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

  • Yes, Mr Barr.

  • Good morning, sir. Our first witness today is going to be Mary-Ellen Field. Then we're going to hear from Mr Flitcroft, Mr and Mrs Watson, and then this afternoon from Mr Coogan.

    So could I call, please, Mary-Ellen Field?

  • Just a moment. Yes, Mr Garden.

  • Before Mr Barr calls his first witness, sir, I rise to express some concern about some of the reporting of yesterday's proceedings in this Inquiry. It is, with respect, somewhat objectionable that when one core participant -- in this case, Mr Grant -- gives evidence at the invitation of the Inquiry as to his opinion on certain matters, that the following morning he should then be accused, in the electronic version of the Mail on Sunday, of mendacity and we ask rhetorically: are we to expect that everyone who has the temerity to give evidence critical of the press is going to have to face this the following morning?

    The alternative is that I and perhaps other core participants will need to warn our witnesses that they must anticipate this as soon as they give evidence, if it's evidence that some newspapers don't approve of, and with respect, it seems to us that that is likely to have a seriously deleterious effect on the Inquiry you're conducting, sir.

  • I understand the point. Of course it must be right, Mr Garnham, that first of all these proceedings can be, as they are being, reported as widely as the press wish.

  • And secondly, that there must be some room for comment. How balanced that is going to be is always going to be a difficult judgment.

    I notice that Mr Caplan isn't here. Is Mr Caplan --

  • Sir, Mr Caplan is detained in a short hearing in the Administrative Court that started at 9.30. He's expected to be here shortly. I know Mr Grant's evidence is a subject which he wishes to address the Inquiry on, so perhaps we could defer dealing with Mr Garnham's point until later in the morning.

  • I think that may be a good idea.

  • So there's no doubt, the particular observation which gives us concern is a comment in the Mail Online to the effect that -- and I have it in front of me:

    "Mr Grant's allegations are mendacious smears driven by his hatred of the media."

  • I'll write that down. All right.

    We will return to it when Mr Caplan returns. I think that's better. Mr Sherborne, yes?

  • Sir, I'm not going to complain that Mr Garnham has risen to steer my thunder. It's obviously a matter that's regarded important enough for the police to mention it. I do have a number of things I want to say as a result of the reporting that we've all read in relation to Mr Grant's evidence as well as the Dowlers' evidence yesterday.

    I'm happy, sir, if you think the appropriate time for me to raise these matters is when Mr Caplan is here, although he may benefit from having heard what I say and having had a little time to digest it. I'm entirely in your hands as to how you want me to deal with this.

  • This is a matter which is significant and is one which needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

  • I'm comfortable about that. Is it likely to create any difficulty in relation to the first witness? Does anybody -- Mr Garnham, you don't know. Mr Barr, you've been given forewarning of the questions that core participants wish you to ask this witness. Is there anything in relation to her evidence that's likely to give rise to this sort of issue?

  • I think that's most unlikely, sir. I sincerely hope not.

  • Yes, all right. Thank you.

    Mr Sherborne, although I recognise that there may be advantage in you outlining your concerns in the absence of Mr Caplan so that he can read them later, I think it's probably better to wait for him, and if he needs a few minutes, then he can have it.

  • Sir, the concerns are not just mind. We have had concerns expressed by other core participants who are coming to give evidence about the sort of intimidatory tactics that we've seen in the press this morning.

  • I understand. We'll address them when Mr Caplan has returned.

    Mr Sherborne, I have one question to ask you. I became slightly concerned during the course of Mr Grant's evidence yesterday that he hadn't understood that the balance decision that I made about cross-examination inevitably meant that Mr Jay would have to put questions that weren't necessarily of his making, but which had been provided to him by other core participants, which they wished to have tested, and I hope that -- I mean, I sought to explain it to him halfway through his evidence, but I hope that those who are coming do understand the wide-ranging role that counsel to the Inquiry has to adopt in order to make the proceedings fair, and not to require multifarious -- that's absolutely the wrong word -- many different cross-examinations.

  • Sir, I appreciate that point. Of course there are matters which these witnesses have come here to deal with of their own experience, and there are points that can be put to them and which have been put to them which have originated not from the Inquiry but from the other core participants. I understand that.

    The danger, if I may say it, lies in the perception that those are points which are adopted by the Inquiry. I use the word "perception" not because it's Mr Grant's perception that matters; it is the perception of the public, and if one wants to see -- or more importantly, the perception as portrayed in the press. If you look at the coverage this morning of what happened yesterday, it's quite clear that that is a perception that has been picked up by the media.

  • We're on day two so we have a long way to go. So that it's abundantly clear, the purpose of the counsel to the Inquiry is specifically to put not only questions that they wish to investigate, but also those which the other core participants wish to investigate, and as I made clear to Mr Grant yesterday, the mere fact that Mr Jay is asking the questions doesn't mean to say that he adopts or believes them.

    It may be that there ought to be some form of words adopted for some of the questions that identify that they come from others rather than from the Inquiry, but of course it shouldn't be assumed that because they're even being asked by the Inquiry they are necessarily reflecting my thinking, because one of the tasks of counsel to the Inquiry is to put out the possibilities so that I might consider them, rather than merely to reflect where I am or where I might be.

  • Sir, I understand that course is an approach that's going to be adopted in relation to all the witnesses. But as you yourself have said -- and with respect, rightly -- there is a fundamental distinction between the core participant victims coming to give evidence to this Inquiry as to their experiences and the witnesses who come to give evidence on behalf of the newspapers, who, to use my phrase and not yours, are in the dock, in the sense that it is their practices that are being scrutinised, not the practices, culture and ethics of the individuals who come to give evidence to this Inquiry about what they've suffered at the hands of the press. I say no more than that.

  • I understand the point. We'll doubtless return to it. All right. Yes, Mr Barr.

  • Thank you, sir. I call Mary-Ellen Field.