The transcripts of the official inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press. More…

  • (The luncheon adjournment)

  • Sir Denis, we've touched on one aspect of the events of July 2009. I'm going to come back to it in due course, but I know you have some insights you wish to share with us about the pressures on assistant commissioners specialist operations. Can you tell us anything about that?

  • Yes, well, I think at the top end of policing, where one is dealing with the most serious cases, murder and the like, there have always been pressures, and particular police forces experience that from time to time. The Metropolitan Police, by their very nature, their size, their scale, they experience a significant number of those kinds of inquiry. But over and above that, the whole issue of terrorism, of course, has changed character dramatically, really, in the last ten years, and whilst I think we sometimes, with the benefit of hindsight, may have great regrets about what happened in 2009 and everything else, if we reflect back to 2006, I think it's probably fair to say that two features stand out: the momentum of work at that time in relation to terrorism was substantial, to say the least. The Assistant Commissioner at the time, because of the nature of the threat, undertook to help build a counter-terrorist network across the country, centred on three major geographical locations, and then five subsidiary locations, in parallel with undertaking -- overseeing terrorist investigations and in relation to their work, as a member, if you like, of the management board, the corporate end of the Met, and of course, along the way, to deal with all of the relationship issues with various other agencies and Whitehall that would go along with such a high-profile role.

    I thought it was just worth mentioning that and just to contextualise it, I -- we do -- reports we publish much of the time, but we also undertake work which is on a restricted basis, and I undertook a report on the development of the network and the need, entitled "Intercepting terrorism", and internally for the various agencies and Police Service in 2006, and I did at the time say: because an individual would have to face in several directions, the point may have been reached where it was difficult at best even for a talented individual to fulfil these duties effectively and at the same time retain executive responsibilities in a demanding force.

    It was putting down a marker that -- and I then went on to say: we may have to reconsider this as work in progress as we go, and I returned to it in 2008 because the then -- the office had changed, but the new individual had inherited some of the build issues, but also some of the backwash and terrorist investigations and the like.

    Just by way of context, I think 2007, from my own records, there were 175 terrorist-related arrests. So there was a lot still coming through the system, and in 2008, in a report not published, again restricted, entitled "Co-ordinating Pursue", I did say that the support of this Assistant Commissioner in co-ordinating the network and other things needed to be revised in order to give them an opportunity to be able to manage all of these separate compelling needs.

  • I'm not quite sure where this is taking us, Sir Denis. I mean, in relation to 2006, I think I've said to at least half a dozen very senior officers that a decision not to pursue Caryatid was entirely understandable and reasonable, provided that there was put into place the two extra limbs which I mentioned this morning to the Assistant Commissioner. That doesn't detract from the other responsibilities of the Assistant Commissioner ultimately responsible for this work, and by the time we get to 2009, whatever other responsibilities the relevant Assistant Commissioner has, first of all, he needn't have undertaken this one, and secondly, it didn't again require too large an input of time; it required an input of appropriate thought to give sensible direction, didn't it?

  • It required all of those things. I understood -- maybe I misunderstood -- Mr Jay's point was: over a period of time, basically the needs, the stress, if you like, the intensity of the work changed in character and the build of the new network was not a sort of a one-year thing. It was -- it's a sort of three to five-year project, gradually building up in strength, and it was simply to make the point that there were other -- in the context -- and this doesn't put 2006 or 2009 to bed, but is simply to say that was part of this context, and this is quite an unusual thing for an individual to be dealing with that. That is all.

    Now, of course, the network is much more established, the routine of support is much more established and the expectations about how much they can do and when they review things I think is stronger and clearer than it certainly was in 2006. 2009 is a different question.

  • Yes. Well, I understand and I'm very keen to ensure that the context is correctly described. What I was really getting at was I wasn't quite sure how it gelled with the specific decisions that I have to make, but the context I understand.

  • Sir, yes. I guess the point, maybe poorly made by myself, is this: that there isn't been a time in policing when there's not been a considerable amount of reform and change going on.

  • I guess in the context of what you hope to achieve in the end, any proposals will need to survive the rigour of that environment and that's the point: to be able to deal with the rough times as well as when things are going more smoothly. And I say it as somebody who, you know, has supported reform in every way, shape and form, not always with success, I hasten to add.

  • I entirely agree with that as a proposition, and it is for that reason that I have asked each of the retired commissioners, and I think one retired deputy commissioner, to provide me with a view. You, of course, have done so in your report, but if you have any other views in the area of where I should be going, that will be valuable, not least because you understand from the policing perspective what will work in a way that, however much I listen to however many very senior officers, I will not quite have the same feel for. If you want to take that up, you're very welcome.

  • I hope to have an opportunity to do that, sir.

  • Sir Denis, may I come to your report, "Without fear or favour". I don't know whether you have this as a separate document which you've brought along?

  • It is, of course, in our reports bundle, tab 4. We've looked at the overview section with Mr Baker and then we get to the meat of it. Chapter 1 to begin with, which on the internal numbering is page 21. I think on our wider numbering it's page 04396.

    This report, of course, goes further than difficulties in the relations between the police and the press. It's looking at police integrity issues more widely, self-evidently. Can I ask you this question: on the narrower issue of police relations with the press, is it your understanding or perception that this is a problem which is particular to the Metropolitan Police Service or is it a problem which is country-wide?

  • I think the conflicts of -- the emerging conflicts of interest evidence is country-wide. I think the issues with the press are most intense in the most intensive environment, which is London.

  • Thank you. Now, chapter 1, "What the public think". As Mr Baker pointed out, the approach here was both quantitative and qualitative, and the findings we can see here. May I ask you this blunt question, if you don't mind: what is the value of public opinion in this domain?

  • Well, it's another anchor point, I suppose, in police legitimacy, which is something I guess we'll come back to. With a measure of public sentiment, anything is possible. Without it, progress is very difficult.

    In relation to this, I was actively interested to see, frankly, whether what had occurred last summer had made a real dent in the police reputation, in the public's belief in them and the trust, and that's why myself and Mr Baker undertook this work, and you will see there was a concern about corruption -- there was a huge minority, a substantial minority -- but there was a residual very strong support for the police, you know, for some people, at enviably high levels.

  • In the use of the term "corruption", you're making it clear that that ranges across a whole spectrum of behaviours, with frank corruption, money passing hands, at one end of the spectrum, which is relatively rare, and the much softer corruption at the other end of the spectrum?

  • Yes, and the public -- as appears in the text, it's doing favours, treating something much more favourably, one institution than another, you know, a place where hot dogs or something are served, one particular franchise much more favourably than another. That would raise a question in their mind because they're obviously seeing things on the street every day, and it kind of anchors us a little bit that even at the lower end, as some people would see it, of what happens, there is an expectation of the police, thankfully, which is hugely inspiring. 89 per cent of the public think that they should be better than others in regard to their mission and what they do and be very even-handed about it. That's how I interpret that.

  • The importance of perceptions -- and I suppose therefore the part of the answer to the penultimate question I posed to you -- you deal with at page 25 of the internal numbering, 04400. Really, I think this part speaks for itself.

    Chapter 2, though, Sir Denis, 04402, page 27, "Relationships with media and other parties". May I ask you, please, to elaborate or clarify the paragraph which deals with the over-arching principle, level with the lower hole punch, four paragraph down, where you say:

    "The over-arching principle of police relationships with the media is that the Police Service should not seek to constrain the media but allow them to accurately report news in which the principal beneficiary is the public."

    That part is clear enough. But then the next sentence:

    "However, forces should take account of the level and intensity of these relationships and not least how they'll be perceived by the public."

    What do you mean by that, please?

  • Well, if the relationships become, as it were, visible and particularly focused on one or two individuals or one particular news organisation -- this really is in more of a national level than a local level, where very often, frankly, there is only one local newspaper -- then the point is that people may have the wrong perceptions of it, or maybe the right perception, but they may -- it may cause them to become concerned.

  • Thank you. Then you say:

    "No evidence of endemic corruption in police relationships with the media."

    And that statement applies, presumably, to the Metropolitan Police Service as much as it does to anyone else; is that right?

  • On the information available to us -- and I have no special advantages on this, Mr Jay -- that is true.

  • Then the last paragraph:

    "The boundaries of acceptable relationships are understood."

    Obviously they exclude the exchange of information for money. About four lines down:

    "One force gave a view, shared by others in the service, that most leaks come about by staff being loose-lipped and discussing things with friends and family which then get passed on or overheard, rather than deliberate corruption or financial gain."

    Just explore what is the evidential foundation for that, if any?

  • The evidential foundation for that is the -- is looking back on the investigations that had been conducted on unauthorised disclosure of information, and where they have tended to fall, the bulk of them, and very few of those have been actually with the media. That doesn't mean to say the problem doesn't exist, but one can only work with what is in front of one. The bulk have tended to be more of this sort of, as it were, indirect leaking because of -- maybe people have not been as thoughtful or cautious as they should have been.

  • Rather than gossip and similar lack of caution over a social interaction with a journalist?

  • Yes. There's always an appetite for gossip and that's understandable. The fact of the matter is, as a police officer, you are -- have to be in a slightly separate place on these things.

  • On the next page, page 28, you address the Information Commissioner's reports. Then you say in that paragraph:

    "HMIC has contacted the ICO and established that since this operation [that's Operation Motorman, of course] they have had no additional referrals of police-related information disclosure of which the police were not aware."

    This relates, does it, to confidential information obtained from the Police National Computer or does it relate to other matters?

  • I understand this -- I will check this, sir, but I understand this to relate to investigations into unauthorised disclosure of information by the police in general terms, and the object of the exercise was to check with this body, with the PCC, with others, to see whether there was a broader set of data than usually goes to the IPCC, the people who look at complaints, to see whether there was a broader set of data that painted a different picture. That the was the object of that.

  • The problem with that in relation to the Information Commissioner, however, is that if you go back into Motorman, I think I'm right -- I'll be corrected if I'm not -- that that was started because of a perception of leaks not from the police but from the DVLA, and it was only when the Information Commissioner went in with support that he discovered the Whittamore papers, which revealed far more extensive data lapses than they'd looked at. But it was reactive. It wasn't that they were looking for what was going on with the police or looking for particular problems; they simply -- correct me if I'm wrong -- went in and found something they weren't expecting, and of course then took it all up and secured all the documents.

