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

  • MR PETER HENRY BURDEN (sworn).

  • Mr Burden, please sit down and make yourself comfortable.

  • Your full name, please?

  • Mr Burden, you've provided a witness statement to the Inquiry dated 13 October 2011. It runs to four pages. The version I have isn't signed, but is this your formal evidence to the Inquiry with one redaction I think we've made?

  • You tell us a little bit about yourself. You say that since 1987 you've been a freelance author. You've also produced several non-fiction titles, two of which are books: Fake Sheiks & Royal Trappings, and there's another book you've written more recently, How I Changed Fleet Street; is that correct?

  • No, that isn't correct. That is another Peter Burden. He used to be the chief crime reporter on the Daily Mail and he retired quite a long time ago.

  • I was struggling a little bit with the photograph. It didn't bear much resemblance.

  • My sincere apologies for that. I'll say nothing more about it. Can I ask you please about Fake Sheiks & Royal Trappings, which we've read and I referred to when opening this case. To be clear, in relation to the phone hacking issue, if I can describe it in those terms, can we be precise as to the direct contacts, if any, you've had with people. Have you spoken to any News of the World or other journalists about phone hacking, first of all?

  • I've tried to, but without any direct result. I've spoken to quite a lot of News of the World journalists off the record, and some on the record, but none of them that I spoke to was prepared to make any firm statement one way or the other.

  • And one or two denied it flatly.

  • Right. You also make it clear in your statement -- and I'm going to ask you to be careful of the answer you give. You've had limited contact with Mr Glenn Mulcaire; is that correct?

  • I'm not going to ask you specifically about what he told you, although it's clear from the third page of your statement the limit of your contact with him. Can I ask you then about your direct knowledge of other matters? First of all, in your book you refer to the Bob and Sue Firth story. Have you spoken to anyone directly about that?

  • Yes, I did go down and see Mr and Mrs Firth in early 2009, and discussed the whole case with them because I'd only touched on it lightly in the first edition, and indeed I had unfortunately placed them in Essex whereas in fact they were in Dorset. So I had to put this right and I went to see them and they told me in considerable detail the background to the events which subsequently came out where they were exposed, as it were, in the News of the World for running a bed and breakfast establishment that was of a naturist nature. A strange place to do it, in the middle of Dorset, but that's where they were doing it, and the News of the World had gathered that there were additional facilities or services, I should say, on offer there, and they sent down their reporter, Mr Neville Thurlbeck, to see what was going on.

  • May I ask you this question: have you spoken to Mr Thurlbeck to obtain his account of events?

  • No, he was disinclined to talk to me when I asked him.

  • Are you aware of a Channel 4 programme which deals with these matters or not?

  • As a matter of fact, I'm not, no. I don't know what it covered and it was never drawn to my attention, so I'm afraid I don't know what conclusions it came to. When was that put out?

  • We're investigating when, Mr Burden. I just wanted to ascertain the sources of your information. You've kindly told us that you spoke to the Firths but you didn't speak to Mr Thurlbeck, although I think the sense of your evidence is that you tried to; is that right?

  • Yes, I tried to talk to all these people, but none of them would return my calls, or simply put the phone down.

  • In relation to what you say about Mr Mazher Mahmood -- and I think there are two chapters of your book which deal with him -- aside from reading all the publicly available material, did you speak to anyone about those issues?

  • Well, I spoke extensively to his brother, Waseem Mahmood, who is a broadcaster -- a well-respected broadcaster -- who set up radio stations and television stations overseas in Afghanistan and places, and he is not on good terms with his brother and was able to give me quite a lot of background to Mazher Mahmood's early background and his early life.

  • Okay. May I ask you -- and this is on the third page of your witness statement. You say at the bottom of the page that while preparing a second edition of your book, you were approached by two former News of the World photographers, Mr Steve Grayson and Mr Ian Cutler, who provided graphic examples of stunting, which is faking photographs, and, in Mr Cutler's case, of simply inventing and casting stories for the paper in conjunction with journalists. Is that information they freely gave to you?

