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

  • MR CHRISTOPHER JEFFERIES (sworn).

  • Your full name please, Mr Jefferies?

  • Christopher Jonathan Edward Jefferies.

  • Mr Jefferies, thank you very much indeed for coming and for making the effort to prepare a statement for me. It must be singularly unpleasant to have to revisit the events through which you lived and then to have to recount them in public for all to hear, thereby giving further oxygen to the unpleasantness that you have suffered. I'm very grateful to you for having done so. I'm sure you appreciate the importance that I attach to trying to get to the issues that I have to resolve, but I do recognise the imposition of a breach of your privacy that it involves. Thank you.

  • Mr Jefferies, you provided the Inquiry with a witness statement. It's dated 4 November of this year. You've signed it. There's also a statement of truth. Subject to one minor correction, which has been drawn to your attention, is that your evidence, Mr Jefferies?

  • The minor correction relates to paragraph 44, please, where you deal with the fines for contempt of court imposed by the Divisional Court presided over by the Lord Chief Justice in relation to two newspapers, the Sun and the Daily Mirror. We believe that the fines are the wrong way around. The Sun was fined £18,000 and the Daily Mirror £50,000.

  • Yes. That is indeed the case and I apologise for that slip.

  • Mr Jefferies, you are a retired school master. For 34 years, you taught English -- in particular, English literature -- at Clifton College in Bristol. You retired in 2001. Could you just tell us, please, a little bit about your career as an English teacher?

  • Yes. I initially spent a term teaching at Clifton College in the early part of 1967, as a result of which I was asked to join the staff full-time. While I was there, I first of all was responsible for setting up a new department which dealt with a quarter of the teaching time of all pupils in the sixth form in an attempt to broaden the A level curriculum.

    I was, for most of my time there, deputy head of English, with one or two spells when I was head of English. I was also responsible for the commercial running of the college theatre.

  • What is your proudest achievement, would you say, in relation to your career?

  • I suppose I'd sake two things. One would be setting up the department which I have just mentioned, and the other is having the opportunity to fire pupils with the same sort of enthusiasm for English literature that I have myself.

  • Are you in contact with any of your former pupils --

  • Oh yes, quite a number, several of whom are now personal friends.

  • Thank you. You tell us in paragraph 4 of your statement that you own three flats within one building in Bristol. You live in one of them and rent the remaining two flats to tenants.

  • We, of course, know about the horrific murder of Joanna Yeates which led to the conviction for murder of Vincent Tabak in July this year. Joanna Yeates disappeared, so we have our bearings, on 17 December of last year; is that right?

  • Equally, so we have our bearings in terms of the chronology, you were arrested by the police on 30 December?

  • And not released on police bail until 1 January; is that right?

  • Before your arrest, did you provide any statements to the police?

  • Yes, I provided two statements, one at the same time that everybody else in the locality was being asked to give detailed statements, and the second short statement because it occurred to me there was something material which hadn't occurred to me at the time I was giving that original statement, which I thought it important for the police to be aware of.

  • You explain in your statement the circumstances of your arrest. It was 7.00 in the morning of 30 December. Those circumstances must have been extremely disquieting at the time. You were taken into custody and then questioned. Is that, broadly speaking, right?

  • Of course, there's litigation surrounding those circumstances and for that reason it's not appropriate for this Inquiry to go into that particular aspect of the case.

  • But can I ask you about the press coverage. Before you were arrested, was there any press interest in you, Mr Jefferies?

  • Yes, there was. I think it was the day immediately before I was arrested, I was greeted by a large number of reporters and photographers as I was leaving the house one day, who seemed particularly interested to question me about the details of the second subsidiary statement that I had given to the police.

  • Is the Inquiry to draw the inference from that last answer that the press in some way knew the contents of your second statement?

  • The press had certainly, I think, acquired a somewhat garbled version of what that second statement contained, yes.

  • At that time, do you believe or know whether the press were making contact with your neighbours or former pupils?

  • Oh yes. They were certainly, I think, talking to some of the neighbours. I do not think that at that time they were trying to contact any former pupils or indeed, as far as I'm aware, any relatives.

