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

  • MR MICHAEL JOHN SULLIVAN (sworn).

  • Mr Sullivan, your full name, please?

  • Thank you. Mr Sullivan, you've provided the Inquiry with a witness statement with a standard statement of truth, signed and dated by you on 28 February 2012. Is this your formal evidence to the Inquiry?

  • You're currently the crime editor of the Sun. You have been working at the Sun newspaper since 1990. September 1990 you were made a crime reporter and in 2001 you were promoted to crime editor. Is that correct?

  • So we understand some important background and therefore the necessary parameters of any questions I might ask you, have you been arrested pursuant to Operation Elveden?

  • Can I ask you first of all about the CRA? You are a committee member, I think, of the CRA; is that correct?

  • Does that -- not the fact that you're a committee member, but the fact you're a member, does that in your view give you any form of privileged access to the police?

  • I suppose yes. I mean you are -- one would hope that you are regarded as being a reporter who is trustworthy. The purpose of the CRA is really a group of journalists who specialise in crime reporting. Through the group, as it were, we would hope to be trusted with information perhaps brought in on -- not sensitive information, but could be told things in confidence which might put context to a story, might not necessarily be for publication, but would influence what we've -- what we're writing in the newspaper, or indeed broadcasting through radio or television.

  • But it's self-selecting, isn't it? It's a group of reporters appointed by the committee, if you like?

  • Well, sir, it's -- if you become a crime reporter, a dedicated crime reporter, it is in your interests and in the interests of others you are working with, including the police and other law enforcement agencies, to be a member of the Crime Reporters Association.

  • No, I understand and I see the value in it, but I just wanted to understand. The police have no input into who is a member of the association?

  • That's controlled within the association?

  • It's a peer review thing rather than anything else?

  • It is, but there's a caveat there, sir, in the sense that a few years ago it was mainly crime reporters. Not every news organisation had a dedicated crime correspondent, so some newspapers, particularly Sunday papers, had home affairs correspondents who would be required to cover crime material or police material, so there were some questions amongst our own organisation: do you accept home affairs correspondents to become members of the Crime Reporters Association?

    This took a little while to sort out, a period of years, in fact, but the common consensus on that was as a result of police making their argument that we should accept a wider group of people who are covering these issues, common consensus in the end was to broaden out and accept home affairs and people who may not specifically cover just crime, but people whose jobs actually involved reporting crime.

  • You mentioned the build-up of trust, because confidential information is provided by the police. Have there ever been situations over the years where the police have complained that a trust has been broken, to your knowledge?

  • There was one occasion, sir, and that was -- I hadn't long been a crime reporter, but there was a briefing given by -- actually it was the head of the counter-terrorism unit, or anti-terrorist squad, as they were in those days, and I can't remember or recall the actual details of the briefing, I'm not even sure I was present, actually, but there was a reporter from one newspaper who hadn't long been a member, who went back to his office, presumably told his news desk what he'd heard, and was then required to write the story. This caused a lot of problems, as you can probably imagine, sir, and this particular reporter was excluded from the CRA and we obviously offered our sincerest apologies to the Metropolitan Police and particularly the senior officer who gave that briefing. That's the only occasion, sir, I can recall.

  • It might be said that one of the advantages of having an experienced group of journalists in an association such as this is that they over the years understand the rules and do not violate them.

  • You make a general point, Mr Sullivan, about the change in culture in relations between the MPS and the media, and this is really to do with the growth of electronic media and 24/7 reporting, particularly the broadcast media; is that right?

  • Yes, sir. It's obvious, self-evident, really, that the media has mushroomed, hugely so, since when I first started. Typically back in the early 1990s, before satellite television had really taken off and before the advent of the Internet, you would have -- even a big story would only be -- a press conference would typically be attended by reporters from the national newspapers. There would be an agency reporter or two, perhaps one or two people from the BBC and independent television and radio.

    The same type of story now would be attended by perhaps three, four times as many people. The BBC in particular would have an Internet, they would have a national television crew, they would have a local television crew. So in that sense, you've also added to that got the 24-hour news dimension, so back in the early 1990s most of us would be covering a conference perhaps in the morning and you'd then have all day to develop the story or all day to file it, to file a finalised version of it. Nowadays a version is required for online and a version is required for the newspaper. That's as a newspaper point of view.

    If you're a broadcaster, then you'll be going on air very, very shortly afterwards, if it's not live.

  • You make it clear Mr Sullivan that as a matter of policy, and for obvious reasons, really, you would wish to speak to the investigating officer or the police officer at the coalface rather than the press office; is that right?

  • That's the ideal situation, sir, but in reality, if you're a crime correspondent, you're in it for the long run, it's a marathon, it's not a sprint, and that's what we abide by. Over a period of time, you become aware of the workings of the police and how -- if, say, for instance, you have an incident that occurred overnight, you would realise that the following morning they would be busy in holding meetings, office meetings, and doing the job, as it were, of investigating.