  • Yes, yes, and indeed Steve Grayson has outlined some of this in a book of his own, which is listed at the back of my book, which you can find, which he had published a couple of years ago, and it's called -- Don't Ask, Don't Get, it's called, by Steve Grayson. He has outlined a lot of that, but I also had several meetings with him in which he gave me further detail.

  • Can we have a sense of the dates we're talking about here when Mr Grayson and Mr Cutler were operating, as it were? We're talking about some time ago, are we not?

  • Yes, we are. Ian Cutler was operating in the 1970s and 1980s with a well-known journalist at the time called Trevor Canson(?), and they certainly, according to him, would go out and find circumstances that they thought might make a good headline, like dole cheats or rent boys at the YMCA and so on, and they'd just get a chum and photograph him outside the YMCA and make the story up, and as long as, you know, it was sufficiently interesting and titillating to the readers -- or they thought it was -- it went in, according to Ian Cutler, who's also written a book, if you could call it that, which is called The Camera Assassin, in which he recounts many of these events. How truthful all the accounts are I wouldn't like to say, but I'm sure some of them are.

  • And Mr Grayson? What period of time are we --

  • He was operating in 1990s, I think up until about the end of 1999, I think, that he eventually was dismissed and he did go to a tribunal and lost, actually. He was dismissed, he claims, for, he felt, obeying orders, producing a picture of the Beast of Bodmin when there wasn't a beast and he simply took a picture of a puma in Ilfracombe zoo and took the bars out of the shot and submitted it, and the News of the World, then edited by Rebekah Wade, I think -- or she might have been deputy at the time; she was deputy at the time, but on her own -- was very keen to have it, and then of course he had to own up. He had to say, "Look, of course it's not a genuine shot", and as a result of that, they took proceedings against him, all of which are detailed in his own book and a matter of public record.

  • Yes, and referred to in your book.

  • It might be said that this is all of somewhat historical interest. If the last date is 1999 --

  • -- what bearing does that have on the culture, practices and ethics of the press now? What do you say about that?

  • The reason I included it was simply because I think it showed the development of that culture -- and first of all the culture of not having outstanding regarding for the truth -- as being something that was fairly long term within that particular newspaper and the idea of simply getting the story by any means, whether it was by stunting photos or entrapping people, was embedded in the culture, the ethos of the newspaper by then, which would seem to set the right sort of background for people to be prepared to take subsequent risks on things like phone hacking, which is what my book was -- what originally sparked my book, was the jailing of the two phone hackers.

  • Thank you. May I ask you some specific matters arising out of your book, if you don't mind? We have copied parts of it, but you and I are going to work from the second edition, which I think was published in 2008 or 2009?

  • 2009. 2009, yes. May 2009.

  • First of all, the quote at the front you haven't attributed. It's not necessary to do so now, but you name the former news editor in the book somewhere, don't you?

  • Can I ask you first of all, please, about page 82. You say, four lines down:

    "To the News of the World, anyone is fair game, irrespective of the hugely disproportionate damage its victim might suffer when set against what is often an entirely legal and completely private act where no one else is being harmed."

    Are you looking there at a particular point in time or are you looking more generally?

  • I'm looking for -- no, I'm looking at it generally, that the notion that running a story that was going to do considerable harm to somebody, even though no illegality had been involved, was irrelevant to them. They didn't care how much harm they did. In fact, in many respects, the more harm they did, the better because that made the story bigger. I think that's the point I was trying to make there.

  • Then you give some specific examples. There's the Arnold Lewis story, which ended in tragedy. That was in 1978?

  • Then there's as Mazher Mahmood early sting, which you deal with at pages 83 and following. This is a little guest house in The Paddock LA(?), I think.

  • It's probably not necessary to go into the detail of that.

