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

  • MS CHARLOTTE MARIA CHURCH (sworn).

  • Please sit down and make yourself as comfortable as you can in the context of this rather unusual environment.

  • I don't pretend it's necessarily easy, but I'm very grateful to you for volunteering to do this. You've probably heard me say to others that I think it's very important that we hear everybody's perception of what's going on. I know it's difficult because you're talking about things that, by definition, you don't want broadcast around the world, or even anywhere, so I'm grateful to you for coming to do it. Thank you very much.

  • Could you state your full name?

  • You have provided a witness statement to the Inquiry. Could you confirm that the contents of it are true to the best of your knowledge and belief?

  • If you just wait there, I understand that Mr Sherborne, your barrister, wishes to ask you a few questions.

  • Thank you. I think I'm part of the unusual agreement.

  • I'll agree with that, Mr Sherborne.

  • The chairman described it as an unusual environment. Can I ask you: have you ever given evidence before.

  • So I think the next question that must follow from that is: why have you agreed to come and give evidence to the Inquiry?

  • I've agreed to be here today basically because I think that the things that I went through when I was younger were -- when I was quite young, I was a minor -- it was from when I was 12 years old and therefore I kind of wanted to show through my experiences how I think it's imperative that children are protected. Also, after becoming a mother myself of two young children, I really want to be able to protect my children in the future as much as possible and their privacy is their right.

    And also just in terms of my family, who have had to deal with this for years and years, and who are very happy for me to be speaking here at this Inquiry today.

  • Thank you. We've heard from a number of witnesses who have already given evidence about various particularly intrusive practices, such as being doorstepped, stalked or followed wherever they go. Are these practices which are familiar in your experience?

  • Absolutely. All of them.

  • I know you're going to be asked some specific questions about that in due course by Ms Patry Hoskins so I'm not going to ask you now, but in general terms, can you just explain what the impact that has on you and your family?

  • Well, obviously a massive impact. It infiltrates your everyday life to the point where, even nowadays, when I'm not doing too much, they'll follow we quite regularly wherever I go, whether it be shopping, taking my children to nursery, even though I expressly asked them not to take photographs when I'm with my children at nursery because therefore -- I don't want the nursery -- I don't want people to know where it is, et cetera. But I mean, it's just everywhere. I think there is kind of a shadow network where everybody is infiltrated, in terms of hotel concierge, restaurants who will tip off journalists or paparazzi, the airlines, everywhere -- I haven't been on a holiday since I was 16 where I haven't been found and photographed, and much of that, I believe, was bought information because I can't -- if I haven't even been followed to the airport, there have been no paparazzi at the airport, I can't really see how else it could have come about.

  • Those holidays, do they include holidays with your children as well?

  • Finally, we've heard from a number of editors and newspaper representatives that the practices, the culture that we've been hearing about this week, belongs to a bygone era and that things are much better now. In your experience, is that correct?

  • I'm sure you'll be asked a lot about it. I'll leave you with that. Thank you very much.

  • Thank you very much. Can I just have one word with the technician. Can we have up, please, document 33122, which is the first page of Ms Church's witness statement.

  • Oh, is it? I can't see, you see.

    Let's start with introductions. I'm sure that you need no introduction, but by way of summary, I'm going to read out parts of paragraph 3 of your statement.

  • You started your professional life as a singer when you were just 11 years old and you explain that through numerous TV and radio appearances you became an internationally recognised musical success, going from a typical school girl to a bankable commodity in less than a year.

  • You were marketed by an aggressive record company campaign and you were branded "The voice of an angel" before you were even 12 years old, and you explain that little did you know as a 12-year-old that this description would be used and distorted repeatedly to mock you in catchy tabloid headlines.

    I'm going to cover a number of issues with you this afternoon, Ms Church. I'm going to deal with them in this order. First I'm going to ask you about press intrusion, then about false and fabricated stories and then I'm going to ask you about the action that you've taken against the press in the past.

  • Finally, I'll let you say whatever you want at the end if there's anything that you'd like to add. Let's start with press intrusion into your life, please. I want to start with the early days while you were still a child.

    You've explained you started life as a singer age 11. Did you have media scrutiny right from the start?

  • I wouldn't say it was right from the start. There was definitely a massive amount of interest right from the start, which was generally always positive because I didn't have any skeletons or anything when I was 12, et cetera, and they kind of treated me with kid gloves because I was so young. So it wasn't necessarily right from the start. There was a lot of press intrusion in terms of, you know, they were always at my school and things like that, taking photographs of me going to school, but at that time it didn't feel that intrusive, and it was all rather new and exciting and totally different to the life I had previously lived.

  • Yes. When did that start to change then?

  • It started to change probably when I was around 14.

  • What changes did you notice?

  • Just people were more willing to be negative. It just got a bit more intrusive, really. That's all I can kind of categorise it with, but also there was a lot of articles at that time which were not necessarily accurate and a little -- and, you know, just really negative in general.

  • Can I ask you about one particular incident which took place when you were 13 years old. It's at paragraph 7 of your statement. I'll read you a couple of lines and if I could ask you then to just explain and elaborate a bit further. You say when you were 13, you were asked to perform at Rupert Murdoch's wedding in New York. When it came to the payment for your work, your management at the time informed you that either there would be a £100,000 fee, which is, you say, the biggest fee you'd ever been offered, or, if the fee for your performance was waived, you would be looked upon favourably by Mr Murdoch's papers.

