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

  • MS JOANNE KATHLEEN ROWLING (sworn).

  • Can you confirm please your full name?

  • Joanne Kathleen Rowling.

  • What I'm going to do is invite you to confirm your witness statement. It's in that file in front of you under tab 1. It runs over 33 pages and at the end of it you'll see, I hope, your name, your signature, a date, which is 2 November, and the usual statement of truth. So this is your evidence?

  • Thank you. Ms Rowling, you might have heard me say to other witnesses that I'm very grateful to them for giving up the time and putting the effort into volunteering evidence to the Inquiry. I appreciate that you'll be talking about things which I very clearly understand you wish to remain private.

  • And by talking about them, you are to some extent blowing on that wish. I understand that, but I hope you do realise the importance of what I'm trying to do.

  • It's clear you do, because you're here, and I wanted to express my gratitude to you.

  • If you want a break at any stage, I know we've had one, but you're entitled to say, "Just five minutes, please". I appreciate it's a very unusual environment.

  • You're a witness who doesn't really need much introduction at all, Ms Rowling. We know your books were published over a ten-year period, the seventh and last book in 2007.

  • Can I move to paragraph 3 of your witness statement. You make it clear that you have no personal vendetta against the press at all.

  • What are your views about freedom of the press, please?

  • I believe very, very strongly in freedom of the press and freedom of expression, and I would like to make it clear from the start that I think that there's -- alongside the kind of journalism that we're going to be talking about today, I think there is truly heroic journalism in Britain. I suppose my view is that we have at the one end of the spectrum people who literally risk their lives to go and expose the truth about war and famine and revolution, and then at the other end we have behaviour that is illegal, and I think unjustifiably intrusive. I wonder sometimes why they're given the same name, why they're called the same thing. We should maybe invent a new word for the second group.

  • In paragraph 4 of your witness statement, you recognise that at least at the start of your career, media interest had some beneficial effect on the sales of your book; is that right?

  • I'd say so. I'd say it's a very interesting question with regard to Harry Potter in particular, because in 1997, when the first book was published, the traditional media was really the only game in town if a creative person wanted to say that they'd written a book or a film or anything of that sort. But during the ten years that Harry Potter was published, of course the Internet became a huge game-changer, and my fans were primarily young people who were very Internet savvy, so I think the Internet became for Harry Potter as great if not a greater promotional tool. But yes, in the beginning, certainly the press was helpful.

  • So that's, as it were, the good side of journalism?

  • But in paragraph 5 you immediately move to what you describe as a different kind of journalistic activity, which culminated, as you explain, in you literally being driven out of your first house.

  • Can you give us an approximate date for that, please?

  • I moved -- that was the first house that I'd ever owned, and I bought that with advances that I'd received on the first Harry Potter book, particularly from America. So we moved into that house in 1997, and we left that house in 1999. So during those two years, it had really become untenable to remain in that house.

  • Yes. It was the result of what which made it untenable?

  • Doorstepping. A photograph had been published that showed not only the number of the house but also the name of the street, which happened to be on the building where I was living, so I really was a sitting duck for anyone who wanted to find me. Journalists sitting outside in cars and so on. And because the street -- when I bought the house, obviously I didn't know what was coming. I didn't know that I was going to make a considerable amount of money. I had bought within my means, and this house lay directly on the street. So I really couldn't have chosen a worse property for someone who was going to receive that kind of press attention.

  • Thank you. You explain quite generally, we'll deal with the detail later, in paragraph 7, that you've had no choice but to take action against the press, both through the PCC, the Press Complaints Commission, and the courts.

  • The number of times you've had to engage solicitors in this sort of case you number at about 50; is that right?

  • Does that cover both the PCC and litigation or just litigation?

  • Yes, it might be more, but as far as I can tell, roughly that, yes.

  • The main concerns you wish to express relate to -- perhaps this is the foremost concern, you'll tell me if this is right or wrong -- privacy of your children?

  • Then there's the privacy of your home and then there's the broader issue of fair treatment?

  • Is that correct? Privacy of your children first, please. You deal with this in paragraph 9. When your first novel came out, I hope you don't mind me dealing with this, it's in the public domain, you were a single mother; is that correct?

  • What was your attitude or strategy, if you had one, in relation to any publicity first as regards the book and secondly protection of your child? Could you assist the Inquiry with that, please?

  • Well, I took the view then, and I would like to say that I'm not -- certainly wouldn't like to be seen to be standing in judgment on anyone who took a different view, because there are people I know and respect who have taken a different view on this, but it was my belief and remains my belief that children do best when they are kept out of the public eye and that their home life is secure and that means -- it feels like a place of safety, and I think that means private. So I endeavoured from the very first to draw a very clear line between what I considered unwarrantable intrusion into my private life, and that was largely my daughter.

    I had countless requests to be photographed with my daughter. I vividly remember a women's magazine who wanted to take a photograph of me with my broken down typewriter and my daughter on my knee, and when I said that is absolutely not happening, they said, "We won't do the interview then", which was no loss to me. I really did not want that to happen.

    I think it's one reason I agreed to appear, because I think this is something I feel very strongly. When you become well-known, and it was a shock to me that I became so well-known so quickly, no one gives you a guidebook. There is nothing that's handed to you to say, "You can do route A, B or C". You have to make it up, to an extent, yourself. And I inferred from the press's often justification for printing photographs of people's families, their justification was so frequently, "Well, you have sold your family life, you've invited them into your home, you've allowed photographers to take pictures of your children, you have in effect used your family as a promotional tool", so I inferred from that that if I do not do those things, the privacy of my children will be -- well, at that time my only child, will be respected. So I was trying hard to abide by what I thought was the unwritten code. And I would say that I think a significant section of the press have respected my stance on that, but a significant section of the press, in my view, have seen that almost as a challenge.

    So I tried very hard to abide by what I thought were the rules, and I failed.

  • You mention one occasion, but it was the only occasion, paragraph 10 of your witness statement, where you took your daughter along to a book awards and someone did try and take a photograph and that never happened again?

  • No. Well, I never took her anywhere like that again. I vividly remember that occasion. It was -- I was thrilled to have received the award and I couldn't get a babysitter and I took her. I knew other children were going to be there, and it's not that I don't want my children to share these occasions with me, but that experience taught me that can't happen, because, as I say, she was marched into a shot and I physically said, "No I don't want that to happen" and I took her away, and after that I decided clearly the way forward is not to take my children to these kinds of events.

  • Yes. In paragraph 12, you deal with three causes which you support. Would you like to cover those specifically?

  • I think it's relevant to say that I have, on occasions, discussed my own -- not my children's, but my own life, and I suppose broadly speaking there are three areas of my life that are quite private that I have discussed.

    I wrote the first book as a single parent, and that was common knowledge, and I wasn't ashamed of that and did discuss that, the fact that we had lived on benefits for a time and it had been difficult to find work and find childcare. All these things I did talk about. And latterly I tried to parlay that into doing something meaningful because I became an ambassador for a charity that campaigns for lone parents.

