Morning Hearing on 27 March 2012

DCI Philip Jones , ACC Jerry Kirkby and Chief Constable Colin Port gave statements at this hearing

Hearing Transcript

(10.00 am) LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Good morning, Mr Barr. MR BARR Sir, good morning. Our first witness today is Assistant Chief Constable Jerry Kirkby. MR JEREMY KIRKBY (sworn) Questions by MR BARR MR BARR Good morning. Please could you confirm your full name?
A. I'm Jeremy Kirkby.
Q. Are the contents of the two witness statements which you have provided to the Inquiry true and correct to the best of your knowledge and belief?
A. Yes, they are.
Q. You are currently the Assistant Chief Constable of Surrey Police, and you've held that position since 2008; is that right?
A. That's correct.
Q. You've served with the Surrey Police force since 1983, with breaks to spend three years with the Metropolitan Police between 1998 and 2001, and a secondment to the ACPO and the National Police Improvement Agency between 2005 and 2008; is that right?
A. Yes, it is.
Q. You tell us at paragraph 5 of your witness statement that you are conducting an internal investigation into Surrey Police's handling of information obtained from the News of the World in April 2002 concerning access to Milly Dowler's mobile phone voicemail. That investigation, which is known by the code word Operation Baronet, is not yet complete, is it?
A. No, it isn't.
Q. But you tell us that when it is, you are going to provide us with a further witness statement dealing with your conclusions?
A. I will do.
Q. In those circumstances, we're not going to deal today with those issues. You go on to tell us in paragraph 6 of your witness statement that from a point of principle, Surrey Police's approach is to be open and transparent with the media, but the gist of your statement, if I've understood it and then supported by examples which we will come to is that that has proved to be easier said than done.
A. That's correct.
Q. You give us some background to the Surrey Police. At around the turn of the century, you tell us, it was a time of great change. Surrey's area of responsibility increased considerably and there was competition for staff with the Metropolitan Police Service, who at that time were offering a very favourable terms and conditions, and that gave rise to something of a hiatus, didn't it?
A. Yes, it did. There was quite a bit of churn of staff between ourselves and the Metropolitan Police.
Q. From a point of view of media relations, you describe their state at the turn of the century. You tell us that there were some staff in the media relations team who had been local journalists, and others who came from all sorts of backgrounds, and that generally speaking you had a good working relationship with the local media but limited exposure to the national media; is that right?
A. Yes, that's right.
Q. We'll see, through the various examples in your statement, how that changed in recent years. You also tell us that Sir Denis O'Connor became the Chief Constable in 2000 and he brought with him a cultural change in the attitude of the Surrey Police force to the media. Could you describe in your own words what that change was?
A. I think Mr O'Connor had experience in the Metropolitan Police of the sort of scale and sort of nature of some of the very big inquiries and also dealing with specifically the Crime Reporters Association. We'd had very little exposure to significant incidents, so Mr O'Connor brought a number of changes to us over the period that he was present. Firstly, he introduced what was referred to and I believe he referred to as well in his evidence as critical incident training. That was around significant investigations where senior investigating officers and other senior officers and media relation officers went through a two-day process of training and exposure to incidents which would be quite significant for a force of our size and to develop staff, and also a relationship which he introduced later on as a result of the investigation into Milly Dowler with the Crime Reporters Association.
Q. Thank you. We'll come to that in more detail later on. At paragraph 12 of your witness statement, you tell us that there are a number of celebrities who live in Surrey, and that a constant theme has been the interest of the media in celebrities. I don't want you to go into any details at all, but is it right that you have an officer at the moment who has been investigated in relation to a leak about celebrity information?
A. That's correct.
Q. If we move now to paragraph 13 of your witness statement, under the subheading "A year of challenges, 2002", you tell us first of all about the disappearance of Milly Dowler and the subsequent police investigation. You give us an idea of the scale of that investigation. At paragraph 14, you say 3,500 house-to-house enquiries, searches of 350 sites or more, including 40 underwater sites and 35 miles of waterways. The force also had to follow up a number of sightings which were reported, including some which had an international dimension, and 256 people of potential interest had to be traced and interviewed either to eliminate or implicate them.
A. That's correct.
Q. Against that background of the operational task that the force faced, you tell us in paragraph 15 about the media relations operation. It's well-known now that there was an enormous media interest, and at paragraph 15, you tell us, based on some of the work you have done in Operation Baronet, what the reaction of some of the media relations officers were. They have described to your investigation media demands as being "alien", "steep learning curve", "just immense", "relentless", "overwhelming". Is that right?
A. That's correct.
Q. And that senior officers involved in the case have described elements of the press as "extremely demanding", and in some respects "mischievous" and the level of interest as "unprecedented and immense". Are you able to expand at all on what is meant by "mischievous"?
A. Yes, the "mischievous" term was used by the senior officer, Chief Superintendent at the time in his statement which he provided to the team. It goes on to explain that the media were, at times, exploring hypotheses and seeking to develop them and almost sort of test them in a public environment, when in fact there was very little fact to support some of those things.
Q. A quasi-investigation being conducted in public?
A. Yes, and played out in public as well, and seeking to draw police officers into comment on those hypotheses, where we were not looking to do so.
Q. The Detective Superintendent at the time, who later, at the Levi Bellfield stage of the case, became the SIO, says: "There were almost last-minute requests, often on a Friday afternoon, with demands for information around a story that the media wanted or intended to run at the weekend. This was huge pressure that diverted considerable amounts of our time." The SIO says: "I think the inquiry was too consumed by the press and media." Against the background of those two comments, I'd like to ask you: in your opinion, did Surrey Police become too involved with the media at that stage of the inquiry?
A. Firstly, the comment that you attributed to the Detective Superintendent, I think it was Maria Woodall. She was a detective sergeant at the time and she subsequently became a detective superintendent. Just a point of correction.
Q. Thank you.
A. In my judgment, my assessment, I don't think we did become too consumed by the media. I think it was a demand which was placed on us, and we had to respond to it. There was clearly and I have had sight of the investigation which was going along alongside of it and the lines of inquiries which were being pursued, but I think what this was seeking to demonstrate was at times a demand was placed on us when in fact we wanted to be responding to lines of inquiry and putting resources to that, but because the media deadlines and I think the pertinent point here that was being made was often on Friday afternoons, deadlines for publications on Saturday or Sunday. You had a very restricted amount of time to actually be able to comment, so it meant diverting resources to actually look to be able to respond in an accurate way to the press, which was on an issue which was going to be published.
Q. That does suggest, doesn't it, a degree of distraction from the job in hand?
A. Yes, absolutely, a degree of distraction.
Q. You explain there's another side to the coin, and that is that Surrey Police did want to cultivate interest so you could get the message out there about needing evidence and witnesses?
A. Yes. I suppose there's a general comment for myself: the press and the media can be massively helpful in a number of inquiries. A missing person inquiry, keeping it in the public's sight and reminding them to keep thinking about if they had any information which would assist us with the investigation was very important, and they certainly helped us in that regard.
Q. At paragraph 17, we have some more quotations from the investigation, this time dealing with the amount of resources available in the press office to deal with the demands. Reading from the top of page 8: "Most of the time we did not have the resources in the press office to get back to the original caller due to the volume of calls we were receiving." And then, further down the page, the position is described as "complete chaos", and at the bottom of the paragraph, "having run out of control". It's plain, isn't it, that there weren't sufficient resources in the press office at that time to deal with the unprecedented media interest; is that fair?
A. I think it is. I think it's a combination of the number of resources, the experience of resources and the way the resources were structured in order to respond to an incident of this magnitude and this interest from the press.
Q. I've been asked by a core participant to ask you this: do you think there was an overprioritisation on satisfying the media in the early stages of the investigation?
A. No, I don't. I think there was a I think that it was one of a number of considerations and a number of demands which was placed on the investigation. I think I've also had sight of the other investigations, the other lines of enquiries which were being conducted at the same time, but without doubt, it was I do not want to give an impression this was not generating a vast amount of demand on us and we were having to put resources into it, but we're also putting attention and resource into the actual primary investigation as well. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It's quite clear from your statement that statements had been made by all the officers and they've generated this material which you've been describing to me and I'm grateful.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But does that mean that when Operation Baronet winds up, you'll be in a position to provide an analysis and a potential set of guidelines or structures to advise other forces in connection with such inquiries, should they be unfortunate enough to be in the same sort of position as Surrey? In other words, what's the value of this beyond finding out precisely what happened and when?
A. Well, I hope there will be some value in the investigation I'm conducting and it will identify areas of good practice and any learning that we need to take from this. Further in this statement and I'm sure we'll come to that there are some changes which we've already instigated as a result, around the structure, around the experience, around the training that we give to our staff. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, I wasn't just thinking of Surrey.
A. No. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Because I'm trying to look at the position on a rather wider basis. This is probably an unfair question and you're perfectly at liberty to decline to answer it: do you have any broad timeframe in your mind as to when you're likely to produce something as a result of this inquiry? Not merely an answer to the questions you've been asked, but generally.
A. No, the timeframe I'm working to is the end of May, I'll be able to produce my what I've referred to as my final report. There may still be some further investigations, inquiries ongoing. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So does that mean that when you produce it, it will be in the public domain?
A. I'll be presenting it to this Inquiry LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's what I wanted to hear. Thank you very much. MR BARR Anticipating what you said a moment ago, we can move on to paragraph 18, where you start to tell us about how Surrey Police reacted to this overwhelming media demand. You say that one mechanism was pooling interviews and information, treating all media outlets equally and minimising the number of interviews that victim's family and friends would need to give. You explain in your statement that this proved to be unpopular with the press, but my question for you is: from a policing point of view, did it work?
A. From an operational perspective, the pooling of interviews, I think, is a positive mechanism, especially if you're dealing with victims or witnesses who may be vulnerable or sensitive. It just means you can do one interview, questions, similar to today, can be given to the interviewer from different and interested parties, and that is the impact of it. It's easier for us to manage and it's less of an impact on our resources.
Q. Would you do it again?
A. Yes, I would do it again.
Q. Over the page, you describe how the Sunday Mirror published an article describing the investigation under the then was Mr Gibson the SIO?
A. Yes, he was.
Q. the then SIO was "rudderless" and this media coverage has since been described by then DCC Peter Fahy as "a factor in replacing the SIO for the investigation". Can I ask you, first of all: would you agree with me that if a newspaper describes an investigation as "rudderless", that's simply an expression of opinion and a manifestation of the freedom of expression?
A. Yes.
Q. The second question arising from this evidence is whether, in your view, it's a legitimate factor for a senior manager to take into account, when replacing the SIO, what the opinion of the Sunday Mirror is?
A. From my perspective, it was a factor, as identified by Mr Fahy. Knowing what I do know about the review processes which were going on at that moment in time, I think the SIO was replaced with a more experienced SIO, based on based primarily on operational factors and operational reasons, an assessment made by the chief officers at the time.
Q. Replacing someone on the basis of operational factors and operational considerations or considerations of that person's performance are all plain and legitimate, but is it legitimate to take into account at all what the opinion of the press is?
