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

  • Sir, it's a somewhat unsatisfactory position we've reached now at almost 5.30. There are a number of matters that I wanted to pursue with Mr Dacre, lines of inquiry which I have pre-notified Mr Jay, and which, as I understand it, have been notified to the other core participants. They relate to three matters, which have previously been the subject of evidence by Ms Hartley, whose supplemental statement, you'll recall, was received too late for them to be dealt with when she gave her evidence.

    They're the evidence surrounding the birth of Mr Grant's daughter, the plummy-voiced film executive story and the "mendacious smears" attack on Mr Grant, as part of the wider attack, we say, on witnesses who have given evidence to this Inquiry.

    It's fair to say that unfortunately this has become rather personal as against Mr Grant, when we say this is really about the wider culture, ethics and practices of the press. I know, sir, you understand that point, and I hope the other core participants do as well.

    I say we've reached an unsatisfactory position because it's actually worse than that. There are a number of matters that I need to deal with as a result of Mr Dacre having gone to some lengths, understandably, to introduce into his evidence his latest witness statement, which, sir, you indicated you would want to hear submissions about before these matters were dealt with today.

    That latest supplemental statement, of course, was received by Mr Jay personally, I think, at 9.30 pm on Friday. Mr Grant's witness statement, which has not been read into the record, was actually sent to the Inquiry's solicitors at 4.30 pm on Friday, within, I would submit, reasonable time for it to be dealt with.

  • Mr Grant wasn't, of course, giving evidence.

  • No, I know, but anyway. Carry on.

  • I can go through the history of it --

  • No, no, don't go through the history, Mr Sherborne.

  • There's no objection, of course, to that statement, but those are matters that I need to deal with Mr Dacre, and I do fear that that's going to take some time. It obviously depends on the answers, but it will take some time, and you'll recall that this is a matter which really goes all the way back to the morning of 22 November, when I raised serious concerns, as did Mr Garnham on behalf of the Metropolitan Police, as to the article that appeared, the press statement that appeared online, which was put out by Associated Newspapers, in which it referred to all of those matters, and then concluded with the "mendacious smears" accusation.

    It was at that time, sir, you recall, that you asked Mr Caplan to consider --

  • Yes, I remember how this has emerged.

  • And it was only as short a time ago as 11 January when Ms Hartley gave evidence that at the end, as you'll recall, I laid down the marker that I would need to deal with these matters with Mr Dacre, when he came to give evidence on 6 February, and it's only right that he should do so.

    That's why I say we've reached a very unsatisfactory position that at 5.30 pm I'm about to begin questions, with your permission, which will take us some time beyond 6 o'clock.

  • No, they won't, because I've not given anybody half an hour as yet.

  • I understand that, but this is a matter, as I say, which has some considerable history to it, and quite a lot of warning has been given that these matters would need to be dealt with.

  • But I've not as yet given any core participant the right to cross-examine anybody for quite as long as that. I've allowed certain questions. Let's see what Mr Caplan has to say.

  • Sir, I would suggest that these questions do not and should not be put by Mr Sherborne. You'll remember, sir, when Mr Grant gave evidence I did not cross-examine him. I said evidence would be filed. I think if I had applied to cross-examine him, it would have been given very short shrift.

    Sir, the procedure to which we have all been working is that core participants put questions which are relevant to the Inquiry's terms of reference through Inquiry counsel, and on very, very rare exceptions have you given leave for core participants to cross-examine a witness. The Information Commissioner was one.

    Sir, the three issues that Mr Sherborne has highlighted are all to do with Mr Grant. The "mendacious smear" is a matter which has been covered by Mr Jay already. The issues concerning the birth of Mr Grant's daughter and the issues concerning the plummy-voiced executive are issues which satisfactorily, insofar as they are relevant, can be dealt with by evidence on paper.

    Sir, you have said many times that you're concerned with the general issues and the important issues here of culture and practices of the media, and with respect, these are issues in respect of which no finding of fact is in fact required.

  • I'd also mention one other thing, if I may, and that is that the story in relation to the plummy-voiced executive in any event is a story which was published in the Mail on Sunday, in respect of which Mr Wright was the editor.

