introduced an anti-harassment service. How effective, in your experience, has the existing anti-harassment service been?
A. Well, I mean, I'm in the industry. I'd never heard of it. So, you know, I'm sure that the vast majority of the British public won't be aware. But also, I think the vast majority of the British public, certainly those I've known of and met and been involved with, wouldn't have had a clue about the Press Complaints Commission, how to contact them and what to do. It's not something that everyone is aware of and very few people.
Q. Is that another point that we should take on board for the future, namely that any future body needs to be very well publicised?
A. Absolutely right. In other words, if you need an ambulance, you know who to call. If suddenly you're thrust into a potential media nightmare, you need someone you can call straight away who is able to respond and hopefully stop a potential disaster which could destroy you and your family.
Q. Can I move now to the work you've done on enhancing the public relations profiles of clients. I understand that a lot of your clients are corporate clients but for the purposes of this Inquiry, I'm more interested in perhaps some of the celebrities. If we take as an example Mr Simon Cowell, it's right, isn't it, that he's been a client of yours for some years now?
A. Ten years, I think.
Q. I don't want to press you for the precise fees that he pays you, but would it be fair to say that they are very substantial sums of money?
A. I mean, most of my clients pay me in the region of ?200,000 to ?250,000 a year.
Q. And in return for that, you use your knowledge of the industry and your extensive contacts and your skills in public relations to advise them, to get them introductions to assist with their profile?
A. You do the best you can to obviously enhance their career in whatever shape or form. Initially, particularly with someone I mean, when Simon first came to me, he wasn't known, so initially it was about promotion. As the years went by and he became more and more successful internationally, so then it becomes more and more about protection, as with all of the big stars I've ever worked with or do work with.
Q. If we go back to the start of that relationship, is it right that what you were able to do is introduce Mr Cowell to people close to the Murdochs?
A. Yes. I mean, I think I was instrumental in introducing Simon to Rupert Murdoch by a contact I had at News International, probably including Rebekah, because don't forget, his aspirations were very much television, and particularly when it came to the States, which was a very, very big target for Simon, Rupert Murdoch was a very powerful force.
Q. And it's perhaps a testament to what you've been able to do for him initially and now to protect him from, and other clients like him, that the effect of your work is enough to command fees of the type that you have described?
A. The only reason for Simon Cowell's success is Simon Cowell, but obviously in terms of the media, in terms of image, particularly in the early days, you know, you play a big part in creating that image, and also trying to do the best you can to control that image as it grows, but also making sure you don't do an interview with that journalist because you can't trust him, you can't do an interview with that, don't do this, don't go there. In the early days, although you're promoting them, you're also teaching them the minefield that the media is, not just in this country, but everywhere. "If you say that to this one, then that's not how it's going to appear so don't".
Q. On that question of trust, what sort of proportion of journalists do you consider are trustworthy and what proportion untrustworthy?
A. It's very simple. Most of the journalists I deal with are trustworthy, because you don't work with those that aren't. Over the years, the vast majority of journalists I've worked with in the press, radio and television have been and are trustworthy. There's a few that aren't. Probably in the last ten years with the pressures of Fleet Street, those numbers have increased slightly, but they're still the minority. And often those journalists that are doing things that maybe they shouldn't be doing are desperately unhappy about doing them, but if they don't, then they've lost their job.
Q. Mr Clifford, if I could now perhaps explore with you some of the approaches that you might use to protect somebody from a damaging media attack, the first example I would like to take is from your book, and it's in the chapter about Rebecca Loos and David Beckham, and obviously in that case you acted for Rebecca Loos, but what the book says at the end of the chapter is if in fact your client had been David Beckham, there are things that you might have been able to do to limit the damage to his reputation.
A. Mm.
Q. It says: "Max could have arranged for David to either lose his mobile or lend it to a mate. The friend, who would have been single, would have owned up to having used the phone to send sexy text messages for a laugh and been paid handsomely to keep his mouth shut."
A. I think at the time that was quite light and flippant, you know, but it does and has happened. The biggest part of stopping damaging stories, whether they're sex scandals and I've stopped hundreds of them over the years, from many of the stars I've represented or even just people I've known is anticipation. You're aware that they're looking to do this. You know, there's a major star that was involved not so very long ago who had a real drug problem. No one knew that, but I was aware that a newspaper were looking into it, so I made very sure that they couldn't get the evidence that they wanted in order to come out with that. Another example just recently was when Imogen Thomas came to me and said "I believe the Sun are about to run a story about my relationship with" an alleged footballer, because I don't think I'm allowed to mention his name, there is an injunction.
Q. There's no need to anyway.
A. All right. "Because of a famous footballer, what can I do?" So I called the editor of the Sun or one of the editors of the Sun and found out they didn't have enough to make the story stand up. My advice to her was, "Say nothing, keep away from the famous footballer, phone him and warn him and it will go away. They can't prove it." She did just that. The famous footballer then contacted his lawyer and the rest is history. So I'm protecting and stopping things all the time. Sometimes I can, sometimes I can't. And, you know, if you like, the famous footballer wasn't a client.
Q. You give another example in your book of a senior Labour Party politician, some years ago now, and you say that he was concerned that an infidelity was going to be exposed by the other party and that you advised him that he should expect a telephone call from the woman which would be recorded and used as proof, and so your advice to him was not to say anything incriminating when the call came, and such a call did in fact come. Is that again the sort of advice you give?
A. I did that just last week with a very famous artist.
Q. Sticking with the senior Labour politician, you go on in your book to say that it was in fact that same person who later, by way of returning the favour, told you about Cherie Blair's pregnancy?
A. That wasn't the source of my information, but they confirmed it.
Q. I see.
A. It wasn't I think Alastair Campbell claimed it came from phone hacking. It wasn't. It was from someone who was very chose to Cherie Blair and she confided in him. They told me, I checked it out and it appeared two days before they were going to release it anyway. I think I gave it to Piers.
Q. You say in your book you told Piers Morgan and Piers Morgan consulted Mr Campbell.
A. Well, Piers would know who, yes, fine, but it didn't come out as a result of phone hacking.
Q. Another device, is it right, for protecting a client would be if there are incriminating photographs I use the word incriminating in the widest sense that you buy them up?
A. Yes. There's been many, many times over the years when people have come to me with pictures which, if they appeared in the national press, would be very embarrassing to some of the stars I've represented, so prevention is better than cure, so it's a straightforward business situation. I'm not talking about paedophiles or anything underage or anything like that, just straightforward someone having a relationship when they're in a relationship, or it's not in their interest for it to come out.
Q. I understand. Do you sometimes call in favours amongst your many contacts to protect your clients?
A. As much as I possibly can. You know, you do what you can. You try to have as much influence as you possibly can, and any PR person that doesn't try the same I think I would be tending to be a bit suspicious of.
Q. And presumably if an editor is committed or wants to publish a story, one of the things that you can do is to say that you will be able to assist your client to have a voice in responding to any story and pointing out just how sleazy the publisher is being in publishing the story. Is that another device?
A. I think it's just I mean, you're just aware. For example, I mean the slightly different tack, when Gerald Ratner destroyed his business by talking about that a lot of his jewellery was rubbish or whatever, he tried to argue he never said it or he didn't really mean it or it was taken out of context, and of course no one would print it because it was really journalists saying that journalists were unreliable, we're unreliable. So when a few years later I had no involvement with that at all he came to me and he said "I'm about to relaunch a new business, will you help me?" I explained "Okay, fine, but what you have to do is to take the blame. Say that it was totally down to you, you did say that, you made a fool of yourself, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, they'll be happy to write that." And they did. Within a few months, his business was back, Gerald Online was back, making more money than his jewellery business. So it's understanding the way it works, and most of it's common sense. MR BARR Sir, is that a convenient moment? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. We'll just take five minutes. (3.34 pm) (A short break) (3.41 pm) MR BARR Mr Clifford, can we move now to the relationship between the press and politicians, and such insights about that relationship as you might be able to give us? First of all, what has been your experience of politicians and attitudes to image and public relations?