    The question is not: "Have there been complaints?", because there may not have been a complaint there, but whether there is anything to be derived from the fact that they haven't seen anything since, and I just don't know the answer to that question.

  • And neither do I, sir. Perhaps I should explain that part of our approach, when we approach an issue, is we try to go from the outside in rather than just simply ask the sector itself, and in preparing this report and other thoughts, we have spoken to journalists and a number of other institutions to see whether they have other information. It may have a bearing -- it may give us, as it were, a better intelligence picture about the issues, and it is really only in there in that context.

  • All right. It's unlikely many journalists would admit that think were doing something that was, if not actually and frankly illegal, at least likely to excite your attention to a very high degree.

  • Well, sir, I can only take them as I find them. The ones I have spoken to were people I thought were established, trustworthy and thoughtful, and they did have views about police corruption, because that was one of the issues that was put directly to them, and the rationale varied from people who had looked at it intensively to those who took account of what was appearing in the courts, in the press, if their everyday dealings, and I took some measure of comfort from having asked. That's all I would say.

  • Oh yes, that's entirely fair enough. I'm not for a moment challenging your way of working. I just have to be careful that I don't derive more from it than you seek to argue I should derive from it.

  • Yes. I regard -- I have learnt, sir, that you are as good as what you truly know and what you think you ought to know, but what we try and to in these things is to see whether anybody else knows things and they will share them with you.

  • Sir Denis, at the bottom of this page, you address the Metropolitan point as against the regional police forces. Can I just deal with the point you make four or five lines from the top of page 29 in the internal numbering. You say:

    "HMIC believes this misses the point."

    The point being tangible differences in London.

    "We are living in a virtual communications world and issues are being followed in real time through a range of new technology and social media."

    What point are you making there and what point has been missed?

  • I think intense inquiries which will generate competition for information can happen anywhere in this country. That's a fact. If you look at Cumbria -- you know, think of the last couple of years. Cumbria, Northumbria, Bristol. So those kind of inquiries which draw the most intense scrutiny can happen anywhere and with that potential conflicts of interest and issues, but running alongside that is a whole new world which is unwrapping around us, as people twitter this Inquiry and as people engage in a huge range of social media, and that includes people who are serving police officers and members of staff who may or may not be aware of just how much of themselves they are revealing, and we did not find that that issue was restricted to the Metropolitan Police.

  • The next paragraph:

    "... inconsistency across the Police Service in the use of off-the-record briefings."

    What do you mean by that? Not what you mean by the term "off-the-record briefings" but wherein lies the inconsistency?

  • Well, I understand by this -- although I will check my understanding, my understanding is that across the country, some people have a form in which they will do nonreportable briefings, some are much less formalised, some will do it more frequently than others. Some are less concerned about exclusiveness in these things in terms of how many people they speak to. It's of that kind of nature, really, that I am -- that's the point I'm making.

  • If it must happen, I suppose the suggestion would then be: well, it would do to have some bit of structure on it, at the very least.

  • The next paragraph. You found some evidence of corporate entertaining with the media:

    "However, there was little clarity with the boundaries of acceptability, with forces and individuals instead relying on a common-sense approach."

    Are you referring there to different media and gifts and hospitality policies or are you referring to the common-sense approach differing as across the country?

  • Well, I guess the point is that here we didn't really find an enormous amount of corporate entertaining of the media. That's the major point. Inasmuch as there was, it was at the common-sense end, sandwiches and tea end of it -- that's my understanding -- rather than some of the more fashionable alternatives that you've heard about.

  • That's one way of describing them.

  • Level with the lower hole punch, you say:

    "We found that forces lack the capacity and capability to proactively identify any inappropriate relationships. Forces conveyed a sense of inevitability that resourcing complex investigations into media leaks rarely yields any positive result. Forces should explore options for identifying and monitoring emerging and inappropriate relationships with leaks to the media."

    It might be said you're not giving the forces many hints as to what they should be doing; you're asking them to formulate the options. But if you were to suggest even tentatively some ideas as to how this could be taken forward, could you share those with us, please?

  • Well, police forces actually have developed systems for protective monitoring of their internal security systems. For example, the PMC. It took a little while and now they have well-rehearsed systems and testing procedures and they even have software, things like that, that help them spot anomalies in the system.

    When it comes to what's appearing in social media or media in general, that's much less the case. We did find three forces who looked at that kind of thing. There are mechanisms that will now -- actually relational databases that, if you seek to use them well, will actually show you that some things are suddenly appearing in some part of the media, when maybe, if you have some kind of view about what should be going out of the organisation, might raise a question in the mind. This will not necessarily tell you who, how or when, but it actually means that you have some kind of radar.

    Now, there are a number of companies that provide these kind of sentiment relational database activity. They're quite established. We looked at it, for example, in relation to public order. Big organisations do it now. People who are concerned with their marketing and branding do it. You have -- and I don't want to advertise them particularly, but you have people like Trufflenet and others on the Internet who actually offer services. This will not actually give you who done it, but it will tell you maybe something is happening and a pattern of activity that you should be aware of that nobody else is telling you about. It improves your intelligence for your environment. I think it's time to patrol that environment piece.

  • Thank you. Then the next page, on the internal numbering page 30. It's going to be 04405, I think. Can you help us, please, with the paragraph slap in the middle, the notifiable association policy. Could you explain that to the uninitiated?

  • There have been a number of investigations about the relationship individuals have with the media. Some are married to people in the media, some know people in the media, and if you look later on the report in business interests, I believe there are at least two cases -- I will be corrected if I am wrong -- where as part of their business activities outside the police, they provided some assistance in relation to the media.

    In other words, here are some connections that can be perfectly appropriate and correct, but it's useful to be aware of them. That is the point.

  • Then in the following paragraphs you deal with the variable procedures around recording interactions and conversations with the media and the lack of relationship between policies, procedures on the one hand and practical application on the other.

    You make a recommendation towards the top of page 31, the next page, where you say it's your view that forces and authorities should record all interactions between police employees and media representatives:

    "Time and date of the meeting, brief details of purpose, content and persons involved should be recorded, and appropriate mechanisms should be in place to audit these records."

    So presumably there you're including off-the-record conversations?

  • I'm including -- I know I keep returning to it. I'm referring to briefings that are not reported, indeed, definitely. This is a recommendation for ACPO and others to consider in order to try and establish some consistency to how this is dealt with.

  • And presumably in order to avoid the complaint of overbureaucracy, you're looking only for a brief epitome of the conversation; is that correct?

  • Personally, I would go for the brief as possible, but different individuals would have a different appetite for these things. I think the point is that you were showing that you had a contact and that's not something you're ashamed of, and -- later on I would like to return to the basis, though, for those contacts and that might help inform how one would want to note anything like this.

  • You make the point at the bottom of the page that these specific policies should be seen against the backdrop of wider ethical policies, and you draw analogies from the New South Wales experience, which is one of the exhibits to your witness statement, which does draw that nexus; is that right?

  • Then the next page, you're looking for a national media policy to include appropriate levels of social interaction relationships alongside practical guidance. So the policies should be the same regardless of whether you're in the Metropolitan area or wherever; is that the point you're seeking to drive at?

  • I -- I think what's intended here is the framework is the same. Clearly, different environments will have different -- and events will have different levels of intensity and -- in the way any framework or policy is applied, will require different levels of training, different considerations, different views on vulnerabilities, depending where you are and what is happening. But what we're looking for is a common frame of reference, and by the way, I do not -- again, I'd like to return to this. The last thing I would wish to do is constrain the relationship between the police and the press. That would defy reality.

  • Yes. The problem is to find the right balance, isn't it?

  • Encourage a relationship but in the context of transparent and open dealings which are not in any sense covert and which don't carry with them even the perception of inappropriate hospitality or the like.

  • That's the general end game, sir.

  • Yes, it's easy to state. The problem is trying to do it.

  • I do have, you know, a -- some thoughts on that and perhaps we can return to them at the end to try and frame that.

  • After that paragraph in bold lettering, you observe that police authorities are, in your view -- this is the implication -- not carrying out much oversight in this area, and you're looking for more from them and from the new bodies post November; is that right?

  • Yes. Underlying all of this is the legitimacy issue, the legitimacy of the police, and I think, you know, the probity of the police is a hugely precious, important issue, and it should be the subject of some governance at some point. It is in other organisations, that arguably, some would say, have less to lose than the police.

  • Chapter 3, starting on page 34, this is going much wider than the media --

  • -- and probably is of marginal relevance to us, save for what you say about the Police National Computer, which we're going to deal with as a separate sort of chapter of your evidence in due course.

    You do have something to say about social networking, which you may already have covered, the bottom of page 36. You recommend that all forces need to have a policy in place.

  • Yes. Yes, Mr Jay, a number have, but this -- you known, particularly as the demographics of the police change, this is becoming a much, much bigger issue.

  • The problem here is twofold. Do I have it right: one, photographs -- and we've heard a bit about that last week from Mr Baker -- and secondly, perhaps more obviously, disclosure of inappropriate information via this medium?

  • Well, some people are declaring that they are police officers. Some people declare -- making some commentary about their organisation. This may be a personal view. I hope to address this issue with ACPO shortly. I mean, I think they should have a view about this, because this comes back to: there has to be some separation between personal life and professional life, and certainly a measure of separation for people who want to be police officers.

  • And of direct concern to this Inquiry, the paragraph level with the upper hole punch, page 38. I think it's page 04413, where you speak of evidence of relationships or at least dialogues being facilitated through social networking sites between officers and journalists from the national media, particularly evident in the online conversations being held on Twitter.

    You say:

    "Whilst such conversations are transparent and may be viewed by any interest party, the nature of this communication channel enables journalists to cast their net more widely for sources and quotes."

    In one sense, as you say, it's all entirely transparent, but on the other hand, if the police officer is communicating anonymously, as it might be on some occasions -- even if it's clear it is a police officer, it gives rise to obvious difficulty; is that correct?

  • It is. I mean, the example that comes to mind is somebody commenting on some programme or Question Time. If it's known they're a police officer, it could suggest that perhaps, you know, they had a political view, which is not really what we particularly want to hear from a police officer. Unless they make it darn clear that they are not a police officer or in police officer mode at that point in time, it becomes very difficult to start doing that -- disentangling that kind of thing.

