Afternoon Hearing on 19 March 2012

Jeremy Lawton and James Murray gave statements at this hearing

Hearing Transcript

(2.00 pm) LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, Mr Barr. MR BARR Thank you, sir. Mr Murray, can we resume by looking at the lunch that you had with Mr Fedorcio, which you tell us about at paragraph 8 of your witness statement.
A. Sorry, can I just clarify something I said earlier, just in case there's any confusion?
Q. Please do.
A. In relation to the story I was doing about the school which was investigation into extremism at that school and it was subsequently raided, if there was any police surveillance on that school, I had no knowledge of it and had I had knowledge of it, then I wouldn't have done the story, because that would have jeopardised any surveillance and the police operation. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand. I took your evidence merely to be identifying the fact that you were doing an education story which subsequently became a crime story.
A. Yes, that's correct. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Right.
A. Sorry. MR BARR Where did you have lunch with Mr Fedorcio?
A. It was at a restaurant very near Scotland Yard, with Andrea Perry. I can't recall the name of the restaurant. I think, from memory and this is going back seven years it followed on from the meeting that we'd had with Sir Ian Blair and it was a useful meeting and I think it was a follow-up to try and improve relations and to get to know each other and Andrea was doing very well at getting to know the Yard officers and working hard there, and it was really a sort of face-to-face meeting. But at that time, maybe there was other things going on in the background. Maybe there was an increased threat level, because a short time afterwards there were the dreadful 7/7 bombings, and it was obviously very useful to have, at that time, an extremely close relationship with the Yard.
Q. So if it was useful to you from that general point of view of improving relations, was it useful to you or did it pay any dividends in any specific way?
A. It's difficult to put a sort of rational perspective on it like that in terms of a dividend. I think it was a positive, constructive meeting. I was impressed with Mr Fedorcio. He seemed a very straightforward sort of person, the person that I like dealing with, and Andrea clearly got on well with him and it was a valuable meeting. There was a sort of open agenda: if you have any problems, air them. If they've got any problems with us, air them, and hopefully we can reach a sensible compromise and work well together.
Q. Who paid for the lunch?
A. Got a feeling it might have been Andrea. I might have paid. It may have been Andrea.
Q. But the newspaper paid, one way or another?
A. Yes, I think so. I can't be sure.
Q. Did it involve alcohol?
A. I think there was some, yeah, maybe just a glass or two, but it was a lunch as opposed to an evening meal, and obviously, you know
Q. The need for some restraint?
A. Nobody has more than a few glasses of wine.
Q. I understand. Moving now away from the lunch to paragraph 11 of your witness statement, where you tell us a little bit about what you think the police were trying to get from you. You say that one of the things that they wanted to use the media for was to get the public to assist with their inquiries. That's something which this Inquiry readily understands, so we can take that as read. What I'd like to ask you is: did you ever get a sense that the Metropolitan Police were trying to manipulate their image and promote their image through the media?
A. In terms of basic PR, I think all PRs are there to promote the image of whoever they represent, whether it's a pop star, private company or the police force. Obviously the police forces are public organisations and there's no commercial interest in it, but the press officers will be looking to you to write about them in a positive way and a straightforward way. Is that being manipulative? Probably. But it's not in a sort of serious way, I would suggest. I think it's in their interests to be as positive as they can be, and I think the reality check on all that is that when things go wrong, like the shooting of Charles de Menezes and other incidents which are unfortunately bound to happen, then they should be as honest and straightforward about their responses and their dealings in those unfortunate incidents as they are when they're trying to promote themselves.
Q. If we take that as an example, were you satisfied with the way in which information emerged about that particular tragic incident?
A. Well, there was enormous confusion around that time. There were suggestions, as I recall, that Mr the gentleman who got shot, Mr De Menezes, had jumped over the barrier and then ran down the stairs, and that came out of the Yard. From memory as well that was false, by the way.
Q. Yes.
A. I think that was later accepted to be false. There was something else that Mr Blair himself said. The exact phrase that he used, after seven years, I can't remember, but I know he himself made a comment which later proved to be slightly misleading. So that came actually a fairly short time after we'd met him, and if you like, his honeymoon was over very quickly and suddenly he was dealing with the other side of the press, where we were demanding answers. I think there was a there was a press conference, the Yard wasn't big enough and it was moved to the Queen Elizabeth Centre, and there were an awful lot of questions piling up, and as things unravelled, it was clear that the Yard had not been, on that occasion, fully correct in a lot of in some of the things they had said.
Q. If that is one example where things were perhaps not as they might have been when bad news was concerned, can you think of any other examples during your experience of dealing with the Met?
A. The other thing which I mentioned in that paragraph 11 was the Rachel Nickell case, and I was involved in that, in doing some press briefings, and at the time when Colin Stagg was arrested, I think there was not a sense of triumphalism and there was nobody saying, "We've got the right man", but they seemed quite confident that they had the right man, but there was a lot of concern among the press, some members of the press, that the evidence didn't stack up against Mr Stagg. I covered some of the remand hearings in relation to that and listened to the evidence and, quite frankly, it just wasn't there. There was no forensic evidence, there was no identification evidence. There was entrapment, to my mind, and I took an unusual position in sort of openly saying to some of the officers: "Are you sure you have the right guy here? You know, it doesn't quite add up, really, does it? Where is your evidence?" And I made a point of establishing contact with the Stagg family and got on very well with Colin's mother and his stepfather, and they produced some letters that he'd done in prison to me and some other things I mean, he's not a likeable gentleman, let's be honest. However, I took the view then that something had gone awry in that investigation and that if it did go to court, that it probably wouldn't get anywhere. I covered the pre-trial hearing where the evidence was examined by a judge and was subsequently thrown out, Mr Stagg was released
Q. I think the facts of that case are well known. If we focus on the way in which the Metropolitan Police managed the public relations side of things as it became clear that Mr Stagg was innocent and that someone else had committed this atrocious murder. Do you think they handled that well or not?
A. Well, that was not until many years later
Q. Indeed.
A. that the evidence clearly showed that someone else was responsible, and they did get the right man and to their great credit they stuck with that and they continued to look at the case and examine the evidence, and when there was an overwhelming case, they charged the right person. So they should be congratulated for that.
Q. Indeed.
A. There had been a long passage of time between that. I think officers had retired. They'd done a good job. They'd done the best that they could do under the circumstances, I think. They did an apology, I think, to Mr Stagg, and there was a payment made to him. Whether he his life was effectively ruined by it. Whether that's enough whether they did enough, I think, is open to debate. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I don't think we're revisiting miscarriages of justice here.
A. No. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON We're doing something slightly different.
A. But I think it's interesting in relation to the police. There was some concern about the arrest of Mr Stagg by reporters who had been right at the beginning of that case and followed events as they unfolded and that they were raised at police levels. MR BARR I think what I'm getting at is whether you think, when it comes to bad news, the police manage that properly or whether there's room for improvement.
A. I think there's definitely room for improvement. What happens is when the police call a press conference, it's usually because they're getting nowhere in a case and they need publicity, they need to issue photographs and they need to encourage public to come and engage with the case. When things go wrong, they sort of have to be forced into holding a press conference. You know, you have to pile on questions to get answers. So that is an aspect that should be examined, I think, where they should you know, feel obliged to hold a press conference and explain themselves, not just release a short statement through the Press Bureau or something else; be prepared to take questions, be prepared to admit where the mistakes were made and how they were made. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It's quite difficult that, isn't it, Mr Murray, because it's not impossible that some of the people who are acquitted because the jury weren't satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt, although entitled to the benefit of their presumption of innocence, may not have been entirely without fault.
A. Yes, it may be that they might be without fault, but you have to respect the jury system, and if they find LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, of course you do, but that's not my point. My point is slightly different. It is that the police may not have anything to apologise for.
A. No, it may just be turn of events and they acted in good faith on the information which they had, and the reliability of their witnesses, the reliability of their forensic there are a whole host of reasons, but they should be forthcoming about the chain of events which led to errors being made, mistakes being made and, in some cases, wrongful convictions. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, certainly in relation to wrongful convictions, I agree, but my point is that one has to be rather careful, because if you say you ought to have a press conference when somebody's been acquitted because obvious something's gone wrong, that doesn't actually follow, because something may not have gone wrong in the process and the risk that you run is if you have a conference and the police want to say, "Actually, we did everything right here", then somebody is going to say, "So what you're doing is you're challenging the verdict of the jury, you're saying the jury got it wrong", and you get into a secondary debate about guilt, which is inappropriate in the light of the fact there's been a criminal trial. Do you see the problem that I'm trying
A. Yes, it is a problem. It's a difficult area. There's also obviously the legal implications of people being sued in civil matters and a whole host of things that raise their head, but where possible, they should make themselves available to answer the questions. Whether they choose to answer them fully or not, at least there's been an attempt because there's a relationship between the press and the public. The press, if you like, represent the public, so the public takes an interest in major crimes and helps, in some cases, to bring people to justice, and the public has a right to know when things go wrong and they do seek explanations. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, I have no problem about that, and it's perfectly legitimate, provided one is careful to understand what is appropriate and what isn't appropriate.
A. Yes, I agree. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The police can certainly properly say, "Well, there was a case to answer, the judge found there was a case to answer, the burden on the Crown is always heavy, it's always to prove beyond reasonable doubt, and the jury weren't satisfied. That's the system operating." That's fine, but it's not terribly newsworthy and it's obviously not appropriate in every case that the verdict not guilty is returned. It's a question of being open and transparent when it is appreciated that things have gone wrong for reasons which the public ought to know about.
A. Yes. In those circumstances where there's an acquittal, often a senior officer will stand outside the Old Bailey and give a short statement, possibly take a question or two and disappear, and in the wording of that statement often there is a message, you know: "We are not looking for anyone else", or however it's phrased, and the public can pick up on that message. MR BARR When you are investigating a crime story, do you ever try and find out who the guilty party is?
A. No. I don't see that journalists should play the role of detective. It playing an amateur detective can get you into all sorts of trouble, and that's not what we're about. Sometimes events transpire that you do actually bump into the real criminal, just through accident. In relation to the Jo Yeates trial, we were doing some investigations around that area and myself and a colleague came across a gentleman who we thought was actually a little bit suspiciously near the scene of Jo Yeates' property. That gentleman was arrested three days later and is now serving life for murder, and the police were very interested in how we bumped into him. It was pure accident that we came across him. We thought he was a bit unusual and we asked him a few questions and engaged with him. There was no sort of attempt to solve the crime or play detective. It was a sequence of events. But when the police said they wanted to speak to us, we were more than happy to speak to them and we co-operated fully with them.