A. Well, I suppose we tend to follow the Americans, so I think our politicians today are far more aware of image and presentation, and I think the whole of the approach to politics has been influenced by what I would call the American way, where image is everything and American presidential campaigns are like popularity contests, far more about presentation often than substance. So I think to a degree it's happened over here. David Cameron was a public relations man, I believe, years ago, and it shows.
Q. How has that affected politicians' approach to the media?
A. I think they're far more realistic. I mean, the media have become far more intrusive over the last 20 years, it's an increasing thing. So the kind of things that Winston Churchill might have done and got away with, you wouldn't today. Or anybody, any major leader. That's just how things have gone.
Q. Have you detected any fear amongst politicians of the press and what the press might do to their image and popularity?
A. Well, a popularity contest is an important part of being a politician, so like any major star, you want to try and get the best from the media, and I think more and more politicians are probably guided by the PR people behind the political parties, et cetera. I mean, I remember doing Question Time many years ago and we were talking about various subjects that might come up before the show, because they don't tell you, and what astonished me was when I went on the show, the politicians representing the different parties, what they said in answer to a question that came up was very different from what they said before we went on, because that was the party line, so therefore they had to stick to that. Even though it wasn't necessarily what they believed or thought or but that's just the way it's gone.
Q. Have you come across the press trying to exploit the power that they have over the image of politicians in any way?
A. Well, I mean, I think it's fair to say that any newspaper proprietor would want to have as much influence as possible, and obviously, you know, politicians have a lot of power and make decisions and make policies that can have a big impact on them and their businesses, but it's not just newspaper proprietors, it's anybody out there. Whether they're in the City, in banks, in vast organisations, the closer and the more influence you can have on the people of power, obviously the better for you.
Q. Of course. But the difference between the media and other industries is they have the voice, the power to publish stories to millions of people.
A. Absolutely.
Q. So what I was exploring is whether you have any experience of the press using that power to try and influence politicians.
A. No. I've not had any close involvement on the kind of things that could have gone on behind the scenes, but obviously again common sense tells you that Rupert Murdoch supporting David Cameron in the last election made a difference.
Q. Have you come across you mentioned a moment ago politicians having to follow the party whip, which we well know.
A. Mm-hm.
Q. Have you come across politicians within the same party trying to damage each other's reputations and using the media to do that?
A. I think that's all part of being an ambitious politician. You want to get on. You want to be the top person, so some people are more ambitious than others. Whether they're journalists or politicians.
Q. I don't want you to give any names or details, but have you any personal knowledge of that sort of thing happening?
A. Well, I've got an awful lot of awareness of powerful important people in newspapers wanting to have as much influence as possible on politicians, but that's probably always been the case. It's just possibly a bit easier now to see.
Q. Can I ask you now particularly about the approach of the New Labour press machine, and what's commonly been known as the spin doctors.
A. Mm-hm.
Q. When Alastair Campbell began to work for Tony Blair, what observations do you have about the way in which he dealt with the media in the late 1990s?
A. I suppose Alastair Campbell was new to public relations, he'd been a Daily Mirror journalist. My observations, not at close hand but from a distance, based on dealing with the media, talking to journalists, was that Alastair got a bit carried away with the power that Tony Blair had at that time and possibly years later would have regretted the way he dealt with Fleet Street.
Q. What way is that?
A. Well, telling rather than asking. Ordering rather than discussing. Threatening rather than. That's the impression I got. You know, and everybody does things their own way. But, you see, it's very easy to be strong as a PR when you have something that everybody wants. For the five or ten minutes when your person, Tony Blair or whoever, is incredibly popular, you can do that, but that doesn't last and you have to remember that when you need friends and when you need to try and do the best you can for the people you're representing when they become unpopular or something happens. You know, my observation from a distance was that when Alastair, who was new to it, you know, the major criticism only criticism was that his ways were certainly not the ways that I would have employed or used, and my own experience was that at that particular time, Peter Mandelson was very complimentary to me because I was bringing out Tory sleaze, but after the election, I never heard from him.
Q. Was Mr Campbell selective in those to whom he would feed stories?
A. I know very little about Alastair Campbell in terms of how he operated, who he spoke to, how he dealt with. You know, I've given you an overall observation. It's purely on PR and talking to people in the media, but I honestly don't know.
Q. I don't want to press you into areas that you can't help us with, so it's a very fair answer, Mr Clifford, and I'll move on now to the question of editorial independence. You said to the Select Committee back in 2003, well, the picture you painted was that editors do have a good degree of editorial independence. I think the way you described it then was Mr Desmond was the man who tended to intervene the most, that you thought that at that time Mr Morgan and Ms Brooks would have far more editorial independence than those working to Mr Desmond, and you described Mr Dacre as being a law unto himself.
A. Nothing's changed.
Q. That was going to be my question, save, of course, the identity of some of the Murdoch editors. The next topic I'd like to ask you about is apologies and the prominence of apologies. There's been a lot of evidence from those who are being apologised to that they don't think the apologies are big enough or prominent enough. Is that a criticism that you would identify with?
A. One hundred per cent. I think if you come out with a front page splash, which is then shown to be totally untrue, then the apology should be at least noted on the front page of that paper. It would be a very quick way of stopping an awful lot of front pages which shouldn't have come out. So I'm not saying dominating the page, but for example, at the bottom of the front page, "We got it wrong". Page 5, page 10, page 7, "We got it wrong." Clearly at the bottom of the page. So everybody that saw that piece, and much, much quicker, not months and months and months when everybody's forgotten it, but very quickly, okay, which is why a body like I talked about hopefully would do that, that is there, clearly for everybody to see. That's what I would like to see. It won't happen, but I'd love to see it.
Q. There was some discussion in 2003 in the Select Committee of the possibility of requiring advertisements with apologies to be printed not in a guilty paper, but in some of its rivals. Do you think that's a realistic idea?
A. No, because the damning thing is they tend to they're not going to have a go at each other, because they all do the same thing. You know, it's the readers that saw that. Plus, from your point of view, if you've been wrongly accused, wrongly exposed, wrongly then it's the people who read that you want to be seeing it was wrong. You know, because they're aware of it if you see what I'm saying. They're the ones you're concerned about. They're the ones that the damage has been done. So that's something again I've advocated for many, many, many years.
Q. Finally, a witness earlier today, Heather Mills, in her witness statement has made reference to you. I'm going to read out the reference. It's not a matter which is likely to need to be adjudicated on in this Inquiry, but because it's been raised, I'm going to touch upon it and give you the opportunity to respond. Paragraph 21 of Heather Mills' statement says: "It was only when I would not give them the Paul and I story that they turned on me in 1999. I remember getting a call from Max Clifford (who I had never heard of at the time) saying words to the effect of 'If you do not let me represent you as Paul's new girlfriend I am going to destroy you'. At the time I dismissed it not knowing he would go on to arrange for various people to sell lies about me for money." Is that allegation true?
A. There's an awful lot of things I could say about Heather Mills, but I won't. It's totally untrue, 100 per cent untrue, without any true foundation at all. MR BARR Thank you very much, Mr Clifford. Those were all my questions. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Mr Clifford, there are a couple of things you said that I'd like to just ask you about. You have spoken of the need, with which I entirely agree, for a free press.
A. Mm-hm. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON By which I apprehend you mean independent press with free speech.