    Likewise, if people know one is a police officer and one is seeking advice on a good pub to have a drink at, at one level this is entirely innocent. You know, who cares? But in another level, particularly if it's not somebody who's just come into policing, you would think there are other ways to find this kind of information out, particularly other ways without people knowing you're a police officer.

    It's -- but this -- I have to say this: I don't think the HMIC can be absolute arbiters of the right way on this, but I think what we need is a way, and we need to address these issues. Nor do I think we are the absolute arbiters on transparency, because sometimes I think transparency can be seen to suit particular sectors and I'm sure that would be the view of the media, for example, about the police. My point really is we ought to give people some points of reference to deal with this age we're in. That's the essence of it.

  • You could test it by reference to those who might express views which border upon the racist. I say "border upon" because obviously if it's criminal, that's quite different.

  • But although somebody could be speaking in their personal capacity, if they express views which are not consistent with their independent upholding of the law, then that creates a problem, however much they are careful to say that they're speaking in a personal capacity.

  • It does, sir, and that goes to the heart of it. If one -- for example, one of the reference points in here which must tie into any frame is: if your activity on here suggests that you are less than impartial, then in a sense you've undermined the main mission. That's basically the starting point into framing something like this, because that's really important clearly to the British public and part of the British policing model.

  • It locks in exactly with the very title of the report, "Without fear or favour".

  • You make some recommendations about social networking sites on page 39, which no doubt are self-explanatory. Chapter 4, "Gratuities and hospitality", which is page 40, 04415, I think. At the bottom of the page:

    "All forces and authorities have a recording mechanism for gratuities and hospitality, but these are not consistently completed in most cases."

    So are you saying there that they're very often not completed?

  • Can you just draw my attention to the --

  • The very last paragraph on that page 40.

  • Yes. We don't think they're always completed, and this may -- there may be innocent explanations for that, I imagine, because of the relatively trivial nature of the hospitality. However, the unevenness of the way it is recorded suggests it's because there isn't a system-wide approach to the whole thing.

  • Then the next page, second paragraph on the page:

    "Whilst not all staff members are formally aware of their force's specific policy or guidance, the review found that they were able to demonstrate a strong inherent moral compass and common sense approach to the boundaries of acceptability in tune with this local approach. This was particularly apparent amongst junior staff."

    On one level, that may be said to be a somewhat anomalous conclusion, because you would expect the senior staff to be more attune to the moral issues, owing to greater experience, but maybe, save, for cases of frank corruption where money passes hands, there isn't much of a risk of substantial gifts and hospitality being provided to senior staff? Is that right? Or are you making a different and deeper point there?

  • Mr Jay, I doubt it's that deep a point, but what I do think is this: there is a serious point here that a lot of people join the police, a huge lot of people, and they join it on a vocational basis. It is -- they join it for the mission, and it is a very noble mission, to -- you know, encapsulated in the Queen's Police Medal: "To guard my people". They don't come that much more noble than that.

    And I think this is -- if never quite expressed in that way, this is a driving force for a lot of people, and so when our staff at HMIC put scenarios to them, they are pretty much able to thankfully determine right from wrong and whether something is inappropriate or not. This is not to say that more senior staff can't, but the point is that more senior staff perhaps, depending on what role they're in, may be more exposed sometimes to more obvious conflicts of interest.

    The exception to this are junior staff in work in particular specialised units, squads, particular parts of policing, but this finding about a common sense approach that most of you would -- most of us would hope for, is, I think, something of great comfort.

  • And the scale of the problem is indicated by the paragraph which lies just above the lower hole punch, beginning:

    "A review of force hospitality registers across England and Wales supplied to the HMIC for the last five years showed 9,500 entries, of which less than 1 per cent [in other words, 68 entries] of gratuities and hospital were received from the media."

  • That's been corrected, hasn't it?

  • Yes. I believe Mr Baker has updated that.

  • Yes, he did, pardon me.

  • Because it was over a period of time and the 68 has become 298.

  • I missed that one.

  • It was about the completeness of the record in relation to the Metropolitan Police.

  • Yes, timing. It's whether you're with comparing like with like.

  • Yes, and fully bringing the Metropolitan Police into the picture.

  • Even with that revised statistic, we get a feel for the problem against the wider issue of hospitality across the country.

    You recommend on the next page, page 42, in the emboldened type, the need for a national standard as well as recording practices which illustrate both what is accepted and what declined, so the full nature of the relationship is transparent.

  • Indeed. I think I should make it clear that this isn't in the shape of £5 is okay but £5.50 is not. I think it is -- this would be, I hope, more grounded in what is appropriate in the circumstances. It will be more of that character, because otherwise we will be chasing our tails.

  • Thank you. Then there's a case study on the next page. You have a mnemonic gift. That, of course, is applying to hospitality in general, not just hospitality from the media?

  • Chapter 5 I don't think is going to be of direct interest to us, nor really chapter 6, save for a small point in chapter 6 on post-service employment, which is page 51 on the internal numbering, which I think is page 04436. You've identified an issue here with restraint of trade and recommend that some specialist legal advice be obtained first, which is no doubt sensible. But you're not directly addressing the revolving door issue as between the police and the press or indeed vice versa; is that correct?

  • I think what we're endeavouring to show is that our revolving door between the police and the press or between the police and the security sector or between others where there may be a conflict of interest is difficult ground, because of the present legal position as I understand it.

    We did take the trouble of looking at -- in the wider arena, at institutions like the advisory committee on business appointments, which is a short cooling-off period and then limitations on lobbying and the like. I would have thought, though, if there was a will, it must be possible to progressively adopt some acceptable standards so that people do not think that people -- particularly as there is more private sector contact with the police, that people are not moving -- negotiating contracts, as it were -- let's take the worst scenario -- on this week, and next week retiring or resigning and moving into the private sector and whatever. I'm simply doing it in the abstract rather than particularly the media. It's the same broad idea.

    We do think that this is an issue, but it needs some careful consideration as to how one could put any kind of frame on it.

  • Yes, one size might not fit all.

  • The more senior the officer, the more appropriate it may be to require a cooling-off period, but it may be that different rules ought to apply to the extent to which former officers can effectively use the contacts which they have acquired to access information or support or anything else to assist them in working outside the police.

    Equally, the other way around: if the police are going to employ representatives of the press in their press and media relations departments, it's very important that that doesn't carry with it some favoured nation status or some perception of a back door.

  • Quite, sir. It is an issue and it has the potential, if not gripped in some way, to become even more significant than perhaps it has been in this Inquiry, and that's why we draw attention to the dilemma.

  • Even more so if there is, as is being discussed, outsourcing of what are traditional police areas of activity.

  • Yes, and that will not be good for the private sector or particular media outlet or the police, so there is a good reason to put some shape on it.

  • I move forward to chapter 8, Sir Denis, "Governance and oversight". On the internal numbering, page 55. I think it's page 04430.

    You make it clear -- "corporate governance", of course, is a term this Inquiry has been using consistently, quite a lot in Module 1. It's more, in your view, than systems and processes. It requires those in charge of the organisation and who represent it to be consistent in demonstrating appropriate behaviours and promoting its values in pursuit of its objectives. So it's leadership behaviour setting the example, and that example will then be seen by those lower down and followed. Those are the key points I think you're making on that first page.

  • Yes, they are. They are stewards of the reputation of the organisation.

  • At the top of the next page, page 56, you say you consider that:

    "Chief office teams should review their corporate governance and oversight arrangement to ensure that they are fulfilling their function in helping promote the values of their force and the delivery of its objectives, and that they are, through their actions and behaviours, promoting the values of the organisation and making sure good corporate governance is seen as a core part of everyday business."

    I think that's one of your principal recommendations at the end?

  • Can I ask you, please, about managing the risks, page 57. What, in essence -- this is obviously a preventive strategy. What, in essence, are you considering and recommending there, Sir Denis?

  • Well, it -- there are patterns and lessons to be learnt in the way relationships can develop, and something that started relatively innocently can become more problematic. It's bound to be associated with particular kinds of posts, the targeting of individuals and particular kinds of posts, and with individuals' own obligations, whether they're financial -- for example, currently it's been assessed about 8.8 per cent of police officers and staff are financially stressed.

    There are ways of looking at people who work for your organisation and what they do, and looking at the potential to safeguard, as it were, them, to prevent things happening, and during the 1990s, when it was looked at in relation, as it were, to conventional corruption, criminal activity, they profiled the shape of this so that there was, if you like, an intelligence profile of the most vulnerable areas.

    I guess what we're looking at is if you want to avoid conflicts of interest, if you want to avoid a slippery slope, it is worth considering how you profile vulnerabilities of your organisation and its relationships with whatever other people or sectors you engage with.

  • Thank you. Your recommendations, chapter 9. You pick up a number of themes we've already examined. The principal recommendations are listed page 62. I think is page 04437.

    You're looking, in the emboldened characters:

    "Robust systems to ensure risks arising from relationships, information disclosure, gratuitous hospitality are identified, monitored and managed. Clear boundaries and thresholds."

    Then you're looking for consistent and service-wide policies. Recommendations in relation to training courses. Chief officer teams reviewing corporate governance. We've just looked at that.

    Then, towards the bottom of the page:

    "HMIC expects the service to have detailed proposals in the above areas ready for consultation with all relevant parties by April [of this year]."

    Then you're going to carry out a further assessment ahead of that consultation, but in time for the new regime coming into force, which I think it will on 1 November; is that correct?

  • It is. I should just probably explain that although this may look very police-y in the way it is addressed here, we did extensive work outside the police and, particularly given the Bribery Act and all of the issues going on in the private sector, what we found consistently were the best in the public sector and the private sector is that they had four features: there was a framework that people could easily relate to; it can't be over-complex or people basically will not follow it; there had to be some education, whether you're working for British Petroleum or you're working for the police, about the issue and vulnerability; there had to be -- and we've alluded to this earlier -- some kind of intelligence system, some way of looking to see what's happening in relationships and the rest of it; and there had to be some sanction, clearly, if things didn't -- buy those are consistent featureless, looking across the best private and public sector, and so these, in a number of ways, relate to that.

    I have to say that I think I would take that general reference point, but in relation to the press, having watched how things have developed since I joined as a very young constable a long time ago in the Metropolitan Police, I would want to then take that and I'd want to customise that for the benefit of your Inquiry, more particularly about dealing with the press. Some of these conflicts of interest are new kids on the block. Basically, a few years ago, you worked for the police and that was it, and actually you could be sacked for working outside the police, moonlighting in any sense.