    Mr Cutler and his photographs, that starts at page 92. You've told us something about the faking of photographs. Much of it is in the public domain. At the bottom of page 103, you rightly draw attention to the fact, as you've already told us, that the unfair dismissal claim was rejected in the employment tribunal --

  • -- in East London. Bob and Sue Firth is page 105. Based in part on obviously the articles themselves and in discussions you've had with them. Missing out the sort of reverse sting at the end on Mr Thurlbeck, which the Inquiry isn't so much interested in, what in a nutshell was that story about?

  • That was simply a case of people at the paper, probably Thurlbeck himself mostly, identifying that here was a possibility to go down and write a piece about unusual activities or comparatively unusual activities down in the Dorset countryside, and presumably -- he didn't have photographs -- he didn't have a photographer with him, so presumably he was just going to come back and write the story up and did come back and write the story up with photographs of the house and explain what he'd been offered when he got there and what he'd done, although subsequently he didn't in fact tell the whole story, as subsequent events showed.

    But it was a very run-of-the-mill smut story, as far as they were concerned. It was something that would probably end up on page 20 or 30, not a big story, but another story of sexual misbehaviour in a slightly unlikely spot, which is the kind of story they like very much. They're very keen on sort of rural smut, for some reason.

  • You point out at page 113 that there were various inaccuracies in the story on top of that?

  • Yes, there were, because -- yes.

  • And some of the detail we don't really need to know, but I think --

  • Quite. I think basically it was just embellished and added to in a way to make the story a bit stronger than it already was, which again has turned out to be, as I've found, fairly standard practice. You put in anything extra that you think is going to make the thing look ripe that you don't think is going to get you into trouble.

    Certainly, there's -- one statement which said "Bob hid in a cupboard while Sue romped with guests" was complete nonsense. He didn't hide in a cupboard at all. They told me it was a complete fiction by Thurlbeck and most of what he said -- most of what he listed weren't things that were going on at all. And, of course, at the end he said that he declined the offer of any further services, which turned out not, in fact, to be the case.

    So according to the Firths -- and my inclination was to believe them because my reading of them was that they were quite happy to say that they were running a nudist B&B and that people would wander around in the nude, and if they wanted to engage in sexual shenanigans with one another, that was fun, but the idea that there were sort of organised services being offered was Thurlbeck's fabrication.

  • Okay.

    May I deal with another matter, which is fully in the public domain, page 122. This is the Rebecca Loos story, which we all know about. Just two points on it, though, Mr Burden. You say halfway down page 122:

    "In 2005, the News of the World was given an award for scoop of the year."

    And Mr Thurlbeck was, as it were, the recipient on behalf of the newspaper, is that right, and it related to this story?

  • Yes, it was his story, yes.

  • Do we know what the sum was that Rebecca Loos was paid by the News of the World?

  • We don't precisely, no. Several sums have been bandied around, but I've heard -- I'd heard 300,000 and I'd heard 800,000, so I imagine it was somewhere in between, but as is often the case with this sort of payments, they tend to get blown up as the story progresses, but -- certainly Max Clifford told me she got a substantial sum for it but he didn't say what that sum was.

  • You had conversations with Mr Clifford about this but he was, as it were, loyal to the confidentiality of his client --

  • Yes, I interviewed Mr Clifford very early on in my researches for this book.

  • Might it be said that there was a interest in this story?

  • I think there is a public interest in the way David Beckham plays football and performs as a captain of the team when he was. I don't think there's any public interest whatsoever in what he does in bed with anybody. I think that that's not what he's employed for, it's not what he's famous for, and I don't think it's anybody else's business. Unfortunately, the woman who he dallied with saw it, I guess, as an opportunity to make some money.

  • I'll come back to that issue, if I may.

    May I ask you about the chapters in your book which address Mr Mazher Mahmood, who we're hearing from next week. Your view, I think, is that virtually all of his stories are unethical. Have I correctly understood it?

