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

  • MR PAUL MCKEEVER (sworn).

  • Mr McKeever, could you tell us your full name, please?

  • I understand that in your statement you want to make a correction to paragraph 15.

  • That's correct, sir, yes.

  • The answer to question 15 that was posed to you, you have replied:

    "We provide guidance to our representatives and officials via media protocol in which it states that any contact with the media should be treated as on the record."

    Is it right that the correction that you wish to make is that that is what the protocol is going to say but not what it presently says?

  • That's correct, sir, yes.

  • Subject to that correction, are the contents of your witness statement true and correct to the best of your knowledge and belief?

  • You are currently the chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, and you have been in that position since May of 2008?

  • Mr McKeever, I'm very grateful to you for taking part and providing this statement. Just so that it's quite clear, I recognise that the Federation occupy a very different position in policing, but given the extent of the evidence which I've received from ACPO ranking officers, I felt it was appropriate that it should be seen that other ranks also have the opportunity to comment on the subject matter of this Inquiry, however limited that contribution might be.

  • I just felt that it was appropriate that the Federation -- indeed, the Superintendents Association -- should be heard, however much or little they wanted to say.

  • You're also the chairman of the staff side of the UK Police Negotiating Board.

  • That's correct, sir, yes.

  • Your background is that you joined the Metropolitan Police Service in 1977, direct from university, and you served in various parts of London in various roles before being elected to the Police Federation in 1992.

  • Moving now to get an outline of the Federation and what it does. First of all, you're chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales.

  • There are separate federations, aren't there, for Scotland and Northern Ireland?

  • The ambit of the federation of England and Wales is to cover all forces within the country, including the Metropolitan Police?

  • All 43 which are Home Office forces, yes. We don't cover the British Transport Police and one or two other smaller forces.

  • You have a statutory background under the Police Act of 1919. You're not a trade union?

  • No, we were set up, I think, not to be a trade union, sir.

  • But your role, if I can summarise what you say in your witness statement, is essentially as a negotiator, and you also have a function of relaying the views of your members to government?

  • Yes, that is our primary function, sir.

  • And you're a full-time federation official?

  • I am by statute, sir, yes.

  • So in other words, you will not be found in Bromley police station or indeed any other police station, save in as required by your duties?

  • That's correct, sir, yes.

  • The Federation is structured at both a national and a local level, isn't it?

  • As to the ranks which are covered by the Federation, is it right that anyone who is a constable or a sergeant or an inspector, including chief inspectors, will automatically be a member of the Police Federation?

  • For those who choose to do so, on the payment of a subscription, the Federation also provides legal assistance and assistance at disciplinary tribunals?

  • You tell us that as at June of last year there were 136,976 subscribing members. Can you give the Inquiry an idea of what proportion of your overall membership are subscribing members?

  • The vast majority are subscribing members. We don't have figures to say exactly how many don't subscribe, but anecdotally, it is a mere handful.

  • If I can move now to ask you about a number of separate topics. If we start first of all with the ACPO guidance on contact with the media, and I'm looking now at page 4 of your witness statement and your answer to question 6. You say that to your knowledge, the Federation has not received any feedback from members about guidelines. I'd like to explore why that is.

    First of all, of the different ranks that we've just mentioned fall within Federation membership, what sort of contact does each of those ranks have with the media?

  • The vast majority of police officers and police staff, I have to say, will have little or no contact with the media throughout the whole service. We're not a pyramidal organisation, we're very much a flat-bottomed organisation and the vast majority of officers will be at constable, sergeant and inspector rank. It's a very narrow prong that goes up after that.

    The contact with the media will be at a higher level, perhaps starting at inspector, chief inspector level, so the vast majority of constables and sergeants have little or no contact with the media.

  • If there is some contact at inspector or chief inspector level is it ever inspector and chief inspector?

  • No, that wouldn't be the case. There would be some specialist roles. Perhaps a chief inspector might be an SIO, senior investigating officer in a murder case, and then they would have contact with the media, and there might be local press liaison officers who are identified for each unit, department or station as well.

  • Could you slow down a bit, McKeever, so that we make sure we get precisely what you say.

  • So can we infer that the fact that the Federation has not received any feedback about the guidelines is partly because very few of your members have dealings with the media, and secondly, that those that do don't appear to have had any issues?

  • And also, sir, we haven't asked them.