  • I understand that, but the response to it, Ms Hartley said and indeed Mr Dacre has said, involved him.

    I understand the point. I am concerned with the culture, practice and ethics of the press generally, but there is no doubt that this particular dispute has achieved a significance -- maybe rather larger than it merits but undeniably has achieved that significance, and indeed the additional statement that Mr Dacre has signed deals extensively with the relationship between his newspaper and Mr Grant.

    I think that it would be wrong to prohibit Mr Sherborne from asking some questions, and I'm not going to, but I am going to require him to do so very much more briefly than he has suggested. He can put the allegations. He can investigate them to some extent. He can file evidence to some extent, but I am not going to be making findings of fact on many of the broad issues.

    On the other hand, I'm not prepared to allow Mr Grant, who gave evidence of complaint, to have to face further complaints about him which he can't respond to, other than in the public domain in some other way.

  • Could I just mention, if there are to be questions, as you have indicated there are -- briefly, as I understand it -- it is important, if I may say so, that the previous statements by Mr Grant to which Mr Dacre has referred in evidence, which are all matters of record, should clearly be published and he should be allowed, if necessary, to refer to them in any answer he gives.

    Those are the statements in July of last year, which made allegations against the Daily Mail.

  • I don't see reason why not. Mr Sherborne?

  • Far from it. I was going to ask also that the latest statement by Mr Grant should also be read into the record.

  • I'll wait and see about that, because I want to think about the second statement of Mr Dacre.

  • Mr Dacre's already given the evidence which is contained in his statement in answer to Mr Jay. He introduced a number of items he tried to read out from the schedule which was attached to it and he has concluded, as I say, in his answers the nub of the point that is contained in the latter half of his supplemental statement.

  • I'm not going to be able to ask him the questions that I wish to ask him without, in fairness to him, putting to him what is in Mr Grant's supplemental statement.

  • I was just going to say -- I don't want to interrupt proceedings. I know if possible we want to conclude Mr Dacre's evidence as quickly as possible, so I hear what you say and the sooner, if I may say so --

  • Right. If it means that all these statement goes in, then so be it.

    Mr Dacre, I am prepared to carry on because I'm conscious of your other responsibilities, but if you feel you'd rather return at some other time, then equally I'm prepared to adjourn now.

  • I'd rather deal with them now.

  • Can we deal with your latest supplemental statement, Mr Dacre, and although Mr Grant will respond to it by way of a further statement, can I deal with two points. The latter half of your statement appears to be a further criticism of Mr Grant. Can I summarise it in this way, because of the time: that contrary to the impression he gave in his evidence about not wanting to be in the press or to have his picture taken, firstly in fact he is all too happy to be photographed, even in the street, for example, which is what you say, and second, he was keen to get himself into the media and promote his commercial ventures as much as possible. Is that a fair summary of the latter half of your supplemental statement?

  • Yes, that is reasonably fair, in the sense that I believe Mr Grant has spent his life opening up his own life to the public, invading his own privacy and discussing the most intimate details of his life.

  • Can I start, then, with your accusation that Mr Grant is only too happy to be photographed in the street.

  • I don't think I say that.

  • You do. Paragraph 14. I took the wording from your statement.

  • 14 of your witness statement.

  • No, I don't say it's happy. I say there are thousands of published photographs of Mr Grant that can be classified as follows, and I denote the various classifications.

  • You do use the words, don't you? Can I just look at paragraph 14:

    "He's happy being photographed in public places."

  • Yes. I'm sorry, you're right. You're right, yes. I presume, as he's smiling in the pictures.

  • You see, that's the precise opposite, Mr Dacre, of what you've attacked him for in the past. Are you aware of that? Can I quote you an article?

  • Excuse me, I don't think I've ever criticised Mr Grant.

  • You say in your statement that he's only too happy to be photographed in the street.

  • I include that as one in four categories of photographs that have appeared of Mr Grant, thousands of them in British papers over 12 years.

  • Can I read to you what the Daily Mail wrote on 3 May 2007 in an article by Alison Boshoff which was about the notorious incident, if you remember, when Mr Grant kicked a baked bean tin at a paparazzo who was waiting for him. Your article says this:

    "Grant, as usual, was annoyed to be photographed in the street."