  • You explain that despite your own reluctance to agree to anything other than the £100,000 fee, you were convinced into taking the latter option?

  • Can I just ask you about this, because News International have denied that this offer was ever made to you at this time. Can you tell the Inquiry as much as you remember about that particular incident?

  • Well, I remember being told that Rupert Murdoch had asked me to sing at his wedding to entertain and it would take place on his yacht in New York, and I remember being told that -- you know, the offer of money or the offer of the favour in order to basically get good press, to be looked upon favourably, as I said in the statement, and I also remember being 13 and thinking: "Why on earth would anybody take a favour or £100,000?" and you know, me and my mother being quite resolute on this point, that the £100,000 was definitely the best option, but being advised by management and by certain members of the record company to take the latter option, that he was a very, very powerful man, I was in the early stages of my career and could absolutely do with a favour of this magnitude.

    Basically, he flew us in on his private jet from LA to New York, which was amazing, and then we went on to his boat, which had a grand piano on it, which I was amazed by, and, yeah, I sang at the ceremony.

  • Can I ask you this: News International say that the fact that you sang at his wedding was in fact a surprise to Rupert Murdoch. It was arranged secretly as a surprise for his wedding.

  • And that therefore he could not possibly have known about this alleged deal, this favour. Is there anything you'd like to say about that?

  • Well, I had been told by my management that he had specifically asked for me to sing "Pie Jesu", and when I raised to my management the point that "Pie Jesu" was actually a requiem, which is a funeral song and does he really want a funeral song at his wedding, and there had been other the correspondence went back and forth and he said he didn't care whether it was a funeral song, he liked that song and he wanted me to sing it, which I did.

  • So when you are told that he didn't know you were going to sing, that it was a surprise, is that something that accords with your recollection?

  • No. Not in the slightest.

  • Okay. Can I ask you to turn now to paragraph 23 of your statement. We're still back sort of in the early days. You explain the intense scrutiny. At the beginning of paragraph 23 you say:

    "As I went through my teens, the tabloids increased their interest in me, and whether it was smoking, going out, putting on weight, their scrutiny was intense."

    Then you tell us about a distasteful feature on the Sun website featuring a countdown clock. Can you tell us about that in your own words, please?

  • Okay, when maybe you think about this, I'd kind of like to remove myself from the situation and maybe for people in this room to think about whether it be their children or their grandchildren and just that -- you know, I was 16 and, you know, after seeing this and after my whole family seeing this, just being totally appalled. You know, I was really, really severely uncomfortable with any kind of innuendo like that, you know, let alone from kind of people my own age possibly, but never mind kind of journalists or newspapers as a whole.

  • Can I just go back, just for those of us who don't have the statement necessarily --

  • -- as to what the feature was about?

  • So basically it was on the Sun's website and it was a countdown clock, which -- I can't remember exactly how long it ran for but it ran for, I think, maybe more than a month, a countdown clock to my 16th birthday, basically with it the innuendo of the age of my passing of consent, where basically I could have sex and it was kind of a countdown until that date, which was a little bizarre.

  • Do you remember seeing it at the time?

  • How did it make you feel?

  • Just horrible. You know, I was a 16-year-old girl and I was just really uncomfortable with it in general.

  • I'm going to move on to a period when you were aged between 16 and 20, if I can. Paragraph 24, just the next paragraph from where we were, you say this:

    "From the ages of 16 to 20, I had to endure the worst excesses of the press."

    You then set out a number of ways in which the media intruded on your life. At times, you had photographers stationed 24/7 by your door:

    "On one occasion, my manager found that a reporter had cut holes in a shrub on my property and installed a secret camera near to the entrance to my home so as to track and document my movements."

  • How did you find out about that?

  • Basically my manager just came to me and said that he'd found a camera or evidence of a camera, and basically that there was a -- something cut out of the hedge, a little circle cut out of the hedge, and there was really no other person in the world who would kind of do that other than the press. And you know, they'd often -- in previous properties, they'd cut holes in other people's property, in, you know, kind of the shrubbery or the hedges, in order to be able to get the right actual of my house that they wanted. So it had happened before, but not quite so dramatically.

  • Did you ever find out who was responsible for that?

  • You go on to say:

    "I've been repeatedly chased in my car and had photographers force open doors to try and photograph me. When attending public events, I had to suffer the indignity of paparazzi trying to take photographs up my skirt and down my top. Photographs of my homes were printed so that the security of my family was compromised."

    I'll come on to the rest of the paragraph in a moment. You explained to Mr Sherborne earlier how this all made you feel, but can you tell us how regularly was this occurring during this period? Was it every time you went out? Was it occasionally?

  • It's difficult to say because at different times there were different levels of interest. If there has been a story that has just come out, then there's a massive level of interest. Obviously I live in Cardiff, I don't live in London, so a lot of photographers would have to travel, although there are a lot of freelance photographers in Cardiff as well. So I mean generally -- generally, from 16 to 18, there was at least one photographer there most days, and by "most days", maybe five out of seven days in a week. If there was a story that had just broken or anything like that, then they would literally be there all the time and there would be a lot of them. Maybe, you know, six to eight, possibly. Yeah, so it was -- it was really, really intense.

    And then of course, when you get to a situation where if you're out in public and they're trying to take photos -- you know, those are really indecent photos that they're trying to get because, you know, at the time it was all the rage to take these photos and expose these celebrities for whatever it might be -- their cellulite, I'm not really sure -- but it was once again just a really unpleasant experience, yeah, and something I hope I don't really have to go through again.

