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

  • MR PAUL DACRE (recalled).

  • Good afternoon, Mr Dacre.

    Can I begin by taking a minute to explain why you're back here, as there may be some misunderstanding about it, given some of the reporting. As you know, the reason is not, and I repeat not, because of some sort of personal score between you and your newspaper on the one hand and Mr Grant on the other. That's obviously not of primary interest to the Inquiry. You understand that, don't you?

  • And this is really about the bigger picture, as it were. Can I start then by telling you what I'm not going to deal with? I'm not going to deal with the events surrounding the reporting of the birth of Mr Grant's child, how journalists obtained private information from the registry office and so on --

  • It's very clear the two topics that are going to be dealt with. We raised it in front of you yesterday. They are the two topics which were raised with you, and I'm sorry to say but Mr Sherborne is rehearsing other topics which never were in the purview of this further evidence.

  • I think the probable answer, Mr Sherborne, is to just crack on with the two topics.

  • I am going to deal with the article about the "plummy-voiced woman" that was published by Associated Newspapers in February of 2007.

    Can we begin with the article itself? We've prepared a small bundle of documents for you; none of them should be a surprise. Do you have a copy of that bundle, Mr Dacre?

  • You should find at tab 2, I think, page 13, although you may, I think, have taken the article itself out of that bundle, you may have a separate copy of it, but if you could find a copy of that article, page 13, and can you see there's the sub-headline on the right-hand side talking about the flirtation with the glamorous film executive?

  • Mr Sherborne, do I have a copy of this?

  • I would hope that your Lordship does. I don't know, sir, whether you have the bundles that were prepared by the Inquiry --

  • I have the bundle prepared by the Inquiry.

  • It should be in that bundle. If you give me a moment, I can find which tab. I'm sorry, I've already handed my copy of the little bundle we prepared for Mr Dacre away. I think you will find it --

  • I'm keen to follow what you're asking, that's all.

  • And I'm keen that you're able to follow it as well, sir. I think it's probably an exhibit to the witness statement of Mr Grant, is it? To the second supplementary statement. You see, I'm not sure you will have that in your bundle. Can I hand up a copy? I think I have a spare copy somewhere that I can hand up. I have a very marked copy. (Handed).

  • I can ignore the markings as long as I can follow what's going on. Thank you. Right.

  • The real thrust of the story that we're concerned about is to be found, Mr Dacre, in about four paragraphs in the third column. Do you see?

  • Starting with:

    "Jemima has become convinced her 46-year-old boyfriend is involved with a glamorous, young Cambridge-educated film executive."

    Now --

  • Yes, fine, got it here.

  • I'm grateful. We don't have much time, so can I summarise those four paragraphs. I think there's one at the top there, then there's a second one and then there's -- you can miss out the following ones because they're about Drew Barrymore, and then the theme is picked up again with the paragraph "But the truth is Jemima was far more concerned".

    Can I summarise those paragraphs in this way and see if you accept it: there are two outstanding feature to this story. One is the repeated reference to Mr Grant's use of mobile phones and mobile phone contacts between him and this woman, and the second outstanding feature is the repeated reference to the fact that this woman, with whom he's accused of having a flirtation, sounded posh or plummy. Would you take that from me?

  • Yes, that's a very rough and ready shorthand version of it, yes.

  • There are no fewer, I think, than eight references to phones or phoning, and three or four references to this other woman having a plummy voice of some description in those four paragraphs. You see my point, Mr Dacre, is this, that the clear emphasis of this story is on the telephone contact that was taking place with this other woman and what she sounded like. Do you follow?

  • I'd rather put my own word on it. What are you going to ask me, please?

  • Do you accept that those are the two outstanding features --

  • No, no, I mean this is three or four paragraphs in a 2,000-word piece, so I can't really accept that that's the summary.

  • But in relation to what is said about this film executive, who, it is said, destroyed the relationship between Jemima Khan and Hugh Grant, will you accept those are the two key features?

  • No, I won't. I'd rather you ask me questions and I will answer them. I'm not going to characterise them using your words.

  • Do you want me to take you through the article and show you each and every reference to a phone and a plummy voice?

  • I don't think it matters, Mr Sherborne. I think that I can read the article in its entirety and I would like the whole of the article so that I can read it, and then I will make a decision, if it's important, about the points that you're making, but they come out of the article rather than anything else, don't they?

  • Let's deal with what we know, Mr Dacre. We know that no such woman as described in your article existed, don't we?

  • Firstly, let me just put it in some kind of context. This article was in the Mail on Sunday, all right? It has its own autonomous editor, as I made clear to the Inquiry earlier in the week, and I think you already spent a great deal of time with our legal director and, indeed, him discussing this. I, however, am now prepared to talk about it.