  • I'm not saying that all of them are, no. I think especially in the early days he was a fairly genuine reporter, but as times went on, it seems to me, having looked at a lot of his stories over a long period of time, that it slowly became easier for him to take the bare bones of a story, or the mere scintilla of a story, and find circumstances in which he could turn it into a much bigger story. The most obvious case was -- there were two obvious cases, specifically the Beckhams again. He claimed that they had foiled an attempt to kidnap Victoria Beckham. When it came to court, which it eventually did -- and I might say that quite a lot of people were in jail for quite a long time awaiting trial -- it turned out that there were no such case at all. These were a group of people who had discussed it and they had recorded -- Mazher Mahmood's agent provocateur, who was a chap called Florim Gashi, an Albanian who used to bring stories to him, to whom he gave 10,000 quid for this particular one, recorded them in a club where they used to go and play snooker, saying, "Oh yes, I know what we could do for a bit of money, we could kidnap the Beckhams", in the same way that you might say you might win the lottery. I mean, there was no serious intent there at all. It was on the basis of that recording alone, which was entirely speculative and not at all serious and actually had absolutely no basis in anybody's real plans whatsoever, that the arrests were made and the case was brought. I mean, there was ultimately no evidence whatsoever of any kind of conspiracy to kidnap these people, which must have been frightening for the Beckhams themselves, because I think their children were involved, and frightening for other people, thinking -- every time there's a story like this comes out, they think, "Oh, this could happen to me", but it was based on nothing at all other than Mazher Mahmood's inventiveness.

  • You were going to mention one other story. That was the first of the two.

  • There was another story about a material called red mercury, which nobody seems to know what it is, that was allegedly being imported by a wheeler dealer in London and was going to be used for bomb-making purposes. Well, the stuff was never found. There was no end-user. The Mr Big that Mr Mahmood was constantly writing -- all his stories seemed to feature a man called Mr Big, in this case a man from Saudi Arabia, which he quoted as being "a hotbed of Al-Qaeda", in order, you know, to suggest that it was a terrorist thing, and he explains that Mr Big from Saudi Arabia was also sympathetic to Muslim causes. Well, presumably, Mr Big, if he came from Saudi Arabia -- it is a Muslim area, so it's not unreasonable. But it's all these little weasel words that get inserted into the stories to give a suggestion of fear and possible danger, based in this case on absolutely nothing at all, and once again people were locked up, awaiting trial, on remand and the cases collapsed almost instantly. And yet no redress was put on the paper or Mazher Mahmood himself for this tremendous waste of public time and money.

    And what is more, if I may add, at the same time, talking of that kind of thing, on many instances he's used people buying cocaine or being prepared to procure cocaine for him and he has produced funds, presumably from petty cash -- he's been asked about this in court -- to buy cocaine in order to propagate a sting so that he can then go back and write a stories about how Johnny Walker, for instance, or the Earl of Hardwicke, or several other individuals were prepared to buy him cocaine, usually under quite a lot of duress from the fake character that he was playing at the time. And curiously, he's never been charged with the illegal purchase of cocaine, although there are no legal grounds on which he can do this to perpetrate a sting.

  • What's the most recent of these stories, Mr Burden?

  • Jodie Kidd, I think probably about three or four years ago, he persuaded to go and buy cocaine for him and that was put up as a video online. I think it might have happened since this book was last published. But you will find that there is a case where Jodie Kidd was set up to go and provide him with some cocaine.

  • It's page 210 of your book.

  • Oh, it is there? It must have happened just before I published this edition then. I apologise. So that was in 2009, I think. I can't recall if there have been more since then.

  • I think it's right to say, Mr Burden, that you remain sceptical about the Pakistani cricketers issue, which of course led to a conviction recently?

  • Yes, it did. I'm puzzled by that. I took the view almost the minute I saw that video on their website that there was something odd about it, because I knew that the John Higgins story, the story of the snooker player apparently taking a bribe, had fallen down because the video evidence had been changed by Mazher Mahmood and his operatives, and that was acknowledged.