    There are so many journalists now that you also have to have an appreciation, I think, that it is impossible for an officer, dealing with an incident, to talk to any journalist on some occasions. Most of the time you won't even know the officers, so it's sort of academic, but ideally you would want some kind of access to an officer who was investigating at some point, just to give texture, colour to a story, and get it from the horse's mouth, as it were, rather than the third party, which carries -- which -- most press officers, particularly at the Metropolitan Police and other police forces are very good, but there is only so much detail they'll be aware of.

  • It's common sense, really, but is it your experience that if you do speak to the horse's mouth, as it were, you get a more reliable account?

  • Yes, you do. On most occasions, sir. And sometimes -- and having listened through some of the evidence in this Inquiry, it's become evident as well that you do get different types of police officers. Some are very happy, sir, to engage with the media and others aren't. The austere or the expansive approach. And that perhaps, sir, I would suggest is as much to do with personality as anything else.

  • In paragraph 16, please, Mr Sullivan --

  • Just before you go there, you actually describe the expansion of the media means that press officers -- you used the word -- constitute an "essential barrier" between journalists and investigating officers.

  • You put it as high as that?

  • I would say so, sir, because there's simply so many of us, the media has simply become so big that there is no possible way that a police officer would have enough time to deal with media queries.

  • Paragraph 16 gives us the flavour of your daily interactions, although they have changed over the years. You refer to an email system. Another witness has referred to that as well. This puts out information on, is this right, high-profile cases on a daily basis?

  • I wouldn't necessary say high-profile cases, sir. It puts out what the Met want put out. If there were significant developments on a case which was high profile, it may well be that an email would go out with the barest of lines. I would say again the email system, where you have got a story of interest, will contain mainly the bare skeleton of the story, so it would then be incumbent upon the journalists to try and develop that.

    That would mean in the first instance contacting the press office, and if it were then possible and there were enough time and the officer -- an officer was willing, it could mean talking to the police officer who was investigating whatever it was that, you know, whatever the subject material was.

  • In terms of your professional/social interactions with senior officers, you cover this at various points in your statement. First of all, paragraph 26, you say you:

    "... attended dinners with two of those commissioners on three or four occasions, but always in the presence of other crime reporters and directorate of public affairs staff."

    I think those commissioners, from our analysis of the records, were probably Lord Stevens and Sir Paul Stephenson; is that correct?

  • That's correct, sir, and Lord Condon.

  • Would you say that your professional relationship between the -- must be about six or seven commissioners now since when you started -- was it the same with each commissioner or did you get on better with some rather than others?

  • As I mentioned just a short while ago, it's a matter of personal style, and so -- and also, I suppose, in my own instance as you mature and -- one hopes you mature, but as you get a bit older and more experienced, then you become aware, sir, of broader policing issues and so in terms of engaging with commissioners, when I first became a crime correspondent, Lord Imbert was the Commissioner for the Metropolitan Police. I never had any personal engagement with him, or interaction. At that time Kelvin McKenzie was the editor and I think it's perhaps a point of interest worth noting that Mr McKenzie's approach to the police was that he respected Lord Imbert, but he didn't want to socially engage with him on the grounds that if he had to be critical, he would feel in an awkward position to do so.

    So moving on, Lord Condon was somebody who -- well, we had a change of editor, so the new editor who came in, Stuart Higgins, was more engaging and had a more -- I mean, we had perhaps a softer focused approach at the Sun to be more user-friendly and more engaging in the wider community or wider outside circles, so Mr Higgins, I think, met up -- I don't know this for absolutely sure, but there was an interaction of sorts between him and Neil Wallis, who was the deputy, I think, editor at the time or went from head of news to deputy editor. Mr Wallis, I think, became friends with or struck up a reasonable relationship with Sarah Cullum, who was the head of the DPA at the time, and Lord Condon -- it's quite ironic actually in some ways some might suggest, but it was Mr Wallis who wrote a story announcing the Metropolitan Police or the Metropolitan Police Commission, at the time, his belief that there were 250 corrupt officers in the police.

    So there was a reasonable relationship there obviously. Moving on from there, from Lord Condon, Lord Stevens became Commissioner, who had a very engaging style. The Metropolitan Police at that point were -- had been on the back foot over Stephen Lawrence, when there was a charm offensive by the Met, so that Lord Condon, Dick Fedorcio visited newspaper offices but not just one newspaper office, not just one group, but as many as possible to try and get their message across, because there was a real concern that Lord Condon, Sir Paul as he was then, might be forced to resign if the politics and public opinion went against him over the Lawrence Inquiry.

  • Then Lord Blair?

  • Lord Blair, well, Lord Blair -- the Sun, and I can really only answer for the Sun, had a fairly ambivalent approach to Sir Ian, as he then was. I don't think he was our cup of tea and I dare say we wouldn't have been his cup of tea, but there was a pragmatic working relationship, which -- I say that, we weren't overtly critical of him for the sake of it.