A. Yes. Yeah, a brave free press that is prepared to challenge and prepared to be controversial and stand up. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON On the other hand, you speak about a body which has the power effectively to stop the press.
A. When they get it wrong, yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON When they get it wrong. I have received submission after submission in this room that anything that has a statute surrounding it will impact adversely on the freedom of the press and free speech, and I'd be very interested to know how you square that circle.
A. I don't think that is the case. I think that the British public are increasingly disenchanted with the honesty of the British press and I think that something like this would help to restore their confidence, and if the British public were confident that they were getting a free, independent but honest press, then I think that that would be a plus, and a plus in the circulation battle as well. I think that the credibility of the British press has sunk in recent years, partly because of what's gone on with News of the World and News International. So I don't think so. I think that the more responsible and the more caring the British press, the better. I would also love to see good news in the British papers, because it helps to give the nation a lift. Unfortunately, it's very hard to get good news stories in the papers, and I'm talking about ordinary members of the public and the wonderful things that people do all over Britain every day, which will never ever be reported. So there's lots of things, but certainly I don't think that having a responsible body that is able to protect the excesses of the media would in any way be damaging to them or their freedom, and I think it would give them greater respect, and in the long term, possibly help the chances of their survival. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Inevitably, if it's going to have the force, the ability to be able to stop inaccuracy, it's going to have to be backed by some sort of legal sanction, otherwise
A. Well, I think obviously the law is still there, you know. Obviously it should be made so much easier. It should be legal aid for ordinary members of the public because they can't afford to take them on, so that would be changed, but of course people will always and do have the right to challenge. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes.
A. So that, you know, if you've got it wrong and you're publicly admitting you've got it wrong, that's one thing. If someone then decides they want to sue you, they want to, then they have that opportunity. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON There's no reason or do you think there's a reason why you shouldn't be able to run a complaints mechanism alongside taking action for libel or whatever?
A. Not at all. Not at all. I mean, I think every situation would be looked at in its own merits, the same as everything that happens in the justice system in this country with every other area. The one area where we don't have that is the media. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The other thing you've said I'll just pick up something you've just said there. Some sort of mechanism to resolve issues of privacy or libel that was inquisitorial, in other words you don't have to have two sides, you have somebody who sits in the middle and tries to sort it out, that is quick and easy to use and cheap, if not free, would that satisfy the sort of requirement that you've just identified?
A. Yes. And I don't think they have to be cheap or necessarily free, because I think it's an important part in a democracy that ordinary members of the public get protection because there's vast numbers out there and they don't get protection, so but that person LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, no, when I say cheap or free, I mean free to use.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON For the very reason you've identified.
A. And the public would be aware. They have a number. You know, this is the emergency number when it comes to the press. Not 999 but whatever you want to call it, they can call it and they can get a response, and someone could look after them. I think that out of that and lots of other things as well, you know, it makes for a much happier, healthier media and a much happier, healthier public in this country when it comes to the media. Much fairer, as well. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right. You've touched upon a story and indicated an involvement in the story which has been the subject of a fair amount of evidence during the course of the last few weeks, which is the way in which the News of the World dealt with the story surrounding Mr Max Mosley and you told me that you'd become involved in the way in which you explained.
A. Mm-hm. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON We've heard most of the actors in that drama, from the newspapers' perspective and indeed from Mr Mosley, as well. What they have said is not always consistent. I'd be very interested if you could tell me to whom you spoke at the News of the World about your client and who gave you the assurance that stopped that particular story running.
A. If I remember rightly, and I'm not sure, I believe it was Ian Edmondson, because at the time Ian was the news editor, and the conversation was, "This is what happened, so if I was you, I'd leave them alone." I believe it was Ian Edmondson. Probably because he was the news editor so he would have been right at the heart of what was going on. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The three people who might or might not have been involved were the deputy editor, the news editor and the chief reporter, Mr Thurlbeck. That's merely a statement of fact, not
A. No, it wouldn't have been Neville Thurlbeck and it probably wouldn't have been would it have been Neil Wallis, the deputy editor? I think he was number two under Andy Coulson. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I think that's
A. It wouldn't have been him either. It would have been probably then Ian Edmondson. It might have been someone that worked for Ian Edmondson, because when I was no longer dealing with the News of the World, the reporters were phoning me all the time saying, "Max, can't you sort out your differences with Andy Coulson, it's driving us mad because we're chasing people all over the world for them to say, oh, Max Clifford's looking after us", so it might have been one of those reporters who then reported that back. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right.
A. But it probably was Ian Edmondson. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right. Thank you very much, Mr Clifford. Thank you very much for the assistance you've given me.
A. All right. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thanks. MR BARR Sir, as far as I'm aware, we're not ready for the next witness because Mr Dacre hasn't arrived. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No. MR BARR Indeed, he wasn't expected until 4.15. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No. MR BARR In those circumstances, might I invite you to consider rising? Housekeeping LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, well there are some things that I think we could probably deal with over the next few minutes. I'll want to say something after Mr Dacre has finished, but not beforehand, although in the meantime I think there are a number of further statements and submissions that are to be taken as included within the records. Is that right, Mr Jay? MR JAY Yes. A list of further statements will be put on the website as soon as possible. These are statements which have been circulated to the core participants. There will be additional further statements, which will be taken as read at a slightly later stage, probably at the end of this month. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Right. In that regard, I acknowledge that I've received from Mr Mosley the product of the work that he offered to undertake in relation to regulation, and it seems to me these are entirely his ideas, they're not factual evidence, they're suggestions, and that the proper course is to take that step with him as well. But I am sure that as we go through the remaining material, it's right that we decide what should go on the web to make sure we have everything that we need. MR JAY Sir, yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON In that regard, there are some other matters that everybody has to deal with, as we come to the end of module one. They include submissions on credibility, submissions on the law and submissions on the matters which I raised on 16 November. In relation to credibility, I don't know whether the team has received any submissions. I'm sure I haven't seen any. Similarly in relation to the other matters. I understand that everybody's been working very hard and I'm not in any sense being critical. It seems sensible to extend the time for all these submissions to 24 February, although I'm still conscious that I haven't received the opening submissions that Mr Sherborne promised me I think well in advance of the end of November. I'm not suggesting he's not been working either, but the latitude that I've extended to him goes further than I would naturally have wished, but there it is. Does anybody have any difficulty with that as a general proposition? MR WHITE No, sir, that's very helpful. Our submissions are in hand but we were having some difficulty meeting today. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand that, and indeed given that we've had some evidence today, it would have been impossible. That's why I think it's sensible for you to take the time to get them right. MR WHITE Thank you very much. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON As you want to pursue them. Mr Sherborne, I hesitate to ask you. MR SHERBORNE Sir, probably the less said the better on my part, but I did explain to Mr Jay earlier that I would provide them during the short break that we've been afforded between module one and module two. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you very much. Mr Caplan, is that all right for you? MR CAPLAN I hope and believe it will be. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm very grateful. The reason for doing it is this, and let me make it abundantly clear. Because of the way this module is cast, I do not believe that I am going to be deciding very much about specific issues of credibility. There will be some, I apprehend, but therefore I'm very keen to receive people's submissions, because if I have to comply with the requirements of Rule 13 of the Inquiry Rules, then I want to be able to do so while the Inquiry was proceeding, in order to ensure that it didn't hold up the ultimate publication of a report at the end of the Inquiry. I'm sure that everybody will understand what I mean by that. Mr Dingemans, you're probably conscious of the points that I've been making and I hope that's all right for you. MR DINGEMANS Yes, and we propose to put in short submissions on credibility, law and one other matter. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you very much indeed. Some of it, Ms Michalos, won't trouble the Metropolitan Police, but to such extent as they do, I'd be interested to hear what you have to say. MS MICHALOS Sir, yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you very much. Similar for the National Union of Journalists? MR HARRIS That's fine. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The Guardian? MR SPEKER We're on course to meet our deadline. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you very much indeed. I hope I've not missed anybody out. I will rise and allow everybody to get ready for a comparatively brief final section of evidence. Thank you. (4.11 pm) (A short break) (4.14 pm) LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you very much indeed, Mr Dacre. I'm sorry you've been inconvenienced, but I'm sure you understand why. Thank you. MR PAUL DACRE (recalled) LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Right, yes. Questions by MR SHERBORNE MR SHERBORNE Good afternoon, Mr Dacre. Can I begin by taking a minute to explain why you're back here, as there may be some misunderstanding about it, given some of the reporting. As you know, the reason is not, and I repeat not, because of some sort of personal score between you and your newspaper on the one hand and Mr Grant on the other. That's obviously not of primary interest to the Inquiry. You understand that, don't you?