  • Can I ask you about paragraph 256 your statement. We're still in the period between the age of 16 and 20. You explain that when you became pregnant with your first child, the Sun printed an article, which is headlined "Church sober shock", headed as an exclusive. The article reported that you were not drinking or smoking and had put on a bit of weight and that this had caused rumours that you were pregnant.

  • You recall that. You say:

    "At the time of the article, I was in my first trimester, the most sensitive time in a pregnancy and even my parents didn't know I was pregnant."

    Then you say this in brackets:

    "The source, never cited, was probably a hacked voicemail message from my doctor or via other surveillance."

    The question I've been asked to put to you is: do you have any evidence that that information was obtained because your phone was hacked?

  • I don't have any particular evidence of that. I have evidence that my phone was hacked, obviously, as a lot of other people giving evidence to this Inquiry do, but I didn't tell anybody. I hadn't told anybody apart from when I'd gone to have my initial scan, so I just -- I just can't see that it came from any other area.

  • That's what I was going to ask you. Who knew? You say your parents didn't even know you were pregnant. You knew?

  • Do you have any evidence that you may have been subject to surveillance, that the information might have been obtained by surveillance?

  • Once again, no evidence, just -- just, you know, probable actions of what were the kind of things that I knew they would -- they were up to at the time.

  • You explain that you explained to the PCC about this article. I'll come back to your experiences with the PCC later on, but you tell us that your complaint was upheld but that given the article had been published, that was no good to you?

  • Absolutely. My family --

  • Tell about me bit about that?

  • My family were really upset that, you know, I hadn't told them first and it had come out in this way and the one thing I do say in my statement -- I mean, surely it's any woman's right to tell her family or her loved ones, when she feels the time is appropriate, that she's pregnant and it was my news to tell and that opportunity was taken away from me, and luckily, I went on to give birth to a healthy child, but if I would have had any complications, then once again, it would have been something that -- you know, it should have been left to me to have been able to tell people, et cetera. So yeah, the PCC complaint was upheld, but what does that mean? There was a small retraction and I just -- I just didn't think that it could deter any other paper from doing the same in the future.

  • Can I ask you about the small correction that appeared. Can you remember anything about that correction or apology that appeared?

  • No, I can't remember anything about it.

  • Just for the sake of completeness, I'd like us to look together, please, at what the Sun said about why they had published this article.

  • If you look in your exhibits -- for the sake of the technician it's document 33143 -- you should have it in the little exhibit cc1 after your statement. It should say 33143 at the bottom, or page 8 as well it says. Do you have it?

  • Fantastic. We can see from the top of the page that you're the complainant and the publication you're complaining about is the Sun. You explain that you complained to the Press Complaints Commission about this article, "Baby rumours for sober Church". We can see from the third paragraph down, the one that starts "Mr Milton said" -- do you see that?

  • "... that the newspaper had told your PR agent that it had received firm information that you were pregnant. The newspaper was told in response that such information was private and would not be commented on and that they in fact told the newspaper that you were not more than 12 weeks pregnant and that no statement would be made until after the 12-week scan, and in spite of this, the newspaper published an article referring to rumours about a pregnancy."

  • Does that confirm your recollection of events?

  • The newspaper's response was that it had merely reported speculation to that effect.

  • Yes, that's absolutely right. For the sake of completeness, if we look at what the Commission says other the page:

    "The Commission has recently made clear that newspapers should not reveal the fact of someone's pregnancy before the 12 week scan without consent and when the information is not known to any significant degree. The newspaper's defence in this case was that it had merely reported rumours that the complaint was pregnant because of a change in her behaviour, but the newspaper had provided no evidence of any rumours and had not denied that it had known for a fact that she was pregnant when it published the piece. In these circumstances, it seemed to the Commission that the newspaper had simply tried to circumvent the privacy provisions of the code by representing the story as speculation. This was not acceptable within the spirit of the code. The complaint was unheld."

    So we'll see, sir, that the PCC took a view as to what the newspaper was in fact saying.

  • Still on the subject of press intrusion, please, Ms Church, I'd like to come back to press intrusion which you considered put your life at risk. In that respect, let's look back at paragraph 24, which I said I'd come back to. The second half of paragraph 24.

    This is the incident where photographs of your house were printed and also, on one occasion, a threat to kidnap you was published in the News of the World. Can you just tell us a bit about that?

  • A lot of this -- a lot of this information kind of about any kind of kidnap stuff or really, really obsessive fans was kind of kept from me in order to try and protect me and my sanity, but the News of the World deemed it acceptable to publish that there was a kidnap plot and when I became aware of this story, asked the publication not to print in any terms where I lived. It was quite well-known that I lived in Cardiff but, you know, due to the recent threats, not to publish where I lived, but they did, and -- I can't remember exactly what it said, but it was basically: "She lives in Pontcanna, round the corner from her parents' hotel", or words to that effect. It was really quite exact.

  • Sir, those documents are in exhibit cc2 but they will not be published on the website for obvious reasons.

  • If you wanted to see the exact words used, you can see them there.