  • Okay. Paragraph 27 of your statement. On internal numbering, page 5, our page 09841. You refer to a dinner attended by Dick Fedorcio, Lord Stevens was there as well, another member of the CRA. We think it probably was a dinner which took place on 21 January 2002, from records we've looked at, but it might not matter exactly when it was. Do you think that may be right?

  • It could well be, sir. In that case -- I was under the impression he was still -- Lord Stevens was still Deputy Commissioner, but I could have been wrong in my assumption there.

  • You say in your statement that it was to discuss:

    "... what we needed as a group from the Met and vice versa."

    What did you need as a group from the Met?

  • Can I just put that into context, sir? I mean, the two people who were there, present from the CRA, I was secretary at the time and John Steele, who was the Daily Telegraph crime correspondent, was chairman. So we were invited along purely with regards our status within the CRA to that particular dinner. We were their guests. The Metropolitan Police, or Lord Stevens, they wanted to move forward from the problems around the Lawrence scenario, and -- or Stephen Lawrence scenario, my apologies for that -- they wanted to move forward and they wanted to engage with the community, and a very good way of doing that is obviously through the media.

    So in that sense they were trying to ask us, you know, ideas on the best way forward, and those ideas are still basically applied to best practice today, and that is for the Metropolitan Police to try and promote itself on the good work it does by having the confidence to engage with the media, and that's easier said than done, because at the time, at that particular time when Lord Stevens took over as Commissioner, the Metropolitan Police were on the back foot, it had been heavily criticised and there was a degree of scepticism, I suppose is the best word, about -- cynicism, even, about any -- about the media in general and perhaps even, to a certain degree, the wider public, because they felt that they'd been hung out to dry on many occasions and criticised, scathingly so, for issues which were perhaps wider than just the police.

  • We also know from the records that you had a number of one-to-one meetings with Mr Fedorcio, about five, over the years between 2004 and 2008. What was the purpose of those meetings?

  • Purely, really, to keep myself in the loop of information, sir. And, you know, from -- also to offer him the opportunity, any concerns he may have about coverage of Metropolitan Police matters in our newspaper and to maintain a good relationship. There was no -- there was no overriding, you know, aim, as it were, from any of those social engagements.

  • The information you referred to, was it gossip, ever?

  • I wouldn't put it down to gossip, sir, I really wouldn't, but it could involve some discussion around internal politics within the Met, but not gossip, I wouldn't use that word, or tittle-tattle. It might be -- I mean, Dick and I became fairly -- you know, we had a reasonably close working relationship forged over many years and I felt -- he felt on occasions that he could be -- not necessarily open up with any great personal detail on anyone, but talk about his concerns, I suppose, and use me in some ways, as I used him, as sounding boards. Obviously under Lord Stevens' regime I think for the people, for the Metropolitan Police, they found it easy to work and it seemed to be, particularly with the media as well, things ran pretty smoothly. When Sir Ian or Lord Blair took over, there were difficulties.

  • Were you made aware by Mr Fedorcio of tensions and frictions within the management board?

  • Not specifically, other than I could tell through not just speaking to Mr Fedorcio but others that there were some frictions, but, I mean, these weren't things I was particularly interested in writing a story about, sir, because there was no appetite for that kind of information within my office. It wasn't work -- we, as a newspaper, we weren't particularly interested in getting involved in recording internal police politics.

  • So what was meat and drink for the Sun newspaper when it came to crime reporting?

  • I wouldn't say, sir, that -- meat and drink, is that the right phrase? If we're going to put it that way, we would just simply cover events of the day, and we'd be looking for anything which we saw as being of interest to our readers. Mostly this involved covering robberies, murders, crimes, and doing those in a pretty straightforward manner.

    On occasions, and these are where problems could arise, they could be around issues of personalities and involvement with the law, so celebrity arrests, that kind of thing, which I must admit from a personal point of view I never got any real satisfaction from professionally, but in common with the rest of the media, there does seem to be more of a focus on celebrity stories, certainly in the last few years, and so some of those type of instants would obviously be as you described, Mr Jay, meat and drink.

  • But let me just understand, as the crime reporter, is it just a matter of stories that are straightforward reporting, or isn't it rather more than that, with some pretty aggressive crime-related campaigns?

  • Yes. I mean, the Sun in particular, sir, campaigned against knife crime. 2008 or "2000 and hate", as it was billed in our newspaper, was a year when there were 27 teenagers murdered in London. It was an issue which I didn't think the Metropolitan Police got to grips with until fairly late on in the year. When they did so, they did apply resources, it was one that was then picked up politically, but -- so yes, it has formed -- crime has formed the basis of campaigns organised by the Sun, and that will probably be a good example of that, sir.

  • Yes, and you have very strong views about sentencing.

