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

  • MR FRANCIS GEORGE BODEN ALDHOUSE (sworn).

  • Mr Aldhouse, I invite you to make yourself comfortable and then to provide us with your full name.

  • I'm Francis George Boden Aldhouse.

  • You've provided us, Mr Aldhouse, with a short witness statement which is dated 16 November this year. Is that right?

  • You've signed the statement and verified its truth. Is this your evidence?

  • Can I ask you, please, about yourself, first of all, Mr Aldhouse. You are a solicitor by training; is that correct?

  • And you, in December 1984, became the deputy to the first data protection registrar; is that right?

  • Is the data protection registrar more or less the forerunner or the then incarnation of the Information Commissioner under the 1984 Act?

  • The then incarnation I suppose is the right way of putting it because it's the same office. They just changed the name by statute.

  • Right, and what happened was the Data Protection Act 1998 came into force on 1 March 2002 to bring domestic law in line with the European directive and at that point you became the deputy -- is this correct -- to the Information Commissioner?

  • And you stayed as such until your retirement -- is this correct -- on 13 January 2006?

  • Can I ask you a general question, please, about the criminal law before the Data Protection Act 1998 comes into force. We know what Section 55 says, but is this right, that the first criminal offence was introduced in 1994 by way of amendment into the Data Protection Act 1984?

  • Yes, that's correct. There were other sort of administrative criminal offences, but so far as this sort of activity is concerned, it was the 1994 Act that made the difference.

  • Can I ask you, please, a question on Section 55 of the Data Protection Act 1998. I don't know whether you have that to hand, but you probably know it off by heart.

  • This creates the offence of unlawfully obtaining a sector of personal data. Under subsection 1:

    "A person must not knowingly or recklessly ..."

    There are two limbs there and "recklessly" will be a subjective test of any criminal statute, won't it, Mr Aldhouse?

    "... without the consent of the --"

  • I think there's some objectively there as well.

  • Yes. One would draw inferences, most definitely.

    I'm just interested about (a) and (b), because there may be a difference of view about this. Under subparagraph (a):

    "... obtain or disclose data or the information contained in personal data, or (b) procure the disclosure to another person of the information contained in personal data."

    Now, if we're looking at the position of a journalist -- or it can be an insurance company or anybody else -- does that fall within subparagraph (a), subparagraph (b) or both?

  • I'm -- if you'll forgive me, my voice is going. I think I'm inclined to the view that it could fall within both. I think the fact that you use an intermediary to obtain the information doesn't mean that you have not yourself obtained it.

  • So -- and similarly, it could be said that you have procured the disclosure. I think it could be an offence under either A or B.

  • On reflection, if it helps, that's also my view. I might have said -- indeed, I did say in opening the case -- that a journalist would only fall within Section 55(1)(b). Thinking about it over the weekend, I would respectfully agree with you. It probably falls within both.

    We know from other evidence that on 8 March 2003, admittedly some time ago, there was the initial execution of a search warrant for a search which led to Operation Motorman. Did you get to learn about it at the time, Mr Aldhouse?

  • I cannot recall when I first heard about Motorman. You'll forgive me, but it's eight and a half years ago and memory fades and of course there were other things going on. No, I couldn't tell you exactly when I first heard about the operation.

  • In terms of your responsibilities at that time, Mr Aldhouse, was it part of your role as the deputy to provide direction to the head of investigations?

  • Yes. What had happened was the previous head of operations and second deputy had retired in 2001, and the head of investigations then reported to me. I don't think it would be right to say that I directed investigations in any way, but I supervised the person who ran the investigations department.

  • We heard who that person was on Wednesday, but could you confirm her identity?

  • Yes. At the time we're talking about, it was Jean Lockett.

  • Yes. Were you head of operations?

  • No. No. Indeed, I think, as I say in my statement, the focus of my work, certainly by that stage and in continuing years, was on policy work.

  • The evidence Mr Owens gave us on Wednesday is that a few days after the search -- so we are now in mid-March of 2003 -- there was an informal meeting involving you and Mr Thomas where Mr Owens gave an explanation of what he found. First of all, do you have any recollection of any such meeting?

