Morning Hearing on 21 March 2012

Hearing Transcript

(10.05 am) Statement by LORD JUSTICE LEVESON LORD JUSTICE LEVESON In the light of my requirement that core participants provide new declarations, I have received information from Collyer-Bristow and also from one of the newspaper core participants. Another of the newspaper core participants have stated in terms that they will not be providing these declarations prior to the deadline of 4 pm today, on the basis that those from whom they are to be sought are "busy people". I'm afraid I find that explanation unacceptable. We are all "busy people", and the need for me to have appropriate assurances that the confidentiality undertakings are being met and that I am doing all that I can to address the leaks that have transpired is not insignificant. If those who have received information from the Inquiry through the confidentiality circle cannot very quickly assert that they have complied with all their obligations, that is a matter which I would find of concern. Therefore, it should not take very long for anybody, however busy, to do so. The directions that I give are not optional, and if I am concerned that they are not being taken seriously enough, then I will take steps to ensure that my polite requests are treated somewhat more seriously. MR JAY Sir, the first witness today is Mr O'Neill, please. MR SEAN O'NEILL (affirmed) Questions by MR JAY MR JAY Your full name, please?
A. Sean O'Neill.
Q. Thank you. You've provided us with a witness statement dated 30 January of this year.
A. Yes.
Q. You've signed and dated it under the normal statement of truth. Is this your formal evidence to the Inquiry?
A. Yes, it is.
Q. In terms of your career, Mr O'Neill, after working as a reporter in Northern Ireland, you moved to the Daily Telegraph in 1992, you joined the Times in 2004 and you became its crime editor in 2007; is that correct?
A. That's correct.
Q. In terms of the standard diet, as it were, of the stories you write for the Times as crime editor, are you what one might call a traditional crime editor, writing crime stories of serious crimes, or is the sort of story you write slightly different?
A. We have myself as a crime editor and a crime correspondent and the crime correspondent tends to do more of the kind of live crime, crime in action type stuff. I would say about 50 per cent of my work is to do with the processes of policing, the policies, the politics, the personnel, more to do with senior police officers and things like that. So slightly different from the traditional.
Q. So looking at macro policy issues?
A. Quite often, yes. And also, to be fair, who's coming and going. The fairly regular race for the succession at Scotland Yard is of perennial interest. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But one hopes that it will settle down.
A. I certainly hope so. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, do you?
A. Yes. I think it's good for the country that they have a period of stability. There's been too much flux and change. MR JAY Is it of interest to you to know about what's happening in the management board in terms of personnel frictions in the management board in the past, for example?
A. Yes. When I became crime editor in 2007, the friction the civil war, as I think it's been described, at the top of the Met was very much the story.
Q. And you were receiving information about that, were you?
A. I was seeking information about it, but a lot of the information was being played out in public. We had very public displays of that friction at Metropolitan Police Authority, at Tarique Ghaffur's famous press conference. It wasn't hard to find information.
Q. In paragraph 3 of your statement, you set out your position very forthrightly, if I may say so. You say: the MPS [is] a difficult organisation to deal with. Its institutional instinct is to be closed, defensive and secretive and that attitude is reflected in a tense relationship with the media." Has that always been the case, Mr O'Neill, from your experience or has that tension waxed and waned?
A. I think, to be fair, it waxes and wanes, but over certain issues I have always found it to be closed and kind of withholding information. I think Mr Paddick referred to it had a tendency to cover up. I think my preferred word is defensive. It's protective of its image and its reputation.
Q. You tell us in paragraph 4 that in order to open it up a bit, the way forward, from your perspective, is to establish personal contact and some degree of trust. In the first instance, do you seek to do that socially?
A. No, not necessarily in the first instance. I think the first contact tends to be through the press officer or perhaps meeting an officer at a press conference or at a court case that they are dealing with, so that would be the first contact. You might handle a story that they're engaged in and if that goes well, I think quite often I would try and make a social contact after that, to say, "This is who I am, this is what I'm interested in, I thought you did a really good case there", or, "That was a very good briefing, could we do more of the same in the future", that kind of thing.
Q. Are you seeking from that person in due course the provision of information which might be of interest to your readers?
A. Yes.
Q. Paragraph 6, please, Mr O'Neill. Your contact with the Press Bureau, the DPA. You say: "When focused on terror stories, I regularly called the specialist operations desk in the DPA." Did you have regular dealings with Sara Cheesley, who gave evidence to this Inquiry?
A. Yes, I did.
Q. Are you able to assist us with your impressions of her?
A. I think I've always regarded Sara as one of the more tight-lipped press officers in the Met. I think that is entirely to do with the kind of work she deals with. I understand she has a fairly high security clearance. She has to be very careful about what she says to the likes of me. But I've always found her to be entirely professional and therefore, because she is quite guarded about a lot of her subject area, when she does have something to say, you know it's authoritative and important.
Q. Thank you. Paragraph 13 now. Our page 00640. You say you did pursue contact with Sir Paul Stephenson when he was in the post, that's Deputy Commissioner: because he was firm favourite to be the next Commissioner and I wanted to be able to profile him." That presumably was your assessment based on the information you receiving, was it?
A. And previous situations where Ian Blair had succeeded John Stevens. It seemed to be the case that the number two was always the hot favourite to succeed. And I think at that time the Met was quite keen to raise Sir Paul's profile a little bit. He'd come from Lancashire and wasn't well-known in London and well-known to the crime reporters.
Q. You did write a piece which you say was only in the online edition, it's your first exhibit, and I think we consider what you've said there, but it's clear that Sir Paul wanted to adopt a different management style to his predecessor, but that's
A. I think the exhibit I have is actually the piece that appeared the day after he was announced as Commissioner in January 2009, so it draws heavily on the contact I'd had with him.
Q. Can I ask you about your contact with assistant commissioners. You were interested in those who were serving in the specialist operations directorate and the specialist crime desk. Did you have frequent dealings with AC Hayman, AC Yates?
A. I had fairly frequent dealings with both of them.
Q. Our review of the gifts and hospitality register doesn't suggest that you had frequent lunches or dinners with either of them. Indeed, it was very, very rare. Is that a fair impression or not?
A. I think two with each of them.
Q. Yes.
A. And in the case of Mr Hayman, those were all CRA lunches where there would have been other no, actually one was a CRA lunch with two or three other reporters and a press officer present, and the second one was I was kind of introducing Mr Hayman to a journalist from Vanity Fair who wanted to write about the British terrorist situation and again a press officer was present.
Q. What generally was the purpose of your seeking contact with assistant commissioners, either in specialist operations or specialist crime?
A. Do you mean social contact or just general contact?
Q. Well, both.
A. I suppose I have a because of where I come from, I think I've had a long interest in terrorism in particular, I grew up around it and I have followed that since 9/11, followed the Islamist terror situation, so before I came a crime editor I was very interested in that situation and I've also had a huge interest in the threat posed by organised crime, which I think has been largely neglected in this country in favour of other forms of policing. So I was quite often pursuing information about ongoing you know, pending trials or ongoing court cases to do with terrorism in particular and the state of the threat, and with organised crime I was quite interested in highlighting subjects that I don't think had been given enough prominence, such as the background I was particularly interested in gun crime and the background to gun crime. So not just assistant commissioners but DACs who were more operationally hands-on, I probably had more contact with them.
Q. Were you ever seeking unauthorised information or leaks about frictions in the management board?
A. It depends what you mean by "unauthorised". I'm kind of interested in what's unauthorised, and I think what Mr Hogan-Howe referred to in his statement as what's helpful or unhelpful, it's kind of does it do harm? Sometimes those who choose to describe something as unauthorised are what am I trying to say? I'm trying to say that I'm slightly suspicious of the term "unauthorised". I think sometimes they mean "unhelpful".
Q. Maybe paragraph 43 of your statement gives the answer to that at 00645, where you say: "Informal off-the-record briefings have been kept confidential usually because the contact is passing on information which they're not supposed to disclose to a journalist." That's what "unauthorised" means, isn't it?
A. Or does it mean simply that their bosses don't know about it? It might be information that is helpful to an investigation.
Q. Just referring to your own witness statement, that may be thought to provide a useful touchstone. I'm just suggesting that you're assisting us in defining what unauthorised disclosures might be, and it's everybody will know, save in hard cases in the middle, what information is supposed to be disclosed to a journalist and what information is not supposed to be disclosed to a journalist.
A. I'm often puzzled by why they don't want to disclose some information, which I think is strongly in their interests and in the public interest. I mean, we broke a story recently about the widow of one of the 7/7 bombers who was on the run in Africa, suspected of involvement in a terrorist bomb in Kenya. We partially disclosed lots of information about it, did quite a lot of digging, we're fairly sure this was the woman. The Kenyan police confirmed it. Scotland Yard absolutely wouldn't confirm it, said they had no information the information was not theirs to disclose, they couldn't go there at all, but we ran the story on the basis we were fairly confident what the Kenyans had. We then sent a reporter to Kenya, who was told by the Kenyan police "All the information we have identifying this woman comes from Scotland Yard". I'm quite puzzled why Scotland Yard does not want to say there's a British terror suspect on the run, here's a photograph, we could do with public assistance in catching her. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I can quite understand this issue that you have about the equivalence of unauthorised and unhelpful, and it may be that the calibration of what information ought to be in the public domain should change, on the basis that what should be kept confidential should be kept confidential only because breach of that confidence will cause other potential adverse consequences. Now, I can understand that point, but that does raise some difficult issues. I'm sure you would agree that it's unhelpful if a police officer is commenting on areas that are outwith his expertise and therefore may get things wrong?
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So that sort of control is reasonable.
A. Mm-hm. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The question is where you draw the line, so yesterday the view was expressed I think it was yesterday that the Leicestershire police should have been prepared to explain the forensic evidence that the Portuguese police were inaccurately leaking, because of their secrecy laws, and that raises a question about the extent to which it's appropriate for the British police to interfere or be seen to be interfering with an investigation being conducted elsewhere. Do you see a tension there or not?
A. I do. I completely agree with you about recalibrating the type and quantity of information that is made available. I think there's far too much secrecy and defensiveness. I think what Leicestershire police could have done in that situation was to use a vehicle like the CRA or something and say, "Look, unreportable, not for publication in any way, but we can guide you that the Portuguese are wrong", and then LORD JUSTICE LEVESON This is they're misreading the evidence?
A. Yes. And I also listened with interest to Mr Driscoll last week, and I wondered and this is me speaking about a subject I don't know enough about, but I wondered, given that he knew Steve Wright's interest and the Daily Mail's interest in the Lawrence case, if he had widened his inclusion zone slightly and put his arm around the Daily Mail and said, "Look, we are reopening this, please don't write anything about this", if that would have solved the problem that he raised. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Then you get into a slightly different problem, don't you, which is: do you put your arm around the Daily Mail, in which event the Times may say, "Hang on, you're putting your arm around the Daily Mail, what about the Times?"
A. Well LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And you get the problem of favouritism and you get the risk then that journalists may see it in their commercial advantage to curry a great deal of favour with individual SIOs, or individual senior police officers, in order that the arm might be put around them. This isn't easy stuff, Mr O'Neill.
A. No, I know. I know, it's in this job at all times you're walking that tightrope. Is the information you have in the public interest? Do you write about it? At what point do you go to Scotland Yard and ask them a question, because you widen the circle? We have the same thing, you widen the circle of knowledge at all times, especially if you're working on an exclusive story. I think in that case, the Lawrence case, my nose might well have been out of joint, but I would have to admit that Steve Wright and the Mail were the trail blazers on that story, and perhaps in that case they deserved a little favouritism. I think it would have been possibly in the interests of the case. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But you see the risks that that carries with it?
A. Yes. MR JAY Mr O'Neill, I'm sure in most cases you will know whether information is being passed to you in circumstances when it shouldn't have been, at least from the police perspective, not necessarily from the public interest perspective. Do you take that fact into account when assessing where the public interest lies in relation to the publication of that information?
A. I think you always know when someone is passing you something that they shouldn't, simply because they are cautious and they will take steps to you're a little more clandestine in your meeting or in your communication, and I think we have a very strong duty, as reporters, to protect those people when they come to us. We also have a huge responsibility to do what we can to investigate the quality of that information before we publish it, but that investigation into the quality and the public interest of the information is for me more important than the disclosure itself.
Q. To what extent do you take into account your assessment of the motives of the person providing you that information?
A. I'm always alert to the possibility that you might be dealing with a disgruntled employee and it's worth examining, if you can: is there a pending disciplinary process or past one or something like that?
Q. I take it that the sort of information we're talking about is rarely, if at all, disseminated during the course of a lunch with a police officer; the dissemination comes much later. Is that broadly speaking right?
A. I don't think anybody's going to pass you information at a first meeting. You would have to have some kind of degree of trust or what you get is the completely anonymous approach. I think I refer in that paragraph 43 to some stories I wrote some years ago about SOCA. That was completely anonymous. I never met that contact.
Q. The purpose then from your perspective of the social contact is to put people at ease, to build up trust so that in due course, if they want to disclose information to you, they will. Is that broadly speaking correct?