  • Thank you. The first article which you draw to the Inquiry's attention is dated 30 December. We'll come to that in a moment. You tell us in your statement that the Attorney General issued a public statement warning newspapers of the impact of the Contempt of Court Act 1981. Are you able to recall when that was, Mr Jefferies?

  • I believe it was during the time that I was in custody. I wasn't aware of it at the time, as indeed I was entirely unaware of the nature of any of the reporting while I was in custody.

  • For obvious reasons, you weren't reading those articles until you, as it were, were released on police bail, which was on new year's day 2011. Can you tell us, please, the circumstances in which you were made aware of some of the reporting?

  • Well, when I was released from custody, both the solicitor who had represented me and friends with whom I was staying outlined in very general terms the sort of press coverage that there had been. They did suggest that it would probably be good for my psychological health if I didn't, at least for the time being, read any of that coverage since a great deal of it was so defamatory. So it was -- I started to read some of the coverage in detail only after I was asked to do so as a result of the commencement of the libel action.

  • At that stage, did you have a solicitor who was advising you in relation to these matters?

  • In terms of you going out, did you refrain from doing so in the light of --

  • Oh, yes. Very much to my surprise, I have to say, because the media interest was so enormous, I was very strongly advised, both by friends and lawyers, not to go out, and in any case, if it had been apparent where I was staying, those friends would have been besieged by reporters and photographers, and since some of those friends had young children, that was the very last thing that anybody wanted to happen. So in effect, for a period after I was released, I was effectively under house arrest and went from friends to friends rather as if I were a recusant priest at the time of the Reformation, I suppose, going from safe-house to safe-house.

  • Thank you, Mr Jefferies. When did that process stop? We know that you ceased to be a suspect in early March.

  • When was it possible for you to lead more or less a normal life? Are you able to help me?

  • I suppose when I returned to living in my flat, which was at the very beginning of April of this year.

  • You say in paragraph 20 of your statement -- I'm going to read this out, Mr Jefferies:

    "I can see now that, following my arrest, the national media shamelessly vilified me. The UK press set about what can only be described as a witch-hunt. It was clear that the tabloid press had decided that I was guilty of Ms Yeates' murder and seemed determined to persuade the public of my guilt. They embarked on a frenzied campaign to blacken my character by publishing a series of very serious allegations about me, which were completely untrue, allegations which were a mixture of smear, innuendo and complete fiction."

    So that, in summary, is your position, but we need probably -- indeed certainly -- to elaborate on that, Mr Jefferies. First of all, you say in paragraph 21 that you were told by others that extraordinary efforts were made by the media to contact anyone who may have had knowledge about you, including friends from school days you hadn't seen for some considerable time. Do you know who those individuals were?

  • I certainly know who some of them were because they have subsequently been in contact with me. The efforts which some members of the press went to to contact some of these people was quite extraordinary, and indeed worthy of a professional detective, I'd have thought.

  • That which was attributed to your former pupils in the press articles, was it true or untrue, as a general statement or proposition?

  • Well, a number of those who were contacted by the press very properly refused to make any statements. I'm certainly aware that very many of the comments which are contained in the articles which were published are not attributed. Only a handful of them are attributed and I certainly haven't been in contact with any of those whose names have been attached to supposed quotations.

  • As a matter of generality, before we look at some of the detail -- and I understand you're content that the Inquiry does look at some of the detail -- a number of themes emerge from the material to which you make reference. One of the themes was that you were supposedly associated with a convicted paedophile.

  • Could you tell us a bit about that, please, Mr Jefferies?

  • Yes. This was somebody who was not actually on the staff of the establishment where I was teaching but the preparatory school for that establishment. He had, at one time, lived in one of the flats in the building where I live. He had sold that flat to somebody else, who in turn had sold it to yet another person, and it was that person from whom I eventually bought the flat. So there was a very, very considerable time gap between his selling the flat and my buying it. I think I was supposed to be a friend of his. I very, very rarely came across him, and indeed only came across him on a comparatively small number of professional occasions.

  • You demonstrated there the entirely tenuous -- indeed, fatuous, if I may say so -- association.

    Another theme which you touch on, it's fair to say, in paragraph 22 of your statement, is the portrayal of you as a sexually perverted voyeur. A number of suggestions were made which I think you believed to be mutually contradictory in relation to that. Could you help us a bit with that, Mr Jefferies?