A. I think if there's a perception that the investigation isn't being run in a professional and thorough manner, then I think I'm just talking about reality now, as a senior police officer and making judgments. You consider everything that is available to you. You still make the judgment based on a number of factors, and I think primarily in this case it was based on operational factors, but to ignore what is being said, either by the press or by the family or by the public, you can't do that. That's not how reality works.
Q. So it comes down to the fact that the opinion of the press can influence the course of an investigation? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, I suppose the point is that the police have to maintain public confidence in the way in which they're tackling what is a very significant incident.
A. (Nods head) LORD JUSTICE LEVESON If there's a concern that public confidence is being lost, to ignore that would be not entirely sensible. Would that be fair?
A. That's absolutely correct. MR BARR At the end of paragraph 18, you tell us about the circumstances in which the News of the World and the Sun came to offer a reward for information which would lead to finding Milly Dowler. You tell us that the SIO was initially very reluctant and declined the offer of a reward, fearing that it would generate large numbers of spurious calls which would distract from the police investigation. You say that he felt he had little choice ultimately to accept, because the newspapers made it plain that if he didn't agree to co-operate, they would offer the reward anyway. I've been provided by a core participant with a copy of the Sun at the time when the reward was made public. That's 27 March 2012. It's fair to say I think you have a copy LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I think that's the date on which it was printed, ie today, rather than the date upon which the offer was made. Was it made on 1 August 2007, where it says "last updated"? If you look immediately under the headline, it identifies: "Last updated 1 August 2007." MR BARR I think, sir, that I certainly am seriously wrong in reading out the date at the top, but I'm not convinced that it's 1 August either, as that's simply the date on which it was last updated. Was this reward offered back in 2002, before it was known that Milly Dowler tragically was dead?
A. Yes.
Q. It says "Sun reward to find missing Milly"?
A. Yes, that's correct.
Q. So it must have been some time in that timeframe. It's fair to say that that article includes an enthusiastic welcome from the police and full co-operation. Obviously at that stage, it had been decided that if a reward was going to be offered, to make the most of it. Can I ask you: given how supportive the police were publicly to the reward, are you really sure that there were serious reservations about the reward being offered?
A. The DCI, the senior investigating officer at the time, expressed his concern about the need for a reward. I've seen his policy book, I've seen the statement that he has provided. Rewards can be really useful in investigations in generating interest and bringing more focus back onto an investigation. In this case, I'm not so sure that a reward was necessary. The SIO at the time indicated there was significant press interest already. We weren't trying to generate more public interest; it had quite a lot of it already. But the point being made is: if they were going to run the reward anyway, then I think just pragmatically we would wish to be aligned to that than actually arguing against it. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON You could hardly go out in public and say, "Well, actually, we don't think this is a good idea at all."
A. No. MR BARR Are you able to help us with what the consequence of the reward offer was? Were the SIO's initial fears realised?
A. I don't know, but what I will do is I will ascertain what was actually generated from the reward and I will submit a note to the Inquiry to update you on that point.
Q. Thank you very much. The next paragraph of your witness statement deals with the CRA, and tells us how Surrey changed its approach and began to deal much more closely with the CRA, providing briefings, which started in July 2002. At paragraph 20, informed by a quote from Detective Chief Superintendent, now Deputy Chief Constable Denholm, you explain how this policy of engagement with the CRA forged improved relations and refocused efforts on gaining fresh evidence and witnesses. Is that fair?
A. That's correct.
Q. But then, perhaps less favourably, at the bottom of page 20, you go on to at the moment us that Maria Woodall felt pressured at one stage to give out some details of an arrest plan, which she wasn't entirely comfortable with, because she felt she needed to do so in order to prevent a newspaper publishing damaging material about another aspect of the case. On its face, that's a matter of some concern, isn't it, if the press have pressured an SIO into publishing or giving out, at least details which she's uncomfortable about releasing?
A. Yeah, I think the judgment needs to be made by the SIO whether the information they provide will actually compromise the operation. Having spoken to Maria Woodall about this incident, the information that she would have given was in general terms and certainly would not have compromised the operation and the arrest the subsequent arrest which would have been made.
Q. But doesn't this example suggest a lack of trust between the SIO and the newspaper concerned, because she obviously had a fear that the newspaper, unless she gave them something, was going to publish damaging information?
A. Yes, in relation to the damaging information, but I suppose on the contrary it shows the degree of trust that she would have had she met with this individual with a member of the press team, and she must have had a certain amount of trust to give them the information, general information around an arrest plan.
Q. Is there not a need to ensure that SIOs are given the confidence simply to say no where necessary, and to rely upon the press, if they're told that something is going to be damaging, not to report it?
A. I think each case has to be assessed on its own merits. I think SIOs should be confident yes, they should be confident. And should they compromise the operation investigation? No, they shouldn't, and I don't feel this has been done here. They should also take the advice of other professionals and in this case she was accompanied by the head of our coms department at the time, who was an experienced operator.
Q. Your statement moves next to tell us about the consequent changes following the Milly Dowler investigation in 2002 and some the things that Surrey Police did to raise its game in media relations. These included recruiting experienced staff and more ex-journalists to work in the media relations office. In particular, a press and publicity manager with extensive experience of major investigations was recruited. This Inquiry has heard some evidence, opinion evidence, at least, that the presence of constables, operational officers, in a press office might be advantageous. Surrey Police seem to be going the other way in recruiting a higher proportion of ex-journalists. What's your opinion as to whether or not it's useful to have operational officers in a press office?
A. I think having operational officers involved in decision-making around press and publicity matters is quite important. Whether they need to be the head of the department or actually located in there, I think there are other ways of getting that experience and getting that operational assessment and involvement in matters. Personally, I think having professionally trained confident individuals who come from that background is a good way of actually doing it and works for us. I've heard and I've seen evidence supplied by other colleagues of mine, sitting here, who see the value of having a police officer. I think they can both be of value but if you are going to do the one that Surrey Police have chosen to take, there are other ways of bringing operational experience into decision-making, especially around significant incidents, and I think that's one of the key learnings that I've seen coming out of the work that I'm doing at present.
Q. The other changes that you mention include the introduction of external trainers to deliver training sessions these are training sessions about media relations, are they?
A. Yes, they are.
Q. the introduction of a single database to record contact between the media relations team and journalists, and more planning to manage large-scale media interest, with options such as work rotas for the media relations officers, task allocation and so on. Have all these changes, in your opinion, been beneficial?
A. Yes, they have.
Q. You move next to tell us something of the Surrey Police's involvement in the Deepcut investigations. That is the investigations into the deaths of four soldiers who died at Deepcut army barracks between 1995 and 2002. At paragraph 23, your statement tells us that one of the significant results of work ongoing on this investigation at the same time as the Milly Dowler investigation is the additional demand that it made on the media relations team, and the solution was to borrow officers from the Hampshire force and the Sussex force to help you out. Did that work as a plan?
A. Yes, it did. It wasn't it was press officers as opposed to police officers, just to avoid any confusion. Yes, it did, and, in fact, the sort of the concept of mutual aid, as we refer to it in policing, when you bring in staff from other forces to help you normally it's police officers, but in this case mutual aid, and I've seen it subsequently. Forces have called in mutual aid for specific specialist purposes, and press officers is one good example of that.
Q. Are there any particular features of the relationship between the Surrey Police and the media in relation to the Deepcut investigation that you would like to draw to the Inquiry's attention?
A. The only difference between the Deepcut investigation and the interest from the press and media was it was mainly political commentators or defence commentators, as opposed to the usual journalists that we deal with from the sort of crime reporting angle. So they're just people that we hadn't dealt with previously.
Q. Can I take it from that answer that
A. There's no issues.
Q. there were no particular issues of note? You move next to tell us about the investigation into the man who was known as the M25 rapist. At the top of page 13, you tell us that there was a problem. There were a number of speculative reports, including one that incorrectly linked another Surrey crime to the series, despite the reporter having been given firm direction by the media relations team, and that the force's response to that was for the Chief Constable to write to the journalist's editor. Was that effective as a mechanism for preventing future transgressions?
A. I don't know the result of the letter, what it actually generated. I haven't checked to see and I can do so. I don't know whether it has been effective. I'm trying to think now if that newspaper has done anything similar since then which we have recorded our concern over. (Pause) I don't know, I think is the safest answer to say.
Q. Obviously in the first instance, direct contact between the force and the newspaper involved is one option, but if that doesn't work, do you think that there ought to be a formal mechanism for the resolution of police complaints about the press incorporated into any future model of press regulation?
A. Yes, I do. I think there must be a sensible escalation process. In this case, one of our press officers had communications with the journalist and expressed concern about what they intended to do, was to link an unlinked offence publicly. It then got escalated to the senior investigating officer and then subsequently, having been published, the Chief Constable wrote and expressed. I think in appropriate case there is should be a further escalation process. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But that wouldn't necessarily just be the police; that could be any public body that felt that the press were not approaching a particular issue with which they were concerned in an appropriate manner.
A. That's absolutely right, because in this case, the person who was potentially the most affected was the victim and their family. I have knowledge of this case. So the person who was potentially most aggrieved and affected by it was that person and their family. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON What's critical is that you shouldn't necessarily force them to do it because they have other issues to cope with.
A. (Nods head) LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And that complaints and concerns ought to be accepted if made by responsible third parties on their behalf.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Or with an equally significant interest in the subject matter of the story.
A. That's correct. I think we, as a public body, have an obligation and duty to act on behalf of the victim and witnesses. MR BARR Having earlier described how, during the course of the Milly Dowler investigation, the force fostered closer relations with the CRA, you tell us a little bit more about how they proceeded over time at paragraph 26. There were formal briefings, but also informal socialising; is that right?
A. Yes, that's correct. There was in total from 2002 until 2010 and the conviction of levy Bellfield, there were five formal CRA briefings in relation to operation Ruby, which is the operation of Milly Dowler, and that is there was only we've only done eight in total in that period. So the majority of our briefings with the CRA have been on the Milly Dowler investigation.
Q. And the informal briefings were held at a restaurant or a bar?
A. A restaurant bar in Guildford.
Q. You also tell us that that practice came to an end. Why was it decided to bring to an end the informal contact between the Surrey Police and the CRA?
A. The purpose of those gatherings, which I think six or seven since 2002, was so that senior officers and press officers could meet with journalists from the Crime Reporters Association, understand their expectations and their needs and develop an understanding of working practices on that basis. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The Crime Reporters Association is really national newspapers?
A. It is. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON What about your local newspapers? Were they cut out of this?
A. Out of that process, yes, but I don't think you'll it's not well, I can answer on behalf of the press of Surrey: they do get a lot of exposure to us. We have arranged editors events. We have events with journalists local journalists where we meet with them and brief them. In a way, that's our daily bread and butter, that sort of relationship. This was to identify a particular need where we hadn't had exposure to national journalists, and that process we would pay for the food and then everybody else would pay for the drinks. I've attended two of those in 2009 and 2010, didn't drink any alcohol, drank soft drinks, stayed for about an hour on each of those, let the crime reporters listen to what they had to say about the relationship with the Surrey Police, found it useful. In 2010, as part of the chief officer group, we reviewed the future of those. The purpose to develop relationship and understanding, we had done so. We knew all of them. We had done various briefings. The situation I think the context, public perception around austerity and socialising had changed, and therefore we made a conscious decision that we wouldn't carry on doing those social briefings. If an operation arrived tomorrow where I thought there was the benefit of a formal CRA briefing, I would certainly do it. MR BARR Your witness statement says that there was a desire to respond to an increased awareness I'm looking at the end of paragraph 26 on page 14: a desire to respond to an increased awareness of public perception towards corporate entertaining during times of austerity and mounting scrutiny towards public spending. The last event was held in August 2010." That reasoning didn't feature largely in your answer a moment ago, so could I ask you: to what extent was this concern about perception in times of austerity a feature in the decision?
