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

  • MR MARK BURNS WILLIAMSON (sworn). MR NATHAN DAVID OLEY (sworn).

  • Could I ask you each in turn to provide your full name to the Inquiry?

  • Nathan David Oley.

  • Councillor, you have provided a statement to the Inquiry dated 1 March 2012, which we have. Can you confirm that the contents of it are true to the best of your knowledge and belief?

  • Mr Oley, you've provided a statement dated 2 March 2012. Go you confirm, please, that the contents of it are true to the best of your knowledge and belief?

  • Thank you very much. What I'm going to do is ask some questions of Councillor Burns Williamson first but if any questions are best answered by Mr Oley, feel free to say so. Then, Mr Oley, I'll come on to you if you can.

    Councillor, can we start with your career history. It's set out at paragraph 1 of your statement to the Inquiry. You tell us there that you are chair of the Association of Police Authorities, a position that you've had since October 2012; is that correct?

  • Prior to that, you were deputy chair between 2009 and 2011 and you've been a board member of the APA since 2003?

  • You've also been a member of West Yorkshire Police Authority since 1999. You were elected chair of the authority in June 2003 and you've been reelected chair every year since?

  • Have I accurately summarised your career history in police authorities?

  • I appreciate that you also have a background as a district councillor. You've been a district councillor for 13 years and you tell us a little bit more about that, again, in paragraph 1 of this statement.

    Mr Oley, I'm going to turn to you briefly just to do the same in your career history, please. Your career history is set out also at paragraph 1 of your statement and you explain that you're the head of press and public affairs for the APA and have been since January 2011; is that correct?

  • That role is essentially delivering the APA's dealings with the media, providing a public affairs function and you also have a limited policy role regarding the preparation for one aspect of the transition from police authorities to the new directly elected PCCs that we will have from November this year.

  • You then set out your career history in some detail and I don't think we need to go through that. Have I accurately summarised the position?

  • Councillor, I'd like to explore the role and general functions the APA. I want to ask you a few brief questions about that. You explain in your statement at paragraph 2 onwards that the oversight of governance of policing in England and Wales is carried out by three bodies essentially: ACPO, we've heard from witnesses, representing senior police officers; the Home Office, obviously; and the Association, which you say is the national voice of the public in policing. You tell us that the Association was formed in 1997 to represent all police authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland; is that correct?

  • You then tell us, at the top of page 2, that the Police Authorities themselves that you represent have a particular job. It's paragraph 5 there at the top of page 2. They consult with local communities and find out what they want the local police to do. They set strategic direction for policing locally, decide what the police should focus their attention on locally. They set the budget for their police force and they decide how much local people should pay for policing in the local council tax, they make sure the police force is continuing to do a better job and they appoint and, if necessary, dismiss chief constables and senior police officers.

  • And there's no distinction for you between the Metropolitan Police and other forces? So the Metropolitan Police Authority, as was, is a member of your organisation?

  • And is the present iteration of that, the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime -- does that have anything to do with your organisation or not?

  • Yes. We've just had to change our articles and constitution to accommodate the new arrangements in the Met as well.

  • So does that mean that come later on this year, you'll either be changing articles of association again or simply moving away from the area?

  • I think I do set out in another question that the Home Office have asked the APA to form an interim body for policing governance which will potentially represent PCCs post November of this year.

  • Sticking with the role of the APA for the moment -- and I'll come on to ask you about the position from November -- in representing all the individual Police Authorities, you seek to ensure a number of things. If you look under the heading "The APA's mission", still on page 2, you set out a number of bullet points. Could you tell us in your own words what it is that you seek to do, what the APA's mission is?

  • I think, rather like the Federation in the last session, we seek to represent the views of our members at the national level to influence particularly policy around policing in general, around securing the best deal we can around budgets and resources. We are statutory members of the police negotiating board, the police staff council senior appointments committee. So we are involved, as one of the tripartite, in a lot of those areas that help to influence our members and their interests at the local level.

  • Then, for the sake of completeness, the subject we've just been touching on, the position later this year, we need to note that the APA will cease to exist, you tell us, on or before the date on which its members, ie the police authorities, are abolished in late November 2012. You deal with this on page 4 in response to question 9. You were asked:

    "What changes, if any will, there be to the role or functions of the APA and the oversight of relations and communications between police authorities and the media once police authorities are replaced?"