  • The paper certainly does, sir.

  • Yes, but is that through you or is that through some other --

  • This would be through the editor or --

  • Oh, obviously the editor is ultimately responsible.

  • It would also, sir, be through perception of what the readers would require, but it would depend really what the sentencing was for, sir.

  • Yes, but -- I'm sorry, I'm not making myself clear. I'm trying to get to grips with what you're doing. You're writing these stories, presumably?

  • As the crime reporter, editor.

  • I'm the crime editor, but there are other people within the organisation, within the paper, who cover crime stories, but yes, I mean in the back of your mind you know what you have to -- you know what the audience is, you know what the paper requires, so you are working to get those type of stories or put them in those -- that type of light that --

  • Mr Sullivan, I'm not being critical --

  • The Sun is entitled to maintain whatever profile it likes on the issues of the day, I have no difficulty with that at all.

  • That's what free speech is all about.

  • Do you think you were part of Mr Fedorcio's inner circle of favoured journalists?

  • I would probably say I was, sir, yes. If -- "favoured journalists"? I don't know that that was -- that wouldn't necessarily tell the whole story, sir. I think Dick, if I can call him that since he's a friend as well as professional contact, over a period of time you get to know someone well and therefore you would normally expect to perhaps have more contact with that person, not just Dick, but with plenty of others, rather than someone arriving -- say, for instance, another newspaper has appointed a crime reporter. In the same way that I didn't know Mike Brammett(?) or Sarah Cullum, because I was an inexperienced reporter at the time, there would perhaps be reporters arriving or being made crime reporters who would then take -- it does take a number of years to build up a good working relationship, so I think that would -- "favour" is perhaps not totally applicable but perhaps I would regard myself as part of a group of crime -- long-serving crime reporters who would have been in a circle of trusted journalists for Mr Fedorcio to talk to.

  • In terms of what you might have been trying to get out of him -- I'm not suggesting anything improper now -- were you expecting him to tip you off, for example, if celebrities were going to be arrested? Is it that sort of thing?

  • Certainly not, sir. And I -- no, certainly not.

  • Because you told us about five minutes ago about celebrities, and this may or may not tie in with paragraph 57 of your statement. You tell us there that you've been invited on mass raids with other journalists. The Inquiry has received evidence of photographers turning up when celebrities are of interest to the police. Do you know anything about that?

  • Well, I am not aware of any stories or -- in terms of turning up home addresses. There was only one I can recall, and that was actually not a tip from a police officer, it was a tip from a journalist, and that was a few years ago. That was the only one I can recall where we were present when the police arrived.

  • It's not uncommon, though, is it?

  • No, I think there's a misconception here, sir. I think what you're seeing on television and in the newspapers where there are photographs of celebrities or well-known people who have been arrested then coming out of a police station, what will happen is if the newspapers become aware through whichever means that somebody is under arrest, a group of photographers, reporters from all papers and camera crews may well go to -- try and go to the police station where that person is being held. They won't necessarily be told where they're being held by the police. In fact, in my experience it's quite rare that they would. But you would split it up in a practical working, practical way, split up the work of one paper or one photographer goes to this police station, another goes to that police station. I mean I've known occasions in our own office where we've had teams of three, perhaps four photographers going out to different police stations trying to find out --

  • -- which one they're being held at, sir.

  • But you got some information about the fact that it is at one. It's come from somebody.

  • Well, there are various different means, sir, for --

  • -- information about the arrest of people to come out, and very often it might be released by that person or the arrested person's own PR.

  • You say in paragraph 59:

    "There have been one or two occasions where I have also been told informally by contacts that they are going out on a raid by way of conversation, but I have never tried to utilise that."

    Are the contacts you're referring to there journalist contacts?

  • Mixture of both, really, sir, but it would be by way of conversation. It wouldn't be necessarily as anything for a story, but that's happened on a couple of occasions. But it wouldn't be for me to act on. I mean -- you know, there are cases I don't think it would have perhaps been of any interest anyway to the paper, sir, but I just was trying to be -- explain that sometimes as a crime correspondent you might be in a social setting where somebody mentions that there could be something of -- that they might be doing some work related to whatever subject. If that was a police officer, rarely the case. Or that you might have knowledge from even -- I don't know, I don't want to get too specific, but a lawyer, for instance, who might be told they were going to perhaps recommend somebody or -- so you might have advance knowledge that there could be some kind of police action, sir, but you wouldn't necessarily act on it.

  • I've been asked to raise this with you, back to paragraph 57, where you refer to "increasing political involvement in policing". What do you mean by that?

  • I've noticed over the last few years that certainly Mayor Johnson and Kit Malthouse while he was chair of the MPA had gone out on operations with the police. To my mind it was potentially crossing over a barrier there from being, if you like, the political guardians of the police to getting directly involved with operations. I must admit I didn't feel that it was particularly appropriate.