A. I think it was a key reason for the decision as well, the public perception of spending money on socialising with crime reporters. I think the test for me is: do I feel able to justify it publicly? I think the purpose of relationship-building had been already achieved. I think times were becoming hard and the chief officer decision was based on both of those factors.
Q. Looking to the future, where do you think the balance lies between the need to maintain effective channels of communication with the media and the dangers, from a perception point of view, of hospitality?
A. I think if we didn't have a relationship with the national media that we do, have forged over the last eight years, and there was some clear benefit to be obtained by having an event where you would sort of listen to expectations and develop relationships, professional relationships, I would have no problem with doing that. But I think there's one thing about doing an event with a large number and an established association, and I think there's something quite different between having social encounters with individual journalists.
Q. You move next to tell us about Surrey Police's dealings with the media when the celebrity Matthew Kelly was arrested. Before we go into any further details about this case, it's important, isn't it, to make clear that Mr Kelly was never charged?
A. Absolutely.
Q. You tell us in your statement that there was early and growing media interest because they had wind that something was afoot even before Mr Kelly had been arrested, and that caused the Surrey Police to change its plans and to arrest Mr Kelly earlier than it would have wished. Is that right?
A. That is correct.
Q. Is that an example of media interest interfering, albeit in this case to a modest extent, with policing operations?
A. Yes. It necessitated us bringing forward a planned arrest because we knew there was going to be coverage and publication material the next day, and which then that arrest and the way we actually conducted that arrest received adverse criticism from other aspects of the press.
Q. Yes, because you tell us that the force did take steps to protect Mr Kelly's privacy. You didn't release his name, you arrested him at a theatre after a production, he was taken out through a back entrance and similar arrangements were made at the police station. Those efforts were criticised by the national media and you tell us at the end of paragraph 27 of the reply that you got from Piers Morgan, who said: "Thanks for the note. These stories are hideously difficult for both you guys and us. Fame and crime sends most of the usual rules out of the window. I hear what you say, and I will bear it in mind when we revisit this story." Is it your experience that where the media are concerned, fame and crime sends their adherence to the usual rules out of the window?
A. It can do. I don't think it does in all cases. I certainly wouldn't wish to tar all journalists and media with one brush, but I think it can do.
Q. You move next to tell us about the Abigail Witchalls case. The Inquiry has already heard substantial evidence about this. Looking at your witness statement and what you tell us about it, would it be fair to say that there was some good and some bad?
A. Yes, there was.
Q. Let's look first of all at the good. Is it right that the press were a successful vehicle through which Surrey Police was able to maximise its calls for witnesses and information?
A. Yes. There was a case where a sighting of a blue car had come into the inquiry. We made an appeal in relation to that, and very quickly, and as a direct result of that coverage, the people who were in the car came forward and we were able to eliminate that as a line of inquiry, which at that stage of the investigation was really useful, and it meant that other resources could be or the resources could be diverted on to better lines of inquiry.
Q. Pausing there, since we've touched upon an example of good practice, can you give us some idea of how far frequently you see the good rather than the bad in the relationship between police and media?
A. Yeah, I'm conscious that this statement has focused on quite a bit of our bad experiences. If I had to give a percentage, I'd probably say about 90, 95 per cent of the experience, possibly even higher, with media, both local and national but definitely local, has been positive, supportive, especially in relation to the purpose of policing you know, prevention, detection of crime and appealing for witnesses. Yes, positive.
Q. Turning now to the bad I'm looking at paragraph 29 you tell us that there was a point in the investigation when the SIO became greatly concerned that a newspaper was going to publish a photograph of the suspect before that suspect had been through formal identification procedures. Had that happened, that would have been prejudicial, potentially, to the investigation, wouldn't it?
A. Yes, it would have been potentially prejudicial to the investigation.
Q. Can you tell us in your own words what happened?
A. We were contacted by the paper, who informed us that they had a picture and they were going to publish it and were looking for wider comments around the issue. The press officer spoke to the SIO and an attempt was made to stop them publishing. It escalated, with the senior investigating officer having to contact the editor of that newspaper and explaining the potential consequences of that action in relation to the identification procedure, and then the editor agreed to delay publication until after the identification procedure took place.
Q. So in that case, despite some anxious moments, everything worked out all right in the end. Returning to the theme I asked you about earlier, about what formal mechanisms might be valuable in the future, had the newspaper not decided to follow the SIO's wishes, would it have been useful to have a formal mechanism for taking pre-emptive action to prevent a damaging publication?
A. Yes, it would have. Newspapers have a responsibility to know and to assess the consequences of their actions anyway, so they should if they breach that, there should be some escalation mechanism to hold them to account.
Q. Moving now to paragraph 31 of your witness statement, you tell us of an incident where Surrey Police shot and killed a man close, I think, to Guildford cathedral. The difference between this example and the others you've given us is that that led, of course, automatically to the immediate involvement of the IPCC, didn't it?
A. It did.
Q. You tell us in your statement that the consequence of that from a media point of view is that they then managed all the media enquiries in the case and Surrey Police was limited in its ability to provide information that might have affected public confidence in the actions of the police. What I want to ask you is whether, having described the position, you are saying that it's unsatisfactory and there needs to be change, or are you accepting that although there is a downside from the police force's point of view, you understand that it is necessary in such circumstances for the IPCC to have control of relations between them and the media?
A. I know in a number of inquiries, probably more significantly outside of Surrey Police, but it has caused tension around the desire of the service and police force to communicate more information and give more updates to the public publicly than the IPCC. From my personal experience, and especially more recently in dealings with the IPCC, there are clear guidance on who has primacy and the clearance of lines. I think I have seen a much more pragmatic and sensible approach taken by the IPCC in relation to some of the incidents that I've been dealing with recently, where we can come to an agreement, and I certainly wouldn't be advocating, from a Surrey Police perspective, a change in the way we do business the way we actually deal with this at present.
Q. You come next to tell us about a really quite recent incident in June 2010 when the Surrey Police had to cope with an armed siege at a Barclays Bank in Ashford. The interesting feature of this example seems to be the sheer number of different channels of communication that were in play. First of all, you tell us that it was a major incident and that meant that media officers were deployed both through the headquarters, as a team, and also there was someone on the ground from the media relations team. Did that work well?
A. Yes, it did.
Q. In addition, you tell us there was a high degree of citizen journalism, with videos taken by local people being passed on to the national media organisations and put onto websites. Did you benefit from any of that citizen journalism?
A. In relation to this incident, I don't think we did. I did benefit from I think it was one news agency had a helicopter overhead, and so I had the benefit of listening to the police reporting and seeing live coverage from the actual location as well. I was the strategic firearms commander in charge of this incident and I was at headquarters watching. But I think the point I think the point that you're trying to make is there can be benefits from citizen journalism by capturing of evidence which can be used subsequently.
Q. Next you tell us that the force made continuous use of Twitter in covering the unfolding incident. Was that successful?
A. Yes, it was.
Q. There was also regular updating of the force's website to keep abreast of events. So you're describing here, through the use of Twitter and the web, direct communication with the public, not involving the media. Do you see that as complementing or beginning to supplant the traditional route of communication between the police and the public via the media?
A. I think social media is opening up massive opportunities for us for the way we engage and communicate with the public. I think in this instance it was complementary, predicting what will happen in the future. I think we are seeing greater use of social media by the public. It's a good means of communication. Twitter is an excellent means of actually getting fast time information out there, accurate information quickly. One of the interesting factors in this is not only did we communicate with the public; we were also actually communicating with the press on Twitter as well, in so much as they were picking up the comments and the feeds that we were putting out.
Q. Of course, in addition, there were the more traditional routes of communication through the media by the way of statements made to the public and interviews being offered?
A. Yes.
Q. Although this is obviously a very different type of incident to some of those that you've described further in the past, what's your view about the current state of Surrey Police's media relations operation? Is it fit for purpose? If it is fit for purpose, is there room for improvement?
A. I think there's always room for improvement, but I think it is a lot better now than certainly what it was in 2002. I think the quality of the individuals and the training, their experience, is a lot better. You have to align that with the officers, the training that they've received as well, in order to assess and also to give interviews and to engage with the press. So I think that is a lot better. The systems we have and processes, the Solcara and also the on-call system and our ability to mobilise in the event of a major event is significantly more improved.
Q. At paragraph 34, you return to the Milly Dowler case, but this time to deal with events in 2010 and 2011, which we know ultimately led to the conviction of Levi Bellfield. For the interests of the Inquiry, we're interested in what you say in the second half of paragraph 34. I think we need to be careful about what we say here because I understand that criminal proceedings are currently ongoing.
A. That's correct.
Q. But the position seems to be that there was sufficient concern about the reporting of Mr Bellfield's past, and particularly an alleged abduction of Rachel Cowles, as to lead to a newspaper facing contempt of court proceedings?
A. Two newspapers are facing contempt of court proceedings.
Q. So does that give some support to what you were saying earlier, that not always, but on occasions the rules seem to fly out of the window LORD JUSTICE LEVESON We can't reach that conclusion about that particular example, if that's ongoing, can we? But the assertion "fame and crime sends most of the usual rules out of the window" may be evidence not merely from Surrey's experience but from also the experience of other very major serious crime.
A. That's correct. MR BARR You give us another example in the next paragraph relating to the murder of Heather Cooper, where you say there was much national media coverage wrongly naming, at one point, an unconnected individual.
A. That's correct.
Q. Overall, having been through those examples, would it be fair to say that on occasion the media have hindered and damaged the work of the Surrey Police?
A. Yes, I think that is in summary, I think it has. MR BARR Sir, we're going to be taking the evidence provided by Mr Marrat as read. There are a couple of things which are in his statement which this witness can amplify or confirm. First of all, is it still the Surrey Police's policy not to name people unless and until they are charged?
A. That is correct.
Q. And hospitality registers have been maintained for some years now by Surrey Police, haven't they?
A. Yes.
Q. But a recent development is that they're provided to the Surrey Police Authority for scrutiny?
A. That's correct.
Q. Is that system working well?
A. I believe, so. I was at a meeting recently with the Surrey Police Authority and the audit committee were the lead member for this had said he had scrutinised the accounts or the register and the pro formas and he was satisfied with the processes which had taken place. He did make an observation that he felt it was quite bureaucratic, in fact justifying when you turn down hospitality as well as when you actually accept it. I was in a position to comment on the pros and cons of having to do both.