    You tell us that the Home Secretary has agreed that you should provide an interim association for the 41 elected police and crime commissioners and other bodies of policing governance from 15 November until the end of the financial year 2012/2013. Perhaps for the purposes of this Inquiry, in this illustrative paragraph right at the end of page 4, you say that your hope is that the interim representative body for PCCs should play a role in assisting the PCCs to implement the recommendations which may be issued in the wake of this Inquiry. Can you just expand a little on that?

  • Yes. The APA, as it currently exists, will finish probably -- well, 15 November, which is the date of the election. We did submit a business case for the creation of an interim body to represent PCCs because we think it's important that the local voice, as it were, is still heard at the national level, and it's our intention to work through a programme of measures to put to PCCs, once elected, to, in a constructive way, take forward, but of course that will be a decision ultimately for the PCCs themselves, whether they want to continue the interim body or create a permanent body or not, as the case may be.

  • Thank you. Moving back to the Association as it currently exists, I'm going to ask you about some of its specific functions. In that respect, turn back in your statement to page 3 and the answer to question 4. Just noting there that you tell us that the APA plays no part in the oversight of the Police Service's relations and communications with the media because that's simply a matter for local police authorities?

  • What you do say is that the APA or any successor body, as you just said, should play a role in assisting police authorities or PCCs to implement any recommendations which come out of this Inquiry through the medium of training or guidance. How would you foresee that happening?

  • Again, as part of the work for the interim body and whatever the outcomes of this Inquiry are, we would think it a good thing, really, to make sure that the recommendations are taken forward in a work programme that hopefully help PCCs and existing police authorities just review their own arrangements at the moment and make sure we are leaving a legacy to try and ensure best practice moving forward.

  • You go on to say that you've also no role in providing guidance to police forces in this particular area, communications with the media. That continues to be the case with the interim body, doesn't it? In fact, the PCCs for each area will be responsible for the totality of policing in their area under the Act, so they will have the primary role in ensuring that the relationships and communications with the media are appropriate; would that be right, and do you I see any risk with that?

  • I think it's on record, as an APA, that we did oppose the legislation when it went through, but clearly it's definitely going to happen, so our position is now to try and ensure a smooth transition to the office of the PCC. Clearly, moving from 17 members to one person, perhaps with a deputy, does create potential risk in terms of the capacity of that office to carry out those functions, so we would be recommending the role of perhaps a standards committee in things like appointments and complaints and matters of this type to strengthen the office of the PCC.

  • A standards committee at national level or at local level?

  • How much of your time does it take up?

  • Chair of the national APA?

  • I'm interested in both the chair and, of course, your chair of your own police authority.

  • It's pretty much full-time along with my councillor duties as well.

  • It's a remarkable public service.

  • Indeed. I'm going to move on to ask you about the APA's contact with the media. You were asked about this at question 15 onwards, page 6 of your statement, councillor. You say, in response to question 16, that all contact with the media is channelled through the press office. Is that every request that comes in?

  • Generally speaking, the communication you have has been through the release of press releases or press statements. You explain that they're issued, on average, once a week, but obviously it depends on the type of events. I'm just summarising. There's a lot of detail here. You tell us, at question 19, that you simply don't have off-the-record conversations with the media as chair of the APA, that you've not provided any hospitality as chair of the APA for any member of the media -- this is question 22 -- save for sandwiches or cups of tea for members of the media attending, for example, APA council meetings or policing and fringe events.

  • And also you've never accepted any gifts from the media. We can see that from your response to question 24.

    You then tell us about the policies of the APA in relation to gifts and hospitality. That's the response to question 33 onwards, page 10. What you do here is you set out extracts from the staff handbook dealing with hospitality, gifts and fee income. I'm not going to read out the whole of this section. Can you summarise your understanding of the acceptability of offering or accepting hospitality or gifts?

  • I think -- as set out in that extract from the staff handbook, I think all staff are aware that they shouldn't enter into any such arrangements with the media or anybody else, for that matter, without very good reason, and we tend to conduct our business through formal events where we may put on refreshments and a few sandwiches, and that is par for the course. So the media would be available for that, along with the other members of the APA. So for me, it's fairly straightforward.

