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

  • MR JOHN JOSEPH DONALD TWOMEY (sworn).

  • Your full name, please?

  • It's John Joseph Donald Twomey.

  • You've provided the Inquiry with two witness statements?

  • The first is in your capacity as crime reporter at the Daily Express, the second in your capacity as chairman of the Crime Reporters Association. The first statement is dated 8 February, the second 28 February. There's a statement of truth on each statement. Are both your formal evidence to the Inquiry?

  • Thank you, Mr Twomey. First of all, please, your career. You were first employed as a general news reporter, appointed crime reporter in 1983. For a short period you were a crime reporter at the London Daily News, but since October 1987, you've been crime reporter of the Daily Express?

  • And from 2009 -- that must have been on the retirement of Mr Edwards -- you've been chairman of the Crime Reporters Association?

  • Can I ask you, first of all, two general questions about the Daily Express. The first question is: what is the sort of crime story that Daily Express readers expect to read and therefore you aim to write?

  • I think you could probably describe it as a judicial sort of crime story about murders, armed robberies, the police investigating serial offenders, maybe sex attackers, and the kind of stories that I think Daily Express readers wish to read are the ones that end up with the killer or the armed robber, the serial sex attacker in the dock at the Old Bailey getting life imprisonment. It's the old-fashioned cops and robbers stories, if you see what I mean.

  • So the take is the serious crime end rather than the macro-criminal view about communities and harassment and nuisance type crime?

  • And not, presumably, gossip about what's happening in political terms -- inverted commas around "political" -- around the management board of the Metropolitan Police, for example?

  • Is that right? The second general point is we've heard from a number of witnesses that there's less money around to do serious reporting. (a) Is that true in relation to the Daily Express, and (b) if it is true, what, if anything, have been the consequences of that?

  • I think there probably is a tighter budget at the Express than other papers. The consequences might be that you can't bid for exclusive interviews, perhaps, unless they fall within our interest range. Perhaps pitches are -- if they're sold exclusively, might go to other papers with a bigger budget. That is not always the case. We can always step in, you know, with a bid that would outbid other papers, should it be absolutely in our interest range.

  • Okay. At paragraph 4 of your first statement, Mr Twomey, you tell us, going back now to the 1980s, that, broadly speaking, crime reporters acted as cheerleaders for the police, and Scotland Yard in particular, and the MPS could normally rely on uncritical coverage from daily paper crime reporters. Is that an observation, Mr Twomey, which applies to crime reporters as a whole or to the Daily Express in particular?

  • No, at that time that would be crime reporters as a whole. Joining the group of daily paper crime reporters, that was the impression you picked up very quickly from the older hands, and clearly you followed their example.

  • What do you think were the reasons for this phenomenon, uncritical coverage?

  • Well, I think it's because -- maybe it was a tradition that crime reporters worked so closely with detectives, they were very friendly with them. They would promote the CID and they would, in return, as it were, get good stories and it would be in their interests, the interests of both sides, if that kind of coverage was continued.

  • In paragraph 5 of your statement, you speak of direct relationships with senior detectives, unmediated by the DPA. Can I ask you, please, about interactions with detectives at that stage. Were they based around the pub? How did it work?

  • I think -- I have to say that it was probably based around the pub, the local pub to a police station or near Scotland Yard, near the courts where they regularly had their cases: clearly the Old Bailey, other major courts.

  • In paragraph 6, you explain that the culture changed for a number of reasons.

  • Many of them are clear to us. You highlight in particular the Stephen Lawrence case, but all these factors played a part in transforming relations between police and the media, and the upshot was that the media became more critical of the police?

  • Presumably that applied to the Daily Express as well, did it?

  • Was that something that you were comfortable with or not comfortable with?

  • Well, I think those stories had to be written. Quite clearly, the miscarriages of justice, they had to be exposed, they had to be rectified, the problems had to be rectified so they wouldn't recur. Publicity played a major role in that, I think, and those were the stories that needed to be written. My concern was -- perhaps "concern" is putting it too highly, but you still wanted to get back to the traditional story. You didn't want the paper full of critical stories when your contacts were probably just doing the same good work as they were in the past but not getting it promoted in the same way that they were.

  • And the contacts you're referring to are the senior detectives you mentioned?

  • And these are the individuals who are providing you with the information you refer to under paragraph 8 of your statement; is that correct?

  • Can I be clear, though, when you say in paragraph 8:

    "In practice, less information was passed to reporters, both formally and informally."

    At that stage -- we're talking now late 1990s, possibly the --

  • -- first decade of the 21st century. What do you mean by "formally and informally"?

  • Formally from the press office, the Press Bureau, where they would have been more open, there perhaps would have been more press conferences. There was less information from the official channels. Your contacts might not be so ready to give you information. Your contacts may not meet you as often. They might -- some of the people that you had been speaking to previously may simply just drift off to -- and you'd lose contact with them.

    So the upshot was that from both the official channel there was less information but there was -- although it might be more patchy, there was probably less information coming through your informal contacts as well.

  • How did it work with the informal contacts? If you wanted information about a case which was not their case, did your informal contacts tend to put you in touch with the detective who could assist you?

  • Well, that could happen, yes. Quite a few occasions when -- over the years, when detectives -- you would go and meet them and ask them if there was anything that could be printed or published, any developments in their inquiries, and they may turn around and say, "No, there's nothing, but superintendent so-and-so, my friend, my colleague, who you don't know, I know that he has an interesting development in his inquiry", and you could then -- he might even say, "I'll introduce you to him if you don't already know him", and you would go along and you would have a discussion.

    That officer, the second officer, might say, "I'm quite happy with you to write a story about that." Under certain conditions, he might say, "It's just not ready for publication just yet", or he might say, "We do have an interesting development but I'm going to go through official channels and we'll put it through the press office."