    I've also said in my statement that I for quite a long time was patron of the MS Society and I fund research and attempt to raise funds for MS. My mother died of complications from MS. It's not something that I relish talking about, but I talk about it with a purpose and I think that that's one of the upsides, if you like, of being well-known, that you can become a spokesperson for those kind of charities.

    Then the last thing I've said in my witness statement, I have talked openly about the fact that I have suffered from depression. I think originally I discussed this in the context of my work, and I do feel quite strongly that as a writer, or any kind of creative person, your life becomes such an important factor in your work, so there are themes in my work that relate to bereavement or depression or things that I myself have experienced.

    So in other words, I was talking about depression not trying to gain sympathy or pity, but there was a purpose. I had created certain creatures in the Harry Potter books that had the effect of depression on those they encountered. But I don't in any sense regret talking about depression because as I say in my statement, I've received a number of letters and so forth, particularly from young people who have been depressed, who find it helpful that people don't treat that as something to be ashamed of.

    So yes, I have discussed these matters, but I would say firstly that I think our cultural life would be greatly diminished if creative people weren't allowed to say where they received inspiration and ideas, and secondly I would say I don't think any reasonable person could decide that because I'd discussed these things, my children ought to be long-lensed in swimsuits. I think a reasonable person would see a clear division there.

  • Thank you. In paragraph 13 you develop the point which you've already touched on, namely the importance of a normal childhood for your children.

  • You mention one incident where there was a note from a journalist slipped into your daughter's school bag.

  • Could you give us a little bit more context?

  • Yes. My daughter -- this was my eldest daughter, so this would have been when I was -- really, in the first burst of publicity surrounding me. She was in her first year at primary school and I unzipped her school bag in the evening and among the usual letters from school and debris that every child generates, I found an envelope addressed to me and a journalist -- the letter was from a journalist.

    It's my recollection that the letter said that he intended to ask a mother at the school to put this in my daughter's bag or I don't -- I know no more than that, I don't know whether that's how the letter got in my daughter's school bag or not, but I can only say that I felt such a sense of invasion that my daughter's bag -- it's very difficult to say how angry and how -- how angry I felt that my five-year-old daughter's school was no longer a place of, you know, complete security from journalists.

  • Paragraph 14, your position is very clearly stated in the second line:

    "My husband and I have taken every step we could think of to prevent the children being photographed by press photographers."

    And then you outline some of the measures you've taken. Some are quite general, some are quite specific. Would you care to elaborate on any of those, please, for us, Ms Rowling?

  • Well, we have -- I say in my statement, for example, we didn't take a honeymoon immediately after we were married because we had previously taken a holiday together shortly before we were married, and that was the occasion on which we were all long-lensed and my daughter appeared in the press in her swimsuit. So we decided that -- we took -- we went to great lengths to ensure that our wedding itself was private.

    There are many things you can do, and we have tried to do all of them, I would say. We really have tried to do all of them to prevent the children being photographed.

  • In paragraph 15, occasions where paparazzi have been outside your house, you've had to on occasion hide your children in blankets.

  • There were two particularly bad periods where it really was like being under siege or like a hostage. After the birth of each of my subsequent children, for a week it was impossible for me to leave the house without being photographed, unless I wanted to be photographed or unless I wanted the children to be photographed, and on both of those occasions they took up permanent residence outside our house and my husband was obviously going to work and he was going in and out through them and being photographed, but I felt completely trapped in the house.

    Of course, that had a massive effect on the children.

  • You've made it clear, you clearly state in paragraph 17, to press photographers, agencies, perhaps more importantly even picture editors at newspapers, magazines and other media outlets, how seriously you take the privacy of your children. Have you done this by making statements to them or how has this been achieved?

  • I think I've gone to such lengths to try and prevent photography of my children that they really can be in no doubt and I have complained to the PCC and -- as is clear later in the statement -- I've been to court.

    I would like to say that particularly with regard to photographers outside our house, I think a very good example of this is two journalists from a Scottish tabloid took up residence outside our house in a car at a time when I was absolutely unaware that there was particular interest in me. I didn't have a book coming out, I hadn't just given birth, they were just sitting there. So I asked someone who works for the public relations company that I employ to please ask them what they wanted. The response she received was: it's a boring day at the office. So my family and I were literally under surveillance for their amusement. There wasn't even a pretence that there was a story.

    It's difficult to explain to people who haven't experienced it what that feels like. The twist in the stomach as you wonder what do they want? What do they think they have? It's incredibly threatening. It feels threatening to have people watching you.

  • Then you quite rightly state that the Sun published an article on 25 March 2003, absolutely no criticism of that, but they rightly said:

    "The 38-year-old author is fiercely protective of her private life and kept details of her son's birth top secret."

  • Accurately stating the position. You give us some specific examples, starting in paragraph 21. The picture in 2001 in OK magazine when your child was then eight, I think.

  • And that was on a -- was it a public beach or a private beach? You tell us in your own words.

  • This is where it all went wrong, because my husband and I weren't married then, it was shortly before we were married. We were, wrongly, convinced that we were on a private beach. We subsequently discovered that no beach in Mauritius is private, they're all public by law. But the hotel we were staying at had advertised that it had its own beach, and we wrongly understood from that that it was private. So we believed ourselves to be in a private situation.

    My husband, who it is more observant than I, clearly, said he was worried about a boat that was a little way out while we were all on the beach, and I dismissed this and said I was sure everything was fine and he was being paranoid. He wasn't being paranoid at all. We were being long-lensed and when we arrived home it was to photographs of the two of us, not my daughter, the photographs including my daughter weren't published at first, on the beach.

  • It led to a complaint to the PCC?

  • You have the adjudication under tab 2 there, Ms Rowling.

  • The complaint was upheld.

  • This was the complaint about the photographs of my daughter, including my daughter, yes.

  • Absolutely. The public/private beach point was not one which, as it were, lost you the case. You won the case because of the particular circumstances.

    If you look at the adjudication, it's in fact set out in your witness statement, but it's right to read it out because the PCC may well want me to do so:

    "While the Commission may have regard to its previous decision, circumstances will necessarily vary from case to case. It therefore considers each complaint on its merits under the Code."

    I think as a lawyer we all understand that.

    "The Code entitles everyone of all ages to respect for their private and family life and deems unacceptable the use of long lens photography to take pictures of people in places where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

    "In addition, it gives greater protection to children, does not allow photographs of children under the age of 16 to be taken where the child's welfare is involved, and requires a justification other than the fame of a child's parent for publishing material about the private life of a child. There may also be an exceptional public interest justification for breaching these provisions, but none was provided in this case.

    "The Commission noted that it was not in dispute that Ms Rowling had gone to considerable lengths in the past to protect her daughter's privacy. This seemed to have been reflected in her selection of a holiday location. It had not been challenged that the beach was not overlooked by other holiday apartments and that the family had gone there in the low season to avoid unwanted attention.

    "The Commission was not asked to consider whether the photographs of the complainant and her partner breached the Code but it considered in the circumstances outlined above, and given the high level of protection afforded by the Code to children, photographs of the complaint's daughter should not have been taken or published and therefore breached clause 3."

    Well, you would presumably agree with every word of that decision, Ms Rowling?

  • I would agree with every word of that, yes.

  • Do we need to go on to the complaint under Rule 6? I will if you like.

