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

  • Yes, Mr Jay.

  • There are two matters I'd wish to raise at the outset. First of all, the sequencing of witnesses for today. I think we will be hearing first from the Dowlers, then from Joan Smith, then from Graham Shear and then from Hugh Grant.

    The second one is a housekeeping matter. It concerns the status of the exhibits which have been released to the core participants on the grounds of confidentiality. It's right, I believe, that you should make a restriction order under Section 19, subsection 2 of the Inquiries Act to protect the confidentiality of those documents so that they do not enter the public domain.

  • These are documents that are relevant to the investigation but fit into the category of those documents that I don't wish to have the impact of revictimising those about whom complaints have been made or make complaints.

  • Does anybody have any observations about that application?

    Very good. Then I make those orders. Thank you.

    Yes, Mr Caplan?

  • Sir, just before you begin to hear the evidence of those I think who have been termed the core participant victims, may I just say a few words? We do think it is important that those who are here and those who will watch the proceedings clearly understand the procedure which the Inquiry has laid down as being appropriate for this evidence under the Inquiries Act.

    We, of course, as have the other core participants, have seen the witness statements of those who are going to be called this week and next week, and it is right to say that in some of them, there is varying degrees of criticism of sections of the press and, on occasions, of individual journalists, and of course that is why they are here to give evidence to you.

    May I say I'm not including in this the Dowler family or the McCann family in any sense, but we do believe that where criticism is made, especially of individuals, and if it is our belief that that criticism is incorrect, or for whatever reason, false, that common fairness requires that we or any other core participant who are affected ought to be able to put questions to that witness in order to put the record straight or, at the very least, to put the other side.

    So that everybody understands, however, the procedure that the Inquiry is following, and so far as these witnesses are concerned -- and this is the procedure that the Inquiry has required -- we should put questions to Inquiry counsel, Mr Jay, who will then, at his discretion, put those questions, if he thinks they're appropriate, to the witness on our behalf. I have no doubt at all that Mr Jay will do a better job than I would.

    But, sir, I do not want to hide what is an important concern, and that it is that reputational criticism can be made by these witnesses in what is a televised situation without any opportunity for the object of that criticism to respond directly to questions from the lawyers representing the core participants affected. Therefore, can I just say two things, please.

    Firstly -- and I understand your reluctance to entertain such an application -- if it becomes necessary to correct a matter as a matter of fairness -- I'm sure Mr Jay will cover, I hope, all that we require, but if it becomes necessary, then I hope you would entertain an application under rule 10, subparagraph 4, provided we notify you of the questions that we would wish to put to a witness. I understand that that would be a position of last resort.

    Secondly, to make it clear, so far as possible, we will file, where necessary, to obviate the need for that evidence with the Inquiry to correct any matter which we perceive to be important and which needs to be corrected. Just as one illustration of that, we will, for example, file evidence -- and we'll hear this when Mr Grant gives evidence -- concerning the way in which Daily Mail journalists covered the announcement of the birth of his daughter. We will file evidence showing what we say the Daily Mail journalists did and explain exactly what happened. That's no disrespect to Mr Grant, who is here -- good morning. It is simply that we wish to assist the Inquiry in explaining what happened as an illustration and I hope it will be of assistance to you and possibly even to Mr Grant.

  • Yes. Well, the position of the Inquiry is comparatively clear. It is abundantly clear, based upon the approach that Sir Michael Morland adopted in Northern Ireland, that it is unusual to permit cross-examination outside the Inquiry team and the challenge to that decision at common law failed in Northern Ireland, I think.

  • In certain respect. But if I may just say, there is an overriding duty of fairness under section 17 of the Act and the rules, rule 10(4), do permit an application by a core participant.

  • Absolutely, I understand that. The other important feature is to note that although you're at absolute liberty to file whatever evidence you feel is appropriate, and I will want to be balanced and fair, what is under investigation this morning, and indeed throughout the Inquiry, is the conduct and practice of the press, not the conduct and practice of any of the witnesses who are giving evidence.

  • I understand that and I hope -- I'm sure we all hope -- that the evidence will be limited so far as possible to deal with the general issues.

  • It's simply to deal with any reputational criticism that may arise. That's all.

  • I understand. This is called a right of reply, which is one of the topics about which some of those who criticise the press complain. That's unfair, Mr Caplan, at this stage of the morning. Let's just see if we can't find the right balance.

    Thank you very much, I've understood the point. Right.

  • We're going to proceed, therefore, with our first witnesses, who are the Dowlers, please.