  • I have been asked to put to you this question but you may already have answered it: what kinds of informal information was not being passed which would have been before?

  • Well, I think -- well, it would be the whole range, really. I mean, whereas people would be quite happy to talk about developments in inquiries, court cases coming up, some twist and turn in some inquiry that had long -- that was long established that would have been of interest, and -- they probably felt it wasn't right and they wouldn't tell you.

  • When information was passed to you informally, was it passed either in the pub or over the phone?

  • It would be very unlikely to be over the telephone, I think, so it would be in a social setting, yes.

  • In your view, when this information stream -- I won't say dried up but became -- was flowing less freely, did it impact on your ability to write stories in the public interest?

  • Well, it may have done. It's difficult to say. It's difficult to quantify. They may have wished to pass information about an inquiry that was going wrong, about some -- a chance to catch an offender that had been missed. They may have been reluctant to say that under those conditions in that era, so that probably would act strictly against the public interest.

  • You mention, however, a change in the MPS media strategy following the publication of the MacPherson report, which was in 1999. This is paragraph 11. You say:

    "Against the background of corrosive publicity, more meaningful relationships were actively sought with newspaper editors."

    Was this a charm offensive?

  • I think it was, and I think it was probably more than that. I think they clearly had a message. They were in dire straits, as I think Lord Stevens has explained to the Inquiry, in terms of the numbers of officers who were leaving, and they weren't getting any in to replace them. But there was an element of a charm offensive, I guess, but it was -- that was on the -- there was a message, a real proper serious message to put over, that the Metropolitan Police could cope and that they were getting back on their feet, and it might take a few years, three years, four years, five years, but they would achieve it.

  • Just before you go on with that, can we go back to your last answer, which I've been reflecting upon, when you said that the drying up of information may have affected the public interest stories. Could I ask you this: who, in that regard, is the better arbiter of what's in the public interest? Is it the journalist and his editor or the detective and his superior? And is the real problem the mismatch between trying to dictate by over-arching decree and the rather more sensitive decision, case by case, as to what might aid a prosecution process? Do you see the question I'm asking?

  • Yes, indeed, but I think the -- to make that decision, if it's going to be the detective or the newspaper editor, that information has to be aired somewhere. There has to be some sort of dialogue, there has to be some sort of debate about whether it is in the public interest or not, so if we don't get to hear about it --

  • But once you've heard about it, the police have lost control, because once you hear about it you can decide: "Well, I think this is in the public interest and I won't pay attention to your view"; you can do that.

  • Well, it could happen like that, but you would have to look at it -- clearly, you would have to look at it case by case, each one having its own particular circumstances.

  • Would there be a discussion at editorial level? You obtain information where you know police disclosure was unauthorised.

  • Is there then a discussion within the newspaper as to whether it is in the public interest to publish?

  • Well, there would be, yes. I mean, I think -- you know, the reporter might decide that it needs to go to the editor. It might be the news editor. This might be some discussion about that. I think there would be a careful reflection. There wouldn't be a rushing into print. I think you would have to look at the impact -- you know, perhaps if it was a serial sex inquiry, you would have to look at the impact on victims and the ability of -- if the person was still outstanding, on the ability of the police to catch the person. That would be the paramount thing.

    So you would never go ahead with any story that would possibly jeopardise apprehending a criminal, or if you were in a position to write a story that would actually jeopardise the safe prosecution, someone having a safe trial.

  • Does it matter if the story becomes one of those all-embracing stories that everybody's after? We've heard, during the course of the Inquiry, of a number of such investigations that really did catch the attention of everybody, and therefore what became important was to publish something else on the story, irrespective of the consequences that it might have. You can think of some examples, as I know I can.

  • But you would have to -- I think you would have to err on the side of caution then and not -- not just follow the -- and not just follow the momentum of where that series of stories was going. I think you would have to call a halt and the decision would have to be made at editor level.

  • But do you think that's always happened?

  • So one has to calibrate that in some way?

  • When you say that you don't think it's always happened, are you referring to your paper or to the press more generally?

  • Well, the press in general.

  • What sort of things have gone wrong then, insofar as one can generalise?

  • Well, there have been stories in the past, perhaps, where there's deemed to be a great interest from the public, and, you know, perhaps, rather rashly, follow-up stories have opinion published that, with hindsight, shouldn't have been.

  • One can go back over the years: the moors murders. We've talked about 25 Cromwell Street.

  • More recently, you could talk about the murder of Joanna Yeates, where the story becomes so important to the public --

  • -- that caution goes to the wind. Would that be unfair?

  • Well, it could appear to be like that.

  • But you don't think it is it?

  • You're being cautious and that's entirely fair enough, Mr Twomey. I understand that.

  • Yes, but I think there are a lot of decisions that have been made over the years, with hindsight, people would have taken a different course.

  • Can I deal with methods? We've heard about obtaining informal information and we understand that, but once obtained, is it your practice to check out through more formal sources within the police whether the information you're receiving (a) is true and (b), if true, its publication would harm the public interest?

  • You would certainly have to check almost all the information. If you got it from the horse's mouth -- if the SIO told you, then you work out with him what you could write. If you heard it from an informal source, you would go to the official channels to check it out, but they may come back and say, "For reasons that you don't realise, for reasons that you haven't been told, you're treading on territory perhaps where you shouldn't go", and if that were the case, then I'd -- I wouldn't -- I certainly wouldn't even tell the news desk. That would be the -- that was always the way that I operated: you checked out a story first to make sure it was accurate, but if there were any problems about writing it and getting it in the newspaper, you would want to hear about those before you told the news desk.

    Sorry, I was going to say that's a safety valve, because that -- the checking that it's true may not be at the same time as somebody who's then ringing you up and saying, "Hang on a minute, you're straying into territory where you shouldn't go."

