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

  • There are three matters I want to raise, sir. Two relate to Mr Grant.

    The first one follows on from a letter last week that was sent to the Inquiry on his behalf relating to Operation Motorman. Sir, as you will recall, Mr Grant gave evidence --

  • I don't think I've seen this letter.

  • Can I hand up a copy then? Sorry, I'd understood that you'd seen it, sir. I have a marked copy, but I don't think there's anything in the markings. (Handed)

  • Let me read it. Please sit down. (Pause) I haven't seen this letter.

  • Sir, I'm sorry. I had understood that you had.

  • Can I deal with the two parts of it separately?

  • Well, until I've thought about it, I don't think I wanted you to deal with either of them. (Pause) Before I'm going to listen to you, Mr Sherborne, I'm going to rise for a few minutes. Thank you.

  • (A short break)

  • Mr Sherborne, there are two matters in this letter. The first relates to documentation arising out of Operation Motorman, which in the main is not in the possession of the Inquiry, the underlying documents.

    But what I'd like to know is why it is appropriate for this Inquiry to be used as a vehicle to obtain this information, given that what I'm looking is not the micro but the macro position. In other words -- and I am deliberately dealing with it generally -- I'd like to know why I will be assisted by further material in relation to that aspect of the case.

    There is no doubt that inferentially, it seems to me, subject to hearing argument to the contrary, the evidence from Mr Thomas and Mr Owens as to the likely breaches of Section 55 is extremely strong. Once that is established, what more do I need for the purposes of my Inquiry? I'm not talking about anything else, which of course is very different.

  • Sir, can I begin by answering that in this way?

  • Because I detect from what you're saying that there is a concern that this material, if provided, will be used for another purpose. Can I say immediately it is not intended to be used for any other purpose.

  • I don't mind whether it is or it isn't, actually. I raise the point. What I am concerned about is why it is of value to me.

  • I understand that, sir. Can I put it this way? My instructions are that Mr Grant would like to see the underlying material, because as you recall, he gave evidence on 21 November about his belief as to the material that he was shown by officers dealing with Operation Motorman. That evidence was challenged by Mr Jay at the request, as I recall, of one of the core participants. We understand why it was challenged in that way, but it was challenged.

    As we know, since Mr Owens' produced the spreadsheets that were prepared for that investigation, it appears that various details about Mr Grant and his personal information were in fact obtained by Mr Whittamore at the request of various newspapers, and Mr Grant would like, therefore, to see the underlying material because if necessary, he may want to provide a supplemental witness statement dealing with that point. It really is that simple, in my submission.

    Sir, I understand you may say from --

  • Well, to the effect that his evidence is complete in relation to Operation Motorman. You may say that there is no remains to is in terms of the macro picture, and I understand that, but a number of witnesses have given their evidence about the micropictures.

  • And it's the series of micropictures which make up the macro.

  • I understand that, in cases where we've been actually able to look at them and they generally have been very, very much more recent in time. Of course, one of the things I have to address is whether the whole Information Commissioner exercise altered the custom, practices and ethics of the press to any or any meaningful extent, and therefore looking at some of the post-2006 stories is particularly significant. Going to the 2003 stories is perhaps not as valuable.

    I'm not trying to shut out legitimate and appropriate enquiry, but I am concerned that about where it's going. The Yellow Book we do have.

  • And given that the Yellow Book was intended be summarised in the schedules, I see no reason why you shouldn't see the Yellow Book, but I'm not sure we have the underlying material that is within the other paragraphs of your request and I'm just not sure how far it would take me. I recognise -- and indeed, Mr Jay was very careful to make it clear as soon as we saw Mr Grant's name in the Motorman documentation, that having challenged him and wondered whether he was referring to Mulcaire rather than Whittamore, he immediately, through the witness, made it clear that Mr Grant was absolutely right, and therefore to that extent Mr Grant's evidence stands, not merely uncontradicted but positively supported. I am just not sure how much further it's necessary to go. But by all means, look at the Yellow Book, if it helps. I won't stop you providing me with anything but I'm not sure whether it's going to be necessary to go into that.

  • Sir, indeed it may not and of course it's only Mr Grant who will realise the significance of the underlying material. I certainly won't and Mr Crossley won't. That's why we've asked for it. I'm certainly not asking for anything that the Inquiry doesn't have.

  • So I would take you up on that.