  • May I say one thing about the photograph of -- that photograph of my daughter in her swimsuit?

  • Yes, of course.

  • Unlike an untruth that is in print, for which you can at least receive an apology, when an image is disseminated, it can spread around the world like a virus, and that photograph of my daughter in her swimsuit was on the Internet months after the PCC ruling.

    Of course I accept the PCC could not adjudicate for members of the public who had copied the image and put it up on websites, and that they had no mechanism to prevent that happening, but I feel that given the fact that an image has a life that cannot be recalled once you have seen what someone looks like in their swimwear, an apology does not remove that knowledge from everyone else. An image has a particular property in that way.

    So I needed to -- I contacted my lawyers when I realised this image was still out there, and they laboriously attempted to remove it wherever they could. I'm sure it is still out there. That's the particular harm of an image.

  • Yes. The analysis of the PCC in line with their standard practice is to divide your case up into different parts of the Code?

  • We've been looking at clause 3, which is privacy.

  • Although the age of your child is of course a relevant factor, but then they deal separately with clause 6, which is the children issue. And on a separate basis they uphold the complaint there, which is hardly surprising given their reasoning in relation to clause 3.

    It's noteworthy, though, in relation to clause 3 that the Commission have weighed up a number of factors and it's immediately clear which factor is determinative, but they considered all the circumstances of your case.

  • Which some may say demonstrates that these issues are not always straightforward ones. Would you accept that or not? Although of course you clearly won this case.

  • Well, where children are concerned, it's my personal belief that the issue is not complex at all. A child, no matter who their parents are, I think, deserves privacy.

  • They have no choice in who their parents are, they have no choice in how their parents behave, so I would respectfully say that I think where children are concerned, the issue is fairly black and white, and I think it would have to be extraordinary public interest to justify publication of photographs of children, particularly without their consent.

  • The next sequence of evidence you're about to give is slightly more complicated legally, and it's the Marion(?) Big Pictures litigation. Tell us what happened on 8 November 2004 before we look at the legal consequences of it, Ms Rowling.

  • This was an occasion -- I was fairly heavily pregnant with my third child. Most unusually, my husband had a morning off, and this is relevant in that we very rarely went out at this time of day together, so it's our belief that again people were watching the house on the off-chance, without any particular justification.

    Anyway, it so happened that we took a walk to a local cafe. Most people, I think, would say that's a very innocuous thing to do as a family. And we were photographed covertly going to the cafe, didn't realise that had happened. Only subsequently did we realise when we saw the photos that it must have been happening before we hit the cafe and afterwards, because afterwards we did then see the man running down the road to get a better angle of us with my son. My eldest daughter was then at school, so this was now my middle child, my son, who was being photographed.

  • The photographs were published?

  • And as you explain, one of the newspapers published a photograph that clearly showed your son's face.

  • What had happened, as very often happens, a picture agency had taken the photograph, in this particular instance it happened to be a company called Big Pictures Limited, and they sold it on perhaps to the highest bidder?

  • Yes, that's my understanding of what happened, yes.

  • You then brought proceedings and sought an injunction as well as damages for breach of confidence and breach of privacy. At the first stage before the High Court judge your claim was struck out; is that right?

  • Yes. May I just say before we move on to that point --

  • There was a reason why I didn't again go to the PCC. It had been my hope, perhaps hope more than belief, but my strong hope that the PCC adjudication of my eldest daughter would send notice to the press that I took it extremely seriously if they invaded my children's privacy. Clearly, the message had not been strong enough. Sanctions had not been imposed that would make anyone think twice about this and they had again bought photographs of my child, a different child but of my child. So that's why we didn't go back to the PCC. That's why now we went a step further and our intention was to underline our position on this.

  • The argument of the defendant newspaper, which at first instance was accepted then was reversed on appeal, was that this was a public place, there was no harassment, therefore there was no confidence or privacy which could be protected?

  • I disagree, as you would expect, on a number of counts there. First of all, that there was no harassment --

  • I'm just setting out the argument.

  • As we know, the Court of Appeal came to a different view.

  • They did, but we were extremely disappointed that that was the response of the court in the first instance.

  • You had a right of appeal, you exercised it, and on 7 May 2008, the Court of Appeal, presided over by the then Master of the Rolls, Sir Anthony Clarke, found in your favour. The judgment is of course publicly available. We provided it to you in your bundle at tab 5.

  • You, if I may say so, have correctly summarised it in your witness statement at paragraph 28.

  • You say that it is understood, given the way this went off procedurally, the Court of Appeal were deciding that you had an arguable case. They weren't deciding whether you were going to win or lose at the end of the day.

  • Although the result of the Court of Appeal's judgment is that in the end there was a settlement of the case to your satisfaction; is that right?

  • The judgment does bear reading in full. It is a detailed and legally sophisticated judgment. I'm not going to take time with it because I couldn't possibly do justice to it by summarising it, but you in paragraph 28, subparagraphs (a) to (e), have identified the key features and of course, unsurprisingly, a key feature here is the fact we are concerned with the rights of a child?

  • In paragraph 29, you explain why you decided to bring this case. You've given us one of the reasons: you'd lost confidence in the PCC and this was really the failure of the press to respond positively to the adjudication following the Hello publication in 2001?

  • That's your second reason. Your first reason at 29(a), please, Ms Rowling, might you elaborate on that for us, please?

  • There had been another incident shortly after my son was born, so I had at this point a 10-year-old daughter and a virtually newborn baby, so we were besieged for a week and then I believed that the photographers had disappeared, and for the first time in a week I was able to get out of the house with my daughter and the baby. And we were long-lensed and on this occasion I saw the photographer taking the picture from across the street, I pulled my daughter behind me because I didn't want her photographed, and I rather absurdly gave chase. How I thought I was going to outrun a 20-something paparazzo while pushing a buggy ...

    My daughter was, "Calm down Mum, calm down, don't be silly, it doesn't matter", but it mattered hugely to me that the moment I set foot outside the door, my children were being photographed again.

    So the cumulative effect, it becomes quite draining.

  • So yes, I did decide that it was time to take action when we had yet another incident.

  • The point at (c), this is at your page 16, you make it clear that you hadn't consented. Of course you hadn't consented to the photographs being taken. Point (d) is the long lens camera point and the reasonable expectation of privacy point.

  • It might be said that the very fact that you need to use a long lens gives rise to some sort of presumption that you're invading privacy, but at least that's a factor which may be relevant.

    What about your point (e) at page 17 that you were not contacted prior to publication? What difference might that have made, do you think?

  • If I had been told what was coming, I think I could have said, well, I will take steps, possibly through the courts, possibly through the PCC, I don't know what it would have been, if I had been notified, to prevent publication. We could have had a conversation. I could have restated my reasons for not wishing the children to be photographed.

    I mean, again, I think the point here is that like a lot of people who have agreed to give evidence at this Inquiry, we are not looking for special treatment. We're looking for normal treatment. I don't regard myself as entitled to more than; I'm simply asking for the same as. And I'm particularly asking for that on behalf of my children.