Q. You, I think, were here this morning when Mr Harrison gave evidence
A. Yes.
Q. about other newspapers trying to run a parallel investigation. Have you ever had any awareness of other newspapers playing detective?
A. I think there has been stories in the past about the News of the World having the resources to employ former detectives, having the resources to employ former special services and having sort of camper vans or something with blacked-out windows and doing sort of looking at properties, sometimes for showbusiness stories, to see if two stars are having an affair, or sometimes involved in surveillance work. So I think there's a general appreciation that the News of the World, pretty much a lone wolf, was carrying out that sort of activity. But in terms of mainstream newspapers, if you like, I can't think of anything where there was such a sort of well-organised enterprise.
Q. Moving on to a different aspect altogether, in your dealings with the Metropolitan Police, did you ever come across one senior officer briefing, either directly or through an intermediary, against another senior officer?
A. There were a couple of occasions. In some occasions, when there's a long-running investigation into a high-profile crime with someone who's been in the news a lot, there is a gets into a situation where there's low morale in the detectives, and sometimes you can get situations where you hear about camps being formed. You know, some detectives believe X did it, some detectives believe Y did it, and but I they're professional people and they have debates amongst themselves, but you do pick up on the rumour that that's going on. I think in the case of the Rachel Nickell case, there was rumours flying around that, you know, there were slight disagreements within the detectives that who was actually responsible. Was it Colin Stagg? You know. But I haven't had an officer sort of say, off the record: "So-and-so's got it all wrong, he's barking up the wrong tree there", no. They're very careful in general about how they speak about their colleagues and they normally speak very highly. There's an awful lot of respect within each force for the senior detectives because people understand it's an extremely difficult and stressful job.
Q. Moving now to the part of your statement where you deal with your relationship with other police forces I'm looking at page 6, paragraph 17 onwards you express a view that all police forces operate in similar ways, and you describe having worked closely with Kent and Surrey Police forces. Are you meaning there to say that regional forces operate in similar ways or are you trying to say that all police forces, including the Metropolitan Police Service, operate in similar ways?
A. I think the Met are slightly different, probably Greater Manchester as well, because they have a far greater volume of calls so they have a larger volume of people dealing with a multitude of inquiries. You can have a local paper in Finchley ringing up about a car crash. You can have John Twomey on the phone ringing up about a robbery a serious robbery in London, and they have to sort of be able to have a system where they can look into all that, so they obviously have their own computer system, whereas a smaller force some of the forces are very small and they have less crime, so you have a smaller team and, if you like, they will split up what they're dealing with. So if there's a big crime running, one press officer may handle it and the other two, three press officers are left dealing with the traffic situation for the local radio and other enquiries about other crimes. So I think the Met is a difficult job for the press officers because of the vast volume of calls that come in.
Q. In terms of hospitality, have you ever been offered anything like the hospitality that you were offered by Sir Ian Blair by any regional force?
A. No. I went on a raid with Kent Police last month. They were doing an operation against drug dealers and bit unusual this, actually, because we went to one place where they busted open a guy's house with an acetylene torch, found a sword and a couple of dogs, and then we went to the police station. Normally they would buy you a cup of tea. You've been up since 4 o'clock in the morning but on that occasion we bought ourselves a cup of tea. So they wouldn't extend to a cup of tea. Now, in the old days, if you were invited along to an operation, then they usually had a glass of water, cup of tea, a few biscuits. I'm not saying they're being rude or anything. I think it's just the way that events have been unfolding. Perhaps because of this, everyone is slightly conscious of you know. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON People are being careful. They don't understand quite what is going to happen and they don't want to be on the wrong side of it and that's entirely understandable.
A. Exactly, but I had a chat with the Assistant Chief Constable, Gary Beautridge, there. I think he said, "Any time you like, come along and have a look at the serious crime directorate", which was nice because that's the way it used to be. You meet the chaps, you have a comfortable conversation over a cup of tea and the guy says, "Do you want to come along and just have a look?" There's no pressure to write anything, and it's a nice offer to have, and I'm I must admit I did think: "Oh, should I accept it or not?" or: "How would it be seen? How would it be perceived? Or would he have to fill out a form? Would I have to fill out a form?" So those sort of thoughts do enter into your mind and I still haven't decided whether to go or not. I probably will go, but it's just putting you having to think a little bit more carefully about your interaction, which is, in my view, negative. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, it's not negative to have to think a bit more carefully. What's negative would be if there was a close-down of an important relationship which meant that the way in which the press learnt about the work of the police was unduly hampered or restricted, which would not serve the interests of justice and the confidence of the public in criminal justice well at all. I think that's right, isn't it?
A. Yes, I think you have to look at the big picture. The objectives of having a strong relationship and the objectives of basically the public interest being served override the sort of petty considerations. For a journalist like myself and other journalists who have normal relations with police, we feel a little bit aggrieved that we even have to think about this because we've done nothing wrong, yet there is a sort of unspoken slur. I mean, some of the guys when we're going out on the bust were saying, "Oh, you're up before Leveson. What have you done? What have you been up to?" So you get all this joshing. It's just a bit unfortunate. I think over the passage of time that will diminish and I'll go back to normal. MR BARR I'll be coming later on to what might be done in the future to get the balance rights, but before we do that, could I ask you: have you taken any detectives from regional forces for the sort of lunch which you described to me earlier, having taken Metropolitan Police Service detective force?
A. In the past, a few years ago, yes. Not recently, actually. Some ex-police officers because another thing that's happening now is because there's some frustration and lack of information coming from forces, journalists attempting to cover stories are contacting former officers, not really to see if they know what's going on in any investigation, but to write these sort of pieces: what do you think's going on in the investigation? How do you think the officers are looking at so-and-so? We had a case in point at the weekend where the offices of Ed Miliband were raided on Friday night. Very little was coming out from the Yard and I was actually off sick with a sore throat, but I was asked to ring an MI6 contact and see what would MI6 think about it. Not that he would know what MI6 thought about it but just: "As an ex-MI6 guy, what would you look at?" Do you see what I mean?
Q. Yes, your next best source when you want to get direct access?
A. Yes, whereas obviously what you really want to know is as much information about the incident which occurred.
Q. You mentioned a moment ago having accompanied the police force on a raid and you talk about that as well in your statement at paragraph 26, where you tell us about having accompanied Scotland Yard on a dawn raid. Can I ask you
A. That was a long time ago, I think.
Q. to what extent were you prepared to deal with the ethical and professional issues which accompanying the police on a raid might throw up? Had you gone through any formal briefing or training or anything like that?
A. No. You have to sign a disclaimer, I think, a sort of three-page form, and I think there is potential that you could be injured during the operation. On this particular raid with Kent Police, a sort of dog shot out and could have it was actually quite a calm dog, but there are potential for things to happen that you don't quite know about, so I think you sign that form, but you just take it as presented.
Q. Did you consider that there might be ethical issues that would arise over things like privacy, if you were involved in a raid on a private home?
A. Yes, because you have to work on the assumption of innocence all the time. You know, that's the great British tradition, innocent until proved guilty, and on this occasion, this recent raid, we obviously could see the gentleman concerned, we could see the weapon was seized and other things, but we chose to not use the picture and to identify him. So in terms of that, we respected his privacy in that we didn't identify him because the other factor, of course, is it could be prejudicial.
Q. Indeed. On the whole, do you think opportunities like those you've enjoyed to accompany the police on operations is a good thing or a bad thing?
A. On balance, a good thing, because relationships are established and gives an opportunity to see how they operate. You get to see a mixture of ranks. You know, you have a nice little chat with the PC or the WPC, who are just ordinary people trying to go about their jobs, and then you get an idea of the views of the senior officers. Not from the raids; they have other people there, people from the police authority or an MP or somebody else who is interested in the actions of the police. So it covers quite a wide variety of aspects of what the police do.
Q. As far as you're aware, are such opportunities allocated fairly between newspapers or have you suspicions that there might be certain favoured newspapers?
A. I think it's actually towards television, perhaps, that the forces lean towards, maybe, because the pictures are moving and they're dramatic. You know, you're smashing down doors, flames sometimes. A lot of hectic scenes. You know, it's quite a dramatic image. So often I would say there's certainly always a TV facility and then it's like: "Who else should we bring along?" So I would say the balance was not is much amongst newspapers, more perhaps a prejudice towards television.
Q. I'm moving to paragraph 32, page 9, of your statement, where you say: "We do not make any payments to police officers or forces for information or otherwise." That's crystal clear. What I'd like to ask and before I ask it, I'm going to say please don't name anybody when answering this question is: has that always been the case or historically has there been a different position?
A. In respect to my career or in respect to the Sunday Express or
Q. We'll do both. We'll start with your career.
A. I can't think of any occasion in any newspaper and I've worked for quite a few where I've been asked to directly pay a police officer, so no.
Q. What about indirectly?
A. Or indirectly. I'm trying to think no, I honestly can't think of anything, and in terms of the Sunday Express, no. I mean, there are occasions when we seek the opinion of former police officers. You know, John Connor from the Flying Squad makes himself available, John Stalker from Greater Manchester, Dai Davies, former Royal Protection Squad commander, and if we want to seek their profession opinion on the story, then we would pay them a fee, but not very much, and possibly as well some expenses if travelling's involved and whatever.
Q. But these are retired
A. These are retired officers, yes.
Q. Page 10 of your witness statement, paragraph 39. These are questions about the type of people who are working in police press offices, and you express the opinion there that you would prefer it if more officers worked in press offices. That's officers as opposed to people who have worked in the media. Why do you think it would be desire to be have more officers in a press office?
A. Well, certainly in the early days of my career, there were usually half and half press officers and police officers. I have no problem with civilian press officers at all, but I would say that sometimes an officer with a higher rank, say at inspector level, working in a press office just has a natural sort of authority, male or female, on the release of information, and perhaps less cautious about giving information because he knows how the force operates. Also, police are very much like journalists. They like facts. They like to know the date: when did it happen? What time of night did it happen? Who's involved? What happened after that? These are the things that they're sort of trained to put in their notebooks and these are the sort of questions that they would automatically ask in a briefing, because they would expect, I guess, to debrief a senior officer, so they would when you ring up, you know that if you got a policeman who is familiar with it, I just felt that they have more information at their disposal.
Q. Are you
A. The other problem is that a lot of the civilians aren't fully briefed, so there's a time delay in that they then have to go back and ask the officer, get more details, come back, and then they haven't asked perhaps a supplementary question.
Q. Are you saying that the operational experience that an officer has gives them more confidence in communicating pertinent facts?