    But the issues with the press are enduring, and going back to your mission on this Inquiry, I am mindful of that in thinking about coming up with a solution. So whilst that is useful in the most general terms for dealing with conflicts of interest and broadly for the media, I think I'd want to customise that, and I have some thoughts about that.

  • Thank you. May we begin to develop those thoughts, Sir Denis? I know you've given consideration to the issue, I suppose, of diagnosis, what went wrong, and you've subdivided that into a number of separate rubrics, but in your own words, please, and in order to summarise some of the points you've made -- I think Lord Justice Leveson and I have seen the additional note you've prepared and no one else has. It's more a speaking note for you. But what would you like to say in particular about what I have called diagnosis?

  • I'd like to say a diagnosis has to step a bit outside the police for a moment here. I'm struck by three things, really. This Inquiry is occurring because the journalist actually broke this story, again. I have seen this happen before. I saw it happen in 1969 when the Times had a heading "A firm within a firm within the Metropolitan Police", which was part of the beginning of some significant change. So number one, a journalist broke this story.

    The second thing is our look at it -- Elizabeth Filkin's suggested there isn't a framework that deals with this age, that deals with these issues, very well. I'll come back to that.

    The third point I think we have to look at in police terms as well as in broader somebody terms is public interest, and defining "public interest" is problematic, which is why I think the police need to take some care around it. Those three issues are in the back of my mind in looking at where we've come to, and I'm looking across the past 40 years.

    So coming to number one, journalists actually have been a spur for change. It's been uncomfortable. My goodness, I know that. If you're utterly devoted to a mission and uncomfortable information is put in front of you, it can be daunting at times, and wearying. But I could rehearse several of those, and I'm particularly aware of it, of course, because of the Lawrence Inquiry, and I well recall just one particular point, going on a BBC programme "The heart of the matter" and having a video played to me of a case that had been written off a suicide, which actually, when one looked at the evidence as presented, suggested something else indeed had happened, and we reopened -- at the end of that programme, we reopened that investigation.

    This has happened from time to time. Corruption, cases that -- if you like, miscarriages of justice. This isn't all of the time, but it has happened, as well as assisting to catch some of the most -- the worst-possible criminals.

    So I don't want to overdo this, but one has to -- for a healthy solution, one has to understand this function very, very well, even if it's uncomfortable. Now, I think that the issue is that over time I have noticed how it's developed in terms beyond, as it were, those pretty straightforward things which most people would say are in the public interest to the personal interests in people's lives, people's personal lives, which I think is much more arguable. That's developed somewhat over the time I have been in the police. It's not brand new, but it has certainly developed a great deal, and I guess what I deduced from all of that is a great concern in the police about whether they're getting the story across, a concern that their legitimacy would be undermined. By "legitimacy", I mean their competence to operate, their authority, as it were, to use discretion and get general support, and that has kind of led the police to want to do more with the media, which, in my terms, they have -- over the last 30-plus years, they have sought good relations, and I think good relations are fine. One does not need to be unfriendly, one does not need to be extremely austere in one's contact, as I've illustrated earlier on, but that's not the same as the right relationship.

    That is a different entity, and I hope that what this Inquiry can do is move beyond having aspiration for a good relationship, good news, as it were, accentuating the positive, to the right relationship, which acknowledges that actually the press, the media, are part of our society, but the police have to operate within certain boundaries when dealing with them.

    Now, that's the trick --

  • To what extent is that impacted by a natural reluctance to reveal or permit to be exposed what is, in reality, bad news?

  • Police are in the bad news business, sir.

  • Police are in the business -- they start quite a lot of their activity where -- at a point of human failing and human error. The best of them -- and there are a lot of them -- try very hard to recover that, whatever that is: a missing person, a murder, a domestic situation. They try and recover it. But part of growing up -- and it's a hard lesson -- is that you have to be prepared to deal with bad news about how you operate as well.

  • That's the point, where you haven't been Sherlock Holmes; you've been more like -- I'm not sure Dr Watson is being unfairly criticised for being --

  • Some people have theories about Watson, that he really was the smart one, but I absolutely understand your point.

  • Yes. Certainly there's a decision in the House of Lords where one of their Lordships speaks about the perception of Sherlock Holmes or the less-than-adequate performance of Dr Watson, which was probably unfair, but you understand the point I'm making.

  • I do. I think the essence of it is that the police want this good news to get good results, which is quite legitimate in itself, to want to look -- they win sometimes in recovering these errors.

    I think that good results are important, but the way you get those good results into the media or the way you deal with bad news has to be by the standards and values of the police. They must have their own anchor points in dealing both with the good and the bad, and I think the desire for results is usually laudable, but the whole thing about the police, rather like justice, is how you do it is at least as important as the result you get, and I think that's got lost a little along the way.

    And it hasn't just got to be good for the police. This is why you have to be able to deal with the bad news. It has to be good for the public. You know, good for the victim, back to where we were earlier on with critical incident training.

    This has been a long, hard lesson, you know, and I hope this can be compressed for people in the future. Maybe I've been a slow learner, but I have seen this unwind, as it were, over the years.

    I do hope that part of what the Inquiry can do is assert the importance of the legitimacy for the police. It's an essential building block. Everything else tends to fall away if the how you deal with things is seen to be wrong, and when people pursue results, sometimes not everybody will see the value of going the extra mile. If they attach value to legitimacy, they will.

  • Thank you. Now, under the subheading "Current investigations" in your speaking note, as it were, you address a number of issues. Maybe we can go straight to paragraph 12. Can I invite you to deal with that point, please?

  • I should say the speaking note is informed by two more evidential pieces, Mr Jay, in your terms. One is a piece of work we asked the MPIA to do on police reform, a summary of how things land, as it were, work, and the second is with Cambridge University on legitimacy. So it is not mercifully just the thoughts of myself; it is more informed than that.

    The point, at 12, which actually arises from this research is that you can have lots of guidance, you can have lots of policy, and you can even have a measure of regulation, but the point is in this particular case they have not been effective in the prevention, detection or reaction to illegal interception of information, and that's a broader finding around: formal policies and guidance are all very well and they're useful up to a point, but they're not enough necessarily to get things done, get things implemented.

    In fact, as I've said, investigative journalism revealed this particular case, and lawsuits and hearings of this Inquiry are revealing more about what we know today.

  • So it's a cultural thing, as much as anything?

  • Yes. I think -- I actually prefer the second to the first, in the sense that the way we to business -- in other professions, if I may say so, from the little I know of the law or medicine or some of the things that my friends and acquaintances -- a lot of how they do business is hard-wired in at the very start. For example, in medicine, confidentiality on records or the like.

    This hard-wiring -- there is, of course, training for the police and there is some of this that happens, but the hard-wiring can't come from guidance alone, and I will come to that later. I think you have to reinforce it on a number of fronts in order to land your point about confidentiality or whatever it is that you hold precious in that profession. That's the point. And in the fast-moving, noisy world of the police, where everybody expects a kind of instant television-type result -- or certainly in the next half hour or hour, everything will be wrapped up, pursuit of results, then a lot of this legitimacy work, concerns, can easily get knocked out of the way unless it's reaffirmed in a number of ways.

  • But this is a much, much bigger point than just the issue that we're talking about. I mean, I've made the point before that one of the consequences of television programmes like CSI is that they create the perception that everything can be solved forensically, when every single police officer knows, (a) it can't be, and (b) there aren't the resources to do it, even if it could, and therefore there is an educative role as to what is in fact achievable, which it's critical for the police to be involved in, not least to demonstrate why they need the support of the public, with the ultimate aim of promoting confidence in the system -- the criminal justice system and the maintenance of law and order throughout the country. Or is that too broadbrush?

  • No, it's not broadbrush; it's the most fundamental thing. The British policing model is based on the notion of policing by consent, and you absolutely depend -- there has not been a major inquiry I've ever been involved in that hasn't actually, probably, in the end, been much less broken -- occasionally, there's a forensic breakthrough of brilliance, but the huge bulk of it is people said, "There's just something I thought you should know", or they tell somebody who you hope to goodness sake will draw it to the right attention and from that you solve the case and protect them better, and that's the fundamental exchange.

  • Or not even solve it, but you get bricks in a wall. You get a piece of a jigsaw. There are lots of analogies which one could pick out.

  • Yes, and that's why this engagement, so that people understand what you're trying to achieve, is so important and why the last thing one wants to do is close the whole thing down. That would be a serious mistake.

  • I'm sure that's right, so the question then becomes --

  • Your paragraph 13, in particular the perception point --

  • He's going to tell me how to do it.

  • Sir, I'm not going to tell you how to do it. I know my place. I know my pay grade.

  • I wouldn't make assumptions if I were you, Sir Denis.

  • I have considered some possible causes that lie behind some of this and we've alluded to them earlier, and then I've considered what can be done, but this is absolutely restricted to what I know and what I've been able to find by those pieces of research and the work with Cambridge that I have considered. So it is as good and bad as that, basically, and they are merely some suggestions on the road, because we are definitely pilgrims on the road to finding how to do this better, and I can be led by you in that or we can just run through the causes. Whichever suits you, sir.

  • Well, I'll let Mr Jay carry on.

  • You probably want, Sir Denis, to run through the possible causes before we get to possible solutions.

  • On your fifth page -- but can I just ask you to summarise --

  • Yes, I will. Conscious of time.

  • What we'll do is, if that's all right with you, we will publish this note as an annex to your evidence, if we may.

  • Sir. And the only sort of (inaudible), I would say, at this stage, reflecting on it, that it's as good and bad as that.

    I mean, what I have seen --

  • It's not necessarily your final word; I accept that.

  • I hope to receive that in due course, but that's different. Right.

  • It's some thoughts which I think you've asked others to provide.

  • And then we'll have hopefully a decent dialogue and get a strong end product.

    I think that the police do -- the senior police officers and the junior police officers I talked to understand the need for a legitimate relationship with the media. However, you have to look at where that gets pressurised, and that tends to be where there's competition for information, particularly on top-end cases; that is, in police parlance, murder, especially the most difficult murders which are not immediately solved. If you think of Soham, Milly Dowler, and then big events like 7/7 and the like. There is a history about the police management of information around those top-end issues which has had a lot of learning in it over the last 20 or 30 years. Very intense competition which, of course, as commercial pressures bite, becomes higher as the stakes get higher.