A. (Nods head).
Q. And this is really about the bigger picture, as it were. Can I start then by telling you what I'm not going to deal with? I'm not going to deal with the events surrounding the reporting of the birth of Mr Grant's child, how journalists obtained private information from the registry office and so on MR CAPLAN It's very clear the two topics that are going to be dealt with. We raised it in front of you yesterday. They are the two topics which were raised with you, and I'm sorry to say but Mr Sherborne is rehearsing other topics which never were in the purview of this further evidence. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I think the probable answer, Mr Sherborne, is to just crack on with the two topics. MR SHERBORNE I am going to deal with the article about the "plummy-voiced woman" that was published by Associated Newspapers in February of 2007. Can we begin with the article itself? We've prepared a small bundle of documents for you; none of them should be a surprise. Do you have a copy of that bundle, Mr Dacre?
A. Yes, right.
Q. You should find at tab 2, I think, page 13, although you may, I think, have taken the article itself out of that bundle, you may have a separate copy of it, but if you could find a copy of that article, page 13, and can you see there's the sub-headline on the right-hand side talking about the flirtation with the glamorous film executive? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Mr Sherborne, do I have a copy of this? MR SHERBORNE I would hope that your Lordship does. I don't know, sir, whether you have the bundles that were prepared by the Inquiry LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I have the bundle prepared by the Inquiry. MR SHERBORNE It should be in that bundle. If you give me a moment, I can find which tab. I'm sorry, I've already handed my copy of the little bundle we prepared for Mr Dacre away. I think you will find it LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm keen to follow what you're asking, that's all. MR SHERBORNE And I'm keen that you're able to follow it as well, sir. I think it's probably an exhibit to the witness statement of Mr Grant, is it? To the second supplementary statement. You see, I'm not sure you will have that in your bundle. Can I hand up a copy? I think I have a spare copy somewhere that I can hand up. I have a very marked copy. (Handed). LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I can ignore the markings as long as I can follow what's going on. Thank you. Right. MR SHERBORNE The real thrust of the story that we're concerned about is to be found, Mr Dacre, in about four paragraphs in the third column. Do you see?
A. Yeah.
Q. Starting with: "Jemima has become convinced her 46-year-old boyfriend is involved with a glamorous, young Cambridge-educated film executive." Now
A. Yes, fine, got it here.
Q. I'm grateful. We don't have much time, so can I summarise those four paragraphs. I think there's one at the top there, then there's a second one and then there's you can miss out the following ones because they're about Drew Barrymore, and then the theme is picked up again with the paragraph "But the truth is Jemima was far more concerned". Can I summarise those paragraphs in this way and see if you accept it: there are two outstanding feature to this story. One is the repeated reference to Mr Grant's use of mobile phones and mobile phone contacts between him and this woman, and the second outstanding feature is the repeated reference to the fact that this woman, with whom he's accused of having a flirtation, sounded posh or plummy. Would you take that from me?
A. Yes, that's a very rough and ready shorthand version of it, yes.
Q. There are no fewer, I think, than eight references to phones or phoning, and three or four references to this other woman having a plummy voice of some description in those four paragraphs. You see my point, Mr Dacre, is this, that the clear emphasis of this story is on the telephone contact that was taking place with this other woman and what she sounded like. Do you follow?
A. I'd rather put my own word on it. What are you going to ask me, please?
Q. Do you accept that those are the two outstanding features
A. No, no, I mean this is three or four paragraphs in a 2,000-word piece, so I can't really accept that that's the summary.
Q. But in relation to what is said about this film executive, who, it is said, destroyed the relationship between Jemima Khan and Hugh Grant, will you accept those are the two key features?
A. No, I won't. I'd rather you ask me questions and I will answer them. I'm not going to characterise them using your words.
Q. Do you want me to take you through the article and show you each and every reference to a phone and a plummy voice? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I don't think it matters, Mr Sherborne. I think that I can read the article in its entirety and I would like the whole of the article so that I can read it, and then I will make a decision, if it's important, about the points that you're making, but they come out of the article rather than anything else, don't they? MR SHERBORNE They do, sir, yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Right. MR SHERBORNE Let's deal with what we know, Mr Dacre. We know that no such woman as described in your article existed, don't we?
A. Firstly, let me just put it in some kind of context. This article was in the Mail on Sunday, all right? It has its own autonomous editor, as I made clear to the Inquiry earlier in the week, and I think you already spent a great deal of time with our legal director and, indeed, him discussing this. I, however, am now prepared to talk about it. I think the central thing we have to say about this, whatever is in the article and whatever is in those four paragraphs, we admitted at the time we got it wrong, we paid your client modest damages, so in that sense anything referring to this article, it's already been acceded that it's wrong.
Q. Exactly. It's been conceded that there was no such executive at Warner Brothers
A. And at the time we conceded it was wrong, Mr Hugh Grant insisted that he didn't know at all any woman of this description, and that was the basis on which our settlement was made.
Q. Why do you say that, Mr Dacre?
A. Well, because that's what happened.
Q. Isn't it right, Mr Dacre, that at the time that he complained about this article, he did refer to a personal assistant
A. No, I don't think so. At that time he insisted that he knew of no such woman and that no woman existed of that kind.
Q. Can I hand you up a letter before action that was sent by his solicitors MR CAPLAN I'm sorry to interrupt. This is exactly the type of situation I wanted to forestall yesterday, putting in documents which Mr Dacre hasn't seen and he's now being shown for the first time while giving his evidence. That was the whole point of agreeing that any further documentation would come to Mr Dacre by lunchtime yesterday so that if any further research was needed to be done, he needed to acquaint himself with any archived information, he could do so. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right. I'm not sure it's going to help. I don't mind seeing a letter, I don't think it's necessarily appropriate to put it to Mr Dacre because it's going to a slightly different issue. MR SHERBORNE Well, it is, because what Mr Dacre is suggesting is that Mr Grant didn't make any point about this at this time. That's what I was dealing with. It wasn't meant to be part of the examination of Mr Dacre, but I'll move on. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right, yes. MR SHERBORNE So you accepted, as part of the settlement, that there was no such woman at Warner Brothers; correct?
A. Correct.
Q. Correct. What we do know now, because we've had a statement from Patricia Owens, who was the plummy-voiced film production company assistant that Mr Grant referred to in his evidence, who was leaving messages for him at the time, we do know that there was that person, don't we?
A. Well, I repeat, in our settlement at that time, it is my understanding that Mr Grant's position was that he knew no woman of any kind as described in this piece. For the life of me, I can't understand the consistency of your argument. Seems to me you're saying that the true woman that eventually he realised we're referring to, even though he hadn't remembered at the time of our settlement, at this Inquiry, hey presto, he conveniently remembers that it could have been, it could have been a plummy-voiced woman in California, a PA of middle age. If we'd been hacking into his phone, why, in this article, even though we've said it wasn't true and it accepted it wasn't true, why was the woman who referred to a Cheltenham Ladies School educated lady who'd been to Cambridge, she was now a senior executive at Warners in London. It doesn't make sense, with all possible respect.