  • Summarising what the staff handbook seems to say here in respect of gifts, there seems to be a policy that modest gifts can be accepted and gifts can be accepted from visiting delegations, for example where to refuse to accept would cause offence, and then you have a register where each employee must personally record any hospitality or gifts received or given by them. I note that in response to question 34, you say alcoholic drinks are not acceptable expenses and will not be reimbursed. Is that just a general policy, regardless of the circumstances?

  • Sticking on the register of hospitality that you -- that's identified in the staff handbook, you tell us in response to question 35 that this register is now made available on the APA website. You've said that that's a good thing that it's publicised on your website, although later on you also say that in any event you've not identified any inappropriate levels of hospitality. So why is it a good thing to have the register published on the website?

  • I think just in terms of transparency and openness, it's there. If anybody asks the question, it would be published on the website.

  • Okay. I need to ask you briefly about leaks and bribery. You tell us that as far as you're aware there have been no leaks during your time as chair of the APA. You tell us that in response to question 43. You tell us that --

  • Hang on, hang on. That's only since last October?

  • I've been on this job since last July, so I'd be very, very surprised if there had been much to worry about since last October. Do you have any experience of it at all in your period of service on the APA?

  • Thank you. Let's just extend it a bit.

  • Thank you. You tell us, in response to question 44, that you currently have no systems to deal with leaks -- but you're not aware of any, obviously -- but this is something you are rectifying or that you have asked the chief executive to rectify. What do you think could be done?

  • I think in the light of this Inquiry, the one from the HMIC and the Filkin report, clearly we're looking again at all the policies we have, and in fact, only last week I met with Sir Denis O'Connor and Roger Baker from the HMIC to update on the position of the APA on police authorities. We will aim to do further work on this prior to October when the HMIC will look again and report back on the progress of not only ourselves but ACPO as well.

  • Moving on to bribery, question 49 onwards, you were asked to what extent you believe that bribery of personnel by the media is a problem for the APA and you say that you do not believe that it's a problem and you've never experienced a case of actual or alleged bribery of APA staff. That's clear from the response to question 50. Just to make it absolutely clear, during your entire time at the APA, you've never experienced a case of actual or alleged bribery; is that correct?

  • You explain that you don't have in place any specific procedures to investigate bribery but it would simply be treated as any other alleged case of gross misconduct, which is covered by the staff handbook; is that correct?

  • I'm going to ask you about the press office in a moment, and I'll bring in Mr Oley, if I can, but I want to touch on your role as the chair of West Yorkshire Police Authority, please. You deal with this from paragraph 57 onwards, or page 16. I don't mean to be rude but the evidence is set out clearly, so I don't think I need to ask you about any of it in specific detail except for one question. It relates to question 59:

    "What level of contact, oversight or knowledge is there from the West Yorkshire Police Authority in relation to West Yorkshire Police's relations and communications with the media?"

    You say, right at the end, that it has internal audit functions and that you've also undertaken reviews of the West Yorkshire police press office and media department functions with regards to both internal and external media communication systems.

    There's no indication there as to the findings that you've made there, whether or not there's been any recommendations made, whether any recommendations have been accepted or implemented as a result of this review work. Can you assist us with that?

  • Yes, we do have quite a robust internal audit team at West Yorkshire Police Authority. I'd be happy for any findings of those reports to be made available. I just can't remember, at this moment in time, what the findings of those were.

  • Thank you very much. I'm going to come on to ask you, please, about the press office. You were asked a number of questions about this from question 29 onwards on page 8.

    Mr Oley, your entire statement is obviously about the press office. Can I start with Mr Oley first, please. I'd like to ask you about your role and remit, if I can. Starting, please, with the response to question 2 on page 16 your statement, you explain that the press office consists solely of you as head of press and public affairs?

  • You explain on page 2 the number of responsibilities and functions that you have. It's a very long list. In your own words, can you summarise what the head of press APA does?

  • Sorry, I'm responsible for delivering -- responding to any media enquiries and representing the organisation externally in terms of press and public affairs. So that also involves setting strategy and delivering the interaction with senior stakeholders, particularly in terms of Parliament and their associated bodies, plus the provision of practicalities like providing a summary of -- a digest of the day's news, stories -- the APA website, briefing the chair and other members for their interactions with the media, providing speeches for their participation in conferences, et cetera. And then the public affairs functions include, obviously, arrangements at party conferences, where appropriate, and other associated events, plus our involvement with the all-party parliamentary policing group, for which I provide the secretariat.

  • You heard the councillor say earlier that all communication with the media is essentially directed through the press office. Is that your experience?