  • You're very experienced. You've been the crime reporter at the Daily Express for 24 years. You probably have more experience than many of the news editors. Are there occasions in which there's almost a tension between you and the news editors, where you may be exercising more restraint than they might be prepared to because you understand the issues more delicately than they do?

  • I think that's correct, and I think that's where you have to trust your own judgment. There can be tensions, and you just have to trust your own judgment and stick to your own judgment.

  • I may be wrong about this, but if my recollection is being true to me, the Daily Express wasn't involved in any critical way with the Mr Jefferies stories; is that correct?

  • I think -- I'm not entirely sure, but I think you're right.

  • Did you write any stories on that case?

  • No. May I ask you to look at paragraph 15 of your statement now, Mr Twomey, when you indicate that the officers you mixed with were ranked mostly from detective sergeant to detective superintendent. We can understand why: because the sort of stories you were writing --

  • -- they would be providing the most useful information. In the context of that statement, can I ask you what was the purpose, then, of you meeting up with more senior officers, from commissioner level down to assistant commissioner or deputy assistant commissioner level?

  • Well, from time to time I know the -- over the years, you would -- people would be promoted. You may know them as Detective Chief Superintendent, but then they might come back as a commander or a DAC and you get to know them there. The senior officers -- as far as I was concerned, it was probably good to meet them from time to time if you had the opportunity, but the bread and butter information for a crime reporter came from the inspector, chief inspector, superintendent.

  • Did you meet with the more senior people either in your capacity as a senior position, really, within the CRA or to gain a broader perspective on the crime issues of the day?

  • Well, meeting up with the assistant commissioners, deputy assistant commissioners, that was normally done in my capacity as being a senior member of the CRA, particularly since I was the chairman. The purpose of doing that is obviously you get the benefit, as an individual crime reporter, but the purpose of meeting senior ranks as a CRA chairman is to build up that relationship with the organisation to ensure that the access we did have was continued and so we could -- but also to improve it and to ensure that should there be a high-profile investigation or a terrorist emergency, the CRA could get the access we felt we needed so we could get on-the-record information, possibly the non-attributable information that they like to give us from time to time, and that we got that as quickly as possible.

  • The lunches after the briefings were always both non-attributable and non-reportable; any information you were given wouldn't leave the table, as it were.

  • But you make it clear in paragraph 21 that the talk was always very general. Are you referring here to background context information regarding the terrorist threat, for example?

  • That's right, yeah. That's right. That would be the -- if you were meeting an assistant commissioner who had the terrorism brief or the DAC who had the terrorism brief, obviously it would be very beneficial, I think, to both sides to have a broad general discussion, a context discussion, as you say, about the terrorist threat, any new developments. There would be a wide-ranging talk, but it would probably be on general policing matters. You might talk about court cases, terrorism court cases -- not the ones that were up and coming but the ones that had just finished. There would be aspects of the investigations that you might not know about and it was very interesting to hear how those successful terrorist -- anti-terrorist investigations and prosecutions were put together and how they were assembled. They wouldn't be giving any secrets away, clearly. We wouldn't want them to and you wouldn't expect them to do that, but you sometimes came away from a lunch like that with a great deal of knowledge and an enhanced knowledge of how the anti-terrorism world worked.

  • How often did these lunches tend to last, insofar as one can generalise?

  • Probably about two hours, I should think.

  • Did you ever hear things during these lunches which weren't particularly of interest to you, because of the sort of stories you wanted to write about, but might have been of interest to other newspapers? I'm talking in particular about what might be described as leaks relating to poor relationships within the management board, for example.

  • I can't recall anything like that, no.

  • Can I ask you, please, about lunches with Mr Fedorcio.

  • Paragraph 23. You explain:

    "It makes good sense to have a good working relationship with the head of public affairs at New Scotland Yard. I had less contact with his predecessors."

    It's largely self-explanatory why it made good sense to have a good working relationship, but to be clear, you weren't seeking any particular privileged information from him, were you?

  • No. No. All those lunches that were organised by the CRA, the first rule was that it was non-reportable. It didn't mean to say that that opened the door for any kind of discussion about secrets or gossip or tittle-tattle; it just meant that anything that was said was nonreportable, and the point of my meeting with Dick Fedorcio was the same as meeting with assistant commissioners and other senior officers: so that you could -- basically, you were still promoting the CRA as a body. You were trying to help keep the access that we had and you were always trying to improve it.

  • When you met with Mr Fedorcio over lunch -- and it was about once a year, we believe, Mr Twomey -- was it usually with another CRA journalist, or were these one-to-one lunches?

  • They probably would be more often -- probably about twice a year, I should think. It would be sometimes one to one, sometimes with one or two other CRA members.

    Perhaps I ought to say that in my dealings with Dick Fedorcio, I always found him very proper and very professional and very loyal to the organisation and those in command.

  • You say in paragraph 24 that you speak with him -- certainly since the summer of last year, one would need to use the past tense.

  • "... regularly by phone, both mobile and office."

    Would he frequently telephone you?

  • No, he wouldn't. There were conversations which he rang. He might have been wishing to alert me about an event coming up, a CRA briefing, perhaps, or he may have rung after a CRA briefing where he wasn't present and wanted to know how it had gone, if everything was all right.

  • Did you telephone him ever for the purpose of asking him to put you in touch with the officer, whether it be a detective sergeant or detective superintendent or someone in between, who was dealing with a case of particular interest to you?

  • You say in paragraph 29 you provided hospitality for MPS officers on numerous occasions over the past 28 years. Why is it necessary or was it necessary to provide hospitality at all?

  • I don't think it's -- well, it's not necessary. I think police stations are, by and large, rather grim and inhospitable places. Like most people, detectives want to get out of the office and the pub or the wine bar, the restaurant is a convenient, more comfortable or convivial surroundings. But you wouldn't say that the hospitality element of it was necessary; it was just much more convenient.