A. Not just disclose information, but also if you go to them and say, "Your department is running this really fascinating operation or strategy, I'd really like to do a feature on it or work on a piece." More the latter, actually. My expectations of brown envelopes and wonderful stories is fairly low, to be honest.
Q. Do you feel that if there were less social contact, and your statement makes it clear that there has been less in recent months, that your sources will dwindle or dry up?
A. My social contact is limited for a couple of reasons in the last few months, and I haven't been working full-time, but I do fear that the ability to build a trustworthy relationship with someone is going to be seriously inhibited if you can't have a coffee or a pint or a bite to eat with them. I do think that is a concern, and I think it's quite important for senior crime journalists to be able to meet senior police officers and talk openly and freely without necessarily a watchdog or a press officer sitting on your shoulder recording every word or listening in on every word. I mean, my practice in these situations increasingly over the years has been to maybe spend quite a long time talking to an officer about a whole range of subjects, and then maybe come back to him the next day and say, "Look, I'm really interested in X or Y, is there any way we can develop that?" rather than to run off and rush into print, because I think the relationship you're in this game not just for five minutes. You can't burn your contact. You need to talk to people for years and years and years, and if they think that if they say something, blurt something out inadvertently and you rush off to print with it, they'll never speak to you again.
Q. The presence of the press officer, does that tend to have the effect that the party line is put across; when the press officer is not there, you get a version which is I won't say "closer to the truth", because that was be grossly exaggerating it, but unvarnished?
A. In my experience, it depends entirely on the individual officer. If the officer is confident of his or her subject and material and confident in dealing with the media, then they don't tend to bother about the presence of the press officer. I mean, they are quite often they're superior. At senior rank. At lower ranks, DI or something, I think there is an inhibition if you have a press officer present. They're kind of thinking: what are the press lines? Am I allowed to go beyond the official corporate press line?
Q. Your contact with Mr Fedorcio, the head of DPA, again there appears to be little evidence in the records, but tell us if this is wrong, of lunches with him save in a CRA context
A. I
Q. with other journalists?
A. I recall two lunches with Mr Fedorcio in five years.
Q. The purpose of those lunches, as you say, was to build up a working relationship with him, but what do you mean by that, what was the ulterior purpose, if any?
A. No ulterior purpose. To my mind, he was he'd been there a long time, he knew how the Met worked, he knew most of the crime reporters. There were certain sensitive subjects, stories would break where he would be the person you would go to in the hope that he would have knowledge of it. Simple as that.
Q. In the hope that he'd have knowledge of particular sensitive stories; is that right?
A. Well, if a story broke, say, somewhere else I mean, I've gone to him where I've had a particularly sensitive story that we want to break, I would go to him and say, "This is a story we're running tomorrow, these are the lines we're going to take, I'd like a considered and detailed response from the Met", but also if, you know, a major story breaks or major a bombing or something like that, you would hope that he's across that information and is able to help you out. But frankly, you are ringing in an emergency situation like that, you're ringing everybody, you're just on the phone constantly.
Q. Interestingly, you make it clear in paragraph 21 of your statement, the bottom of page 00641, you "do not think it is a healthy situation for reporters to accept hospitality from organisations they write about." The obvious question there are two obvious questions. First of all, why not?
A. I think I go on to say why not later on. I think there is the danger of I think the term is "agency capture", that you go native, you will become too close to them as an organisation, too defensive of them, where actually, especially in policing, given all the extraordinary powers the police have to use force, to lock people up, a huge part of our job as crime reporters should be to scrutinise what they do and hold them to account. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It should work the other way as well, shouldn't it?
A. That's why I really have limited social contact with people. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You see, I can see there is a difference between having a cup of coffee with somebody, but what's been the feature that might be causing some concern is where it's not just a cup of coffee, it's actually rather more of an entire social event.
A. A decent lunch. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And again that's a matter of judgment, isn't it? One size won't fit all, but there comes a time where you've absolutely crossed the line, or would you not agree?
A. I personally don't think I have ever crossed the line. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, no, you misunderstand me. I'm not suggesting you've crossed the line. I'm suggesting the entertainment on offer, where the extent to which hospitality has been lavished does cross the line, either way, whether it's agency capture by the police of the journalist or the other way around.
A. I agree. That's why I try and limit contact to what I think is a reasonable level. On the point of the restaurant, sometimes I have chosen what might appear to be a slightly more expensive restaurant because I know it's got a quiet table somewhere and LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, I've heard that explanation.
A. Well, I genuinely feel more comfortable having a little quiet booth at the back talking about paedophilia or gun crime or mad terrorists than sitting at Starbucks or Pizza Express. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, I understand that.
A. I do the same with lawyers, by the way. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I wouldn't necessarily encourage that either, you see, Mr O'Neill, and that's not simply because if well, all right. MR JAY I suppose you would say, Mr O'Neill, it's the way journalism works: you provide a nice lunch and you hope something might flow, but in the public interest, in due course. Is that broadly speaking the position?
A. What I hope will flow is a relationship of trust and integrity. I can't deal with people unless they trust me.
Q. But people will not provide you with information which is sensitive, which maybe they understand ought not to be provided to a journalist, unless they trust the journalist. That's self-evident, isn't it?
A. Yes.
Q. To be fair to you, as you've made it clear through your various exhibits, the sort of stories you have written over the years and which one can read in the exhibits are clearly in the public interest, aren't they?
A. Well, I mean it's by no means all of them. Those are some of the ones I rely on to say why I believe there has to be a free flow of information, because I do not think that information would be disclosed by a corporate press office. It's not in their interests to do so.
Q. No. Can I ask you please about your experience of police forces outside London, because you've made it clear you do have some considerable experience. What, if any, are the differences here?
A. Again, it's the relationship you build quite often for me has a lot to do with who is the chief constable or the officer you're dealing with. Frankly they tend to be smaller and often more friendly. I mean, I've had a particularly good working relationship for a number of years now with Merseyside Police, and I find them to be incredibly helpful in facilitating access to an officer or I mean, I've interviewed Mr Hogan-Howe when he was Chief Constable there, I've interviewed Mr Murphy, who is the Chief Constable now. I find them hugely impressive police officers and they were always very open and saying, "Right, you've heard from me, go and talk to the guys at the sharp end who are doing the work." LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I appreciate you've only been working part-time recently, but therefore do you see the prospect in Mr Hogan-Howe of a different relationship now that he's at the Met rather than in Merseyside?
A. I think, since he came in, there is a different relationship between the police and the press, and I suppose that's an inevitable consequence of what happened last summer. He has to steady the ship and he has spoken of a period of austerity between the police and the press. I personally hope that we can reach a more sensible accommodation than we have at the moment because I think the relationship is quite stultified and congested. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's what you said right at the beginning. The reason I ask is because you speak positively about his view when he was Chief Constable of Merseyside.
A. I think he had a very good media policy, but I don't know actually what the written media policy was, but any dealings I had with them or with him were always very fruitful. He would give me time to talk to him about whatever subject I wanted to talk to him about, or whatever subject he wanted to talk about, and I had access to his matrix team, and with Mr Murphy, I had a very good I mean this comes back to unauthorised disclosure. We had a story which is exhibited there about a guy who was importing smuggling guns into Britain, live handguns, on passenger flights from America. That was an unauthorised disclosure of information, probably. Eventually tracked that down to found out that Merseyside were running the operation, and that was an example I bring it up because it's an example where the police and the press can work very well together. Merseyside said to me, "You're on the right track but you're right in the middle of a live operation, this guy is in custody in America, we want to pick up two people here, could you sit on this and we will answer your questions and but we really would like you to sit on it", and we sat on that, I think, for three months before we ran the story. MR JAY In paragraphs 53 and 54 of your statement, Mr O'Neill, 00647, you're quite critical of the Department of Public Affairs acting as gatekeepers.
A. Yeah.
Q. Not facilitating the flow and disclosure of information. In what way do they impede the disclosure of information?
A. I just think they're less than frank. They give up they quite often give a partial picture. And in the current situation as I say, I am not really working full-time so I've less contact with the Met than I might normally have, but I understand from reporting colleagues that they have been quite obstructive about facilitating access to an officer on a particular case, and I believe some of my colleagues in the broadcast media are having quite a difficult time with them at the moment over release of some footage in a major court case that has been played to the jury, I think. But my main issue would be the lack they don't tell the whole story.
Q. Is that a phenomenon you feel has worsened in recent times, or has it been a constant picture, in your view?
A. I think that's a fairly constant picture. You quite often just get the bare minimum. There was a case there was a press release they put out about two weeks ago about a PC who was convicted of assault at Westminster Magistrates' Court. The Metropolitan Police press release simply said, "PC X has been convicted of assault, he will be sentenced at a later date", something like that, "two other PCs were found not guilty". What it didn't say was that he had pulled a 14-year-old boy from a car and head-butted him. So what they said was not misleading, but it was not the full picture.
Q. Can I ask you, please, Mr O'Neil, to address now the HMIC report, paragraph 61, page 00649. You're not alone in saying you don't like the recommendation that all contact between police and journalists should be noted or recorded.
A. Mm-hm.
Q. Can I ask you to explain in more detail why that's your view, particularly if the hypothesis is that the police are providing you with more information, because there's a greater spirit of openness and transparency?
A. Well, I've yet to see the greater spirit of openness and transparency. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm trying to deal with the piece, aren't I? So I can understand you being very concerned if the press were to say, "Not only are we going to carry on trying to focus down on what information we give the police, but also we're going to want to know absolutely everybody who even so much as exchanges a greeting with a police officer", I can understand that you would not be comfortable with that, but I'm trying to find the right balance. So in the context of the questions that Mr Jay asks, I'd be very grateful if you would help me try to find the right balance. I don't know. You may think it should just be a complete free-for-all, anybody should be able to say whatever they like, whenever they like, and it doesn't matter. If it isn't going to be a free-for-all, where is the you may not like the word "control". Where is the reflective adjustment that allows for some measure of understanding of what is happening? It's in that context that I ask you to address Mr Jay's questions.
A. I think, sir, I don't believe there is a free-for-all at the moment. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, there isn't, I recognise that.
A. I don't just mean since last summer. I don't think there has been a free-for-all previously. I think there is clear evidence of some serious misjudgments by some very senior people, and I think, and as you rightly say, it angers rival newspapers, but I think there seems to have been favouritism towards one particular title and I don't think that's acceptable either. But my dealings with officers, the boundaries have been fairly clear. They don't transgress into operations, they don't jeopardise operations. They behave quite cautiously. And if they do want to tell you something that is coming up, it is under a kind of agreement that you are not going to transgress it. There may even be at that point there may be a press officer and a formal embargo. What I would resist about a recording and note-taking, what causes me concern about it is that I really believe that an officer who is confident and able to deal with the press and feels quite, you know, absolutely certain of their own ability in that environment, and therefore has contact with the press, my fear is that that officer will ultimately be victimised, if everything is recorded. They will find themselves overlooked for promotion, they will find themselves, you know, sidelined. I mean, my experience of the politics of policing is that it can be a viper's nest. There's a lot of anyone who's chronicled the Ian Blair years knows there's a lot of back-stabbing and back-biting that goes on. MR JAY Is it your concern, Mr O'Neill, that if, for example, it was seen that you were speaking to quite senior police officers frequently, then people might draw certain inferences about that?
A. Well, yes, I think we've seen that happen. I mean, I think people made reference to Steve Wright having a drink with John Yates. I mean, I I think Steve Wright is kind of probably the doyen of crime reporters at the moment, or was before he moved on to pastures new. I don't think he's a corruptible crime reporter and I don't think I don't think he was doing anything improper, but it was suggested by Bob Quick that there was something improper in him having a drink with John Yates, and I really completely disagree with that. I mean, I think Steve has written some stories which have been hugely critical of Mr Yates and some of his operations. So I don't think there were any favours being done there. But in the current climate, it is you know, particularly if you were to arrange to meet an officer, you would kind of be looking over your shoulder all the time. The last time I met an officer, we met a very, very long way from Scotland Yard because he was so nervous about meeting me and that anyone would see him, and he's a perfectly honourable, experienced police officer.
Q. You say in the last sentence of paragraph 61: "I do think there is absolutely no need for senior police officers to be socialising with proprietors of newspaper groups or media companies." Do you have any evidence that that's occurred?
A. Well, I do know that I think it's well-known that senior officers in the Met went to the News International summer party and things like that. Some of them have said that they've met management level people like I don't see why that's got any relevance to their job. They should be talking more to the likes of me or to the editors frankly, rather than dealing with chief executives.
Q. Mr O'Neill, you're rather scathing of the Elizabeth Filkin report and you use quite strong language there, don't you: "East German Ministry of Information". You're entitled to your opinion.
A. I think I was quite angry about it. Probably less so now than when I wrote that. But I did find it quite a patronising document, particularly if I were a female crime correspondent I would be furious, because it seems to imply they're just a bunch of women in short skirts who are out flirting with people, and I don't think that's the case. But I do find it's I mean, what I don't like about it really is it recommends that the answer to the Met's problems is to give more power over the control of information, which it calls transparency I mean, who decides what is transparent? What are we going to be transparent about? It's in the hands of the same senior officers, the same senior officer class who have brought all these problems upon the Met's head in the first place. It doesn't seem to me a sensible course of action.