A. Yes, I think it does on some occasions it does, yeah. And also you can build up a bit of a rapport with these guys quite easily.
Q. Moving now to paragraph 41 of your statement, where you say that the Metropolitan Police did have a lot of ex-News of the World journalists and you couldn't understand why it was exceptional. Can you help us with the point in time that you're talking about?
A. I wonder if it's always been the case. I don't know, it's just something that I was aware of. I mean, I don't have the figures and I don't know if it's meaningful at all, but I just felt that you know, I know that for some reason over the time there's been quite a lot of ex-News of the World guys working for the Metropolitan Police press office.
Q. Moving now to the section of your statement which deals with the HMIC's report, at paragraph 43, you say: "Now nobody is sure that Milly Dowler's phone was hacked." I've been asked to suggest to you that that's not, in fact, correct.
A. No, that
Q. The real issue is not whether, but when.
A. I think that is factually incorrect. Nobody is sure that the phone emails were deleted during the hacking process, would be more accurate.
Q. Okay. The
A. I think that came out when I wrote this, that came out when the report from Surrey Police to the culture committee suggested that there was not sort of evidence to suggest that the News of the World had deleted the messages from the phone and it was said in the July report by Guardian that Mulcaire was responsible for hacking the phone. Mulcaire has denied that, so I think we have to be very careful here because
Q. The Inquiry is
A. we're going into sub judice, so
Q. aware of the differences. I just wanted to confirm that you were content with the way you had expressed it, because it isn't quite right.
A. Yes, I think that is poor expression on my part.
Q. We can move on now to paragraph 44, where you say that your view is that police officers and journalists are "sensible people who have intelligent interaction on both sides and have high ethical standards". I wanted to ask you whether, in the light of the evidence that that's been given to this Inquiry over the last three weeks, when we've heard, for example, of quite a high degree of hospitality at a very senior level, you still adhere to that view completely?
A. Well, of course this was written prior to a lot of
Q. Indeed. That's why I'm asking.
A. I think we have to err on the side of caution and see what the prima facie evidence is and assess it at the time and see whether or not there is real evidence to support major wrongdoing. I mean, without being privy to all the information, I mean LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But are we going to be so constrained, Mr Murray, and should we be so constrained? Is it really a question of looking to see whether there is, to quote your language, "major wrongdoing", or are we really constrained to look at whether the relationship needs to be recalibrated or reordered in such a way that maximises openness and transparency on the part of the police and minimises the risk or the perception of risk arising from the nature of the relationship between individual papers and the police?
A. Well, that's really a matter for you to consider. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, you're quite right. But
A. My view on it is that there is a major need for a recalibration, and if you like I am not saying that everyone's blameless and everyone's faultless across the entire written press, but it all seems to relate to one newspaper, or one newspaper group, and so you have to be careful not to draw in, if you like, the innocent parties into the equation when you're doing your recalibration. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, I'm looking at the culture, practices and ethics of the press, and I'm sure that you would be the first to agree that the issues that have arisen in connection with the press are not restricted to one newspaper group, are they?
A. No. That's correct. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So obviously one has to create a system that works for everybody
A. Mm. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON but caters for the problems and recognises that we have to achieve, at the end of this, something that is (a) workable, (b) appropriate, and (c) gets into the public domain as much as that which ought to be in the public domain but keeps out of the public domain that which has no business to be there at all.
A. Yes. I would agree with that statement. Or was it a question? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, it was a statement of claim, which then had a question: whether you would agree with it?
A. I agree with it. Yes, I do. I think it's a very important point and I think that is part of the difficulty of your recalibration, that you have to try and draw these different ends together. My concern, and the concern of the CRA, is that things ain't so bad as people say, so don't try and break it all up and it has to be finely tuned rather than sort of: "The engine has to be thrown out and we have to get a new engine." LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It depends on what you're talking about, doesn't it? In some regards for example, in relation to the Press Complaints Commission they're creating a new engine. I'm not going down there with you, but the point has to be made that one has to cope with the risk that not everybody will necessarily behave as professionally or appropriately as the best.
A. That's true and that's true of human nature, and I think whatever you do and whatever you decide, unfortunately there will be some rotten apples in the journalistic barrel and they will let us down. Unfortunately, that will happen. However, we I think the view I'd like to express is that we're as disappointed in them as the general public, and we're trying to work with you to create a framework that will identify these people quickly and adequately so that they can be dealt with, because they are damaging to us. They're damaging to us in relation to our relationship with the police. They're damaging to us because they've damaged the reputation of journalists. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, and in relation to the police, I entirely agree. A journalist is entitled to obtain whatever information he wants, perhaps not entirely in whatever way he wants to do it because he has to comply with the law and his own ethical code, assuming he subscribes to one but that's not quite the same as saying that a police officer is in the same position, because it may be perfectly legitimate for the journalist to ask, but not entirely appropriate for the police to answer.
A. Well, they always have the option not to answer. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I know.
A. But I think they should be encouraged to answer rather than discouraged from answering. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It depends what the question is, Mr Murray.
A. Indeed. MR BARR If we can start perhaps looking into the future a little bit. Would you accept that it's going to be essential that the police officers you speak to in the future have very clear guidelines about what it is they can and cannot say to you and your fellow journalists?
A. I think if you're going down the road of written guidelines that come in a little booklet that they have to have on the table while you're ordering a bottle of red wine, I think it's, frankly, ridiculous. It may be helpful to have some general guidelines or some general advice that should be in their minds, and I think we shouldn't diminish the respect that journalists have for the police and the fact that they're highly intelligent people. They know what we're doing, we know what they're doing, we're trying to work together, and you have to you can't treat us like children or them like children.
Q. Excepting that there is thought to be given to the degree of detail and the way it's done, isn't the problem that if you don't give police officers guidance as to what they can and can't say, then the current position, where they are worried about saying anything and will say nothing, will continue?
A. Yes. That is a genuine danger. I think it would be very useful to have broad guidelines for senior officers to consider and perhaps they can be drawn up with the journalists, with the NUJ, with the CRA, so that it's a sort of mutual consideration as well, because no journalist likes to be accused of being a poodle of the police and no police officer likes to be accused of being corrupt towards journalists. So there's probably, you know, possibly an idea to put a joint framework together so that everyone knows exactly what's going on, but also knowing that so many different situations arise and so many different considerations that it's very difficult to plan for each eventuality.
Q. Would it also be a good idea, in order to increase transparency and therefore confidence in what is passing between the police and the media, to have some recording of meetings, both formal and informal, between journalists and police officers and police staff?
A. Well, I think if that was introduced, you can forget there being any lunches or meals in the evening. I mean, why would you? Why would they bother? They're very busy guys. They have a tremendously difficult job to do and they want to get on with it. Do they want to spend ten minutes filling out a form saying, "I'm going to have an Italian meal with Jim Murray from the Sunday Express, I'm not going to talk about XXX"? Surely not. Likewise, do you want a journalist to spend ten minutes filling out a form saying, "I'm seeing Joe Bloggs"? It's a difficult position. I don't think you need that unnecessary bureaucracy. I think a broad-based framework of the relationship which both people understand as a base, you know, before they even have the relationship, if you like, then that would be useful.
Q. Is the difficulty that if there's no form of recording then nobody can properly oversee what's going on?
A. There is a risk of that, but that's the risk of anything. I mean, you know, do senior figures in the legal establishment have to fill out a form if they go to lunch with somebody? Should there be oversight of that? Where does it end?
Q. I'm understanding that you're against that idea
A. I'm against the idea, yes.
Q. I'm looking at paragraph 45 of your statement, where you say: "I see no problem with sensible socialising between officers and the media as it helps journalists get the facts straight and encourages officers to be more trusting of journalists." That begs the question, doesn't it: how do you ensure that the socialising is sensible?
A. Ah, yes. Again, because I think you have to have certain faith in people. You have to have a certain trust in people as well, that they will I think there's been a massive sort of and necessary recalibration already in people's minds about the relationship between journalists and the police and that they're having serious thoughts, we're having serious thoughts, and that process is under way. I mean, if you were saying it was any other profession than the police, I would say so, but in general, they're very, very sensible people. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm sorry, just before you go on, did you say that there had been an unnecessary recalibration already in people's minds or a necessary recalibration?
A. I think there's been a certain recalibration LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, the reason I ask the question is because it's transcribed as "unnecessary recalibration", and I thought you said "necessary recalibration"
A. I thought I had LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I only want to know what you wanted to be recorded as.
A. I think I said "had a necessary" not "an unnecessary". LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, fine. MR BARR Moving to the question of alcohol, one can see that from the point of view of the journalist, if a little bit of alcohol lubricates the conversation, then perhaps elicits an indiscretion, from a journalist's point of view, that's a good thing, but from the police officer's point of view, if he or she misjudges the amount of alcohol consumed and ends up saying something that he shouldn't have done and regrets it, that's a difficulty, isn't it?
A. I think you're leading me down a particular road. Actually, I found sometimes find that alcohol makes matters worse. It clouds matters, and rather than talking about work, you know, the alcohol encourages them to talk about how Chelsea played, what's going on, politics, you know. It becomes more of a social event. In fact, some of the best information I've got is over a cup of tea when everyone's very sober and everyone's thinking correctly and therefore you're able to get information. So alcohol can work in both ways. Sometimes it can work against you.
Q. From what you're saying, it sounds as if we might all be better off without it in conversations between police officers and journalists. Would you agree with that?
A. I think you have to go with whatever the officer wants. Quite a lot of people these days quite a lot of officers are actually teetotal, or they drink soft drinks. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I don't think we need to get into the details of what people drink. I've got the message. Right. MR BARR You wrote an article about the Jefferies story, which you've kindly provided to the Inquiry. It's dated 2 January 2011. In fact, the line you took in that article was to give voice to the feelings of Mr Jefferies' ex-headmaster, who was very doubtful that Mr Jefferies would ever have done what it was being suggested he might have done. In other words, you published an article supportive of Mr Jefferies. Can I ask you: in your dealings on the Jefferies case, how much contact did you have with the police?
A. Quite a lot of contact, because we had journalists working on the ground, I was in London, we had people making calls from London as well, we had the local agency, who probably had four or five people on the story. Mr Jefferies was arrested earlier in the week, on the Thursday, I think or it may have been the Friday therefore the period of his detention was moving into the weekend. We publish on Sunday, so it was getting to the situation was: would he be charged or released on the Saturday, you know, or would it go into the night or whatever? So we were dealing with that issue. So we spoke to quite a few people who knew him and there had been some coverage already in the daily papers, sort of saying he was a Mr Strange Guy, he had an unusual haircut. A lot of people have unusual haircuts and don't get banged up for it, so we didn't take the view that he was in any way guilty or anything like that. Quite the reversive, actually. I located his former headmaster and spoke to him and he was able to give me his views on what had transpired.