    Police priorities -- you've already heard from the head of counter-terrorism that different parts of police have different pressures, and I think if you were to talk to a lot of junior officers, they would probably pretty uniformly say their first duty is to protect life. They're not always doing that, but this is all part of the -- of why they join, in order to protect people and so on.

    I think there have been a lot of priorities over recent years to achieve results in relation to crime reduction, and in achieving those results, they've had to take views, as you said, sir, about where priorities are allocated, and they are doing that against a background -- I should just mention, by way of example, again to help contextualise it for your solution or the ultimate solution one aims for, there's 15,000 incidents reported to the Metropolitan Police every day, roughly about 3,000 to the West Midlands and about 900 to Surrey. So they have to pick their way through this as well as go these things well. So there's a juggling act going on.

    I think there's an issue about role tension and understanding. I am familiar -- and I overheard what Cressida Dick said today about murder inquiries, where actually there's quite a rehearsed way of dealing with things ins reviews, but I think there's room to rehearse more strongly the obligations and police around investigation compared to the media.

    The three reference points government tend to use when they're looking at information are confidentiality, integrity and availability. Clearly, there is a shared interest in availability. Where that may differ is in integrity and confidentiality, and I am not sure that that has been as well developed as it should and it will need to be in relation to a solution on the other side of this, because this is the commodity, the currency, if you will, that both have to work on: information.

    That means looking at how well these big inquiries, these specialised units, how they view their obligations around information. The obvious thing is this: you, Mr Jay, or myself, we will have expectations from the police about how they keep things that they will find out about us in difficult moments confidential. It will be precious. It may be more precious, times, than everybody in the police has always understood.

    There is an absence of a radar for information disclosure and conflicts of interests, and I hope I have rehearsed that sufficiently already, and by that I do not simply mean having a ledger; I mean using the kind of software and the kind of modern techniques that have been applied to protect and monitor within, to look at what information is going out of the organisation. Otherwise you have no intelligence base to watch patterns.

    There are some issues around interpreting the law, but I am confident, sir, you will point the way on that, and that's been raised in your Inquiry. But that's an important thing for police in prioritisation terms.

    Then I conclude, I guess, that if you take the checks and balances in the British policing model, they've all got answers to give you. Not just the operators, but the people in governance mode. By that, I mean people in police authority, the future of the PCCs, the police and crime commissioners, those in regulation. Collectively, we didn't manage to stop this.

    So we then get to: well, what can we think about doing? What ideas? Well, I take the view that there does need to be a significant revision in the way the relationship operates, but I would absolutely want to reassert with you: not actually in order to shrink the relationship but to put it on the right footing.

    Now, getting it right means putting, to me, as a starter at least -- and we are having discussions with colleagues in ACPO and elsewhere -- some kind of framework for integrity in those dealings, which would have three components, which I could outline if it's helpful.

  • I think you can, but I think we'd better just give the shorthand writer just five minutes, if we could, if that's all right. Thank you.

  • (A short break)

  • Sir Denis, the section "What can be done?". You've dealt with paragraph 29, which is the point about revision of the relationship between police and press, but I think you were about to develop the remaining points you have under this heading.

  • Yes, Mr Jay. These are some considerations in developing the right relationship, and I think that's probably the best one can say about them, but they're based on the idea that you put some kind of framework of integrity in place and then you support it in a number of ways, which I'll return to in a moment.

    Three considerations in that would be: in their interactions with the media, there must be a legitimate policing purpose, whether it's a constable or a chief constable, and it should be more than relationship-building and relate to the core values and standards of policing. That's why I think it's important to establish those values, standards.

    Now, there's a -- part of the challenge is there are several sets around from the attestation, which I think, if you are familiar with it, you know, is quite moving, all the way through to -- covers professional conduct to a statement of professional values. My instinct is that they're all worthy and as long as they crystallise what we hope from the police, they're a reference point in whether you actually have a legitimate policing purpose, which is likely to prevent crime and help people and help the investigation, than not. But that's currently the subject for discussion with ACPO and others, and I'm hopeful that there will be something forthcoming. I know it's of concern.

    The second consideration is how this relationship -- if you like, that's the what. The second consideration is how; the manner in which the relationship is conducted. In essence, I think it should operate without favouritism and with integrity, and I say this is about integrity of the mission policing.

    So that kind of questions exclusive contact. It doesn't eliminate it, but it questions it. So it has real bite in that sense, and it also accepts that because of the police mission to investigate, you will consider what's presented to you, as it were, even if the media are presenting it to you as a real prospect.

    Now, what will need to happen underneath that is some very practical things for people who perhaps won't have all the time to watch this Inquiry or read all of these papers. That can be converted -- "without favourite, with integrity" -- to something a police force does about the range of contact it thinks is acceptable, about records, about briefing, authorisation -- I think you follow the drift -- so it establishing some boundaries. That's what's hinted at in the main report, but now I'm getting more specific around this particular issue for this Inquiry.

    And then the third consideration is the police handle information and access to it. They must seek to avoid a conflict of interest, given their obligations around confidentiality in particular but unexclusively.

    I think that those three points will help. If developed, can help. I'm quite prepared to accept -- and there is a dialogue going on with people in the Police Service and elsewhere -- that this actually may be a prompt for a better set of ideas, but they're designed to be specific, although they may appear at first blush rather general.

    Then what I would say is that the degree of application and support will depend on whether, as it were, you're in the eye of the storm or you're in the busiest part, which is -- frankly is the Metropolitan Police, global city and all of that, with all of the range of activities and opportunities and so on that exist there, compared to somewhere else. But I think they should bounce off the same broad framework.

    The work on police reform, risky business that often -- too often, in my own experience, falls short of expectation, and I make that point because it will need support from those in governance role. The governance support for legitimacy, as well as other things, has to be there, otherwise nobody's probing. This reduces the challenge.

    There has to be something too about regulators looking to see whether they can do better. We're certainly willing to do, that, and clearly operators need to implement.

    The one piece I haven't sort of elaborated on out of where I started that's perhaps useful -- and I can develop the rest of it if you wish -- is this: this public interest issue is around us all the time. It is a difficult one to crack, this. PCC had a set of public interest considerations which, at first look, looked reasonable in many respects but didn't quite survive the contact at battle.

    What I do know is this, though: in order to prevent, as it were, the likelihood of an officer who feels something is going wrong ever feeling they can have contact because we've set up such an austere set of arrangements that they can never go and speak to somebody else -- whistle-blow if you want to use one word, or have a conversation -- we should be prepared to consider, depending on what they're revealing, whether there is a public interest issue in it, maybe within the police.

    I could extend that, but in practical terms it would also mean for me that if you're dealing with -- and I alluded to this earlier, with the inquiry into leaks in government. At the top end, if you're dealing with something that's going to generate lots of debate about conflict of interest, for whatever reason, maybe you need some kind of review group to help challenge your operators as to whether what they're really doing is in the public interest, just in case they're very busy or they're very preoccupied and they might lose their way on the public interest.

    Now, there is a process at the moment called gold- grouping. This is not the same as what I have in mind. Gold group is a bunch of other officers, some of whom may be working on the thing, the project, and maybe some brought in from outside. I'm talking about bringing into that, to help inform that, to challenge it, to test it, some authoritative people from outside. You wouldn't be doing this every day of the week, but then you're not doing these cases every day of week. So we have to be prepared to think of ways of not freezing down the public interest in, as it were, the truth emerging or whatever words one wants to use.

    I think I should pause there, because I've been talking at you for a while.

  • Let me see if I understand that. Are you suggesting that there should be some mechanism whereby an officer or anybody else who is particularly concerned about one aspect should be able to report that concern and have it considered seriously without having to go to the press and run the risk of a conflict of loyalty? Is that the idea or have I misunderstood it?

  • No, you haven't misunderstood it, but I -- and I would also think -- well, what we end up having to do here in order to avoid, as it were, freezing contact with a free press and all of that, one ends up trying to square this circle. And at the heart of the circle, apart from the issue of police legitimacy, is the public interest, which may be bit more than the police interest, as it were.

  • Ideally, there would be some place or some person an officer could talk to, visit: "I think that that investigation's been suppressed."

    Now, hopefully they have enough faith in their own institution to do it. However, if they decide to be in, sir, in your terms, disloyal, we should be prepared at least to consider that in weighing this thing up. Do you see what I mean?

  • No, I was trying to avoid an allegation of disloyalty --

  • -- by providing them with an alternative mechanism to raise concerns and, if you like, to be able to see that the concern is taken seriously by involving somebody outside. But that would have to go hand in glove with a willingness, on behalf of the police, the more readily to admit where things haven't gone as well as they might have done, wouldn't it?

  • It would, and I'm not suggesting a specific mechanism, but I can see that unless one addresses that then some of the -- some of the means by which problematic things get revealed would be closed down potentially, because one moves to a stronger framework which tightens down the basis for contact and then you have people who would say, "Now you've actually closed off the route."

  • Yes, and then what happens is that the pressure cooker just increases the pressure --

  • -- until ultimately it explodes in a West Midlands serious crime squad or some other terrible calamity.

  • Which nobody has actually seen early enough and gripped. Is that the point?

  • Yes. So it's a public interest safety valve process in those terms.

  • But also for those who are engaged at the top end in these most contested environments, there's a mechanism for them, with some kind of external review group -- we use that. Others do from time to time. Not just a set of police officers, or -- if they're en route to a decision, there's not just something that they can resolve with the CPS, as it were, where we can resolve quite a lot -- is this thing viable or whatever else. The value of doing this, given all the pressure and resources, they can test it.

    Now, there's an argument that should be with the Police and Crime Commissioner and that may be so, but they may well get some comfort from having, as it were, a group of people, if you like, non-execs, whatever phrase one wants to use, people who are experienced, authoritative in their own world, who can give them a view, to say, "I think it is worth you doing this", even though you have a lot of other pressures on.

  • And you say non-executive, not merely some other chief constables?

  • I say "merely"; I don't mean that dismissively.

  • No, indeed. I think other chief constables can be very good at holding your feet to the fire, but it may not be enough in broader considerations, particularly when one gets into the media and politics, as I've already alluded to this issue in terms of trying to set up a protocol around the value of these kind of investigations and politics, where policing meets politics, but policing meets the media has the same tensions and difficulties, charging.