  • You explain in response to question 7 that the dealings between the APA and the media have become far more frequent over the past two years. What's your understanding of why that's the case?

  • I think it's fair to say that issues of policing governance have not always excited the press in the way that they have recently. Obviously this Inquiry has been critical in that, but for ourselves the government's proposals to change entirely the government and oversight of policing in England and Wales led to obviously a huge upsurge in our media exposure and the requirements of us to put our case, our concerns and our strengths to the outside world, really, to the public and to key stakeholders.

  • I'm going to turn back, please, to the councillor's witness statement, question 29 on page 8 onwards, because I want to understand briefly the types of contact that APA personnel and in particular the press office have with the media.

    You set out there, councillor, a number of representative telephone calls or contacts that you've had or that the press office has had within the last month. Mr Oley, could you cast your eye down that list and tell me whether you agree that that's a representative set of contacts?

  • I think the list is also paragraph 8 of his statement.

  • Indeed. Yes, it is. I mean, that was a literal list of the preceding -- I think it was three -- it was a month, actually. It was a typical list. That -- the frequency of contacts, the number of enquiries were relatively low in that period when compared to the previous year, particularly during the passage of the police reform and social responsibility bill, but for the present time I would say that that was representative.

  • You both tell us that contact is almost always by email or phone, and that meetings are rare, although they do take place from time to time if there's a press conference or there's, again, a -- in the fringe of a conference of some kind; is that correct?

  • The councillor is then asked whether contact is restricted to certain staff. This is in response to question 30, and he says this:

    "APA staff contacts with the media are limited to the head of press, the chief executive and the chair, as explicitly set out in the APA staff handbook."

    I'm going to paraphrase what the handbook says: all media enquiries should be referred to you, Mr Oley, and the chief executive. No comment or other information, even factual information, should be provided to the press or other media without first obtaining explicit clearance from the executive director. This applies to all media. So pretty stringent guidance there. In your experience, that's what always happens?

  • Yes, certainly. It's helped -- to be fair, we're a very small team, so it's not too onerous a task to manage.

  • Mr Oley, you heard the councillor say that he did not have off-the-record discussions with the media. You say at paragraph 13 of your statement, or in response to question 13 of your statement, that since the handbook says what it does -- we've just looked at it, that the chair is the only official spokesperson to the APA -- you can't provide a quote for published use in the media without the agreement of the chairs and therefore most conversations you have with the media are off the record, in the sense that they cannot be attributed to you personally. I make it absolutely clear that in response to question 14 you say that you keep a record of all such briefings and you relate those directly then to the chair and the chief executive. I just want to understand whether you consider that to be a particular weakness in the system or whether you are content for a system where you can't officially say anything, but you have an off-the-record conversation and then you provide details of that off-the-record conversation?

  • I mean, that is correct, the situation you've set out, thank you. There are occasions, obviously, on which I have been cleared by the chair to give a comment along lines agreed, so obviously there are conversations I have which are on the record, but we are obviously a member organisation and I'm responsible to the chair, who is the elected and recognised face of the organisation and spokesperson. So that's the appropriate way of dealing with the media for us.

    As I make clear there, often the matters -- I think this is represented in the list of media contacts we've had and enquiries -- often the matters can be quite technical, if we are asked about whether police finance -- the intricacies of the Riot Damages Act, some detailed matters around the arrangements for police and crime commissioners. So the conversations that I have are often the fairly technical briefings which are background for journalists who may be coming to these issues fairly fresh. They're specialist knowledge, perhaps. So I often provide that as background briefing, which wouldn't be material to be quoted in any sense, but a background understanding.

  • What do you mean by an off-the-record conversation then? What's your definition?

  • My definition would be that a quote would not be attributed to me personally and that the information that I've given in those circumstances would be to inform the journalists about the situation or the events but not to provide a quote, to provide them with the background understanding. It would typically be the provision of facts rather than an opinion.

  • I understand. Can I now ask you about prioritisation of media calls. You deal with this in response to question 10 on page 4 of your statement. You explain that as the umbrella for the police authorities with the responsibility to represent them all at national level, you would generally prioritise contact with national media, if you were required to. I suppose the question is -- you give us the reasons for that, but do you ever prioritise any particular media source or newspaper group or anything like that?