    What was odd about the video that was put up on the News of the World website was there were instances where you simply couldn't see the mouth of the man who was supposed to be doing the speaking. It was a fellow called Mazher Majeed, who was the agent between Mazher Mahmood and the cricketers, allegedly, and I opined that this video could easily have been made retroactively, and that's what it seemed to me.

    Having said that, Mohammad Amir, the youngest of the bowlers, has -- did plead guilty and I find that puzzling, but I dare say there's reasons for that. Nevertheless, the point is there was no actual crime there. There was nobody going to go and have a bet on those no-balls. There was nobody going to benefit from it. It was simply Mazher Mahmood setting these people up, putting pressure on them, through Mazher Majeed, to do these no-balls, if they did indeed do them -- I suppose I must accept that they've been found guilty and perhaps they did, but there was nevertheless no clear evidence that anybody was going to benefit from that particular activity, from that particular crime, so it was, in a sense, a non-crime. It was a non-story. The whole event was set up by Mazher Mahmood to get these people, or to show that these people were prepared to bowl a no ball when asked and they seem to have satisfied the jury that that was the case. I have to say that that didn't satisfy me.

  • Do you have any expertise in the area beyond having looked at the material?

  • I wasn't able to look at the raw material because obviously they weren't going to let me have it and indeed I did put up this opinion online and was asked by Messrs Farrer to take it down, which I did, because I couldn't get my hands on the original material.

    But I would say that after the first time I made reference to it, some of the material did come down, the more doubtful-looking material. Whether that was a coincidence or not, I can't say.

  • You weren't approached by the defence to assist them in that case, were you, Mr Burden?

  • You weren't approached by the defence to assist them in that case, were you, for obvious reasons?

  • No. No, I wasn't. I did speak to one of the defence lawyers and I did speak -- take opinion elsewhere and there was a feeling that possibly I could have a case, but without being able to get hold of the material, it was impossible to push it any further.

  • The problem might be that you're obviously entitled to your opinion about any of these matters, but your opinion would not be evidence in court.

  • Unless you're deriving it from some expertise, for example, in the examination of video film, which you're not suggesting you have -- I'm merely explaining it --

  • I accept that entirely and I did have two experts lined up to look at the material if I had been able to get hold of it, but I wasn't able to, not surprisingly.

  • I've been asked to put to you this proposition, that the evidence you've just given might betray a certain lack of objectivity on your part because here you're adhering to a thesis -- no one's saying that you're not entitled to adhere to it but you are -- in the face of convictions reached after a fair trial by a judge and jury, and you're still not changing your mind, which might show that you're betraying a hostile animus towards the News of the World and certainly Mr Mazher Mahmood.

  • Well, I wouldn't say that was entirely the case. I did say I accept that since they pleaded guilty, then perhaps that was the case. I am saying that from past experience of the way that particular reporter operates, it would have come as no surprise to me if it had been manufactured, but of course I have no evidence that it was. I'm, as it were, extrapolating from past experience and past knowledge of stories that he has produced, and indeed an instance where he quite specifically did alter some video evidence that went up online, which is clearly documented. So it was not an unreasonable supposition, but I completely accept that it is a supposition.

  • Thank you. Can I ask you, please, about some of your conclusions at page 282 and following. Chapter 9.

  • Four lines into this chapter you say:

    "There's a growing sense in Britain that newspapers like the News of the World -- by no means the only culprit -- are out of control and unaccountable because various bodies and laws in place which define the public interest and protect the privacy of both public and private individuals are manifestly too weak."

    So here is you writing about two or three years ago, and presumably your opinion hasn't changed much since, has it, Mr Burden?

  • No, but I do detect that the general impetus is towards redressing this now, and presumably this is what this Inquiry is very much about and I have to say I'm very glad that that's the case, but certainly at the time, there were very fee people who wanted to see the PCC go then. A lot of people said, "Oh, we must keep the PCC, and we don't want a privacy law and we don't want statutory law." I sense that that has changed considerably in the last three years.

  • Can I ask you then about your ideas for the future? First of all, in relation to a privacy law, would you propose one?

