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

  • Some two weeks ago, an application was made to make public the submissions which I received in private on 2 December 2011. I invited representations from core participants, including from Collyer-Bristow, then acting for those who complain that they have been subject to illegal or unethical press treatment.

    A number of representations were received, albeit none from Mr Sherborne or Collyer-Bristow. Three core participants made the perfectly valid point that they had participated in the hearing on the basis that it was in private, and that, for reasons which I do not consider it necessary to elaborate, assurances to that effect from the Inquiry should be honoured.

    In the event, I take the view that there is no good reason for modifying the approach which I adopted, although I am prepared to make it clear that it was concerned with the extent to which the Operation Motorman material should be disclosed in the public hearing.

    My reasons are not that I am unwilling to reveal secret information. Rather, they are twofold. First, private information about the target of any investigation by Mr Whittamore, who may or may not be correctly classified as victims, should remain private to them and should not arbitrarily be disclosed in this Inquiry without very good reason. In that regard, this material falls within the purview of the Information Commissioner, whose decision as to appropriate disclosure deserves respect, whether or not I could take a different view within the exercise of my powers under Section 19 of the Inquiries Act 2005.

    Secondly, as I have repeatedly made clear, this part of the Inquiry is not concerned with individual conduct, who did what to whom, but rather with custom, practice and ethics of the press as a whole. Given that I have been concerned as far as I can to protect the position of those who have been arrested and not to prejudice any possible criminal prosecution, so it has been unfair to name other reporters whose conduct has not been the subject of criminal investigation. The same applies to the names of reporters identified in the Whittamore records seized during Operation Motorman.

    In the light of yesterday's public request that I should publish the documents seized during Operation Motorman, I made it clear that if Mr Sherborne, on behalf of the core participants who are his clients, wishes to argue that such a step is appropriate, given the terms of reference and my observations about fairness, I repeat that he is at liberty to do so and I shall set aside time formally and in public to consider the issue. It is in order to assist him to consider the matter with his clients that I have set out my reasons for declining to publish the transcript of the private hearing.

    Yes, Mr Jay?

  • Sir, the first witness today is Sara Cheesley, please.