  • No. You set out correctly our attitude there, that essentially our unique value is that we can provide national comments for our members, who expect us to do that on their behalf, whereas of course they can deal very adequately with their local media outlets. But in that context, we don't prioritise or exercise any favouritism at all. To be fair, it's perhaps explained by the fact we have a relatively manageable number of media requests. We're rarely deluged, so it is possible to -- we've found -- in my experience, it has been possible to deal with all requests equally and we're pleased to do so.

  • All right. Let me ask you very briefly about hospitality and gifts and so on, personal contacts with the media. You deal with this at question 15 onwards on page 5. If I can summarise it, you say that you have no personal contacts with the media, only the professional contacts you've already described. You don't accept hospitality from the media and never have. You don't provide any hospitality, save for the same basis on which the councillor has already explained. You've never accepted or indeed been offered gifts from the media, and you explain, as the councillor did, that all hospitality accepted by key personnel would have to the recorded -- presumably on the hospitality register and published on the website -- but this has never happened, so in your knowledge it's never been agreed. Is that a fair and accurate summary of the position in relation to hospitality, gifts, personal contacts?

  • That's entirely correct. Thank you.

  • I'm going to ask you both about the issue of whether there should be any limitation on APA or Police Authority personnel leaving to work for the media or vice versa. Mr Oley, you deal with this at paragraph 40, question 40, page 7. First of all, Councillor Burns Williamson has explained that there simply has been no such movement from the APA to newspapers. You were asked whether anyone has ever gone on to work for the News of the World or for any other newspaper and you say no, and vice versa, no one's ever come in the other direction. Do you consider that there should be a limitation on personnel from the APA or from police authorities leaving to work for the media in that way or vice versa? Perhaps you could answer it in turn.

  • I think I've set something out there in -- I can't remember which question it was.

  • Just give me a moment. It's page 306 your statement, in response to question 122.

  • Okay, thank you. Yes. As I said there, I remain open about this one. I think in extreme circumstances, where a member of staff has been privy to some extremely sensitive operational information -- I think I've suggested there there may be a cooling-off period whereby that member of staff doesn't take up such a role, you know, for six months, a year, maybe. But in general terms, I think as long as someone is professional in what they do and adhere to codes of conduct and terms of employment, then they should be allowed to take up that role.

  • Mr Oley, do you have a different view or does that accord with your view?

  • That does accord with my view. I mean, I put forward the suggestion that there may be a cooling-off period but only where the staff member concerned has had access to sensitive information which might be of interest to the media but is not and should not be in the public domain. We looked at the similar cooling-off period for people leaving government who could have sensitive information which could be of use to lobbyists, for example. In the same way, there might be a case for a cooling-off period.

    However, I also said that my personal view is that the level of access which APA and Police Authority staff have to information about operational policing is very limited, and rightly so, in most cases, so it was hard to see examples of cases where they would have the kind of access to information which would be of interest to the media and which could result in information inappropriately being in the media. I think it would have to be on a case-by-case basis and possibly the responsibility of the chief executive to discern that.

    In terms of the other direction, of journalists joining the APA or police authorities, my view would be that there wouldn't be a case for restriction there beyond the typical restrictions put on our members of staff, that in our case they are vetted, they are subject to certain rules obviously of behaviour and propriety, which, as we set out in our statement for the APA, is certainly very detailed and quite intricate in the sense of propriety. So within those realms and within those bounds, I wouldn't see a case for restriction in terms of journalists coming into Police Authority.

  • All right. Mr Oley, I'm going to ask you a few final questions about your statement, if I go back --

  • Can we just, on that topic, ask something else?

  • One of your responsibilities, Mr Burns Williamson, is to chair senior appointments committee meetings for the most senior ranks in West Yorkshire. Do you have, therefore, a view about the extent to which the most senior-ranking police officers should be able to move to the national or, I suppose, local media, but particularly national media, bearing in mind what they have been privy to as ACPO-ranking officers? I don't know whether you've given any consideration to the question. I'm not trying to throw you a very fast ball.

  • No, thanks. Actually, when I gave my initial response, I think I was actually referring to operational officers rather than what Mr Oley said, in terms of the world of police authorities and PCCs in the future. So, yeah, in my view, there probably is a case to look at individuals who have held ranks at that level, been privy to very sensitive information, moving to those types of jobs in the media, subject to very strict vetting controls. So there probably is an issue there.