    Can I make this points? It's one that I have made before and it may be a hare that I set running, but of course one has to remember that all of this information was obtained, yes, in 2003, but we have no idea whether, after 2003, this material, these private details about people, were kept by newspapers or whether they were deleted once it was realised that they'd been obtained in circumstances which might well have constituted a criminal offence. We simply don't know if the telephone numbers and other pieces of information which may have been obtained in breach of the Data Protection Act were stored and continued to be stored on the databases of various newspapers.

  • I take that point. That's an entirely fair point.

  • Can I turn then to the second point in my letter?

  • It's one obviously that I've mentioned before several times and it relates to the plummy-voiced executive story, for which Associated Newspapers very publicly accused Mr Grant of making mendacious smears.

  • There are two points here, aren't there? The language in the subsequent report we have discussed but the underlying point, as I understand -- and I don't see that there's any more on that. The underlying point is whether Associated Newspapers intends to produce evidence to back up their assertion in the newspaper as to how they came about the material for the story, particularly given that you have submitted evidence -- which I have not forgotten about and which will undeniably be deployed at some stage -- to rebut that allegation from Jemima Khan. So I'm aware of that and I'm equally aware that -- I think I invited Mr Caplan to move it up the agenda.

  • Let me find out. Let me find out. What's the policy, Mr Caplan?

  • Sir, it is all in preparation. It would help if in fact I was spoken to directly. I had no knowledge this was going to be raised this afternoon, but if this is the way they propose to ask, indirectly through you, sir, that's fine.

    The fact of the matter is that it is in preparation. I'm afraid we are giving evidence, as I understand it, just before the middle of January. Such evidence as we serve will be served in very good time. I have two key people, I'm afraid, who are away on leave at the moment and I can't advance the evidence at this point in time. All I can say is that it is being developed, it is under consideration and it will come as soon as possible.

  • But I can't take it further than that.

  • One thing is important, Mr Caplan. It's clearly becoming more important --

  • Yes, I understand.

  • -- as an allegation, because it's relevant to the overall question that I have to think about.

  • Sir, yes. I needn't remind you, sir, the allegation was made the day Mr Grant gave evidence. Mr Caplan said two weeks ago this evidence was in preparation --

  • Mr Sherborne, I understand, and I equally understand your concern and the legitimate concern of your client. I also understand that the response was very quick and the evidence is taking rather longer. I'm just going to wait and see. You have made your point. I've made my point. We shall see what we shall see, but I assure you that this particular topic is very much alive in my mind, not merely for the protection of Mr Grant's reputation, about which I have no doubt he feels very strongly, but also because of where else it might take me.

  • You are, of course, as are all the core participants, able to bring before me anything you want, but I do hope that relationships at the bar are sufficiently good that actually some of these matters might just be capable of explanation. You'll always be able to make the point, Mr Sherborne, but you don't need to make it every fortnight. I understand the point. I understand the point and I have no doubt that in due course, whenever we get what we get, you will make the consequential point as forcefully as you are able, but there it is.

  • I'll resist the temptation to say anything more on that matter, sir.

  • I think that, with great respect, is exceedingly wise.

  • The third point relates to Mr Thurlbeck.

  • Sir, it's a matter of real concern. You'll recall that when he appeared before you, Mr Thurlbeck made it clear that he did not want to be asked any questions about his involvement or knowledge about phone hacking within the News of the World. The Inquiry accepted that position and of course we understand why. Instead, he was asked a number of questions by Mr Jay and yourself in response to which he was clearly seeking to demonstrate the credibility not just of himself but of the newspaper and its journalists.

    However, fresh from giving evidence before this Inquiry, Mr Thurlbeck gave an interview to Radio 4. I don't know whether you've seen this, sir.

  • I wouldn't have seen it but I might have heard it, although I haven't.

  • Sorry, there is a transcript and there was an article which referred to it as well -- in which he proceeded to deal with the issue of hacking and he volunteered not only his views on the practice and knowledge about it within the newspaper, but he also expressly protested his innocence in relation in particular to the Gordon Taylor story and the infamous "for Neville" email.

    It is right to point out that yesterday's interview was not the first time Mr Thurlbeck had protested his innocence publicly. He had, for example, done so in an interview in the Press Gazette and also in his letter to the Select Committee, but that was before he appeared before you, sir, in this Inquiry.