  • You've explained to us earlier in your statement -- this is paragraph 21 -- that since the resignations of last summer, CRA lunches with senior officers have ceased.

  • Is that a good or a bad thing?

  • I think it's a bad thing because it may be a marker as to their attitudes in the future. You know, those lunches did have value. I think they had value for both sides. In fact, as far as I can remember, the CRA lunches with Mr Clarke, when he was the DAC in charge of counter-terrorism, I think that was the idea of the press office to have that. I think he wanted to get around as many crime reporters and other journalists who specialised in police and security matters. I think he had already gone around the editors to talk about terrorism in general terms and he wanted to do the same with the people who were actually going to be writing the stories.

  • You make it clear in paragraph 30 that the standard of restaurant is, as it were, directly proportionate to the rank of the officer involved. I've been asked to put this to you: why is a more expensive restaurant less public?

  • Well, it may be. I think it's -- it -- you would try and choose the restaurant that was nearby the Yard, that was kind of proportionate to the officer's rank, as a mark of respect to them. There are places that are very crowded and expensive. You would try and go for the places where the tables weren't quite so close together or might be less busy at lunchtimes so that you wouldn't be overheard, or the chance of being overheard would be minimised.

  • We don't need necessarily to name the restaurants, but what sort of price a head are we talking here?

  • Well, it's probably -- it would probably be £60, £70, £80 maybe a head, maybe a little bit more sometimes.

  • These must therefore be lunches with alcohol, it goes without saying; is that right?

  • We know from our examination of the hospitality registers that there were two or three lunches with Mr Hayman --

  • -- when he was head of counter-terrorism, SO15. The purpose of those lunches, presumably, was the same as elsewhere: to learn more about the general context of police operations of counter-terrorism; is that correct?

  • Is this also correct: that the subject matter went no wider than that, although it might have gone quite widely into areas which simply you couldn't put into the public domain? Have I correctly understood it?

  • Well, there might be references to -- I don't think they occurred really that often. I think -- because they were social occasions, there would be a portion -- a large portion of the conversation would be about, say, anti-terrorism, putting it in the context. There would be other general matters you might talk to people about over lunch, subjects like the news of the day, anything that was -- that had captured people's attention that morning, in the morning's newspapers, perhaps.

  • Do you feel that in any way the quid pro quo for these lunches was the freer flow of the sort of information you wanted to receive?

  • As far as the -- so far as the CRA was concerned, the benefit of those lunches, as far as I was concerned, was to keep the access open, to try and improve it. If we did have a terrorist emergency similar to the one as in 2005, we wanted similar access to that which we got then, but we wanted it to be -- we wanted it to be improved, we wanted it to be quicker. So to have good relations, you could make your point to the people that already knew you, who knew that they could trust you.

  • I'm not, in any sense, puritanical about eating and drinking. I really am not, and I don't want to focus on it, but is it really the case that the way of attracting the attention and interest of the most senior officers was, if not inevitably, at least in more than a small part, by inviting them to a very nice lunch? This wasn't something that could be done entirely properly but without that sort of encouragement?

  • It could -- clearly, it could be done without going to a restaurant. It could be done in a police station or at Scotland Yard, quite clearly. That was the tradition and it had been for many years. It was perhaps what they were used to, and they wanted to get out of the office as much as anybody else.

  • I can understand that, but again, it's a perception thing, isn't it?

  • The need to improve relationships, the need for each to understand the other, the need for the police to be able to get across the criminal justice message and for you to understand that message is obvious, clear and sensible.

  • But help me: doesn't it create a bit of a problem if the way you have to do that requires this sort of inducement?

  • I wouldn't see it as an inducement. I think common sense applies. It's just a convivial and convenient and more comfortable way of meeting. But clearly you don't have to have the food and drink element.

  • Reflecting back on it now -- I'm very keen to use your experience, as I have been with all the other witnesses -- do you think that I am being too straight-laced if I express a measure of concern about the perception of what's happening?

  • No, I don't think you are. I think it's -- I can see -- clearly, I can see the point you're making, but it does go on in a business world. It goes on in Parliament. Defence correspondents meet army officers in their clubs, in restaurants. It doesn't mean to say they're knocking back £400 bottles of champagne. Over a couple of glasses of wine and a decent meal, it --

  • Yes, I understand that. I understand that.

  • And it's what -- there's a tradition there, and I think they would expect it. They don't want to be stuck in Scotland Yard when they could be out in a comfortable place. I think that's -- you know, in surroundings with people they know and they can trust.

  • Well, do you think it's something that should continue or do you think that actually, in the light of the perception and everything that's happened, some other way ought to be found? I'm not leading you to an answer there; I'm very interested in what you actually think.

  • I don't think you should lose that. I think the -- you know, there's a question of flexibility. If the rules -- if new rules, should they be introduced, if they're too strict, it will -- it will make it more difficult for reporters like me to get access to information, to get access to officers. If you only can meet them in police stations or at Scotland Yard, they're -- I think they will probably be more likely to be toeing the party line, as it were. You wouldn't get -- in a wider context, not the CRA kind of lunches that I'm referring to -- perhaps I'm drifting off the subject there, actually, but it would be a shame to lose that because it makes everything so formal and restricted.

  • So you want the senior officers to be unguarded? That's not surprising; that's what you do for a living.

  • No, but I mean, they realise they can be less guarded in their speech when they're talking to trusted crime reporters. Once you --

  • I understand the relationship is important and they need to be able to build up a trust of you, and you want to be able to decide whether you can trust them to tell you the story as it is as opposed to as somebody might want you to believe it to be. Is that it?

  • Not entirely easy, is it?

  • You told Elizabeth Filkin the Metropolitan Police is a very powerful organisation:

    "In many ways, it's a very secret one. Power needs to be checked and senior civil servants need to be held to account. Restricting or overregulating contact between crime reporters and police officers will make that crucial function vastly more difficult."