    So yes, if I had been notified of the intention to print another photograph of my child, which neither I nor they had consented to, I would have been given an opportunity to explain my position again to the newspaper in question, and one would hope that would have carried some weight, but again I wasn't notified so I couldn't do that.

  • Though your position had been so clearly stated before, one wonders why there was any need to restate it because everybody knew what it was.

  • This is exactly right. I mean, short of getting a skywriter, what can you do?

  • In paragraph 30, Ms Rowling, there were further photographs.

  • Presumably long lens photographs, is this right?

  • Your holiday in the US in July 2006, photographs of your family and your three children, isn't that right?

  • Yes, and I would have to say here that I felt an idiot, a fool. This was literally the second time since -- twice since 1998 I have put on a swimsuit on a public beach. Twice. And on both of those times I've been photographed.

    As I've already explained, on the first occasion I believed it was a private beach. On the second occasion, I think my guard was really down. We'd gone on holiday, we hadn't encountered any press. I assumed, wrongly, that we were -- I forgot myself for a few moments, and the result was that I was long-lensed again.

    Initially, there were photographs only of me, and while I don't accept that -- well, to call a spade a spade, I'm a writer, so I don't really think that it's of any relevance or of any public interest to know what I look like in a swimsuit, but the general feeling of people around me was, "Leave it", and I felt the same way. I felt that I wasn't going to be able to succeed in preventing publication of that photograph of me. I was very concerned because when I saw the photograph, I knew they must have photographs of the children because I knew that I was in very close proximity to the children all of that afternoon.

    Sure enough, the picture agency confirmed that they were holding a picture -- they said one photograph of the children, and agreed to destroy it. Which I believe was done. I've never seen that photograph published.

  • Thank you. Did that give rise to a PCC complaint?

  • I don't -- I think -- my recollection is that we didn't complain to the PCC and I think that that was because --

  • We've seen your evidence --

  • Yes. My confidence in the PCC was fairly low at this point, so I decided my embarrassment wasn't worth the stress of going through the complaint, really.

  • There was another incident, paragraph 30, subparagraph (b) at page 19, that in July 2007 a journalist from the Scottish Sun contacted the headmaster of your eldest daughter's school.

  • Yes. There are -- this is one of the incidents about which I feel most outrage. A journalist contacted -- did not contact me. I'm a highly contactable person. I have an agent, there's a PR firm that represents me, I have publishers. There are numerous ways to contact me very easily. No one contacted me, they went directly to the headmaster of my child's school. And as I say in my witness statement, the claim by the journalist was that my eldest daughter had distressed fellow pupils by revealing that Harry Potter died in the final Harry Potter book, and that the headmaster had received complaints from students and parents because their children were so upset by this.

    So my daughter was being characterised as some kind of bully, as using information from me to upset people, and there was not one word of truth in it. There had been no complaint. My daughter could not possibly have told anyone what happened in book 7, because at her own request she didn't want to know. So it -- I mean, what -- I am very wary of speculating, but I have been on the receiving end of stories being put to one that probably, I would guess, the journalist is aware aren't true, but the strategy seems to be that they will surprise someone into saying something that they can then print. Because I would say why not contact me? But possibly there was a hope that the headmaster might inadvertently reveal that she had said something, or inadvertently reveal "That's not what I heard, I heard she said he survives". Who knows? But again, to approach my daughter's school to me was outrageous.

  • This was the time of wild speculation as to what happened at the end of the last book?

  • And then in subparagraph (c), November 2007, more photographs, this time outside a coffee house I think in Edinburgh.

  • I had taken my youngest daughter out actually to buy her an advent calendar. She was quite excited. We became aware that we were being photographed from across the street and someone was with me and crossed the street and said to the photographer, "She's with her child, please stop", and the photographer refused.

    I don't know whether they got a clear shot of my youngest daughter, I've no idea. They claimed that they only saw her legs in the developed photographs. I don't know.

    The justification that I heard on that occasion was they believed I was wearing a fur coat. I was wearing a woollen coat that I've never worn in public again.

  • The impact on your children, are you able to assist the Inquiry with some insight into that?

  • There's the particular impact on a given day. For example, my youngest daughter was very upset that we couldn't get her advent calendar because the photographer was clearly not going to desist, he'd refused in so many words. We had nowhere to go so we got back in the car and we went home again.

    On a general note, the sense of being often unable to leave your house or move freely is obviously prejudicial to a normal family life, and certainly all three of my children have been aware of being suddenly pulled behind me or I will split from the family group because I'm aware there's a photographer there, so you're hoping to draw them off: "You take the kids that way, I'll go this way".

    So there's a general edginess sometimes when you are aware that there are people in the vicinity, and sometimes when there aren't, you start becoming jumpy. You start thinking that the person behaving in a peculiar manner near your house might be concealing a long lens. They might not be at all, but it's a very unnerving feeling to know that you're being watched. So obviously that impacts my children.

  • Yes. We now move on to the second topic, which is privacy of home life, and this is related, of course, to the issue of personal security, which is obviously an obvious matter of concern to you.

    Can I deal with the matters in chronological order? Paragraph 41, I think, first.

  • There may be a typographical error in the title. I think the right date is January 2005; is that right?

  • That -- I think so, yes.

  • There was an article published in the Scottish Daily Mail about conversion works which were taking place at your home. Your full address, without the postcode, was published, together with a large photograph of the house in question. Obviously, even without the postcode, the full address was enough to identify which house we're talking about.

  • It's obvious. So that it's clear, what happened as a result of this?

  • Well, as a direct -- sorry, could you ask me that question again? As a direct result of the publication of this photograph?

  • We asked them -- we went to the newspaper and asked that they remove those details from their website and so on, and I believe they did do that.

  • Yes. Then in July 2005, this time the Mirror -- I think we're south of the border now, Ms Rowling; is that right?

  • Published an article printing the street names and photographs of three of your properties in England and Scotland just before Harry Potter 6, this was.

  • No public interest in that. And your concern additionally was that the article showed certain security features which you quite rightly had in place?

  • Yes. For obvious reasons I don't wish to go into detail here and now, although I'm happy to provide those details if they're relevant. But like virtually everyone in the public eye, I have on occasion been the target of unbalanced individuals. I don't want to go into details.

    I mention this because my desire to keep the precise address of the property where I live with my family out of national newspapers is not because I'm being starry or precious; it's because on a number of occasions we have needed to -- the police have been involved because of incidents or even threats.

    So I think it's reasonable of me to wish that the papers would refrain from making my whereabouts so very, very identifiable. Clearly I have to live somewhere, and we've taken all reasonable precautions in this matter. Of course locally it may be known where my house is, but again I think a reasonable person would see a difference between my neighbours knowing which is my house, my children's friends knowing where we live and anyone who reads a national newspaper being able to find us with extraordinary ease.

  • What happened in this particular case, and we'll deal with the PCC element in a moment, Ms Rowling, paragraph 43 of your witness statement, the paper's position was that the addresses were in the public domain, they could be found on the Internet.

  • In fact, we've taken every step that one can to make sure that we are not listed in the usual ways on registries that exist online. We can't prevent any individual putting our address online, but if that's the justification a newspaper's using for then reprinting it in the national press, I think that's a fairly flimsy justification, but we have taken every reasonable precaution we can think of to protect our own privacy.