    So we say to come here and refuse to answer any questions at all on this topic, but instead to go straight to the studios of the BBC and to give an interview, a transcript of which I have here and I can hand up, sir --

  • I would be very grateful if I could see that.

  • Sir, it's particularly, as you'll appreciate, a matter of concern for my clients. I'm sure for this Inquiry too. (Handed)

    Sir, the particular section that you may want to focus on is on page 2 of the transcript.

  • It starts just below the first punch hole. If I can leave you to read that, sir, and then over to the top of page 3. (Pause)

  • Sir, I don't need to point out that whilst Mr Thurlbeck gives a very partial account in this interview of himself as an innocent scapegoat, if he had given evidence to this Inquiry, he could have been tested about such matters, and in particular I have a document in my hand which I would like to have asked him a few questions about.

    Sir, I do invite you to consider what is the most appropriate way to deal with this, if I can put it this way, unfortunate situation, or at the very at least to reflect it in your conclusions about the practices and culture of the press.

  • The inference from this document is that Mr Thurlbeck had information or documentation which was relevant to the issue of knowledge. You will, of course, appreciate that any investigation into the circumstances of phone hacking at the News of the World can pick up any evidence that's made available, including this volunteered material. The difference in my position is that given that Mr Thurlbeck attends the Inquiry under compulsion, not only does he have specifically the constitutional right not to incriminate himself but also the very fact of the compulsion and asking him questions might cause prejudice of which Mr Garnham speaks and which I think you have previously recognised is the very last thing you would want.

  • The problem is this: I could invite Mr Thurlbeck to provide the material, or whatever material he has, but I'm not minded to provide a platform for what would be clearly a one-sided view which could not then be the subject of cross-examination for fear of causing the very prejudice that I am required to avoid and want to avoid.

  • Of course. It is, sir, as I say, a very unfortunate situation which has been created.

  • It was always thus.

  • -- thus. I am very conscious that Mr Thurlbeck was perfectly prepared roundly to criticise one judicial decision, namely Mr Justice Eady's decision, but not prepared even to speak about the facts of another incident on the basis that he had been acquitted of breach of the code by the PCC. That fact is not unnoticed.

  • I will, if you will be prepared to allow me, keep this.

  • And I will decide whether it should be allowed to be formally put into the record of the Inquiry.

  • I'm grateful. Sir, just in the context, as you say, with respect rightly -- and I use the words "with respect" in the true sense -- this was a very one-sided account that Mr Thurlbeck gives. Can I hand up what I might call the other side of the picture? I'm not going to refer to it openly, but you'll appreciate the significance of it when I provide it to you, sir.

  • Please. I'll see whether it's appropriate to put that into the public domain.

  • I doubt it is. I doubt it is.

  • It is material that the Inquiry should have, in fact should have had, but may not have received, given the volume of material that has been quite rightly asked for but may not have been provided.

  • Show it to Mr Jay, could you?

  • Mr Jay has seen it before, as have the police.

  • What about Mr Rhodri Davies?

  • It's his client's document.

  • I'm happy to show it to him for that reason, if nothing else. (Handed) I didn't come armed with enough copies.

  • I'm not going to make any objection to that being passed to the Inquiry.

  • It may be it already has. I don't know.

  • Sir, I've handed my only copy to Mr Garnham.

  • Let Mr Garnham see it. I'll wait in my place.

  • It's worth waiting for.

  • I have seen it before.

  • Looks like everyone has seen it, sir, apart from you. Can I then make good that?

  • You say Mr Jay's seen it. Let him confirm that. You don't need to be the usher. We have somebody who will do that for me.

  • Sir, there are a number of abbreviations on it which I hope are self-explanatory, but if not, I can provide them to you on a piece of paper. In fact, I can do that now.

  • Well, I can assure you I have not seen this document.

  • Can I hand up a code, cyphers for the abbreviations. (Handed)

    I'll be very careful as to what I say, but you'll appreciate, sir, that in the context of what Mr Thurlbeck talked about in the interview, and in particular a certain document, you'll see why I say that completes the picture.

  • Thank you. You probably want this copy back?

  • I can provide you with another copy, sir.

  • Well, you might as well, yes. Thank you very much indeed.

  • Right, we'll consider what we'll do with that. Thank you. Mr Jay? You've made sure that we have had a full day, Mr Sherborne. I'm very grateful. Thank you very much. Monday next week.

  • (The hearing adjourned until 10 o'clock on Monday, 19 December 2011)