    I think the central thing we have to say about this, whatever is in the article and whatever is in those four paragraphs, we admitted at the time we got it wrong, we paid your client modest damages, so in that sense anything referring to this article, it's already been acceded that it's wrong.

  • Exactly. It's been conceded that there was no such executive at Warner Brothers --

  • And at the time we conceded it was wrong, Mr Hugh Grant insisted that he didn't know at all any woman of this description, and that was the basis on which our settlement was made.

  • Why do you say that, Mr Dacre?

  • Well, because that's what happened.

  • Isn't it right, Mr Dacre, that at the time that he complained about this article, he did refer to a personal assistant --

  • No, I don't think so. At that time he insisted that he knew of no such woman and that no woman existed of that kind.

  • Can I hand you up a letter before action that was sent by his solicitors --

  • I'm sorry to interrupt. This is exactly the type of situation I wanted to forestall yesterday, putting in documents which Mr Dacre hasn't seen and he's now being shown for the first time while giving his evidence. That was the whole point of agreeing that any further documentation would come to Mr Dacre by lunchtime yesterday so that if any further research was needed to be done, he needed to acquaint himself with any archived information, he could do so.

  • All right. I'm not sure it's going to help. I don't mind seeing a letter, I don't think it's necessarily appropriate to put it to Mr Dacre because it's going to a slightly different issue.

  • Well, it is, because what Mr Dacre is suggesting is that Mr Grant didn't make any point about this at this time. That's what I was dealing with. It wasn't meant to be part of the examination of Mr Dacre, but I'll move on.

  • So you accepted, as part of the settlement, that there was no such woman at Warner Brothers; correct?

  • Correct. What we do know now, because we've had a statement from Patricia Owens, who was the plummy-voiced film production company assistant that Mr Grant referred to in his evidence, who was leaving messages for him at the time, we do know that there was that person, don't we?

  • Well, I repeat, in our settlement at that time, it is my understanding that Mr Grant's position was that he knew no woman of any kind as described in this piece.

    For the life of me, I can't understand the consistency of your argument. Seems to me you're saying that the true woman that eventually he realised we're referring to, even though he hadn't remembered at the time of our settlement, at this Inquiry, hey presto, he conveniently remembers that it could have been, it could have been a plummy-voiced woman in California, a PA of middle age. If we'd been hacking into his phone, why, in this article, even though we've said it wasn't true and it accepted it wasn't true, why was the woman who referred to a Cheltenham Ladies School educated lady who'd been to Cambridge, she was now a senior executive at Warners in London. It doesn't make sense, with all possible respect.

  • I really don't have a lot of time, Mr Dacre, so I'd prefer it, if you can, to restrict your answers to the questions that I've put to you as opposed to questions that I might put to you. So can we come back to my question: have you seen Ms Owens' witness statement or not?

  • This is the PA in California?

  • This is the executive assistant in the film production company in California, yes.

  • Yes, I've seen that, yes.

  • And you've seen that she confirms that she was leaving messages late at night about meetings and that they might have been understood by someone who had been listening in, who didn't know the context, as being a bit flirtatious, a bit jokey. You've seen she said that, yes?

  • Okay, so we know there was no woman at Warner Brothers, there was no source to this story, but there does happen to have been a woman who was leaving messages at the time on Mr Grant's phone; correct?

  • That is what you are saying, yes. I am saying that, as editor-in-chief of Associated Newspapers, who had looked into this matter -- I wasn't the editor of the paper concerned -- I've spoken to the editor who assures me -- and I know what you're trying to say, that he was using phone hacking. He categorically denies it, as I categorically denied it the other day. He assures me that this piece was obtained by legitimate journalistic methods. He has explained to you and it's been explained to this Inquiry that the author of the piece, Katie Nicholl, the diary editor of the Mail on Sunday, wrote this piece drawing on evidence provided to her by Sharon Feinstein, a long-time, very experienced senior showbusiness writer expert, who in turn drew some of her material from a source in the Grant camp, who she had used before and had always found to be impeccably accurate. In this instance it wasn't, and that was the basis of this article, or these three paragraphs in the article.

  • Mr Dacre, we're going to get through this much quicker if you just answer my questions.

  • I promise you there'll be plenty of time to make the points that you want to make.

    So let's come back to the details which you say don't quite match the description of Ms Owens in the article, because I think you mentioned one or two in one of your previous answers. Let's take them very quickly in turn, if I may.

    You say that the woman in the article is said to work for Warner Brothers and Mrs Owens doesn't work for Warner Brothers. That's right? Well, technically she doesn't, but you accept, don't you, Mr Dacre, that she does work with a production company associated with Warner Brothers that was making a film --

  • -- with Mr Grant at the time.