  • That's what you were referring to when you said that this is something which you need to consider? Because it would obviously have to be restricted, time-wise and rank-wise, for restraint of trade purposes. I don't think whether the APA have taken that forward in any way?

  • No, it's not something we've looked at in detail at this moment in time, but clearly in response to the question, it is something that probably does need to be considered moving forward.

  • Mr Oley, I want to take you to the final paragraphs of your statement. In response to question 42 -- you were asked there:

    "Is there a basis for applying different standards and rules to police staff than those that apply to police officers?"

    You give us an answer there, but if you look over the page to the top of page 8, you're addressing here whether or not officers should speak to the public via the media, and you say this in your final paragraph there, before the heading "The possible impact of PCCs":

    "In general, my view would be that the risks of potential implications of mishandling information to the press are so serious that these risks must always be minimised by media interaction being limited to only those who have been fully trained to fulfil that role. I would anticipate that the chief constable and her/his senior colleagues should receive such training."

    Is there any room for a contra view that essentially staff should be empowered to deal openly with the media on matters of which they have direct knowledge? Can you see the contrary argument?

  • Absolutely. I should say there that the -- in terms of Elizabeth Filkin's report, I think her recommendations are measured, practical and very welcome and they're very sensible. She obviously takes a far more open view to police contact. I think where my -- my response is obviously informed rather more by my experience of dealing with issues of national policy, and I think in those cases, on policy issues, it would be only appropriate for the press team or chief constable to be dealing with the media.

    There are obviously instances at which, on a -- dealing with crime, a police officer on the ground could give purely factual information, and on that basis I would agree with Elizabeth Filkin's recommendations. I think they're very helpful there.

    I think, to broaden it out slightly, if I may --

  • -- we're clearly facing what I think Bill Bratton has termed "forcing on very interesting experiments with PCCs", and the press will have an absolutely crucial role, and I think press interest in policing will necessarily increase significantly. So we're entering entirely new territory here in general for police contacts with the media and media interest in the police. All I'd say there is that to have some clear guidance, to have clear definitions of off and on the record and to have some sort of national promulgation, if you like, of guidance along the lines of Elizabeth Filkin's report, would be helpful, because we're just entering very unchartered territory. And that the press will have an absolutely essential role, one would hope, in, as always, managing public -- sorry, influencing and informing the levels of fear of crime and understanding of policing.

    I think once that enters an electoral debate, those kind of issues can be heightened, and it's absolutely essential that the press are informed and that their contribution to that debate is appropriate. The temptation to raise the fear of crime during elections for PCCs, for example, I think is a very real worry for those of us involved in the service. So the press role is absolutely crucial and really important and can be really constructive, but I think the more guidance in these cases, really, the better.

  • You've overlapped with what I was about to ask you. In question 45, you were asked about whether any different or further steps could or should be taken to ensure that relationships between police personnel and the media are and remain appropriate. You've described the role of guidance. Is there anything else that you'd like to say in response to that question?

  • As I touched on there, I think the making of payments and corruption and bribery are clearly already offences and quite rightly so, and so it would seem to me that where it is alleged that that is a problem -- it's important to say we do not have evidence that that is a widespread problem across the service at all, but where it is, there is existing provision, of course, in law to deal with that.

    Councillor Burns Williamson has talked about a concern within the capacity of a solo police and crime commissioner to fulfil the oversight function that has been undertaken by between 17 and 23 people in the Metropolitan area, has consistently been a concern for police authorities, and that's an area where we hope that PCCs will obviously give -- and we're sure they will want to give -- sufficient resources to ensure that there is oversight there.

    We've set out also in our statement that there should be an independent and inclusive regime for investigating complaints, which we think will be enormously important.

    I need to touch on my previous points: the flow of information, and the importance of that flow of information will be heightened, I think, by there being electoral interest in it. There will be things which those overseeing the police may want to constrain and hold back, just as there will be successes that they will want to make clear, shout it from the roof tops, really.

    So I think this whole area needs guidance, if only because the dynamic of elections are about to impact on it and could significant change, I think, the level of police interaction with the press.

  • Councillor Burns Williamson, I'd like your views on this. Is there anything that you'd like to add?