  • Then you point out that the -- this is the third line of paragraph 4 -- the paper continued to disregard your feelings because five days later it published a picture of your eldest daughter as a baby?

  • I would like to emphasise that what I'm about to say does not apply to the whole of the British press, but it is my experience with certain sectors of the British press. If you lock horns with them in this way, if you protest or you make a complaint, then you can expect some form of retribution fairly quickly, and I thought the fact that in this case a picture of my child was put into the papers, so very quickly after I'd asked them not to print my address, I thought that was spiteful, actually. Just spiteful.

  • We move to a different title. The Evening Standard in October 2007 published photographs and information about your homes, including descriptions of the properties, details as to their history, details of their location and details of security arrangements and pictures.

  • There was a complaint at least at a legal level. What was the upshot of that?

  • As my witness statement says, they wrote a one-line letter back saying they had noted the contents of my letter.

  • Again, this doesn't apply to the whole of the press, but the attitude seems to be utterly cavalier. Indifference. What does it matter? You're famous; you're asking for it.

  • I think the final series of articles on this sort of theme, October/November 2007, the Mirror, the Daily Record and the Scottish Mail on Sunday each or all published articles that identified the precise location of your home in the Scottish countryside, showing the name of your home, the name of the neighbouring property and the name of the small town in which you lived?

  • Yes. And when we complained about this, the argument was, well, this information is in the public domain, but the joke of that to me is they put it into the public domain. What they were effectively saying was you can't complain that we are printing photographs and the address because we've already printed photographs and the address.

  • Just so that's made clear, it had been put in the public domain the day before by the Mail on Sunday?

  • Yes, about which we'd complained.

  • About which you complained. Therefore it's entirely disingenuous, you say, for the Scottish Mail to rely on that argument. Just so we're absolutely clear, they're part of the same newspaper group. Is that correct?

  • But does that disingenuous argument apply with equal force to the Mirror and the Daily Record?

  • The Mirror and the Daily Record, as I said in my witness statement, they agreed to remove the articles from their archives, but they gave no guarantee that they wouldn't publish the information again at some point.

  • There were complaints to the PCC resulting from some of these events, not all of them.

  • So that we understand the position, it's paragraph 48 of your witness statement. Going back to the Mirror's publication in July 2005, which is what you talk about in paragraph 42, your complaint there was upheld in part, I think. We have the adjudication under tab 3.

  • Yes. The key point on which they disagreed with me, they said they hadn't given enough information to identify the property, and I strongly disagree. Indeed, people said to me afterwards, "Oh, I know where you live now, it is ..." and then they described -- from the information in the newspaper they were able entirely accurately to identify which house we'd bought, so I must disagree with the papers on that matter.

  • The reasoning of the PCC, so that we're clear about it, is the part of the case which was upheld, the Commission were satisfied that the photograph and the caption contained sufficient information to identify the exact location of the property.

  • So that was objectionable because it was too precise.

  • Their argument was that in relation to the two other house, it wasn't sufficiently precise and therefore there wasn't a breach because one would have to carry out further enquiries in order to pinpoint the exact location?

  • But I feel that in this respect the PCC isn't seeing the wood for the trees. All it needs is for three or four newspapers to provide partial information and one is virtually giving a guided tour to my house.

    So if each complaint is going to be struck down because well it's almost your exact address but not quite so we don't think that's good enough, then I feel that we're all in a fairly vulnerable position.

  • It's called a jigsaw identification.

  • Precisely the case. And I think exactly right. I don't feel that the PCC is taking a -- is I think a little conveniently not taking a holistic view of the matter.

  • We see a similar theme, whether it's right or wrong or not, and you clearly say it's wrong, in relation to the 2007 publications under our tab 4, because your complaints are not upheld, really for the self-same reason, that the identification is not sufficiently specific.

  • If you just look at the four corners of the article itself, but you say the answer to that is let's feed in other information which is readily available, some of it has been disseminated by the press itself, then it doesn't take too many steps or filling in of the pieces --

  • Literally a click of the mouse. And in fact, when we bought a new house in Edinburgh, one newspaper gave really -- oh no, I'm sorry, I'm mistaken, it was our previous house in Edinburgh. Yes, in fact I believe it was this precise case we've just been talking about. The PCC said there wasn't sufficient information to identify the precise location of the Edinburgh house. However, someone, I believe abroad, saw the article and said, "But I know exactly ..." they instantly knew which house it was and they said, "I used to live there", and gave the whole address plus the postcode. So they were able, on the basis of what they'd read, to put everything into the public domain, and again I feel that little if any weight is given to that, or has been given to that when the PCC looks at these matters.

  • Did that person put the address and postcode?

  • They put the entire address, down to the postcode. And actually, I think it was done quite innocently by that person, I think they were really excited to realise that I was living in the house they'd lived in previously, I think it was a young person who did it, but the whole address was on the Internet within two days and my lawyer was able to contact that person and say to them, "Please could you delete this", which they did, but again, in the meantime, how many people had seen the whole address?

  • Just to understand where you say the boundary lines are. What do you say is permissible and what do you say is impermissible on this issue?

  • On this issue, I don't see why it is in the public interest to know exactly where I live. I mean, clearly I can't put an invisibility cloaking device over myself and my house, nor do I wish to. I want to live in as normal a way as possible, but it is not normal for anyone, famous or not famous, for their address to be known to millions of newspaper readers or users of the Internet. So that is where I would draw the line.

    I would, if I may, make one further point. As I said, I moved out of the first house we ever owned because the photographs of the house precisely identified its location. There was the number on the door and the street name was on the building. So an image can do as much, if not more, damage than even a postal address in print.

  • Thank you. The third area you wish to address is the issue of fair treatment in the press. This starts at paragraph 50, Ms Rowling.

    In paragraph 51, you're referring to a report in the Independent newspaper regarding the Operation Motorman investigation. Do you believe you were the target of Mr Whittamore, is that correct?

  • Well, I -- yes. I've now had the files made available to me, so I know that I was a target, yes.

  • The figure that Mr Whittamore charged for his services you give as £655. Are you able to assist us in general terms as to the nature of the information he had blagged? If you don't want to tell us, please don't, but just so we get a general idea, perhaps, of the nature of the information. If there's any concern about doing so, I won't press it.

  • I'm happy to say what I know, and I say that because I don't know part of what he had. He appears to have been making investigations with people regarding me, with people whose names I don't recognise, so I don't know what he was after there and I don't know what he was searching for. But the bulk of what he appeared to be trying to do was to track down people related to me. For what purpose, I couldn't tell you, but, yes, he seemed to be making extensive enquiries about my extended family.

  • Thank you. Whereas you say in paragraph 52 that you're awaiting a substantive response from the ICO, have I understood your evidence correctly that you've now received some sort of response?

  • There is a -- I may need to ask my lawyers to provide details on this, but I believe there is additional information to come.

  • It may or may not be important. You've given us, I think, the gist of what you've seen so far.

  • Hang on, Mr Jay. Mr Sherborne, is there anything of significance?

  • I was simply going to confirm the position. As I understand it, Ms Rowling has seen some of the documentation, but as I understand it equally, there is more to come.