  • Yes. I mean, it was certainly suggested that there may well have been some sort of sexual motivation for the murder of Joanna Yeates, and at the time obviously I was suspected of that murder. On the other hand, it was suggested in some of the articles that I was gay, so that created a bit of a problem as far as that particular line was concerned. I think it was then suggested in another article that the answer might be that I was bisexual, so the press were trying to have it every possible way.

  • A feature of the press reporting -- there was copious use of photographs, namely of you, on the front pages of quite a few publications. The answer to this question is obvious, but what was the impact of that?

  • The impact of these photographs was that I was instantly recognisable. I suppose it would be fair to say that I had a distinctive appearance and it was as a result of the entire world, apparently, knowing what I looked like that it was suggested to me that really I ought to change my appearance so that I wouldn't be immediately recognised and potentially harassed by the media.

  • What you describe as the worst offending articles you list in paragraph 25 of your statement.

  • I'd just like to identify these, first of all to make it clear or to ask you whether these eight were the subject of proceedings in defamation brought by you in due course?

  • You tell us in paragraph 26 that ultimately -- there will be evidence in due course as to when that was -- you brought legal proceedings for libel against eight newspapers in relation to allegations contained in 40 articles. Now, we don't by any means have all 40.

  • No, this is a comparatively small selection, yes.

  • That is the defamation. There's an additional feature of this case, namely that the Attorney General brought proceedings for contempt in relation to three articles and these are the articles, if you go back to paragraph 25, which are numbered 4, 6 and 7. So to be clear, paragraph 4, an article in the Daily Mirror on 31 December, headlined:

    "Jo suspect is peeping tom."

    That was held in due course in July of this year to be a contempt of court.

  • I sincerely hope it is.

  • Yes, it's paragraph 4 of the Lord Chief Justice's --

  • The summaries that the Lord Chief Justice gives of each of these articles cannot, if I may say on so, be improved on. I'm not going to read them out, but seek to bring out the evidence economically in a different way.

    The next article which was deemed to be a contempt of court is number 6 in your list on paragraph 25:

    "Jo suspect scared kids -- obsessed by death."

    That's the Sun on new year's day, 1 January 2011. Then item 7:

    "Was killer waiting in Jo's flat?"

    Daily Mirror, 1 January 2011. Those are the three comments.

  • You draw attention to the headlines on some of the other articles and we have them available. If I just read out some of the headlines, making it clear that these are only -- I don't diminish it in that way -- the subject of successful libel action, not contempt of court. Item 1:

    "The strange Mr Jefferies."

    The Sun, 31 December.

    Item 2:

    "Murder police quiz 'nutty professor' with a blue rinse. Was Jo's body hidden next to her flat?"

    Daily Mail, 31 December 2010.

    Item 3:

    "The strange Mr Jefferies, creepy."

    Daily Record, 31 December.

    Then item 8 I'm going to come to separately, because a separate point arises there.

    You have provided in paragraph 28 extracts from -- or maybe the bullet points which could be derived from the articles to which you refer.

  • We have the articles themselves. It's probably not necessary to go through much of this, Mr Jefferies, but you'd probably like me to alight on a few highlights. Tell me, please, if there are any additional highlights.

  • The first article in paragraph 28 is the first page of the exhibit CJ1. I'm not going to ask for it to be put on the screen. The headline is:

    "The strange Mr Jefferies."

    Then there's a photograph of you which seems to be possibly of some antiquity, if I may say so.

  • Considerable antiquity, I think.

  • Apparently -- well, we can see from the next page: "weird", "strange talk, strange walk". You were described as "posh, loved culture and poetry". You probably do still love culture and poetry. "Lewd", "made sexual remarks" and "creepy". Then you are described -- you were branded "a creepy oddball" by ex-pupils.

  • If you love culture and poetry, does that make you posh?

  • No. Two separate propositions. I wasn't trying to make them --

  • You're described there as "very flamboyant", and then in the next sentence:

    "We were convinced he was gay."

    I'm not going to ask you to comment on that. But in that article, it also says:

    "He was fascinated by making lewd sexual remarks. It was really disturbing."