Q. Finally, paragraph 70 of your statement, page 00652. You say: "Much has been written about the Times hiring Andy Hayman and a lot of it has been wildly inaccurate." What has been wildly inaccurate?
A. Can I say I in the questionnaire you sent me for this statement, I was not asked about Andy Hayman. I felt I should put this in to correct the impression that this was somehow a favour done by News International. The initiative to contact Andy Hayman was mine, to be honest. He was I don't think he knows this, but he was second choice. I approached Peter Clarke first of all. We had a relatively new editor, he had a new style whereby a news story he liked to have a news story accompanied by a commentary or an analysis, something like that. I quite often felt uncomfortable writing the news story and then commenting on it, I didn't think that was appropriate, so I suggested we find an expert commentator. We do the same with health, we have a doctor who writes routinely, and I thought it might be you know, I knew Clarke and Hayman had retired in fairly quick order, one after the other, and we had at the time a huge terror trial going on, the airline plot trial, and I thought if there were more terror trials in the pipeline, it would be good to get one of these guys to give an expert commentary on terrorism issues and then more broadly on policing issues. So it was 2008. Hacking wasn't in the news, wasn't an issue. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It runs the risk, doesn't it, of the retired senior officer undermining those who are then in command?
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You may say that's fair enough, and that's where your comment may be better than a retired senior officer, because you're entitled to say what you like. Of course they are as well.
A. As a private citizen, they are, and frankly they speak from a position of greater knowledge than I do. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But that might in itself undermine the public interest, because their authority may itself undermine what may be an entirely legitimate and appropriate approach, even if a different approach might have been also appropriate. Do you not see the risk of that?
A. I see the risk where someone with recent experience of the management board is writing about it, I can see that. I can see that if that person has a score to settle, that might be done. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's the point.
A. But I genuinely believe with Mr Hayman that, particularly when he was writing about Ian Blair or, after that, Paul Stephenson, both men he knew quite well and had worked with, my personal view was that he pulled his punches rather. He wasn't scathing of them in any way whatsoever. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm not actually trying to deal with the personalities.
A. I can see where you are, sir. There is a risk there, yes. MR JAY It wasn't any question, then, of Mr Hayman being helpful to you whilst he was Assistant Commissioner and this was a sort of quid pro quo for that?
A. No. I had very limited contact with him, and he had media contracts with ITV News, with LBC, with NBC, and we nabbed him just before he signed up he was being pursued by the Daily Telegraph. Frankly now I wish I'd let the Daily Telegraph sign him up. It would have been better for him and for us.
Q. I've been asked to put this to you. You say that you "persuaded the editor we should sign him up". Was that difficult?
A. I think I overstated the case there. I think I introduced him to the editor and the deputy editor and said, "This might be a good guy to have". I don't have the power to hire and fire. And I think James and the deputy editor then put him through a fairly lengthy interview process and I'm not I think he wrote a couple of articles, possibly, before we signed him to a contract. MR JAY Thank you very much, Mr O'Neill. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Can I raise two questions with you? The first takes you right back to the beginning of your evidence and your concern about the defensive institutional instinct of the Met. Do you think there could be something of a two-way street here, that postulate that in the main our senior police officers are trying to do their best.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And if they are met with strident challenges and personal attacks when they make what, on the face of it, may be difficult decisions in circumstances which were not necessarily of their making, then they're more likely to respond by trying to close down the risk of that sort of attack, and that actually, one of the balancing features of requiring a greater openness may also be a greater understanding of the problems that they actually face. Not necessarily to agree with them, I'm not trying to suggest that the Times or any newspaper should pull its punches, that's the great advantage of free speech in our democratic society, but that there may be something of a reaction if there is not shown to be quite the same understanding of their problems as are justified. Do you see my point?
A. Yes. I think that a better dialogue between us and them would be good, and I think perhaps we'd be careful about completely excluding social contact from that dialogue, because I think that would help build up that understanding and that relationship of what they do and the problems they face. I completely agree with you. I think a characteristic of reporting the Met in particular in recent years, probably especially since Ian Blair's situation, is that it has become much more like political reporting, it's become almost a branch of Westminster/Whitehall, where the Commissioner of the Met is set up there as someone to be scrutinised, overly scrutinised, and somebody who is almost a political figure, who can fail, and as I said, the race for his successor becomes like it's a bit like the flavour of when a cabinet minister gets in trouble and everybody's calling for him to resign, there is an element of that, and that has changed the reporting of the Met in particular. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Could you understand why that approach and I understand the point you're making might reflect itself in the way that the Met is prepared to provide the ammunition for you to shoot the leader?
A. I can absolutely see why it makes them defensive. I think it's been less of a problem since Lord Blair left, because there hasn't been this open internal conflict. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, I understand, that's one aspect of it. But if one looks at the rate of attrition of senior officers, which we also commented on at the beginning of your evidence, this might be a consequence of the increased stridency. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing is not for me to say, but I am simply looking at trying to find the right balance.
A. I agree with you, but I think if we were to find that balance, we need greater, wider, more open channels of communication, and I think more so at the moment than anything else. Policing is in the middle of a huge change, which at first glance, to my eyes, seems to be making it much more secretive and less accountable, not simply the reaction of senior officers to what's happened recently. We have, you know, forensic science is being completely overhauled and much more of it is going to be done in-house by the police, which to my mind takes us back to the days of the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four and all those terrible miscarriages of justice. Those risks are heightened. We have legal aid budgets being cut, fewer people will actually see a solicitor in a police station. I think at a time when we need far more information and openness around policing and more scrutiny of policing and we have a police and crime commissioner who is a completely untested office LORD JUSTICE LEVESON We've not discussed that at all but that actually simply adds to the melting pot, doesn't it?
A. Hugely. And we need more scrutiny and more openness, and I just don't think the Met historically have done that. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Two further comments on that. First of all, there's a limit to the amount of time senior officers can devote to
A. Absolutely. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON the media because they have a job to do.
A. Absolutely. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And if anything, I think somebody spoke of an overfocus on what's in the newspapers.
A. I think they read far too many headlines and get paranoid about them. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And the second is the perception if overly friendly relations might be thought to create their own problems. I mean, in the sense that goes back to the hospitality thing, there has to be found a middle way. That was my first issue. Well, I've ventilated it with you and I've received your view. The second is this, and I'll put it in a rather blunt form: the CRA. Is the membership of that group too restrictive? About right? Is it appropriately balanced as the mechanism by which the more in-depth work can be done in briefings? Do you feel that works as it should?
A. I don't, actually. I think it's been rather talked up. To my experience, the CRA is a loose affiliation of rivals who would happily cut each other's throats to get to a story first. We have as a body, we have enhanced access to some information about policing and to briefings and to officers. I think perhaps a lesson for crime reporters is that perhaps the CRA could be more professional and better organised and more clear about what it wants from the Met and what it expects and what it offers in return in terms of adhering to embargos and rules and things like that. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON What about its membership?
A. I think there are about 40-odd members, something like that. It covers all the national papers and the broadcasters and LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The Evening Standard?
A. The Standard and quite a few freelancers, people who have been who write solely about crime, things like that. I think perhaps there's a case for including one or two other specifically where we're dealing with London, one or two other organisations that deal with London, the London broadcasters, BBC London and ITV London, but maybe the Voice. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It's not for me to decide. I'm just trying to see how all these things fit together. Mr O'Neill, thank you very much indeed.
A. Thank you. MS PATRY HOSKINS Good morning, sir. The next witness is Mr House, the Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police.
A. Thank you very much indeed. MR WILLIAM STEPHEN HOUSE (sworn) Questions by Ms PATRY HOSKINS MS PATRY HOSKINS Could you firstly provide your full name to the Inquiry.
A. My full name is William Stephen House.
Q. You've provided a statement to the Inquiry dated 19 January 2012. Is this your formal evidence to the Inquiry?
A. It is.
Q. I am going to start with your career history. You are currently the Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police, a position that you've held since 19 November 2007, you tell us. Prior to that point, let me summarise your career history. You first joined Sussex Police in 1981, you then held various roles within Sussex, Northamptonshire and West Yorkshire Police. In 1997 you attended the senior command course and then you went on to hold two Assistant Commissioner roles within Staffordshire Police. In December 2001 you joined the MPS as a Deputy Assistant Commissioner. In May 2003, you moved to a different Deputy Assistant Commissioner role. Then in May 2005 you were promoted to Assistant Commissioner. You tell us a bit at the bottom of page 2 of your statement about that. But in May 2006 you became Assistant Commissioner specialist crime, and that was your last role before you became Chief Constable of Strathclyde in November 2007. Have I accurately summarised your career history?
A. Very accurate, thank you. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Mr House can I thank you for the obvious work that you and it's quite clear your force have put into responding. I hope the questions weren't too restrictive. They were intended to make sure that they cover the ground, but if there's anything you feel we've not covered at any stage, please take the opportunity to elaborate. Could I make it clear that I'm aware that Strathclyde are presently involved in an investigation which raises a number of the issues with which this Inquiry is concerned, and I want it to be understood by all: I am not merely not inviting you to deal with that inquiry, I am positively requiring you not to. It has been a very important aspect of this part of the Inquiry that I am not trespassing on individual investigations. I've learnt a fair amount about Operations Weeting, Elveden and Tuleta, but only in the most general and not the most specific sense. Your operation, I understand it, is very specific, and covers one particular incident. I have no intention whatsoever of impeding or affecting any criminal investigation or inquiry. I say that now so that those who say, "Well, why wasn't he asked about will understand that this does not feature within what I'm trying to do.
A. Thank you, sir. MS PATRY HOSKINS Before I come on to ask you about your role as the Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police I just want us to know a little bit more about Strathclyde Police. You tell us on page 3 of your statement that Strathclyde Police comprises some 8,000 or so police officers and has 2,400 members of police support staff. You also tell us that this makes up about half the police strength for the whole of Scotland and that more than half of Scotland's population lives in Strathclyde and on that basis it's the biggest territorial force in Scotland by some considerable distance. Can I ask you now, as I say, about your role as the Chief Constable of Strathclyde? You're asked at question 2 here on page 3 what your first impressions were of the culture of relations between the media and Strathclyde Police when you first took up the role. You say that your first impressions were of a relationship with the media which was markedly different to that which you had known whilst with the Metropolitan Police. Can you tell us what you mean by that. What was markedly different?
A. I think in the main that my predecessor, who I made clear in my statement is regarded as a first class Chief Constable in his own right, had a very specific view to the media, which was one of non-engagement, therefore it was a very different environment, when I came to Strathclyde, from what I'd been used to in the Metropolitan Police, which was in my view one of quite positive engagement.
Q. You then go on to say that one of the first things you did was you held a joint press conference with the then Chair of the Police Authority, Councillor Rooney, on the Sunday before you took up office. You say that you took this as an opportunity essentially to set out your stall, lay out your vision for Strathclyde Police in a very clear manner, and in response to question 4, at the top of page 5, you say you were initially keen to use the media in that particular way. You wanted people to know that there was, as you say, a new sheriff in town, you wanted to lay out your plans for the force and the way that it would work. During that initial period when you engaged with the media, how often did you have contact with the media? How would you describe it?
A. Well, I think the evidence we've submitted, and I'm sure you'll question later, details the fact that I did the rounds of the editors of the major newspapers, and also, I think, the BBC and I believe STV as well, but that was an initial flurry of activity in a follow-up, I guess, to the press conference, to, in a less formal setting, outline the fact that I did want a different relationship from my predecessor, and also to lay out what I was expected to do in the five years of my contract. So it was an initial injection into a relationship which was at a very, very low level of activity, a low tickover, because of my predecessor's views, which he held for his own reasons, and I don't seek to criticise that.
Q. If I can describe the extent of your contact with the media during that initial period, you say you did the round of the editors in Scotland?
A. Yes.
Q. The rounds of the various TV and broadcasting networks, you held press conferences, and then you say this in the third paragraph on page 5: "I have been Chief Constable of Strathclyde for over four years now and the extent of my personal contact with the media has changed over that time. Initially I was keen to use the media " and there is the quotation about the "new sheriff in town". "Over the years, as I believe this message has reached the public and our partners and politicians in the West of Scotland, I have taken several backward steps and left it to other people to represent the organisation in the media." What does "several backward steps" mean in practice? What did you actually stop doing in relation to the media?
A. I would stop fronting crime in action stories and leave that to the officers that led them. I was taught that senior officers front the bad news, and the operational and junior officers front the good news, and that's part of what we're there for. Once I'd done my initial introduction to the West of Scotland and laid out what it was I wanted to do in the five years, I wanted to get different people engaged in that. I also think there's an element of weariness and if people keep seeing the same face of a senior officer popping up, it becomes less about the message and more about "It's him again", which I don't think helps anyone involved in the process, the media, the officer, the force itself or in particular the public. So it was a calculated initial injection and then a gradual step back. Not a disengagement, but a step back.