Q. Can I ask you: in your dealings with the police, either personally or through your staff, did they give you any information about the case off the record?
A. I think the calls to the press office were off the record. The questions that we were asking were: what's likely to happen with Mr Jefferies in our timeframe, and explaining that what our deadlines were on publication, and they didn't want to go on record about what was going on. They were telling us pretty much very little. They weren't prepared to say on the record: "We're continuing to question him for XXX", or whatever. So it was useful to speak to them. There was some guidance. I think they did say that: "We're continuing to speak to him", but they wouldn't say charges are imminent or charges are expected. These are the sort of phrases that press officers use when dealing with the press because we have to be extremely careful as well, because we're in that unusual stage of sub judice where we're actively working on information and we're building up stories and pulling stuff together, but obviously at the point where that person is charged, then we have to reevaluate what's already been written and take out anything which could be prejudicial and reduce it. So that was the conversation. There wasn't a sort of slurring of his reputation or anything like that. There wasn't a note of triumphalism or anything like that, no.
Q. Apart from telling you that they were continuing to question Mr Yeates(sic), did they tell you anything else off the record?
A. In regard to
Q. Mr Yeates. Sorry, Mr Jefferies, forgive me.
A. I honestly can't think of anything.
Q. Moving on to a completely different subject, I understand that you've had some experience of dealing with the Press Council of Ireland LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Before you go to the Press Council of Ireland, let me just talk about the Jefferies case a moment. First of all, proceedings are active from the moment of arrest, aren't they? It's not from the moment of charge.
A. Yes. But obviously from the point of charge, things change dramatically. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand. That was my first question. My second question was this: I quite see the purpose of this article, which I've read, that reports that his ex-headmaster effectively was saying in terms he'd be astonished if Mr Jefferies was actually involved, and you report all that. Given the way in which other reports had been put end the public domain, this provided some balance.
A. Yes. That's why I offered it as potential evidence to you, because the impression given, I think, is that there was a one-sided sort of campaign by the press against Mr Jefferies, which LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Let me, I'm afraid, use it against you for a moment, Mr Murray, in this way: what was the business of the press getting involved in this debate at all? Searching out people who were saying he was very odd, he was doing this, that or the other, and then generating reports saying, "Well, actually, I'd be amazed if he was involved"? Aren't you therefore muddying the whole water? I'm not saying this particularly, because you're balancing other material, but why is it the business of the press to be doing this at all?
A. The you the press responds to events. There had been a lot of stories in the papers regarding Mr Jefferies. It was also on television. It was a major invest LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But should there have been?
A. Well, quite clearly the view of, you know, the papers some papers were punished, and the view in those cases, not our paper, was that they shouldn't have been. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's the point. I appreciate you'll observe the law and you'll respect the decision of the Lord Chief Justice, particularly as the Supreme Court refused to interfere with it, but do you see the point I'm asking?
A. Yes, I do see the point. You're saying: should there be a debate? My view is there probably shouldn't be the debate, that, you know but whether you or I think there should or shouldn't be a debate, the debate goes on. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, well, the trouble is that we can all agree that there should be these principles applied and this is how we should go on, and that works wonderfully until there's another big story, and then everybody throws all the rules out of the window and so the frenzy generates. Pro or anti.
A. Potentially, but the point here is Mr Jefferies was never charged with everything. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, I know, but actually that isn't the point. The point is all that had happened was he'd been arrested, and a whole series of articles had been generated about how odd he was and a lot of prejudicial material which might put off people who would be prepared to stand up to help him. You decide to put something into the public domain the other way to provide some balance, and suddenly there's a big debate going on about somebody who has not been charged or anything.
A. It is a matter and you're correct that these situations arise when there's huge public interest on major stories. Whether it falls in your remit to look at the current situation regarding sub judice, I don't know. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It's not necessarily sub judice; it comes very much into the first area of my investigation, the press and the public, and you will know that I have twice heard evidence from Mr Jefferies, who, perhaps not surprisingly, feels extremely strongly about what happened to him.
A. Yes, but I note that some comments from Mr Jefferies have also said that he was pleased, you know, that some people stood by him and some people supported him and were prepared to make their views known. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, but it might be that he'd have simply preferred that nobody said anything at all.
A. I fully expect that is his view, but I don't know his view on that. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, anyway. All right. You want to ask about Ireland. MR BARR Yes, it's the final question, Mr Murray. You have some experience, I understand, of the Press Council of Ireland. Is there anything from your experience of working with the Press Council of Ireland that you would commend to this Inquiry considering the future regulation of the press?
A. As far as I'm aware, the Sunday Express has never been involved with a situation where you know, in terms of complaint by Press Council of Ireland, but obviously news editors and journalists have to be aware of what goes on in Ireland because papers are distributed there. They have slightly different codes of conduct and slightly different phraseology, which I think are interesting for you to have a look at. One aspect is we've obviously got clause 4 in our code of practice, saying that journalists have a moral moral obligation to protect their sources, whereas it's, in my view, perhaps a little bit clearer in the Irish version of the code, which states that journalists shall protect confidential sources of information. And they obviously have a situation where they have the press ombudsman who conciliates and tries to deal quickly with complaints, and if he can't deal with them himself then he refers them to the Press Council, which is a group of people, to analyse the complaints, and so obviously we have to be aware of how that situation operates as well as the PCC, previously the Press Council, you know, which covers us. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Are you bound by the Irish system?
A. Well, we it's an interesting point this, and it's never been tested because we've had no complaint against us, but obviously when our journalists are working in Ireland and carrying out enquiries, they will be bound by that code because it relates to the Irish Republic. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's not quite my question. In Ireland, there is a statutory framework which allows an independent regulator to exist. The framework identifies what the regulator must do, doesn't it?
A. Yes. I mean, you have a better understanding than I do, but my understanding is that that's correct. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I just wanted to know whether your journalists in Ireland were bound by the Irish system in a way that your journalists in this country are not bound by the PCC?
A. My understanding of it it may need clarification is that when you have a journalist working in Ireland, then and you distribute in Ireland, and you're doing an Irish story, then that would become a matter potentially, although it's untested, for the Press Council of Ireland. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Tell me this: if you do feel yourself bound by the Press Council of Ireland, have you found that that in any way restricted what you could do or what you could investigate in a way that wouldn't restrict you where you wouldn't be restricted in this country because you're not part of the PCC?
A. No, I don't think there's any sort of difference in that. I think you're still free to make enquiries, free to contact people and do that. The only major difference is the clause 14 as opposed to the clause 3, I think it is. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm not terribly troubled about that. I'm more concerned about whether you've seen some terrible problem in Ireland, given that you publish there and that you're involved in Ireland
A. No, we distribute there. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON which is a consequence of the fact that there is a statutory framework in Ireland, which stands behind the regulatory regime.
A. No. All I would say is all newspapers must be aware of what goes on in Ireland in terms of their set up, and we are obviously aware of that too. Nothing's been tested so it's a bit of a grey area. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But you don't feel your freedom of speech, your freedom of expression, in relation to what you want to put in your newspaper, is imperilled by the Irish system?
A. No. I have had some discussions with some Irish journalists, who have said that they find it a much freer system over there. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Over there?
A. Yeah. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Interesting.
A. Yeah, and Donal MacIntyre, we work closely with him. He's obviously the investigator for the BBC and he assists us in some investigations, and he's often said to me that he finds it easier to operate in Ireland, in the Republic, than over here. He tends to publish his books from Dublin-based publishers than over here. As I say, it's not been tested so I don't know. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right. MR BARR Thank you very much, Mr Murray. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you very much. Right, shall we take a break now before the final witness? Right. (3.16 pm) (A short break) (3.23 pm MS BOON Sir, the next witness is Jeremy Lawton. MR JEREMY LAWTON (sworn) Questions by MS BOON MS BOON Please give your full name.
A. Jeremy Lawton. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand you're concerned about being called "Jeremy" as opposed to
A. Have you read my tweet? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON As he posed to "Jerry".
A. Well, you've caused a family problem. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But your statement does start: "I, Jeremy Lawton
A. It's my full name. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So I don't think you can criticise the Inquiry. Right. MS BOON Mr Lawton, you've provided the Inquiry with a witness statement dated 6 February of this year.
A. Yes.
Q. And you've signed a statement of truth in the standard form?
A. Yes.
Q. Is this your formal evidence to the Inquiry?
A. It is indeed.
Q. You've been a journalist for 24 years?
A. Yes.
Q. You worked at the Grimsby Evening Telegraph?
A. That's right.
Q. And the now defunct news agency Humberside Newsline?
A. That's right.
Q. You've worked at the Daily Star for the past 17 years?
A. Indeed.
Q. After starting out at a general news reporter in London, you were appointed northern correspondent based in Leeds?
A. Yes.
Q. Before being promoted to your current position as chief crime correspondent?
A. That's right.
Q. You are now not based in London but you have what you describe as a worldwide roving brief from your home in the north?
A. That's right.
Q. To begin, what sort of crime stories does the Daily Star aim to write?
A. Very similar, really, to the stories that John Twomey mentioned for the Express. Our readers are particularly interested in crime rather than the politics behind police forces, so we'd be more interested in serious crimes that are likely to affect them across the board, everything from benefit cheats to serial murderers.
Q. So it's crimes, as such, as opposed to, for instance, the personalities of senior figures within police forces?
A. Yeah, I mean we would probably look at that, but that's maybe something that would be handled by the political brief rather than me, if that was an issue, because arguably it is more political. So I can't recall ever writing a story on certainly not in my crime role on the politics of Scotland Yard or anything like that.
Q. I see. Another question that other witnesses have been asked today: do you see as part of your role investigating the crime yourself and trying to find the culprit, if at all possible?
A. Absolutely not, no. I think that's very dangerous. I think our role is really to report what happens. It's as simple as that. It's to report on the ongoing investigation to the best of the ability that we can and to look into the figures around that and the people it affects, but as far as investigating the case, we wouldn't have the ability to. I mean, that's why the police are there. We report how they investigate.
Q. Yes.
A. Yeah.
Q. Moving forwards to your contact with the Metropolitan Police Service, you make the point at paragraph 3 on our page 60637 that you spent most of your career outside London
A. That's right.
Q. so your experience of working with the Metropolitan Police Service is much more limited than other or most crime reporters?
A. That's right.
Q. When reading your statement, one gets the impression that your contact with the MPS is confined to telephone calls to press officers. Is that right?