  • I cannot recall such a meeting. I wondered whether this was just because, you know, time passes and my memory had faded, so I took the opportunity of consulting my old -- or the print-outs from my old electronic diary, which I've kept, and I cannot find any such meeting in March 2003, or indeed in April.

  • Is it your evidence that you simply cannot remember whether there was such a meeting or is it your evidence that you are fairly sure that there wasn't such a meeting?

  • I think my evidence is that if there was a meeting, it would have been a very casual one and a very short one, and certainly not scope for a full briefing. If it had been a carefully arranged, lengthy meeting, it would have been recorded. I don't recall any such meeting and I have no record of it.

  • So that I put to you what Mr Owens' version is -- and we heard his evidence on Wednesday -- his clear evidence to the Inquiry was that it was you, Mr Thomas and he. He had carried out a cursory analysis of the material and was able to demonstrate an audit trail, as he put it, from the newspaper through the journalist to Mr Whittamore. The blagger was involved, the charging element was established, the invoices were sent out and the invoices were paid, so there was a complete picture which he wished to demonstrate to you and did. Do you remember anything about that at all?

  • No. And indeed, the information I have heard and seen this morning is new to me. I had not had that set out in that way to me before.

  • Have you seen these books before, the red, yellow, green and blue books?

  • I've certainly not seen the content. I can't say I've never seen the books because it's just possible if I was visiting Jean Lockett's office or something, someone might have said, "Oh, that's the Motorman books", but no, other than that, I have not seen those books before.

  • Was there anything in your office at the time which was as big or as important as Operation Motorman?

  • From an operational investigations point of view, that was probably the largest investigation.

  • Were there discussions over the months between you and Mr Thomas regarding strategic decisions and policy decisions which would bear upon the future conduct of the investigation and the prosecutions?

  • I don't recall any discussions. I do recall that Richard Thomas decided that he wanted to pursue the route of going to the Press Complaints Commission and writing to Sir Christopher Meyer, but I have to say I think that was Richard Thomas' decision rather than the result of some discussion.

  • I'm not suggesting, Mr Aldhouse, that you were party to any decision but were you aware, therefore, that a policy decision or a strategic decision was taken whereby the matter would be taken up through the PCC rather than criminal prosecution of the journalists?

  • I certainly knew that Richard Thomas wanted to go to the PCC as a strategic approach. I don't think I knew that he had completely ruled out prosecution.

  • Would you expect to be involved in this sort of discussion when you're the deputy? This was a very substantial investigation. It was obviously taking up some time and really did hit some very important buttons, on the face of it.

  • Yes, it did, but I was otherwise engaged. Half of my time I was in Brussels on article 29 working party business or the third -- joint advisory authority business, so it might well be that -- I mean, no, it was the fact that things just have to happen in my absence.

  • You were there for half the time, though, weren't you, Mr Aldhouse?

  • I can't remember the amount of time, but I was there some the time, yes.

  • I think the point I was driving at has already been made, but isn't it a bit strange, Mr Aldhouse, that with the policy ramifications that this might throw up and the potential cost implications for your office, that you weren't at least involved quite closely in discussions with Mr Thomas regarding the strategic direction of Operation Motorman?

  • What can I say? It's for the Commissioner to decide how he runs the office. If -- and it is worth bearing in mind, of course, that it is -- that the Commissioner is a one-man band and if the Commissioner decides to take a route, so be it.

  • Yes. So is it your evidence that the Commissioner decided to take a route -- and he'll tell us about that on Friday -- but you weren't involved really in any significant way in the discussions bearing upon the direction he might take?

  • I certainly don't recall that, no, and I don't just think that's failing memory.

  • Had you been asked for a view by anyone, in particular Mr Thomas, what would your view have been in 2003?