    Do you feel it was part of your function, not just theoretically but in practice, to hold officers to account?

  • I think that memo was written -- it tried to get the collective view of the CRA members who wanted to -- who had actually gone to meet Elizabeth Filkin, and that reflected part of the discussion that she had already heard orally in front of her, and I had summarised that just in a memo at her request.

    I mean, it is -- clearly, it is part of any journalist's function to hold public servants to account. It's not my prime objective as a crime reporter for the Daily Express. My prime objective is to get the information for the types of stories that I've described.

  • The information will often be background information, which will inform and give colour and texture to the story which you will write maybe six months or a year later.

  • Could you help us, please, with your impression of Mr Hayman. Was he someone who spoke in an unguarded fashion after the two glasses of wine you've mentioned?

  • He was freer in the way he expressed himself. I think if -- unguarded -- if you mean if he gave away secrets, no, I don't think he did. He certainly didn't do in my presence, not when he was talking about counter-terrorism or anything else, for that matter, and it was always clearly -- I'm sorry if I'm repeating myself, but it was always -- on those social occasions, there was this strict rule anyway that applied: it was nonreportable.

  • Although it may not have been of interest to the Daily Express, did he share things with you about tensions in the management board during any of these lunches?

  • Okay. May I move off that topic to paragraph 34 of your statement, Mr Twomey. This is accompanying police officers on raids at the police's invitation. I appreciate it's difficult to get a sense of this, but do you feel that the Daily Express was fairly treated in terms of the number of invitations it received vis-a-vis other newspapers?

  • Apart from resulting in good publicity for the police, what was the public interest in these stories or these invitations?

  • Well, I think in a broad sense, if people see photographs, TV images of the police basically smashing down doors, taking away suspects, there is a sense that they've reinforced the public's confidence in them to deal with serious major crime, that they're not simply there to investigate it after it happens, that they're actually trying to take people -- criminal networks out of the -- out of society, and that bolsters the confidence in the police.

  • Have you ever been invited along, even informally, to raids or arrest operations which don't involve the sort of serious criminal but, for example, celebrities?

  • Do you know anything about situations which have arisen where celebrities are arrested or come of interest to the police and there's a posse of press photographers there?

  • No. I have never experienced that. Not when -- before somebody's been arrested.

  • Well, the point is that at the moment of their arrest, it's not merely the case that police officers go in but the press are there as well.

  • Yes, I see what you mean, but I have no knowledge of -- I've never had information about that.

  • But you have seen that sort of thing happening?

  • Oh, well, of course, yeah.

  • Can I ask you about your use of the term "police source". How do you use it?

  • That would be a police officer. Maybe sometimes a press officer but it would probably be -- almost always be a police officer.

  • In paragraph 50, Mr Twomey, you're dealing in general terms with the ethical issues which arise, and I appreciate this is at a level of generality. The second sentence:

    "Reporters should not be persuaded by personal contacts to ignore or bury unfavourable stories."

    To your knowledge, have attempts ever been made by the police in your presence to persuade reporters to ignore or bury unfavourable stories?

  • No, not in my presence, but you do hear of that kind of thing that has gone on in the past.

  • How far in the past is this?

  • Oh well, I think -- well, over the -- well, probably -- not in the recent past; probably 20 years ago. Maybe longer than that.

  • So these are the days of meetings in pubs, which we heard of earlier on, are they?

  • Well, it -- you know, it could be done like that but it was a long time ago.

  • It's not something that, to your knowledge, Mr Fedorcio seeks to achieve, is it?

  • Then you say, again, at a level of generality:

    "There should be no trade-offs -- accepting an exclusive story in return for not running a critical one. I have no personal experience of this."

    But do you have any personal knowledge of that happening?

  • No, it was just in general terms. It goes back to my earlier answer about burying unfavourable stories. Perhaps they, in the past -- you know, perhaps in the long distant past, crime reporters have buried unfavourable stories hoping perhaps in return they might get a decent exclusive.

  • Then you say again, maybe not so much at a hypothetical level:

    "The MPS and other forces often try to identify reporters' sources of information."

    Have they tried that with you?

  • Yes, over the years they've done that. They've tried that.

  • Is this in the context of so-called leak inquiries or is it in some broader context?

  • I suppose it must have been -- over the years, I guess I've been the subject of a leak inquiry. I think they must have been fairly half-hearted. You get to know about them maybe after they'd been concluded, and it seems sometimes that they've identified the wrong people. I've never been formally interviewed or directly asked.

  • But even if you had been, you make it clear that you wouldn't identify who your source is because you have a moral obligation not to?

  • So to be clear, there's nothing unethical about receiving information which has been leaked or unauthorised, but the police, of course, would be interested because there would be an ethical issue regarding the leaker at their end. You understand that?

  • But the fact that information has been provided to you or may have been, pursuant to a leak, is a factor which you weigh in the balance in assessing where the public interest lies?

  • Can I ask you about paragraph 58, which again is quite general. When you talk about the corporate image of the MPS:

    "Statements from the MPS and other forces often bear a corporate stamp -- stock phrases which reflect core values are often repeated whether they are strictly relevant or not."

    Are you referring there to the language in which press releases are couched?

  • That's right, and sometimes if you get a press release after a court case that quotes an officer in the case, it -- some of his comments may have a very definite familiar ring because the same phrases have been used in previous press releases, attributed to other officers.

  • You have some comments to make about the HMIC recommendations.

  • In your own words, what is your general concern?

  • My general concern is: should any new arrangements require officers to record contact with journalists -- all contact with journalists, and then make a report of that, that contact, and put it into a database, then that would have a kind of a freezing effect. Officers would be less likely to talk to you. They would give out less information to you when they do. Some officers may just cease contact with you completely.