  • Frankly, I have absolutely no idea and I don't know what you're trying get at, I really honestly don't, with great respect.

  • Rather than look at what I'm trying to get at, why don't you answer the question, Mr Dacre? Have you read her statement in which she says exactly what I just put to you?

  • I haven't got it to hand. I did read it a couple of nights ago. I can't actually recall the exact --

  • You read it a couple of nights ago?

  • You didn't read it today at all?

  • I know this may astonish you, but I'm editor-in-chief of a major publishing group, I've had major board meetings, I've had very considerable staffing issues to do and I'm trying to edit my paper. So yes, I read it two nights ago, but I have actually done some homework today on this subject.

  • So what I'm putting to you, Mr Dacre, is that although she didn't work for Warner Brothers, she did work for a film production company associated with Warner Brothers. Do you just accept that?

  • If you say it's in the statement, I will accept it.

  • Indeed. And the other point you make, and Ms Hartley makes in, I think, one of her statements, is that Mrs Owens is not a senior executive in the film industry. That's one of your points as well, as is described in the article.

  • But you do accept, don't you, that she was executive assistant to the president of the film production company? Will you accept that?

  • Is this in her statement?

  • I must take your assurance for it then.

  • The one point you mentioned only moments ago is you say that the woman in the article is described as having been educated at Cheltenham's Ladies College in Cambridge, whereas Mrs Owens wasn't. That's your point, isn't it?

  • It says in the article, that she was, yes, that the lady who we accepted didn't exist, and who Mr Grant said didn't exist, and we accepted we got it wrong and paid modest damages.

  • Mr Owens tells us in her statement that she obviously is English, she was educated at college in Surrey and, critically, she has what people might describe as a posh or plummy voice.

  • But it didn't originally -- it didn't exist originally when we paid the damages, the modest damages to Mr Grant.

  • I think the last point that is made by Associated Newspapers trying to distance itself from Mrs Owens is that the article itself doesn't mention any voicemail messages. Do you remember Ms Hartley said that?

  • Can I just deal with that point? There are two answers to that, aren't there, Mr Dacre? First is this: you wouldn't expect the article to mention voicemails explicitly, would you, even if they'd been listened to?

  • I don't know where this conversation is leading to, Mr Sherborne, but --

  • If you can just answer the questions, maybe we'll get to where it's leading much quicker.

  • I've told you already that this lady, either of your ladies, Mr Grant denied existed when we paid him damages. At this Inquiry, he suddenly, hey presto, out of a hat produces a rabbit that it must have been this lady.

  • Will you answer my question now?

  • Sorry, could you remind me what it was?

  • Isn't the answer to your suggestion that there is no reference in this article to voicemail messages at all that you wouldn't expect there to be because, of course, listening to voicemail messages is a criminal offence?

  • Well, clearly, yes, Mr Sherborne.

  • And it's precisely the answer that there's no reference to voicemail messages here that Mr Mohan gave when he was recalled on Tuesday to deal with similar pieces in the Sun which looked like the product of phone hacking. Did you hear his evidence?

  • I didn't hear his editor -- his evidence, and I deeply resent your comparison to my paper.

  • You see, isn't the truth this, as Mr Jay put to Mr Mohan, and I'll quote him faithfully:

    "The article doesn't refer to voicemails, but there is a lot of information in it obtained in or around knowing what is happening in telephone calls, isn't there?"

  • I can't answer this question. I don't understand it, I don't know where you're getting to. I'm not prepared to comment on Mr Mohan's evidence. I haven't read it, I haven't examined it --

  • I'm not asking you --

  • -- and I don't -- I don't see --

  • -- to comment on Mr Mohan's evidence.

  • -- I don't see the relevance to this -- the three paragraphs in this article, with the greatest of respect.

  • I understand the point, Mr Sherborne, but actually you're simply asking Mr Dacre to comment, and this is really a speech, with respect.

  • What I'm asking Mr Dacre to do is to consider the source of this article, because what I'm going to come on to do is to ask him about how he was able to publish the statement that he did on 22 November that Mr Grant (overspeaking) --

  • I did not publish it! It was in the Mail on Sunday, it was the Mail on Sunday --

  • No, no, Mr Dacre, actually I think this article you did.

  • Oh, we've moved on? I apologise, I apologise to you.

  • I understand the point, but it's very important that Mr Dacre be asked to deal with the facts and then you can argue the inferences to such extent as it matters and we can do that at leisure.

  • You see, Mr Dacre, the short point is this isn't it a coincidence that at the very time of this article --

  • Which article are we talking about now?

  • The one that should still be --

  • The one that should still be in front of you.

  • I think everything is back to the Mail on Sunday.