  • Extraordinary comment to make. I would imagine that had that been true, I would have instantly been dismissed.

  • Yes. The Daily Mirror article of 31 December, which is page 10 of this bundle. This was one of the articles the subject of contempt proceedings, the emblazoned headline:

    "Jo suspect is peeping Tom."

    Possibly a more recent photograph, but then there's the old photograph at the top right-hand side.

  • It appears to be linking you in some way to an old murder and to paedophile crimes.

  • The paedophile reference we referred to a few moments ago. I believe at one point the police were considering reopening an unsolved murder case of some 30 plus years earlier and considering whether there was any common DNA evidence between the two.

  • Yes. Another article in the Daily Mail -- this one is page 4, 31 December:

    "Was Jo's body hidden next to her flat?"

    In that article, it's said that you had an obsession Christina Rosetti --

  • If I have anything that could remotely be described as an obsession, it would be my dislike of Christina Rosetti, at least Christina Rosetti's verse. Certainly I never taught it and wouldn't dream of encouraging other people to read it.

  • Mr Jefferies, clearly I have never read it, as my ignorance of her name is demonstrated.

    If I move to page 19 another one of the articles which was the subject of contempt proceedings in the Sun on 1 January 2011. I think this one is one you're particularly concerned about. The headline is:

    "What do you think I am ... a pervert?"

  • Yes. This is the most extraordinary article. The episode that is described is one of which I have absolutely no knowledge. Certainly I was never involved in any such episode, any such event. Now, whether, to put the most charitable construction on it, the person who's described as the victim in this article, having seen me on television or in the media or whatever, genuinely believed that I was the same person who had harassed her I have absolutely no idea, or whether somebody was paid to say this or whether she voluntarily came forward wanting some sort of attention -- there's obviously no end to the speculation, but it is 100 per cent fabrication as far as I'm concerned.

  • Yes. The article is also objectionable in other respects because it refers to some sort of nickname which apparently was applied to you, probably entirely --

  • Of which I have no knowledge.

  • Yes. On the next page -- we're still in the Sun article. In our internal numbering, it's page 20. What is attributed to one of your students is that you apparently had an academic obsession with death and you were particularly fascinated by Victorian murder novel -- is that "The Moonstone"?

  • On one or two occasions, I did teach the Wilkie Collins novel "The Moonstone" and it is a Victorian novel, but it's not a murder novel. It's quite well-known as being the first significant detective novel in English.

  • Thank you, and then in the same bracket, as it were, what's described as "disturbing Holocaust documentary 'Night and Fog'", which, of course --

  • Which is an extremely important and extremely moving and in no way exploitative film. It's a documentary that Alain Resnais was asked to make by the Allied governments following the liberation of the concentration camps. It's probably one of the most important films made in the 20th century and a film which as many people as possible should be encouraged to see. It's perhaps worth noting that a number of years ago, when France experienced the desecration of a number of Jewish cemeteries, the French television channels entirely broke from their -- what they were televising and showed this particular film.

  • The final article which attracted contempt proceedings -- I merely refer to it but it does deserve to be bracketed with the other articles -- is at page 21, Daily Mirror, new year's day:

    "Was killer waiting in Jo's flat?"

    The suggestion being that it was or may have been you because you were nearby and equally, the suggestion is, well, you had the wherewithal.

  • Because I was the landlord, I had therefore keys to the flat. I must have been or quite possibly I was waiting there for her when she returned, yes.

  • The final article I'd like to refer to -- it is right to say that the material you draw to our attention is all equally important, but the same sort of defamatory and scandalous themes come out of each of them, with varying degrees of intensity, I suppose. We know that Mr Greg Reardon gave a public statement. This is paragraph 29 of your witness statement on new year's day. This was read out by Mr Sherborne when he opened the case but it's important to see how one publication -- one organ of the press, I should say -- how they reported on this statement.

    What the statement said is:

    "Jo's life was cut short tragically but the finger-pointing and character assassination by social and news media of as yet an innocent men has been shameful. It has made me lose a lot of faith in the morality of the British press and those who spend their time fixed to the Internet in this modern age."

    Then he asks for a more sensitive and impartial view.