    I think that -- all journalists will find it in their career that people at a certain level in their careers are quite happy to talk to you. If, say, a detective chief inspector is anxious to get a promotion in the future and a rule like that is introduced, should it be, then he or she will probably cease all contact because they don't want -- when they go for promotion or maybe to a selection board for a specialist CID unit, they don't want anyone to be able to access the database and say, "Well, hang on, that person in the last three years, for instance, has seen crime reporters every now and again --"

  • But hang on, wouldn't it be rather better if it was thought that maintaining a healthy and worthwhile relationship with the press was an important part of the job, so far from being a matter of criticism, is worthy of commendation, provided the contact is appropriate and not worthy of criticism? So if he is constantly seeing you and each time after he's seen you there's an article in the Daily Express which reveals some, as it were, briefing against the Met, that would not be unimportant.

  • I'm not suggesting it would be as unsubtle as that -- I'm deliberately painting it in very bright colours -- but that sensible communication followed, that sensible dialogue, that you were understanding the problems that London faced, that even if you were critical of things that had gone wrong, you were recognising the openness of the Met, that might be a senior officer doing his job properly. Now, why do you say that it would be looked upon always as a matter of adverse inference?

  • Well, I -- it wouldn't be looked upon always but I think the reaction of officers, particularly, should it be introduced, the initial reaction, would be for them to pull back. They would err on the side of caution.

  • Depends how it's sold, doesn't it?

  • So if it's said, "Look, we don't trust any of you to get this right, therefore everything has to be recorded", that's one thing.

  • If they say, "Well, it's sensible that we monitor what's going on, or we can do, or we can audit it" -- that's the word of the time -- "but it is an important part of the job that you can relate to the press, that you can involve them in the positives about your community and explain the problems so that there's a broad understanding", that's good. What would be wrong with that?

  • There wouldn't be anything wrong with that, but I think the way that officers would look at that, they would just see somebody from the professional standards department looking down a list of contacts seeing Daily Express four times, the Sun three times, Daily Express again, then the Sun, and they will say, "Well, they're favouring those two organisations, we shouldn't be dealing with somebody like that." That would be the fear in the officer's mind before he continues his contact. I think, as you say, sir, it would be all dependent on how it's sold to the officers, but that was -- reading the HMIC report, that was my concern.

  • Well, I understand the point.

  • May I move on to your separate statement, which you provided us as chairman of the CRA?

  • Is that a convenient moment to have a short break? Then we'll come back for the Crime Reporters Association after the break. Thank you.

  • (A short break)

  • Mr Twomey, before moving on to the Crime Reporters Association, I've been asked to put this point to you, looking at it quite broadly: is it the role of a crime reporter such as you to identify the criminal before the police does?

  • What, to publish it, do you mean?

  • No, no, not to publish it.

  • No, I don't see that. I don't see that. I mean, it's -- no, no.

  • So you're not carrying out a sort of complementary detective role?

  • If that's right, what do you think of the evidence that you've heard this morning, as I have, about some newspaper having surveillance teams to do this or to do that in the way that we heard? I'm just interested in your view.

  • I mean, if that did happen, that's quite shocking. I'm quite dismayed if that is the case. I've got no reason to believe that it isn't, other than it's just quite unbelievable, really, that a newspaper should go to those lengths.

  • So that took you by surprise?

  • I think it would have taken most reporters, certainly most crime reporters by surprise. Almost all crime reporters by surprise.

  • Yes. I'm sure it would take you by surprise in the sense that it's not something the Daily Express or yourself would ever dream of doing, but there's another sense in which it might or might not take you by surprise: were there rumours that this sort of thing went on?

  • I've never heard of surveillance teams being put on surveillance teams.

  • So, all right, it's not to beat the police; then what is your role? What does a crime reporter do?

  • A crime reporter reports on the investigations that are current, and maybe on witness appeals to help to assist the police, to get witnesses to come forward. I see it as following that investigation through to the start of the court case, reporting on the court case and reporting on the outcome, hopefully with the right criminal safely convicted and locked up. I think if you -- that's what newspaper -- certainly Daily Express readers want. The public in general clearly want that from their fiction, because they -- well, I don't need to go into that. So when it's fact, it's doubly compelling and memorable.

  • Does it go on also to require you to see where things have gone wrong when they do go wrong, and lessons to be learnt?

  • That's part of it, certainly, but it's also to promote the good work that the police do, that certainly the CID do, and that's where the public's appetite for crime stories is; it's in the work of the CID rather than the broader police story.

  • So would you cover, for example, the concept of kettling and public order --

  • I might do, but it's -- it would fall within my remit, certainly, and another reporter possibly would do that because there was a political element to that. It certainly wouldn't be in the mainstream. That kind of story wouldn't be in the mainstream of my work.

  • The CRA, Mr Twomey. You give us some of the history. Set up at the end of the Second World War, it now has 47 members and you have provided us with a list of the current members and we can see who is represented and who is not.

    In terms of the officers, as it were, the chair, secretary, treasurer and president, those are elected, are they?

  • And likewise the committee, the executive committee?

  • You say in paragraph 8 of your second statement:

    "The rules call for applicants for membership to be sponsored by two existing members."

  • And presumably there's a small annual membership fee, is there?

  • That's right. It currently stands at £30.

  • I'm just seeing what additional you say in this statement which we haven't already heard from. Yes, paragraph 19 maybe, Mr Twomey. You rightly say:

    "Members have their own contacts but the CRA as a body has no jurisdiction over these relationships."

    Is the CRA concerned at all with ethical considerations and a code which regulates relationships of its members with the police?

  • It's true to say we don't have a code. I think there was a code many years ago. I think Jeff Edwards, when he was at the Inquiry last week, made reference to the code --

  • -- of conduct. In my time in the CRA, I've not seen one, so ...

  • You can't assist us further with that?

  • Well, you've been in the CRA for 24 years, so that's a fair time.