  • That's fair enough, but this Inquiry has been going on for some time and must have generated some interest among your members, I would have thought. We've heard about the interest that the press may have in talking to neighbourhood police officers and their keen wish to encourage such communications and their fear that rules or regulations will prevent them from so doing. You've not had any feedback one way or the other that causes you concern or that you want to bring to my attention, trying to get a balanced view of the views of the police?

  • In a question further on, sir, which refers to Elizabeth Filkin's report, I was going to make comment in relation to the general culture within the service about how officers feel in relation to the press. If you wish me to answer now, I'm happy to do so.

  • I'm happy to take Mr Barr's line or your line, but --

  • The answer is no, we haven't had any feedback.

  • Can we deal next with training, please, Mr McKeever. I'm looking now at page 5 of your statement and the answer to question 9. Have I understood correctly that what the Police Federation thinks would be very helpful -- and not just in relation to the media but across the board -- is national standards for training?

  • Yes, we're very strong on this point, sir. We believe that we should have national standards across the whole range of training within the Police Service, and it's something that we've called on government to ensure happens, not just in relation to media training but in training generally. Training is in a state of flux in the service. We are moving from the National Police Improvement Agency, which sets standards, guidelines, and provides 10 per cent of training nationally but also influences the local training as well -- we're moving from the National Police Improvement Agency, which is going to be done away with by November, and there's going to be some new body which hasn't been decided upon exactly at this moment in time, which will take over those sort of responsibilities. What we're saying is that national standards must be maintained within whatever that new body is.

  • So can I take it that in accordance with that principle, the Federation would be in favour of national standards for training in relation to media contact?

  • Can I turn now to the question of legal assistance? We mentioned a moment ago that your subscribing members get the benefit of legal assistance from the federation. You tell us on page 6 in answer to question11 that, amongst other things, the Federation will provide legal support to members if they've been libelled or suffered an invasion of privacy or breach of confidence.

    What, of course, the Inquiry would be interested in is whether, in the Federation's experience, there's a particular problem or what the extent of any problem is with your members being either libelled or suffering invasions of privacy by the media. Is that a question which you personally are in a position to answer today?

  • No, unfortunately it's not.

  • Is it something that perhaps the Federation's solicitor might be able to help us with in correspondence?

  • If you would wish for the Federation's solicitor, Russell Jones Walker, to correspond with you on that matter, I'm sure that will be able to be done, yes.

  • I'm just keen, I again repeat, to get another window on the extent of the issues which I have to consider.

  • I don't see it as it a major problem across the country, sir. It's not one that's been brought to my attention.

  • Thank you. If we move now to the question of off-the-record conversations. The Inquiry has heard evidence that different people use the phrase to mean slightly different things.

  • Sometimes it's used to refer to communications which people have with the press but don't want the press to print at all, and others say it's information which they don't want attributed but which can be printed. Do you think that there would be, again, benefit in having national guidance about the meaning of "off the record" and indeed how to go about off-the-record conversations, if appropriate?

  • Yes, I do. I think there is some confusion about what the definition actually means, sir.

  • Can we move next to leaks. It would be right, wouldn't it, that a subscribing member of the Federation who found him or herself subject to investigation in relation to an alleged leak would be entitled to help from the Federation?

  • Are you able to help us with whether or not supporting members who've been in that situation is a common experience or not?

  • No, it's not a common experience, and I think, reading Elizabeth Filkin's report and Sir Denis O'Connor's report, there seems to be an indication there that the Professional Standards Department perhaps feel there are problems with leaking but haven't brought many cases to conclusion.

  • On a related subject, if we could just explore whistle-blowing for a moment. Can I ask you, first of all: from a Federation's point of view, from what you know, are the whistle-blowing policies which have been used very much by your members?

  • No. The Police Service in England and Wales, sir, is one that's a disciplined organisation, and officers know only too well that if they step outside or if there's a problem that's identified, that they are subject to the discipline code. Similarly, if an officer sees somebody else behaving inappropriately or wrongly or illegally, unlawfully, there is a very strong supervisory process in place where you can report that to your supervising officers, and that tends to be where the revelation will come from.

  • And as far as you're aware, is the incidence of reporting of wrongdoing to superior officers high or low when it happens?

  • When you say "yes" --

  • Sorry, upwards, yes. Report upwards.

  • Your impression is that people do report wrongdoings?

  • They do report upwards, yes.

  • In those cases where people are in possession of information about wrongdoing and, for whatever reason, are hesitating about reporting it in the normal way that you've just described, do you think that there is a high or low level of confidence in the whistle-blowing policies and procedures?