    Thank you very much. Can I ask you now, still on press intrusion, about the impact on others, and in this respect I'd like us to look at paragraphs 26 onwards of this statement. You preface these paragraphs by saying this:

    "Whilst the coverage about me could be hurtful, it has been the coverage about my parents that has been particularly painful to deal with. The events I am about to describe include: blackmail, bribery, phone interception, innuendo and most importantly, the invasion of the privacy of private, non-public people. To my mind, it reveals the tabloids at their very worst."

    Then you refer to an article dated 11 December 2005 in the News of the World which reported that your father was having an affair. Again, I'm not going to put those documents back in the public domain by publishing them on the website, but can you tell us a bit about that particular article?

  • Absolutely. On 11 December, as you said, the News of the World reported that my father was having an affair.

  • Can I pause there. Had you received any prior notification that that article was going to be published?

  • Yes. I'm not sure whether it was -- we were given knowledge of this article being published because -- to comment on it or just -- I'm not really sure how it came about, and I don't know if they were even asked for their comment, I'm just not sure. But yeah, it was 11 December and the News of the World reported my father was having an affair, which he was, and the article -- the front page headline was:

    "Church's three in a bed cocaine shock."

    With my picture beside it, which -- obviously, if you hadn't bought the publication and read the entire story, you could have made your own assumptions, which would have been entirely wrong.

  • Yes, and the first line of the article which -- after going back to a lot of the articles, actually, that I put into this bundle, I think maybe I've just kind of blanked out just quite how bad they were but I just want to read out the first line of the article, which was:

    "Superstar Charlotte Church's mum tried to kill herself because her husband is a love rat hooked on cocaine and three-in-a-bed orgies."

    You can imagine what followed it, in true News of the World style. It was basically just totally sensationalised, and whether partially or wholly true, I just really hated the fact that my parents, who had never been in this industry apart from in looking after me, were being exposed and vilified in this fashion. It was just had a massive, massive impact on my family life, on my mother's health, which the News of the World had reported on before then, on her mental health state and her hospital treatment, which we also think the only way they could have known about that hospital treatment, et cetera, was either through the hacking or possibly through the bribing of hospital staff, et cetera. So they knew how vulnerable she was and still printed this story, which was horrific. And I just -- I can't think of any justification for printing a story like that.

  • That was going to be my question. Perhaps the answer to it is obvious, but can you see any public interest in publishing a story about the fact that your father, not you, had had an affair?

  • I see no interest -- no public interest at all that it serves, other than to sell papers.

  • Okay. Can I unpick what you said after that about your mother's health? You say in your statement your mother's a vulnerable person. Shortly before the publication of this story, she'd actually been admitted to hospital after an attempted suicide. This was in part due to the fact, you say, that she was aware that this story was coming out?

  • Yes, at least in part. Just because, as I go on later to say, it's totally different -- you know, the way that a lot of newspapers explain this type of behaviour is that, you know: well, the truth should out and the family have a right to know. Well, yes, possibly the family have a right to know, but you know, everybody else doesn't have a right to know and lots of couples have to deal with situations like this between themselves, as ordinary normal people do, but having to deal with it on this scale, with your -- in terms of my mother, with her mother and father, her elderly mother and father having to go through all of this, my nana having to go to church on a Sunday and listen to people's comments, et cetera, is just unacceptable.

  • What was the impact of that whole story on you?

  • The story had a massive impact on me, obviously nowhere near as much as the impact on my mother, but it's totally unnatural for a daughter to know that about their parents, and -- yeah, it had a massive psychological effect on me, which -- you know, obviously we've all managed to come through it because there is -- you know, there's really no other option. It's not like you can go to the PCC and kind of have something there or get something back or -- you know, so you've just got to get on with it, really.

  • Before we leave the topic of press intrusion, let me ask you about some of the common arguments that you hear rehearsed, what I call the whingeing celebrity arguments. First of all, can I start from this point: do you accept that someone who is in the public eye, who is famous, will necessarily attract a certain level of media interest?

  • Yes, I totally accept that.

  • It's been said -- and you agree, you accept this in your statement -- that you yourself have, on occasion, gone to speak to magazines such as Hello and OK and received a fee presumably for those interviews.

  • Does that, in your view, the fact that you've done that, mean that you deserve a higher level of media interest?

  • Categorically no, but then also to expand upon that point is that -- I think -- I wrote some little bits of points down. Basically, there is no rule book for dealing with the tabloid press and I tried lots of different approaches of how to deal with it. Sometimes I've not given interviews, hidden myself away at home, even done my food shopping on the Internet so as not to go out and be photographed and be written about, and generally the way that that was counteracted was by -- that they made up stories and used old photographs.

    So with OK and Hello, I tried something different, to see whether that would work, because they were obviously insatiable for information and new photos, et cetera, but I think -- I think those particular articles need to be seen in context with what I was going through at the time. So basically, I was pregnant with my first child. I was having a home birth. Whilst I'm giving birth to my first child at my house, I'm well aware that there are six photographers outside my house who are waiting, waiting for those first pictures, and by signing an exclusive deal, I took the value of those paparazzi pictures away.

    At this point, I'd lived with the paparazzi for a while. I knew the tactics they used. I knew it wasn't always safe. I knew there were car chases, et cetera, involved, especially because there's a large number of them, therefore they're all fighting for which one gets its first and the best picture, and I didn't want to subject my tiny newborn children to that.

    There's also something to be said where they do take nice photos and they actually print what you say, which I haven't found in a lot of tabloid interviews and things that I've done, or whether they've been interviews or not, and basically my decision was based upon the fact that photographs of my children would have been taken anyway, with or without my consent, and this was the lesser of two evils. So basically it's kind of a no-win situation.