Q. If it's bureaucratic, it's also transparent, isn't it?
A. Not all bureaucracy is bad. (But most of it is.)
Q. Without delving into that controversial proposition, can we move now, I think rather more briefly, to your second witness statement. This statement deals with the databases which Surrey Police hold and the steps it takes to protect the confidential information which it has on those databases. So we get an insight, through your statement, into the sort of operation that a force has to mount to protect this information. First of all, you tell us at paragraph 7 that Surrey Police uses no fewer than 71 applications which hold personal data, of which a small number appear to be national but the vast majority are local. Is that right?
A. That's correct. Not all of them hold personal data of members of the public. They are sort of finance, HR systems, all of those, but in order to answer the question, I asked that all our systems be counted.
Q. Your statement very helpfully tells us quite a lot about them, but I don't think we need to go into the details. What I would like to explore briefly are the steps that are taken to protect this data. First of all, dealing with the human side of things, it's right, isn't it, that extensive training is provided, that there are policies in place warning against misuse and describing what misuse is, down to the level of curiosity and curiously exploring being a misuse of the system?
A. That's correct.
Q. And there are dire warnings of the consequences of misusing the computer systems; is that right?
A. There are warnings that potentially discipline and misconduct action will be taken and we do publicise cases where misconduct action has been taken to send a strong message to staff.
Q. That's publicised internally?
A. Yes, it is.
Q. But not externally?
A. No.
Q. Moving to many some of the technical protections, you tell us that all users have to use a force identification number, that there are strong passwords in place and that a failure after so many attempts to get the password right leads to a lockout. Some of the systems have warning screens and you tell us that some systems have other restrictions restricting, for example, which terminals can be used to access them, which functions they will perform and which records they can and cannot access.
A. That's correct.
Q. So there is a battery of technical protections. Moving now to auditing
A. Can I just make two other comments, please?
Q. Please do.
A. There's also officers and staff have security clearance, so they have vetting processes and only certain people with certain levels of vetting can access certain systems. And also, not every officer or police staff member has access to all of the systems either. We control it so it's aligned to your role.
Q. Yes. I think, dealing with the police force, we're starting from a position where you've sought, at least, to recruit people of integrity?
A. We try our hardest, yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I'm pleased to hear that, yes. MR BARR Moving on now to auditing, you tell us that there is typically within your electronic systems a capability to track down what a person has done under a particular user identity. Is there a capability, if a piece of information has been leaked, to ascertain without a name or password who has accessed that information?
A. Yes, there is. So if there's a piece of information which has been publicised, which you thought wouldn't have been should have been in the public domain, you can then go back to the systems, look at where that would have which system that information could have been on, especially if it's something very specific, you can narrow it down to a system, and we have means of actually auditing who accessed that system when, or should I actually say under whose password and whose log-on did they access, because we have seen evidence of staff who abused other people's log-on processes to access systems previously. But we do have comprehensive means of backtracking.
Q. You tell us that where you receive intelligence which suggests there's been misuse of the system, that is investigated, but equally you tell us that there are no random checks. Why is that?
A. I suppose where would you start? We do checks in relation to PNC. There's a programme called PNC Guard, which is national, so when somebody does a check on an individual or a vehicle, one in ten cases, they have to give a greater justification as opposed to just a reason code, and then that is reviewed to see if there was a legitimate reason and we can do further information on those. But I suppose realistically you would have to have a very big team checking for discrepancies for what I actually assess, within Surrey anyway, is a very low incidence of breaches.
Q. It boils down to it being disproportionate and very difficult?
A. That's it exactly.
Q. On the subject of the PNC, is it right to say that the protections for the PNC the tightest of all?
A. They are very tight. I think there are other systems that we have some of our intelligence systems are national intelligence systems which forces can access have tighter controls but
Q. If it's not the tightest control, is it right to say that there are a lot of your systems which are not as tightly controlled?
A. Yes, that's correct.
Q. Is that because of the relative risk of misuse, including consequence?
A. Both consequence and the content, yes.
Q. You describe to us that there is a risk appetite assessment and that the Surrey Police has gone through a process of deciding how much risk it is prepared to accept?
A. That's correct.
Q. In terms of examples of misuse I'm looking now at page 22 of your witness statement, and in relation to a question about media-related suspected abuse, you give the answer at paragraph 87 involving five matters. The first is ongoing. The second, you tell us that investigations showed that the information provided had in fact been authorised. In the third case, the complainant stopped co-operating and the investigation was terminated, and the fourth and fifth cases are ongoings. So that leaves us, doesn't it, in the position that over the last five years you've not actually had a case come to a conclusion which has found an unauthorised leak to the press, but you have three ongoing matters?
A. Yes. If I could just clarify, the first four of those cases all relate to what I would refer to as press releases which have been authorised by an investigating officer, and so it's the content of a press release which people have complained about, a formal release, as opposed to a leak of information.
Q. And the final case is a matter which is being dealt with by Operation Elveden and therefore we won't say anything more about it.
A. That's correct.
Q. At paragraph 88, you deal with other incidents. You say there have been a total of 34 incidents of either inappropriate access or disclosure over the last five years. 16 have been dealt with as misconduct, with the remaining 18 as gross misconduct. Just to be clear, are you saying that those have nothing to do with the media?
A. That's yes.
Q. You described in this statement a very considerable number of safeguards of various types, which we've touched upon. But if you are only reacting to complaints, how sure can you be that people are not performing unauthorised access to your databases and getting away with it?
A. I can never be 100 per cent sure.
Q. Is the reality that in the real world it's simply not possible to provide 100 per cent assurance against misuse?
A. That's true. We have an anti-corruption unit, as most forces do. We do covert and targeted action if we have any intelligence to support that, but the reality is you can never be 100 per cent sure. MR BARR Thank you. Those were all my questions. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I have no questions, Mr Kirkby. Thank you very much indeed. I'll be interested to see what you come up with on the other matter. Thank you very much.
A. Thank you. MR BARR Sir, would it be possible to have a break now before the next witness? LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes. (11.16 am) (A short break) (11.27 am) MR JAY The next witness is Mr Port, please. MR COLIN DUNLOP PORT (affirmed) Questions by MR JAY MR JAY You've provided us with your full name in giving the affirmation. I'm going to invite you to look at your witness statement dated 21 March and confirm that this is the evidence that you are content to give to this Inquiry on the basis of its truth?
A. It is, sir.
Q. I'm going to follow the following sequence, if I may, with you, Mr Port. We're going to deal with general matters first, then we'll go back to the Mr Jefferies case, and then deal with HMIC and the future. In terms of your career, on the internal numbering it's page 11 of your statement. I'm afraid I don't, on this occasion, have the unique reference number, since the statement was amended at the last moment, but I'm sure it can be brought up. The position is that you are the Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset police. You have been since 2005, I believe?
A. That's right, sir.
Q. Before that, you began your career in the Greater Manchester police in the mid-1970s. In the mid-1990s, you undertook work in former Yugoslavia and then Rwanda in relation to war crimes and atrocities committed there. You came back to the United Kingdom, were appointed Deputy Chief Constable of Norfolk in June 1998, acting Chief Constable there later, and, as I've said, moved to Avon and Somerset in 2005. Is that all, broadly speaking, correct?
A. That's correct, sir. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Although actually you have enormous experience in investigation, because while you were in Norfolk, you actually went across to Northern Ireland to look at another murder investigation and were involved in that for some little time.
A. Three years, sir. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON (Nods head) MR JAY Generally, first of all, the impression of the culture of relations with the media when you arrived in Avon and Somerset, you deal with this under question 2 and you suggest that the relationship was not entirely satisfactory. What were the manifestations of that and the reasons for that?
A. My predecessor, who was an excellent Chief Constable, had been under some pressure following a police standards review of the force, and elements of the media had personally attacked him and things had become very defensive. When I was at during the appointment process, I was asked specifically by the Police Authority about my attitude to the press and questioned about that, and upon appointment, I made strong efforts to have a good, open, transparent relationship with the media.
Q. As at the present day, how would you characterise the nature and quality of your relationship with the media?
A. I mentioned in my statement at page 12 that I was asked on a blog what I thought and generally I said it was pretty good: "We will have our moments, but the media agenda will sometimes be different from ours. I think we should be as open as possible and yes, they may expose embarrassing situations, but I do believe a free press is important for any democracy, but so is accountability and accurate reporting."
Q. Thank you. In terms of your contact with the media, you describe that at page 13 under question 3. It would be right to say that it is fairly infrequent, usually on the basis of local radio shows and occasional breakfast meetings. Is that, broadly speaking, the position?
A. It's very infrequent. I will do breakfast shows where necessary and give interviews where necessary, yes.
Q. Your rationale in engaging with the media, question 4 you say: "Given the propensity of some elements of the press to publish negative items about policing which possibly lead the public to mistrust the police, you go on to say it's important that journalists hear the other side of the story, both on a formal and informal basis." Are you referring there to the regional press or to the national press or both?
A. The situation is in Bristol that whilst we do have regional press there, we also have reporters from most national newspapers based in and around, so therefore it's both.
Q. Thank you. In terms of the relationship you have with the local press, you make it clear on page 16 that they want an open relationship. This is the paragraph level with the lower hole punch.
A. Yes.
Q. Do you feel that their aspiration is borne out in practice?
A. Generally, yes.
Q. You give one example, though, a point which arose during the Joanna Yeates investigation and contact which came from you from the editor of the Bristol Evening Post. Could you develop that for us, please?
A. Yes, the editor felt that national newspapers were getting exclusives because of the nature of the stories that they were running. I sought to reassure him, and hopefully I did, that we were not supplying exclusive information to particular newspapers. It was a general press release. They were getting information from other sources.
Q. Thank you. Off-the-record conversations. First of all, generally. The basis on which you define the term it's communicated on the basis that it cannot be used or become attributable, so you mean by "off the record" non-reportable?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. But you are of the view that there is a time and a place for off-the-record conversations?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Briefly, Mr Port, what are the circumstances by reference to particular cases, if you wish, where such conversations are appropriate?
A. I give three specific examples in my statement. The most obvious, I think, was when I ran the south east regional crime squad, where we were running an undercover operation abroad where we had undercover officers deployed against some very dangerous people. We discovered there was a journalist from the News of the World who also had become involved in this. I went to see the then editor of the News of the World, spoke to him off the record and made it clear it was off the record, and told him that he was people were potentially in risk of their life and asked him not to run the story. I have to be honest; he behaved in an entirely ethical way. It probably didn't help his newspaper circulation but he understood the dangers and I'm very grateful for that.
Q. In relation to the Joanna Yeates investigation, you make it clear that you didn't have off-the-record conversations as such, although there was an occasion where you told the journalist not to go there, to use your term, and that was effective on that occasion?
A. It was effective, yes, sir.
Q. So we may be arguing about terminology here, but at all events, that which should have happened did happen. Can I move to the question of hospitality, question 7, page 18 of your statement. You say you have accepted hospitality in the form of meals and drinks from the media as recorded in the hospitality record. I've examined the record and I can't find anything which relates to hospitality from the media at all in the years which the record covers. Is there a reason for that?