  • Right. So, as I said, not an article I placed in the paper.

  • I understand that, but you have explained now more than once that you've investigated it and that you've had people investigate these matters for the purposes of the statement that was put out in November of last year.

    So perhaps I can ask you again: isn't it a bit much of a coincidence that at the very time of this article about the flirtation with a posh film industry woman that there was a plummy-voiced Englishwoman, who was an executive assistant in the film industry, who was leaving Mr Grant silly or flirtatious messages on his voicemail late at night about meeting up about a Warner Brothers film? Do you understand what I mean by that?

  • I'm not going to comment on coincidences.

  • But in these circumstances, Mr Dacre, can you honestly be 100 per cent certain, having looked into it, that this story was not based on information which had somehow been accessed from Mr Grant's voicemails?

  • I can be as confident as any editor, having made extensive enquiries into his newspaper's practices and held an inquiry, that phone hacking was not practised by the Daily Mail or the Mail on Sunday. You know that because I gave my unequivocal, unequivocal assurances earlier in this week.

  • You see, Mr Mohan, the editor of the Sun -- you mentioned other editors -- had to accept that he couldn't be 100 per cent sure that none of his journalists or freelancers -- remember this is a freelance story -- that none of his journalists --

  • No, it was a freelance story that was written by a staff person talking to senior freelancers, yes.

  • That none of his journalists or freelancers hadn't obtained any of their stories?

  • Yes, I can be very confident because those journalists are journalists of integrity, we've used them in our group for years and the source I have told you of Ms Feinstein had been impeccably accurate in the past.

  • And Mr Wallis also said he couldn't be sure.

  • I'm not going to speak for other newspapers. I will speak for Associated Newspapers and I've told this Inquiry, I cannot be any more unequivocal, that all my enquiries and all the evidence I've received, and having spoken to the editor of my group: our group did not hack phones, and I rather resent your continued insinuations that we did.

  • Can we come on to Ms Khan? You'll remember that Jemima Khan was forced to make a statement because when you put out the press release in November of last year, which contained the "mendacious smears" allegation, you suggested that the source of the story had come from Ms Khan herself. Do you remember that?

  • I didn't suggest, no.

  • Do you want to have a look at the statement that, as I understand it, you authorised being put out in November.

  • I'm sorry, I thought you meant in our witness statements. Yes, I recall, yes.

  • And you've seen that she's sworn a statement denying that she was the source?

  • But look, it is absolutely irrelevant. I'm sorry. We got this bit of the story wrong. We apologised in open court. We paid, we paid modest damages to rectify the situation, very quickly, as it happens. Therefore Ms Khan, much as I respect her, is swearing on a story that we had conceded was wrong.

  • But do you accept there are only two -- what I'm concerned with is how you can have satisfied yourself so that you could be 100 per cent sure, as you say you are, that there was nothing tainted about the source of this story. That's what I'm asking you about.

  • I told you, having spoken at length to the editor of the Mail on Sunday, who has spoken to this Inquiry -- I'm not quite sure why you didn't grill him as much on this -- that I am satisfied that legitimate journalistic methods were used to obtain the source for the basis of these three paragraphs.

  • But do you see why I ask you this, because there are only two options, Mr Dacre.

  • I'm not going to speculate. I'm not going to be drawn by your innuendo. I've made clear my position and I'm not going to deviate from that.

  • I'd like to ask a different question, because I am not going to make a decision, I think, about the precise source of this story. I am not going to make a finding of any sort about where this story came from. At least that's my present view.

    The concern that I had and the only real concern that I had was that Mr Grant came here and said -- I think he used the word "speculate", I think he meant "infer", having had an idea that this might have come from hacking. That's how he put it, and I think he said, "I'd love to hear the different explanation."

  • And you on behalf of the Mail were absolutely entitled to say, "He can think, he can infer what he wishes, he can think what he likes, he's entitled to, but he's wrong. It didn't; it came from another source." Fine. If that's what had been said, then I for one would have pushed the whole thing away.

    But the story that came out contained within it "Mr Grant is guilty of a mendacious smear". He is deliberately lying, that's what it means. In other words, he's made a conscious decision, knowing perfectly well it's not true, to say it on oath.

    I was concerned about that word, that's all. For me, that's the only thing here.

  • Could I then respond to that?

  • This needs to be put in a context and I thought I'd done some of it the other day and I'd like to amplify it, I'm grateful for the time.

    First of all, let's go back to that first day of the Inquiry. It was an extraordinary occasion, an extraordinary day. There's never been an inquiry like this before, it was being televised, it was being beamed around the world. It was a unique occasion.