    Go to page 25 of the exhibits bundle, CJ1. The way that that's reported in the Sunday Mirror is on the left-hand side. I've read it twice now, but I see no reference in that report to the important point Mr Reardon was making, "the finger-pointing and character assassination by social and news media of as yet an innocent man has been shameful".

  • They reported other things, but not that important statement.

  • That particular aspect of the statement was very largely ignored for, I suppose, obvious reasons.

  • You refer in paragraph 30 to this inaccurate reporting. So that we're clear about it, the exhibit bundle contains the Sunday Mirror. It doesn't contain the other two publications you refer to, so I haven't been, as it were, able to satisfy myself. I'm not doubting for one moment you're wrong, but the reporting --

  • You're not doubting that he's right.

  • I just haven't read it --

  • No, you said you're not doubting he's wrong. You're actually saying he's right.

  • I think the only reason that those particular newspapers are not in the bundle is that copies weren't readily available at the time that the photocopying was being compiled.

  • Yes, thank you. You've already told us, Mr Jefferies, about what happened in relation to your experiences after you were released, what must have been an extremely difficult time. You describe it in your own words as surreal, at least in part. On 4 March, I probably said earlier, the police lifted your bail conditions and you were no longer a suspect, but --

  • But certainly the couple of months immediately preceding that, while I was still under suspicion, without doubt, were the most difficult period I think I have spent, living this hole-in-corner existence and with my life, in effect, being in abeyance.

  • What happened then is that contempt proceedings were started by the Attorney General, and we know that judgment was handed down at the end of July of this year, but at about the same time, you commenced libel actions against eight separate publications.

  • I think the exact chronology is that letters before claim were sent on 28 April of in year. Does that sound about right?

  • That sounds about right, yes.

  • Is there anywhere listed the titles against which proceedings were commenced?

  • They include the eight listed in paragraph 25, but we don't have a list of all of them, Mr Jefferies; is that right?

  • All I ask is that at some stage -- I just want to know the names of the titles. I'm not asking --

  • There were eight titles -- eight newspapers, therefore -- which were the subject of legal proceedings, and those eight are indeed listed in the witness statement.

  • We have some separate evidence which covers this, which you've provided to us and I can provide the eight now. They're the Sun, the Daily Express, the Daily Mirror, the Daily Mail, the Scotsman, the Daily Record, the Star and the Sunday Mirror.

  • Unfortunately, that's nine.

  • So that we understand the sequence of events, did the newspapers contest the libel claims, Mr Jefferies?

  • How quickly did they admit the libel claim? Can you give us a sense of the chronology?

  • I suppose I don't need to remind those in this room that legal proceedings are never speedy, or rarely speedy, but I suppose we're talking about a period of three months or so between the original letters being sent out and an agreement as to settlement being arrived at.

  • We know there was a statement in open court on 29 July of this year.

  • The newspapers admitted liability, gave the standard apologies on these occasions --

  • -- and agreed to pay you substantial damages.

  • So in that three-month period, following, presumably, quite early admissions of liability -- we needn't go into the details -- there were discussions between your legal advisers and the eight newspapers as to the amount of damages?

  • I'm not going to give evidence, but I think in the experience we have of defamation, that is pretty fast, Mr Jefferies, but whether that observation --

  • Yes, obviously I have no other experience of bringing defamation proceedings.

  • No, I'm sure you haven't. I be sincerely hope you have no future experience of it either. Thank you.

    You tell us in your witness statement that there was one interview you gave and that was to the Financial Times, Mr Brian Cathcart.

  • Indeed, Professor Brian Cathcart.

  • Pardon me, you're absolutely right. His article is in our bundle CJ1 at page 27.

  • It was published in the Financial Times on 8 October 2011. This followed an interview with you; is that right, Mr Jefferies?

  • That's right, yes. I think that Professor Cathcart does a particularly good job in distilling the essence of the allegations that were made in the various newspapers.

    If I could just take the opportunity to draw people's attention to one particular part of that article, which is page 31 of the bundle --

  • -- and page 5 of the article itself, in which he says:

    "This hostile evidence was founded almost entirely on unnamed witnesses, with some of the most contentious quotations reproduced in several papers. The careful reader who relied only on quotes from people who were identified by name would probably have seen a very different picture."