  • I think my view in 2003 would have been -- certainly if I'd seen the information, had it laid out before me as it's been laid out before you this morning, I think my view would have been: we really ought to find a way of pursuing this, this is a major exercise, I'm not at all sure that it's something that could be handled by just two people, an exercise that requires some sensitive handling -- because I think if you simply approach journalists, they are likely to say, "Why should we respond is to you at all?" So there would need to be some careful construction of the case and the investigation. I'm not quite sure whether we could have put together the resource to handle such an investigation. Not having been put in the position of taking the decision, I can't say how I would have handled it but I do think that -- yes, I do think there was a case for taking the involvement of journalists and newspapers further.

  • You weren't party, therefore, to a timorous approach which was dictated by two considerations: first, a concern that it would be rather expensive and you would be at risk as to the cost, of course, if the newspapers obtain their own legal advice, and secondly, that the journalists might put up difficulties in the way of further investigation? You weren't party to that sort of policy, were you, Mr Aldhouse?

  • No, and if I might comment on the expense of prosecution, the practice of the office would be -- if faced with a very expensive investigation or prosecution, would be to approach the sponsoring department, the Home Office, then LCD, Ministry of Justice, and say, "Look, we might be at risk of considerable expense here. Will you stand behind this with grant in aid if necessary?"

  • Hang on. At this time, 2003, we're talking about the Home Office, are we?

  • Because the Ministry of Justice doesn't come on the scene until 2008.

  • I can't remember when responsibility transferred from the Home Office to Lord Chancellor's Department, but whichever sponsoring department it was.

  • Did you apply your mind to these issues at all, Mr Aldhouse?

  • In connection with this case?

  • Is that right, Mr Aldhouse? You say in paragraph 8 of your statement, in relation to the suggestion "We can't take the press on":

    "I don't believe I ever said anything remotely corresponding to this quotation. It does not represent my view then ..."

  • That suggests that you did reach that view then.

  • I'm sorry, I was responding to the question about expense.

  • Had I applied to my mind to the costs of a Motorman prosecution? No, I was never asked to. But the question about "the press are too big to take on", simply not my view. Certainly not the sort of language I would have used, and I think I would point to the experience that Elizabeth France and I had in discussions with the media in 1996, that we were quite happy to stand up to the media and try to negotiate with them. I wish I still had the copies of the press gazette articles roundly attacking Elizabeth France and myself. So I don't fear the media, but there are always other considerations.

  • Did you see counsel's advice, the one I referred to, 22 December 2003, at the time?

  • The first time I've seen it was this morning.

  • We know you were involved at some later stage. There was a conference with counsel on 27 May 2005, which is our document 48808.

  • I don't know whether it is in those files but we'll provide you with a note of that advice. It's under our tab 25. We'll provide you with it now.

  • Sorry, of the extra bundle of attendance notes --

  • Yes, but I'm not sure that Mr Aldhouse was at that conference.

  • No, but there's something at the bottom of the page I want to refer him to.

  • Thank you. (Handed)

    Not a conference you attended, Mr Aldhouse. This is a conference which followed the hearing at Blackfriars Crown Court in April 2005. So that you have your bearings in time, you obviously learnt of that very disappointing outcome at the time, didn't you?

  • Is it right to say that there was at the very least a measure of frustration and irritation within your office, probably quite understandably?

  • And is that a feeling or sentiment which you shared?

  • Were there discussions about it with Mr Thomas and the way forward?

  • Well, there was certainly some discussion, the detail of which frankly I can't recall, but you rightly express the view held in the office, and that would have been the subject of discussion. But as I say, the detail of it I'm afraid I don't recall.

  • At the bottom of page 48808:

    "JW [who is someone within your office] stated that the view of Richard Thomas and Francis Aldhouse was that if the only problem this case faced was the Blackfriars verdict or other sentence, then the view of the office would be to continue with the prosecution as it still would be within the public interest to proceed as regards the criminality of the remaining defendants."

    If this note is right, it indicates that you were involved, at least at this stage, in part of the strategic thinking regarding the future conduct of the Operation Motorman prosecutions; that's right, isn't it?

  • Yes, but I say -- I don't recall the discussions but it might well be that Richard and I had talked about it. There was certainly discussion about the Blackfriars verdict, how disappointing it was, what way should we go, but I'm afraid I can't add to that.