  • I think it's a bit like the curate's egg, sir. It will be good in some parts of the country and not in others, depending on the confidence that that particular officer has locally. Perhaps some sort of independent avenue would be -- would assist those officers who don't feel confident enough to go through the supervisory process which is there and has worked pretty well in most cases.

  • Turning now to bribery --

  • -- you describe on page 8 of your statement, in answer to question 20, that you don't think that bribery is a widespread problem, and you point to the criminal sanctions and robust disciplinary procedures in place. Do you think that there is any room for tightening the sanctions and procedures which are already in place or not?

  • Sir, again, Elizabeth Filkin, I think, in her first appendix, lists the various acts that officers are subject to when they're dealing with the press, and there are a whole range of sanctions that can be imposed on officers where the penalties will include imprisonment if they go outside the parameters expected of them as a police officer, and she also reinforces that by saying that we're also subject to the discipline code as well, which, again, is very wide-ranging, and officers are fully aware of that and there are plenty enough tools there, I think, to actually ensure that officers do behave in a correct and appropriate manner, and without actually introducing any other form of sanction in addition to those that are already there. Perhaps the processes could be looked at, but the sanctions, I think, are more than adequate.

  • When you say "the processes might be looked at", is it your impression that the processes are, in practice, administered sufficiently or not?

  • Well, again, I'm making reference to Elizabeth Filkin's report where I think she has said that there's been some surprise in certainly a force about some of the things that have been revealed in the last year or so.

  • Moving now to the question of hospitality -- and I'm looking at page 9, the answer to question 23 -- you tell us that you don't perceive an inappropriate level of hospitality as a problem amongst the federated ranks. Is that, first and foremost, a function of the fact that your federated ranks have very little contact with the media?

  • In those circumstances, perhaps I can ask you to comment a little wider on the question of hospitality at all ranks. What is the Federation's view on the question of hospitality between the police and the media?

  • Again, we're supportive of what Elizabeth Filkin's saying in relation to the sort of parameters that should be set, but again, we need to have clear guidance here for officers, exactly what is acceptable and what's not. I think that's been missing in the past.

  • Guidance at a national level?

  • You talk also in the same answer about recognising the work undertaken by Sir Denis O'Connor in his report "Without fear or favour" and that the Federation is supportive of his recommendations. What role does the Federation expect to have in the consultations about taking his recommendations forward?

  • Sir Denis O'Connor is a man who we hold in extremely high regard in the Federation, and he is a man who does consult with us on most of his reports that are going forward and affect our members, and we're grateful for that consultation.

  • Moving back to Elizabeth Filkin, whose report you've mentioned a number of times, you say at question 27 that you don't recognise a general culture of acceptance within the MPS that leaking and bribery is acceptable. Leaving aside whether or not that is what Elizabeth Filkin was saying or not, or to what extent she was saying it, can I perhaps just ask you to tell us what your impression, certainly as a man who served for a long time in the MPS and has since been, obviously, at the very top of the Federation -- what is your perception of the general culture towards leaking and bribery in the Metropolitan Police?

  • It's an absolute no-no. I know previous chairmen of the local federation in the Metropolitan Police are on public record as saying that it is an absolute no-no. Bribery is something that is anathema to the vast majority of police officers and in my service as a Metropolitan officer before -- I am still a serving Metropolitan officer and the officers I still deal with today, it is something that's abhorrent for the vast majority of police officers, full stop.

  • Has that been the position from 1977 when you first joined to date, or has there been any fluctuation in the position?

  • I think if you're a police officer -- being a police officer is about values. Contrary to some perhaps recent reports, it's not about the academic qualifications you have, no matter how beneficial they may be, and it is about standards of integrity, honesty, probity. They are the sort of standards that are absolutely the core of being a police officer and they haven't changed.

  • Thank you. Those were all the questions that I have for you.

  • I have no specific questions, Mr McKeever, but I am keen to give you the opportunity to say anything else that you would like to say from your perspective, representing chief inspectors and below, about the terms of reference of this part of the Inquiry. If you have nothing to add, that's fine, but just so that you've had the chance.

  • No, I don't, sir, but thank you for that opportunity.

  • Thank you very much indeed for coming.

  • Sir, Ms Patry Hoskins is going to take the next witness.

  • The next two witnesses are Councillor Mark Burns Williamson and Mr Oley from the Association of Police Authorities.