    He then lists one or two of those and goes on to say:

    "They described in various papers, although usually towards the end of articles, a man who was a dedicated teacher, a responsible landlord and an active member of his community. Several expressed amazement at his arrest or downright disbelief at the idea of his killing anyone. Put these together with some readily available facts and it would have been possible to flip the picture entirely."

    And it continues to the end of the paragraph.

  • But ending:

    "... but editors did not give prominence to that interpretation."

  • Another flight of understatement. There was absolutely no reference to that interpretation.

  • Some of the facts were in fact reported, weren't they?

  • Some of the positive facts were reported?

  • Yes, that's entirely true. But it is, I think, incontestable that the whole slanting of the reporting was intended to be as sensational, as exploitative, as titillating and to appeal in every possible way to people's voyeuristic instincts.

  • It's worse than that, because besides doing that, it was creating a picture of you which was extremely damaging and potentially abusive to any proceedings.

  • Besides being entirely false.

  • Is that to date the only interview you've given, Mr Jefferies?

  • No. I did give an interview for ITN News. One of the reasons that I gave that was that the interviewer happened to be somebody whom at one stage I taught.

  • Thank you. In terms of the legal process, the contempt proceedings have been determined. There's ongoing litigation against the police.

    May I deal with the issue of the Press Complaints Commission?

  • You tell us in paragraph 47 that one of your relatives was so concerned about the press hounding that she contacted the PCC. Were you involved ultimately in correspondence with the PCC?

  • Yes, I was, because on 2 August this year, the director of the Press Complaints Commission wrote to my solicitor indicating that the PCC would now wish to examine -- I'm quoting from the letter -- how the problems within the newspapers arose and what could be done in future in order to prevent recurrence. I offered to write a reply to the Press Complaints Commission, which I duly did on 10 August, and that letter is part of the bundle.

  • Maybe you should read it out in full, Mr Jefferies. We have a transcript which is at the very end of our tab 1 bundle we have caused to be prepared for you. It's addressed to the director of the PCC.

  • Could you read it all out, beginning with the second paragraph:

    "It may well be that ..."

  • Yes:

    "It may well be that had I chosen to make representations to the PCC concerning my treatment by the press over the new year period, they would have found in my favour. However, such redress as you are able to provide would have been wholly inadequate as a remedy for the wrongs committed. You have no powers to fine newspapers, nor to order them to make financial compensation to their victims, and it is, to my mind, entirely improper that those against whom complaints are being made -- in this case, newspaper editors -- should be in the position of assessing the validity of those complaints. It is no wonder that the PCC is held in such low esteem. Indeed, I would suggest that the shocking and reckless irresponsibility displayed by sections of the media is in part attributable to the failure of the current regulatory system and the weakness of the voluntary code of practice. I was startled to hear the editor of the Scotsman, one of the papers sued by me for libel and himself a member of the PCC, describe his paper's coverage of my arrest as a mistake. Plainly that was the case, but the word does not begin to describe the journalistic failures which allowed the dissemination of allegations, suggestions and innuendos that were entirely untrue. Unless a regulatory body is in possession of powers so severe that they act as a genuine deterrent, there seems little prospect of any real reform in press standards. The sacred cow of press freedom has been allowed to excuse licence, irresponsibility and, in the coverage of my case, flagrant lawlessness. As things stand, it seems that newspapers, in the search for sensation and increased sales, will take almost any risks, knowing that the penalties available are unlikely seriously to hurt them. That has nothing whatever to do with public service journalism. If the PCC wishes to show itself at all concerned to uphold the standards of responsible journalism, it will publish a strongly worded statement welcoming the Attorney General's prosecution of the Sun and the Daily Mirror for contempt of court and condemning the libellous and scurrilous reporting that accompanied the arrest of an innocent man."

    It may be worth adding that I didn't actually receive an acknowledgment.

  • Thank you, Mr Jefferies.

  • Do you know whether anything was in fact published by the PCC?

  • I am not aware of anything published by the PCC.

  • I don't believe there was, but we will check.

  • We've heard, in relation to some evidence we heard last week, that there were front-page apologies in the case of the McCanns, of course. Were there apologies in any of the eight or nine newspapers --

  • There were indeed apologies printed, although not front page apologies. My memory is that they were printed on page 2, towards the top of the page.