  • I think what it requires, if not a law about (inaudible), a definition of what -- first of all we start with the definition of what privacy is, which they have in France, and it's quite clear that it affects those aspects of a person's life which don't have anything to do with their public persona, and that seems to be perfectly reasonable and perfectly sensible. If that -- insofar as the Human Rights Act gives an individual a right to privacy under section 8, it seems very clear to me that we must understand quite what privacy is, which we don't here, we don't have a statutory definition of it, and it could be that that could be encapsulated in a statutory act that did protect people's privacy in the same way that other jurisdictions have.

  • Have you researched the French Civil Code? This is page 300 of your book. It looks to the uninitiated as that the French Civil Code merely reiterates what's in Article 8 of the Convention.

  • They do go on to have a clear definition. I say the notion of private life has been developed through caselaw by the French courts which have held that:

    "A person's private life includes his or her love life, friendships, family circumstances, leisure activities, political opinions, trade union or religious affiliation and state of health."

    So in other words, they have developed a fairly clear understanding of what privacy is through caselaw, which we don't appear to have done in this legislature.

  • Do you happen to know whether the Civil Code has a public interest exception?

  • Frankly, I don't, but I would hope that it retains here in the UK -- I'm a full believer of the right of investigative journalists to investigate criminality and corruption, and if that means that they must sometimes break these laws in order to achieve that result, I accept that that must be a defence for that kind of genuine investigative journalism in the case of, say, the Guardian and Jonathan Aitken, where they did break the law in order to get that evidence out, and papers like the Guardian do run serious investigations but they don't fall foul of these kind of libel and privacy actions that the News of the World and the similar newspapers do now.

  • In terms of the PCC, what are your proposals in relation to that?

  • In relation to which?

  • Oh, the PCC? I think that what the Colcutt committee concluded back in 1991 or 1992 that there should be -- a statutory body should be put in place. I think the politicians who were responsible for not accepting Colcutt's representation recommendations were politicians who were, frankly, frightened of the press. I think what's happened in recent months has shown that politicians need not be frightened of the press, and the fact that Parliament has been able to pull in the Murdochs and question them shows that these people are not invincible, and therefore I think there's a much stronger appetite for putting some kind of statutory body in control of the press, but at the time, of course, the press were all throwing their hands up saying, "You cannot possibly gag us", but at the same time nobody was suggesting that the defence of public interest should be removed, and as long as that defence is there, I don't see that there's any problem in saying to the press, "You cannot transgress this far into a person's private life unless you are uncovering a crime or deep corruption", and I think that's a perfectly sensible position to take, and -- but the press always complain very, very strongly at anything that suggests that they might be in any way hampered in doing what they consider their job, or in the case of the tabloid press, putting out stories that are of no public interest whatsoever but do regrettably sell newspapers.

  • It may be that although the public interest isn't necessarily defined by what the public are interested in, what the public are interested in is relevant to decisions being made by the press as to what they should or shouldn't publish.

  • If you completely disregard any individual's right to any kind of privacy, yes.

  • I'm not suggesting you disregard it at all, but it's part of the equation, isn't it?

  • I accept that, but all I'm saying is that this kind of privacy should only be breached where there's a very good reason for doing it.

  • And do you consider that the suggestions you've been putting forward, and indeed you identified in your evidence, I think, to Parliament, would itself have a chilling effect upon the press and would limit what they need to be able to do that is in fact in the public interest? Or not?

  • I don't see why it should, because if they're pursuing a story which is clearly in the public interest, and any serious grown-up journalist knows what is or isn't in the public interest, they can take that risk on the basis that they will have that defence. So I don't see why it should be a problem and I only think that the -- all the press object to any kind of regulation because they don't want any kind of regulation if they -- if it can be avoided, which is understandable from their perspective, but we need protection as well.

  • I understand the point, but I'm not sure that to say that anybody can decide what's in the public interest and knows what's in the public interest will actually necessarily work because different people will have different views about what's in the public interest.