Q. I really don't have a lot of time, Mr Dacre, so I'd prefer it, if you can, to restrict your answers to the questions that I've put to you as opposed to questions that I might put to you. So can we come back to my question: have you seen Ms Owens' witness statement or not?
A. This is the PA in California?
Q. This is the executive assistant in the film production company in California, yes.
A. Yes, I've seen that, yes.
Q. And you've seen that she confirms that she was leaving messages late at night about meetings and that they might have been understood by someone who had been listening in, who didn't know the context, as being a bit flirtatious, a bit jokey. You've seen she said that, yes?
A. Mm.
Q. Okay, so we know there was no woman at Warner Brothers, there was no source to this story, but there does happen to have been a woman who was leaving messages at the time on Mr Grant's phone; correct?
A. That is what you are saying, yes. I am saying that, as editor-in-chief of Associated Newspapers, who had looked into this matter I wasn't the editor of the paper concerned I've spoken to the editor who assures me and I know what you're trying to say, that he was using phone hacking. He categorically denies it, as I categorically denied it the other day. He assures me that this piece was obtained by legitimate journalistic methods. He has explained to you and it's been explained to this Inquiry that the author of the piece, Katie Nicholl, the diary editor of the Mail on Sunday, wrote this piece drawing on evidence provided to her by Sharon Feinstein, a long-time, very experienced senior showbusiness writer expert, who in turn drew some of her material from a source in the Grant camp, who she had used before and had always found to be impeccably accurate. In this instance it wasn't, and that was the basis of this article, or these three paragraphs in the article.
Q. Mr Dacre, we're going to get through this much quicker if you just answer my questions.
A. I can't
Q. I promise you there'll be plenty of time to make the points that you want to make. So let's come back to the details which you say don't quite match the description of Ms Owens in the article, because I think you mentioned one or two in one of your previous answers. Let's take them very quickly in turn, if I may. You say that the woman in the article is said to work for Warner Brothers and Mrs Owens doesn't work for Warner Brothers. That's right? Well, technically she doesn't, but you accept, don't you, Mr Dacre, that she does work with a production company associated with Warner Brothers that was making a film
A. I've no idea.
Q. with Mr Grant at the time.
A. Frankly, I have absolutely no idea and I don't know what you're trying get at, I really honestly don't, with great respect.
Q. Rather than look at what I'm trying to get at, why don't you answer the question, Mr Dacre? Have you read her statement in which she says exactly what I just put to you?
A. I haven't got it to hand. I did read it a couple of nights ago. I can't actually recall the exact
Q. You read it a couple of nights ago?
A. Yes.
Q. You didn't read it today at all?
A. I know this may astonish you, but I'm editor-in-chief of a major publishing group, I've had major board meetings, I've had very considerable staffing issues to do and I'm trying to edit my paper. So yes, I read it two nights ago, but I have actually done some homework today on this subject.
Q. So what I'm putting to you, Mr Dacre, is that although she didn't work for Warner Brothers, she did work for a film production company associated with Warner Brothers. Do you just accept that?
A. If you say it's in the statement, I will accept it.
Q. Indeed. And the other point you make, and Ms Hartley makes in, I think, one of her statements, is that Mrs Owens is not a senior executive in the film industry. That's one of your points as well, as is described in the article.
A. Yeah, okay, then.
Q. But you do accept, don't you, that she was executive assistant to the president of the film production company? Will you accept that?
A. Is this in her statement?
Q. Yes.
A. I must take your assurance for it then.
Q. The one point you mentioned only moments ago is you say that the woman in the article is described as having been educated at Cheltenham's Ladies College in Cambridge, whereas Mrs Owens wasn't. That's your point, isn't it?
A. It says in the article, that she was, yes, that the lady who we accepted didn't exist, and who Mr Grant said didn't exist, and we accepted we got it wrong and paid modest damages.
Q. Mr Owens tells us in her statement that she obviously is English, she was educated at college in Surrey and, critically, she has what people might describe as a posh or plummy voice.
A. But it didn't originally it didn't exist originally when we paid the damages, the modest damages to Mr Grant.
Q. I think the last point that is made by Associated Newspapers trying to distance itself from Mrs Owens is that the article itself doesn't mention any voicemail messages. Do you remember Ms Hartley said that?
A. Mm.
Q. Can I just deal with that point? There are two answers to that, aren't there, Mr Dacre? First is this: you wouldn't expect the article to mention voicemails explicitly, would you, even if they'd been listened to?
A. I don't know where this conversation is leading to, Mr Sherborne, but
Q. If you can just answer the questions, maybe we'll get to where it's leading much quicker.
A. I've told you already that this lady, either of your ladies, Mr Grant denied existed when we paid him damages. At this Inquiry, he suddenly, hey presto, out of a hat produces a rabbit that it must have been this lady.
Q. Will you answer my question now?
A. Sorry, could you remind me what it was?
Q. Of course I can.
A. Yeah.
Q. Isn't the answer to your suggestion that there is no reference in this article to voicemail messages at all that you wouldn't expect there to be because, of course, listening to voicemail messages is a criminal offence?
A. Well, clearly, yes, Mr Sherborne.
Q. And it's precisely the answer that there's no reference to voicemail messages here that Mr Mohan gave when he was recalled on Tuesday to deal with similar pieces in the Sun which looked like the product of phone hacking. Did you hear his evidence?
A. I didn't hear his editor his evidence, and I deeply resent your comparison to my paper.
Q. You see, isn't the truth this, as Mr Jay put to Mr Mohan, and I'll quote him faithfully: "The article doesn't refer to voicemails, but there is a lot of information in it obtained in or around knowing what is happening in telephone calls, isn't there?"
A. I can't answer this question. I don't understand it, I don't know where you're getting to. I'm not prepared to comment on Mr Mohan's evidence. I haven't read it, I haven't examined it
Q. I'm not asking you
A. and I don't I don't see
Q. to comment on Mr Mohan's evidence.
A. I don't see the relevance to this the three paragraphs in this article, with the greatest of respect. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand the point, Mr Sherborne, but actually you're simply asking Mr Dacre to comment, and this is really a speech, with respect. MR SHERBORNE What I'm asking Mr Dacre to do is to consider the source of this article, because what I'm going to come on to do is to ask him about how he was able to publish the statement that he did on 22 November that Mr Grant (overspeaking)
A. I did not publish it! It was in the Mail on Sunday, it was the Mail on Sunday LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, no, Mr Dacre, actually I think this article you did.
A. Oh, we've moved on? I apologise, I apologise to you. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand the point, but it's very important that Mr Dacre be asked to deal with the facts and then you can argue the inferences to such extent as it matters and we can do that at leisure. MR SHERBORNE You see, Mr Dacre, the short point is this isn't it a coincidence that at the very time of this article
A. Which article are we talking about now?
Q. The one that should still be
A. Not in the Sun?
Q. The one that should still be in front of you. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I think everything is back to the Mail on Sunday.
A. Right. So, as I said, not an article I placed in the paper. MR SHERBORNE I understand that, but you have explained now more than once that you've investigated it and that you've had people investigate these matters for the purposes of the statement that was put out in November of last year. So perhaps I can ask you again: isn't it a bit much of a coincidence that at the very time of this article about the flirtation with a posh film industry woman that there was a plummy-voiced Englishwoman, who was an executive assistant in the film industry, who was leaving Mr Grant silly or flirtatious messages on his voicemail late at night about meeting up about a Warner Brothers film? Do you understand what I mean by that?