  • Did you receive any communication from the editors of any of those papers or --

  • No communication whatsoever, no.

    Perhaps there is just one other thing I could say at this stage. Obviously we are -- we have been concerned so far with tabloid titles, but there was some concern about the coverage of my arrest in at least one of the broadsheet titles. I don't intend to refer to that specifically, but I am aware that quite a large number of people wrote to that particular newspaper to complain about its coverage of my arrest because they got in touch with me and in some cases sent me copies of their letters. None of those letters were published in that broadsheet and there was no response to those letters, even when one of their own columnists brought the attention of those letters to one of the editors.

  • Deal with the impact on you, particularly in the context of the libel and the overall context.

    Because by the time the libel actions were settled -- indeed, before then -- it was conclusively established that you were not guilty of the murder of Joanna Yeates because someone else was. At that stage the someone else, who of course has now been convicted, the possibilities were only murder or manslaughter, but his involvement was definitively established.

  • We also know that you received substantial libel damages. Do you feel --

  • If I could just interrupt you for one moment, it wasn't just a question of it being conclusively established that I had been in no way implicated in the murder of Joanna Yeates. It was also accepted, for example, that I had never behaved improperly towards any pupil at any stage in my career, which obviously had been part of the defamatory allegations.

  • Indeed. Do you feel that the existing system which enables you to bring proceedings for libel, that system has effectively cleared your reputation or reinstated your reputation?

  • Certainly so far as those specific original allegations are concerned, but when coverage is so widespread, as it was in my case, and the smears were so extensive then I suppose it's true to say that there will always be people who don't know me, people who don't know anybody that I know, who will retain the impression that I am some sort of very weird character indeed, who is probably best avoided, even if they were not guilty of those specific criminal activities.

  • In terms of the funding of the libel actions, we're naturally aware that these proceedings are capable of being extremely expensive.

  • You obtained the services of solicitors on a conditional fee agreement?

  • Indeed, yes, without which it would really not have been possible to bring the actions.

  • In terms of the longer term -- this is paragraph 57, Mr Jefferies -- you say this:

    "I will never fully recover from the events of last year. The incalculable effect of what was written about me by these highly influential tabloid newspapers is something from which it would be difficult ever to escape. The purpose of my agreeing to give this statement is that I hope it may prevent the same fate befalling someone else."

  • Does that remain the position?

  • Indeed it does, and I very much hope that as a result of the present Inquiry, it will be possible to put in place arrangements whereby it will be very difficult indeed for newspapers to behave in the future in the way in which they behaved in my case.

  • I've been asked to put this question to you by another core participant. Do you follow me, Mr Jefferies?

  • It's this: do you recall if anyone on your behalf offered to sell your exclusive story to any newspaper?

  • I certainly have an agent who is in contact with all those media organisations who are interested in what happened to me. As you will appreciate, there are a very large number of contacts which were made following my release from custody and it certainly would not have been possible for me to deal myself with all those approaches, and I have left it entirely up to him to deal with those approaches as he feels fit, or indeed to approach any organisations, should he so see it as being fit on my behalf.

  • In terms of the timing, might that have been as early as February of this year?

  • Certainly he was acting on my behalf in February of this year, yes.

  • Mr Jefferies, I have no further questions for you, save to reserve and thank you for the way in which you've given your evidence.

  • Thank you very much. I would be grateful if you would supply me with a copy of the broadsheet newspaper article to which you've referred. I'm not asking you to go into further detail, but I'd just like to see it.

    I repeat my thanks to you for the reasons that I gave as you started your evidence.

  • Thank you very much indeed.

  • Right. That's a convenient moment to have five minutes and some of the things that we've spoken about this morning prior to Mr Jefferies' evidence could be thought about. Thank you. Five minutes.

  • (A short break)

  • I apologise for not keeping to my own timetable. I'm concerned to put into place the relevant orders and requirements and to find out what effect they have before further considering Mr Caplan's point.

  • Thank you. The next witness, sir, is Mr Ian Hurst, please.

  • Right.

    It may be that when we've finished this witness and the next witness, we'll have a break so that we can resolve all these other matters.