  • I understand that, but I think we should have a clear definition of what is the public interest as well, and I've suggested that in this book, that we define what the public interest is so that we all know what we're talking about.

  • I think you said a minute ago every serious journalist knows what it is --

  • Quite so, but sometimes they need reminding and I think if it was codified, it would make it easier.

  • Mr Burden, you've given us a mass of helpful material in your book, which will be put to other witnesses. I'm not going to ask you to rehearse it now. You've given us the benefit of your views for the future, you've identified your source material. We're very grateful. I have no further questions for you.

  • Do you still maintain your suggestion, I think it was in your evidence, that -- in the memorandum you submitted to the Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, that one of the potential sanctions for an independent press watchdog should be the loss of one or more days' publication?

  • I wonder whether that doesn't interfere rather too extensively with the freedom of the press?

  • Well, that's been put to me and my answer to that is always that if they had a serious story to tell, they could always tell it the next day. If it's a question of finding a sanction that would actually have teeth and hurt them --

  • I understand that. But I just wonder whether that doesn't risk crossing the line between what is an appropriate way to go and what then does interfere with the essential freedom that we all have to speak our minds.

  • I think if they have a genuine opinion to give about anything along those lines, or, indeed, fact, they can always put it in the next day's paper. These things are not usually a matter of hot news, are they? And to lose a day's publication would cost them money at several different levels, and it would make them look very obviously guilty for their transgressions, so it had two effects, as far as I was concerned: it would, A, punish them financially, and B, it would draw the public's attention to the fact that they had transgressed badly.

  • How would that cope with what is the other enormous area that we've touched upon but not really investigated as yet, which is the Internet, which is very difficult, based in this country, to regulate if the server and ISP is abroad?

  • That's a whole other colossal dimension, which no doubt in due course we're going to have to deal with. But that's not something I was addressing here.

  • No, I understand. I just -- I mean, you've --

  • Well, if it's possible, in due course, I suppose similar laws will have to be put into place as regards material put up on the Internet, but of course that's going to be a great deal more difficult, but again it wouldn't be a bad thing to establish even in the print press that people will have to pay for transgressions, so that when we start looking at it for online news, we're in a better position to start applying it there as well, if that becomes possible or is possible, which theoretically, I suppose, it will be in time.

  • Yes, the risk, of course, is that the risky stories won't be published in the print press but will simply go offshore and still cause all the harm that you speak of.

  • In answer to that, sir, of course it doesn't to the same extent because in the end material in the print press is much more widely available and more widely read. It's not a question of everybody looking for one particular blog. There is the instance of the footballer where a lot of people did know, through the Internet, the name of the footballer who was, as it were, playing away from home, but actually I didn't, because I didn't look it up, as a matter of fact, I didn't particularly care, but an awful lot of people didn't know, whereas if it had been published on the front page of the Sun, an awful lot of people would have known. I think it will be a while before that kind of information will become quite so freely available, but I accept that, yes, of course, that happens, and I don't doubt that if stories are bumped off the front page through stricter legislation, they may well appear online, but they still won't have quite the same currency.

    And also it means that the legitimate broadcast media can't refer to them either until they're, as it were, public domain as they've been printed by a British newspaper. So the BBC and the terrestrial broadcasters, indeed, all broadcasters, can't pick up stories from the Internet and pass them on in the way they can with newspaper stories, so I don't think it's quite such a risk, but I accept that of course that will happen, but no doubt in due course some kind of restraint will be put on that.

  • Yes, well, thank you very much.

  • Sir, that concludes the evidence for --

  • Yes. We've had to put off our other substantial witness until later in the week; is that right?

  • Until tomorrow. Tomorrow the running order, the four witnesses are Mr Atkins, Mr Nott, Mr Leigh and Ms Harris. The precise order is to be determined and will be organised in the next 15 minutes.

  • Right. Thank you very much indeed.

  • (The hearing adjourned until 10.00 am the following day)