  • Can I go back to your social or semi-professional interactions. Assistant commissioners. We haven't found any evidence of you lunching or having dinners with AC Yates, but there's one with AC Hayman. Do you think we have it right from our analysis of the records? Does that accord with your memory, in other words?

  • I met both those on rare social engagements, but on John Yates, I'd known -- I think it's probably worth putting it into context. I knew -- I first met John back in 1995, and that was a dreadful murder of a police mechanic by the name of Alan Holmes. At the time he was working in the north west London area murder command. He invited two or three reporters, I think there were three of us, who were aware of what had happened, I think it had happened over a Christmas period. We were invited up to Hendon and it was the first time I'd met him.

    As it transpired, we were given a little briefing by Mr Yates. The two other reporters -- I was relatively new to crime reporting -- went away and wrote up the story, even though it had been strictly off the record and not for publication, so I lost out, as it were, but in a different sort of way the fact that I didn't break that trust probably stood me in good stead later with Mr Yates, and I think it's a mark -- I've heard lots of things said about Mr Yates during this Inquiry, but it's a mark of his true character, I would say, that when we did ever meet socially, Mr Yates always brought up the subject of Alan Holmes and his regrets about not finding the killers of Mr Holmes and the hope that he would eventually still find them.

    I don't know if that particularly answers your question, Mr Jay. There would be with -- you mentioned those two ACs by name. I think I had social interaction perhaps once a year with both of them, and mainly -- again, if I may expand on this, there's been a lot of mention in this Inquiry about long lunches and reporters or journalists entertaining lavishly, bottles of champagne. My experience actually is that those lunching and buying dinners have become an increasing rarity over the last few years, and that was really perhaps as Fleet Street sobered up or perhaps as the police became more professional with alcohol taken during working hours.

    The normal social setting would be in a pub, or possibly a wine bar, but more likely a pub, and it wouldn't be a case of the reporter handing over a credit card behind the bill and let's all go and drink as much as possible. It would be a case of the journalist buying a round of drinks and the police officer buying a round of drinks in those social settings. And I don't know whether they would be -- whether a note would be made of those. I don't know. I mean, I'm not -- that's one -- that would be one for those officers.

  • When witnesses speak of drinking at a wine bar near New Scotland Yard, this links in with your evidence, it's just a couple of drinks is it?

  • It does. I think, sir, you may be referring to the evidence given by Bob Quick, when he said that he noticed myself, Lucy Panton and, I can't remember, it may have been Stephen Wright, drinking at this wine bar, which is a Davy's Wine Bar, around the corner from Scotland Yard, and in fact I referred to that in my statement because it was one of the occasions I met Sir Paul Stephenson when he was Deputy Commissioner, and from memory, I can't recall exactly, but I think there had been a leaving reception held at the Yard that night. A number of people including press officers and a number of journalists had gone across the road to the wine bar, which is fairly near to New Scotland Yard.

    That was the only time I can ever recall meeting John Yates late at night, or later in the evening. I think there may have been one other occasion where we bumped into each other earlier in the evening. So I rather took exception to Mr Quick's assertion that we were there specifically for one purpose, and haven't we got homes and families to go to, because he was talking about one incident there, which I recorded faithfully in this statement, and completely making the wrong interpretation.

  • You made it clear, Mr Sullivan, that you weren't particularly close to Mr Hayman and Mr Yates. Who were the assistant commissioners who you were closer to?

  • I didn't say I wasn't close to them. I don't think Mr -- I knew Mr Hayman and Mr Yates relatively well. Going back in time, I can't recall being particularly close to any assistant commissioners.

  • Yes. May I move forward, please, to paragraph 39. I've been asked to put this to you. You say:

    "The Sun is largely supportive of the Met and police in general."

    Do you think that that's right, or should the Sun be neutral?

  • It's generally supportive of the police position, and particularly of what we would regard -- well, what are described as rank and file officers. I think the Sun, back in the mid-1990s, identified that it was a paper that was widely read in police canteens, as it is in army NAAFIs, et cetera, so we saw rank and file officers as being part of our core readership, and therefore we tried to be largely supportive to -- in their interests -- you know, of their interests. But that is not to say that we were blind in our support, and there were plenty of occasions where, you know, when required, we were -- well, rightly critical of police actions or the behaviour of police officers. But in general terms, we were supportive.

  • Okay. Paragraph 60, off-the-record briefings. You've attended a substantial number of those over the years, although they're much less frequent nowadays, you say. There may be a distinction between off-the-record briefings, as it were, which are authorised, they come from someone of inspector level or above, and within that person's bailiwick, and off-the-record briefings where unauthorised information is provided. Were you ever the recipient of information which fell into the second category?