    Now, I'm sorry I'm not offering you a solution, but I am trying -- I think that within the police and beyond, we'll have to think of ways of dealing with that public interest bit, otherwise we close down the reform as well.

  • No, I understand that the safety valve in some way, shape or form is a very important part of actually what the press do.

  • And I'm not trying to limit that important role of holding the powerful, in which number I include the police, to account. They do it for the politicians, they do it for the government, they do it for the judiciary, and they certainly should do it for the police. I've made the point they don't do it for themselves but that's a different point, and we can't lose that by whatever else we do.

  • To some extent, it may be that the police have to be somewhat less defensive and embrace the problems facing the more inquisitive world that we live in and the greater amount of information that is both out there and capable of being put out there through social media outlets.

    But that, as you say, is a hard-wiring issue or a mindset issue, which was the word you preferred to "culture" -- and I understand why -- which it's quite difficult to get a handle on and say, "Well, if you take this pill and that pill and the other pill, then it will all come out in the end."

  • Well, what it might help you to do is not always make the right judgment but make as good a judgment as you can, and all professions have ethical dilemmas. The press come to you: "We've got a story about X", and this completely diverts the investigation. Do you stand off or do you intervene? And you're not going to get a checklist that will do that, but if you do have some kind of frame of reference where you can say, "I made it in order to do this", you are on the right path, I think. At least you have a chance of success, and in the information revolution you're talking about, I think there will be a lot more of these challenges and I hope that you would be able to help the police on that path.

    One thing I would say about mindset -- I think it's about -- we're all coming to a new mindset about the age we're in and I'm sure you don't for a moment, because you know far too much about the police -- I mean, there are an awful lot of people in the police who are absolutely devoted to the mission, the -- in managing this change, acknowledging more bad news may be there and they have to deal with it, because they feel their mission is being tainted and it feels -- at times, they feel it reflects on them, when actually what's happening is we're all going through a shift in the access to information and challenge and testing and scrutiny.

  • Yes, this is exactly the same problem as faces the press where the behaviour of a few is believed to taint all, and why I've been repeatedly at pains to point out that I recognise the vast majority of entirely responsible journalism that is produced. It's a small corner that is creating so much trouble. Exactly the same for the police.

  • Yes, and so I suppose our role has been to try and look at the system and say, "Well, if the system isn't strong enough to deal with that morphing, that evolutionary thing that's going on, perhaps it needs some strengthening without closing the whole thing down", and hence this conversation.

  • Sir Denis, those were all the points I had on your note. The last topic this afternoon are questions which others are asking me to put to you in relation to the Police National Computer. I provided you with advance notice of these questions. You have the document to hand or at least the answers that you would wish to give.

    The first question is: in your role as HMIC, you are aware of the audits of the PNC security, which are also available on the HMIC website, and in this paragraph -- it's paragraph 38.4 -- you refer to transaction validation under your command in Essex, and you say that three to nine PNC intelligence transactions were being validated by supervisors on a daily basis.

    The question is: is that your recommendation for the right level of transaction validation?

  • Mr Jay, I wonder if it would be helpful -- I think somehow or other our names must have got transposed. I think that's for Mr Baker. But what I suggest in relation to the PNC, if it's satisfactory to you, is we'll provide a written response.

    I can broadly tell you what we do at PNC. Obviously I don't know all the details of Essex and I can tell you what the HMIC do and in essence, we did an intensive look at the PNC and leakage between 2005 and 2007, established some with the operators, as I would hope we can collectively do with this, established a stronger system with the support of the National Police Improvement Agency, and the thing is now capable of being monitored using software, back to our earlier point, so that the HMIC are able to relatively stand off. That said, we are still checking information, and the PNC issue has not disappeared off the radar.

    What I could do, sir, is give you a written specific answer to the specific three questions, if that helps, or I could recover the document now, whichever is easiest. I'm simply trying to contextualise what we've done. People have learnt the PNC. They've learnt to put systems around it. We have tested it for a period of time to help establish that. Then we stand back and monitor it infrequently, just to test that the system is working, which, in essence, if we can come up with some framework in relation to the broader question, is a role we may be able to assist in.

    Is that sufficient, sir, or do you --

  • I'm perfectly content that you elaborate to such extent as you or Mr Baker feel appropriate in writing.

  • Yes, thank you very much.

  • Thank you, Sir Denis. There have been a number of loose ends left by your evidence, which you've actually identified. This thinking, I'm sure, is going on and still developing. I would be very grateful to learn of any further thoughts that you, either through HMIC or in conjunction with ACPO, have on a sensible structure, which copes with the issues that you've understood I'm addressing and you've understood, I hope, the broad recognition that I have provided to you of where I see potential solutions.

    In other words, I entirely endorse your view that over-restrictive tick-boxing exercises will be entirely unhelpful. It's much more a question of creating the framework within which everybody can understand the appropriate moral compass, which you've also identified, and so make sensible decisions, perhaps with the wider understanding that these events and other events have brought, that the public will comprehend things not going right, but will be less forgiving if they believe they've been the subject of some -- "cover-up" is too strong a word, but deliberate restriction of information, for whatever reason.

    I hope that's helpful and agrees with the line that you yourself have been seeking to identify.

  • I think, hopefully, my line agrees with yours, sir, which is in the end you will carve a way forward on this, and we have the benefit of a great deal of hindsight, too, which not everybody had at the time when they made the decisions they made.

  • Yes. Of course, it's very critical that we can't just use the hindsight. One of the things that I am addressing, at least in my mind and eventually in writing, is the extent to which I am relying on hindsight rather than actually what was there to be seen and, more significantly, why what was there to be seen wasn't seen, rather than just saying, "Well, in hindsight, I'd have done this, this and this." Hindsight is always perfect.

  • The only perfect science, sir.

  • Thank you very much, that's a very appropriate moment.

    Mr Garnham?

  • Before you rise, may I mention just one matter? A number of those whom I represent have listened and reflected on the evidence they've heard being given to you during the latter part of this module. There are particular factual disputes, the relevance of which to the terms of your reference may be fairly marginal, but they are often matters that matter a lot to the individuals concerned.

    The advice I have been giving them is that if there is a matter about which they feel strongly, rather than my raising it on the floor of this Inquiry, they should submit to you a short written statement that describes the piece of evidence they want to advance, that we should serve it on you and then you will make of it what you think is appropriate.

  • Well, I am very comfortable with that, Mr Garnham. I am equally happy for you also to collect that together and then ensure that it is made available to me with the balanced view of those who instruct you as to the appropriate line. I'm not going to say you'll bind me, of course you won't, but I am very anxious that individuals feel that they've had their opportunity to say what they want to say, and I'm conscious that with the best will in the world I am not going to be addressing every single factual issue that has arisen in the course of this Inquiry, because to do so would lead to a report (a) that would take an extremely long time to write, and (b) would not achieve that which I am required to achieve, and I am conscious that actually in relation to some aspects of the police, it may be thought that the same absence of individualisation of concern, which I have afforded to journalists because of the police investigation and thereby to others, in fairness, has not been afforded to some police officers, and I am conscious of that. Of course, the reason is that this aspect of the module isn't dependent upon ongoing police investigation, but I understand why it might feel that some are being dealt with differently.

  • Sir, I'm grateful for that and we will act on what you suggest. The trick, it seems to us, to be for us, and much more so for you, is to reconcile on the one hand fair dealing with individual points of fact, but on the other, not disappearing into a labyrinth of factual disputes when you have a rather higher agenda to address.

  • Yes, well, you've understood the problem. Of course, it's rendered more difficult by the fact that for some of these issues it is only by drilling into the detail that you actually understand where the balance should lie --

  • -- and that must sometimes appear to those affected rather more focused than they had perhaps anticipated.

  • Sir, yes. Thank you.

  • Thank you very much indeed.

    Right. We're making a habit of this, Mr Jay. Tomorrow morning, 10 o'clock. Thank you.

  • (The hearing adjourned until 10 o'clock the following day)

  • SIR DENIS FRANCIS O'CONNOR (sworn).

  • Your full name, please?

  • Sir Denis, you have provided us with a witness statement -- it's really in the form of a letter, but we are content to accept it as a witness statement -- dated 20 January of this year. I hope you have it in front of you. You've signed and dated it. Is this your formal evidence to the Inquiry?

  • It is my formal evidence in the Inquiry. I have had a subsequent conversation with the Inquiry, as you're aware, Mr Jay.

  • Certainly, and there are addenda which we can address orally in due course.

  • Sir Denis, I am very happy publicly to acknowledge the assistance that HMIC have provided, and also their kindness in keeping me informed, during the course of last year, of where their investigation was and where it was leading and their willingness to take on board ideas and lines of inquiry which I hope have assisted you and have certainly assisted me.

  • Sir Denis, in terms of your career, you started with the MPS, then you moved to Surrey and then to Kent. You returned to the MPS in 1997, in the rank of Assistant Commissioner, where you stayed until the year 2000. You were then Chief Constable of Surrey between the years 2000 and 2004. You then joined Her Majesty's Inspectorate in 2004 and became Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of the Constabulary in the year 2009. Is that, broadly speaking, correct?

  • That's, broadly speaking, correct.

  • And you were knighted in Her Majesty's birthday honours in the year 2010.

    May I deal first of all with your time as Assistant Commissioner in the late 1990s?

  • This is the bottom of paragraph 55 of your statement, our page 55434, when you explore a number of issues. In particular, paragraph 56, subparagraph 1:

    "The Commissioner's direction in March 1996, which encouraged a more open approach ..."

    Can you tell us a bit about that, please, in particular what the approach was before and how that approach was changed?

  • Sorry, Mr Jay, I'm just looking to see the paragraph on the screen. I will -- ah, thank you. Well, I joined after this, but obviously on joining I was brought in with a particular remit, which was to be responsible for part of London, southwest London, to be responsible for community relations in general in London, and in particular, to come forward with a programme for development, because the Lawrence Inquiry was in the offing and then began running.

    In that context, I progressively had a great deal of business with the media. I took care to examine what the direction of the organisation was -- that's why I referred to the 2006 note by the Commissioner -- and I have characterised it in this paragraph, which was open and responsive to what came forward, in broad terms. It was designed to illustrate what was being done, to try and correct inaccuracies and, as I say there, there was a hope that some of the negative perceptions and some of the good work and some the intentions would help mitigate some of the failures and flaws of the police. That was the objective of it.