  • Who is Janet Witkowski(?)?

  • Oh dear. I'm afraid I cannot recall.

  • I think all I'm gently suggesting, Mr Aldhouse, is this -- and it's probably fairly obvious now: we have possibly the most important investigation involving your office, Operation Motorman. It has very serious ramifications. It was clearly being ramped up at this stage. Mr Thomas had it in mind to make a report to Parliament shortly afterwards and he did. Surely you were involved, even in informal discussions with Mr Thomas, as to the direction your office was taking, weren't you?

  • Well, I think they would only have been casual ones. Certainly, I have no recollection of -- I have no recollection of, for example, full briefing material on the basis of which one could take decisions. I simply was not involved to that depth. It might well be that Richard Thomas would have casually said, "We're thinking of going this way, does it make sense?" But I'm sorry, I was involved to a deeper extent than that.

  • In terms of important strategic decisions -- and there would be quite a few over the course of the working year of an Information Commissioner -- was it Mr Thomas' practice to involve you, at least informally, in such decisions?

  • You mean over the whole range of activities of the office? It would depend. Activities were divided. I think I said I spent most of my time by that stage on policy matters, particularly European ones, and I had quite a considerable degree of independence within that area. I think that was probably the way we tended to operate.

  • So you don't think it's right that Mr Thomas discussed with you back in 2003 the right strategic approach to Operation Motorman, in particular whether it was correct or appropriate bring criminal proceedings against the journalists?

  • I have no recollection of being asked did I think we should bring proceedings against journalists, and if I had been asked, I suppose I would have taken it in two steps. First of all, I would want to know that we had investigated sufficiently thoroughly to justify that, and then -- well, prosecution was normally left to the legal advisers to the Commissioner. I wasn't the Commissioner's legal adviser. I -- but I don't recall any discussion about should we investigate further. I -- no, I think any comment I made after -- would now be coloured by retrospection.

  • We know that the legal team, including counsel, were under the direction of a policy decision -- counsel's advice refers to policy considerations -- which amounted to this: that the journalists would not be prosecuted, indeed the journalists would not be investigated. Are you sure that doesn't chime with your thinking at the time, Mr Aldhouse?

  • It certainly wasn't my thinking, and indeed, I would have -- no, if I'd been asked, I would have said we ought to look further. I'm sorry, you will have to ask the Commissioner -- or the former Commissioner for his views.

  • So in terms of Mr Owens' evidence, which we heard on Wednesday, what he attributes to you at the meeting of mid-March 2003, you don't remember saying anything along these lines: "We simply can't take on the journalists, they're too big for us", words to that effect?

  • I have -- not only do I have no recollection of saying that; it is simply the sort of thing I would say and, as I say, it does not reflect my views of -- or indeed my previous practice of dealing with the media.

  • Okay. Thank you very much, Mr Aldhouse.

  • Could I just ask about that? You've mentioned something in 1996. I don't really know what that's about. I appreciate it's going back in time, but could you just paint it in for me?

  • Yes. In -- the framework directive '95/46/EC was adopted in October 1995, and it contains in article 9 a provision permitting member states to adopt exemptions necessary to protect journalism and similar freedom of expression. We, the Commissioner and I, set about talking to media representatives to see if we could develop a consensus view about how that might be implemented in what became the Data Protection Act 1998.

    I spoke to -- oh, I -- no, there was an individual who is well known for representing the public affairs media -- I won't mention her name -- and to a number of the representative bodies, the periodical publishers and the national newspaper press associations and to groups of -- to groups of particularly media lawyers, and as I say, we -- the Commissioner and I were quite roundly attacked, not in the public print but in the UK Press Gazette, and it was very difficult to get the media to engage with the fact that here was a directive which said that it was, at least in part, to protect the rights to privacy and there were exemptions and how should though exemptions be -- how should they be deployed, how should they be enacted, and there was -- I recall quite clearly one occasion, a meeting of media lawyers at DJ Freeman when they still had a big media practice. One lawyer stood up -- perhaps I ought not to name the newspaper he represented -- and said that I was simply wasting my time, that it really wouldn't matter, that the newspaper proprietors would ensure that the legislation was enacted to suit them.