  • I don't think I was, sir, actually. I mean off-the-record briefings, there has always been a problem understanding what the term "off the record" means. To some people it can mean "not for attributation". For others it can mean "not to be used at any cost, Chatham House rules". I would understand "off-the-record briefings" in the way the question was put to mean: typically you've been -- I might give one -- well, an example where there is a press conference held about a high-profile murder, and this is a general press conference with everybody invited. It's held on camera, and there could be reasons why investigating officers want to put their inquiry into context. There will be specific operational reasons.

    So on those occasions, when the cameras have been switched off and the crews have gone away, journalists will be -- will remain in the press room typically at New Scotland Yard, in reference to the Met, but other forces have used the same tactic, I suppose you could say. So journalists would remain and then there would be an off-camera section where you could put questions and senior officers would try and put a context into the investigation. So, for instance, if you -- if one newspaper or TV company had been speculating rather unhelpfully about suspects, you might be given sort of detail around that.

  • You say in paragraph 65 you were led to understand that analysts -- this is analysts within either the DPS or the DPA -- are used to scan stories looking for potential leaks.

  • Do you know from the information you've received who within the police is carrying out these scanning exercises?

  • Well, I've just been told on reasonable authority that it refers to the director of the DPA as one of his tasks. I mean, this is where I've written the -- this particular part of the statement in answer to that question. One of his jobs is to look out for potential leaks.

    I have additionally been told that there is a system whereby reporters are graded in terms of whether they're favourable to the Metropolitan Police or not, and I don't know how they do that, on what basis they make their judgment, but I'm told that -- I don't suggest it's a top 20, who's the person that's going to be more favourable to the Met than others, but I was told that that system existed and I quite believe it.

  • From the way you phrased that answer, you're probably unwilling to tell us who it was who told you that; is that right?

  • Or if you are willing, perhaps you could share it with us?

  • I don't think it would be appropriate for me to say so, sir.

  • Hm. So the marking's on the basis of who's been favourable or not towards the Met, rather than which journalists are more likely to be the recipients of leaked information; have I correctly understood it?

  • I don't think you have understood it properly.

  • These are separate things.

  • No, it's got nothing to do with who's likely to receive leaks.

  • It's everything to do with a set of circumstances happen, there is a story around it, and I think this marking system is -- and I'm not quite sure what the criteria for the marking system is, but it's done on the number of -- presumably the number of stories journalists ask which are critical of the Met and the number of stories which they do which are praising of the Met. I don't think it -- my understanding was that it didn't have anything to do with the number of leaks a journalist might receive, sir.

  • No, no. No, I didn't think it did, but I was just making sure that that's the way your evidence is to be understood. It's direct hearsay or multiple hearsay. You understand the difference, Mr Sullivan? Have you been told by someone who has direct knowledge of this marking system, or have you been told by someone who --

  • I believe so sir. I believe so.

  • There have been leak inquiries, you tell us about those in paragraph 75.

  • You personally have received a number of calls from the Met DPS?

  • Mm. This is, to put it into context, sir, since last summer and the events -- subsequent to the events of last July, the DPS called where we've run stories using the term "police source", and also where there have been stories which they might perceive to have come from within the police, originated within the police. I do stress that.

  • Is this the right inference then, that you often use the term "police source" when in fact the source is not a police officer?

  • I've been aware for some time, since last summer, about the issues of "police source". It is a very difficult one for me to answer, actually, because there could be ramifications around the police investigation which I'm currently subject to.

  • I don't want you in any sense to embarrass yourself, Mr Sullivan. That's not the purpose of this Inquiry at all. But are you able to say what you understand by the phrase, just using neutral language, "police source"?

  • Well, sir, I mean "police source" could be anything, it really could. There is a lack of clarity around that, and I think that's about as far as I could possibly go.

  • So you say that when the MPS had made enquiry of you in relation to particular stories, you make it clear at the end of paragraph 75:

    "On none of these occasions was the information I received given to me by a police officer."

  • You just deal with the point in paragraph 76 and 77 that you disfavour acceptance of the HMIC recommendation that police officers should record all meetings with journalists. I don't quite follow your reasoning there, Mr Sullivan. Could you help us?

  • Okay. As a -- sir, as I mentioned earlier, I wrote this statement in January, and I don't think I mentioned it here, but having heard some of the evidence that's come out of this Inquiry, sir, I have changed my stance on several points.

  • I'd be very interested to learn each point that you'd like to moderate to such extent as you're able to share it with me.

  • Well, if I could perhaps just start firstly with the -- this particular sentence:

    "... runs the risk of a journalist meeting somebody who notifies their line manager and then getting information for a story later in the day which casts unfair suspicion on that officer."

    What I meant there, sir, was that there was one occasion, it happened a number of years ago, and it involved a high-profile murder, where a reporter got quite a good story on this particular high-profile murder investigation and he deliberately took out the press officer who was dealing with that particular investigation or stories on the day before he then published his story around that investigation. And of course the press officer got the blame for that from police officers who were investigating, but I subsequently learnt that it wasn't the press officer who had leaked that story.