  • 2007, your newspaper. Do you accept that that is inconsistent with what you say in your statement now?

  • I really can't believe this Inquiry expects me to remember something that happened five years ago in the Daily Mail in a feature. The point I'm trying to make is here is a man who has assiduously, throughout his life, backed up by a huge celebrity PR industry, courted the press.

  • In the same article it says this:

    "Despite the fact that they played such a big part in making him both famous and wealthy, Mr Grant detests the media."

  • That's the original article, is it?

  • If you send it to me, I'll look at it and get back to you in detail, but I can't possibly be expected to answer something that occurred in an article five years ago.

  • You see, the same inconsistency applies to the promotion of his films. In your latest statement, you say that he "mercilessly promotes his films, commercially exploiting his life in the process", but in an article which Mr Grant brought proceedings over, on 24 February 2007, you said precisely the opposite. You said this, Daily Mail, February 24, 2007:

    "Much to her disappointment, it turned out that Hugh didn't like socialising at all. In fact, he hated it. He even resented having to promote his films."

  • Well, in that case, he's a very good actor.

  • But you see, you apologised to him for that article in a statement in open court, which is exactly the same one as we have in relation to the plummy-voiced executive. Do you remember that?

  • Which one are we talking about now, sorry?

  • A statement in open court that Associated Newspapers consented to in 2007.

  • I don't remember it. I shall go back to the office, I'll look into it and send this Inquiry a written submission if you require it. This is years ago.

  • What I'm putting to you, Mr Dacre, is this: that this latest statement that was put together for you, as you say, with examples, no doubt, provided by people within your organisation is just another shooting-from-the-hip attack on Mr Grant, instead of simply responding to correct the record if there is an inaccuracy.

  • I categorically deny it. That is certainly not shot from the hip. It's a very considered argument. Over the years -- and we give ample, ample examples -- Mr Grant has invaded his own privacy with great proficiency.

  • I'm not going to take you, given the time, to the number of witnesses who have been attacked in Associated Newspapers' publications who have given evidence to this Inquiry --

  • You're giving a very partial impression of the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday.

  • To be fair to you, Mr Dacre, it doesn't just relate to Associated Newspapers. There are other newspapers which have dealt with those who have given evidence here in a way which we say has vilified them, but since we're dealing with Mr Grant, we've seen the article that was written about him after the birth of his daughter by Amanda Platell. Do you remember it?

  • I remember that, yes.

  • In which he was described, would you accept, in extremely nasty terms?

  • That was a strong column -- a columnist's strong views. Ms Platell is a star columnist of the Daily Mail, a very talented lady. She was expressing her views, as -- I think it's labelled a comment page.

  • Can I just read you very quickly some of the bits --

  • Was this not submitted earlier to the Inquiry? Is it necessary to read it out again?

  • What it does, Mr Dacre, is it shows that the attacks which have been launched on various individuals for giving evidence are simply one way of just generating more stories. Do you understand what I mean by that?

  • I'm afraid I don't, no.

  • Look, Amanda Platell describes the birth of Mr Grant's daughter on 3 November in these terms:

    "Once a most loved actor, the truth is Grant has become a lonely, bitter man, consumed with hatred of the media who helped make him a star. One can only imagine how scarred his abandoned daughter is going to feel. It remains to be seen if the self-obsessed Mr Grant will be able to give any long-term commitment apart from a financial one, by dipping into his fortune."

    That's written on 3 November, but Ms Hartley has exhibited to her supplemental witness statement an email from Mr Todd, one of the journalists who was trying to cover the birth of Mr Grant's daughter. The email that was sent to Mr Grant's assistant on 25 October, nine days earlier, says this about the birth:

    "Hi Sarah [that's, of course, Mr Grant's assistant]. Further to our conversation earlier, this is to inform you we are intending to publish an article that Hugh Grant became a father for the first time on 26 September to a baby daughter born at the Portland Clinic in central London. The mother is Tinglan Hong. We think this is wonderful news."

    It's hardly consistent, is it?