    I'd also like it to be noted that any money that I earned from those type of things I gave to charity.

  • Another myth is that you need the press as much as they need you. In that respect, look at paragraph 6 of your statement, where you say this:

    "It's often argued that as someone in the public eye, I need the media and that intrusions into my private life and the negative coverage are and always have been a fair trade off for success, that I need the press just as much as they need me. However, I cannot see how this is actually the case."

    And you say as a singer, a newspaper in particular is a very bad medium for promoting my work. Why is it a very bad medium?

  • Well, when I was a young girl especially, basically it was kind of a commodity. It was that I was this really small girl with this big operatic voice and therefore you kind of needed to see it. You know, it was quite a visual and audio thing at the same time, which obviously a newspaper cannot give. So I think at the very start of my career, and generally as a singer or a musician, it's not that much of a great medium for your work. TV and radio are much more important. As a TV presenter, definitely you need the press more than -- as a musician. You know, they definitely do aid people and encourage people to watch your shows when they're on, et cetera, so ...

  • I understand. You then say, same paragraph:

    "I have interacted with the media on a number of occasions, as is required of any signed recording artist."

    Can I ask you a bit about that?

  • It's not even necessarily just a signed recording artist. If you have a new show on television, if you have a book or, you know, kind of whatever, generally it's -- you're signed to a company, whether it be a book company or TV company, and therefore you are contractually obliged to promote that product. So maybe a lot of the decisions that were made by the promotion staff, whether in the record company at the time or the TV company, wouldn't have been the publications I would have necessarily gone for but you have a contractual obligation.

  • I understand. So in a nutshell, you've interacted with the press on a number of occasions because you were obliged to do so?

  • I was obliged to do so and also because I didn't really have any formal training from when I was 12, and generally whenever asked a question, just told the truth, and sometimes, you know, you get yourself into a conversation with a journalist and you just tell the truth and I kind of started to -- journalists started to know that you can ask her anything and she's going to let you know. She's not going to kind of hide or -- hopefully, I haven't been hypocritical ever. So I do think that that has -- that has, you know, throughout my -- throughout my life been something, that I may have been too honest in interviews and therefore they felt that they had more of a claim on me. But then also, because it was since I was 12 and everybody felt like they'd grown up with me, maybe they felt that they had some sort of ownership.

  • I said I'd move on after press intrusion to phone hacking and other unlawful means. In that respect, look at paragraph 28 of your statement to remind yourself of what you said in that respect. You say it's been revealed to you that the police have substantial information demonstrating that your phone messages and those close to you were intercepted and monitored by Glenn Mulcaire, who you understand was contracted to News of the World.

    When did you first find out that your phone may have been hacked?

  • Crikey. I can't -- I can't remember. Earlier this year.

  • I'm sorry, I'm not doing very well on this point.

  • How did we find out? I think we were contacted by the police. Yeah, we were contacted by the police, who showed us all of the photocopied notes of Glenn Mulcaire's notebook, which in turn had passwords and PIN numbers and phone numbers of lots of people in my life, my mother and my father, me, their friends, my friends, old boyfriends' numbers. Yeah, it was quite substantial.

  • I understand. You say the information you've seen relates to 2003, 2005 and 2006. You refer to the things that you've just had -- names, numbers, notes, addresses, PIN numbers and so on -- and you say that the earliest information revealed you were hacked when you were just 17.

  • How did you feel when you found out that you'd been the subject of phone hacking?

  • I mean, even though we, as a family, felt that the press had always used some dreadful tactics in order to get a story, it was still -- it was still quite bemusing, and especially that -- when I was younger, I remember having a big group of girlfriends and the more and more that was leaked that I just thought: "I don't understand how this is getting out", the more I kind of cut people out of my life simply as to reduce the amount of people that I spent time with, to hopefully not have quite so many leaks, and so then to find out that, you know, they were hacked and you'd accused these people -- you know, you're left with a feeling of guilt then, which I just -- you know, it wasn't my fault, but for accusing those people who are closest to you. When I first gave birth to my daughter, Ruby, I wanted to keep it secret for about a week just so I could have some time with my newborn baby, and it was in the papers within about two days. You know, her time of birth, her place of birth, her name, and I remember saying to my mum, you know: "It must be you, it must be one of our family", and her being really upset and in turn going to all of our family and having big arguments, et cetera, when in fact that could have entirely been down to hacking as well.

    So, yeah, it's been a little bit confusing at that time times.

  • I understand. This is not the only experience you've had of being contacted by the police and by Scotland Yard in relation to private detectives. You tell us in paragraph 29 that the when you were 19 you were contacted by the police in relation to Operation Motorman.

  • Do you remember much about that?

  • I do, actually. I remember being in my mother's house, because she said she'd been contacted by them and I should come over, and they brought a massive, massive black book, which was just full of information, and it -- there seemed to be much more information in the stuff that I saw when I was 19 than kind of Glenn Mulcaire's notes, et cetera. It was comprehensive. They just had everything.

  • Information about you?

  • Yeah, information about me, information about my friends, family members, criminal records, DVLA records, you know, mobile numbers and house numbers and just all sorts. I was just -- we were just completely taken aback, to be honest.

  • You say in your statement this: that one of the pieces of information that book contained was transcripts of telephone calls. Are you sure about that?