    It was -- there were briefings with -- I became familiar with the Crime Reporters Association and Sir Paul, as he then was, told me that he occasionally met editors from the various newspapers. I was obviously not operating at that level. However, as I began to develop a new strategy for the Met on things like stop and search, ethnic recruitment, the way we would investigate crimes in the future, so we would be more convincing, I became exposed to the media in all forms: broadcast media and the conventional press.

    And in that role I would say that the broad objective was -- we were reactive. I was accompanied, as it were, invariably. It was a relatively austere affair, from my point of view, in terms of how we did business, and I think that broadly I've summarised it in subparagraph 2.

    There were occasional meals, but they were very rare, really, in the great scheme of things. It was an extremely busy time and I frankly didn't have time for meals.

  • You mean you didn't have time to socialise in meals; it wasn't that busy. You had to eat!

  • I can honestly say that myself and another Assistant Commissioner who was, it were, tasked to look at the past -- I was tasked to look at the future -- the hours were extended and there was really not a great deal of time for that kind of activity, even had we wished to do so, but there was no atmosphere in which that was an expectation anyway.

  • Your house style, as it were, hospitality overwhelmingly of the tea and coffee variety, but there were occasional meals, which you refer to. Were those meals with editors, senior journalists or --

  • They were -- there was a few meals -- when I say "meals", there was -- I would have to check the diary for the time. There was a few meals -- there were journalists who were particularly concerned with aspects of Lawrence. The Daily Mail had run a campaign, so they had an interest. There were a variety of news outlets that dealt with minorities, from the Asian subcontinent and elsewhere. There were emerging issues around operation -- I helped initiate Operation Trident, because part of the concern in the Met in this -- and there were three major concerns: race, competence and corruption, and on the race issue there was a perception that the Met were ineffective at the time in protecting the black community, and so I had a contact with various outlets, but really these were to turn up to be interviewed, normally speaking, and move on.

    Very occasionally -- and I don't have a perfect recollection but it was really very occasionally -- one of the journalists would want to -- they would want some context. They would want to be, effectively, persuaded that we were actually trying to develop, for example, a racial and violent crime taskforce, which John Grieve came to lead, that we were going to establish community safety units in boroughs that would actually go into the victimisation and change our performance in detecting crime in racial incidents.

    These things needed explaining, and they had to be explained in part by somebody who was -- had some responsibility. And I do not take the credit for this. There was a big team of people -- wonderful people -- in delivering this change.

    So on the margins of that, there were tea, coffee, and very few lunchtime type things or a meeting in the cafe. That was it.

  • Thank you. On the next page, paragraph 60, 55436, you refer to the MPS having established relationships with journalists and press officers for supporting areas of work.

  • Were these relationships on a personal level, to your knowledge, or were they relationships with particular organisations, particular print titles?

  • My memory of it was that -- and I think to a degree, it's still the case now -- different journalists specialised in political affairs, crime affairs, matters of defence and so on, and some journalists become extremely established and authoritative to a degree in their territory. Actually, extremely authoritative. Some of those journalists seemed to have an established relationship with the Met in the centre, and were involved in some of those briefings that I've referred to.

    For example, there were some from the Crime Reporters Association who had been around a long time, who were regarded as trusted in terms of they had been briefed before and not breached the terms of that, and likewise I think there was a similar view of some journalists in the broadcast media who were very important in all of this, who actually were devoted and have been devoted to particular issues and concerns over a long period of time. That's what I'm broadly referring to there, and they had -- the Met had a way of thematically dealing with these issues, whether it was community relations, particular aspects of crime, and they had some system for briefing, supporting people when they were going to have to do interviews, both at the centre and geographically in London.

  • Can we move forward in time, Sir Denis, to your appointment as Chief Constable of Surrey Police, which was in the year 2000. It's back in your statement to paragraph 2, page 55427.

  • The witness statement which the Inquiry has seen of the current Assistant Chief Constable says that you brought a new approach to media management, evidenced by greater proactive engagement with bodies such as the CRA.

  • Is that a fair observation, in your view?

  • And that your approach, which you may have brought with you from London, was soon regarded favourably by senior detectives in Surrey as a valuable tool in managing the demands of the media in complex major investigations. Again, is that something you're aware of and would agree with?

  • I think within boundaries that was true. There were discussions about this. It's probably fair to say one of the biggest things I brought was not really that -- that was a particular mechanism -- is I brought critical incident training, which was an intensive roleplay over two or three days that had been developed as a result of the Lawrence Inquiry to enable senior investigators and senior officers and everybody else to know their responsibilities and to understand they would be tested all the way through, dare I say it, sir, to a public inquiry potentially. So when they started dealing with incidents involving -- particularly incidents involving death or where evidence was in question or public confidence was lost, they should prepare themselves so that they could be convincing and they should put the family interests, which is, frankly, part of the learning from Lawrence, at the heart of the matter.

    One ingredient in that, but only one ingredient, involved roleplay by real journalists rather than people pretending to do that, who would ask very uncomfortable and difficult, searching questions, and this was designed to help people develop themselves so they would be more competent and able to deal, as it were, with the fury and difficulties that go with difficult investigations.

  • The last general point that has been made by the Assistant Chief Constable currently in place is that there was recruitment of an increasing number of ex-journalists, including Mr Tim Morris as press and publicity manager in July 2002. Again, is that something you would agree with or not?

  • I remember the appointment of Tim Morris. When I came to Surrey, there were a number of really willing and keen, enthusiastic individuals, but their understanding of how both the broadcast and news media worked was limited, and I felt that they were, at times, rather fearful, and because I felt that silence wasn't an option and non-engagement was not an option, on the doorstep of London, I decided they would have to get -- become more aware of the issues, the skills and, frankly, the way the media would work and come at them.

  • Thank you. You touched on this already, but in (ii) of paragraph 2, you refer to the critical incident management training. Two members of the press and broadcast media, were involved in that. I've been asked to put this to you: can you remember from which press institutions these journalists came?

  • One came who worked from time to time for Channel 4 and had been used in London, and another -- in their critical incident training -- and another was a freelance journalist, again, who had used, as I understand it, in critical incident training in London. So they were people who had gone through this training process before, but they came from different aspects of the media.

  • I've also been asked to raise this with you in relation to paragraph (iii). This is the then editor of the Sun, Mr Yelland, a member of his staff making a presentation to a range of your staff. Did this lead to closer relations with the Sun?

  • I feel that it didn't really land quite in that form. It was the meeting of two worlds. He basically suggested -- he lived in Surrey, and I think in a well-intended way he felt that Surrey hid its light under a bush, or whatever expression you like, and he offered to give some kind of seminar or some kind of presentation about the media, as it were, in the world. I think this was, from memory, some time in 2001. He and an assistant brought their view of the world and what excited and interested the media, and it was a presentation, as I recall, about the scoop on Ronnie Biggs.

    Now, I had a number of senior detectives, uniform officers, people who would have to engage in serious business, and there was a degree of -- well, they understood, I suppose, why this was interesting to the Sun, but to them, this was really -- it really was not attached to their mission and it was some way removed. And in a sense -- it was perfectly civil. It was undertaken in a proper sort of lecture type facility. In a sense, they left the place thinking: "We are from a different world", and you, know: "There's a huge interest in personalities and things like that, but that's not our business."

    So in one sense, they got some exposure, but in terms of how they viewed the world, it -- I don't think it changed things greatly for them, and they left -- some of them left quite perplexed, I'm quite sure.

  • Thank you. In the year 2002, there was, of course, the Milly Dowler investigation. You touch on that in subparagraph (iv). The formal briefing within agreed parameters you refer to, was that a briefing off the record?

  • It was a briefing where a record was kept. It was not reportable. I may be seen to be quibbling over these things. If one describes these things entirely as "off the record", it sounds like one is uncomfortable, that there is something inappropriate going on, something that, you know, is slightly shady, and I don't take this view.

    I authorised it because I was concerned about -- I received some intelligence about where the media might wish to go in relation to this Inquiry, which I thought could derail the inquiry, to a degree, which was already an enormous affair in terms of sightings, hoaxings, all sorts of considerations, and I felt it would be problematic for the family as well, and for that reason -- I go back to the critical incident doctrine -- I thought that there were compelling reasons -- there was a legitimate purpose to undertaking this -- and that's a phrase I would want to come back to, "a legitimate policing purpose" -- for doing this, in order to avoid harms that I could foresee.

  • These are matters of some sensitivity. I understand you don't want to go into the detail, but it's clear in your mind that off the record, although recorded, was appropriate in this case for legitimate policing and other reasons. Have I correctly summarised it?

  • The non-reportable briefing was legitimate in attempting to stop some very difficult issues being aired which would not have helped the investigation, quite the reverse, would have loaded the inquiry, and I felt would have directed some attention to the family, who had already -- let us remember this -- suffered enormously, and this, I felt, would be completely unacceptable.

    So what I'm saying -- I mean, this is a -- this is a particular inquiry. It is a feature of these top-end inquiries that they attract a lot of attention. There is a great deal of competition around them between media sources for lines, angles, particularly if they are not resolved rapidly, and they can become more and more exotic and more and more problematic for the investigators and the family who are caught at the centre of it.

    And one has a choice, and the choice, in the end, is: does one wait and sometimes hope for the best, seeing a momentum building, or does one attempt an intervention like this? There's a risk associated with this, but I have to say I have not been let down when we had done it on that basis, and it's quite clear what we are attempting to do. It is a risk, but in the world of policing, sometimes risks have to be taken.

  • It's clear that your policy in Surrey was to foster an open and transparent relationship with the press. Do you think that there were frequent off-the-record briefings of the type you're describing or is this quite a rare event?

  • Well, I would like to think that they were not an everyday event, because if there was a briefing that was nonreportable, it would have a rationale. It would not be a conversation, it would not be an exchange of gossip, it would not be something about: can the police look good on this? It would be done for a purpose: to aid the investigation. You might take a view that you wanted to narrow the field in witness terms. There might be a line running in a particular portion of the media where the police are under constraints about what they can say in public, because, for example, a coroner might be waiting for evidence, but where one will try and put some balance in something that has been aired as a real theory but actually was not a credible enterprise in any way.