A. I'm not going to comment on coincidences.
Q. But in these circumstances, Mr Dacre, can you honestly be 100 per cent certain, having looked into it, that this story was not based on information which had somehow been accessed from Mr Grant's voicemails?
A. I can be as confident as any editor, having made extensive enquiries into his newspaper's practices and held an inquiry, that phone hacking was not practised by the Daily Mail or the Mail on Sunday. You know that because I gave my unequivocal, unequivocal assurances earlier in this week.
Q. You see, Mr Mohan, the editor of the Sun you mentioned other editors had to accept that he couldn't be 100 per cent sure that none of his journalists or freelancers remember this is a freelance story that none of his journalists
A. No, it was a freelance story that was written by a staff person talking to senior freelancers, yes.
Q. That none of his journalists or freelancers hadn't obtained any of their stories?
A. Yes, I can be very confident because those journalists are journalists of integrity, we've used them in our group for years and the source I have told you of Ms Feinstein had been impeccably accurate in the past.
Q. And Mr Wallis also said he couldn't be sure.
A. I'm not going to speak for other newspapers. I will speak for Associated Newspapers and I've told this Inquiry, I cannot be any more unequivocal, that all my enquiries and all the evidence I've received, and having spoken to the editor of my group: our group did not hack phones, and I rather resent your continued insinuations that we did.
Q. Can we come on to Ms Khan? You'll remember that Jemima Khan was forced to make a statement because when you put out the press release in November of last year, which contained the "mendacious smears" allegation, you suggested that the source of the story had come from Ms Khan herself. Do you remember that?
A. I didn't suggest, no.
Q. Do you want to have a look at the statement that, as I understand it, you authorised being put out in November.
A. What, in the paper?
Q. Yes.
A. I'm sorry, I thought you meant in our witness statements. Yes, I recall, yes.
Q. And you've seen that she's sworn a statement denying that she was the source?
A. But look, it is absolutely irrelevant. I'm sorry. We got this bit of the story wrong. We apologised in open court. We paid, we paid modest damages to rectify the situation, very quickly, as it happens. Therefore Ms Khan, much as I respect her, is swearing on a story that we had conceded was wrong.
Q. But do you accept there are only two what I'm concerned with is how you can have satisfied yourself so that you could be 100 per cent sure, as you say you are, that there was nothing tainted about the source of this story. That's what I'm asking you about.
A. I told you, having spoken at length to the editor of the Mail on Sunday, who has spoken to this Inquiry I'm not quite sure why you didn't grill him as much on this that I am satisfied that legitimate journalistic methods were used to obtain the source for the basis of these three paragraphs.
Q. But do you see why I ask you this, because there are only two options, Mr Dacre.
A. I'm not going to speculate. I'm not going to be drawn by your innuendo. I've made clear my position and I'm not going to deviate from that. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'd like to ask a different question, because I am not going to make a decision, I think, about the precise source of this story. I am not going to make a finding of any sort about where this story came from. At least that's my present view. The concern that I had and the only real concern that I had was that Mr Grant came here and said I think he used the word "speculate", I think he meant "infer", having had an idea that this might have come from hacking. That's how he put it, and I think he said, "I'd love to hear the different explanation."
A. Mm-hm. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And you on behalf of the Mail were absolutely entitled to say, "He can think, he can infer what he wishes, he can think what he likes, he's entitled to, but he's wrong. It didn't; it came from another source." Fine. If that's what had been said, then I for one would have pushed the whole thing away. But the story that came out contained within it "Mr Grant is guilty of a mendacious smear". He is deliberately lying, that's what it means. In other words, he's made a conscious decision, knowing perfectly well it's not true, to say it on oath. I was concerned about that word, that's all. For me, that's the only thing here.
A. Could I then respond to that? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Please.
A. This needs to be put in a context and I thought I'd done some of it the other day and I'd like to amplify it, I'm grateful for the time. First of all, let's go back to that first day of the Inquiry. It was an extraordinary occasion, an extraordinary day. There's never been an inquiry like this before, it was being televised, it was being beamed around the world. It was a unique occasion. Mr Grant, the poster boy for Hacked Off, is giving evidence on the first day, an international film star. He makes his allegation. It wasn't an innocent piece of evidence; it had been drawn out of him by the Inquiry. He makes it. He hadn't included it in his witness statement. He knew, I would suggest, the damage it would cause. After all, allegations of phone hacking have closed down a newspaper and has resulted in the loss of work by hundreds and hundreds of journalists. It was explosive and it was toxic and he, as a very sophisticated communicator, he deals with the press all his life, knew the damage it would cause. What he omitted to tell this court, what he omitted to tell you, was that he had made these allegations in a much firmer form before and our legal department had put him on notice that they were not accurate and that we'd written to his representatives making that clear. That is why I used the word "mendacious" statement. I'd now like to take on the context of the actual day. I think I explod I explained to you that I was driving back from an appointment, the lead item on the four o'clock news on the BBC was that another newspaper group had been dragged into the phone hacking scandal. Actor Hugh Grant had accused accused, not speculated, not suggested, not inferred this is modern journalism shorthand had been accused I'm sorry, had accused my group of being involved in phone hacking. I cannot tell you how damaging that was to our group. But, as I said, he made this statement before so if you just bear with me because it's very important. On 7 July 2011 Mr Grant told the House of Lords that the Hacked Off at the launch of the Hacked Off campaign: "Private investigator Glenn Mulcaire worked 70 per cent of his time for the News of the World and 30 per cent for the Daily Mail." That is untrue and false. I have carried out a major internal inquiry into our payments and our computers. We have never paid any payments to Mr Mulcaire. I repeat, Ms Hartley rang Mr Grant's representative, told him of this, and denied that we as a company hacked phones. Then another quote, 6 July 2011: "Well, according to Paul McMullan, the ex News of the World features editor, who I interviewed surreptitiously and I published the article in the newspapers, he says it was every tabloid on Fleet Street who were enthusiastic phone hackers, going right up to the ones with the highest moral standards like the Daily Mail" LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Mr Dacre, I wouldn't go down this particular route, because I'll make my own judgment about the transcript of Mr McMullan's phone call. I'm going to have to read that.
A. All right, but fair enough, but Mr McMullan told the Inquiry later, as I'm sure you know, that he wasn't referring to phone hacking in the Daily Mail, the fact we were one the highest payers LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I know. I know what he said and I have to read
A. Okay, well I just wish that Mr Grant had checked with Mr McMullan as to what he meant. You've read that, we've heard it, and it was certainly my hearing that he rebutted quite satisfactorily that would suggest it was dealing with phone hacking. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right.
A. Number 3: "We need a full public inquiry into all the methods and cultures of the British tabloid press because one of the things that will emerge is that it wasn't just the News of the World; it was all the tabloids This is a man who's been put on notice by our legal department that we deny this categorically. including the ones that purport to have family values, shorthand the Daily Mail, have been enthusiastic and rabid phone hackers. That was an interview on the Radio 4 World at One. And lastly, this was to the Prime Minister, a report in the Financial Times: "The actor, meeting the Prime Minister for the first time since the phone hacking scandal blew up over the summer, said he 'knew for a fact' that 'six or seven newspapers had been involved in phone hacking'." Clearly that would by implication have included the Daily Mail. That is untrue and false. So it was in that background we'd already told him it wasn't true, that we felt we had to respond even more robustly. I say I'd heard that on the 4 o'clock news, I had a consultation with my legal department, the editor of the Mail on Sunday, we agreed that we'd tried to be reasonable, we'd tried to explain to him that this was not true and that we needed to fight fire with fire on this. Now, your Honour's made the very good point could I have a glass of water? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Please.