Q. You go on at the bottom of page 5 to describe the contact that you do continue to have with the media. You explain that your own direct interventions now tend to be on issues of more strategic impact, so, for example, you have a fairly practical position on particular issues, such as the Scottish government's proposals about minimum pricing for alcohol. You therefore also take similar prominent positions, for example, on proposals for police reform in Scotland. Does that mean in practice that you have far less regular now contact with the media in Scotland?
A. Yes. It's much less regular. It tends to be more defined. Although I would say if we get a request from an individual newspaper or television outlet to do something specific, we will consider it, and if it is of interest or it's going to be of value or benefit to ourselves, to the public, then we will consider it. It's not that I don't do anything, but we're much more sparing. We will try to move that to other members of the organisation.
Q. You explain that initially you did the rounds of the editors, you met with TV stations, et cetera. Do you continue to do those things?
A. I meet with editors if they're new editors, I'll usually meet a new editor just over a cup of coffee, usually now just to say hello, and hear from them any views they have on our relationship. It's a useful time for me to check up on what they think of our media set-up and see whether or not they think it's of benefit and where they think the strengths and weaknesses are.
Q. Do you take the view that a chief constable needs to maintain regular personal contact with editors or journalists in order to perform his role, or do the backward steps that you've indicated indicate that you take a different approach to that?
A. I probably want my cake and eat it there. I would say that it's better if you know them and they know you and they know where you're coming from and they can judge your mettle and vice versa. These are busy people as well, they don't want to be constantly seeing me. Once the contact is established, I think it's pretty businesslike at a low level, and as and when necessary after that.
Q. You were asked later on, question 44 on page 21, about your current impression of the culture within Strathclyde Police in its dealings with the press and you say you think "the culture within the force has changed in the last four years to one which now acknowledges that the press are people with whom we should have a positive relationship where possible". Are you happy with what you've achieved?
A. Yes, I think we've gone in the right direction. I think we're in a situation where people in the organisation understand that it's a professional relationship and that we are doing it for the public good, and there are positive reasons to do it, and it's not a dirty thing that needs to be hidden away, and one of the things I didn't put in my evidence that I don't think that we do to encourage that is in our selection processes for senior officers, our internal selection processes, we always include a mocked up media interview, which does a couple of things. It allows us to test them under a bit of stress, but it also sees whether they can perform credibly dealing with that sort of a situation. But I think the more subtle thing is it tells them that we consider this aspect to be an important part of the make-up of a senior operational police officer, and I think that helps to feed through to the culture that contact with the media is part of the job, but it must be within certain bounds, it must be professional and it must be for the public good, not for the private good.
Q. We'll come back to the specifics, the policies and how you run it in practice. Just at the very general still, I've asked you about whether you're happy. Do you think from your perception that the media are happy with the way that you conduct your role and the way that Strathclyde Police now interact with the media? Obviously I will be asking the editor of the Herald that in due course.
A. Yes.
Q. But I'd like your view.
A. I hope that most of the media and indeed the reporters individually would say it's a more open relationship than it used to be. I think importantly, and it's come out a couple of times this morning, that we will try and stop them going wrong, if we think they're going to go wrong, because that was a criticism in the past, that, "You let us publish anything". I hope that they would feel that we would now step in and say, "Well, I don't think that's going down the right line". Inevitably, reporters will always want more access, that's the nature of their job that they will want more, so there will always be a "yes it's better but", and sometimes there are specifics that we can fix and sometimes it's just the nature of the job.
Q. Let me ask you about some of the specifics now. I'm going to ask you first about gifts and hospitality if I can. You were asked about this at question 19 onwards. You tell us that: "The current Strathclyde Police policy and associated standard operating procedure in respect of subscriptions, testimonial, gifts and hospitality directs that officers and staff members should not accept gifts or hospitality for personal benefit as a consequence of their position." You also go on to say that it states that: it is the responsibility of all staff to ensure that their actions do not give rise to or foster suspicion that outside individuals/organisations have gained favour or advantage through the offer or acceptance of any gifts or hospitality et cetera. Is there any financial limit below which gifts or hospitality are not recorded or does this principle apply to all gifts or hospitality regardless of value?
A. My understanding is it should be all value.
Q. You're asked later on at question 26 whether you think the policy as it stands is sufficient, and you say yes. Have you ever identified any problems during your time with officers or staff accepting hospitality or gifts in breach of the relevant policy?
A. Not to my memory. I don't believe I have.
Q. Let me ask then about your own acceptance of hospitality or gifts. Could you perhaps tell us in general terms first of all when you consider it appropriate for a chief constable to accept or provide hospitality? Do the same rules apply to you as to all other members of staff?
A. In general, yes. But I think there has to be some level of caveat there. I've reviewed the gifts that I've accepted and the gifts that I've sort of either sent back, said I can't accept this, or passed to somebody else or sent to a charity, and there has to be an element of judgment in there.
Q. Let's give you some specific examples. Look to pages 6 and 7 of your statement. In the answers to question 6 onwards, you explain the extent to which you have accepted hospitality from the media whilst you've been Chief Constable. If we start with question 6 at the bottom of page 6. You essentially identify three occasions where you have accepted hospitality from the media whilst Chief Constable, one occasion at question 8 where you have provided hospitality for the media on behalf of Strathclyde Police, do you see that? Is that the only four occasions in the four years that you've been Chief Constable that you have accepted or given hospitality to the media?
A. As far as our records and my memory is, that's correct. Except, as I sit here, I've remembered that I was also invited as the guest at the Scottish editors annual dinner lunch, and it must have been just before the General Election because David Cameron was the guest of honour and I think I was invited because rather than having him sit next to any editors who might ask him difficult questions, they put me next to him because I was a safe somebody to put beside him. I didn't pay for that lunch, that lunch was provided. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Your test is really set out on page 5 of your standard operating procedure, isn't it? At some stage we'll come to that. Or now. Is that convenient? MS PATRY HOSKINS No, that's convenient. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON In relation to gifts: "Common sense will be sufficient in most instances and the asking of two simple questions: can I justify this? Can I be sure I will not be subject to legitimate criticism?"
A. Yes, sir. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And then in relation to hospitality: "Treat it with caution. You should accept it only if there is a genuine need to impart information or to represent the force in the interests of public relations. Offers to attend purely social or sporting functions should be accepted only where divisional senior management regard such attendance as appropriate and relevant to the current role." That last sentence becomes a little bit less clear, but "genuine need to impart information or to represent the force in the interests of public relations" again broadly covers it, doesn't it?
A. I believe so, sir. MS PATRY HOSKINS Can I ask you about acceptance of gifts now. You've provided your gifts register with your statement, it's behind tab 4. Again, a bit of common sense has to be applied here too. I don't want to take you through this in any detail, I just want to understand the principles that lie behind that decision to accept or decline gifts. We can see just from looking down the first page that a lot of the items are very small indeed, we're talking about glass ornaments, an umbrella, a pen, various small items. But can I just ask you about the second page, please, and you'll see there 19 August 2010, about two-thirds of the way down the second page, you are offered "complimentary ticket for director's box at Queen's Park Football Club". See that?
A. I can't, but I remember it, yes.
Q. And again the response: "Letter sent, no thanks but may attend in an operational capacity." That's just a direct application of the policy, would that be right?
A. Yes. With the West of Scotland fever around football, I don't attend any football matches in an either private capacity or as a guest. I go along operationally in uniform. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You're not necessarily on the front line?
A. Well, usually, sir, because it's about visibility, that's why I go. So yes, the front line is where the police officers are and that's where I go. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right. MS PATRY HOSKINS If you just look at the third page, we have a selection of what look like Christmas presents. You'll see there's three entries on the third page, 21st, 23rd and 23rd December 2010. I'm using this as an illustrative example. You were given some cognac, some chocolates, some wine and so on by various individuals we don't need to identify. They all appear to have been accepted but then gifted to charity. Do you see that?
A. To be honest, I'm struggling to find that one.
Q. It should be the third page perhaps I can get it on screen. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It doesn't matter. They're all gifted to charity, auction or children's hospitals.
A. Oh yes, sorry. I've found them, yes. MS PATRY HOSKINS What I want to understand is: does the fact that it's given away and you'll see the number of occasions where items are given away to charity as a matter of course make a difference in terms of perception of acceptance of the gift?
A. The way it's a very good question and I'll reflect on it, frankly. It's a personal judgment with each one of these. Sometimes I accept it because I think to myself if I give it away to somebody and they find out, they'll be offended and there are some issues around that, but more often than not, passing it on to a charity of some sort seems the right thing to do. We record it. So if somebody comes back and says, "You were unusually nice to Sir David McNee as a result, Chief Constable, of him giving you some champagne cognac", we can show that I may have been unusually nice to Sir David McNee, but actually we didn't accept that, we passed it on. I do understand there is a perception issue. I'll have a look at that and consider that for the future.
Q. I then want to ask you about meetings which don't involve hospitality. You've already told us that you would meet on occasion with individual editors, for example a new editor and so on, but you explain in your statement in response to question 11 that the director of communications or a media manager would also be in attendance on such an occasion. Why do you consider that to be necessary?
A. Because it's a business meeting in furtherance of the aims of the organisation, and these are people who will be useful to be in there with the editor. My director of communications is absolutely central to the effort the organisation puts in to keep people safe, and I need them there to talk to the editor. They are, after all they have a common knowledge and a common history in terms of experience, and I think that matters.
Q. All right. Let me ask you about your relationship with politicians. You were asked at question 12 onwards about your relationship with politicians. You were asked whether you ever feel under any pressure from politicians, and in response to question 14 you in fact say that politicians are more likely to feel pressurised by senior police officers if you've taken a particular stand on a particular issue. You say politicians who don't agree with whatever that particular stand is expressed frustration with that. Can you understand why they expressed frustration and does it make a difference that they are elected representatives in that respect?
A. I can understand absolutely why they express and feel a frustration about it, but my simple view is that policing is an important public sector service. Chief constables are the leader of that service, and it is part of our role to speak in public about serious issues if we feel that there's something to be gained from doing that for the organisation or for the public good, so I do do that. I don't do it at the drop of a hat, because I'm conscious that it does create frustration and it can lead to criticism of why I'm doing it. I think it's part of the role.
Q. I make it absolutely clear that you also say in your statement that you're always careful to present any such comments with caveats on a lack of political intent on what you're saying and to stress that what you say is always based on your professional policing experience and judgment.
A. I do say that, but I don't think it carries much weight with the politicians who get frustrated, but I say it anyway.
Q. Let me ask you now about the relationship between individual officers and the media, please, and we're looking at question 15 onwards here. You give slightly different answers on what the relationship is like, according to whether or not it's the national media or the local media that's involved, an interesting situation.
A. Yes.
Q. You start by saying in response to the question that your force's corporate communications department should be the first port of call for any national media, you say by that, by national media, you also refer to the Scottish media that covers the whole country. The communications officer, you say, would process the query, speak to the relevant police officer and provide a response to the journalist and then the query and the subsequent response are logged on what's called the spotlight system. Again, you say, top of page 10: "If any media outlet was looking to speak to an officer in relation to a matter concerning Strathclyde Police, this would be processed and logged by the staff within again the corporate communications department." I pause there and before turning to the local media and the different approach there, would this log, the spotlight log, include recording off-the-record information that was provided?
A. That's one of those questions I'm afraid I don't know the answer to that.
Q. Fine, I'll ask the next witness. Are you happy from your perception that this system works in practice, this system of essentially the first port of call always being for national media the corporate communications department, logging, processing in this way?
A. I am, and I wonder if your view depends on whether you regard the department as helpful guides to the media or fierce watchdogs and guard dogs. I would say helpful guides. They make sure that they speak to the right individual officer and facilitate that at the right time and in the right way.
Q. Do you perceive a chilling effect on this system, that you need to go via a certain route and that everything is logged and processed in this way?
A. I would say it's a professional way to go about it. And it does allow us to keep track of who is being asked to be spoken with, but it's not something that I've never reviewed these logs to see which police officer is speaking to the media about this. I genuinely feel it's there as a positive help to the media to make sure we can help them speak to the officer that they should be speaking with.
Q. You may have heard the last witness say that his concern with logging everything would be that particular police officers would end up being victimised or passed over for promotion because of the number of occasions on which they speak to the media.
A. Yes.
Q. Do you see that as a concern?
A. It's not something I recognise, to be honest. I guess part of it is why do we I mean, I don't meet individual media for stories without someone from the media department present recording it. That's a policy I've adopted through learning harsh lessons when I was in the Met, so it's something we encourage. But it's for the protection of everybody involved. It's not to keep track of what the officer is saying so much as making sure that what the officer says is what appears, more or less, in print, and if it doesn't, we can go back and say, "You got that story wrong, that's not what we said".
Q. As far as you're aware, is there a system in place that monitors who has been speaking to the media at any time or on how many occasions they have spoken to the media?
A. Not that I'm aware of. I'm not even aware if Spotlight can do that sort of search, but I guess you can ask the next witness.
