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

  • MR STUART CALVIN JOHN HOARE (sworn).

  • Thank you very much, Mr Hoare. If you just make yourself comfortable and open the bundle you have there at tab 1, you should find your witness statement.

    First of all, could you provide your full name to the Inquiry, please?

  • Yes, my full name is Stuart Calvin John Hoare.

  • You provided us with a witness statement. It's reference 53031. You signed it at the end, but could you confirm to us, please, that the contents of the statement are true to the best of your knowledge and belief?

  • I'm going to begin, if I can, by asking you to explain to the Inquiry who you are. You set this out at paragraphs 1 and 2 of your statement. You're the brother of the late Sean Hoare, who sadly passed away in July this year. Is that correct?

  • That's correct, yes. I'm the brother of Sean Hoare, the older brother, 18 months older than Sean. Sean and I had a very close relationship. I think a lot of that was due to the fact that we were very, very different people. I state later on in my statement that basically I went down the tracks of sport and maths and Sean went down the tracks of drama and the written word, and I think that's probably why we were so close. We were very, very different people, and we had a very, very special relationship. We spoke probably most days on the phone to each other, and we both lived and worked in very, very different worlds.

  • You tell us that Sean worked for many years at the News of the World, and we'll come on to discuss that in a bit more detail in a moment, but what I'd like you to do first of all, please, is tell the Inquiry in your own words why you've decided to come today to give evidence.

  • Sean and I spoke long and hard before his death, and whilst the incident or the phone hacking was going on, and we shared a lot of -- a lot of secrets, and I felt very, very strongly that someone had to represent my brother. I think that's the main driver why I'm here today, to try and represent him and let his voice still be heard.

  • Before I ask you about Sean's time working for the tabloids or the dark arts practices that he told you about, can I ask you this: did you ever yourself witness any of the dark arts practices that you're going on to tell us about?

  • When you say "witnessed", no, I didn't witness them. I wasn't there while they were going on but as I've already said, in conversation and obviously through emails, I was fortunate enough to retain certain information that Sean had left with me.

  • Right. So I'm right in saying that the evidence that you give is what Sean told you in conversations and also in the form of emails from Sean, and you refer to these at paragraph 12 of your witness statement. Halfway down that paragraph you say:

    "Sean and I regularly discussed this and there are emails in existence which support Sean's description of a practice referred to as the dark side."

    Now, can you tell us a little bit more about these emails? First of all, what's happened to these emails?

  • The emails in their entirety, including personal emails, are handed over to the police, and I believe that they will be acting on those emails at some given point in time.

  • Are you willing to provide them to the Inquiry?

  • Okay. I don't need to ask you any more about the emails.

    Can I move on to ask you about Sean's career, please? You explain in paragraphs 3 to 6 Sean's early career. After gaining a degree, it's clear that he did a journalism course, then worked for two years at the Watford Observer and during that time he was shifting at weekends for the News of the World in order to gain some experience; is that correct?

  • Then he moved to the Sun, you tell us at paragraph 6. In 1990, he started shifting at the Sun newspaper. Do you see that? Eventually you say that he became deputy editor of the Bizarre column on the Sun. Can we clarify one thing: the Bizarre column is a showbiz column, if I can put it like that?

  • Was Sean solely a showbiz reporter?

  • No, he wasn't. I mean, he'd spent a great deal of his life covering showbiz people and events because I think he was channelled in that direction, but Sean also was a great writer and, you know, he covered many more serious events than writing about showbiz people.

  • From the Sun, you tell us that he moved to the People when Neil Wallis was the editor?

  • And then he moved to the News of the World. You don't give us a date. The date I have found is June 2001. Does that --

  • I think that's about right, yes.

  • All right. I want to understand for what period of time he worked for the News of the World. Am I right in saying that he worked there from 2001 until about 2005?

  • That is correct, yes?

  • After he left, you say:

    "Although it has been reported that he was sacked, in fact he received a pay-out."

    Can you tell us about bit more about the circumstances in which he came to leave the News of the World?

  • I think Sean, certainly in the last two years of his career at the News of the World, was struggling. He really was. There was an enormous amount of pressure put on him and other reporters to produce articles that would sell. He certainly wasn't enjoying it, the last year. He was bringing his work home, he was drinking more, he was trying to run away from certain issues that were going on at the paper and it wasn't -- it wasn't a nice part of his life and he was certainly struggling.

  • How did his employment come to end?