  • So the press officer had been set up by the reporter?

  • He'd been set up by the reporter. So I've always borne that in mind to be very careful around any kind of engagement with somebody who's working on an inquiry which I might be doing a story on, lest they should be blamed for being the source of the leak.

  • That's a problem, isn't it? But what you've just described was duplicitous by the reporter.

  • It was, sir, yes, it was.

  • You won't be surprised to hear that that doesn't enormously impress me.

  • I'm not surprised at all, sir, but I only mention it to put it into context, sir.

  • No, I understand the point, I understand the point.

  • It was a rare occasion, sir, and I'm not aware of any other -- I mean, they may well have happened, but I'm just saying that made that particular press officer very vulnerable, well, to being accused of being the source of the leak.

    So that's why notifying could run some kind of -- notification could run some kind of risk that somebody who you'd perhaps met the night before and who faithfully recorded as required that they met with a particular journalist, sir, then that particular journalist writes a story and it's that person they've seen the night before, perhaps in a group situation or whatever, but from the particular inquiry team he gets the blame, when he could be somebody entirely different.

  • It might be said that a notification requirement would have a stultifying effect on unauthorised disclosures by police officers on journalists, but would have no impact on authorised off-the-record disclosures. Do you see the point?

  • I do see the point, sir. It really is -- clearly, I mean listening to this evidence, I accept that there is a need for -- to protect journalists and police officers alike, you need a framework of some sort, a system. I personally recognise that. But it's then -- if you like, it's how do you go about that, how do you find that middle ground or the drunken clairvoyant, as it were, the happy medium, to use that analogy, which is the crux of it, in my opinion.

    I mean, I can move on at this point, Mr Jay, to the HMIC report, ask this question in the context of that, and the Elizabeth Filkin report, both of which seem to recognise that there is a requirement for a framework --

  • Well, can you tell me of a framework that might work? You've knocked around this area forever, as it were.

  • I think if there were clear guidelines, sir, on what is acceptable and what is unacceptable, it would be helpful. What it needs to be is practical, so for instance every now and again I am invited to a -- mostly these days, because of my age, retirement party from a police officer who I may have known, or press officer, for many years. If I were to turn up, or indeed any other journalist could turn up to such a social occasion, would everybody present then have to record the presence -- my own presence or the presence of any other journalist? I think you're getting into realms of -- layers of bureaucracy which would be impossible to manage.

    If I were to have a one-to-one or any other journalist were to have a one-to-one meeting, a cup of tea, a drink, to discuss any particular case or incident which a police officer may be or press officer might be trying to promote or promote some good work, then if there was a record of that, I personally couldn't really see any harm of that, sir. At this point in time, looking back and having heard the evidence in this Inquiry, I think it might be the best thing, all ways around. But it's different from a group situation.

  • I suppose the professionals involved, that is both the reporters and the police, on your retirement party example, would have to accept that you simply don't mix business with pleasure, and if you're going along to see somebody because you've retired, then the one thing you don't do under any circumstances is talk business.

  • It very rarely is, sir. The most that you're most likely to hear is, "I've got an interesting case, I'll be in touch, or a press officer will", and that's the reality. That's the working reality.

  • Yes, that may be, but provided everybody understood the framework, the ground rules, then that might be sufficient to cope with your everybody having to report presence at the retirement party. I'm not saying it would be, I'm merely just trying to deal with your example.

  • Where you do have a problem, though, sir, and it is worth mentioning this in terms of the Metropolitan Police, like any other -- or any police force, like any other organisation, wants to protect its own interests, and where there is a story or something which is quite critical of that police force, you're hardly going to expect them to open up. So if somebody wants to come forward to a journalist and tell a true story, something that is in the public interest that needs to be known about, then guidelines such as ones we're talking about would make that very difficult, if not impossible.

  • Well, you might have to have some whistle-blowing policy that's rather more effective than whatever whistle-blowing policy presently exists, but that's a slightly different point, isn't it?

  • I understand that, sir, but it does -- I mean, the point being it needs to be part of the equation, I would argue, sir.

  • Let me ask you a couple of some more general questions now that have been put by others. Did you learn in 2006 that the Metropolitan Police had discovered that it was possible to intercept mobile phone voicemails?

  • The first I knew anybody was able to intercept messages on a mobile phone was when Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire were arrested.

  • So it follows from that answer you didn't know anything about it before 8 August 2006, then?

  • Did you hear rumours that these activities were going on at the News of the World?

  • Can I ask you, please, about the Daniel Morgan murder. There was, I think, a photograph in the Sun, it was an horrific murder. I think it was -- I don't know the precise details, but it involved an axe. Do you know anything about how that photograph came to be in the Sun?