  • This is -- this is something that my dad seemed to recall more so. I just remember there just being a massive amount of information. I couldn't swear to that there was definitely transcripts of telephone calls. I remember there being something to do with like live interception phone calls, but what is memory? Flawed.

  • Fair enough. You go on to say in the next paragraph that both the phone hacking and Operation Motorman material also contained information about previous boyfriends of yours and you explain that you've been unable to experience the highs and lows of relationships like any normal person without unwanted attention and it seems illegal surveillance. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

  • Well, basically a lot of their telephone numbers were on the Glenn Mulcaire notes, so I should imagine -- it's hard to know the extent of it because you just don't know, looking back. But yeah -- I mean, basically there was always paparazzi around, there was always journalists about in the places that we go, trying to speak to my friends, offer friends -- or if not friends, then at least people on the outer circle of the people that you know -- money in order to talk or give a quote or what not.

    And yeah, basically my first boyfriend sold a story on me when I was 17 and that was pretty dreadful, and I just remember thinking: "Why is it okay that an editor or somebody senior in a newspaper could pay an employed boy from Cardiff tens of thousands of pounds to reveal intimate sexual details about another 17-year-old girl?" I just couldn't quite get my head around that.

    It happened again when I was 19, a pretty much similar case. Yeah, but to me that again just made me think of my grandmother having to just -- it's just stuff that you shouldn't know about your other family members and you unfortunately are exposed to.

  • I'm now going to turn to false and fabricated stories, if I can. I know that you've given us a large number of examples of these in your statement, but let's pick some out, if I with can. First of all, I'm going to look at paragraph 31 and the coverage of the occasion when you went on holiday in June 2004 with five of your friends to celebrate your 18th birthday.

  • I'm sure you remember that.

  • For the technician, the document number is 33145:

    "The Daily Mail's double spread read 'Vice of an angel' and set out a detailed, disparaging and distorted account of our movements and behaviour."

    Can you tell us about the article?

  • The article, I think, was the one that like literally named every single one of my girlfriends, their occupations, their age, and then, as you said, went on to just give the most ridiculous account of what had apparently happened, which was -- it was nowhere near that interesting or debauched, and we were just a couple of 18-year-old girls on our first girls' holiday. And also actually, at this time we were staying in a private villa at which there were paparazzi photographs taken of all of us and a lot of the girls were not happy about that at all.

    And also, one of the worst things about this article was that it said that us as a group had apparently nicknamed one of my friends and it was a pun on a name that crudely made fun of their weight, and I've never spoken about this girl in this way and I've never heard anybody else speak about her in this way, until, it seems, the journalist made up this cruel nickname about a 17-year-old girl and deemed that to be acceptable.

  • I've been asked to ask you whether you complained at the time to the PCC?

  • Looking back at my complaints to the PCC, what's actually stood out to me is how kind of sporadic they are, and also about much lesser stories than stories that stick in my mind as being really, really important or really dreadful, and I think that's mainly because throughout the whole time, you just -- you know, whatever the PCC ruling is is kind of inconsequential. The damage is already done, there are no real repercussions and it just doesn't -- it just doesn't help. And so a lot of the time -- well, most of the time, I just didn't bother. It incurs legal costs and I just didn't bother.

    There's obviously -- I think just the sporadic nature of them is obviously when I'd just had enough -- it might have been even just a small story or something that was slightly inaccurate and I'd just had enough and so therefore gone to the PCC to make a point, but in general I think that explains why they're quite so sporadic.

  • So you didn't complain about this particular occasion?

  • You've explained to us why. Did you even complain to the Daily Mail or contact them? Do you remember?

  • I should imagine. I mean, there was always -- there's always a two and fro of you can't -- you know: "You can't print this", or: "This is totally wrong", but -- between, you know, kind of the publicist -- I never personally contact the journalists, although a lot of the times I wanted to but I was always told not to, you know, by -- whether it be my management or whether it be the record company, because there was a kind of -- there was a thing that, you know: "Say nothing is best. Say nothing is best. This is the way it is. You're just going to have to shut up and put up. This is the way it is."

  • The second example I'd like to pick out is the New York story, if I can put it that way. If you turn back to paragraph 20 of your statement, I'll introduce the story for you. You say that one of the most professionally damaging articles published about you was not by a tabloid but by the Times. It's been pointed out to me that it may have been the Sunday Times. Is that right?

  • The article concerned the 9/11 terrorist atrocity. You were 14 at the time and spending a great deal of time in New York. Although you were only a young girl, you were horrified and shaken by events that occurred that day. Can you tell us a bit about how you came to have that article published in the Sunday Times?

  • Looking back, I was actually 15 when I referenced the article. I'd literally just flown back from New York. The record company had set up an interview for me which was general -- that was quite normal -- and I'd been out in New York for a while and my manager, John Vernile, who is sat here in the courtroom today -- you know, we did a lot of -- he organised for me to go to a lot of the benefits and the commemorations and we went down to Ground Zero and lots of the fire stations and because of my recent experiences then and because it had just happened, then Jasper Gerrard asked me a lot of questions about it.

    I felt at the time that the interview was going really well. He was asking me really like intelligent questions and I was used to being asked what my favourite colour was still and how did my teenage friends deal with my fame and things like this, and it just felt totally different and new. And you know, I answered all of his questions and when I eventually saw the piece, I was just totally shell-shocked, and -- because nobody had sat in on the interview with me, which is what generally would have happened, and therefore nobody was taping it from our side, and so I had kind of -- you know, like the Sony people and everybody kind of saying, you know: "Have you said this? What's going on?" And I basically had to defend myself for ages about the fact that I hadn't said these horrific things and never would have said these horrific things.