    Mr Grant, the poster boy for Hacked Off, is giving evidence on the first day, an international film star. He makes his allegation. It wasn't an innocent piece of evidence; it had been drawn out of him by the Inquiry. He makes it. He hadn't included it in his witness statement. He knew, I would suggest, the damage it would cause.

    After all, allegations of phone hacking have closed down a newspaper and has resulted in the loss of work by hundreds and hundreds of journalists. It was explosive and it was toxic and he, as a very sophisticated communicator, he deals with the press all his life, knew the damage it would cause.

    What he omitted to tell this court, what he omitted to tell you, was that he had made these allegations in a much firmer form before and our legal department had put him on notice that they were not accurate and that we'd written to his representatives making that clear. That is why I used the word "mendacious" statement.

    I'd now like to take on the context of the actual day. I think I explod -- I explained to you that I was driving back from an appointment, the lead item on the four o'clock news on the BBC was that another newspaper group had been dragged into the phone hacking scandal. Actor Hugh Grant had accused -- accused, not speculated, not suggested, not inferred -- this is modern journalism shorthand -- had been accused -- I'm sorry, had accused my group of being involved in phone hacking. I cannot tell you how damaging that was to our group.

    But, as I said, he made this statement before so if you just bear with me because it's very important. On 7 July 2011 Mr Grant told the House of Lords that the Hacked Off -- at the launch of the Hacked Off campaign:

    "Private investigator Glenn Mulcaire worked 70 per cent of his time for the News of the World and 30 per cent for the Daily Mail."

    That is untrue and false. I have carried out a major internal inquiry into our payments and our computers. We have never paid any payments to Mr Mulcaire. I repeat, Ms Hartley rang Mr Grant's representative, told him of this, and denied that we as a company hacked phones.

    Then another quote, 6 July 2011:

    "Well, according to Paul McMullan, the ex News of the World features editor, who I interviewed surreptitiously and I published the article in the newspapers, he says it was every tabloid on Fleet Street who were enthusiastic phone hackers, going right up to the ones with the highest moral standards like the Daily Mail" --

  • Mr Dacre, I wouldn't go down this particular route, because I'll make my own judgment about the transcript of Mr McMullan's phone call. I'm going to have to read that.

  • All right, but fair enough, but Mr McMullan told the Inquiry later, as I'm sure you know, that he wasn't referring to phone hacking in the Daily Mail, the fact we were one the highest payers --

  • I know. I know what he said and I have to read --

  • Okay, well I just wish that Mr Grant had checked with Mr McMullan as to what he meant. You've read that, we've heard it, and it was certainly my hearing that he rebutted quite satisfactorily that would suggest it was dealing with phone hacking.

  • Number 3:

    "We need a full public inquiry into all the methods and cultures of the British tabloid press because one of the things that will emerge is that it wasn't just the News of the World; it was all the tabloids ..."

    This is a man who's been put on notice by our legal department that we deny this categorically.

    "... including the ones that purport to have family values, shorthand the Daily Mail, have been enthusiastic and rabid phone hackers. That was an interview on the Radio 4 World at One.

    And lastly, this was to the Prime Minister, a report in the Financial Times:

    "The actor, meeting the Prime Minister for the first time since the phone hacking scandal blew up over the summer, said he 'knew for a fact' that 'six or seven newspapers had been involved in phone hacking'."

    Clearly that would by implication have included the Daily Mail. That is untrue and false. So it was in that background we'd already told him it wasn't true, that we felt we had to respond even more robustly. I say I'd heard that on the 4 o'clock news, I had a consultation with my legal department, the editor of the Mail on Sunday, we agreed that we'd tried to be reasonable, we'd tried to explain to him that this was not true and that we needed to fight fire with fire on this.

    Now, your Honour's made the very good point -- could I have a glass of water?

  • Your Honour made the point, rather than rushing out that press statement -- and I want to explain in a minute, I felt we had to be as robust as possible and fight fire with fire because it was such a damaging accusation -- your Honour said, "Well look, why didn't you go back, you know, listen to -- read the evidence and come out with a more reasoned response?" I think you just repeated that.

    With the greatest possible respect, I don't think you understand the speed of and the ability to set the agenda and create a firestorm of 24-hourly bulletin instant news. If we had allowed that to get traction, it would have taken off. The implications for that story would have gone down that the Daily Mail had been accused of fucking -- of hacking phones. As it was, we put that statement out, by the 6 o'clock television news, the news which actually sets the agenda, a much more balanced version was being presented using our very strong rebuttal, high in the news, and it was no longer leading the news, and we were happy with that balance.

    That's why I felt we had to act in the robust way we did.