    So I -- yes, those things do stick in my mind.

  • That's rather interesting, isn't it, because they were joining battle with you.

  • The legislation was then passed.

  • And here, within five years, you had on your desk -- perhaps not you personally, but the Commissioner's office had on their desk monumental potential breach. I'm just trying to think how that chimes with your memory. This was precisely what you'd been talking about seven years before, the problems that the European directive would generate. It was being ignored.

  • Let me see. I -- there are two elements to the legislation. There's the enforcement powers of the Commissioner and they are hedged around with lots of complex procedure to make it very -- well, actually to make it rather difficult for the Commissioner to take enforcement action against the media. But I think yes, you are right that the sort of information that was exposed this morning certainly indicates the -- what should I say? -- conflicts between media practice and classic data protection, yes.

  • Was Mr Thomas the Commissioner at the time?

  • Oh yes. Sorry, not in 1996, no. That was Elizabeth France. Elizabeth France retired in 2002. Richard Thomas became the Commissioner in late 2002.

  • But does it not chime some memory with you -- and I appreciate it's a long time ago -- that here was something which had happened which actually you'd gone through the mill with those years before, and here it was coming back to demonstrate the accuracy of the perception that you then had?

  • I think that's why I said to Mr Jay that had I been asked at the time, my view would have been we should at least have pursued investigation of journalists.

  • I mean, how big is the office of the Information Commissioner? There's the Commissioner, there's you.

  • There's the number two --

  • Well, there are, of course, two deputies.

  • Well, the total staff now, of course, is about 300.

  • But what was the senior staff then?

  • Myself and another deputy. One, two, three, can't remember, four assistant commissioners. Several -- then the -- what are we talking about? A management team of -- I'm trying to think. It would have been the -- possibly 10 or a dozen very senior people.

  • Okay. You've now seen this material laid out.

  • You've seen the detail that it contains and the names and all the material that was documented at the time. Are you surprised you weren't asked and there wasn't a management discussion about this?

  • Am I surprised? I'm disappointed. Not necessarily surprised. I know that there was, because it's in my diary, a -- what must have been a fairly substantial briefing session in August 2003.

  • And I was on leave that week. My diary shows it. I -- well, yes, I'm sure in retrospect it would have been -- one could well say: wasn't this big enough for the whole of the management team to be involved?

  • Not least because you'd gone through the battle those few years before, so you knew the history.

  • I certainly had views, anyway, yes.

  • I'm sure, yes. Thank you.

  • May I ask a few more?

  • Yes. That's the process of inquisitorial proceedings, Mr Jay.

  • Paragraphs 9 and 10 of your witness statement. Let's just get a clue what your thinking might have been. We need to throw ourselves back, don't we, to 2003 and ignore your thinking today. If you look at paragraph 9, you use the present tense:

    "My approach to taking formal action against the media is as follows."

    Can I just clarify your use of the tense. Are you saying that's your approach in November 2011 or was that your approach at all material times when you were the deputy? It's the latter, isn't it?

  • I -- so far as I can tell, it is an approach I would have taken at the time, it's the approach I've taken for a long time, but memory plays tricks, so you will forgive me if I'm being cautious. But it is certainly -- perhaps because of my dealings with the European institutions, this sort of approach is one which I have held for a long time.

  • You say then in the next sentence:

    "The Commissioner has strong powers, which should be used in relation to the media with particular discretion."

  • You refer to Article 8, et cetera, et cetera, and at the end of this paragraph you say:

    "The pursuit of individual journalists could have a chilling effect on those rights."

  • Aren't you telling us there that that would militate in favour of not pursuing journalists, or at least being very careful about doing so?