A. Yeah, that would probably be about right. On major crime stories that have affected the have brought me to London I've found most of the stories I've ended up working on have been outside London, but when obviously stories do arise, like the 7/7 bombings, there's a crossover. In Madeleine McCann there has because some of the briefings have been held in London. So in those areas I would get involved but I don't have the level of contacts that, say, somebody like John or Sandra Laville would have on a daily basis. When I worked as a crime reporter as a normal reporter in London, I probably had more contact because I then would ring them five times a week, the Press Bureau.
Q. In your current role, do you have any contact with individual Metropolitan Police officers?
A. Absolutely none.
Q. Do you feel that that in any way hampers your ability to do your job?
A. You'd probably have to ask my boss, but I would probably say no, because I'm not actually in the Crime Reporters Association, simply because it's London-centric, really, and I don't have that sort of involvement. But if I was working in that if my job changed around and I was suddenly asked to work in that sort of brief, it may be that I'd have to join it, or I certainly have good colleagues and friends who are in it, and I would expect them to make sure I had access to all briefings. I wouldn't be a person who would want to be excluded from those briefings.
Q. So you would ask to be allowed in, even though you're not a
A. Absolutely, yes. I'd fight for the right to be in there, to be fair. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Do you think then the CRA should be prepared to accept other specialist crime reporters from wherever they are?
A. Yes, actually, yeah. I think it's something they should consider. I mean, some big regional newspapers have specialist crime reporters. It may be a way of taking I know John's going to report back to you with his views on how they go forward and that may be something that should be looked into. There's also TV news and very good TV news reporters who work specialise in crime. Martin Brunt at Sky. Yeah, if it involves access to briefings, I would be expecting to get into those briefings. I would be expected to by my employers. MS BOON Yes. How effective do you consider the MPS's press office is at providing you with the information that you need?
A. Well, within the limited scope that I've just explained?
Q. Yes.
A. I've found them very effective. I've found them I've not asked to go on specific operations, but with me it's simply a case of ringing up, putting forward requests, and they respond quickly. With the daily papers, speed is of the essence, so a response that's quick, accurate and directed at exactly what you want I've found they're good.
Q. Do you consider that the facts are sufficiently balanced in terms of not only putting the Met in a good light but also letting you know where perhaps things have gone wrong?
A. Yeah, I've not found anything that's left me troubled that they are deliberately trying to push themselves forward.
Q. Do you consider that you may have answered this question. Do you consider they apply any spin to the information they give you?
A. Not that I've experienced, no.
Q. You've said later on in your statement that part of the press office's role is to ensure that the police force concerned is portrayed in the best possible light in the media, but you're saying that you haven't found that that has had any particular impact on the accuracy or helpfulness of the information that you've been provided.
A. I can honestly I don't tend to do the political stories about the police, so I am looking for: when did it happen, who was arrested, or who was arrested, preferably, but what has happened, the actual facts.
Q. I see.
A. So in light of that, that's what I tend to go for. I don't really feel that the information that's been presented to me has been slanted in any way. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So you don't look at, for example, knife crime in Liverpool, or the rise of anti-social behaviour in Hull?
A. Absolutely, I do look into those things. What I would do in those cases, though, is I would ask the press office probably to talk directly to the officers involved in handling that. If there was a knife crime initiative in Liverpool, for instance, I would make a request to the press office to say: is it possible for me to speak to the officers involved? And it would probably be arranged in advance, so I would get the specialist knowledge and then directly from the officers. That would be preferable. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Do you have difficulty getting that sort of access?
A. No, I haven't. I really haven't. We've done a number of investigations in certain areas and I've found most press officers will listen to you. It sometimes may be that the senior officer is reluctant to, but I've found it very, very rare. In fact, as I'm sitting here, I can't think of an occasion when it's been denied. MS BOON I do want to explore further your relations with other police forces in contrast with your relationship with the Metropolitan Police. Before I do, I'd like to touch just briefly on hospitality.
A. Yeah?
Q. The hospitality that you've received from the MPS has not extended beyond what might probably be termed refreshments?
A. No.
Q. So a cup of tea and a biscuit?
A. Yes. No champagne.
Q. No champagne. That's been provided at organised press briefings, you say?
A. Yeah, routine refreshments.
Q. You have never provided hospitality to the MPS?
A. Never. No.
Q. Have you ever considered arranging a lunchtime meeting, travelling down to London, meeting up with a senior officer or an individual officer?
A. I can say I haven't, but if the situation arose Lord Justice Leveson's just mentioned where I needed to contact an officer specifically, then I would suggest: "How you would you like to meet? What sort of environment would you like to meet in?" But that situation hasn't arisen with the Metropolitan Police.
Q. I see. So moving forwards to your relations with forces other than the MPS, you state that during the course of your career you've had some contact with most police forces?
A. Yeah.
Q. And you continue to deal with many police forces?
A. Yes.
Q. Logically, the forces you have contact with will depend on what crimes are happening where?
A. Where, geographical, yeah.
Q. At paragraph 16, our page 60640, you say: "Personal contact with chief constables, ACCs and DCCs is usually restricted to organised police press conferences on major news stories or arranged Christmas 'meet the chief' media events at which they usually ask for feedback on the current state of police/press relations."
A. Yes.
Q. You use the word "usually", which suggests that's not always the case. Are there exceptions in the regional force to this set-up?
A. Only that I've been to one where I didn't actually meet the chief.
Q. Right.
A. I ended up having an orange juice with a colleague of mine and never got to speak to him, so it was a complete non-event.
Q. Are there examples of where personal contact is more extensive, or allowed to be?
A. Not really. It really is a "meet the chief" event. If you get to speak to the Chief Constable, he will ask you maybe a question about the press office, whether there's anything that could be provided for us or does it meet our requirements, something general like that, but I've never noticed anything political. That's never come across never come across that scenario anywhere.
Q. So do no police forces other than the MPS offer the facility for crime reporters like yourself to meet one to one with the senior officers, whether it's over lunch or over a coffee?
A. I'll be honest with you: I wouldn't be particularly interested it sounds awful in meeting an officer of the rank of chief constable unless I was doing a specific story, like a knife crime initiative. I would be more interested in meeting detectives and people who have the hands-on involvement in individual crimes that I'm looking at at that moment.
Q. So are you unable to assist with my questions to the extent to which police forces offer that facility. You've not been interested in it so it might be that it's been offered but it's not come to your attention?
A. I would imagine every police force offers that facility. I would expect to quite openly ask for it and as to whether they would grant it to me, I don't know, but I'm aware other reporters have taken advantage of that.
Q. I see. Can you help us with the nature and the frequency of the contact that you have with individual police officers, detectives in forces other than the MPS?
A. It depends on the crime. I move geographical wherever the event is and when I get there, I will obviously try to seek contact with the officers involved. I have one or two long-serving contacts with people that have worked on several investigation that I've ended up reporting on, some of whom have retired, and but really, I cover a large patch, if you like, to put it geographically, so I have to focus specifically on the job in question.
Q. I see.
A. So it will relate to that job and it will be over a relatively short period of time, but I'll obviously try and contact the officer in charge of the investigation.
Q. So your contact is more reactive to events?
A. Absolutely.
Q. As opposed to maintaining ongoing relations with certain informal contacts in the hope that they will let you know, perhaps tip you off about matters not so much tipping off, there's pejorative connotations to that, but in the hope that if you build up a relationship of trust, they may confide in you when there's an operation
A. Or a problem or whatever, yes. That's really what I'm talking about with mutual trust. But as I say, in terms of continued contact, no, it wouldn't be a series of lunches and drinks and things, no. It would be specific to the inquiry that I was working on at the time. It happens in major forces that those officers come around because they deal with more crime.
Q. When you meet with individual officers to speak about the crime that's interesting to you at that time, does conversation stray beyond that crime?
A. If you
Q. Does it stray into gossip or
A. Nothing to do with police work, in my experience. Football, life. Yeah, I mean because the Daily Star is the newspaper it is, it's targeted towards I think they're pretty much aware that we are interested in crime. It's high on our initiative, but it's the crime itself and the investigations surrounding it, so again, if they started to talk about politics, I'll be honest with you, I probably wouldn't be interested. It's not the sort of thing that's my brief.
Q. Have you ever received information that might be termed a leak, information that the officer was not authorised to share with you?
A. Very difficult to describe what a leak is. I've received information from officers for guidance in terms of arrests and the nature of the arrest.
Q. When I say "leak", what I'm intending to describe is information that that officer, either by force policy or force orders, is prohibited from sharing with you.
A. I would be surprised, though it's possible.
Q. It's possible that you have been, but to your knowledge you haven't?
A. It's possible, but to my knowledge I haven't. I can't think of a specific case.
Q. If you did receive such information, would you take particular steps to corroborate it?
A. Oh yes, and it would depend on the circumstances it was given. The only circumstance I could imagine a leak would be given really would be for some kind of background information or guidance. That is the only certain area. I mean, the area I'm being specific about is if you have a high-profile case where maybe you have a series of arrests but certain elements of those arrests are not directly related to the major crime. Then I have received guidance that the arrests are not related to the actual major crime and are side issues.
Q. That doesn't sound so much like a leak as more akin to an off-the-record briefing that the Inquiry has heard about, to give you guidance to ensure accurate reporting?
A. Absolutely. There you are. If you're talking about "have I been tipped off about celebrity arrests", no.
Q. In your presence, has a police officer ever put pressure on a crime reporter to bury or ignore information?
A. Not that I'm aware of, no.
Q. And you're not aware of anyone else having that experience?
A. No.
Q. At paragraph 49, page 60648, you state that after many years as a crime reporter, you count among your friends a number of policemen, solicitors, barristers and other senior members of the legal profession?
A. Yes.
Q. Have these grown from the informal contact that you have referred to at all or have these friendships flourished in other ways?
A. A couple have. I play golf sometimes with a police officer. I've never done a job with him. I do a former police officer is a very good friend of mine, now retired. A couple have, but it does complicate a friendship, the nature of the job. I find it surprisingly a hindrance rather than an advantage. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, the terrifying prospect, of course, for your friends is that what they say to you may end up in the newspaper, and you persuading them that actually you're not there waiting to write down anyway they say is presumably the issue that you have to face.
A. Not really, not with my friends, because they know I wouldn't do that. That's why they're my friends. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But that's the point.
A. It is the point. I find it also is a hindrance, or could be a hindrance, because if anything, you become more protective towards your friends rather than less protective. So if I was to overhear stray gossip, I would rather probably not have heard it, and if there was a leak and somebody was involved in something, I would hate to be even considered as the possible source of it, whether it was me or not. So I actually think it's a shame, because police officers and journalists traditionally have common work in a common field, and so sometimes it does create a hindrance to long-term friendship. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So what you have to organise is your lives in such a way that information is available openly, transparently and doesn't require off-the-record or private briefings, so there's no question of anything inappropriate ending up in your newspaper?