  • Mr Dacre, I might follow all that -- and I'm not taking this time off Mr Sherborne -- I might follow all that and I could quite understand it, but I raised the matter and I identified my concern, and I can see the point you make, I understand that and I'll look at the correspondence if you want me to look at it, but even then, even weeks later when Ms Hartley gave evidence and we went back onto the word "mendacious", which is the only word in it which actually somebody is going to argue to me is reflective of there isn't a reverse gear here, there's only a forward gear, Ms Hartley was abundantly clear that the Mail did not retract that word or reduce the impact of that word at all, and that's why I've been concerned about it.

  • I do understand that, I really do understand that, but one of the definitions of the word "mendacious" is "false", and I can't help but feel that in the context of those four occasions when Mr Grant had slandered the Daily Mail, and we'd made it clear to him that we hadn't been up to the activities he was alleging, that he knew it was false. He must have read our witness statements, which we again repeated there was no phone hacking at our group --

  • I know what the argument is going to be. The argument may be that this might easily have come that way without necessarily the knowledge of the writer of your article. I'm not going to resolve that issue. I've tried to explain to you -- and I'm not going to take the time off Mr Sherborne -- what bothered me, what caused me to feel that it was right to allow this issue to be ventilated, because it's whether I derived something from it on the wider picture. I'm not going to descend into the micro detail, because if I did that, I would never finish in relation to every single story for every single newspaper. It is, in any event, part 2 of the Inquiry.

  • I accept the point your Honour makes.

  • Could I just invite you to consider the time? I understand that Mr Sherborne should have some more, but before your conversation with Mr Dacre started, it was 4.40 pm. I was about to --

  • With great respect, Mr Caplan, Mr Sherborne asked a question, Mr Dacre was very keen to make quite a lengthy statement. I understand that, and I wasn't going to stop him and Mr Sherborne didn't stop him, but this is why I didn't tie it down. There has to be the fair chance for Mr Sherborne to put what he wants to put to him and I'm sorry, I understand the point but I'm not going to let it just dribble away.

    Right, yes, Mr Sherborne.

  • Perhaps I can return to my point. Very quickly, can I deal with one thing, Mr Dacre.

    In your investigations into this article, can you explain whether you discovered the reason that no contact was made with either Mr Grant or Jemima Khan prior to the article being published?

  • I can't remember. Did it carry an answer from a quote, a representative in the piece?

  • It didn't. Mr Grant's already explained in his witness statement there is no contact with either him or Ms Khan. The reason I ask you is this: as you know, you're well-known for having said to the Select Committee in I think April 2009 that in 99 out of 100 cases newspapers contact the subject of a story prior to it, and I'm asking you this, Mr Dacre. I hope you won't disagree that that's what you said. I'm asking you this: do you know the reason why contact was not made with Ms Khan or Mr Grant prior to the article?

  • I don't want to be evasive. I don't know that it wasn't. I know I perhaps should know that, but I don't know that it wasn't.

  • I'm not going to keep rising up, it's very unattractive, but the paragraph says halfway through the article "a spokesman for the couple would make no comment".

  • Exactly, I thought I'd read that. Sorry.

  • In your settlement of this action, your newspaper group agreed to the fact that no attempt was made to contact either Mr Grant or Ms Khan prior to the story being published.

  • -- I don't know whether it said that. I haven't seen that, as --

  • Mr Dacre, please let me get to the end of a question before you answer it. Did you or did you not investigate whether or not contact had been made and why it was --

  • I will do what -- Mr Caplan just read out the relevant quote which I just said "A spokesman for the couple would make no comment on their relationship last night, saying neither party is prepared to make a statement. This is a private matter."

    And that's quite high up in the copy so I'm very happy that correct journalistic procedures were carried out.

  • Rather than seeking the assistance of Mr Caplan, perhaps I can take you to the small bundle that is in front of you. Turn to tab 2, please. Can you look at page 8.

  • You're not going to believe this, but I don't have a tab 2. I have a tab 3.

  • Hang on. Could it be this?

  • Page 8. This is a statement which was read out with the consent of your newspaper group. Two paragraphs up from the bottom, can I read you this:

    "At no stage were any of the above allegations or factual assertions put to the claimant prior to publication."

  • Yes, well, they clearly literally and technically weren't. They went through his spokesman who said they weren't prepared to comment.

  • They weren't put to him and as Mr Grant has said they weren't put to Ms Khan. Have you investigated that? Rather than rely on Mr Caplan --

  • I'm not going to answer any more questions on this particular point. We quite clearly state quite high up in the copy that the journalist concerned put these allegations to the spokesman for the couple and it quotes that neither party -- she or he is quoted as saying neither party is prepared to make a statement.

  • Actually, that's not quite right, Mr Dacre, because what the spokesman was asked about was to comment on their relationship. That's the relationship between Jemima Khan and Hugh Grant, not whether or not Hugh Grant was speaking to a woman -- I'll look at the documentation.