Q. I'll ask the next witness. Can I then turn to the local media, because that's a different approach. You say in the last paragraph, responding to question 15 on page 10: "At a local media level, this process differs. Responsibility for engaging with local, community-based media lies with community inspectors. The inspectors meet with the editors/heads of their key local media on a regular basis and information on local level crimes is supplied from community policing teams directly to the media. Any crime or incident of a serious nature or one that is likely to demand national media attention is picked up by the corporation communications department." First of all, forgive my ignorance, how would you define local community-based media?
A. I'm not sure I could define it, but it would be something like one of the town newspapers. The West of Scotland is particularly rich in local town newspapers. Every small town has its own newspaper. Usually it's a version of a corporate publication, but it still has local stories, but they are relative, you're talking about populations of towns of 30, 50,000.
Q. So not the larger newspapers such as the Herald or
A. No.
Q. Evening Times or the Scotsman, but smaller community-based newspapers?
A. Yes.
Q. Why does the process differ in this way?
A. Two reasons. One is probably sheer volume, because there are so many of these, and second is, I think, contained slightly in the answer, which is it tends to be about very low level local stories. If it's something which is of greater concern, then it would come up the chain to the corporate communications department.
Q. So those are the formal ways in which you interact with the media, the formal national media route, the formal local media route. At question 16 you're asked whether contacts with the media are restricted to certain staff and you say this: officers are able to speak to the media, but the management of this process is conducted by the corporate communications department. We do not generally encourage, nor have we fostered, a culture of individual officers building relationships with the media. That said, I do know that some officers in my force may be said to have a good profile in the media because they are comfortable dealing with journalists and because the type of work they do gets reported regularly: such dealings are subject to scrutiny And so on. Can you explain that? Why have you taken the decision essentially to foster or not to encourage or foster a culture of individual officers building relationships with the media? Where is the danger?
A. The danger I'm not certain there would be a desire for large numbers of officers to have that engagement, because I think a general view from police officers would be fairly conservative towards the media, so I don't think there's an untapped desire by a lot of my officers to be speaking with the media on a one-to-one basis. But I do think there are situations where officers will say it depends. I'd be delighted for individual officers of very junior rank to be talking to the media about specific cases that they're involved with, as long as they do so within legal guidelines. It's when it becomes more around the closing of a police office and you then get a situation where the local media wants to talk to a sergeant or a constable about "What do you think about this? Is it true that the local office is going to shut down and the public are going to be left without a police station in the town?" LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The difference is between operational issues and policy issues.
A. Yes. MS PATRY HOSKINS To what extent is that contact recorded?
A. I don't believe there's much recording of the contact between the local newspapers and the community inspectors, only if they, colloquially, call for help, ie "I think I'm getting out of my depth", and speak to the communications department.
Q. In relation to question 17, you were asked what you expect Strathclyde Police to gain from such contacts with the media and you say this: "There is one thing, and one thing only, that I expect Strathclyde Police to gain from any contacts with the media and that is an improvement in our service to the public." You go on to say there's only one reason why people should speak to the media, or staff should speak to the media, and that's to improve the service which they deliver to the public. Is that then the test that you would apply overall to contact between Strathclyde Police and the media? Should that be the test that you apply across the board?
A. I think in a general sense yes, I'm aware it sounds a bit aspirational and maybe not as practical, but it's trying, in my mind, to explain the difference between that you are speaking to the media with the media or responding to them for professional reasons about police work, not to raise your profile, not to show what a good cop I am or look how influential I am. It's about the needs of the organisation, which should be the needs of the public, and that's the key test for me. MS PATRY HOSKINS Sir, would that be a convenient moment to break? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. I'd just like to make a note. Thank you very much. Seven minutes, thank you. (11.43 am) (A short break) (11.50 am) MS PATRY HOSKINS Could I ask you about leaks. Question 30 you're asked: "To what extent have leaks from Strathclyde Police to the media been a problem during your tenure as Chief Constable?" You explain that it would be wrong to say that from time to time information has not leaked out to the media but then you say over the page that you do not believe that your force has a significant problem with the leaking of information to the media and that most officers and staff operate with integrity at all times. Then you go on to set out in response to questions 32 and 33 how many investigations have been conducted into actual or suspected leaks from Strathclyde Police to the media during the last five years, and you tell us that there have been 45 investigations conducted in respect of suspected leaks during the last five years, all of them have been reported to the CCU, which is the counter corruption unit, and that it's resulted in one officer being reported to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service; of the remaining 44, eight resulted in the report being disproved, 29 unsubstantiated and the other seven basically remain subject to review. Then you were asked: "Has disciplinary action been taken against any member of staff for leaking information?" The answer is no. And essentially you say in one case relating to passing information for financial reward and that report's now with Crown counsel for further direction. I've been asked to ask you a number of questions about this. First of all, how were the leaks discovered? If you can give us a general picture, because I understand that in each case that will probably be different, but were they a result of, for example, published articles where it became clear that information had been leaked or were they discovered in some other way?
A. No, I think in general it would be that something appeared in the newspaper and when we track it back, we work out that we believe that was a leak.
Q. Is that the majority of cases?
A. Yes.
Q. It works in that way. The follow-up question to that is whether any of these concern celebrity cases, ie information about celebrities which appears to have been leaked to the media?
A. Yes, I would say and it's an estimation, because I haven't done that analysis I would say most of them do because that's effectively where the money would be, so yes, it's the newspapers, the reporters and the photographers being on the doorstep of the police office as a celebrity is released and of course that shouldn't happen. So we backtrack as to how did that happen and the view is that is a leak from the organisation and we investigate it.
Q. 45 investigations in five years does seem quite a large number. On what basis do you take the view that you don't believe there is a significant problem? Is it because of the number that are actually proven or is there some other reason why you take the view that this is not a significant problem for Strathclyde?
A. I suppose's a statistical view, really. We have 8,500 police officers, actually, not 8,000, who are you're looking at nine alleged leaks a year that we investigate, and find that most of them are unsubstantiable. That doesn't mean to say they weren't actually leaks, but it means we can't prove, and it is very difficult to gain the evidence, but I don't think statistically that's a very high number for an organisation of our size.
Q. I go back to your answer to question 30, top of page 14. Moving away from the celebrity leaks, in the second paragraph you say: "I am also bound to recognise, however, that unauthorised disclosure of confidential information to the media is an ongoing concern. Whilst such incidents are relatively rare, there have been occasions where the leaks to the media have hampered or even compromised an ongoing investigation of serious crime." That is more serious. Can you give us any examples you don't have to give us any specific names can you give us an example of a situation where that has occurred and has it occurred during your time as Chief Constable?
A. It has occurred during my time, and it's around the ones I can remember are around homicide investigations where information is leaked out to the media which, for tactical investigation reasons, the SIO would have preferred to retain, in other words, identifying features of the modus operandi is leaked out, which may have been able to be used within court, it's now in the public arena and we can't use it. That has happened on a few occasions. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm not suggesting that you're underplaying the significance of this problem, but I'm not sure that the parallel you talk about, the number of officers you have, quite works. The rather more interesting question would be how many celebrities you've had in custody where there hasn't been a reporter outside, because most, 99.9 per cent of your work will not be so interesting that the press will want to report something, you know, "Fred Smith from 23 Acacia Avenue was released", there's no story there. So the issue is really one which can come back to this, isn't it: the disappointment in the lack of professionalism by somebody within the Police Service who hasn't appreciated that even once this happening or one leak about an MO in a murder, to take your other example, actually damages the integrity of the police. Would that be a better way of looking at it?
A. It would probably be certainly the non-statistical way, yes. I don't mean to suggest that I underplay it. I guess it's an inevitability view that I have. It is going to happen. The scenario would be this: a local politician or ex-politician is arrested as a result of a punch-up, and is photographed leaving the police office. What we're talking about here is an organisation that people talk within the organisation. Celebrities are by nature known, so word of mouth will quickly get around that so-and-so is in custody and it will go almost viral in that way. I think quite a lot of people know about it, and there is an inevitability, sometimes, about people talking to the media. We obviously don't do the analysis of how many celebrities do we take into custody LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, I appreciate that, and I wasn't suggesting you should.
A. No. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I take the point, and I understand why it happens, and I'm not overplaying it myself, but I'm just thinking about, well, in 8,500 officers that's not a big deal, but actually if it is a point at all, it's actually in relation to a very, very small number of cases that it would only ever arise.
A. And every time it happens, it's damaging and disappointing, yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's the problem.
A. But I would stress it is investigated, thoroughly. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, but you don't need to tell me about how difficult it is to find out who leaks information. I've had four examples in the course of the Inquiry. MS PATRY HOSKINS That takes us neatly onto the process by which you try and prevent leaks happening and how they are then investigated. This is set out in your response to question 31 on page 14. I'm going to summarise it. You say that your force's counter corruption unit monitors media reporting to identify and try and prevent incidents of the leaks and therefore there's a close working relationship between your corporate communications department and the CCU. The CCU also delivers training to all new recruits, and you explain to new recruits how unauthorised disclosure will be dealt with. The CCU also monitors handling of any information held on your systems which has been the subject of unauthorised disclosure to try and identify and establish whether the officers and staff have accessed it and, if so, whether it's been for operational policing purposes, and then there's an investigative process to see whether or not they may have been responsible for any disclosure. My question for you is: how well does that work? Are there any improvements that could be made to the process of either prevention or investigation?
A. I'm sure there are improvements, and if we were offered them, we would certainly consider trying to improve the system. We are here into the people that we are recruiting into the organisation and their motivation. We've recruited, because of growth in policing in Scotland, a huge number of officers in the last four or five years. I've spoken to every intake of new probationers, and talked to them about integrity and talked to them about particularly the Data Protection Act, because a number of our officers get themselves into trouble over the Data Protection Act. In fact, just yesterday I signed two officers who are being investigated for misuse of data protection, data in our systems. So we try to recruit the right people. We tell them what our standards of behaviour are and expect and we let them know that there is an investigative process and their fingerprints in the systems are all logged and can be tracked back. We still suffer intrusions and unauthorised disclosures, and sometimes it's media-driven, sometimes it's criminally-driven. That's another aspect. We could increase the size of the CCU, but that's about resources. There are IT improvements in Scottish policing coming up which will allow systems to be more integrated and will allow a better watch over this sort of thing, so that will help as well, but we would be happy to take on board recommendations anywhere around that.
Q. Touching briefly on the issue of bribery, you say in response to question 34 that you never consider any payments to be legitimate between the media and any officer or member of staff. You tell us at the bottom of page 15 that the standard operating procedures, the same one we've been looking at, provide general direction on this, that would cover it. Again you tell us in response to question 36 that there is no evidence that there is an extensive problem in the bribery of personnel within Strathclyde Police. Does that mean that there is some of a problem or no problem?
A. Without reading it, there is some of a problem. It would be naive to say that it does not happen. I have no doubt that there are specific individuals in my organisation who are in receipt of money from various people. I'm not suggesting it's individual newspapers, but various people who are looking for exactly the sort of information that we've just been discussing, celebrities coming into police custody, that is inevitable. Bound be to happening.
Q. At paragraph 37, going on to process, you tell us in some detail about how you educate your personnel about bribery, what steps you take to prevent bribery or detect it, and retrospectively to investigate bribery. It's detailed, I don't want to read it out, but again are you satisfied that that system works? Are there improvements or recommendations that you could put forward?
A. I can't put any forward, because if I could think of any, we'd be doing them now and they'd be in my answer, but again I'd be happy to take on board, if this puts forward some best practice, we'd be happy to look at it.
Q. Some final questions. First of all, the corporate communications department, I don't want to ask you in detail about that because we have Mr Shorthouse coming shortly to tell us about that, but you were asked about movement of people between people who move between working for the police and then moving on to work for a media organisation and vice versa, and you say essentially there's no limitation on that, you don't prevent people from moving around in that way, you don't keep a record of movements. Do you see any concern here about police officers going off to work for the media or members of the press then coming to work in your press office or the corporate communications department? Can you see a concern there?
A. I would like to sort of look at two different levels here.
Q. Of course.
A. We actively recruit into our media department from journalists, and I think to do and to say we won't accept journalists into our media department would be the wrong decision because we're looking for people who understand what journalists are looking for and are there to assist them getting what they need within the requirements of our organisation. If someone from the media comes into our organisation and then goes back out again into the media, you are reliant upon professional code of ethics, both journalists and the police. I have to say that we have a number of people within our media department who have been journalists and worked in the media and we experience no problem. If they were to turn around and go back into the media, would I be concerned? Actually, I wouldn't be, because they're good at what they do and if they go and work for someone else, they'll be good. Will they use some of their knowledge and their understanding? Well, they're bound to, that's human nature. That's one aspect. The other aspect is senior officers retiring and going off and writing. That does that is of concern, I think. I think if it's done in the right way, it's done authoritatively about technical issues to inform the public, to provide a useful inject of experience and done for positive reasons, it's a good thing. If it's done for revenge and settling of some scores, and "let me tell you what really happened", then it's disappointing.