A. Well, there are a couple in there, I think, but generally I will pay out of my own pocket. It's what I do.
Q. Thank you. Do you have a view generally about the ethics of receiving hospitality from the media?
A. I trust and rely upon the discretion of my staff. They make life-and-death decisions day in and day out, and if I can't trust them to decide that a cup of coffee or a glass or wine or a pint of beer at the appropriate time is not appropriate, then I've lost the plot.
Q. We're going to hear evidence directly from the communications department in due course, but can I just pick up a couple of matters with you? We're now on pages 20 oh 21 of your statement.
A. Yes, sir. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Just before we go there, that's a fair comment, that senior officers have to be able to make sensible decisions which satisfy whether you call it a blush test or however you want to describe it
A. The front of the Bristol Evening Post, sir. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Yes, well, I understand that as well, but let me ask you a question which may put you in a slightly difficult position. I hope not. As a very senior and probably the most long-serving chief constable who I have come across in the course of the Inquiry, what is or would be your attitude to the sort of hospitality of which I have heard during the course of this Inquiry?
A. It does place me in a difficult position, yes, sir, but I have no doubt at all that would that hospitality withstand the Bristol Evening Post test? No. Would I accept it? No. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON There may be all sorts of reasons for it, and I'm not asking you to criticise, but I hope you will understand why I felt it was right to ask you, as a very senior Chief Constable, to provide a window for me, who is not a serving police officer and never has been, on the whole issue.
A. Yes, sir. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. MR JAY Page 20, the communications department. First of all, question 13. The expectation is that contact with the media is recorded in the sense of the fact that its occurrence is noted. Is that, broadly speaking, the position?
A. Yes.
Q. Can I ask you about social media, Twitter and Facebook, which you pick up at question 17, and the extent to which your force is using that and whether there are any difficulties associated with its use. Could you help us there, please, Mr Port?
A. I think difficulties can arise where people are spending more time tweeting than actually policing and we don't encourage officers per se to tweet. What we have is a number of groups of officers who will do it, farm watch or particular watch areas. But we don't encourage officers to tweet. Facebook we use Facebook corporately, but Facebook, as we know from our own experience, has exposed officers, because of their nativity and trust, to potential compromise, so therefore we monitor and give guidance where appropriate in respect of that.
Q. You say here as well that you use the corporate communications department as a funnel. There will be instances where the media can contact individual officers, but if the officers are not confident in what they are saying, they will seek advice from the press office. So by "funnel", do you mean a means of making contact with individual officers?
A. Yes. Sometimes officers they'll be approached directly. It happens particularly in specialist sections of the press. Say, for instance, the financial press. Where there's a story, they may go straight to the economic crime unit because they're not used to dealing with our organisation as a matter of course. The economic crime unit will then generally pass them back to the corporate communications people and they will deal together with the issue.
Q. Thank you. Question 31, page 25. You were asked a general question about whether you were satisfied as to the policies and procedures which you describe in your statement working effectively and sufficiently. Your answer is: "I do not regard the question of media relationships and hospitality to be a problem for Avon and Somerset but I am not complacent. Our communications team have published an updated media protocol." That's underneath tab 2 in the file which has been prepared for you.
A. Yes, sir.
Q. It's page 11095. Is this a protocol which was generated in part, at least, by the events of last summer?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And possibly by Mr Jefferies' case as well; is that correct?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. The general principles, section 4, page 11097, did you have a hand in the drafting of this?
A. I was consulted. Miss Hirst, the head of corporate communications drafted it. I was consulted through it.
Q. It's similar to policies we've seen from other forces, but of course each force brings its own personality to bear. Can I ask you a general question: whether you feel, as a matter of practice and principle, that there should be a nationally agreed policy?
A. I totally agree with that. One of the issues one of the benefits of British policing is that we have 52 different geographical police services, but it also can be a disbenefit in instances like this.
Q. There's nothing in particular in the policy which leaps out from the page; in other words, it's similar to other policies. It's certainly expressed in a crisp and clear manner, so I come back to your statement, question 33, and the issue of leaks. You make it clear it's a serious issue because of the potential to undermine public confidence. We understand that. You say you believe that deliberate leaking for money or other motives is extremely rare, but simply put, is treachery?
A. Absolutely.
Q. That's, again, a succinct statement of the position. Then you say: "Often what appears or is said to be a leak from the police is not in fact a leak at all." You seek to illustrate that at the beginning of your statement. Of course, we're going to come back to it in relation to what Mr Wallace says, but as a generality, how frequently can you say that with confidence, that it isn't in fact a leak at all?
A. As a generality, based upon the evidence which I give in here, out of the 18 or so leak inquiries, 14 have been found not to be leaks in the first instance. There's lots and lots of information out there. The blogosphere, tweets, everything, and people talk. You know, what we think is a leak turns out not to be a leak but actually just to be some information which has come from some other source.
Q. It may be a body or an agency or an institution which is close to the police but it not the police properly so-called; is that correct?
A. It could be, and it could be people just making stories up which happen to be true.
Q. In question 35 you give the statistics: 20 investigations undertaken by your professional standards department, internal investigation unit in the last five years. In 14 incidences, no police leak was found. So are you saying there that it was established to someone's satisfaction that it wasn't a police leak, that the so-called leak was from some other source or was information which was elsewhere generated?
A. That's correct, sir.
Q. Of the remaining six, four have resulted in disciplinary action. So that's quite a good hit rate in one level, because these leak investigations are very difficult to undertake, aren't they?
A. Just on that point, what concerned me when I looked at the figures was there were four leak inquiries which didn't result in someone leaving the organisation rather sharpish. These were domestic-type leaks where people had fallen out within the organisation, where they'd told stories about colleagues or told stories about partners, and so that's the reason, just to reassure the public, that we don't take leaks lightly at all. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON I suppose it's how you calibrate the whole system. If you want to encourage an open and transparent promulgation of information good, sometimes wonderful, sometimes not so good, sometimes perhaps slightly embarrassing but if you're prepared to envelop within the way in which you do business with the community all that information, then there is simply no reason for anybody to pass information that isn't appropriately placed in the public domain.
A. Absolutely, other than malice, spite or money. That's the only and their secrets. They give away our secrets. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Where, of course, that impacts on operations, it is extremely serious and I readily understand that. I equally understand where it might even impact adversely upon the way you want to conduct an operation. So it has to be fed into the decision-making tree when actually you'd prefer not to have it there. I see all that.
A. (Nods head) LORD JUSTICE LEVESON What about information like your plans to deal with reducing numbers or that sort of thing?
A. Well, we're pretty open in respect of that. Those sort of discussions would take place within the chief officer group, then with the Police Authority in an open meeting, where it would be debated openly, be reported the media could be there, the media may not be there. It's reported on our website, all of those things. But those preliminary discussions would take place, yes, by the chief officer group. We operate a cabinet office cabinet responsibility. We then may talk to the unions, to the federation, about our plans and then make sure that when we were getting out to the organisation it went out in one hit as opposed to drip feed, and that's the way that we do it. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And the snag, to answer my own question, about people talking prematurely is that until a policy has been decided upon, it is simply premature?
A. And we don't comment upon leaks in those circumstances. MR BARR Question 42 now, paragraph 29. This is in relation to the press office, corporate communications department. So we understand the context here, you tell us elsewhere you're an organisation of 6,000 individuals. You say: "At its peak there were 17.4 posts in the corporate communications department, but that's been reduced to 15 due to budget cuts."
A. Yes, sir.
Q. You make it clear in your answer to question 42: "The media would no doubt prefer contact with individual officers." Well, all chief constables have said that. "But modern policing without a communications office would be impracticable." Again, everybody's said that. You say: "I am aware that the media has a certain amount of frustration with the communications office and one journalist called it the suppress office, but we do try to be as open as we possibly can." How is this frustration evinced or expressed to you?
A. When they can't get direct access to the officer in the case immediately or we say we have to go away and talk to consider this issue. So it's about the timeliness generally, both during the day when the office is staffed but also out of hours and the fact that they're not around. But we do, as I explain elsewhere in the statement, have out-of-hours calls, so there's always someone available.
Q. Thank you. Can I move on now to the Jefferies case, back to the start of your statement. You were concerned, I understand, by some of the evidence Richard Wallace gave to the Inquiry? He's the editor, of course, of the Daily Mirror.
A. I was, sir.
Q. So we understand the position in relation to possible litigation and therefore conceivable constraints on your evidence and we've heard this from Mr Jefferies himself your force has received a pre-action protocol letter claiming damages for false imprisonment, trespass to the person and property in breach of human rights?
A. Yes.
Q. It should also be understood that formal court proceedings have not been started, have they?
A. That's correct, sir.
Q. Paragraph 7 of Mr Wallace's statement, which you set out in paragraph 2 of your statement this is referring to CCTV footage of one of the last sightings of Ms Yeates: "Although police had spoken with the landlord before us, they didn't take away the CCTV. As a result of the Mirror's story, the police [I'm paraphrasing here] reinterviewed the landlord and took away the film." Your statement makes it clear that that's not right. Could you tell us, please, in your own words, why that's so?
A. If I look at the chronology, on 22 December, we visited the place. We took away a short period of CCTV. We then widened the parameters regarding that and we went back. We looked at the piece of equipment. Because we needed to have a bigger download, we needed to take it away. We were satisfied that the particular piece of equipment that was there was robust and would stay the course so we then went back on the 4th. On the 27th, the place was closed, I think, or during the week of the 27th the place was closed. On the 4th, a technician went back, seized the whole unit and there was a reporter there. So what we would say and what we are saying is we seized the CCTV and it wasn't because the Daily Mirror had raised it with us.
Q. So the reporter was there but the necessary steps had already been taken by your force to acquire the footage; is that, broadly speaking, the position?
A. That's quite correct, sir, and on that day we made it clear that we'd seized it previously and we gave a comment on 4 January.
Q. That comment is set out on the third page of your statement?
A. It is, sir.
Q. In paragraph 9 of Mr Wallace's statement, which is your paragraph 5, he refers to normal practice, which is for the media to be given regular off-the-record background briefings by the police. The off-the-record information that the police may give this small group of reporters might include details additional to those that have been given to the press more widely, and then he says: "I understand from the content desk that our crime correspondent at the time, Jon Clements, attended such briefings during the Joanna Yeates inquiry." First of all, Mr Port, before we look at the specifics, is it right to say it's normal practice for the media to be given off-the-record background briefings in this type of situation?
A. No, sir.
Q. Does that answer relate specifically to your force or does it relate more widely?
A. It relates to my experience as an investigating officer.
Q. What is the thinking behind the not giving of such briefings?
A. Really, the way I approach things is you try and get as much on the record as possible because it's in the public interest and that's what's paramount in all investigators' minds: the search for the truth. Once you start having cosy little chats with people behind the scenes, then people quite rightly will think there's something going on.
Q. Is that so, Mr Port, if the participants are trustworthy? In other words, although it's a secret conversation at one level, it's one that's not going to be misrepresented, it's not going to be put out in the public domain, and moreover, it might provide context to the stories they are writing?
A. I'm not saying that it is absolutely forbidden but what I'm saying is it is not common practice. It is not the normal practice at all.
Q. In paragraph 8, you set that out quite specifically and you make it clear that you came under pressure from the media, including officials I'm not quite sure why they've been put in inverted comas. Do you mean reporters?