A. I agree, except for, as I described in my statement, the off-the-record briefings that are away from TV cameras, which I don't know if we're going to talk about. I do genuinely, genuinely believe that that needs to be looked at. The advent of 24-hour TV, live TV briefings, it has robbed reporters of the facility totally appropriately and openly to have an open communication with officers. When we get a vast amount of information coming to us on a major crime that will the public are interested in, it's vital we have an open line of communication we can go to to talk to somebody, to say, "Look, we've been told this. If we run it, is it true? Is it going to cause you a problem in terms of your inquiries and your investigation?" And at the moment, one of the fears I have, having heard my colleagues as well today, is that these lines of communication are being shut down all over the place. That is a real concern. If the aim of this Inquiry, as I understand it is, is to improve accuracy and standards, I fear at the moment it's having completely the opposite effect. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm not so sure about that. I can understand that at the moment there is concern on the part of police officers that they should not be seen to be providing off the record or unofficial briefings, and it will have to be I think I've used the word "recalibration" of where that relationship is. But the responsibility of ensuring they publish accurate information remains with the journalist, doesn't it?
A. Of course it does, of course it does, but we the whole point about it is we do need to be able to check that information, and we are that information is out there. You're not just dealing with newspapers; you're dealing with the Internet, as I'm sure you are aware, and that information will go out there and it can be very damaging. It can be inaccurate. I've done stories where we have actually righted wrongs on the Internet. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes.
A. That have got out of control. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's fair enough, but it will get out there if people talk, and if the philosophy should be rather more openness and rather more transparency, subject always to the interests of justice, and the absolutely priority not to prejudice an ongoing investigation, then there is less room for inaccurate material to enter the public domain, whether it be digitally or in print.
A. Absolutely right, but at the moment you're describing something that isn't there, because that information source that you're talking about, which I completely agree with you, that isn't happening. So if you can achieve that, an open and more information, then yes, absolutely. But at the moment we don't have that. We're just finding doors being closed. MS BOON If I may return briefly to your friendships with police officers.
A. Mm.
Q. I would like to ask you about your reaction to the following, and that's the sense that, human nature as it is, when a friendship is formed, it can affect the independence of the parties to that friendship. So the journalist may be less inclined to scrutinise or report unfavourably on that police officer or perhaps the division in which that police officer works, and in turn the police officer may feel less inclined to secure the investigation of apparently unlawful conduct on the part of the journalist. What do you say to that, being a journalist who has friends who are police officers?
A. I think it's a risk. I think it's a difficulty and I think you need to be aware of it, and hence why I think I mentioned that point earlier. I think it is a risk.
Q. What do you do yourself to
A. I basically take work out the equation. It's as simple as that.
Q. So that person ceases to be your contact?
A. Absolutely, yes, yes. I draw the distinction, yeah, absolutely. I think it's important for all of you, otherwise it's not a friendship; it's a work relationship, and possibly an inappropriate one.
Q. So there's a line, is there, that one reaches?
A. I'm talking purely for me, but yes, there is a line, yeah. I think everybody should have that line.
Q. Hospitality again, just to touch on that, with forces other than the MPS. In terms of hospitality you've provided, you've bought the odd pint or cup of coffee, depending on the location of the meeting?
A. Yeah.
Q. In terms of hospitality that you've received, that's been minimal also, has it, in terms of
A. Yes.
Q. It would simply be refreshments?
A. Yeah. I mean, if I met a police officer and we were going to have a sandwich at lunch, all the officers I've ever known have paid their own way and been quite deliberate in doing so. So I don't know if that's a culture that varies between forces, but that it is my direct experience.
Q. Across the board?
A. Yeah.
Q. Outside the Metropolitan area?
A. Yeah, pretty much. Greater Manchester, west Yorkshire, Northumbria, Merseyside, yeah.
Q. Your experience has been more: "You bought the last one; I'll buy this one"?
A. Sometimes not even that. If you came to a sandwich, then they would just not expect you the officers I've dealt with, even the thought of making some improprieties offered to them, it just you'd be blowing a contact and risking an arrest, and I can say that completely firmly.
Q. Are any financial limits imposed on you? I know you're saying that you don't tend to buy meals, but
A. Well, obviously there are other people that we entertain other than police officers. I do other stories too. The Daily Star has a small staff, as I think you heard from our editor, and so I have to do stories outside the remit of crime, so I deal with a lot of people from all kinds of walks of life. But yes, we do. We have the same entertainment restrictions that I think Mr Murray described to you, which I think is a ?40 allowance or whatever, and they're scrutinised intensely.
Q. You say they're scrutinised intensely. Does that mean that part of the scrutiny process would be to ask you who the
A. Always. I have to name all the people I entertain.
Q. Even if they might be a source much information who you would protect generally?
A. On our form, I could put, "Source: known to news desk", or something like that, meaning that if it was required, I would be willing to give that information, but the risk would be for me, as an individual, is I may not have that money reimbursed if I was just and everything must be receipted.
Q. I've been asked to ask you to expand on what editorial oversight or control there is over communications between you and the police.
A. Right.
Q. Can you help with that?
A. Well, as a crime reporter basically I work the same way that I worked when I worked for my local paper 20 years ago. As a crime reporter, you are expected to have relationships with the police. I've never been told how to have relationships with the police, but any the simple rule for me would be that any significant information, from any police officer or police press officer that I dealt with that affected a story currently, presently or in the past, I would immediately pass on to my news editor or the news editor of the day, however that may be. In terms of entertaining, as I say, it doesn't really apply to police officers. In terms of a lunch, there would be no direct control of who bought the lunch, I would not be asked that, but as I say, it would show up when I submitted my expenses, precisely a running guide as to what your movements are. It's a time-dated guide to how you operate, basically, and if there are any queries, that is checked by numerous people, from the News editor higher up the editorial it's rigorously checked.
Q. Are there queries? Have you ever been asked to account for your meetings or the lunches that you've had?
A. I can't think of one. It's possible, but it's a long time ago and I can't remember.
Q. I don't need to ask you about the details of it.
A. I honestly can't remember one. It is possible, but I can't recall it.
Q. If I can move on then to your question of training, which you cover at paragraph 33 of your statement, page 60644, you describe an injunction course?
A. Yes.
Q. That you say you were put through.
A. Yes.
Q. I have been asked to ask you to expand on this. What did that entail in practice, insofar as you can remember? It was in
A. It was a long time ago. I still have the form, believe it or not, which is why I could mention it. I was given a company booklet and I was given a form, which is basically a ticked guide, and it involved all aspects of the job, from the routine things such as: "Do you know where the canteen is? Has expense claiming been gone through with you?" So things like: "Have you been issued with the I think it might have been the Press Council then. I honestly can't remember, but that was included, and you would have a briefing with your news editor, who would take you through these processes and afterwards he would sign it, you would tick it, he would tick it and that would then remain with I would keep a copy and I think personnel keep a copy, human resources.
Q. Is this kind of induction course a continuing thing?
A. I believe not. I don't know, but I've spoken to a couple of colleagues who haven't had that, so I honestly don't know. I mean, we've obviously gone through a series of changes of ownership. I'm not certain whether it's still in existence, but I believe not. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Have you had any updated assistance or training or discussion since 1994?
A. Yes. Continually. Every day. Absolutely every day. Every story. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Oh yes, there you're picking it up on every story, but what I'm asking is whether there is any formal continuing training from your employers, as, for example, to bring you up to date in relation to the Bribery Act or what's happening in privacy litigation.
A. Absolutely. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All that sort of thing.
A. Yeah, we get every ruling every update of law comes to us directly on our emails, which I access from a BlackBerry, also my laptop, also my PC. Also, although we're not in the PCC, we still abide by all the guidelines of the Editors' Code of Conduct, and we get PCC updates obviously probably not now, but we were getting PCC updates and immediately that there's any ruling that may affect anybody or any story, that is logged in our own personal email accounts and that's whether you've worked on the story or not. So it might be something to do with Haringey council and you wouldn't be you would get a copy of it and then each copy says that the full adjudication is available in the legal department. So I would have two or three a day from the legal department. Also applies to injunctions and things like that, and notification of injunctions. It's actually been made easier by modern technology, because obviously now it's very simple just to pop that into your email account. MS BOON Can I take you forwards to deal with police/media operations.
A. Yeah.
Q. At paragraph 17 of your statement, page 60640, you identify West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester as forces which are excellent at media relations and should be the model for all forces.
A. In my opinion, yeah.
Q. Your view is that they strike the perfect balance between on the record briefings and off the record guidance. How do they do this?
A. Well, Greater Manchester police I mean, I can give an example of this without I'll take the details out of it because I'm not sure of the state of the investigation, but last week I received there was a major crime in Greater Manchester and I received an email from Greater Manchester police press office that gave the details of the crime. It gave an agreed statement from the victim's family, two members of it. It had an attachment of a photograph that the family were happy to be issued and it also had an attachment of CCTV footage of the incident that the officer in the case had agreed to release. Now, in the old days we would have to go around to the family, knock on the door, ask if they wanted to speak, maybe individually, maybe, unfortunately, en masse, depending on the number of news organisations involved and the size of the story, and then we'd have to put in a request for a media briefing. Then we'd have to see if we could get the CCTV footage. That would have to go through a formal process to the investigating officer, who'd have to agree with various people. That, for me, is first rate police/press relations. I think that must help everybody all round, including the victims' families, because it has a massive impact, I think. We have information that we know is accurate, trustworthy, is not going to cause an offence to anybody or a problem to people who are already in a difficult situation, and that's really why I would highlight them. They're not alone. Other forces are doing this now, largely through the advent of email, which is making things better, but they're very proactive in terms of investigations. I put Greater Manchester police as exceptional. The other thing is if you have any further queries, you can go to the press office. They understand. They'll go to the senior officer. They'll maybe set up a meeting if you require it. They'll hold formal press conferences, and I just think that very impressive and very helpful to me and it must be helpful to the victims, which I know is of extreme importance here.
Q. Are there any other aspects of those media operations which other forces should emulate or have you outlined
A. I think the embracing of technology, really, and just the fact that they can you've been asked to build up trust, that they can release these things and I mean, Northumbria police, in the inquest into the crimes of Derrick Bird
Q. In Cumbria?
A. Yes. Sorry, Cumbria. That was a very high-tech inquest, fabulous a bit like here, really, where all the facilities were laid out, everything was high-tech.