  • So if you've not seen it, to such extent as there was one in the mists of time, it's passed into history?

  • But do you think there is anything additional that you believe crime reporters should follow beyond that which is contained in the general approach that all reporters should follow?

  • I think probably now is the right time to give that some careful thought, and it might be beneficial to crime reporters and CRA members in the future if they did have a code of conduct or a statement of principles. I think we would have to sit down and make sure that the wording of any such statement of principles was carefully put together so that it would be enduring.

  • Just a miscellany of points, Mr Twomey. It's of interest in paragraph 26 that when Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke retired in 2008, he received a gift in recognition of his outstanding leadership and devotion to public service during the terrorist emergencies of the last decade. That presumably was the collective view of all your members, was it?

  • Was that sort of gift unusual?

  • I can only recall those two other gifts to Lord Condon and Lord Stevens. So in my time, I can only think of those three. So I think it's acknowledged the -- certainly in police circles, not only in this country but probably abroad, the role that Peter Clarke played during the -- those emergencies in the first decade of this century. And that was a small token, I think, of our regard.

  • In a sense, you would be in a position to know. You've received these informal briefings over the years, you understand the nature of the terrorist threat and also the MPS response to that threat. So it just gives us some insight into the regard you have for him.

  • In paragraph 46 now, page 07128, you give us one example of the value of a non-attributable CRA briefing. In your own words, please, could you tell us something of that?

  • There was a particularly brutal double murder in south London. The victims were two young French men. I believe they were postgraduate students, only here for possibly a year or a short time. They were attacked in the home of one of them in south London and they were tied up, they were tortured. The two attackers were after their cash card PIN numbers and one of the victims was subjected to a rather extraordinary level of violence. He was attacked by a knife -- they were both attacked with knives, and after they were dead, their bodies were set alight. Once I think the victims had been identified and their next of kin had been informed this double tragedy had occurred, there needed to be a witness appeal and it had to be done very quickly. I think that was the view of the investigating officer, who was a detective chief inspector, as I recall. I think he was quite young in that rank, as well. He didn't feel able, for whichever reason, that he could give details of the post-mortem examination and therefore that level of appalling violence on the record, on camera, in a witness appeal style briefing. That information was given to us non-attributably by a senior press officer, and it resulted in a great deal of publicity, as you can imagine, and that publicity did have the desired effect.

    One of the attackers came forward two days afterwards. He gave himself up at a police station. His partner, as it were, was also arrested a short time afterwards, and subsequently I think I'm right in saying that the man who gave himself up made certain admissions. He tried to talk his way out of it, and that formed evidence against both men, and they were subsequently convicted of the murder of those two French men.

    I think the point about that sort of formal non-attributable briefing is clearly -- its importance is underlined by the fact that one of them gave themselves up and that there were subsequent convictions. I think it had to be done quickly. I think that was the -- any delay would have possibly been fatal to the impact of that witness appeal. For whatever reason, the investigating officer didn't feel able to give those details in conjunction with the witness appeal on camera, on the record, and the senior press officer took the decision that he would.

  • So does that mean -- just so that I understand it, was that merely to inform you of the gravity of what would emerge, or to inform you so you could publish non-attributably the extent of the injury?

  • No, it was to inform us so that we could publish the true level of violence, which obviously was terribly shocking but it did secure the kind of publicity that they wanted. Massive publicity on television, radio, in the newspapers the next day, and I think when the man gave himself up at the police station, his first words were something like: "I'm the man you're after."

  • But I don't understand, Mr Twomey, what the difference is, because if you're publishing the details, then you can only have got them from the police --

  • I know. With hindsight, it's -- it's a -- it's difficult to -- he probably could have done it himself, but I think -- I do know that if they were going to do it on the record, they might have had to check with other agencies, other authorities, the French embassy perhaps, the Foreign Office. There would inevitably have been delays.

  • But why does doing it unattributably matter? The French embassy, if they're going to be concerned, are going to be concerned if it's obviously come from a policeman.

  • But that's the sort of contact that is critical to our society.

  • And therefore one doesn't want to do anything that minimises the opportunity the police have to garner the assistance of all forms of media in the detection of crime, and in participation with the criminal justice system. I entirely agree with that. The question is how that should impact on everything else.

  • But if there was -- for whatever reason -- I am just not privy to the reason why the decision was taken to be non-attributable.

  • But I know the briefing had to be done. It had to be done then. So maybe they just said, "We're not going to have any problems with this at all if we have it non-attributable."

  • It doesn't quite add up, exploring human motivations, but sometimes people act irrationally. What might have been done on the record wasn't. That's your evidence?

  • Can I ask you, please, about paragraph 52, when you're dealing with the issue of leaks. Are you giving this evidence from your own direct experience, or are you drawing inferences from your assessment of circumstances in which leaks have been made to others?

  • So when you're looking at the range of factors, a feeling that the public is being misled by official statements from senior officers, anger at certain decisions -- for instance, closed-down inquiries or redeployed staff -- it's based, really, on your experience of how you think police officers operate, having worked with them for so long; is that fair?

  • That would be fair, yes.

  • The answer is -- is this too naive? -- there shouldn't be misleading statements out to the public, and that if there's concern about decisions that are being made, they should be explained. Isn't that the answer to that? Openly.

  • Because once you start to say it's actually legitimate for somebody to complain, your example, about the decision to merge the Special Branch and anti-terrorist branch, the whistle-blower, if you so call them, is seeking to take operational decisions to the greater court of public opinion, which may be to the advantage of nobody.

  • I think it's clear from your evidence that the sort of story in play here might not have been of interest to the Daily Express; have I correctly understood your evidence? Or would it be of interest to the Daily Express, the merger of Special Branch and anti-terrorist branch?

  • That was -- I think that particular story was announced at a press conference, a general press conference. I'm not sure if it would really interest the Daily Express readers but I do know that the background of that particular thing, that there were a lot of former and serving Special Branch officers who wanted to keep their independence.