    So I would hope that they were measured and there was a rationale around it when it occurred. To my recollection, this was not a frequent event -- set of events, and you could see that in relation to this very big inquiry, which is one of three that were running that year -- I don't have a recollection of doing this in relation to the other two inquiries.

  • As regards hospitality during your time at Surrey -- you deal with this in your statement -- it was of the frugal side of the spectrum, if I can put it in these terms, and you say in paragraph 5, for example, that to your recollection you didn't accept hospitality from the media apart from occasional attendance at events where you and others were representing the force, such as the Bravery Awards.

  • Can I link this, if there is a link -- paragraph 31, page 55432, where you say to your personal knowledge leaks to the media were not a significant problem during your tenure. The difficulty here is that you're in part addressing a negative and trying to establish that, but what is your level of confidence that leaks were not a problem? Is it because media reports were monitored and can be demonstrated not to have arisen from leaks from within your organisation or the faith and in the integrity of your organisation? What is your evidential basis for that?

  • Well, my hope is that if a leak occurred that affected the mission of the organisation, I would be told. I did try and scan the media as much as one can, and I did set in motion a research programme to look at how the media were reporting on Surrey through the press department. This didn't all happen simultaneously; this was all part of upgrading our response.

    You will understand that as a discipline authority, not everything reaches the Chief Constable, who must sit in judgment of things. So I may have been partially safe from it, but I would have expected and, you know, my sort of -- my concern with the mission of policing and its credibility, that people would have drawn -- my senior staff, my professional standards department -- if there was anything significant, they would have told me. I would have expected that. I was quite an intrusive -- some would call it a pain -- as a Chief Constable, because I was, you know, attempting to change a great deal in the organisation, which actually had acquired territory from London, and upgrade the whole infrastructure of it, as well as handle these inquiries. So I was very interested in sentiment, in that sense -- not everybody initially had been happy, for example, coming from London -- and so I did keep an eye in what was going on.

    But I have to say I reflected one leak issue was brought to my attention and there was action on it and I would have absolutely expected that. I really would like to hope that if there had been any pattern, any sustained effort, I would have been told.

  • This is a little bit removed from the terms of reference that I am following, but do you think there's a slight weakness in the fact that the most senior officer in the force is kept from matters which may be of concern to him, because of the disciplinary function that he exercises?

  • I suppose there is theoretically, but only if he or she does not have faith in some the other people who work with them. Particularly my Deputy Chief Constable at the present time, Peter Fahy, I had absolute faith in his integrity. I thought he would make the right judgments and he was a reformer and sensitive to the public -- you know, the public confidence in the police, and I felt he would make the right judgment.

  • This is not a personal comment about Surrey.

  • This is a systemic question, really. You have a number of very important players on the chess board at each police force, and you've taken your biggest player out of professional standards at a level, because he is the ultimate discipline authority. Therefore the question arises -- and as I say, this might be slightly removed from the terms of reference, but it's possibly something that the HMIC may or may not be interested in. The question arises whether that is actually a good idea.

  • I can understand the question, sir. The systemic answer -- and I am interested in system, and I hope we get to that later. The systemic answer is that the Deputy Chief Constable normally rides shotgun effectively on these issues for the organisation and in fact will liaise with the police authority and other people so that there is a system in place and there is a specific responsibility for it. And obviously this person is only a heart beat away from the Chief Constable, so they are very, very senior and they are able to direct resources and they're able to intervene with real authority. That's the system. And I don't think that part of the system -- in my experience, that part of the system has not been generally flawed.

  • Okay. The alternative way of doing it is that discipline involves an ACPO-ranking officer from another force. I'm not encouraging it and I'm not going there; it's just that I appreciate you have your deputy and you have your assistants and you have obvious faith in them as a Chief Constable. The question is: is it the best use of resource to keep him out of what may be very sensitive and balanced judgments? Anyway, there it is.

  • Just to close it, I suppose the rationale for the Chief Constable is that he or she sees things in the round, both from inside and looking from outside the organisation, and that they do not become overly preoccupied with the degree of detail that will you, sir, would expect to drill down on things. But there is somebody appointed to do just that. There is an accountable line on it. But it is an open question.

  • If we now move forward to your time as chief inspector of the HMIC. We heard something of the role of the HMIC from Mr Baker last week. It was set up under the Police Act 1996 as amended. What, if anything, are the powers of the HMIC over individual police forces?

  • HMIC has the power to inspect the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces and currently police authorities. That will change in November. It will be restricted to the police forces.

    Since January 2, I have sought and at my behest, we have had power to seize documents and to enter premises, in order to pursue our duties. Not, dare I say, that we have been challenged, but it is best to be prepared, not just legislate for good times.

  • If you make a recommendation in relation to a police force, does that recommendation have to be accepted and/or are there, as it were, coercive powers which you enjoy over police forces?

  • The recommendations are normally -- we endeavour to make most of the recommendations as sensible as possible so that they are compelling.

  • Well, not everyone agrees that, but from my perspective, we do. They are not always all accepted. We do -- with particular ones where we feel it is pressing, we do follow through at some length. For example, the G20 affair and all of the things that went with that and the interpretation of the law by the Metropolitan Police and the training and so on, we followed through on that for quite a substantial period of time. So depending on the nature of the recommendations, the seriousness of the issue, we will pursue it, but what we try to do is seek agreement from the chief officer and the chair of the authority, depending on what the recommendations are.

  • Yes. So is this right, Sir Denis: you don't have formal coercive legal powers, but you have considerable influence over police forces and currently authorities?

  • We have some influence, and we try to know our place as well. The only other thing I would say is it is sometimes mistaken from -- externally that the publication of a view by an independent body like ourselves is a matter of some significance to chief constables and police authorities and there is kind of -- I suppose a degree of leverage that flows from the publication of what you've found and then any follow-up, where a follow-up is still found to be wanting.

    It may sound rather like soft power. It is obviously less of an obvious sanction that some other regulators, but it has its place.

  • The particular report we're going to look at in due course, "Without fear or favour" -- you tell us that that report has been received positively and it's your intention -- well, we've heard from Mr Baker -- that further representations are going to be obtained and then a further assessment will be carried out by your body; is that right?

  • That's correct, and I'm aware, too, of the Inquiry's reporting timeframes and I have discussed that with Mr Baker so that the work can, where at all possible, align with that so that our thoughts are informed, and likewise, if we have any useful evidence or material to provide, we do so.

  • Thank you. One further point before we break for lunch, and it's a discrete point: the Guardian article, which I think we worked out now was put online at about 5 pm on 8 July 2009, and then reached the print edition the following day, 9 July. Were you asked at the time to do anything by Home Office officials?

  • I -- in the margins of other business, I had a discussion, as far as I can recall, with a Home Office official on the 9th, who asked for my view about the story. This was just an oral exchange. There were a lot of other things going on but this was an oral exchange.

    I said, looking at this, that I thought the revelations merited some form of independent review. I thought that if this allegation -- the allegations that were there, if true in any degree, would raise substantial public confidence issues, and I would not be surprised if the HMIC were asked to assist in some way to facilitate such an approach.

  • What happened, though?

  • There was -- I think there was a second -- again, in the margins of other business conversation with another more senior official, but my understanding was that, as with a number of other options, discussion ensued with the ministers and the Home Secretary at the time, and there was no appetite for the HMIC being involved.

    So it really never got off the ground, sadly, and -- I was particularly taken with it in one sense, that I was already looking at a leaks inquiry in any event, which was the Damian Green leaks inquiry, where the HMIC were coming in behind something to look to see what lessons could be learnt. This would have been more complex, for fairly obvious reasons, which we can rehearse, but I did point out the parallel.

  • Yes. We've seen your report in relation to the Damian Green leaks inquiry. Mr Quick annexed it to his witness statement. I suppose the only issue on that: is there anything in that report which bears directly on the terms of reference of this Inquiry, which of course are the relationships between police and the press as opposed to relationships between the press and government departments?

  • Well, I think the common ground is potential conflicts of interest and priorities and the fact that in all of these, the common feature they share is they're all highly charged and stakes are high. So I do think there's common ground, and there's common ground in a sense that my inquiry into the Damian Green piece suggested to me that the framework that existed around initiating those inquiries/reviews/investigations was weak. There was weaknesses in the framework which allowed for the police to be drawn in, sometimes initially on the basis that state secrets were at risk, but actually in this particular case they were not, they were embarrassing issues, and it allowed for drift, and I've -- there were all sorts of other mechanisms that could have resolved it.

    So framework -- and I think we'll come to this at some point. Parallel with the -- this Inquiry: is the framework strong enough, when the police have conflicts of interest and when they have to review things? Do they have a good anchor point, a good set of references to go by? And how do they manage -- and this is what I did try to look at in relation to Damian Green: how do they manage their way through this so that they -- if they decide to go forward or to stop, there is some respectable, proper process for a considered use of discretion?

    And I set out an approach at the rear of that report, which was agreed by the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Cabinet Office, the Home Office and the police, about high-impact cases for which politicians, the police and government is one territory, but there are some parallels, clearly, with this high -- the high-impact case, as it were, issues that this Inquiry are looking at. There are some parallels in my terms.

  • That's one of the themes we're going to come back to at some stage this afternoon, Sir Denis, but that may be convenient.

  • Just before we leave, or maybe we'll return to it, was it a common occurrence for you to be shown newspaper articles by Home Office officials and asked whether you felt the HMIC should get involved or what you felt about it? The reason I ask the question is because part of the evidence I've heard is that "this was just another newspaper article", and I rather challenge that view and I take what you've said as supporting my challenge of the view, but I'd just like to get an understanding of whether that's fair.

  • To the first part, sir, the -- it's not common, because we were endeavouring to forge a new relationship. Prior to my appointment, the chief inspector had been the principle adviser to the Home Secretary about professional matters; this design was I was supposed to be more independent.

    The actual newspaper article wasn't drawn to my attention, it was just the news item, as it were, I think there had been something on the radio as well as -- but I -- I have been around the block on these things. I have been through the Lawrence experience, Scarman inquiry and the rest, and just looked to me, just even crystallised that morning, it had some of the potential features of real difficulty. That's why it stood out as something of significance, potentially, if even if small part it were true.

    Occasionally officials did discuss news issues, but I dare say not always to agree about the way those issues were addressed.

  • Maybe we'll return to that at 2.05 pm.