  • If it's so extensive, I don't want to know the details but it might affect what I am thinking about, then doubtless you can provide the information at some stage. I don't want the details.

  • But the broad width and length of the information could be valuable, but only if you feel it takes me further.

  • Sir, indeed. I understand that.

  • In paragraph 53, you give another example of blagging which is quite characteristic because we heard similar evidence from somebody this morning, namely someone purportedly from the post office phoning you and explaining they have a package but no address.

  • I recalled while preparing this statement two instances of blagging that I know about. When I was blagged, I actually realised halfway through giving personal details that I was being blagged. It was shortly after we moved into our first house that we owned, and I believe the journalist didn't know where I had moved to. Somehow, I don't know how, had my telephone but did not know my exact address. So I received a phone call allegedly from the post office and this man said to me, "I am from the post office, I've got a package here for you, what's your address?" So I began to speak and then I said, "Wait, wait a moment, you're from the post office, well, what does it say on the package?" And there was a moment's embarrassed silence and he hung up.

  • The other story -- the story we heard I think in your absence from another witness this morning, was that he said, "Well, the mobile phone has been left on the ripped paper." And in that case, the information was provided. Anyway.

  • I can understand -- well, I --

  • So your account has resonance with some evidence that we actually heard this morning.

  • I understand. Well, my husband was less fortunate than me, and we were not married. We had just started a relationship. My husband had just moved jobs from one hospital to another. Fortunately for the blagger, but not fortunately for Neil, the blagger pretended to be from the tax office, and my husband was expecting a communication from the tax office so that he could adjust his tax code.

    Anyway, he's a busy man at a hospital, he gets a call, he takes the call, they say we're from the tax office, and he gave them everything. He confirmed his address, he confirmed his pay rate, he confirmed I believe his National Insurance number. And it was the next day or the day after that he opened his front door at 6 am to go to the hospital and flashes went off in his face and the paparazzi had found him.

    So that was a not very nice introduction to being involved with someone famous.

    Oh, I should say that there was subsequently a legitimate contact with the tax office, so that's how we know that the first call was not legitimate.

  • And then you touch on phone hacking issues. The position at the moment is that as far as you are aware, but only on the basis of information and evidence examined to date, there's nothing to connect you with phone hacking; is that right?

  • No. I barely used a mobile phone in the 1990s, which now seems like a very smart move, but it wasn't deliberate.

  • Can I deal with issues of as much commercial confidence as personal privacy, leaked information, Ms Rowling, your books.

    Paragraph 58, I think we're now on Harry Potter 5, as you say. In June 2003, the Sun apparently came into possession of two copies of the book which were stolen from the printers.

  • Can you tell us a little bit about what happened next, please?

  • I believe the story was that an unemployed gentleman had found a copy of Harry Potter in a field. I find that story rather difficult to believe, but there you are.

    So we had taken every reasonable step to try and prevent prepublication leaks, and now the manuscript was in the possession of a tabloid newspaper, so we took out -- I'm not an expert on this by any means, but we took out what's call a John Doe injunction against unknown persons to prevent -- because we didn't know how many journalists at this point had the manuscript -- to prevent publication of the contents.

  • Those representing Associated News wish it to be made clear that as far as they understand the position, the injunction was sought and obtained only in relation to the activities of the Sun and not the Daily Mail and the Mirror. Are you aware of the exact position there, Ms Rowling?

  • Well, it's my belief, but I would need to check with my lawyers, that a John Doe injunction was taken out against whoever may have a copy of the information.

  • I think Mr Jay, an update, there was a subsequent note I have given. That's not our position. The position is it was obtained because I think Ms Rowling and her advisers did not know who might be in possession of the book, and as far as Associated Newspapers is concerned, although the book was offered to us, it was rejected immediately, it was never taken up, that offer, and in court the judge accepted that it had been offered but completely rejected by Associated Newspapers.

  • Very good, thank you very much.

  • That was my fault, because Mr Caplan did provide me with an updated question in manuscript and I --

  • Missed it. Don't worry, we'll cope with it.

  • I'm sorry about that as well, Ms Rowling. I messed that one up a bit.

    It continues in paragraph 60. What happened with the return of the copies? Can you help us there, please?

  • A great deal happened. There was no straightforward handover of the book.

    A review of the book was published, which really was a way of publishing some of the contents, paraphrased. This in spite of the fact that they had promised not to reveal -- in court, they had promised not to reveal anything that was in the book. The book was photographed, those photographs obviously went into the paper. So we had to go back to court to try and enforce co-operation with the original injunction.

  • You tell us that the Sun were trying to turn this into a photo opportunity --

  • Yes. This is to me a classic example of -- again I accept this is far from being all journalists, but there is a section of the press that sees opportunities in a situation like this and I felt I was being blackmailed. What they really wanted was a photograph of me gratefully receiving back the stolen manuscript. So I was being asked to pose with the book.

  • It was a similar sort of sequence of events, but perhaps less serious, but you'll tell me if that's right, in relation to another book. I'm not sure whether it's the sixth or the seventh --

  • That's the sixth one, yes. Yes, I would agree that this was less serious.

    This is opinion. My opinion is that if one shows oneself prepared to take a stand, then I suppose I would say that the press has maybe been wary of me latterly, in that they -- on certain issues, obviously my children's privacy being the most important one, but that -- well, crudely, I suppose, they're wary because they're aware that I can afford to pay for expensive lawyers, and that's a sad reflection on the state of affairs, that -- I mean, I therefore receive a kind of treatment on occasion that I think is not available to the ordinary person.

    So it was a less serious situation on the sixth book, I think because they had seen -- I guess because they had seen that we were prepared to defend the book vigorously in 2003.

  • Thank you. I will move on to false attribution in paragraph 63. In Hello magazine an article in 2001, or thereabouts, claiming to be a rare and exclusive interview.

  • The one which never occurred?

  • Yes. I think people might think that's quite a banal occurrence, but in fact it's not. If you are trying, as I am, to make it quite clear that my personal life -- my family life is out of bounds, then the perception that I had granted an interview to a magazine that is primarily notorious for going into people's houses, photographing them with their families, hearing personal details of their private lives, and I censor no one by the way for doing those interviews. I don't think that's an awful thing to do. It simply happens that that's not something I wish to do.

    So the magazine asserting that I had done it, I feared, would then be used as justification for further invasion: "Well you gave an interview to Hello magazine, you are prepared to sell your private life in this way", and as is clear from my statement, what they had done was taken that article from a different paper and repackaged it. From a different source, and repackaged it.

  • And then you had a lot of difficulty with the apology. It took time and you feel they reneged on the agreement you had with them and it was published less prominently than had been assented to?

  • Yes, they were very, very difficult to deal with on that occasion. They dragged their feet for a very long time, they didn't want to admit that they'd done what we knew they had done, and the apology was minuscule.

  • In paragraph 60, a claim in defamation. Would you tell us a little bit about that? One of your characters, I think it was.

  • Yes. This was really quite horrible because it caused real distress to my oldest child.