  • Yes, but it's -- with great respect, it demonstrates a failure to understand how a newspaper works. This was a showbusiness reporter. He wants to get a story. He approaches the public relations representative of Mr Grant and says he'd like to write a story about it. It would have been very helpful at that stage if that public relations expert had told the truth and we could have published a sensible story and it wouldn't have had to wait for it to break on an American website.

  • Let's come to the way in which it broke, shall we? You believe, don't you, in the importance of total journalistic integrity? Do you accept that?

  • I believe that journalists should behave with integrity, yes.

  • You believe that throughout these events, your visits demonstrated total journalistic integrity, don't you?

  • My managing editors have looked into this and I think they're satisfied that we employed legitimate and correct journalistic procedures.

  • Can we explore that a little bit. Can we start with Ms Hong's mobile number and how Associated Newspapers got it.

    Ms Hartley says that a journalist somehow got an address for Ms Hong, went to the flat and was provided by the girlfriend of the current resident with at least the lettings agency's identity and details. Is that right?

  • If Ms Hartley has told this Inquiry that, yes, I'm sure that's absolutely correct. Very honest woman.

  • You've seen Mr Grant's supplemental statement, haven't you?

  • I haven't, no. You mean today's?

  • The one served on Friday at 4.30.

  • No, I haven't seen it, no.

  • Can I ask that you be given a copy of it? I'm surprised you haven't seen it. It was circulated, as I understand it, to all the core participants at 4.30 last Friday. Can I hand it up. (Handed)

    You see, what Ms Hartley did not say, but we see from Mr Grant's supplemental statement -- if I can ask you to turn to the first exhibit, which is a letter from the girlfriend of the current resident. What Ms Hartley did not say is that the journalist who spoke to the girlfriend of the current resident didn't say he was a reporter from the Daily Mail at all.

  • Well, my managing editor -- officers interviewed him and he insists he did. I'm sure he did.

  • Here is a letter from Helen Ireland, who is the woman that he spoke to, and she says this:

    "At no point did he identify himself as a member of the press. I've only recently been made aware of the previous tenant's circumstances, so would have asked a reporter why he wanted details. Although I would still have not been able to supply them with an address, I would have refrained from telling him who the letting agent was and where they were."

  • I don't know what you're wanting me to say. I've told you: a reporter represented himself as coming from the Daily Mail and I suspect this person in retrospect -- and I don't want to put words into her mouth and make imputations -- probably regretted it and is saying that she hadn't heard that he was from the Daily Mail.

  • Sorry to interrupt, but we just haven't had notice of these questions.

  • I know and it is -- I mean --

  • Mr Dacre and I did not know these questions were going to be asked, but Mr Dacre is obviously giving the best answers we can to questions that are coming --

  • Had you seen this statement?

  • The statement was served on us late on Friday night. Mr Dacre has been busy, in fact, dealing with matters for the Inquiry, and in fact he has not actually seen this statement. He's been dealing with a lot of other material, and had I known he was going to deal with specific questions like this, obviously --

  • He'll do the best he can, but this is not a productive way, if I may say so, to deal with it. I didn't know, and we had no notice, these questions were going to be asked.

  • I understand the point, and if Mr Dacre hasn't seen the statement, it's rather difficult for him to be able to deal with it.

    I equally understand why you want to pursue them. I am keen to ensure that you've had the opportunity to ask Mr Dacre such questions as you feel are necessary within the constraints that I have given you. To what extent do you wish to go further into Mr Grant's further statement on the basis that doubtless this evidence will be served and be put into the Inquiry and people will be able to make submissions upon it as they will. It's unlikely that Mr Dacre is going to be able to unpick precisely what the reporter said to this lady, however much time he's given.

  • Sir, Mr Dacre in his supplemental statement relies on what Ms Hartley said in her supplemental.

  • You will recall that when she finished giving evidence, I said that we'd not had sufficient notice, which you accepted, for me to deal with it with Ms Hartley and I would have to deal with it with Mr Dacre when he came to give evidence on 6 February. It's clearly on the transcript.