  • That photograph was provided by -- the best put it as a member of the public, or a -- a journalistic source would be as far as I could go on that, sir. It is an investigation case which I know very well, actually, and again in relation to Mr Quick's statement, if I can go back to that -- and I don't mean it personally to Mr Quick, but he did say in his statement or in his evidence to this Inquiry that Southern Investigations, which Mr Morgan was a partner of, an investigation agency which was used by some of the media, he mentioned that it was used by News of the World and the Sun. I would like it to be absolutely crystal clear that I am not aware of the Sun ever having used Southern Investigations for any purposes, and given my knowledge on that particular case, I think I would know that, sir.

  • In terms of the photograph, which you say was provided to you by a journalistic source, do you know who took the decision that the photograph should be published?

  • Presumably it would have been our editor or perhaps someone on our back bench at the time, sir.

  • Were you involved in that decision-making?

  • Okay, I think that's as far as I can take that issue. Indeed, those are all the questions I have for you, Mr Sullivan.

  • During the course of your evidence, Mr Sullivan, you said that reflecting on your statement, which actually is dated -- the signed version is dated 28 February, but you said you prepared it in January -- in the light of what you'd heard, there were a number of things that you'd thought again about.

  • You mentioned one of them, but I would be very keen to know if there's any other aspect of your statement, whether it's a fact or an expression of opinion that's contained within it, that we have perhaps not covered, that you'd like to modify.

  • I was thinking more around Elizabeth Filkin's report, sir, which I think I described the HMIC report to media/police relations as being more reasonable, and on reflection I would like to take that back. I do accept that Elizabeth Filkin's report was an honest and decent attempt to grasp what was obviously a very complex issues, and issues, I hasten to add, which could have some impact on democracy, because if we get to a position in this period of austerity, as it's so been described, the police period of austerity, if you get to a position where police officers become agents of the state, I do think there's a real risk that they would lose the political independence and could be, who knows, potentially utilised by any government of the day for its own purposes, which might not be in the interests of its -- of the general position, so that there are some -- I mean, taking it forward even more, I think some real crucial points around the public profile of the police.

    I felt that the Filkin report, in particular, was naive in the sense that it required absolute openness to work, and we've heard from Mr Paddick, or this Inquiry has heard from Mr Paddick about his report on rape and the quality of rape investigations. I thought it was an interesting point because subsequent to that you had two absolute scandals, in my opinion, John Worboys and Kirk Reid, where it could be argued, certainly more than argued, that the Met had been culpable and had failed in apprehending those rapists. Had that report -- who knows. Had that report from Mr Paddick been released earlier, perhaps it might have had an effect, a political effect, in beefing up the -- or reinforcing resources for rape investigation, sexual offenders investigation, which has always been a Cinderella of policing anyway, and come secondary to political considerations of the day.

    So I have concerns about the Filkin report in that sense, and I also felt that it was let down by a patronising tone, sir, towards journalists, that journalists do not practice abstinence well. Nor do the police in my experience and nor, if I may be so bold to say, nor do lawyers. We're picked out there as people, and I'm talking about journalists in general, who go along to buy a lunch and pour as much wine down somebody's throat to get a story, and I don't know any reporters that have ever operated like that, not crime reporters.

    There's a warning to police officers: be careful because journalists could be tape recording everything you say. I don't know any crime reporters that would ever have tape-recorded conversations between themselves and police officers, and so I felt there was a negative approach to moving forward.

    At least the HMIC report does accept that the media is part of police life, that there needs to be openness and a maturity around engaging with the media, and so in that sense I just wanted to make the point, clarify that I felt that the HMIC approach was a more mature one and perhaps one that might be -- we might be --

  • Yes, you actually said that in paragraph 74.

  • Sir, I would apply either to ask a question of this witness or alternatively to indicate openly the Met's position in respect of one allegation made by this witness, namely that in paragraph 65, to the effect that the Met either have charts on individual reporters with a system of marking to show if they're regarded as being favourable or not towards the Met.

  • If you want to ask a couple of questions about that, you can do so.

  • You mentioned in answer to Mr Jay, Mr Sullivan, that it was your understanding that the Met had such a system?

  • Can I suggest to you that there is no such system by which the Met grade journalists according to how favourable their stories are towards the Met and ask you whether you're able to give us any indication as to how you think you know that?

  • As I mentioned earlier, sir, I can't give you -- tell you who told me, but there may not be such a system now, but I can certainly tell you that I was reliably informed, perhaps three or four years ago, could be five years ago, sir, that there was such a system.

  • Might it be possible that you or your source are confusing arrangements to detect policing themes in the media, although even that didn't isolate particular journalists?

  • No, it's not possible at all. I'm quite confident that what I said is correct.

  • Then I formally suggest to you that your source is inaccurate.

  • That's the problem about unnamed sources.

  • Right. Thank you.

    Well, shall we have five minutes? We did have a slight break before, but we need another five minutes before we go to the next witness.

  • (A short break)

  • The next witness is Mr Stephen Wright, please.