  • What were you alleged to have said?

  • I was alleged to have said -- sorry, I'll read, if that's okay?

  • "One of the most denigrating claims was the comment I supposedly made about the celebrity of some of the 9/11 firefighters. The comment I had actually made was not disparaging of them. It was quite the reverse. I recall referring to their appearance at the British Television Awards and explaining that I thought it was in bad taste for the television producers to demean the firefighters' heroism by making them present the award for best soap. However, this was dressed up as me believing that these men did not deserve their recognition and had only been doing their job."

    So it was a lot of things like that. And as I also say here, we asked for the tape of the interview and the Times refused to release it. In any event, I was only 15 years old, sorry, and to be exposed by a newspaper of this type to ridicule and derision upon such a sensitive subject was a terrible experience, and that article then went over to the New York Post, which was also owned by Mr Murdoch's company, and the headline was "Voice of an angel spews venom".

    And of course, because of the massively sensitive nature of this subject, there was just a massive backlash against me in America, where the record company deemed it necessary to hire police guards, and I was getting abuse if I was walking around in the streets where people, you know, had truly believed that I had said these kind of things, and it was just not a very nice experience, once again.

  • Can I come to a third example, a much more recent example, if I can, of a false story. It's paragraph 14 of your statement, please, and it's an article in The People. For the technician, the article is at page 33136. I'll let you explain what this article was about in your own words.

  • Okay. So this article basically said that I was out at a pub in Cardiff with my partner and we were both inebriated and I was singing "Be my baby", apparently, to which afterwards I apparently slumped into a chair and said, "That was for you, baby. Will you be my baby? Will you marry me?" To which he apparently replied, "Yes, but I don't want to become Mr Church." That was the article.

  • Can you pause there? Can we just turn to the next page? It's 33137. Then we'll see the actual People article. We see there's a photograph, a photograph of you. It looks like you're singing karaoke.

  • First of all, is any of this story true?

  • But they have a photograph of you?

  • The photograph is from 2007, when I was doing a radio show with Chris Moyles. It was a Christmas radio show and because at that time my parents owned that pub, then he decided it would be a cool thing to do it from the pub, and so it was a massively out of date photo.

  • So not taken that night?

  • Did The People check with you before printing this article whether it was true or not?

  • No. They phoned my publicist very late on the Friday and didn't say -- I think it was just a freelance journalist and just said, "What is the nature of Charlotte's relationship with her partner?" of which my publicist, generally, unless they would kind of state where they were from, who they were writing it for, what the article was about, would just generally not answer. So they did call at the last minute, but it was with -- you know, they didn't really give much away and therefore neither did we.

  • I'll come back to what you did in relation to the article in a moment, but you say this in paragraph 40:

    "Within 36 hours of them reporting this tale, it was picked up by 70 outlets around the world and presented as fact."

  • Is that something that you recognise from other articles?

  • Absolutely. That's just generally the way it goes. It just kind of blows up. Everybody -- the main thing about this whole Inquiry, I think, is that everybody -- everybody really believes that there are a set of proper rules and regulations that are adhered to, and therefore these things are really true and they couldn't be printed if they weren't true, and that is just generally, a lot of the time, just not the case, in my experience, anyway. So yes, it was picked up by 70 different outlets. It was also embellished upon, so it went from this to the fact that I couldn't remember proposing because I had been so drunk. So the story just got expanded upon, bloggers wrote about it, people believed it, and now we're left with the debris of trying to make this story go away because it was never, in fact, true.

  • Let me ask you: when you saw this article and realised that it had been published and it was actually false, what did you do?

  • I gave a statement saying that it was a complete fabrication and that this was a case -- you know, this was an exact reason why this Leveson Inquiry is happening and how it's out of control and it simply shouldn't be allowed to happen, and part of my statement which was basically the denial was printed in a few publications. Most of -- most of the rest of it, the stronger parts of the statement, were just totally ignored and in one instance -- I think it might have been the Press Association who basically wrote back when we'd given the statement, saying, "We can't print this whole statement because our consumers don't like to hear anything negative about us or our conduct."

  • Okay. Did you contact the newspaper itself?

  • Yeah, we contacted the newspaper itself just is to say this is totally untrue and therefore -- and it's also defamatory, and those are ongoing legal procedures.

  • Okay. We were passed this morning a document from the newspaper itself which indicates that The People have actually now published a correction and apology in relation to that story. That was at page 2 of yesterday's edition of The People. I'll pass you a copy, sir.

  • I have seen it. I also saw the legal letter that went to them before this which said that we didn't just want a normal run-of-the-mill apology because it's just not good enough, but I don't really know the ins and outs of it. My lawyers know much more about the ins and outs of what's going on with it.

  • Sorry, being one of those lawyers, I don't know whether it's helpful -- given that there's a statement in effect from the newspaper pointing out that they published a unilateral apology yesterday, I don't know whether it's helpful to put that in context?

  • No, I don't think it probably is. If it's appropriate, then statements can be put in writing about it.