  • His employment came to end by a -- again, this was reported that he was sacked. He came to a mutually convenient, shall we say, decision was made and Sean was asked to leave. Sean was paid a settlement to leave and he -- yeah, he was asked to leave, and the person that asked him to leave was a senior member at the paper.

  • You've told us that you were very close to your brother, that you spoke to him almost daily.

  • Can you tell us about how he felt about leaving News of the World?

  • He felt that his world had fallen apart. He really did. I was speaking to his wife this weekend, actually, and we were just running over things and I was explaining to her my nervousness of appearing here today and she was saying that she can remember to this day when Sean came home and he just sat in the chair and he really felt lost. I can't tell you how much Sean enjoyed journalism. He really did and he certainly had a lot of issues those last 12 months.

  • After he left the News of the World, did he work in the world of journalism again?

  • Probably what I would deem as working, no, not really. I mean, he went on initially to work subbing himself out to various papers, but not really what we would call -- I know journalism isn't a 9 to 5 job, but a normal kind of working environment, no. He was -- he was doing certain bits for certain papers, for certain magazines, selling stories.

  • You tell us in paragraph 8 of your statement that he worked with Channel 5 on a series of shows about Radio 1?

  • Was that for a long term --

  • No, it wasn't. These were all very short-term contracts, two, three, four months. Although I haven't put it in my statement -- and I know I shouldn't really go off the statement here, but at some point he actually got so fed up with journalism and what was going on that he just walked away from journalism and he actually went and worked with horses for about a period of six months, just to try and get away from it all. We were very keen that he -- the family was very keen that he got away from journalism for a bit, and he went and worked at an equestrian centre and he thoroughly enjoyed himself.

  • I'm going to move on now to ask you about some of the practices that Sean told you about relating to his days at both the Sun and the News of the World, if I can. I'm going to touch on the issue of phone hacking first. I'm going to remind you that it's very important during these questions that you don't give us any names. Unless I specifically say a name, please don't mention any names. Thank you.

    I'll take it in stages. You say this at paragraph 12 of your statement:

    "Sean had worked with certain individuals at both the Sun and News International where phone hacking was a daily routine."

    You go on to say that you know this because Sean told you and you regularly discussed this. Can I ask you this, first of all: was this discussion at the time, ie when Sean was working at News of the World or the Sun, or was it afterwards, when he'd stopped working?

  • The discussions took place whilst he was still employed at the News of the World and after he'd finished working at the News of the World.

  • Right. You also say -- and we've discussed this briefly -- that there are emails in existence that cover this practice. Don't tell me anything about the detail of them, please, but are they contemporaneous emails or are they emails which Sean sent after he'd stopped working at the Sun and the News of the World?

  • They're emails that Sean sent after he'd finished working at the News of the World and the Sun. I think I just want to make a point here as well, and I take on board what you're saying about the names, et cetera, but I want to make it very clear that this alleged practice not only went on at the News of the World but went on at the Sun. I want to make it very clear that this was a practice that was taken to the News of the World.

  • That's what Sean told you, anyway?

  • Is your evidence then that Sean told you that phone hacking was a daily routine at the Sun?

  • It was a routine at the Sun.

  • And was it a routine at the News of the World?

  • It was. It was probably more daily at the News of the World.

  • You obviously spoke to him about this. Can you tell me, was he referring here to practices which he himself had witnessed when he was working at these institutions or was it just a rumour that went around?

  • These were practices that he witnessed.

  • I've caused to be handed around to the core participants, but we have behind tab 7, an article written by Nick Davies of the Guardian. If you look at the third page of that, please. It's the last page. If you look three paragraphs down, there's a paragraph that starts:

    "And the voicemail hacking was all part of a great game."

    Do you see that?

  • It's the last page behind tab 7.

  • Do you see the third paragraph down?

  • "And the voicemail hacking ..."

    That might not be the right article. It looks like this.

  • It's an article about your brother.

  • It's headed:

    "Sean Hoare knew how destructive the News of the World ..."

  • Got it. Yes, I'm here.

  • The third paragraph:

    "And the voicemail hacking was all part of a great game."

    Do you see that?

  • No, I must be on the wrong page. I do apologise.

  • Does it start, top left-hand corner:

    "Everyone got over-confident ..."

  • The next paragraph starts:

    "It must have scared the rest of Fleet Street ..."

    And the next one --

  • Sorry, apologies, yes.

  • I'll read it out if that assists:

    "And the voicemail hacking was all part of the great game ..."