A. Your Honour made the point, rather than rushing out that press statement and I want to explain in a minute, I felt we had to be as robust as possible and fight fire with fire because it was such a damaging accusation your Honour said, "Well look, why didn't you go back, you know, listen to read the evidence and come out with a more reasoned response?" I think you just repeated that. With the greatest possible respect, I don't think you understand the speed of and the ability to set the agenda and create a firestorm of 24-hourly bulletin instant news. If we had allowed that to get traction, it would have taken off. The implications for that story would have gone down that the Daily Mail had been accused of fucking of hacking phones. As it was, we put that statement out, by the 6 o'clock television news, the news which actually sets the agenda, a much more balanced version was being presented using our very strong rebuttal, high in the news, and it was no longer leading the news, and we were happy with that balance. That's why I felt we had to act in the robust way we did. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Mr Dacre, I might follow all that and I'm not taking this time off Mr Sherborne I might follow all that and I could quite understand it, but I raised the matter and I identified my concern, and I can see the point you make, I understand that and I'll look at the correspondence if you want me to look at it, but even then, even weeks later when Ms Hartley gave evidence and we went back onto the word "mendacious", which is the only word in it which actually somebody is going to argue to me is reflective of there isn't a reverse gear here, there's only a forward gear, Ms Hartley was abundantly clear that the Mail did not retract that word or reduce the impact of that word at all, and that's why I've been concerned about it.
A. I do understand that, I really do understand that, but one of the definitions of the word "mendacious" is "false", and I can't help but feel that in the context of those four occasions when Mr Grant had slandered the Daily Mail, and we'd made it clear to him that we hadn't been up to the activities he was alleging, that he knew it was false. He must have read our witness statements, which we again repeated there was no phone hacking at our group LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I know what the argument is going to be. The argument may be that this might easily have come that way without necessarily the knowledge of the writer of your article. I'm not going to resolve that issue. I've tried to explain to you and I'm not going to take the time off Mr Sherborne what bothered me, what caused me to feel that it was right to allow this issue to be ventilated, because it's whether I derived something from it on the wider picture. I'm not going to descend into the micro detail, because if I did that, I would never finish in relation to every single story for every single newspaper. It is, in any event, part 2 of the Inquiry.
A. I accept the point your Honour makes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right. MR CAPLAN Could I just invite you to consider the time? I understand that Mr Sherborne should have some more, but before your conversation with Mr Dacre started, it was 4.40 pm. I was about to LORD JUSTICE LEVESON With great respect, Mr Caplan, Mr Sherborne asked a question, Mr Dacre was very keen to make quite a lengthy statement. I understand that, and I wasn't going to stop him and Mr Sherborne didn't stop him, but this is why I didn't tie it down. There has to be the fair chance for Mr Sherborne to put what he wants to put to him and I'm sorry, I understand the point but I'm not going to let it just dribble away. Right, yes, Mr Sherborne. MR SHERBORNE Perhaps I can return to my point. Very quickly, can I deal with one thing, Mr Dacre. In your investigations into this article, can you explain whether you discovered the reason that no contact was made with either Mr Grant or Jemima Khan prior to the article being published?
A. I can't remember. Did it carry an answer from a quote, a representative in the piece?
Q. It didn't. Mr Grant's already explained in his witness statement there is no contact with either him or Ms Khan. The reason I ask you is this: as you know, you're well-known for having said to the Select Committee in I think April 2009 that in 99 out of 100 cases newspapers contact the subject of a story prior to it, and I'm asking you this, Mr Dacre. I hope you won't disagree that that's what you said. I'm asking you this: do you know the reason why contact was not made with Ms Khan or Mr Grant prior to the article?
A. I don't want to be evasive. I don't know that it wasn't. I know I perhaps should know that, but I don't know that it wasn't. MR CAPLAN I'm not going to keep rising up, it's very unattractive, but the paragraph says halfway through the article "a spokesman for the couple would make no comment".
A. Exactly, I thought I'd read that. Sorry. MR SHERBORNE In your settlement of this action, your newspaper group agreed to the fact that no attempt was made to contact either Mr Grant or Ms Khan prior to the story being published.
A. Well
Q. I'm simply
A. I don't know whether it said that. I haven't seen that, as
Q. Mr Dacre, please let me get to the end of a question before you answer it. Did you or did you not investigate whether or not contact had been made and why it was
A. I will do what Mr Caplan just read out the relevant quote which I just said "A spokesman for the couple would make no comment on their relationship last night, saying neither party is prepared to make a statement. This is a private matter." And that's quite high up in the copy so I'm very happy that correct journalistic procedures were carried out. MR SHERBORNE Rather than seeking the assistance of Mr Caplan, perhaps I can take you to the small bundle that is in front of you. Turn to tab 2, please. Can you look at page 8.
A. You're not going to believe this, but I don't have a tab 2. I have a tab 3.
Q. Let me hand you
A. Hang on. Could it be this?
Q. Page 8. This is a statement which was read out with the consent of your newspaper group. Two paragraphs up from the bottom, can I read you this: "At no stage were any of the above allegations or factual assertions put to the claimant prior to publication."
A. Yes, well, they clearly literally and technically weren't. They went through his spokesman who said they weren't prepared to comment.
Q. They weren't put to him and as Mr Grant has said they weren't put to Ms Khan. Have you investigated that? Rather than rely on Mr Caplan
A. I'm not going to answer any more questions on this particular point. We quite clearly state quite high up in the copy that the journalist concerned put these allegations to the spokesman for the couple and it quotes that neither party she or he is quoted as saying neither party is prepared to make a statement. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Actually, that's not quite right, Mr Dacre, because what the spokesman was asked about was to comment on their relationship. That's the relationship between Jemima Khan and Hugh Grant, not whether or not Hugh Grant was speaking to a woman I'll look at the documentation.
A. It comes two paragraphs after that, with respect, your Honour. On their relationship, comment on their relationship, ie their relationship which was seemingly under threat because of this mystery woman who didn't exist when we put it to Mr Grant later MR SHERBORNE The question is not whether you can read the article, Mr Dacre. I asked you whether you investigated this. Yes or no, please.
A. Yes, of course, I investigated it and I said to you before Mr Caplan got up I thought a spokesman had spoken to our newspaper. MR SHERBORNE You said you didn't know. You said you didn't know. Can I ask you this. This is all about Mr Grant's belief, do you understand? Mr Grant's belief at the time that he gave the evidence. Can I just remind you of something? You said in one of the statements that you made to Lord Justice Leveson a short while ago that this was not referred to in Mr Grant's witness statement. We know it was. Will you accept from me that that was why Mr Jay asked him questions about the plummy-voiced woman story? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right. MR SHERBORNE Will you accept that? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Let's move on. I'll see. MR SHERBORNE I can give you LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, not know. MR SHERBORNE I can give you the note, sir, in the statement, paragraph 17. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you very much indeed, I'll certainly find that. MR SHERBORNE You see, Mr Grant made it clear that the basis for his speculation as to whether the story might have been the product of listening to his voicemails was the fact, as I've explained, about the plummy-voiced woman that he knew about and about what Mr McMullan said to him, in the conversation that he taped without Mr McMullan knowing it. Do you remember? Will you accept now that that was his basis for the speculation?
A. I can accept that, but I find it very difficult in the context of the previous statements he made in which we had categorically refuted to his spokesman, sent him an email, that he would know that that couldn't be so. MR SHERBORNE So you accept, though, that that was his basis, that that was his honest basis for inferring that there may have been some listening in to his voicemail?
A. I think Mr Grant was obsessed by trying to drag the Daily Mail into another newspaper's scandal, and that his strategy was to try to do that.
Q. Isn't this just an example, Mr Dacre, of attack being the best form of defence?
A. With the greatest respect, you're attacking my group rather unpleasantly and I'm going to defend it. I love it, I've worked very hard for it for 20 years of my life and I'm proud of our newspapers. When people attack them, I defend them.