  • It comes two paragraphs after that, with respect, your Honour. On their relationship, comment on their relationship, ie their relationship which was seemingly under threat because of this mystery woman who didn't exist when we put it to Mr Grant later --

  • The question is not whether you can read the article, Mr Dacre. I asked you whether you investigated this. Yes or no, please.

  • Yes, of course, I investigated it and I said to you before Mr Caplan got up I thought a spokesman had spoken to our newspaper.

  • You said you didn't know. You said you didn't know.

    Can I ask you this. This is all about Mr Grant's belief, do you understand? Mr Grant's belief at the time that he gave the evidence. Can I just remind you of something? You said in one of the statements that you made to Lord Justice Leveson a short while ago that this was not referred to in Mr Grant's witness statement. We know it was. Will you accept from me that that was why Mr Jay asked him questions about the plummy-voiced woman story?

  • Will you accept that?

  • I can give you the note, sir, in the statement, paragraph 17.

  • Thank you very much indeed, I'll certainly find that.

  • You see, Mr Grant made it clear that the basis for his speculation as to whether the story might have been the product of listening to his voicemails was the fact, as I've explained, about the plummy-voiced woman that he knew about and about what Mr McMullan said to him, in the conversation that he taped without Mr McMullan knowing it. Do you remember? Will you accept now that that was his basis for the speculation?

  • I can accept that, but I find it very difficult in the context of the previous statements he made in which we had categorically refuted to his spokesman, sent him an email, that he would know that that couldn't be so.

  • So you accept, though, that that was his basis, that that was his honest basis for inferring that there may have been some listening in to his voicemail?

  • I think Mr Grant was obsessed by trying to drag the Daily Mail into another newspaper's scandal, and that his strategy was to try to do that.

  • Isn't this just an example, Mr Dacre, of attack being the best form of defence?

  • With the greatest respect, you're attacking my group rather unpleasantly and I'm going to defend it. I love it, I've worked very hard for it for 20 years of my life and I'm proud of our newspapers. When people attack them, I defend them.

  • You see, this is the point, Mr Dacre. If rather than listen to what was put out on the radio you had actually read the transcripts of what Mr Grant had said, you would have realised that he was not attacking the Daily Mail or the Mail on Sunday --

  • I cannot agree with that. It was being reported on the airwaves --

  • Mr Dacre, it is 5 to 5, please let me finish my question. You would have realised that he was not attacking your newspaper group; he was simply in response to Mr Jay's question explaining what his speculation was?

  • With great respect, I suggest that's a disingenuous interpretation of events. He knew very well how toxic that allegation would be made, that suggestion. I tried to explain that at some length.

  • It was your newspaper group, Mr Dacre, that made the allegation, one that was picked up and repeated throughout the media that he had lied on oath. Will you accept that?

  • I accept that the mendacious smear was, yes, it was reported.

  • Will you not withdraw it even now, Mr Dacre, and apologise for the "mendacious smears" lie?

  • I will withdraw it, as I said the other day to this Inquiry, if Mr Grant withdraws his repeated statements about the Daily Mail, I will withdraw my "mendacious smear", sir, without hesitation, yes.

  • Mr Dacre, I'll give you one last opportunity --

  • I already explained that Mr Grant shared with this Inquiry his speculation, because he was asked to do so by Mr Jay. Will you now withdraw your allegation of mendacious smears?

  • I've said what I will do. I'm very happy to withdraw it if Mr Grant withdraws his -- not allegations, not suggestions, but his repeated statements about the Daily Mail.

  • I think that tells us something, doesn't it, Mr Dacre, about the culture, practices and ethics of the press?

  • Just for the record --

  • You're entitled to ask Mr Dacre some questions, if you want to.

  • I don't propose to.

  • Mr Sherborne referred to paragraph 17 of Mr Grant's statement. Can I just say I'm not going to go to it now, could I please for the record and for your note invite you to look at paragraph 11, because I believe --

  • It's under the libel section of Mr Grant's statement.

  • Yes, sorry, it's 11 not 17.

  • Thank you very much indeed.

    Right, I have that. Yes, I've seen it. Thank you.

    Thank you very much, Mr Dacre. Thank you.

  • Thank you very much.

  • What I'm about to say may not cause you pleasure, but it's a consequence of what you've said a couple of times, once at the seminar and then again during the course of your evidence.

    I shall be returning to the question of how the press should move forward, and it will be the constant theme of my Inquiry until the end, because I see it as an iterative process. I think it's very important that it is iterative, because I will ask questions and make suggestions that people think about things in order specifically so that the industry can do so, and then respond. In that way, we may get somewhere that satisfies all the requirements that I believe will be in the public interest and that others believe the press will embrace.