    The Daily Express published an article saying that I had based an unpleasant character in the Harry Potter books on my ex-husband. This was wholly untrue, and their justification for writing this was that I had said while doing a book reading with a group of children, and I remember the event, it was at the Edinburgh Book Festival and it was very pleasant. I'm often asked do you base characters on real people? It was a really throw-away comment. I said, humorously, that the character of Gilderoy Lockhart was based on someone with whom I had lived briefly.

    Now, that's true, but that person probably can't even remember that we were ever flatmates. This is a long time ago. So I felt quite clean about saying that, I'd identified no one, and as I say, the acquaintanceship was so fleeting I didn't feel I was doing anything damaging.

    Again, this was in the context of speaking to children about the creation of a book. So I was relaxed and not expecting what came next, which was this article. Not only did they say that I'd based this character on my ex-husband, they were clearly depicting me as the kind of vindictive person who would use a best-selling book to vilify anyone against whom they had a grudge, which is simply nonsense.

    So I had to sit down with my eldest daughter, because they're talking about her biological father, and say to her this isn't true, I would never do this. There is no point of resemblance between this man and your father. And while she was very understanding about this, and said, "I know you wouldn't, I know you didn't, I believe you, I believe you", it was a horrible conversation to have to have. And, of course, there's what happens outside the house. There's what happens when other children, many of whom have read Harry Potter, told my daughter that her father was the basis for this unpleasant character, and that can't be recalled. Because children don't tend to read the apologies newspapers put in. So that misinformation caused real emotional hurt, which I'm sure is a matter of indifference to the person who wrote it, but as you can tell, quite a big matter to me.

  • Yes. That resulted in an apology. Can you tell us anything about the apology, for example where it was printed and its size and what might have been said?

  • I truly can't remember, but I know that it was small and it certainly didn't occupy the same kind of space that the original article did.

  • Paragraph 61, we've covered. Paragraph 62, a separate defamation issue. Can you help us with that one, please?

  • Now this one was untrue from beginning to end. There was an allegation printed that I was taking legal action against a man who was writing fan literature. It was simply untrue, and in fact I had never heard of him until this accusation was made against me.

  • Thank you. Then another defamatory article, paragraph 63, published in the Mail on Sunday, Hello, the Herald, the Scottish Sun, the Scottish Daily Express and the Daily Star Scotland, concerning the purchase of a house in town. The basic point there is that you paid well over the odds, it was alleged, in order to force the seller to move out early.

  • Yes. The original story said that I walked into this house, which in actual fact is our family home now, that I glanced at two rooms, that I then offered a vast amount of money to get the owner out virtually instantly because I wished to host a Christmas party in this house. It's utterly, utterly untrue.

    We looked around the house in exactly the way any normal person would look around a house they were intending to live in, we took our children to look around the house. There was no question of throwing money at anyone to make them leave. We had a very amicable relationship with the seller who moved out in the normal time period and actually I never held any kind of Christmas party that year because we'd just moved in. So it was nonsense from beginning to end.

    Again, some people might think it's not a big deal. Firstly, it's depicting me as a very arrogant person who is unaware of the value of money, who uses it to bend anyone to her will, which I do not believe to be the case.

    But it's also you're putting a version of -- or the newspaper is putting a version of me and my family into the public domain that has an effect on my children, who are then asked about the house that we bought when we'd barely looked at it and the huge party we had and how your mother just throws money at people to move them out of their houses, and this is hurtful stuff.

  • There were a number of apologies but you point out that four weeks later, the Scottish Times published the very same defamatory allegations, later denied that they were defamatory --

  • I think this just builds a picture of how very difficult it is to stop defamatory articles of any nature, because no prior notification that this was going to be printed, no opportunity to correct the story, but also it does spread like fire. You're stamping in one area and someone else is lighting a fire over here, and you say to them person A already accepted it's completely untrue -- "Well, we don't accept that it's untrue".

  • Thank you. Then the last matter you cover, paragraph 64, there was an inquiry by the Sunday Times of your PR agents -- this is quite recent -- about the development of your Scottish urban home and the type of trees you were going to use. Can you tell us about that?

  • This was quite a bizarre story, really. We did receive notice on this occasion that the Scottish Sunday Times wished to run an article about what we were planting in our garden, and I couldn't really understand why that was of any public interest at all.

    Then we were told that they were running an article on a non-native species and their environmental impact, and as everything we were using in our garden had been in Scotland for about 5,000 years, I still couldn't understand why we were being referenced in the article.

    When we said, "We're not minded to let you come and look at our trees", the journalist said, "I will come and see for myself then. I'll come onto your property", I assume. The effect was quite aggressive.

  • We've actually -- if you don't mind, we've skated over an article that I'm finding it difficult to find it in my bundle here.

  • It was about my husband, I think, in the Sunday Mirror.

  • I'm going to need to find it, but I really did want to talk about that one.

  • What we'll do, we'll find that, come back to that, allow you to deal with that in your own way and as completely as you like.

  • I'm sure a note will be passed to me.

    What I'd like to do is put to you a point that News International on behalf of the Sunday Times wish me to raise in relation to the non-native species article.

  • Oh yes, I'm interested to know.

  • Then we'll come back to the Sunday Mirror if that's acceptable. Have you been shown a copy of the piece in the Sunday Times?

  • I wasn't aware that anything had appeared.

  • This is a general piece, apparently. Indeed, as we can see, in the Sunday Times on 14 August of this year:

    "Garden experts wage war on plant invaders."

  • Yes, I see myself in this little article.

  • The general theme is that apparently the Royal Britannic Garden in Edinburgh is to investigate the behaviour of every plant in its collection amid concern that more than 100 species may pose a threat to wildlife. These presumably are non-native species.

    On the right-hand side of the column you'll see:

    "Among those with a fondness for non-native plants is JK Rowling who plans to introduce several varieties at her Edinburgh home", then they are listed. "They include holm oak evergreen, native to the Mediterranean, which is invading southeast England. It's listed as a plant to avoid."

    So the suggestion there is that these plants or trees aren't yet there, but you're planning to introduce them. I think that's clear from what's being said. Do you have a comment on that?

  • I don't -- it's just ludicrous. I truly ... I find it ludicrous. How is this -- I mean, I do not recognise these plants they say I'm going to plant, and as I've been very involved in the garden, clearly I've either overlooked something important or they are mistaken and I tend to think they are mistaken.

  • It goes on, and I appreciate this is rather difficult if you haven't seen this:

    "A spokesman for Patience & Highmore [I'm not going to ask whether you recognise the name], the architecture firm helping to design Rowling's garden, said the council planning department is happy with the design and selection of species."

    Well, there it is.

  • News International's position is that the information they obtained was from a publicly available planning document, which may well be consistent with what we see in the final paragraph.

  • And secondly that you were, they say, offered an opportunity to comment through your PR company, and the comment came from the architects, as we see reported.

  • Does that make sense?

  • Yes, it makes sense. I wasn't aware this had appeared. In fact, I thought that they weren't going to run the article, so I -- this has been slightly sprung on me, but I don't really know what to say about it.

  • Mr Sherborne, had you seen article?

  • I had not seen it until very recently, sir.

  • I provided it this morning, but I accept that that's --

  • We've coped with it. We've now put it together.