A. Yes.
Q. from the CRA to give off-the-record briefings. ACPO also suggested a meeting, but at no time did you give off-the-record background briefings to crime reporters or any other journalist: "In fact, we were criticised by the media for not doing so." Where were the criticisms or how were they expressed to you?
A. Because people wanted to have a wider understanding of the investigation, which is legitimate, but when it is dealing with covert tactics and very sensitive techniques, then we're not going to give those. Additionally, on this particular instance, we had as well as crime reporters and our local reporters, we had whole plethora of general journalists who, frankly, had very little experience of crime at all, and that's borne out in some of the reporting which took place. And really, we had different people on different days because it was over the holiday period, and there was no group that we could actually sit down with and talk with.
Q. Your point about generalist reporters is they weren't part of the CRA, they weren't regular crime correspondents. To put it bluntly, they were less trustworthy; is that what you're saying?
A. I
Q. Or more likely to break the code of off-the-record?
A. Well, it's clear from some the reporting that they had no idea what they were talking about and listened to so-called experts instead of if they'd have gone in-house, they might have learnt a bit more. In-house, I'm talking about within their own organisations.
Q. And the experts you're referring to LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It may not be quite fair to just say "trustworthy". It may simply be that reporters who do not know what the law is or the consequences of reporting material which shouldn't be reported, simply don't know. And if they don't know, then no risks can be taken.
A. Absolutely, sir, particularly when they're driven by their news desks to get the scoop, to get the insight on the story that their competitors haven't got. MR JAY You pick this up in paragraph 11 of your statement. You say you were subjected to constant speculative questioning by the media: "Such were our concerns about the revelation of key lines of enquiry through a continuing process of elimination by the media that we ceased to give a response to many speculative enquiries where we felt the integrity of the investigation and subsequent trial could be compromised." So the issue here was really one of almost jigsaw identification. There came a point that if you answered in a certain way, well, then where your inquiry was going would be divulged.
A. Absolutely. Whilst national newspapers and the journalists represent their national newspapers they do talk and they spot stories.
Q. I invite you now, please, to look at the last paragraph on page 5, under question 12 or paragraph 12 of your statement. You say there: "In paragraph 10 of his statement, Mr Wallace gives a number of specific examples of [and then you quote] 'information contained in the daily Mirror articles of 30 September 2010, 1 January 2007 that I believe, from my discussions with the content desk, would have been sourced from the police during the Joanna Yeates Inquiry'." Then you say: "Clearly, Mr Wallace is using the term 'sourced' in the sense that the information was obtained other than through a completely open press release or at a press conference. I will deal with each of his examples in turn, demonstrating that they are either untrue or provided openly to the media at large." Then you do go through these seriatim, as it were. Paragraph (a) on the next page, Mr Wallace says that the arrest of Mr Jefferies on 30 December was itself announced in the statement from your force: "The off-the-record guidance to reporters on the ground from the police was that it was Mr Jefferies who had been arrested." In your own words, why is that incorrect?
A. Well, we didn't do it. We don't announce people who have been arrested. They're innocent and we don't do that. There was an inadvertent leak, which I've talked about in my statement, which was a mistake by some people. It was a genuine error. We sought to address that situation right away with the journalist concerned, but we certainly didn't give any off or on-the-record comment that it was Mr Jefferies who had been arrested. The only time we did was the inadvertent leak.
Q. The person arrested rather was described as a 65-year-old man. I mean, some might say that that rather narrowed down the field. Is that fair or not?
A. There are a number of 65-year-olds live that that area. I have to say, with the benefit of hindsight, it probably would have been better that we didn't use an age.
Q. We'll read to ourselves, as it were, the rest of what you say under (a). (b) is on page 7 LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It's worthwhile identifying in public that what is contained within your statement is the entry which the senior investigating officer made in his policy book prior to the arrest, which actually, assuming that the policy was carried out as he intended, is flat contrary to that which was asserted.
A. Absolutely, sir. Absolutely. MR JAY Thank you. Point (b): "The day before Mr Jefferies' arrest (29 December) police sources briefed the media that Mr Jefferies had told neighbours that he had seen three people leave Ms Yeates' flat, including Ms Yeates herself, on the night she disappeared. Mr Jefferies said that he was parking his car outside the house when he saw three people. But Mr Jefferies later told the media and neighbours in impromptu comments before his arrest that in fact he had not seen Ms Yeates." Then Mr Wallace says: "I believe the police felt there was an inconsistency in his story, although Mr Jefferies had a different view." Then we have what Mr Jefferies told Sky News on 29 December, and of course we also heard Mr Jefferies' own evidence to this Inquiry on these issues. Again, you say this statement is not true. In your own words, please, Mr Port, why not?
A. Well, we did not give Mr Jefferies' identity to anyone. He did say that he saw three people on two occasions that I recall. In his evidence to this Inquiry, he said that and I think I quote accurately he told no more than three people about his sightings. That's incorrect, and I completely understand why Mr Jefferies can't recollect that, but I've counted eight people, including some people who were paid by the media for information, and I've also seen evidence that he told people that they should also tell members of the Neighbourhood Watch. So his recollection is flawed, unfortunately.
Q. Thank you. Point (c): "In the article of 31 December " We're back now to what Mr Wallace is saying in his statement. we reported that 'a source close to the police investigation' said that it was believed Jo's murderer had tried to conceal her body. This information, to the best of my knowledge, came from one of the off-the-record briefings referred to above." Again, your point is the same as before: there were no such off-the-record briefings?
A. Absolutely, sir.
Q. It might be said that Mr Wallace's statement is not altogether precise in this particular regard. Point (d), that's one that you accept. This is the extension of the police bail.
A. Yes.
Q. Point (e) LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The extension not of police bail but of
A. Detention. MR JAY Pardon me. I mean exactly the opposite. Point (e): "Where we report in the 31 December article that the police had not ruled out a link between the murder of Glenis Carruthers in 1974 and that of Joanna Yeates, I believe, from my discussions with the content desk, that one of our reporters asked the police about a possible link and our report was based on the response given." We remember that particular reference in one of the Mirror articles to this old murder back in 1974. Again, in your own words, why was that untrue?
A. We know that the Daily Mirror disturbed a relative of Glenn Carruthers. We then spoke to them and we made it clear that there was no link between Glenn Carruthers' awful murder in 1974 and that of Joanna Yeates. It was clear to the reporter.
Q. You say that was made clear to the reporter the day before the article was published on 31 December?
A. Absolutely, sir. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That comes out of a written document? This isn't merely somebody recollecting something?
A. No, sir. MR JAY This is the media log for 30 December?
A. That's right.
Q. Then the last point, (f), again, I'm quoting from Mr Wallace's statement: "Information regarding various theories being considered by detectives contained in the article dated 1 January 2011 would have, I believe, also come from the police." You say categorically that the analysis of theories allegedly being considered by the police did not come from your force. Again, in your own words, would you like to explain why?
A. No, it did not, and it actually came from a retired detective called Peter Kirkham, who was being used by the Mirror and other media of recent times.
Q. You make it clear, as you say, that Mr Kirkham has written analyses in other cases. Are you prepared to comment on the quality of his analyses or not?
A. It's better than some, sir.
Q. Okay. Paragraph 13 now. This is Mr Wallace again, in paragraph 11 of his statement: "The police also give more general guidance to the press. When Mr Jefferies was arrested on 30 December, the content desk informed me that (off the record) the police were saying that they were confident Mr Jefferies was their man. It is not uncommon for the police to give such an indication. I believe that our coverage of this news story should be viewed against that background." What do you have to say about that, Mr Port?
A. It's absolutely outrageous. The assertion I have been, as pointed out by the chair, a police officer for a long time. I've never done that. It's not my job to pass opinion on these issues. We don't give off-the-record briefings and to behave in a collusive manner is just abhorrent. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It's rather worse than that, because if you did and therefore the press felt they were, therefore, excused in their coverage that has a go at the person who's identified, that potentially causes enormous damage to the trial process.
A. Absolutely, sir. MR JAY Can I move you forward in your statement, Mr Port, to question 57 on the internal numbering page 33. You deal, first of all, with the inadvertent confirmation point which you've already covered in your evidence. Four lines down: "In early January 2011, there was concern on the part of the investigation team resulting from information that journalists appear to have obtained that there were leaks to the media and these concerns were referred to the PSD an investigation was initiated on 4 January." Has that internal investigation now concluded, Mr Port?
A. No, sir, it's still ongoing.
Q. Can we deal with it quite generally then, in the light of the ongoing investigation. Does this relate to certain items of clothing which were missing when Joanna Yeates' body was found?
A. It does, sir, yes, in part.
Q. Are you able to assist the Inquiry at all as to how far the investigation has got and what hypotheses it has eliminated, without, as it were, prejudicing the investigation?
A. It's very difficult to prove a negative, but the evidence that we have seen so far, the evidence we've obtained, tends to indicate that this did not come from a police source; it came from elsewhere.
Q. You don't wish to go further than that today; is that right?
A. No, sir.
Q. There's also issues surrounding the leaks of information around two delivery drivers from Ikea.
A. Yes.
Q. And an article which appeared in the Sun on 17 January 2011. One of the hypotheses may be: well, that information came from the police; in other words, was a leak. First of all, is that matter being investigated?
A. It is, sir, yes.
Q. Has that investigation concluded?
A. It has not concluded totally, but the indications are that it did not come from the police, it came from elsewhere.
Q. That's as far as you wish to go today, is it?
A. I think I can add that the allegation was that this information was only known to the police. There was information that was known to the police but it was also known to others, and if you look at the article, it says that police must have found a receipt or something in the house. Well, we didn't find a receipt. We got that information from Joanna's boyfriend and there were a number of other firms that we went to over the weekend, but it was only Ikea that became the source of a newspaper article. Despite what some have said, that did not come from the police.
Q. I've been asked to put to you a line of questions relating to the fact that Mr Jefferies was on police bail until 4 March 2011, whereas Vincent Tabak was charged on 22 January, so there's a six-week period when, as it were, Mr Jefferies was out of the frame yet he remained on police bail. Are you in a position to address that at all, Mr Port?
A. In general terms. Mr Jones will address it specifically and tactically, sir. But Vincent Tabak went "no comment" except for a very small part of the interview, so there's always a question hanging, and to set the context, unfortunately we arrest 45,000 people each year. About 21,000 of those, an enormous number too many in my opinion are bailed. 1,600 of those are bailed longer than three months. We are doing something about that internally, but just to set the context, it wasn't extraordinary. Unfortunately, it was too usual.
Q. I'll ask Mr Jones to address the specifics in a moment, Mr Port. Can I ask you, though, to go back to general issues. HMIC's report, "Without fear or favour", December 2011, and the Elizabeth Filkin report. These you touch on at page 37 of your statement.
A. Yes, sir.
Q. You make it clear that the HMIC report is currently subject to consideration in your force, but are there any preliminary opinions, recommendations that you have in mind which you might be able to share with us or not?