    Therefore, it may be that some of those ideas will require or would benefit from your input, and I hope that you will be prepared to provide it.

  • Your Honour, I think I've shown this week that I'm prepared to devote a lot of time to this issue.

  • I've spent a lot of time with it.

    May I just make one additional observation, do you mind, just to finish off?

    Very quickly. Many American websites have been carrying stories about Mr Grant and other celebrities because -- that Mail Online can't carry because it adheres to the code. This is quite an important point. Last week saw the announcement of potentially the biggest floatation in the stock market history, that of Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg, the owner of Facebook, has gone on record by saying that people no longer expect privacy in the Internet age. If the mainstream media in Britain is unable to address news stories that are freely available elsewhere, we will look increasingly irrelevant especially to younger people.

    I only say this because I said to you earlier that this week Mail Online became the world's biggest website with over 100 million unique users and that's eloquent evidence that there is a huge demand for British journalism globally.

    The fact that it is called the World Wide Web is literally true, and the centre of the global newspaper business is the not the UK now, it's no longer the UK, but the US. In that sense the Internet is the embodiment of the first empire and I would ask that the editor of the Mail Online put in a paper to this Inquiry to outline the huge problems that the Internet poses both for the printed press and regulation.

  • If the editor of the Mail Online wants to submit some evidence to the Inquiry, I'd be perfectly willing to receive it and to take it on board and possibly to call him --

  • I do think it's one of the fundamental problems.

  • And possibly to call him.

  • That would be very valuable. We would welcome that.

  • I do understand the different position of Twitter, which of course has a different dynamic for all sorts of reasons. Your stories couldn't be conveyed in 140 characters.

  • That's a matter of opinion.

  • And that alters the dynamic, and there is a very interesting distinction to be drawn between a conversation that two people might have in a pub or in a private place on the one hand and a newspaper always, and the question is: is communicating with friends on Twitter nearer the conversation in the pub or with friends or in a hall in a debate with friends or the journalistic product of a newspaper, which carries with it a kitemark of integrity, honesty, accuracy, or should do, and how you try and --

  • But that would be competing with American websites that don't observe that kitemark.

  • I'd ask you to call the editor of the Mail Online, he'd relish answering these questions. I would only say that it was Twitter that fuelled the Jan Moir debate and some of the vicious and vile things that were said on that would distress you, I suspect. In that sense, it's not an innocent conversation between friends in a pub. It's used -- some celebrities have Twitter followings of 3, 4 million.

  • I understand the problem.

  • I have my own problems without trying to solve everybody else's. I take the point, I understand it, and I'm very pleased to receive any assistance that I can get to ensure that the most satisfactory solution is available to everybody.

  • Excellent. Thank you for your time. Thank you.

  • Thank you very much.

    There is something that I want to say before we conclude.

    Today is I think, according to the records I have, the 40th day of hearings, and this marks, at least provisionally, the end of module one. I say provisionally, because it's quite clear that there will be some further material that enters the Inquiry record and may require oral evidence to deal with this crucial relationship between the press and the public, not least of which the whole issue of regulation to which we have just been referring.

    For those who are interested, I would like to recognise the progress we've made so far. We have actually heard from 184 witnesses, and the statements of 42 other witnesses have been read into the record.

    In the circumstances, I would like to pay tribute to all those who have allowed us to do that. It's obviously a tribute to the co-operation which the Inquiry has received from those who are core participants. It's my personal gratitude for the assistance we've received from the Inquiry's legal team and the support staff that has done so much to ensure that we have the right papers, usually, in the right place at the right time. Everybody working to very tight deadlines.

    I'm grateful for the work done by the assessors, who continue to fulfil their role by providing thoughtful advice and comment in their areas of expertise, and so help inform the questions that are asked.

    I'm conscious that I've kept my foot very firmly on the accelerator and that that's caused difficulty to all manner of people. Our work will progress in the next two weeks and we'll look at the contributions that have been received from others, including the many contributions, I think something approaching 600 contributions, onto the general enquiries website, all of which will be analysed, some of which will be put into statement form and put into the records. In other words, I am seeking still to obtain as much evidence as I can from as many people as I can.

    The foot will continue to be applied to the accelerator. We'll start module two in two weeks' time, and then proceed ultimately to module three, but as I say, we are likely to come back to various of the issues that we've identified.

    I'll end by also thanking all those who have contributed to the work of the Inquiry by giving evidence, and the obvious work that's been put into the statements that have been prepared, whether voluntarily or with some encouragement under the relevant statute.

    Thank you all very much.

  • (The hearing adjourned until Monday, 27 February 2012)