Q. You see, this is the point, Mr Dacre. If rather than listen to what was put out on the radio you had actually read the transcripts of what Mr Grant had said, you would have realised that he was not attacking the Daily Mail or the Mail on Sunday
A. I cannot agree with that. It was being reported on the airwaves
Q. Mr Dacre, it is 5 to 5, please let me finish my question. You would have realised that he was not attacking your newspaper group; he was simply in response to Mr Jay's question explaining what his speculation was?
A. With great respect, I suggest that's a disingenuous interpretation of events. He knew very well how toxic that allegation would be made, that suggestion. I tried to explain that at some length.
Q. It was your newspaper group, Mr Dacre, that made the allegation, one that was picked up and repeated throughout the media that he had lied on oath. Will you accept that?
A. I accept that the mendacious smear was, yes, it was reported.
Q. Will you not withdraw it even now, Mr Dacre, and apologise for the "mendacious smears" lie?
A. I will withdraw it, as I said the other day to this Inquiry, if Mr Grant withdraws his repeated statements about the Daily Mail, I will withdraw my "mendacious smear", sir, without hesitation, yes.
Q. Mr Dacre, I'll give you one last opportunity LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, we MR SHERBORNE I already explained that Mr Grant shared with this Inquiry his speculation, because he was asked to do so by Mr Jay. Will you now withdraw your allegation of mendacious smears?
A. I've said what I will do. I'm very happy to withdraw it if Mr Grant withdraws his not allegations, not suggestions, but his repeated statements about the Daily Mail.
Q. I think that tells us something, doesn't it, Mr Dacre, about the culture, practices and ethics of the press?
A. Well that's MR CAPLAN Just for the record LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You're entitled to ask Mr Dacre some questions, if you want to. MR CAPLAN I don't propose to. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Very good. MR CAPLAN Mr Sherborne referred to paragraph 17 of Mr Grant's statement. Can I just say I'm not going to go to it now, could I please for the record and for your note invite you to look at paragraph 11, because I believe MR SHERBORNE Sorry, it's 11. MR CAPLAN It's under the libel section of Mr Grant's statement. MR SHERBORNE Yes, sorry, it's 11 not 17. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you very much indeed. Right, I have that. Yes, I've seen it. Thank you. Thank you very much, Mr Dacre. Thank you.
A. Thank you very much. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON What I'm about to say may not cause you pleasure, but it's a consequence of what you've said a couple of times, once at the seminar and then again during the course of your evidence. I shall be returning to the question of how the press should move forward, and it will be the constant theme of my Inquiry until the end, because I see it as an iterative process. I think it's very important that it is iterative, because I will ask questions and make suggestions that people think about things in order specifically so that the industry can do so, and then respond. In that way, we may get somewhere that satisfies all the requirements that I believe will be in the public interest and that others believe the press will embrace. Therefore, it may be that some of those ideas will require or would benefit from your input, and I hope that you will be prepared to provide it.
A. Your Honour, I think I've shown this week that I'm prepared to devote a lot of time to this issue. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm very grateful.
A. I've spent a lot of time with it. May I just make one additional observation, do you mind, just to finish off? Very quickly. Many American websites have been carrying stories about Mr Grant and other celebrities because that Mail Online can't carry because it adheres to the code. This is quite an important point. Last week saw the announcement of potentially the biggest floatation in the stock market history, that of Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg, the owner of Facebook, has gone on record by saying that people no longer expect privacy in the Internet age. If the mainstream media in Britain is unable to address news stories that are freely available elsewhere, we will look increasingly irrelevant especially to younger people. I only say this because I said to you earlier that this week Mail Online became the world's biggest website with over 100 million unique users and that's eloquent evidence that there is a huge demand for British journalism globally. The fact that it is called the World Wide Web is literally true, and the centre of the global newspaper business is the not the UK now, it's no longer the UK, but the US. In that sense the Internet is the embodiment of the first empire and I would ask that the editor of the Mail Online put in a paper to this Inquiry to outline the huge problems that the Internet poses both for the printed press and regulation. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON If the editor of the Mail Online wants to submit some evidence to the Inquiry, I'd be perfectly willing to receive it and to take it on board and possibly to call him
A. I do think it's one of the fundamental problems. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And possibly to call him.
A. That would be very valuable. We would welcome that. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I do understand the different position of Twitter, which of course has a different dynamic for all sorts of reasons. Your stories couldn't be conveyed in 140 characters.
A. That's a matter of opinion. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And that alters the dynamic, and there is a very interesting distinction to be drawn between a conversation that two people might have in a pub or in a private place on the one hand and a newspaper always, and the question is: is communicating with friends on Twitter nearer the conversation in the pub or with friends or in a hall in a debate with friends or the journalistic product of a newspaper, which carries with it a kitemark of integrity, honesty, accuracy, or should do, and how you try and
A. But that would be competing with American websites that don't observe that kitemark. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well
A. I'd ask you to call the editor of the Mail Online, he'd relish answering these questions. I would only say that it was Twitter that fuelled the Jan Moir debate and some of the vicious and vile things that were said on that would distress you, I suspect. In that sense, it's not an innocent conversation between friends in a pub. It's used some celebrities have Twitter followings of 3, 4 million. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand the problem.
A. Okay, I'm sorry. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I have my own problems without trying to solve everybody else's. I take the point, I understand it, and I'm very pleased to receive any assistance that I can get to ensure that the most satisfactory solution is available to everybody.
A. Excellent. Thank you for your time. Thank you. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you very much. There is something that I want to say before we conclude. Today is I think, according to the records I have, the 40th day of hearings, and this marks, at least provisionally, the end of module one. I say provisionally, because it's quite clear that there will be some further material that enters the Inquiry record and may require oral evidence to deal with this crucial relationship between the press and the public, not least of which the whole issue of regulation to which we have just been referring. For those who are interested, I would like to recognise the progress we've made so far. We have actually heard from 184 witnesses, and the statements of 42 other witnesses have been read into the record. In the circumstances, I would like to pay tribute to all those who have allowed us to do that. It's obviously a tribute to the co-operation which the Inquiry has received from those who are core participants. It's my personal gratitude for the assistance we've received from the Inquiry's legal team and the support staff that has done so much to ensure that we have the right papers, usually, in the right place at the right time. Everybody working to very tight deadlines. I'm grateful for the work done by the assessors, who continue to fulfil their role by providing thoughtful advice and comment in their areas of expertise, and so help inform the questions that are asked. I'm conscious that I've kept my foot very firmly on the accelerator and that that's caused difficulty to all manner of people. Our work will progress in the next two weeks and we'll look at the contributions that have been received from others, including the many contributions, I think something approaching 600 contributions, onto the general enquiries website, all of which will be analysed, some of which will be put into statement form and put into the records. In other words, I am seeking still to obtain as much evidence as I can from as many people as I can. The foot will continue to be applied to the accelerator. We'll start module two in two weeks' time, and then proceed ultimately to module three, but as I say, we are likely to come back to various of the issues that we've identified. I'll end by also thanking all those who have contributed to the work of the Inquiry by giving evidence, and the obvious work that's been put into the statements that have been prepared, whether voluntarily or with some encouragement under the relevant statute. Thank you all very much. (5.06 pm) (The hearing adjourned until Monday, 27 February 2012)

Witnesses

Gave a statement at the hearing on Thursday, February 9, 2012 (PM) ; and submitted 1 pieces of evidence
Gave statements at the hearings on Monday, February 6, 2012 (PM) and Thursday, February 9, 2012 (PM) ; and submitted 13 pieces of evidence

Themes

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

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