  • Can I just check, before we go back to the point you wanted to raise, that we were covering the ground. Yes.

    There is an article I'm asked to draw to your attention, but it may be that there simply hasn't been the opportunity for you properly to consider this and therefore it's not something I --

  • I was just given it before I came up here to --

  • This came to me very, very late from the Daily Mail. It's probably something if we're going to explore at all you should have the opportunity to look at. I don't think it's right I can really press it now without the witness having even had the chance to read it.

  • I am happy to answer questions on this. I don't know what's coming, but I am. I sort of skimmed through it just before I came up here to sit down. I'd just seen it. I'm happy to talk about it.

  • Is there a spare copy? (Handed)

  • Thank you. Hang on.

    It's an article 12.5 years ago?

  • Let me see if I can put the point in the way that others would wish me to put it.

  • The sequence of events, on my understanding, is this, that after your first Harry Potter book, which was of course in 1997, you were interviewed by Angela Levin, then of the Daily Mail. Various personal matters are dealt with. It's not necessarily to go into them at all, but the article was not published at that time, as we can see. It was not published until 9 July 1999. Are you with me so far, Ms Rowling?

  • This was published apparently after the second Harry Potter novel was published.

  • Sorry, no, this is 1999, so that would have been around the time that the third book was published.

  • The picture here is of the first book, but I see the date on it is 1999, so that would have been when the third book was published, not the second.

  • In fact it says here:

    "Her new book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, is the third in her series."

  • So I shall notionally correct what I'd been told. I was told it was the second. In fact it's the third.

  • The point that I'm asked to put is that your publishers then telephoned the Daily Mail to say you were very angry at the publication of this article. Is that right?

  • I do not recall ever asking my publishers to tell -- to tell a newspaper I was angry. I -- this -- as you know, you told me I would be asked this question just shortly before we came into court, and I've been racking my brains as to what this refers to. I have no memory, ever, of complaining through my publishers to any newspaper. That's not the way I would complain to a newspaper. I would go to the PCC or I would go to a lawyer, I suppose, if it was something terrible.

    Moreover, I have now read this article and I can't see that there's anything in here that I would have complained about. It seems to be largely factual. It's all information that I had already discussed in other interviews in the early part of my career as a published writer, so I cannot see why -- what I would have been angry about.

    But then while racking my brains it occurred to me. In 1999, when the third Harry Potter book was about to be published, I did tell my publishers that I did not wish to do any press, and the reason for that was that the phenomenon, if I can call it that, had really taken off, the books were selling very, very fast. I don't absolutely love giving interviews. Obviously it depends on the circumstances, but it's not my very favourite thing, and I just felt that giving more press felt like overkill. So I said to them, "Can we not say the books are selling very well and not do a big marketing campaign?" They were very understanding of that and I did one interview, on Radio 4, with Jim Naughtie I think and some children.

    I think that what seems to have happened is that the Mail has published this article when I had not given them the interview at that time. However, I made no complaint about that. It may be that they -- it may be that someone at my publishers said to the Mail, "But she's not doing press", but I never gave instruction for a complaint to be made. So I'm slightly mystified.

  • Actually, if one reads it, it's information that you've already described you're content to recognise is in the public domain.

  • Except that it names your daughter.

  • To whom I'd already dedicated the first book.

  • Oh, so we know the name of your daughter. All right.

  • I think we're beginning to understand where we are with this piece. It's perhaps not advancing the sum total of our knowledge in the context of press culture, practices and ethics.

  • I understand entirely why it was felt appropriate to put it forward.

  • Right. There was one other article?

  • I am having difficulty finding it.

  • Yes, so am I, but I know it's in here.

  • Can I assist, given the hour? It's an article in March 2003 that was written by Carole Malone in the Sunday Mirror.

  • I don't think that's in the statement.

  • Certainly not in the final version of the statement. It may have appeared in a previous draft.

  • Which is why Ms Rowling is referring to it. Can I say this, it's called, "Dr Murray at your beck and call", and just for fairness sake, I ought to point out that the Sunday Mirror did publish an apology, I don't have it in its published form so I can't say in what form the apology appeared, but I know that's the article Ms Rowling is referring to.

  • All right. Ms Rowling, you said you wanted to mention it, so mention it. Tell me about it.

  • Thank you, sir. Ms Malone wrote a short piece in which she alleged in very vehement language that I had married a doctor and doubtless had been attracted to him partly because of his job and he had -- you know, he was someone who was doing a very worthwhile job, and that my husband had now given up his job to be -- and I remember it quite vividly -- to be at the beck and call of his obscenely rich wife.

    The language was really very strong, and no phone call had been made to me or any of my representatives, or to my husband, to check the veracity of the statements, and the truth was that my husband in ten years of marriage has never taken any time off work except for family holidays and there has never been a period when he hasn't been work or on study leave or something similar.

    This was another instance of -- I feel extremely strongly about this and I wish to mention this because my husband clearly is not a celebrity and he has no wish to be a celebrity, and again this was damaging misinformation. Because his colleagues, those who weren't in his immediate vicinity and aware he was still working in the hospital where he was working, believed it. They thought he had indeed thrown in a career that he'd worked at so hard --

  • You mean in former hospitals, not where he was then working, presumably?

  • He had changed hospitals, which seemed to be the reason Ms Malone assumed that because he'd disappeared from one hospital, he must have given up work entirely to be at my beck and call. And I would -- again, one of the reasons why I was keen to give evidence here today is because of the effect on those people who have the dubious pleasure of being married to, related to or to live next door to someone of interest to the press, and I felt that that article was vicious, it was clearly wholly untrue, and it was sending a horrible message out to my husband's colleagues, some of whom he might wish to work with or for at some point.

    Yes, we did receive an apology, but it's the old case of a lie can spread around the world before the truth has got its boots on. There were still people for some time who believed my husband had indeed decided to give up work to become house husband to his authoress wife. Although I think nowadays there are fewer people who still believe that, I can't know. Anyway.

  • I understand why you wanted to tell me about it.

  • In your conclusion, you sum up your position, Ms Rowling.

  • Very helpfully. Can I ask you then a more general question, perhaps born out of your experiences as you have explained them to us. Do you have any ideas, recommendations or suggestions which you would invite the Inquiry to carry away with it, particularly as a result of what you have told the Inquiry this afternoon?

  • This is not a compulsory question. It's an opportunity, that's all.

  • I do not have any very fully worked-up ideas. I can only say that I feel the PCC is toothless, that it offers very little in the way of sanctions to newspapers, that it's a wrist-slapping exercise at best. That we need -- and I should say I'm vehemently opposed to state control of the media, of course, as I think everyone who is going to sit in this chair is, but I do feel that we need a body that has teeth, that can impose sanctions. I agree with several of the people who have spoken to the Inquiry before me when they say that prior notification would prevent a significant amount of damage, particularly where defamatory articles are concerned.

    Apart from that, I can't pretend I have a magical answer. No Harry Potter joke intended. That slipped out.

  • I would have been perfectly content if you had one. Thank you very, very much indeed. It was a long afternoon.

  • Right. Anything else? No?

  • Well, if I let the witness return, but there are a couple of administrative matters.