A. The recommendations which come out of the report we'd already implemented in the organisation before the inspectors came around, and it was a great sadness to me that individual forces weren't named, because I think we had a good story to tell in terms of propriety, in terms of this. We're always looking for opportunities to develop and once again we're going through it to see if there's anything we've missed, but generally I would say we're in quite a good place in relation to that. But I have to say that one of my concerns is that we concentrate and I make this point in the statement too much on policies, procedures. It's the culture that's important. It's the leadership that's important in setting the right example, and that's what Elizabeth Filkin talks about.
Q. So are you of the view that the culture is, as it were, set at the top?
A. Absolutely.
Q. When one is referring to culture in that sentence, it's not just to do with relations with the media, because that's only a small part of it; it's to do with a general approach, a general philosophy of your dealings with the public and the discharge of your statutory and common law functions. Is that right?
A. Absolutely, sir. Our job is to serve the public, and as far as I'm concerned it's public first, which is one of our core values, then there's the organisation and then there's the individual. Unfortunately sometimes that triangle gets reversed.
Q. When you say unfortunately it gets reversed, are you referring to your force at all or are you referring to others?
A. Individuals. Clearly there are individuals in any large organisation who put themselves first and not the public. It's a question of leadership to address those issues.
Q. Finally, under question 69, you say you remain convinced that generating a culture of transparency, openness and accountability is the key to maintaining appropriate relationships with the media. You believe an inquiring media is essential in a democratic society and the overregulation of the relationship risks undermining the media as a real source of ensuring accountability, particularly on the part of those in public office. May I deal with one point there in the context of what some have claimed to be overregulation, which is the noting of contacts between police officers and the media. Are you of the view that that has a chilling effect or not?
A. I think it has to be proportionate. I've thought about this, and two very different examples. I'm walking down the street in Bristol. I'm stopped by a journalist who works for a French TV station, recognises me because of my past life, said, "Would you talk on my TV station about Rwanda?" I said, "Of course." Did I make a record? No. Overregulation may indicate that I should make a record. The other extreme is a journalist ringing up and asking about earrings. Did I make a record? Yes. So I think we have to be proportionate about making a record, sir. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Well, I understand that, and walking down the street and meeting a journalist who asks you a question about community policing or whatever, or out-of-court disposals just in passing, may very well generate a comment and you're comfortable with it. But the difficulty is that people may draw the line in different places and what concerns me is the risk of well, one could say a free-for-all. I don't mean that in any denigratory sense, but a lack of understanding from the top as to what is happening and therefore a lack of overall control. I'm not suggesting that you would want to be controlling, but you would want to be in control. I hope that's a distinction with which you would agree. So the problem is how to do that. By all means, encourage openness, transparency, a willingness to talk, but how one balances that so that those at the top of the operation know what's going on and have some measure of understanding seems to me is quite important. But I'd be interested in your view.
A. It is vitally important. As a leader, I expect all of the people in positions of responsibility must know what's going on on the ground. I spend as much time as I can out and about on the ground, talking to members of the public, talking to people in my organisation. I expect the other leaders in the organisation to do exactly the same. We can't and I think I refer to this in my statement live in ivory towers. We have to know what's going on. So therefore we talk to our people, I hold focus groups, I have interactions with people, I visit police stations odd times of the day and night. So I have a good feeling of what's going on in the organisation. Sometimes things happen that I'm horrified by, but I don't know everything. But I try, and I encourage my leaders to also do the same, sir. And I think you know, that there have been some examples, which you have heard, where exceptional behaviour shouldn't actually rule what the good work of general police officers on a day-to-day basis, who, as I said earlier, make life and death decisions. I trust my officers generally. If I don't trust them, then they have to go. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But I'm not actually, I think, challenging a single word of that. What I am asking about is something slightly different, but maybe you don't agree, that if officers are talking to the press, not in the casual way that I just exemplified, but on topics, doubtless within their area of competence because I'm sure you would agree they should not be talking about matters which are not within their competence
A. Absolutely, sir. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON and strategic matters should be dealt with at appropriately high rank, but that there be some not record of the conversation, but awareness that there has been a conversation, if only so that somebody can see: well, this particular sergeant has a very, very close relationship and is chatting a great deal to one particular journalist; is that fair? Is that balanced? How should we use that positively and how can we consider? I'm not suggesting some great bureaucratic system, I really am not, but I am troubled that there has to be some counterbalance to what I believe is right and what you've made abundantly clear, in three or four places in your statement, you believe is right: that openness, transparency, telling the good stories, the medium stories and accepting the bad stories is critical to an open relationship that lies behind consensual policing. So it's just to provide some element of balance. That's what I'm really asking you about.
A. Just to reassure you, sir, that through the corporate communications and the log that we have, media comments and contact with the media, with our officers, are logged. So they are there. What I'm talking about is the walking down the street instance. Sir, they are logged, they are recorded, and of course we do have an internal investigations unit who will monitor contact with the media if necessary, if there's leaks. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON So in other words, there's no problem with the sort of system I'm talking about?
A. No, sir. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Provided it doesn't, of course, cover the accidental meeting in the street, and I recognise that. I'm not sure your Rwandan example really works, because if it had been: "I'd like to ask you about something that was relevant to Avon and Somerset policing", your answer might be different. It's because it goes back to your experience in relation to Rwanda. I mean, giving an interview.
A. If I was walking down the street and this is a hypothetical situation and a journalist said, "Can we talk about out-of-court disposals?" and I say, "Yes, but make an appointment through the office, through the corporate communications, and away we go." LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Then you've done it the other way. Rwanda is different because that's you and only you.
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And nobody else in your force is affected by it. Is that fair?
A. Yes, sir. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Thank you. MR JAY Thank you very much, Mr Port.
A. Thank you, sir. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Mr Port, thank you very much.
A. Thank you. MR JAY Mr Jones, please. MR PHILIP ANDREW JONES (sworn) Questions by MR JAY MR JAY Your full name, please, Mr Jones?
A. Philip Andrew Jones.
Q. I'm going to ask you to confirm your witness statement. You've signed and dated it 28 February of this year. Is this your true evidence to the Inquiry?
A. It is, yes.
Q. You are currently a detective chief inspector with the Avon and Somerset constabulary. You've worked in the service for 23 years. You were the senior investigating officer as from 27 December 2010 in relation to the Joanna Yeates investigation; is that right?
A. Yes, I was, sir.
Q. I'm going to ask you some specific questions, please, about that investigation. First of all, paragraph 9 of your statement at the bottom of page 10578. This is your general philosophy in relation to the media. You regard the media as an additional investigative tool providing a means of communication with the public to appeal for information, witnesses, aid elimination and provide reassurance. How successful is that mode of communication? Does it, in other words, achieve positive results in terms of identifying offenders in your experience?
A. I think it does, sir. It certainly formed one of the certainly formed part of my media strategy in the Joanna Yeates investigation, and I think a good example of the success of it is that in that particular investigation we received around 3,000 telephone calls, messages and emails from members of the public. On a more local scale, then yes, it does provide a source of not only key information, witnesses, but also it can assist in aid in elimination in terms of identifying vehicles and CCTV, for example. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It's not just important, is it, Mr Jones? It's absolutely critical that the public understand that crime is detected by the public coming forward with information. It's a terrible mistake to think that crime can be detected entirely isolated from assistance provided by witnesses. It just can't be done other than in television programmes. Is that fair?
A. Absolutely. Absolutely, sir. I think sometimes there's a perception that we investigate and solve all our crimes on forensic evidence alone, and it's actually witnesses and the general public that help us solve crime, and without them we couldn't operate in the criminal justice system and bring offenders to justice. So they are vital. MR JAY You mentioned the strategy in relation to the Joanna Yeates investigation. We see this, I think, under your tab 19, our page 11438.
A. Yes.
Q. You refer to this in your statement. We can see the date of the strategy, 13 January 2011, so presumably it superseded an earlier strategy, did it?
A. Yes. In essence, sir, this was, if you like, documenting the investigative media strategy. It had been implemented at the very early stages when this was a missing person investigation, which was back on 20, 21 December 2010. So it was just a combination of that investigative media strategy had been implemented; it was just a question of obviously documenting it within the actual policy book itself and having a record of that.
Q. Can I ask you just a couple of points upon the strategy. You see under item 5: "To adopt a proportionate approach to ongoing media speculation and its potential impact on the investigation." What does that mean in more detail, Mr Jones? What do you mean by a proportionate approach?
A. Well, I think it's a balanced approach. In any investigation, there will be a degree of media speculation and sometimes you can respond to that appropriately. I think in this particular case, in the Joanna Yeates investigation, there was so much speculation from the media and I would describe it as an almost scattergun approach, where evidently they were trying to, I believe, identify lines of inquiry, and therefore our proportionate response to that was to give a response that either we would not confirm or deny that was a line of inquiry which we were pursuing.
Q. Under the heading "Delivering the strategy", you refer to briefings. Were you intending to refer only to on-the-record briefings?
A. Absolutely, sir, yes.
Q. Were there, to your knowledge, any off-the-record briefings to journalists?
A. None at all, sir.
Q. Had there been, (a) who would have conducted them and (b) would you know about it?
A. Well, I don't believe there were any off-the-record briefings. It certainly wasn't myself and I don't know who would have conducted those off-the-record briefings. Had there been any intention to do that, then I would have expected somebody would have told me, yes. But that wasn't the case.
Q. So looking at this logically, of course, you can't prove a negative. What you can say, in the light of your last answer, is that any off-the-record briefing and you deny that any such occurred would have been unauthorised?
A. Absolutely, yes.
Q. You do say in the last sentence of paragraph 16 that no individual briefings were given until after the trial.
A. That's correct, yes.
Q. Why was that?
A. We had requests before the trial for pre-trial briefings from the media. I discussed it with my corporate communications department and my decision was that we weren't going to hold any pre-trial briefings. There were a number of reasons for that decision. I think the experience of the investigation itself had left a lasting impression on me in terms of the media, but I think more importantly there were certain aspects in that particular case which were subject of bad character applications during the trial, which involving some material, adult pornography material on the defendant's computer which I didn't want to release to the media prior to the trial because I couldn't take the risk of any of that leaking into the public domain. It would clearly be prejudicial, which was proved in court because the bad character applications weren't successful. There was a court order in relation to those during the trial, but that court order was lifted upon verdict and I think the reaction from the media in terms of, firstly, the verdict, then obviously moving onto that aspect of the investigation, was quite clear. So it was a very interesting, newsworthy item and I felt that it was important that we held back on that. So of course after the trial, then that afforded us the opportunity of having, you know, those meetings or briefings. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON It's always a problem, isn't it, because the press will want the full story after the verdict, and as I understand it, are perfectly prepared to prepare a story and bin it if the verdict does not go that particular way, and that's understood. But the problem is the extent to which you allow information to be known prior to verdict which might impact on a jury during the course of the case if it enters the public domain.
A. Absolutely. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON And that's the point you're making
A. Yes. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON about the pornographic material.
A. Yes. I felt, during the investigation, we had you know, I had a real grip around the disclosure of information. We were really, really tight around that, as best we possibly could, and of course my concern was I didn't want that to impact any, you know, release of information impact upon the trial itself and ultimately be prejudicial. MR JAY The point you might make is the fact that some particularly explosive and prejudicial information did not leak from your force and you can prove that conclusively may be an indication that other bits of information didn't leak either.