    Sorry, I should make clear this is an article written by Nick Davies just after Sean died, essentially setting out parts of an interview that he had had with Sean. He's commenting here on what he's told about phone hacking:

    "The idea that it was a secret or the work of some rogue reporter had him rocking in his chair:

    "'Everyone was doing it. Everyone got a bit carried away with this power that they had. No one came close to catching us.'.

    "He would hack messages and delete them so that the competition could not hear them, or hack messages and swap them with mates on other papers."

    Now, the thing I want to focus on here is the deletion of messages. Did he ever speak to you about whether he deleted or saw others deleting voicemail messages they had listened to?

  • No. Again, I mean, you know, just to make this clear as well, there was a kind of -- as far as the phone hacking was concerned and the other methods that they used to track people down, there was very much a structure in place that the journalists went through other individuals to get this information, so I really don't know how much Sean would have seen of any deletions.

  • Right. Again, I don't want you to name any names, but can you tell me whether, in your discussions with Sean, he ever told you whether phone hacking was limited to one or two individuals at the paper or whether it was wider, something that was practised on a wider scale? Answer me first on his time at the Sun and then his time at the News of the World.

  • I think the answer is the same for both papers, that the use of hacking was used widely.

  • At paragraph 15 of your witness statement, you say that Sean considered the news desk in particular at News of the World to be out of control. Again, from your conversations with Sean, was it just the news desk or was it other parts of the News of the World?

  • I think it was -- you know, again, I can only speak for what he told me.

  • It was very, very foreign for me. We came from -- I come from a very disciplined world, and to listen to Sean's stories of what went on -- it just didn't even seem like work to me. I mean, it seems, you know, as though no one was in control. As long as they delivered an article, whether it could stand up or not didn't really matter, but as long as they delivered something, and if they delivered something early on in the week, then all the better because they can go and do whatever they want to do for the rest of the week. It was a very strange world that they operated in.

  • Do you know whether or not it was just the news desk or other parts of the paper, or is that something you just didn't discuss?

  • It's something we didn't really discuss. Sean always referred to the news desk as where he was filing or reporting and that's, I think, where his colleagues were.

  • Perhaps you've answered this question in parts already, but can you tell us why did he think the Sun and the News of the World had taken to practising the dark arts?

  • Do you know what? That's a very difficult question for me to answer, because I kind of like to think Sean actually didn't realise at the time that he was probably doing wrong. I think that he got carried away, like a lot of journalists, and was certainly under a lot of pressure from seniors to deliver. I doubt in my own head if initially he realised he was doing wrong. I think he thought that he was producing, he was getting the stories, he was getting his name on the front page, his ego was being stroked. We all like a little bit of publicity, and I think Sean probably enjoyed that initially. It wasn't until later on in his career that he couldn't deal with the pressure, that I think Sean actually took the time to sit down and to speak to his family, and I mention this in my statement concerning certain individuals where Sean felt very strongly about he was hung out to dry, that Sean took the actions that he did.

  • We'll come onto that, I promise. Can I ask you about another practice, please, and that's called pinging, the practice of pinging. This is the tracking of a mobile phone in order it would ascertain where its user is located. Sean spoke to the New York Times about this practice and it's behind your tab 5. For everyone else, I've caused to be handed out the relevant article. It's at the back of the clip that I've handed out. It's on the third page of that particular article. Again, I'll read it out:

    "A former showbiz reporter for the News of the World, Sean Hoare, who was fired in 2005, said that when he worked there, pinging cost the paper nearly $500 on each occasion. He first found out how the practice worked, he said, when he was scrambling to find someone and was told that one of the news desk editors [I'm not going to read out the name] could help. This person asked for the person's cell phone number and returned later with information showing the person's precise location in Scotland, Mr Hoare said. Mr X, who faces questioning by police on a separate matter, did not return calls for comment."

    I'm going to read the top of the next page if I can:

    "A former Scotland Yard officer said the individual who provided the information could have been one of a small group entitled to authorise pay and request, or a lower level officer who duped his superiors into thinking that the request was related to a criminal case. Mr Hoare said the fact that it was a police officer was clear from his exchange with X:

    "'I thought it was remarkable and asked him how he did it and he said, "It's the old bill, isn't it",' he recalled, noting that the term is common slang in Britain for the police. 'At that point, you don't ask questions,' he said."

    The article then goes on to report that a second former editor at the page backed Mr Hoare's account. I don't think we need to read the rest of that.