  • I understand. What Ms Church was saying, though, was that with the apology -- and it was a unilateral one, and that's obviously a matter that's of wider interest to the Inquiry in terms of what the appropriate form of redress is -- the apology she was seeking in agreed terms was also the answers to a number of questions which are rather similar to those questions Ms Patry Hoskins had put about how it was this story was written and how there are quotes from Ms Church and her partner, given that this is all entirely fabricated.

  • All right. Just read out what the People say.

  • Yes, of course I will. The apology reads as follows:

    "Charlotte Church [and there's a small photograph]. On November 6 2011, we said Charlotte Church had proposed marriage to Jonathan Powell at a boozy karaoke night at Robin Hood pub in Cardiff. We were misinformed. On the night in question, Ms Church and Mr Powell were performing a gig at studios in Cardiff and Ms Church did not propose that night or at all. We are happy to set the record straight and we apologise for our mistake."

  • So you weren't in the place at all?

  • No. I wasn't anywhere near there. I was doing a gig with a large public audience somewhere totally different.

  • You obviously took legal action in that respect and that takes us on to what you say about why you don't always take action. You've told us why you don't always go to the PCC, but can you tell us about why you've taken the view that you can't always just resort to lawyers when you see an article published about you?

  • Well, first of all, if you challenge -- I've always -- well, I used to always be of the view that if you challenge these individual tabloid papers, then there would somehow be some bad feeling and I've always been led to believe that to be true. So there would be like a residual bad feeling, which in turn would create more stories possibly, more negative stories, and it's also a massive financial commitment --

  • It's paragraph 15 of your statement, if you want to look back at that.

  • Yeah, sorry. Yeah, there's a massive financial implication and if it is a defamation claim and it's resisted, then your costs will be ten or 20 times what the initial costs would be, which would be maybe around £5,000 or £10,000, just to put in an initial complaint. Generally, you may not even recover all of your costs and the damage is done. Once it's in print, it's done. It's been disseminated all over the Internet to all the other publications, so it just feels a little pointless.

  • Thank you. You've told us a bit about the PCC and your experiences with that. Would you consider it again in the future? Is that something that you think gives you an adequate remedy when an article like this is published?

  • Because -- because it's just totally inadequate for -- there is a massive problem to deal with and they just don't deal with the problems. They don't deal with it at all.

  • Thank you. This isn't a compulsory question, I say, to quote the chairman, but is there any particular changes to the way that the press is regulated that you would consider would be appropriate?

  • The only thing that I really want to get across from giving my statement is that, as I said, all of this -- well, a lot of this happened to me whilst I was a minor and whilst I was really very young, and it was really hard and it has had a psychological effect upon me, kind of -- it almost feels like they put you through this psychological grinding, test your strength and you come out the other side and it just keeps happening, and I just -- I would hate to the see that happen to any other child who is in my position, who was talented or sporty or whatever it may be, and as I said, I want to make sure that my children are protected. So that's the main reason why I'm here. In terms of recommendations, I haven't got a clue.

  • Okay. There's two finally things. One is I know you recently heard a speech that Paul Dacre gave to the Royal Society of Editors and there's something you wanted to say about that?

  • Yes, it struck me -- and I don't want to single out Paul Dacre at all, but it was generally just in terms of editors and people who are high up in these tabloid papers, that he said in his speech to -- I think it was the Editors' Committee --

  • And in his speech he said that there were many journalists who were exposing the misdeeds of the rich, the powerful and the pompous, and it just struck me that Mr Dacre himself, and possibly other editors, et cetera, are probably rich, definitely powerful -- I'm not sure about pompous, but if they were subject to the investigative journalism that they subject others to, maybe they would come out whiter as white but if they weren't, and they had misdeeds to be spoken of, then surely their misdeeds are much more within the public interest, being very powerful men in these massive media organisations, than that of me as a TV presenter/singer or my parents or my friends or what not, and that just kind of struck me, so I just wanted to make that point.

  • I understand. The last thing I wanted to ask you was to consider the cumulative effect of all of this. You've told us about the constant press intrusion, the press intrusion when you were a young child right through to the present day. You've told us about the cameras in the bushes. You've told us about the entirely false article, the articles that possibly put your life in danger, the articles about your parents. How has all this impacted on you? How do you feel about it now?

  • Um ... I feel -- I feel strangely strong because I have survived it all and I'm not really sure how. I really don't know how because at times had has been -- just really, really messes with your mind, and especially because I was growing and I was only just forming opinions and learning how to live and trying to learn what a normal life was, if there is such a thing. So in a way, I think it's made me stronger, but professionally I definitely think that because I have been made a caricature for so long -- and actually, this person that I'm portrayed as in the tabloid papers really isn't me, really isn't the person that I am, the way I live my life, the things I say, the things that I believe. It's just not the person that I am, and I think that that has had a massive impact on my career. I think I -- as an artist, as a singer, as a musician, I find it really difficult to be taken seriously because my credibility has just been blown to bits with these stories that have just been going on for years and years, and the cumulative effect of that has been that I find it really difficult to be taken seriously.

  • Is there anything that you wanted to say about the impact or perhaps the future impact on your children?

  • Well, yeah, as I've explained, my main reason for being here is to be here for my children. If, for any reason, I'm still in the public eye by the time that they're grown up, I really hope that they won't be subject to what I was.

  • Ms Church, those are my questions. Unless there was something that you wanted to add that you feel we have not covered --

  • Thank you very much and thank you again for going through that experience. Thank you.

  • Sir, the next and final witness this afternoon is Anne Diamond.