Q. Should there be any limitations on such senior police officers taking up such roles in your view?
A. The view we took of it when I was in the Met on management board was you just shrug your shoulders on it, there's not much you can do about that, I don't think. It's a difficult one to write into a contract that you can't then seek employment in any form of journalism or media.
Q. Could you not have a cooling off period?
A. You could. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It's not difficult, actually, but it's subject to restraint of trade conditions, there are limits, so you could do it for a little while.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You could be rather careful about how you restricted it. You're quite right to say you couldn't say, "You can never ever do this", that would be struck down. I think that's a fair reflection of the law, isn't it?
A. It's a better reflection than my knowledge of the law, sir, but I suppose by difficult, what I meant was I'm not sure I'd feel it was the right thing to do in many respects. One has to trust senior police officers and 99 per cent are completely trustworthy. MS PATRY HOSKINS I am not going to ask you about Operation Rubicon, I'm just going to ask you whether you have anything at all to add.
A. There's two things, sir, I would like to address and I'll do both very briefly. One is I'm aware that there's been some discussion about would it be a good idea to have a senior police officer running the media set-up of a police force. In my view, that would be a retrograde step. I think most police forces have been there. It's not somewhere I would choose to go, personally, because there is a professionalism within media and communications which is not the natural strong suit of police officers. So that's one thing I would be grateful to be able to say. The other thing is I picked up from the previous witness and the questioning and the line there was the difficult balance of allowing and encouraging access between media and police officers to inform public, to assist the police in doing their job, but the difficulty of recording that in some way. I don't think it's unreasonable to look at some methodology of requiring all contact between police officers and the media to be in some way recorded, or at least a record kept that the contact has taken place, if not a recording of every word spoken. But I think the answer I gave about the local community issues is where it becomes a difficult balancing act, because there would be so much contact and it would be of such a low-level and local nature as to be probably overly burdensome for the benefit that's gained. I think a system is capable of being developed that would provide safeguards on both sides. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. That's very helpful. There's one question I would like to ask. It's really general for you. You were asked: do you consider any further steps which could or should be taken to ensure relationships with the police and the media are and remain appropriate, and you say you don't offer up specific recommendations, firstly because you think it would be presumptuous in light of the Inquiry's role, and then you say your position is fairly set out in your statement. I wanted to disabuse you of the idea that it would be presumptuous. You have the experience over a career of policing and you've had to deal with it and with the problems it creates within the media day by day. By definition, I have not. Therefore I welcome the assistance that your experience provides you. Of course it's not necessarily going to be definitive, and you won't be responsible for anything that I say, particularly anything that I say that you disagree with. So it's not at all presumptuous and I wouldn't want you to feel inhibited from making any suggestion to me that you felt might assist the better engagement of the public in policing and the prevention of what on any showing are harmful facts, and I'm really talking about the operational side, not merely facts that may cause some embarrassment but are accurate, from entering the public domain. So I just wanted to make it clear that you understood how I stand on the issue of the help that I need from everybody.
A. Thank you, sir. I won't take that as an invitation to speak for the next half hour, but the only thing I would like to say is I have a lot of experience in dealing with the media, a lot of it gathered in the Met and now in Strathclyde. I can think of one occasion in that whole time when I felt let down and ambushed by a member of the media. It was a fairly senior member and it was an important issue, but I think once out of the amount of time that I've been involved is actually not a bad return. I suppose what I'm trying is say there is I don't believe that there is a really solid level of distrust within senior police officers with the media and vice versa. I was interested in Mr O'Neill's evidence around he thought that the appointment of commissioners and fall, unhappily, of certain commissioners has become a political Westminster event. I think that's absolutely true, and that's really poisoned a lot of the well, in my view. On day-to-day stuff, maybe away from the heat and the febrile atmosphere of Westminster and the Met, on serious crime issues I think there's been a lot of progress made in recent years and I wouldn't want to see that in any way damaged by what's been focused on as the subject of this Inquiry, because I think some of that is specific to quite a febrile atmosphere within the bounds of Scotland Yard and the square mile around Scotland Yard, I guess. I think it is different and it can be different in other places, and I think it's interesting that the new Commissioner is reflecting, and I think that's the right thing to do. He's clearly said that there has to be a measure of austerity, to use Mr O'Neill's word LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Actually, it was Mr Hogan-Howe's word.
A. I didn't hear so I didn't want to quote him as saying that. I think it's the right thing to do, it's the right approach, but I don't think it should be a long-term approach. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand the point. It raises a subsidiary question, which is this: I recognise the problems may be the most acute within the square mile of the Met, to use your analogy, of New Scotland Yard, but do you see a value in having a system that is actually broadly the same for all?
A. Yes, I do, and I'd go back to my own experience. If I put myself in the position of an editor in the West of Scotland, when I arrived as Chief Constable it sort of they'd been used to, I think, seven years of my predecessor with a particular style on media, and then I come in with a completely different style. The next chief well, there won't be another Chief Constable of Strathclyde because we're merging into a single force, but whoever is the first Chief Constable in Scotland may have a different style again and there's a swing there which provides the media with they can get understandably what's the policy, what's the procedure and practice under this individual? So if there was a consistent it wouldn't just be a consistency across the country, acknowledging Scotland is a different jurisdiction for policing, but it would also be a consistency across time, and it would allow relationships to grow and solidify within an understood code of practice across the boundary between media and policing, and I think if it was consistent over the years, that would strengthen and would grow and would hopefully avoid the sort of issues that you are having to deal with. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. Which has led on to yet another question, but I think the last: I understand your point about having a professional media communicator as head of your communications office, and it may be that titles don't matter, but is there a value in having a senior police officer who is able to bring the policing perspective to bear in relation to communications? Yesterday we heard a chief inspector, who is actually the head, but I don't think it's terrible important because there was then a head of news who was absolutely media personnel, had a media background. So do you think there's a value in having a I appreciate it's an expensive resource, but having a senior police officer who actually focuses on that area for a limited time and thereby possibly has the effect of ensuring that relationships don't become too cosy with one editor as opposed to another, with one news outlet as opposed to another, because somebody comes in and has to start again?
A. I can see some value in it, sir, but I can also see some value in another model, which is that the head of communications, which is Mr Shorthouse's remit, sits on our management board, what would be in the Met called the management board, therefore he is subject to cross-examination and questioning by myself, my deputy, my three ACCs, my director of finance and resources on a variety of different issues around how we're handling this story, how we're doing that, how our communications are going, what's this story all about, because he is in the cut and thrust of the management of the organisation on a daily basis. I think that's a good model. It works, I believe, fairly well in Strathclyde more than fairly well, quite well in Strathclyde. It may not have worked elsewhere in other organisations. That may be a personality issue, I don't know. But I think if the person is at the senior level I think the danger sorry to go on is if they're not at that senior level and they're hidden away in their own specialism unwatched, then exactly the sort of thing you mentioned can become the case: I'll always give the story to X, because they look after us, I'll freeze them out. If the media head is within the management board of the organisation, that's one of the things that would be brought out and would be questioned, and indeed in Strathclyde has been. How are we handling this story? Why is it going there? Why are we not doing this? Why are we releasing this now? Why are we not holding onto it? We look at all the different issues. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes.
A. Mr Shorthouse will put one view across and we may put a different view across. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I might tentatively suggest that the risk of that and I see the value in it may be that you very, very senior police officers concerned with public order, concerned with all these other issues, tend to get sucked into rather too much discussion of the headlines, which actually is one of the criticisms that was made about life in the Met. But all these things are a balance.
A. The word I would have used, sir. That's why when I went to Strathclyde, I moved the balance slightly back towards the middle but not all the way I think to where it inevitably had been in London. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. MS PATRY HOSKINS Thank you very much indeed. That leads us on neatly to Mr Shorthouse. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. MR ROBERT JOHN SHORTHOUSE (sworn) Questions by MS PATRY HOSKINS MS PATRY HOSKINS Please provide us with your full name.
A. It's Robert John Shorthouse.
Q. Thank you. You provided us with a statement dated 28 February 2012. Is that your formal evidence to the Inquiry?
A. It is.
Q. I am going to start with your career history, it's at paragraph 1 of your statement. You started your career in 1998 after university, you applied to join the Government Information and Communication Service in 2001, you worked with a number of ministers within the Scottish Executive, finally becoming senior communications officer working for the First Minister. Then in 2006 you were seconded to the Glasgow 2004 team for the Commonwealth Games bid as head of PR and media. Then you joined the SFA as head of communications in November 2007, and you were appointed director of corporate communications at Strathclyde Police in October 2009, and that's the role that you continue the post you continue to hold?
A. Indeed, yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You've travelled the field.
A. I have. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Politics, football and the police, that's pretty wide-ranging.
A. Pretty much covers everything on the West Coast of Scotland. MS PATRY HOSKINS In response to questions 2 and 3 you tell us a bit about the corporate communications department of which you are director and you explain that the media team within Strathclyde Police sits within the corporate communications department of which you are a director, there's no press office as such.
A. No.
Q. You explain the role of the team. This is the media team. Firstly, staff are expected to react to media interests and issues and incidents, and secondly it's also got responsibility for proactively promoting the work of the force through the media. These are the sort of good news stories that best demonstrate your activities and the priorities of the Strathclyde Police?
A. That's correct.
Q. You explain in response to question 3 that you don't actually work in the media team, you're director of the whole department, which includes not just the media team but a number of other parts, and the media team is managed by a media manager on a daily basis but you're here because you assume responsibility for all media issues that relate to the Chief Constable and you have responsibility for the maintenance of relationships with the media at editorial level?
A. That's correct.
Q. How large is the corporate communications department in terms of numbers of staff?
A. We are currently sitting at 25 members of staff.
Q. And the media team?
A. Is seven.
Q. Can you tell us about the hours of operation?
A. We try and provide 24-hour coverage as best we can, through a mixture of the actual media team themselves and on-call service and through our force control room. So what we tend to find is or not we tend to find the fact of the matter is that the media team work on a shift basis between 8 o'clock in the morning and 8 o'clock in the evening seven days a week, and then we move onto the on-call system, supported by the force control room.
Q. Straight in with the difficult questions, I'm afraid. You'll have heard the exchange a moment ago about serving police officers being directors of a press office, something that was raised also when the Chief Constable of West Midlands Police gave evidence. Do you have any views on that?
A. Perhaps not surprisingly I would my view is that it's better a post better held by somebody that has the necessary skills, experience and qualifications. I think it probably gets to the nub of the matter, which is what exactly do you want your department to do? Do you want it to be an interface with the media or do you want it to actually be something more than that, do you want it to be something that looks at communicating in its broadest possible sense, so not just communicating through the media but communicating to people directly using social media, working on your internal communications, working on your marketing campaigns. That's an awful lot of skills, and I'm not saying that there's not a very bright police officer out there who could learn all those skills and could do the job, but I think you're basically looking for somebody that has a command of that broad discipline. It's not just about how you work and deal with the media. I think that would be wrong to think like that, so that was the case. Certainly, my own experience of in the two and a half years that I've been there was that when I started there perhaps was an overemphasis on that relationship with the media on behalf in terms of the department. You know, people, even the staff would pick up the phone and say, "Media services", they felt that they were a resource for working with the media, whereas my own view and what I've tried to change during the time I've been there is to move it away from that. It's not just about the media, it's about speaking to people the media are a channel for communicating with the public but they are not the only channel, there are a plethora of other ones, social networking being one, and we're embarking on a huge project which will launch next month that really puts us at the forefront of the use of social media as a communications skill.
Q. Can I ask you about how the corporate communications department and the media team work in terms of the relationship with the media. You heard obviously Chief Constable House explain that the majority of contact with the national media is channelled through your staff and your department. Is that right? In your experience, is that the position?
A. Yes. That's correct.
Q. I asked him a number of questions which I think he would rather that you answer and it was about how this works in practice. As I understand the system, the national media would contact the department, your department would process the query, you would ask the relevant police officer, if someone needed to be asked, then you would provide the response, and the query and the response would both be logged. Does that logging include off the record information that's provided?
A. Yes, as demonstrated in my written statement, we do try to log every contact that we have, be it on the record or off. So yes, in answer to your question.
Q. How do you define off the record information?
A. We feel it's information that or perhaps if we're moving into definition we should talk somewhat about the purpose. The purpose that we apply to using off the record information is to make sure that information is always presented accurately. So the examples that I give in my witness statement are where we are concerned that undue public fear and alarm are going to be caused by with the best of intentions incorrect reporting of a specific instance, so the wrong person being named, the wrong suggestion of suspects. I think one of the examples that I use in my witness statement is about somebody was arrested for possession of indecent photographs and that person worked at a school and they were creating an immediate impression that the photographs were taken at the school until we corrected that. So we try and make sure that the off the record information is all about correcting inaccuracies or stopping inaccuracies from appearing in the first place. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Off the record is not reportable at all, but merely to provide context for what is reportable?
A. Yes, that's certainly the view that we take on that, sir. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It's rather different from not attributable, which might be reportable?
A. Yes. Yes. There's the view that we take, which is important to correct or prevent inaccurate, and then there's perhaps this "Well you didn't get that from me" approach which certainly is not something that we encourage. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You wouldn't do that at all?