  • That rather makes my point, doesn't it?

  • The last question, really, because you cover the HMIC. Paragraph 61, Mr Twomey. To be fair to you, you're not the only journalist who criticises Elizabeth Filkin's report as being condescending. Somebody else used the term "patronising". I'm sure you haven't compared notes when preparing your witness statements, but to be clear, why have you come to that conclusion in relation to certain parts of her report?

  • The certain parts were the bits at the end, the bits that covered "avoid alcohol", that section. I think if you look at it, there's a handy traffic light system where "avoid" has a red -- is in red lettering and something where caution is being urged has amber and something that's okay is in green. It didn't quite go with the seriousness of the earlier part of the report and I think there's some condescending remarks about women in there. I know she did speak to women reporters and I think they probably are entitled to be a little upset about that.

  • You're referring there to flirting, aren't you?

  • Those are all the questions I have for you, Mr Twomey.

  • Could I just ask one more question, and that's in relation to the membership of the CRA. We've been told that actually pure crime reporting has been overtaken by what might be described as home affairs reporting. Is that something that you've also noted?

  • That's correct, yes. When I first started, there were one or two home affairs reporters in the CRA. Now there are a lot more. There will probably be a lot more in the future.

  • My question is this: 47 doesn't seem a very large number in the context of the press as a whole.

  • Is there a risk that it might be being perceived as something of a slightly elite group of reporters and therefore give rise to the possibility that unless it was rather more open, it doesn't really reflect what the public interest requires in open and transparency in everything? It's not for me to interfere in your association, but I'm just asking the question.

  • Some people, I think, could perceive it as an elite group. I don't think they -- I don't think they -- it's not a correct perception, but I can see, looking from the outside, particularly where crime reporters get exclusives they believe might have come through CRA channels or because they're members of the CRA, where it's actually their own independent sources -- and that concern, that perception is reflected in Mrs Filkin's report, I think. I think that's something we'll have to live with, really. If reporters who mainly report on police matters want to join the CRA and they work for a national newspaper, then they can probably join. It may be that they already have two or maybe even three members already, so that may not be fair to their competitors.

  • But why should you worry about whoever is in it, provided -- and I accept this is an important proviso because of some of the other evidence I've heard -- they have sufficient background knowledge to ensure that they don't need to be taken down the green slopes of criminal investigation or criminal issues and are ready for the red or the black run, which is, as I understand it, if I pursue my skiing analogy further, really what the Association does. The Association is there to say, "We know the background, we know what we're talking about, therefore you can cut to the chase immediately, you don't have to give us the introduction"; is that fair?

  • So provided anybody can demonstrate they have that knowledge, in whatever way they want to demonstrate it, and therefore will never be asking the "Well, take me back to the beginning" type question, why should you be restrictive on membership?

  • Well, that would mean that basically anyone could join if they were an experienced reporter, and what we've tried to preserve, what we've tried to take to the police, is the idea that if they brief us, they are talking to people who have a commitment to crime reporting, to policing affairs, and therefore they're signed up to the three rules, that "non-reportable" means non-reportable, "non-attributable" means non-attributable, and we don't break any embargos. If there's somebody who is an experienced reporter who wants to sort of dip in and dip out, and they're not showing any commitment to the organisation --

  • -- or any commitment to those three principles, then there might be a risk then of letting in somebody who decides that they're just going to bust it wide open, and that would be quite damaging.

  • I'm sure that's right. So can you ensure and do you ensure that actually not merely that you're open to every national newspaper -- and I might debate with you whether it's necessary to be restricted to national newspapers -- but that in fact every national newspaper does have a representative?

  • So there isn't a question of favouritism?

  • Exactly, yes. I think they should do. I mean, those national newspapers that are not represented are not represented by choice by them.

  • It's not that they would ever be kept out?

  • Because that's probably very important, isn't it?

  • That they're not kept out. It's open to all national papers. It's open to all who have that degree of commitment.

  • Okay. Is there anything that you would like to add to what you've said?

  • Well, I would like to reflect on something that you asked of, I think, Jeff Edwards. I think you invited him to arrange for the CRA to draft some sort of guidelines --

  • -- embracing the possibility that records need to be kept. It's probably best done through me, and I would like to take up that offer.

  • Of course, of course. Of course I wasn't excluding you --

  • Oh no, I just wanted to make that clear, that it would be through me rather than through Jeff.

  • That's entirely appropriate, Mr Twomey. Having thrown out the offer to the CRA, of course it embraces the current leadership of the CRA. Had you come first, the request would have been made of you. It was Mr Edwards, so the request was made of him.

  • -- appreciate that.

    The other point I was going to make was that should those new arrangements be made, that perhaps the CRA, along with other bodies like the Society of Editors, the NUJ, representatives from broadcasting and online branches of the industry, might be able to assist in some sort of regular review of how -- should the new arrangements be introduced, the impact of those new arrangements on police/media relationships.

    I wouldn't say that so it's just a platform for making complaints but so that if they're working well, we can encourage -- positively encourage others to follow suit, perhaps express our concern if we don't think they're being adhered to.

  • If you are prepared and you think it would be valuable -- and I think it would be valuable -- for you to engage with those other bodies to bring them into your discussion, and you can incorporate their views in anything you send to me, I would be absolutely delighted, because the more that the press are doing and the media generally are doing this for themselves, actually the better. That doesn't bind me into anything, but I think I've already said to you this morning you understand your business much better than I will ever understand it. I'm working quite hard on it, but you know what works and what won't work, and you know what I want to achieve and what it is legitimate for me to achieve, as you have recognised. So any help you can give me, with the assistance of those other bodies, would be only too welcome.

  • Thank you very much indeed.

  • Sir, the next witness is Mr James Murray.