Q. So it was the organisation of the inquest as opposed to the way in which they related to the media?
A. Well, what they did was each day of the inquest a lot of the problems we have are: can you release certain aspects of an inquiry? Can you release these pictures? Can you release that CCTV footage? All those arguments and discussions had been had prior to the inquest, so each day as the inquest unfolded, a new package, if you like, would be released. It would already have been pre-agreed, already released. All the victims' families had been informed. That would all be released at the end of the day and you knew exactly where you stood, you knew exactly what you were doing, and it doesn't half make the job a lot easier.
Q. So it sped everything up?
A. Absolutely, yeah, and Northumbria police were exceptional, in my opinion, in handling the Raoul Moat, which was a very, very difficult incident.
Q. I wanted to ask you about that. What was it in particular that was impressive?
A. The real thing that impressed me was they were always available with information and it was an ongoing it began to become an extremely dangerous situation, real life situation, and they always had time to talk to you, they always had time to guide you, which was critical. There's one example that I have given here, where there was a specific threat made by the gunman. They retrieved some tapes that he left at a previous hideout and it was a threat to execute members of the public whenever he read or heard something about his family that he didn't like. The police had obviously agonised over what to do about this and we had a media briefing that day in front of the cameras that appeared live on TV. Then we were asked to sign a disclaimer and go into another room, and there was a police lawyer there and members of the team, and basically everybody was asked to impose a media blackout. I may be wrong, but I don't think they had any legal grounds to actually do that, but they took a chance on trust because the situation was so serious that they could trust the media. They told us what the threat was, they told us the details of it, they told us the serious nature of it. I walked out that briefing and rang my news desk and we pulled a double-page spread instantly. Other newspapers were the same. Coverage changed. As a result, no one not one organisation, radio, TV, news, regional breached that embargo. There was thankfully no more bloodshed, and at the end, of course, after he'd been surrounded and ended his own life, we were able to report the true nature of the threats he'd made, but it wasn't reported until afterwards, by anybody. And I just thought that shows the level of mutual trust that can exist and the mutual co-operation between all aspects of the media and the police.
Q. There are media operations in respect of which you're less complimentary. Paragraph 18 of your statement: "The only occasions upon which I have found forces unwilling to engage on what I consider a satisfactory level were Leicestershire police while handling the UK end of the Madeleine McCann case and Avon and Somerset during the Jo Yeates murder inquiry. Unusually, both forces refused to give any guidance on any of the multiple lines of enquiry that came into most newspapers during those ongoing investigations." If I take the Jo Yeates murder investigation first. You want to make clear, I understand, that at the time of Mr Jefferies' arrest you were on leave?
A. Yes, I think unfortunately that's a you've found out I think it was at new year and I was on annual leave at the time, so I didn't actually write the Chris Jefferies coverage at the start. I got involved in the investigation from the point of his release to the point around the time Vincent Tabak was arrested, so my evidence is based on that caveat, basically.
Q. Your comment at paragraph 18, are you referring to that period of the investigation?
A. Yes. I'm referring to I have to say it's hearsay evidence because it's come from colleagues, but it's not it's slightly better than that, in the sense that I was obviously then involved in the ongoing investigations relating to Mr Tabak and I found the circumstances identical to the ones described by my colleagues that were in place when Mr Jefferies was arrested.
Q. Because what I want to ask you you say that the forces were not giving guidance on multiple lines of enquiry. That suggests that the police force concerned wasn't confirming information that you were putting to them?
A. That's right.
Q. Can you comment on whether Avon and Somerset were giving any off-the-record guidance at all?
A. Well, I have been told that they weren't giving any off-the-record guidance.
Q. Who have you been told by?
A. Most journalists on other newspapers at that time, most national newspapers at the time. I am aware of the evidence given by Mr Wallis to the Inquiry. It is possible the Mirror did have information, but I'm not aware of any other newspaper being given that information. As I say, I must stress I wasn't there for that period, so I make that comment within that caveat. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I think it's better if you just talk about what your personal experience was.
A. My personal experience from the moment I arrived was that no, there was absolutely zero guidance from the police about any of the enquiries that came to us. MS BOON Can you help I am, of course, not asking you to name any sources with how your newspaper knew that Mr Jefferies specifically had been arrested if no off-the-record briefings were being
A. I understand the information was relayed to us via a news agency and I understand that the source of it well, it certainly wasn't the police.
Q. It wasn't the police?
A. It was absolutely not the police.
Q. Paragraph 55 of your statement. You have a further comment about the Jo Yeates investigation. You say: "Had Avon and Somerset police chosen to give discrete off-the-record guidance regarding Mr Jefferies' background and the nature of his arrest, it is possible he may have been spared the other deal he described to the Inquiry." Can you explain what you mean by this, because if Avon and Somerset aren't giving any guidance, then the source of the information is for the journalists to decide what to print and what not to print, isn't it?
A. Yes, that's right. I mean, basically with the benefit of hindsight, which is a wonderful thing, it now seems that Mr Jefferies' arrest was based, at best, on minor inconsistencies and something he may or may not have said. In other cases that I've worked with where people have been arrested and I've had a relationship with officers or with press officers, I would have expected to have been given some guidance as to the forthcoming charges. I think Mr Murray touched on this evidence. There's usually set phrases that are given and I would have expected that to have happened here. It didn't happen because of Avon and Somerset's LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But isn't the answer that you just shouldn't be going there? Proceedings are active. To start doing these background pieces, whether it's to write against him or to write in his favour I mean, you're trying to bounce the investigation along in a way that may be utterly prejudicial.
A. I agree. I think the realistic position that I that seems to exist at the moment I mean, I heard what you said to Mr Murray, and obviously you're right, absolutely. The moment somebody is arrested, the case is active. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm pleased you agree with my interpretation of the Contempt of Court Act.
A. Exceptional. What I would say is that what seems to have happened in reality is that there is a perception that until the ground has shifted, and that until somebody is now actually charged, there is a perception that you can still run stuff, although it would not have any direct evidence and it wouldn't have anything that would possibly be detrimental to the individual. Now, I know in the Chris Jefferies case that didn't happen. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON What you're saying is that it may be that the decision of the Divisional Court in that case in relation to two newspapers has identified that the high watermark has been reached and it's gone too far and therefore needs rowing back?
A. I may be wrong, I may be wrong, but I think you've heard a subeditor say to this Inquiry it was a sea change in the industry. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You're absolutely right. Somebody said just that. I can't remember who it was.
A. I remember hearing that and thinking: absolutely. I think absolutely. It was a new Attorney General he's not now, but at that point relatively new, and he took the decision to prosecute the two newspapers, the Sun and the Mirror, on a case that wasn't even going to court. So it was a contempt of a non-court. But I think it did it had a real, real impact. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Let me tell you what concerns me about that, if you don't mind, Mr Lawton, and that's this: you can go in the past and have heard people say, "Well, that's had a real impact on how we should do things", whether it's to do with the death of Princess Diana or to do with the McCanns or any one of these really explosive stories, and everybody said, "Oh, that will make a big difference, that's really changed things", until the next big story.
A. Yes, and I'm sure in the past that's happened. I just that's not the impression I have here. I was very impressed when the I forget I'm sorry to not be able to name the person who has said this to you, but I remember watching it and actually reacting and thinking: yeah, that is exactly what has happened. It's had a we've had people arrested since, and I think you'll find you've probably been monitoring, I would imagine, that the behaviour has been slightly different. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, of course.
A. I don't think it's just because the Inquiry is under way. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And the fact that I am watching what's going on is being used as evidence of chilling what journalists should be doing. You've just heard that expressed today.
A. Absolutely, yeah. I might not agree with all of it, but what I am saying is that, yeah, I think I actually think I mean, I heard you say to Mr Jay on Thursday: "Don't get me started", and don't get me started, but actually, I am one of these people who think there are many rules and restrictions in place governing how we write stories across the board right now and there's a law in place for phone hacking. If the laws were employed, people would listen and those standards would come into line, and I think the Attorney General has acted and I think people have listened, and I think if people do act, many of the restrictions that are currently in place within the statute book I think you would find a sea change. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But it's not good enough to say, well, the criminal law can be enforced, because it's a legitimate argument, which has been deployed here and in the press as well, that there are many more important crimes to investigate than these, and therefore scarce resources shouldn't be used to look at historic criminal even criminal behaviour, if it's not of a real gravity. The risk you run there, therefore, is that everybody defaults to a position that standards slip and conduct which is, in fact, criminal, which may or may not have been thought of really as criminal, becomes recognised and acceptable and because it's not at the highest level of criminality, never gets addressed.
A. Absolutely, but scarce resources are not just restricted to the public purse. Scarce resources are prevalent in the media world as well and when the threats of fines and High Court actions, et cetera, they have a real impact on the way newspapers operate. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm going to ask you a grossly unfair question.
A. Ah, excellent. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But it's actually generated because of your last answer.
A. Right. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Of course, you're not involved in the PCC because Northern Shell aren't, but do you think that being required to publish an adverse ruling of the PCC had that effect?
A. It was taken more seriously at our newspaper I can only speak about our newspaper than I think is the general opinion within the confines of this Inquiry. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Every news editor who has given evidence in this Inquiry has said, "Oh, it was a terrible badge of shame to get an adverse adjudication."
A. But I haven't finished my answer. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Please finish your answer.
A. I would suggest that it was a thing that we do not like. It wasn't anything that anybody wanted. Newspapers aren't there to upset people. They're actually there to listen to the readers and act for the readers. I mean, Jim described this earlier on, and that is absolutely right. So we don't want disciplinary actions against us, and so the people have stood up here and said that, I would actually agree with them. But as you say, I would suggest it's for you to judge, really, passing the buck, as to whether that did have the desired effect or not. I'm just saying that, you know, we do not want any kind of disciplinary action about anything. Nobody does. And we do take incredible steps to try and avoid it, in all cases, on a daily basis. I feel like I've not really helped you a great deal, but that's all I can say. It's probably for you to judge. I take it you obviously don't feel that. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, I'm not expressing a conclusion.
A. Well, neither am I, then. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, no, actually we're actually in different positions. You're giving evidence and I'm entitled to ask you the questions.
A. Absolutely. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I don't have to express an opinion now, and I won't express a concluded opinion until I come to the end some time later on in the year.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So we're not quite in the same position.
A. And I get my moment now. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes.
A. The answer, I would suggest, is, you know, probably not, in the sense of if it continues to happen, if something continues to happen, then the punishment is probably not achieving the deterrent effect. Is that LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right. Thank you. MS BOON I would just like to return to your comments at paragraph 18 about the police-media operations. We've dealt with the Jo Yeates murder inquiry. Why you are critical of Leicestershire police?