A. We certainly don't encourage that. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So "This is true but it mustn't come from me" or "a police source", that's a concept of communicating with the media with which you do not approve?
A. No. I think there's perhaps a middle ground on that, which is when the media puts something to us which is already circulating, so, you know, "somebody's been named locally as", or "we hear that", and that, if we felt it was appropriate, that would be in conjunction with the senior investigating officer, if we felt that was appropriate then that would be confirmed and again that wouldn't be on the record or attributable. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That would not be?
A. That would not be. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That would be off the record because that's merely to ensure accuracy?
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So that falls within your original definition?
A. Yes. MS PATRY HOSKINS To be absolutely clear, on the record information is all logged?
A. Yes.
Q. Off the record information, the way that you've defined it, is all logged?
A. Yes.
Q. Is there any information provided that's not logged?
A. We would have
Q. Sticking with the national media?
A. Yes. We would have set piece press conferences and various other things where we would log that the press conference had taken place but not necessarily the whole time we would log all the content, and we would if an individual officer has an interview that's been arranged by the department, again we would log that that interview would take place but we wouldn't necessarily transcribe it and log it on the system, but we would file it.
Q. I asked Chief Constable House whether there's any system in place to monitor your logging system. Spotlight, is it called?
A. Yes, that's right.
Q. Whether or not you prepare any data on who's been speaking to the media or how often they speak to the media or provide responses or are asked about things. Is there any such system in place, as far as you're aware?
A. When you asked the question, I quickly got on the telephone and sought out an answer for that when I phoned back up to the office. I think it tells its own story that I had to ask that question. Technically it's possible for us to run a query on the system to see which particular officer has been speaking on which particular issue but it's not necessarily done as a matter of course, the fact that I had to go and find out that information.
Q. What does "it's not done as a matter of course" mean? Does that mean it's generally not done or is something that you might do if you needed to find out
A. I can't think of any example where it's happened. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The interesting feature is that you didn't even know whether it could be done.
A. Exactly. But I'm assured technically it can. MS PATRY HOSKINS You were asked at question 13 about: "What is the media's attitude towards the press office? Are they satisfied by the provision?" You tell us about some of the concerns they might have. Overall I'll ask again Mr Russell in a moment what's your perception of whether or not they find you useful, get on with you, it works well in practice?
A. I think overall and I'm conscious Mr Russell is coming on after me so he may have a different view but overall I get the sense that we have a positive relationship with the media and the media find us useful. I think they appreciate the fact that and a lot of this is based on the high calibre of staff that I have working in that team. The staff are very dedicated to making sure that there's a quick turnaround and that people get the information that they want. I think some the frustrations from the media would be of course this perennial issue of they want direct contact with individual officers, I'm sure, and I think that's just a debate that's going to play out throughout the course of this Inquiry. But such is the competitive nature and such is the change in dynamic of the media over the past few years, with social networking and everything else coming into play, and I note some of the evidence that some of the editors have given over the past few days where they talk about they've launched iPad apps and everything else, so it's not just about let's get the information by the print deadline at 9 o'clock tonight, we're dealing with people who just want information and want it as quickly as possible. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON For 24/7 business.
A. Yes, sir. And you have to include the newspapers in that because the newspapers all have websites and various other things. Obviously they're trying to raise revenue through that, but it's not the way it was five years ago where there were very traditional rules at play of "Here is our print deadline, this is when you need to get back to me by and let's make sure we've got that sorted for the Evening News", because everything is 24 hours, as you rightly describe. MS PATRY HOSKINS Let me ask you about your role, please. In response to question 16, you say that you hold regular meetings with editors and broadcast heads in order to discuss the way in which the force is engaging with the media. Now I need to ask you questions about that. I mean how often is that? In what context? Is it done over a meal in a posh restaurant or over a cup of coffee?
A. It's the latter, generally. I am trying to think of the last time I had I think I mention it in my evidence that I had lunch with the news editor of the Sun about a year and a half ago, but generally it's if it can be, it's face to face, but more often than not it's by telephone. I maintain the contact with the editors in a way that the staff who work in the media team don't. They tend to deal with the daily churn whereas I deal with problems.
Q. You were asked about hospitality at question 17. You say you don't as a general principle accept hospitality from the media. The overwhelming majority of meetings would be either in the offices of the editor or your own. You said yourself that you once accepted lunch with the news editor of the Scottish Sun, that was paid for by the Sun, the estimated value of this lunch was ?20, and it was logged in the hospitality register. Why would you adopt a different approach in an individual case like that one?
A. The truth is I can't actually recall what led to that, but I can remember the general circumstances round about it, which was I'd never met the chap before and he suggested going for lunch and I obviously said yes, whereas most of the other because of the length of time that I've worked on the West Coast of Scotland and the roles I've had, I knew most other people who work in the media, but I didn't know this chap and we clearly had a strong relationship with well, the staff had a strong relationship with him and his staff on a daily basis and I didn't know him, so that was clearly must have been the reasoning.
Q. Touching still on hospitality, in response to question 23, you say that as a general principle, senior officers in this force don't accept hospitality from the media on a regular basis. I'm asked to ask you this question: do you know if there's any difference between local media and national media in that respect?
A. Um
Q. By "the national media" I also mean newspapers representing the whole of Scotland.
A. I must admit my level of knowledge would probably be on what happens on the national situation, and I would imagine that there must be situations where local commanders would be invited to various events in the division, just as they're an important figure in civic Scotland, that's sort of part of their world, but it would be recorded as a matter of course on the hospitality register if that was taking place.
Q. Touching on leaks briefly, you were asked whether or not sorry, I should say, in response to question 35 how many investigations there have been in the last five years into actual or suspected leaks from the press office. You remember Chief Constable House told us how many investigations, there'd been 45 in the last five years. You say that in your time with Strathclyde, there have not been any leak enquiries conducted that centre on the media team staff. You're not aware of any having taken place?
A. No, not at all.
Q. That would suggest that the leaks come, if they were coming at all from the police, they would not be coming from your department or your media team?
A. There's absolutely nothing to suggest at all that we have an issue with leaks coming from the media office.
Q. There's only one other issue I need to ask you about and it's in response to question 45. This is about police officers asking the media to delay publishing particular information because of the risk of prejudice to a criminal investigation or a future criminal trial, and you're asked: "To what extent do the media comply with this request?" Essentially, you give an example of an investigation into explosive devices being sent to high-profile people linked to Celtic Football Club. And you say you told the media, "Don't print this story for 48 hours because we need to investigate some particular avenues", and the media didn't print it, they complied with your wishes. That would suggest that that particular request goes down relatively well and that your requests are listened to. Is that fair?
A. Yes, and I must say that this is a this particular example I need to be careful about what I'm saying, because it's currently in court.
Q. Fine.
A. But I think in general asking the media to settle on something of that particular magnitude as I've already alluded to, you know, football, politics and the police on the West Coast of Scotland are big things, and I brought a lot of that together with that particular example. Asking them to sit on it was a big thing to do, and I think it was a measure of the responsible nature of the media in Scotland that they well, they found it exceptionally difficult to comply with that decision, but they actually did, and they held onto it for 48 hours, which allowed us, the SIO, to pursue particular investigative lines, which he needed at that time to do, so I was surprised that we got it, I didn't think it would be something that they would be willing to do, but I was pleasantly surprised and happy that that was something that
Q. Right across the media?
A. Absolutely.
Q. National, local?
A. Absolutely. MS PATRY HOSKINS Those are the questions I have for Mr Shorthouse, unless you have any, sir. Sorry, I forgot to ask you whether there's anything you wanted to add.
A. No, I'm happy to take questions. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Again, I say to you, as I said to the Chief Constable, this is not necessarily straightforward, so using your experience, if there is anything that you can suggest that might make the system work better, then I'd be very interested to hear it.
A. Again, as my Chief Constable said, I'm not going to use that as an invitation to start waxing lyrical about my own thoughts on things, but there are a couple of things that I would raise, one being that I think everybody who works in police communications is expecting there to be a change as a result of all of this, and us being the police and the candid organisation that we are, we will wholeheartedly adopt those changes. I think what will be interesting to see is that's one side of the relationship, and we can record all meetings and everything else, but that's just changing our behaviour, so I guess we are particularly interested to see what happens on the other side of that argument, what, if anything, is being proposed about the media. The other thing I would say is that from my own experience in working with the media for as long as I have, I've never actually been a journalist. The change in the nature of the media at the moment is huge, absolutely huge, and the pressures that are being brought to bear as a result of that, because of social networking and because of you know, people can send as is happening right here, right now, people are using Twitter to discuss what's happening at this Inquiry, I think the impact of that, I think, needs to be part of the thinking, because it's changed the media and it's going to continue to change the media, and it's going to just make that need to be more immediate and move away from the traditional roles that journalists have played, and I think that's an important part of the debate. I don't necessarily offer up any solutions about that. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm sorry about that. I was hoping that you were going to give me an answer.
A. Well, all I can say, and I think I've made it clear in my witness statement, is that, you know, I didn't recognise and perhaps didn't understand a lot of what Mr O'Neill was saying in his evidence, because I don't recognise that culture. People in Scotland are obsessed by crime, but not they're obsessed by the crime, but they're not obsessed by the politics of who is who in Strathclyde Police and various other things. That's just something I don't recognise. I think that we have a pretty healthy relationship again I'm conscious that Mr Russell's going to come on and probably shoot that down in flames, but I think we have a healthy relationship and a healthy understanding of the way that things work. I think that we've built it on trust and that we all do trust one another, and we understand the rules that we all have to play. There's times where things appear in the press that infuriate me, because they may have looked like they've come from something that's been leaked or because it paints the organisation that I work for and am very loyal to in a negative light, but if we do something wrong, I think it's very important that we're properly scrutinised and held to account and the press play an important part in that process. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. I think there may be quite a lot in what Mr House said about the square mile that surrounds New Scotland Yard, but would you agree that it's appropriate that whatever happened should be consistent across the country?
A. I think it would help everybody. We're in the fortunate position in this particular context of only eight forces in Scotland are in the process of being merged into one national force, so it would be quite easy for us to introduce new national guidelines in Scotland because we're all going to be one happy family anyway, but I guess just to have that level of consistency, that level of understanding, notwithstanding the fact that I think it needs to be built on the absolutely changing dynamic of the media and the changing roles of communications departments themselves so they're not just a press office, we are trying to develop a whole range of skills across a number of people. So I guess it's not necessarily a plea, but my strong view on this is it's not about how do we reform and change the current systems, it's how do we look to the future and see where's this going to go and where are the police going to go and where are the media going to go and can we try and make sure that we have that consistent way of working. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. For some of it, it may be how we do reform the current system, but for you I get the clear message you've not said this in words but for Strathclyde, it ain't bust so don't fix it.
A. We're happy with the way it works, sir. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON All right, I understand. We'll see what the editor says. Thank you. Thank you very much. MS PATRY HOSKINS Our final witness this morning is Mr Russell. I don't have very many questions for Mr Russell, but we might go to 1.05. I understand we have a very short afternoon, so if we went to 1.05 would that be acceptable or do you want me to stop at 1.00? It's just Mr Russell has to get back to Scotland. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I have no doubt the Scottish witnesses do have to return to Scotland and I don't want to do anything that creates difficulty for them. MR JONATHAN RUSSELL (sworn) Questions by MS PATRY HOSKINS MS PATRY HOSKINS First of all, your full name.
A. It's Jonathan Russell.
Q. You've provided two statements to the Inquiry now and you've in fact been here to give evidence before. I'm going to focus on the second of the two statements if I can. It's dated 1 February 2012. Again, can you just confirm that that is your formal evidence to the Inquiry?
A. It is, yes.
Q. Thank you very much. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you very much for making the trip again. I hope you find that it's of value for you as well and that we're not just dealing with an issue that is England centric. I hope that Scotland will get something of value out of what I do.
A. Indeed, no, I'm happy to be here. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Particularly because I have to cope with the if it ain't bust don't fix it, which is how I read Strathclyde, although both the previous witnesses have made it abundantly clear that they're waiting with real interest to see whether you want to challenge that.
A. We'll see. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Indeed, we shall, yes. MS PATRY HOSKINS I promise my first substantive question will be: is it broke and should we fix it? Before we do that, I'll just recap on your career history. We've heard it before but just summarising, you've been editor of the Herald and editor-in-chief of the Herald and Times Group since July 2010. You've held various previous jobs in the media and perhaps most importantly for this purpose, you've had dealings with Strathclyde Police on and off since 1994 when you first came to work in their particular area. All right. At the risk of repeating my question, you say at paragraph 2 that generally the relationship between your newspaper, certainly, and Strathclyde Police is healthy and robust?