  • Yes, I'm not challenging that for one moment. It may be that the better course is to find a vehicle through which these questions can be asked, but not necessarily now. I understand that you have responded. I understand equally that there must inevitably be limits on what Mr Dacre could have done over the weekend in any event and it may be that we will have to come back to it.

  • I understand that, and as I said, in order to be fair to Mr Dacre, I think it is only right that he has an opportunity to read this statement, because there are matters in there which do relate to the evidence he has given not only in relation to the birth of Mr Grant's daughter, but also the plummy-voiced exclusive story.

  • Then of course he's gone further, as you heard in his evidence, than simply to make the "mendacious smear" accusation again, but rather to say this was a deliberate attempt by Mr Grant to hijack the Inquiry and to cause damage to his newspaper.

  • So there are points I need to put, and I do stress that it is only fair to Mr Dacre that he has an opportunity to read this latest statement that was put in on Friday afternoon, and I am happy, as I said before, to deal with it in due course, but not at ten to 6.

  • Would it be helpful if you put your questions to me in writing and I dealt with them in writing back to the Inquiry? I can assure this Inquiry I will give them every -- the most considered attention and respond in the best way I can.

  • That was the suggestion I was going to make to you, in that this part of -- these questions and this line of inquiry should be dealt with in writing.

  • I'm not so sure whether that's going to be satisfactory but the answer is this: whatever way is satisfactory, this isn't.

  • Indeed it isn't, sir.

  • And I will revisit tomorrow how we address this particular set of issues. I'm not prepared to carry on. There is a limit to the time that I think is appropriate, given all the things that I have said about the focus of this Inquiry, to descend into some of the detail, but equally I understand that the issue, as I said to Mr Caplan, has become rather totemic and therefore requires further thought.

    What I think we ought to do is stop now, revisit how we are going to address it, the extent to which it requires Mr Dacre or Ms Hartley, and think about it again. I'm not saying that I'm going to -- how I'm going to resolve it but I do think it's only fair to everybody that it's resolved rather more carefully than is likely to be possible at 10 to 6 on Monday evening.

    Right. Mr Dacre, I understand the position you adopt. I am not prepared to allow you to be required to answer questions which you haven't had the opportunity to think about. I'm equally not prepared to shut out some of these lines in the light of the evidence and the allegations that have been made. Equally, I'm not prepared to take a great deal of time over what may not constitute central features of the over-arching aspect of the Inquiry.

    So I will review how best to deal with it at some later time. It may or may not require you to return shortly, but if you do have to return, it will be shortly. I'm sorry about that, but I think that this is simply not a sensible way of proceeding. I take entirely the point that you've made; I equally understand what Mr Sherborne has said. This just, however, isn't sensible.

    In the meantime, I am very keen that those who are contemplating what the future should look like should take on board what you've said, which may or may not provide an additional avenue of legitimate Inquiry, but they should certainly look at it, and I'm grateful to you for continuing to think about these issues.

    You should not believe, as I think two or three times you've said, that the Inquiry is taking a rather blinkered and only negative view of the press --

  • I didn't say "blinkered".

  • No, you didn't. That's my word.

  • I wouldn't have used that word. But I would ask your Honour to accept that perhaps inevitably the way the Inquiry has been conducted and televised, the British public are receiving a very bleak and one-sided view of the press which isn't fair or isn't true. A great industry that employs thousands of journalists --

  • I'm not sure that's entirely fair, because I think each of the editors who have given evidence have not only spoken of the very good work that they've done, but have been given the opportunity to elaborate, and --

  • I'm not sure that's got across to the public, your Honour.

  • Can I just ask that Mr Sherborne puts into writing the questions he wants to ask. I think it will then be much clearer as to the areas that need to be --

  • I think what we can do is ask him to identify the topics in a series of bullet points so that we can decide precisely how we're going to proceed without necessarily going to the precise questions.

  • Sir, I already have done that. I sent Mr Jay that. As I understood it, they were passed on by Mr Jay to the other core participants but I'm happy to repeat the exercise if that's felt helpful.

  • It may just be a question of forwarding an email. Thank you very much indeed. 10 o'clock tomorrow.

  • (The hearing adjourned until 10 o'clock the following day)