A. Saying I'm critical of Leicestershire police I just believe that accuracy is only achieved or there's a greater chance of achieving accuracy by dialogue. I can't understand how somebody refusing to have any dialogue with you can possibly improve accuracy, and you need to have trust for that, I appreciate that, but for me you do need an open line of communication. Leicestershire police in that case admittedly, it was a Portuguese police inquiry, it was a very unusual situation, but I just felt, particularly in one specific case, Leicestershire police could have given more guidance that may have changed the way the case was being reported at the contentious time, as we've heard earlier in the Inquiry. Did you want me to elaborate or are you happy? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Please do.
A. Yeah. It was about I'm flying blind because I don't know fully what Leicestershire did or did not know, but they were the UK arm of the Portuguese investigation, and it relates to the forensic test results, which became the key aspect. Portuguese police leaked in briefings in Portugal to their journalists that the forensic test results positively showed that Madeleine had been in or linked her to the hire car that her parents didn't hire until three or four weeks after she'd disappeared, and that story became a created a sea change, without overusing that word, in the way the story has been looked at. Those forensic test results became a bone of contention between the UK and the Portuguese police. I was present when a Portuguese team of forensic experts and detectives arrived in Leicester to discuss these results. Of course, they'd already leaked a version of the results. Leicestershire police presumably knew although it turns out obviously that those test results did not prove that and that the Portuguese police had somehow misinterpreted these results. I just felt that had this been that Leicestershire police could have briefed, off the record, even unreportable, that the Portuguese police had misinterpreted those DNA results. MS BOON Are the Leicestershire police not in a particularly difficult position there? Is it for them to divulge the results of forensic tests carried out by police from other jurisdiction, whether on or off the record? Is it right for them to do that?
A. No, it isn't. It absolutely is not. The only issue is, taking it to another crime, in my experience, if a fact has emerged during the course of an ongoing investigation and that fact is actually incorrect but it's sneaked into the media and become more widely reported and then steamrolled as if to become fact, the police have clamped down on that immediately, largely for their own reasons, operational reasons. It's a huge hazard to a police inquiry to have an erroneous fact about an investigation out in the public domain. Because all of a sudden, when you're relying on public appeals, people are being swayed by something that is completely wrong. So looking at that many example and that's happened on several educations. I don't understand why Leicestershire police, on this occasion, didn't even if it was unreportable give the guidance that this is not right, this is not how we've interpreted those test results, the leak is wrong. The leak was very specific. I've been told by my colleagues in the Portuguese media that the leaks weren't a case of spurious gossip. Portuguese reporters were shown extracts of police files, hence the detail in some the leaks, which of course subsequently it's turned out to be in the police files. So it isn't a case of spurious gossip. That went out there. It was wrong, or it was misinterpreted, entirely innocently, presumably by the Portuguese police, trying their best to solve a difficult case. Leicestershire are in a difficult position, as you've described, because they're a force in a different country handling it isn't their jurisdiction, but when you realise, and you can see the steamrolling effect that that fact is having, particularly on the McCanns, Gerry and Kate, I just wondered why Leicestershire police chose not to correct. Even if it was completely unreportable it didn't even have to be reported. It could have just been a discreet guidance: "This is not as it is", and I think you would have noticed a distinct change in the coverage of the case.
Q. You would have corrected that in your paper, would you?
A. We would have agreed we could have agreed a mechanism with the police whereby we would put the situation right, yes. We only wanted to know what happened with Madeleine, and so that would be something that we would want to be carrying accurate information. That's the whole point. So if we are carrying something that is misinterpreted, that's maybe leading people in the wrong way I just felt the police could have done something. I don't want to be overly critical, but I'm just looking at ways forward in future cases and how things could happen, and if you have that open dialogue, if you have that trust, that is the kind of way you can work to bring to remove erroneous material.
Q. Do you have any idea why Leicestershire if it is a question of trust might not have felt they could trust the media?
A. I've no idea. I don't know why. Every time you rang Leicestershire police on that inquiry and it was a lot, from every media organisation you were told: "It's a Portuguese police inquiry. You'll have to contact the Portuguese police." And of course, they were fully aware that the Portuguese police had judicial secrecy laws and they wouldn't talk about the case. You've addressed all this elsewhere in the Inquiry. But I don't know.
Q. Thank you. The last area I want to ask you about is the future, where we go from here.
A. Yeah.
Q. You say in your statement that in the light of the HMIC's finding that there's no endemic corruption, and in the light of new strict bribery laws, you do not consider that there's any need for additional rules; they can only harm police/press relations. Do you maintain that view?
A. Well, I'm interested what I've heard today, that if we could have a if there was a sort of situation where police generally were allowed to be more open, then the whole rule book could be torn up and start all over again. I'm just looking at the climate that we're in and the fact that the doors are shutting everywhere, and it's already difficult getting accurate information. I mean, when we're running a major crime investigation, we're getting I get emails and calls from readers, from witnesses, from absolutely everybody you can imagine. Crime experts and I have to disseminate that information and try and work out where the inquiry is going, plus dealing obviously with the police. It's vital that I have a route to those police to be able to say, not for publication even: "Look, can I have some guidance on this? Is this right? Is this going to hamper your inquiries? Am I going to trample over them?" That does happen now and I've outlined the good forces who, in my opinion and it is only my opinion who do seem to have a feel for that. I'm just concerned that if you bring in even more rules, if it's not endemic there is the old sledgehammer and nut scenario, and that concerns me.
Q. If the context is that police officers are positively encouraged to speak more openly with the media within the bounds of the law and guidelines, do you see a difficulty with police officers making a note of their contact with journalists? Not necessarily setting out what information has been divulged, but at least keeping a record of who they've met and when?
A. I can see it selfishly, I can see it as just another excuse for somebody not to talk to us. I can also see a danger that hasn't been mentioned, if it's just a recording of the number of meetings, in that I mean, it only takes one meeting to leak, whistle-blow, provide information. If that information is then leaked and there's an inquiry, the guy who's met with police once and released all the information is unlikely to have the finger pointed at him, when there may be a guy who has met with the press 30 times that month, entirely appropriately, but he looks exposed because of the sheer volume of information, he's having so many regular contact meetings with the press, entirely innocently. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I think that's a rather unsophisticated view. I think people will probably be able to work out that numbers don't necessarily add up.
A. It depends on the system. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But the issue is rather more subtle, isn't it? It is: by all means open and transparent meetings, but each time you meet, you ought to be able, in your own mind, to say, "This is entirely sensible and entirely worthwhile", so that you can justify what you're doing and you know that somebody could see I'm not saying they would that this seems to be sensible; this, on the other hand, doesn't seem to be sensible. I appreciate that it only takes one leak, and of course, that might be the one meeting that nobody notes. Of course, if then an officer was caught not having noted, then that might itself create a concern, and legitimately, because why not? If you're encouraging openness and transparency, why not say, "Well, I've met Mr Lawton on this date, a meeting to discuss knife crime or this particular instance", full stop. That's all I'm talking about. What's the problem with that? I'm not necessarily saying I'm committed to it; I'm asking what the problem is with it.
A. Well, I could just see the way you describe it: absolutely nothing. I just see practically that bearing in mind I've only become aware of the true some of the true politics that are at work in various forces through this Inquiry, and it concerns me that that could be exploited in some way. I'm also I just we're getting to a stage with almost too many rules. I mean, if we're talking about senior police officers and I go to meet a senior police officer now, and I say to him anything of consequence, really, or he says something to me of consequence, I would expect that senior police officer to note it now. Whether that happens or not, I don't know, but I would fully expect him, if he's released something to me in an informal briefing, to make a note of that, should it become relevant in any subsequent incident. Should I foolishly go and report something relating to it when it's not been LORD JUSTICE LEVESON If you would expect him to note it now, then what I'm just discussing with you is no different.
A. I suppose not, no. I suppose my concern is that certain officers I mean, if this was across the board it's just working within different forces. There's clearly different politics at work in different forces, and I would just be concerned that some people would use it as an excuse not to meet, when there's already loads of excuses been used not to meet and doors shut everywhere we go, and I just find maybe it's just my nervousness at the moment to think of more rules that are going to stop more people meeting us when my aim really is getting at accurate information. That's my sole reason to be, and the thing you're describing I don't at the moment in my head I may go away and think about it and think differently, but I can't see how that is going to help. I just see it as another potential obstacle. As far as I'm concerned, of course, I mean, if I meet a police officer, I talk immediately to my news desk, so effectively I am reporting, from my point of view. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. The problem from the reporter's point of view is not a problem. You're entitled to go to whoever so ever you want for information.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The problem is to make sure that it isn't just a free-for-all in relation to what the police are communicating to reporters. You're entitled, from the reporters to the police, to want a free-for-all.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm merely suggesting that there ought to be openness, there ought to be transparency, there ought to be a willingness to engage in a dialogue in order the better to promote criminal justice issues and a willingness on the part of the public to engage in the criminal justice system, but that carries with it a responsibility, and therefore officers doing that, as they should, ought to be conscious of that responsibility and be prepared to account to their senior officers as to how they discharged that responsibility. That's the long and the short of it.
A. Can I ask you a question on that? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You can ask. I won't necessary answer.
A. Is that from a public perception point of view that you're addressing this or is it from a real point of view, if you know what I mean, ie to stop bad practice or bad cops? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It's actually a bit of both. It's to stop inappropriate communication. It's to stop the need for utterly unauthorised and potentially damaging leaks, and it's also to avoid the perception of a relationship which is potentially damaging to the public interest.
A. Well, all I would comment on that would be that if you have a bad cop, is making a note going to stop him? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, that's as may be. Maybe yes, maybe no. If you have a bad cop, then I would want him or her to be caught.
A. Absolutely. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And therefore if the bad cop doesn't make a note, that's prima facie evidence, isn't it?
A. If you find out what went on. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But if you don't find out if you don't require anything, then you'll never find anything out, because you'll never reveal your source, and I understand the reasons for that.
A. Mm. Yeah. Yeah. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Right. MS BOON Mr Lawton, is there anything you wish to add to any of the evidence you've given?
A. No, not really. I think that's fine. MS BOON Thank you. Those are my questions. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you very much indeed, Mr Lawton.
A. Thank you. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. Tomorrow morning, 10 o'clock. Thank you very much. (4.37 pm)


Gave a statement at the hearing on 19 March 2012 (PM) ; and submitted 2 pieces of evidence
Gave statements at the hearings on 19 March 2012 (AM) and 19 March 2012 (PM) ; and submitted 1 pieces of evidence


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