  • Certainly about being very careful. I -- yes, this is a rather short statement and rather compressed. I don't wish -- I don't wish to speak up for or be seen to be speaking up for the practices that have already been exposed to the Inquiry, but I suppose I am concerned that if one talks about the press and journalism generally, that you shouldn't catch up the innocent along with the guilty. I have a particular concern because of meetings I've attended and things that have been said to me about consequences for local newspapers. I mean, if I have an anxiety, and the effect -- the problem of a chilling effect, it's for the Gloucester Citizen, the Oxford Mail, the Farnham Herald and the Nutsford Guardian, not the Sun and the Daily Mail.

  • But that wouldn't be to permit them to breach Section 55, would it?

  • What you're concerned about is the viability of local newspapers providing a local service for the local communities, I assume?

  • Yes. But local newspapers have been concerned about the way that, for example, defamation has been used to put them in some financial difficulty, and I wouldn't want -- I wouldn't want a data protection legislation to simply be another rod to beat their backs with.

  • I'm sorry, Mr Jay. Has any local newspaper ever suggested to you that they were concerned that Section 55 of the Data Protection Act was going to cause them difficulty?

  • Not in so -- no, because the time -- my discussions predate that. I'm thinking back to my discussions in 1996 on how one might implement article 9 of the directive, and certainly concerns were expressed to me then about -- I have a particular meeting in mind and certainly concerns were expressed about the fragility of local newspapers and the legal threats they felt they were under.

  • Operation Motorman wasn't involved or concerned with local newspapers, was it?

  • Can I look at the practical issues you raise in paragraph 10, please. You set out what the section provides. In the second sentence:

    "There are practical challenges in the investigation of the involvement of individual journalists in such cases in demonstrating ..."

    Then you make three points:

    "... first the degree of knowledge on the part of the individual journalist ..."

    That you can find out just by interviewing them, can't you?

  • I think that takes me to the third point.

  • Which is: why should a journalist respond to our request for interview? The Commissioner has no power of arrest, has no power to compel people to speak to him. These -- we would be seeking to interview journalists presumably as prospective defendants to a criminal action. They would have to be cautioned. A well-advised journalist would simply say nothing.

  • Let's explore that, Mr Aldhouse. Just cherry-pick, as a starting point, the very best cases: the CRO cases, of which there aren't very many, but you could take a sample, and the family and friends cases. The Information Commissioner's office would then make a request to interview the individual journalists and possibly the individual editors, having pointed out, as must be obvious, that there's a strong prima facie case which needs to be rebutted. Are you saying that practical obstacles would have been put in your way which were so great that your investigations might have been thwarted?

  • Well, the investigations might have been thwarted but I think the tenor of your questions is: shouldn't you at least try? I think I agree with that.

  • But actually, they wouldn't necessarily be thwarted because if you have a paper trail that takes you from the journalist on the one hand to Mr Whittamore on the other and all the material, as you've now seen, which you've explained you hadn't seen before, if he says nothing, then the prima facie case there stands unrebutted.

  • Um ... I wonder whether -- well, let me accept that the paper trail is sufficient and complete. In that case, you would be right, and then it's a question of: is there a public interest defence?

    Now, I think I heard some remarks from you, sir, earlier that -- how could this possibly be a public interest defence in these cases? I think it's worth bearing in mind that we're talking about 2003, and I certainly remember discussions between senior staff and the lawyers in 2002 saying -- how can I choose my words correctly? The remarks of the Lord Chief Justice in A v B, the Garry Flitcroft case, were not helpful in -- now, admittedly we're talking about a case that could be distinguished. It was a civil case, it was interim relief, but remarks which suggested that there was a public interest -- there was -- there was a public interest in having economically viable newspapers, and for that they had to sell -- they had to print things that the public were interested in, even if it was tittle-tattle.

    Now, I know that in the Court of Appeal six months later, a different Court of Appeal slightly modified those used, but nonetheless it did rather discourage people like ourselves, senior staff in the Commissioner's office, from thinking there's a good -- you know, there's a possibility of prosecutions in this sort of case because we thought: well, the journalists have got a fairly easy route to establishing a public interest defence.

    The world has moved on, of course, and maybe the courts won't see it that way.

  • But all this is demonstrating is that there may well have been a policy decision not to pursue the journalists because you're expressing views which are entirely consistent with the existence of such a policy decision. Isn't that right?