A. Exactly, sir, yes.
Q. It wouldn't necessarily follow, but it's an indication. Can I ask you, please, about the second sentence of paragraph 18. You explain it was of paramount importance for you and the investigation team to maintain the integrity of the investigation so you could achieve justice. How did you go about achieving that as best you could, Mr Jones?
A. Sorry, with regard to the integrity?
Q. Yes.
A. Just reiterating, really, with staff during briefings around confidentiality. We did have some concerns early on, but we ensured that staff were aware of confidentiality and I think also, as the investigation progressed, when there was sensitive information, we ensured that it was kept to a very small number of people within the investigation, so it wasn't widely and publicly known within the investigation itself, which I felt was really important.
Q. Can I ask you about the last sentence of paragraph 18 where you say: "In some cases, we were aware that members of the public we were speaking to had also been contacted by journalists either prior to or after our visit." So was the source of that awareness what you were told by members of the public?
A. Yes. It there were for example, in Canynge Road itself, we were aware that there were residents that we would visit as part of our enquiries who had already been visited by journalists or they were attending the address when we were. I think a really good example of this was Rebecca Scott, who was Joanna Yeates' best friend. She received she contacted us because she had received over 160 telephone calls and text messages from the media, and in fact the media were camped outside her home address and Hampshire Police had intervened because they were threatening to arrest some of the media for harassment. So that gives you an you know, a good indication of some of the targeting that was going on by the media in terms of in terms of witnesses and generally members of the public.
Q. Did you receive information that any members of the public were paid by journalists for information they gave?
A. There was an indication that I'm aware of that there were some certainly some residents in Canynge Road that may have received money from the media. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON When you say "indication", is there any evidence of that? I ask because there's clear material in the press code of ethics about paying witnesses, and it's a matter which I personally have been involved in for more years than I care to think about. Is there any evidence of that?
A. Perhaps I could clarify that, sir. Yes, there was evidence, yes. But what I will say is not evidence they were not witnesses in the trial. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON But who was to know that?
A. That's right, sir. MR JAY Are you referring to members of the public who lived near by?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Okay. In paragraph 20 of your statement, Mr Jones, bottom of page 10581, you deal with the steps you took when Mr Jefferies was arrested, which was on 30 December.
A. Yes.
Q. As far as you were aware, were those steps successful, in the sense that was there evidence that journalists knew that you were arresting him at that time?
A. It was successful. If I can kind of explain the layout at Canynge Road. There were permanently at least four television crews with satellite vans parked outside 44 Canynge Road, which was the address where Ms Yeates lived. So they were there 24 hours a day. When I took the decision to arrest Mr Jefferies, clearly one of my primary concerns was that we made that arrest without the media being aware of our presence and doing so. There was some planning and preparation that went into that, and I believe that we were successful in arresting him and actually conveying him away from his home address to a police station. Whilst he remained in custody, there was an application for a time extension with a warrant of further detention at the magistrate's court in Bristol. We managed to convey him from the police station to the magistrate's court, again without the reporters that were waiting outside the court to actually see him. Conversely, we returned him to the police station and then, when we subsequently released him on bail, we actually he left the police station with a solicitor and we actually delayed informing the media an hour after he'd left that we had released a person on bail to enable Mr Jefferies to leave the police station and basically be undetected in doing so. So that was successful, yes.
Q. In paragraph 21, you deal with your concerns about possible leaks and the involvement of the Professional Standards Department. The leaks related to what appeared in the Sun, I think, on 4 January, relating to certain items of clothing, and then the article on 17 January, again in the Sun, relating to the two Ikea deliver drivers. Is that, broadly speaking, right?
A. No, that's not right.
Q. Oh?
A. It came about because of the Daily Mail on the when I was notified of the low copy DNA Daily Mail possible story which we were notified of.
Q. That's paragraph 24 of your statement, isn't it?
A. That's correct, sir, yes. That was what instigated that. That was on 2 January. On 4 January I made a report to our Professional Standards Department, because I wanted to you know, I wanted it to be proactively and robustly investigated. It did cause me concern.
Q. To be clear about this, on 2 January, corporate communications department contacted you because they had received an enquiry from the Daily Mail regarding low copy DNA allegedly having been found on Joanna Yeates' body; is that right?
A. That's correct, sir, yes.
Q. So that immediately rang warning bells in your mind that this might be a leak; is that right?
A. That's right, sir, yes.
Q. And then you took appropriate steps. Can we be clear about the Daily Mail's story? Was there low copy DNA found on her body?
A. There was, sir, yes.
Q. So the enquiry was, as it were, not a piece of wild speculation; it was based on fact, wasn't it?
A. Yes, sir. I mean, my reaction when I was told and I said in my statement it was a feeling of deflation that that information was known outside of the investigation.
Q. Who knew on or before 2 January 2011 that low copy DNA had been found on her body?
A. Precisely within the investigation, I can't recollect, but there would have been other agencies involved in the actual forensic process that would have been aware also.
Q. Right. So does it follow that the information which the Daily Mail received either came from your team or it came from one of the other agencies? Logically, that must be right?
A. It could have done, yes.
Q. When you refer to "other agencies", you presumably are referring to the scientific testing agencies who would be involved in analysing the DNA?
A. Yes.
Q. But the upshot is that the investigation has not come to fruition. It hasn't identified the source of the Daily Mail's information as at today's date; is that right?
A. I've never had any role in the actual that PSD investigation itself, and as Mr Port said earlier, that is still an ongoing investigation.
Q. Can I ask you, please, about the negotiations which you refer to in paragraph 25, where the Daily Mail had agreed to qualify their publication of the existence of DNA on Joanna's body. What do you mean by that?
A. Um
Q. Or should I ask the next witness, who may be able to assist us?
A. I think the chronology let's go back to the chronology of 2 January. As I said, I received a telephone call that contact had been made by a Daily Mail journalist to our corporate communications department around the nature of a story that they intended to release. We initially considered what legal options we could take to prevent that being publicised. The corporate communications department and not myself then undertook negotiations with the journalists and the paper themselves, so I had no involvement in that. And then obviously they published this story accordingly.
Q. Did you have any involvement of negotiations, although they were unsuccessful ones, with the Sun newspaper regarding other information?
A. No, I didn't, sir, no.
Q. The ramifications of this are clear in terms of damage to morale and potential to destroy trust. You refer to that in paragraph 26 and really the points are entirely obvious and understood, Mr Jones?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Can I deal with another series of questions which I've been asked to put to you. I gave the chronology to Mr Port. Vincent Tabak was arrested on 20 January, I believe. He was charged to 22 January, yet Mr Jefferies wasn't released from police bail until 4 March. Mr Jefferies gave evidence about that when he returned to the Inquiry at the end of February. Why was there such a delay?
A. Okay. When Vincent Tabak was interviewed, he gave "no comment" in interview. It was only a very small area around a mobile phone which he was willing to talk about. One of the topics in that interview concerned Mr Jefferies, to which he declined he again made no comment. Mr Jefferies was still a suspect in the investigation. There was still ongoing forensic examination work which was being undertaken. In particular, there were a pair of trainers which we found in Mr Jefferies' house which were hidden underneath a kitchen unit behind a kickboard. Those trainers had some had a blood spot on them. That was initially analysed and because of a sensitive forensic technique which they had to use, eventually a DNA profile was found and Mr Jefferies could be eliminated. So when the forensic lines of inquiry were completed, he was fully eliminated from the investigation, which is then when he was released from his bail without charge.
Q. When he was released from his bail, why didn't you make it crystal clear that there was no evidence against him?
A. My recollection of when we released him from his bail, he was notified immediately and then I believe there was a media or press release that was circulated from our corporate communications department saying that and bear in mind that we'd never confirmed his name or didn't confirm his name until after the Vincent Tabak trial that said, "The 65-year-old man has been released without charge", but I can't remember the exact words that we used.
Q. The question which I've been asked to put to you is that given what you knew about the vilification that Mr Jefferies had received in the press which, of course, you weren't responsible for, but you knew that it had taken place 31 December and 1 January in particular, but there were plenty of really egregious examples in that period why didn't you make it clearer that there was no evidence against him on 4 March? In other words, it wouldn't be a question simply of saying no charges were being brought against him, but that there was no evidence against him. Do you see the distinction?
A. I do, and I understand that, sir. In hindsight, yes, we probably could have released more information, but the most important information to release was that he was no longer a suspect in the investigation and that he'd been released without charge.
Q. Okay. As I said at the outset, there may be proceedings which Mr Jefferies will bring resulting out of that, so you've probably gone as far as you wish to go, Mr Jones.
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And arguably it's not central to matters this Inquiry is required to investigate into. Can I ask you, finally this, broad and general question it may be a slightly unfair one, but if it is, you'll tell me. Are there any general lessons arising out of this case, particularly I'll confine the question to engagement with the media. I'm not concerned with policing issues and technical issues of investigation, but are there any general lessons which you feel able to share with the Inquiry?
A. I think when it becomes at a national high-profile investigation, then clearly the volume and the demands upon us from the media is significant. Also, the time of year when this took place, there was a lack of continuity in terms of journalists, and what we found is that outside of the usual crime reporters we had general reporters there and journalists. I think for me the lesson that comes out of this is in relation to responsible and accurate reporting, which clearly at times there wasn't. This has a massive impact upon the family, because every time there was something speculative reported, in particular in relation to the Sun with the sock and also with the low copy DNA, then it would require us to make contact with the family, to make them aware of the fact this article was going to be published. It's really important that we maintain that trust and confidence with the family, and thankfully we achieved that with this investigation, but it does put a strain upon that relationship. Certainly that's the lessons some of the lessons that were learnt, anyway, in terms of the media, sir.
Q. This was against the backdrop of an already highly pressurised investigation. It attracted national, it not international, interest and as every day passed without killer, as it were, apprehended, the pressure increased on you?
A. It did. It was an unrelenting media interest from the point that Joanna was reported missing, but I think the important point to make is that the support that I got from my corporate communications department and indeed from the Gold Group because they basically took the brunt of the media demands, allowing me to focus and concentrate on the investigation and ultimately finding the killer and ultimately convicting them. So that was my objective and that was made clear to me and they did an awful lot to protect me and allowed me to focus on that and not get distracted. And I think that's really important. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON The Gold Group is a senior officer not involved in the inquiry but who, as it were, could take off these side issues?
A. The Gold Group, sir, was comprised of the Chief Constable, the gold commander was the Assistant Chief Constable for Protective Services, and the head of corporate communications, and they would meet daily. So they had an overview of the media interest and they were able to manage and deal with that, allowing me to concentrate on the investigation. MR JAY Thank you, Mr Jones. Those were all my questions. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON Mr Jones, thank you very much indeed.
A. Thank you. LORD JUSTICE LEVESON That's probably a convenient moment. 2 o'clock. Thank you. (12.58 pm)


Gave a statement at the hearing on 27 March 2012 (AM) ; and submitted 1 pieces of evidence
Gave a statement at the hearing on 27 March 2012 (AM) ; and submitted 8 pieces of evidence
Gave a statement at the hearing on 27 March 2012 (AM) ; and submitted 17 pieces of evidence


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