  • Yeah, well, not to try and repeat too much of what Mr Oley's just said, clearly, the change of the regime from police authorities to PCCs is a radical one and will create a lot of media interest, both locally and nationally, and in fact has already started to do so. So I think our task, as an APA moving forward with the interim body work, is to try and put guidance in place that is going to be helpful for individual PCCs coming into office, and the office of the PCC, because, as I already said, doing away with the 17 members made up of local councillors and independent members, who will come from a range of backgrounds and do a lot of very good work, in my experience, that will be swept away and, you know, I think the actual skills and capacity of the staff within the office of the PCC are going to be different regarding particularly the heightened media interest around the person that is going to be directly elected in every part of England and Wales, with potentially a lot of power for the totality of policing in each area, and, you know, that in itself is a major change to governance of policing in this country which will need to be carefully considered, as to how the interaction with the media takes place on a basis of trying to get the best-informed debate, if you like, and information out into the open, rather than it going down a party political route.

  • Those are my questions for each of you, but I would like to give you both the opportunity to add anything that you would like to or to say anything obviously that might assist Lord Justice Leveson.

  • No, I think I've had a good hearing. Thank you.

  • Thank you. I think just that we were interested that Elizabeth Filkin -- one of her concerns and starting premise was that there was not enough information coming from the MPS, whilst there were allegations of inappropriate information.

    I think just to reaffirm, really, that our view is that the importance of this Inquiry's outcomes and other investigations in providing guidance is so crucial, so that there's not a shutdown of information, actually, that -- you know, we'd be loath to see a situation returning where police are less in contact with the public, but of course there needs to be guidance so that that contact is appropriate and that those overseeing the police, that they have an open channel.

    The Government's view is very much that the -- as you know, the PCCs will be held to account by public opinion and by the local press, and they are the most substantive accountability mechanisms that exist. It's absolutely crucial that the flow of information between the two is sufficient and is well-managed to deliver that, and it would just be a concern if the outcome of this Inquiry actually -- I'm sure they won't, but results in a shutdown of information. It's all about us identifying correct and appropriate channels of information flow.

    Thank you very much.

  • Thank you very much, Mr Oley.

  • So the prospect of the creation of PCCs leading to a greater politicisation of policing may carry benefits, but carries risks as well?

  • The -- the charge or prospect of politicisation is one that has been made. I think we would be -- we would term that a potential. But it's clear that the proposals mean, sir, that the flow of information is absolutely crucial if those PCCs are to be held to account, as the government suggests, by the public and by the local press. The checks and the balances on them are not the kind of checks and balances that we hoped would be within the legislation, and the system relies very much on open flows of information to the public and the press about the activity of the police and the PCC, so we'd be very keen that those flows are open and the information is sufficient.

  • Just to add to that, yes -- I mean, it depends which side of the debate you're on, I suppose, with this. Clearly, the government saw it as a priority with regards to the changing of the governance of policing and have been fairly critical of police authorities, which, in my view, has been misguided. But I would say that, wouldn't I, as the chair of a police authority? But on the whole, I think it's worked pretty well in terms of governance of policing, but clearly there is a counter-view in government that they want to see, in their words, more visible accountability through the election of police and crime commissioners, but with that, hopefully through some of the answers we've given, does come, you know, added risk regarding the capacity within one person to undertake that governance role across what are quite large force areas. You know, it remains to be seen whether that will be a success or not.

  • I'm not on either side of the debate, as I'm sure you appreciate.

  • I'm simply trying to see how that development should impact upon what I suggest as sensible recommendations on the mediation of the relationship between the police and the press, because it's quite clear from what you've said, and indeed from what Mr Malthouse was saying last week, that it isn't going to be the same. It is going to be different. It's difficult enough to think what's happened in the past and what should be done to affect that. On top of that, if you're changing the whole system, to try and visualise how that will itself play out and what should be impressed upon that new system is even more difficult, but I get the clear and distinct message that national and central guidance is going to be critical throughout.

    Is that a fair sentence to take away from your respective evidence?

  • I think it would be very, very useful and important, because clearly there's going to be a sea change at the local level, away from perhaps the role of the chief constable to an elected police and crime commissioner, where, for obvious reasons, the attention will be on that person rather than the chief constable.

  • I'd agree, sir, absolutely. The guidance sent to you is that the flow of information is appropriate and isn't shout down by other party would be absolutely key, would be very helpful.

  • Thank you both very much.

  • Thank you very much indeed. Sir, it's --

  • Yes, I think that's probably a convenient moment to take a break now.

  • (A short break)

  • Next is Mr Gull.