A. Yes.
Q. That summarises is. In your own words, what works well and what doesn't work well?
A. I think it is a generally healthy relationship. I think that the when if there's an occasion that the police or it's felt that the media are critical of the police, I don't think the police don't, in my experience, sort of take it to heart and go all defensive. They're very good at accepting that perhaps they may be wrong on something and almost use the criticism as a way to look at themselves and see if things should be done better, but it would be misleading to say we're very critical or we're critical of them. We're not. It happens on occasion, as it would do with any large organisation, whether you're a police force or some other organisation, I think we have a in terms of specific operational sort of issues on sort of stories, crime, general crime stories, et cetera, I think that the force deliver as good a service to the media as I've really come across, and I've worked in various force areas throughout my career, although I think, you know, part of that will be I think there is a general move towards slightly more openness over the last few years, so places I may have worked in the early 1990s may be better at it now than they were then, you know, there is an element of that, but I think generally we get on well with the police and I think it's important for both sides to remember it has to be a mutually beneficial relationship. While we want information, obviously, it needs to be borne in mind that we provide a very important service for the police in terms of, you know, looking for witnesses and helping in solving crimes. And also, as Mr House alluded to in his statement, we're a very effective way for him to communicate a general policy message that the police want to put across. It's the quickest way to reach the sort of large number of people in the force area is through the pages of the newspaper.
Q. You've heard both Chief Constable House and Mr Shorthouse explain the system whereby with national media, such as your newspaper, if there was a request for information, the system is you contact the corporate communications department, they'll process your query, you should get an answer back from them. That would generally speaking be how it works. In your view does that system work well?
A. I think it works well, generally. I think it needs to be it's quite important from I would suspect from the police's point of view that it's co-ordinated and there's not just reporters from various newspapers phoning willy-nilly serving officers here, there and everywhere. So I think it works quite well, but as the press we'd always like more information and more access to more information and more access to investigating officers and such like, but you know
Q. Would you like to be able to ring up an investigating officer and ask them directly? I suppose that's the question.
A. Yes, we most certainly would, yes. But we understand why that may have practical difficulties for the police as well, but there are occasions where in terms of writing a story or printing a story, you know, the story looks and reads better and carries slightly more authority if "Chief Inspector Smith said" sounds better than a bland "a force spokesman said". So for that reason, yes, and sometimes quotes are given out in that regard and there is some direct contact.
Q. In terms of the information that you receive through the corporate communications department, are you satisfied that the quality of that information, if you ask something, are you satisfied that you get the answer you want, and as full an answer as you want?
A. On the whole as I said we'd always want more, but we try to bear in mind that sometimes there may be very valid reasons why we're not given all the information that we want. Sometimes we may not quite understand why we've not been given the information that we want and that may require you know, and that's when you sort of may perhaps have an off the record discussion where you might not be told information but maybe explained why you're not being given something, and generally that works quite well because it saves you wasting time complaining about not being given information if you understand there's an operational reason for it.
Q. This touches on the main change that you identify that you'd like to see. At paragraph 2 of your statement you say: "It might be for more off the record advice to be given to editors about the reasons why the police are not releasing certain pieces of information."
A. I think that would help in terms of, you know, it's very frustrating for the reporter if he feels he's being you know, it's an unhelpful press officer he's dealing with who just won't co-operate with him and has taken a unilateral decision not to give him information. So if you know and I can understand why a reporter may not be given that off-the-record guidance on occasion because he's not known particularly well, but if you have if I have a relationship with a chief constable, with a director of corporate communications, not just within the police but with any sort of organisation, they hopefully feel that they can build a relationship so they can trust me by saying, look, I know your reporter's looking for this, I'm not necessarily going to give you the reasons for it all, but there is a reason for operationally why we're not giving that out, and this is what it is to a certain extent, and that helps. Then I can not pass on the detail but I can explain, look, I know what's behind this, this is why you're not getting that and alleviate some of the frustration.
Q. All right. Can I ask about your personal contact with the Chief Constable and the director, Mr Shorthouse. At paragraph 4 you tell us that after you were appointed editor of the Herald in July 2010 you were invited by the press office it's not called the press office, but call it that for the moment to an informal meeting with the chief constable. That would have been Chief Constable House; is that correct?
A. Mm-hm.
Q. Simply the purpose of the meeting you say was just to get to know each other and begin to build a relationship. Have you had any other meetings with him since?
A. Since then, no.
Q. Right. You then say that you've had a small number of conversations with the head of the press office, the director; is that Mr Shorthouse?
A. Uh-huh.
Q. Usually about general police policy or for clarification about story facts, and that's calls. Have you ever met him for lunch or had a meeting in a restaurant?
A. No.
Q. Or gone to a football match together?
A. No.
Q. Or any of those things?
A. No.
Q. You explain you have his mobile telephone number.
A. Mm-hm.
Q. Why? Why is that?
A. Just in case one of these conversations was required to take place outwith general office hours, as it quite often would have done.
Q. You say at paragraph 8 that you've never accepted hospitality from Strathclyde Police beyond a cup of coffee at a meeting. I understand you may never have accepted hospitality. Have you ever been offered hospitality over and above that?
A. No.
Q. Okay. Paragraph 14, please. This is about prior information about arrests. You say you've never been given any prior information about arrests, although there are occasions when reporters and photographers are invited to accompany police on a raid; you see that as a legitimate way of increasing the profile given to police action. Do you see a concern, any concern with journalists being invited along to such
A. Not in the terms of the things I'm referring to here, no, I don't at all, to be honest. I think it's a good way for the police to put a message across about crackdown on drugs or whatever it is that was the subject of the raids, and just you know, it can be very reassuring to the public if they see pictures in the paper of these sort of things taking place. There are generally quite strict guidelines about use of pictures so that you know that might be incriminating when things come to court and you know we'd make you know, there'd be liaison to make sure there's no pictures of officers who perhaps work under cover go in the paper, that sort of thing. So I think there would be quite close dialogue over specific use of that sort of thing, but in general no, I think it's a good thing to do.
Q. How often does this kind of thing happen?
A. I wouldn't say it's common. I wouldn't want to put a figure on it. It would be, I don't know, once, twice a year, I don't know, something like that, maybe.
Q. Let me ask you about paragraph 15, off-the-record briefings from police. You've heard the evidence of Mr Shorthouse on what that means. Is that your understanding of what it means?
A. It's a very it's a slightly confused phrase, "off the record". In its strictest sense, I think it still means this is not for use in the paper, but very often when it is said the understanding is you can use this and I'm not specifically referring to the police here, I'm referring to just generally, sometimes it's said this is off the record, but what is meant is that you can use this, just don't say where you got it from.
Q. And this, you say, has generally simply been to ensure that incorrect information doesn't appear in a newspaper?
A. If we're back to referring to the police now, yes, that would be the general use of that, yes.
Q. Paragraph 20, "There should be no payments made to police officers by the media for information". Are you aware at all, and this is a very general question, of any such payments being made to police officers by the media?
A. In my
Q. Your experience?
A. experience and things I have knowledge of, none at all.
Q. You go on to explain that you do have a commercial arrangement where the force contributes a sum of money to the Evening Times Community Champions Campaign, but you are satisfied that that doesn't influence coverage of police matters?
A. Absolutely not. The Evening Times is a sister title, it's an evening paper for Glasgow, and the Community Champions is our it goes around various parts of Glasgow and it sort of pays tribute to unsung heroes, if you like, and it's the police are a partner in Strathclyde Police are a partner in that campaign and it works very well.
Q. Finally I want to ask you about paragraph 22, please. Top of page 5 you say: "The police force must be generally committed to a policy of openness rather than a policy of manipulation. Strathclyde I suspect is better than most." Is that based on your experience of other forces?
A. Yes.
Q. "Handled badly, the press office can be a means of obstructing public scrutiny and the press office shouldn't be the only conduit of information." Sadly, you say this: crime reporters find it more and more difficult to speak directly to investigating officers who frequently have a misplaced fear of data protection obligations and are trained to refer all enquiries to the press office." Are you referring to Strathclyde Police there?
A. No, I'm not particularly referring to Strathclyde Police. It's more as general fear that I mean in an ideal world, any time a reporter is covering a crime story, in an ideal world you'd want him speaking directly to the senior investigating officer, we discussed the kind of reasons why that's not always practical, and but it would be a good thing to, from our point of view, to get back to it. It just helps the importance of the story in a sense and it just make the story generally more interesting to the reader if you are able to read the quotes and the opinions of the man who's actually leading the investigation, yes.
Q. I conclude by reading out the first sentence of paragraph 24: "In my experience, my paper's current relationship with the police is a good template for how a force and newspaper interact." Is there anything that you would like to add to the evidence that you've given, Mr Russell?
A. No, not particularly. I think again we have a good relationship with Strathclyde Police from the Herald. We cover more than you know, we're a national paper for the whole of Scotland so we deal with other forces as well and I would certainly say that the relationship with Strathclyde Police isn't perfect, it's not what we would always we don't always get what we would want, but I'm fairly sure they don't always get the coverage they would want, but I think generally it works pretty well for both sides. MS PATRY HOSKINS Those are all my questions. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. A couple of things. Of course there's somewhat of an echo in what you said and what the police have said about what happens in Strathclyde with what happens in the West Midlands, and therefore it may be, as Mr House explained, that this is a London centric issue.
A. Mm-hm. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Have you ever had the experience or been concerned that the nationals have come in on a big story in your patch and, as it were, rather trampled on the undergrowth?
A. Not really, I mean a lot of my days as a reporter were spent on the Daily Mirror, for instance, but in Scotland, and I suppose you could say I would have been one of the ones coming in that regard, but I do not, we I've not not to the detriment of the indigenous Scottish papers, no, I don't find that. I mean there is sometimes a resource issue that, you know, if there's a really big story, the better resourced London based papers may be able to throw more resource at it, but I don't think I don't think, for instance, it would influence any police force's handling of our queries or what we're looking for from them. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And the second thing is just to test out one of the things that I was discussing before. You talk about the healthy relationship that you have with the Strathclyde Force, they don't take criticisms to heart and become defensive.
A. Mm-hm. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Is there a risk that if the police become more politicised and we develop into a situation where there is a greater focus on the Chief Constable, as there has been here in London, there is a risk to that relationship? Because it may be that one of the reasons why police forces do become more defensive is that if the attack is not professionally ordered and based, but personal, then it becomes rather more difficult to cope with?
A. I'm not 100 per cent certain I completely understood the question, but I think it became personal in the Met because that was the nature of the story. The stories were specifically about the Chief Constable and other senior officers. I have been involved in stories in Scotland which have been specifically about chief constables and have been you know, negative stories about chief constables and over the handling of the there's one in particular from it wasn't Strathclyde Force, I have to say, in which ultimately the Chief Constable left his post, and I think that's you know, if there is a criticism of a chief constable I think that's fair and valid and that would mean that it would become a personal story, if you like. It's just the nature of what's happened. Because of what happened down here it was inevitable that the spotlight would be turned on the personalities involved and if that happened at Strathclyde, I'm certain it would turn on the personalities there, but it hasn't. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I understand there may be a focus on one particular individual for one particular reason, I'm not asking any details, but one of the things that's been apparent in relation to the history of the Metropolitan Police in recent years is the number of the most senior officers who have come under the most intense media scrutiny, as if they are and Mr O'Neill was talking about this they've really become more akin to politicians than police officers. That's not happened in Strathclyde or indeed in Scotland?
A. I wouldn't say they become more akin to politicians than police officers, but I think there is a political element to the chief constable's role that you can't get away from. I wouldn't want to comment too much on how it works in the Met because I don't really know that much about it, other than what I've kind of read in the papers, but I don't see the same set of circumstances in Scotland that I read about in the Met. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's fair enough. So that leads to the last question, which is do you see a value in there being a common approach across the piece, across the country, to the issues which I have been asked to address in connection with the relationship between the press and the police, or do you say, in my summary, not theirs: it ain't bust, don't fix it?
A. Yes, I think if what was proposed was something that would make freedom of information and the jobs of journalists and newspapers harder right across the board because of I hate to use the phrase one bad egg or one bad apple then I think that would be wrong, to be honest. If there was a specific problem that was related specifically to one force and one or two specific individuals, I don't think that there should be an across the board approach necessarily just because of that. I think that would be unfair. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON No, it's not because of that, it's to try and improve the systems to get the best for everybody.
A. Mm. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It may be that there are things that will have to be adjusted, I'm not reaching a conclusion, but having done that, I will want to ensure that what I come up with works for everybody well, and preferably improves systems that are already in place.
A. Mm-hm. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But presumably you would have no problem about that, provided I don't bust what you've got?
A. Subject to knowing greater detail of what you're then yes. Theoretically, yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Everybody will say that. MS PATRY HOSKINS Thank you very much indeed. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Mr Russell, thank you very much indeed.
A. Thank you. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Right. We'll resume at just after 2.10 pm, and I thank the Scottish contingent for coming from Scotland and I wish them a fair trip back. Thank you. (1.11 pm)


Gave a statement at the hearing on 21 March 2012 (AM) ; and submitted 8 pieces of evidence
Gave a statement at the hearing on 21 March 2012 (AM) ; and submitted 1 pieces of evidence
Gave statements at the hearings on 18 January 2012 (AM) 18 January 2012 (PM) and 21 March 2012 (AM) ; and submitted 7 pieces of evidence
Gave a statement at the hearing on 21 March 2012 (AM) ; and submitted 2 pieces of evidence


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