    What I want to ask you about is if he ever spoke to you about this particular practice and if so, what he said.

  • The simple answer to your question is yes. What did he say about it? Again, I think when we discussed this -- and we discussed this probably a couple months before his death --

  • Is that the first time he'd spoken to you about it?

  • No, we'd spoken about it, but I had not really taken a lot of -- or paid a lot of attention to it. It was when he brought it up and we were discussing -- I actually remember walking around a field with him. We'd taken the dogs for a walk and I was saying to him: "Is that it? Are you done with what you have to tell now?" And he said, "No, I need to mention this practice", and he spoke to me about it at length.

    I think, again, the thing that shocked me about this practice was there was actually a defined structure in place. So again, the reporters went through someone who went to someone. I was just shocked, and I remember saying to him: "Are you sure you want to really say this?" I make no secrets that I wasn't keen of him parting with this information, you know. We kind of avoid publicity and -- but he said, "Yes, I have to say it. I have to tell everything."

  • I understand. You say he told you this recently but also he told you about it before. Can you recall, did he tell you about it before when he was working at the News of the World or --

  • That's correct. That's the first time that we ever spoke about this, whilst he was employment with the News of the World.

  • I've asked you about phone hacking, Mr Hoare, and I have asked you about pinging. Are there any other aspects of the culture at either the Sun or the News of the World that Sean told you about that you would like to share with this Inquiry?

  • I think -- I'd like to think that my statement really tries to get across the feeling of myself as to what went on and why he did it. I'm just -- to this day, I'm disgusted with what went on. I feel sorry for the normal journalist that goes about and does his do job and does his job very well. It upsets me, the amount of pressure that these journalists at the News of the World were put on to deliver stories. It really does. And to see the demise of my brother through this was shocking.

  • I'll move on, if there's nothing else you'd like to say about the culture --

  • Just before we pass on, it may be that most people understand what you mean by "pinging", but did your brother explain that concept? Did you understand it or did he explain it?

  • I can explain the way that he explained it to me, that it's quite a simple method of actually being able to track people via their mobile phone. Like a GPS system, I suppose, we would see something like -- I don't know, Googlemaps, whereby if they had someone's phone number, they could pass it on to an individual and he would tell you where that individual is located.

  • That's what was explained to you?

  • That's what he explained to me.

  • Can I ask you about Sean's decision to speak out about the practices that he told you about. We know that Sean spoke out about the practices in 2010, and there are New York Times articles that he contributed to from July, September and November 2010. We know he also spoke to Nick Davies at the Guardian and Mr Hanning, who is going to be the next witness giving evidence this morning. Can you assist us, though, with why Sean decided to speak out at this time? What was it about 2010 that meant that he decided to take this action?

  • I suppose -- going back to a comment earlier, I suppose 2010, we'd got him out of journalism, we'd got him working with horses. He'd stopped drinking. He was clean. The old Sean that we knew and loved as a family was returning to us, and I think he had the ability in 2010 to think clearly and understand his actions. And I think being away from journalism, it gave him the ability to take a step back and to understand the difference between right and wrong. And that's what the time gave him and that's what being clean gave him: the ability to decide what's right and what's wrong.

  • I understand. Do you know whether he was approached to speak about these practices or whether he contacted newspapers?

  • Sean didn't contact newspapers. Sean actually tried to put his concerns into the public domain, but no one really wanted to much listen. Everyone -- everyone's perception of Sean was he's some drug-taking, drinking old journalist that's washed up, you know, and quite frankly no one wanted to listen to him. He was then introduced to an individual who took Sean for what he was and took him very seriously.

  • You can probably name that individual.

  • That was Joe Becker of the New York Times.

  • Did he receive payment for the interviews that he undertook.

  • Thank you for asking that question because I want to make this very, very clear. Sean received no money for what he did. In fact we talked about that many, many times and he felt very, very strongly. He received no money as far as articles that he provided to the paper and to the New York Times.

  • There is a question here on the issue of speaking out which I have been asked to put to you by one of the other parties to this Inquiry. The question is this: the Guardian has reported that in September 2010 your brother was questioned by the police under caution in relation to allegations that he was asked to hack phones when at News of the World and chose to make no comment. Do you know whether it is true that he was questioned by the police at that time and that he chose to make no comment?

  • I am fully aware of the interview. He was questioned by police and, yes, he chose, under legal advice, to answer the questions with "no comment".

  • Right, move on from that. You probably knew Sean better than anyone, from what you tell us. Do you think that he was telling the truth when he told you about these practices at the Sun and at the News of the World?