  • There might well have been, but I didn't take it. I'm sorry, you will have to ask the former Commissioner, Richard Thomas.

  • Yes. I don't know whether, when you were looking at the screen, you could see some of the entries of persons, because if you'd seen the names of the people who were the subject of these enquiries -- friends and families, for example -- if you were going to say there's a public interest in looking at those, you might as well then say that data protection doesn't run to journalists.

  • First of all, I don't say that there's a public interest defence. I'm merely trying to put myself back in how we reacted to certain legal decisions in 2002, 2003. And, well, there are those who think that the legislation was constructed to achieve just what you are saying.

  • Well, maybe I'll have to re-look at A v B. All right.

  • I think that's as far as we can take it, isn't it, Mr Aldhouse? Thank you very much.

  • Thank you very much for coming.

  • We'll have a few minutes' break.

  • (A short break)

  • The witness who was lined up for today is now going to be called tomorrow, so there is a small gap. Mr Burden will take a bit of time, but he's not available at the moment. There's one redaction, in any event, to his statement, which will be required, which we will organise over the next few minutes or so, but may we hear his evidence at 2 o'clock?

  • I think that's probably sensible.

    Representations have been made to me that it is in the public interest that statements be published before the witnesses come to the Inquiry, and that therefore I should discharge the order that I made last Monday, which imposed a restriction on the publication of those statements.

    I will, of course, consider those submissions carefully and provide a reasoned response to them, but my immediate reaction is that if statements are released in advance, then the debate about that statement will start then, and far from having the effect of encouraging an appropriate and orderly pursuit of the Inquiry, it will mean that the debate will move through various stages before the witness ever gets anywhere near the Inquiry.

  • That's my immediate reaction, and indeed I was persuaded of that view by Mr Caplan. My immediate reaction when we'd learned that Mr Campbell's statement had been put into the public domain, was to say: right, let it go, and he made submissions to like effect to that which I've just summarised.

    I'm keen to know -- I appreciate nobody's had notice of this -- if anybody has any particular views on this topic or whether they want to speak up for removing the restriction or for supporting it? Mr Garnham.

  • Sir, we would certainly support your provisional stance.

  • It's certainly my present stance, because it's the order from last Monday.

  • Yes. We would encourage you, sir, to remain of that view. The orderly management of this Inquiry is something that affects the core participants as well as your team. It's inevitable that some statements come out quite late because the process is a rapidly moving one, and if we are to give any consideration to the potential effect of that so that we can make a decision as to whether representations need to be made, we need at least the time between the publication of the statement to core participants and the calling of the witness. If it's going to be released publicly earlier than that, that makes that task impossibly difficult.

    I would add, sir, that you are entirely right, if I may say so respectfully, that if you allow the publication of statements before the witness gets to that witness table, the matter will be debated in the press long before the evidence is tested here, and that ought not to be so.

  • Thank you. Does anybody have any other view?

  • It's not another view, but I was hoping to echo what Mr Garnham says about timing. I could see an argument for another view, but it would require that the core participants had plenty of time to see the statement before it was made public, which would then be before the witness gave evidence, and the speed at which things are going at the moment simply doesn't allow that much time.

  • Sir, I was simply going to endorse the approach that you're taking currently. As you know, in the past we've wanted all the statements to be ready as soon as witnesses were giving evidence. I know logistical difficulties have made that not necessarily possible in every case, but --

  • I hope it's got better, Mr Sherborne.

  • It's got better. Unfortunately, it's slightly too late for my witnesses, but I'm not going to carp. In terms of the approach from now on, we certainly would endorse the principle, sir, that you've adopted.

  • Right, thank you. Mr Caplan, this was your submission last Monday, so I suppose you will maintain it?

  • Thank you very much. Anybody else want to say anything on the topic?

    Well, I shall consider the submissions carefully and I shall respond appropriately. Thank you all very much for your assistance. Let's wait until 2 o'clock. Thank you.

  • (The short adjournment)

  • Yes, Mr Jay.

  • The next witness is Mr Peter Burden, please.