  • I think sitting here today demonstrates that everything that Sean said, every statement that Sean made, was the truth. I sit here with a lot of pride.

  • You've explained that he was very upset about having to leave News of the World. Is it possible that he could have exaggerated the position simply because he felt upset and angry about the way he'd been treated at News of the World?

  • Again, I think that's a very, you know, obvious route to go down. Yes, he was upset. Would he exaggerate? I don't think, looking at Sean's life and what he went through, the time when he was sober, the time to reflect -- no. No, I don't think he would have exaggerated. I think he was very serious in what he was doing. He lost a lot, a lot of friends through what Sean decided to do.

  • You accept in your statement, Mr Hoare, that Sean had a problem with drink and drugs over the course of his adult life, which started when he worked in the newspaper industry.

  • You tell us that drinking, for example, was an accepted part of the job, certainly in the earlier days. Some ex-News of the World personnel have suggested that his version of events can be dismissed as essentially the ramblings of someone who had a severe problem. Let me deal with it this way. Sean first gave an interview about the practice of the dark arts to the New York in July 2010 or some point before the article in July 2010. At that time, was he drinking or taking drugs?

  • How long had he abstained for at that time?

  • He'd probably been away from drink and drugs -- probably at that time I would have thought probably seven or eight months, at that time. I referred in my statement to the inquest that myself and my wife attended just lately, and it was so encouraging, for a change, to hear a coroner speak so fondly of Sean, and to understand the pressure that he was put on and the reasons why Sean started drinking again, unfortunately, the last few months before he passed away.

  • Which was in July 2011?

  • Did the coroner make any findings about his drinking or his use of drugs in the last few years of his life?

  • Yes, I think as far as drugs -- let's deal with that first -- Sean hadn't taken drugs for a long, long time. I think of Sean's drug-taking -- what I know, Sean may have taken drugs. I'm sure he did. Sean regarded that as part of the scene, as part of the job.

    As far as his drinking --

  • Sorry, sorry, why would it be part of his job?

  • I think Sean, in his way, thought that within the entertainment world, that to allow Sean to do some of the jobs and gain some of the interviews and gain the friendships of certain individuals, Sean thought that he had to be like them. I honestly do. I hate it. You know, I don't understand it, but that's what he did. And he came close to a lot of celebrities and got a lot of information that benefited him and his employer.

  • Sir, for your information, I can't read it out but if you look back at the article by Nick Davies behind tab 7, that will give you some of the background to the fact that he took drugs with certain persons whose names I won't mention in the course of his employment.

  • So in fact, would I be right to conclude from what you've just said that when your brother gave interviews to Nick Davies and the New York Times, and when he spoke to Mr Hanning, who we'll hear from shortly, he wasn't in fact taking drugs or drinking?

  • No, he wasn't. He was clean, out of journalism, working in the fresh air. He was actually -- he was -- the old Sean was coming back. It really was. You know, he was very on top of his game.

  • Mr Hoare, those are all the questions I have. Is there anything that you would like to add?

  • Just that I found this incredibly difficult today, but I'd like to, I suppose, refer you to section -- point 17 of my statement. I'd really just like to make this very, very clear, that I've found it very, very difficult today not to name names, but the seniors that were involved in the practices that went on, know that they are involved and they know the wrong that has been done, and I just hope that sitting here today, I've tried to put some of the wrongs to rights on Sean's behalf and his ex-colleagues that have suffered pain and imprisonment, that I'm speaking on behalf of Sean to try and put their wrongs right.

    Thank you for the opportunity.

  • Mr Hoare, you must understand -- and I'm sure you do -- that it is unusual for this sort of Inquiry to run parallel to a police investigation. I understand why it's important for those two events to run parallel, in tandem rather than one after the other, and I hope that you do too. This isn't, in any sense, to cover up what's happened or make findings about whether it's happened; it is very much more an effort to look at what were the culture, practices and ethics of the press to see whether and how things can be made better.

    I am sure that if there are prosecutions, rather more will come out. There is another part to this Inquiry, but to try to roll it up into one would have undermined the other.

  • So I recognise the complication of it, but I hope you understand why that was absolutely necessary.

  • No, thank you all very much.

  • Right. I'll rise until the visual side of the promulgation of this evidence is restored. Thank you.

  • (A short break)

  • Yes, Mr Barr?

  • Thank you, sir. The next witness is Mr Hanning.