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

  • MR STEPHEN JOHN WRIGHT (sworn).

  • Your full name, please, Mr Wright.

  • Thank you. You provided the Inquiry with a witness statement which you have signed and dated, 21 February 2012. There isn't a statement of truth on it but is this your formal evidence to the Inquiry?

  • Mr Wright, you currently are associated news editor at the Daily Mail?

  • And you were promoted to that position in September 2010. But before then for about 15 years you were the crime editor; is that right?

  • I was crime editor at the end, Mr Jay.

  • Yes, pardon me. You joined the crime desk in January 1996 and you were promoted to crime editor, I don't think you say when, but when was that?

  • I think it was around 2006.

  • Thank you. Your statement makes it clear that you received a significant number of awards. Reporter of the year in 2007, that's BBC, "What the Papers Say" specialist writer of the year in 2009 at the British Press Awards and joint winner of the Cudlipp award, that's twice, for excellence in journalism, and then you've been shortlisted and runner up for various other prestigious awards. Can you tell us a small amount about the stories which secured you those awards?

  • In 2007, reporter of the year -- I'm just looking at the screen here -- I can't --

  • It's an unfair question, I didn't give you warning of it.

  • I don't actually remember, but I think what those stories were, I think one was to do with Bob Woolmer, and that investigation into the murder that never was, I think it was something to do with the cash for honours investigation, and I believe it may have been something to do with the Rachel Nickell case, but please don't hold me to that because I didn't look it up before I came.

  • It's across the range of crime?

  • I think it probably follows from your evidence for the 14 or 15-year period when you were working in crime, if I can put it in those terms, you were a member of the Crime Reporters Association?

  • This is a general question about the Crime Reporters Association. Does it give you privileged access to the police?

  • I wouldn't actually say it does, actually.

  • Well, you hesitated, but --

  • No, because I think it's a definition of what it projected or not, because I don't actually go into a CRA briefing, I didn't necessarily believe that I should believe what I'm being told, so, you know, whether that's privileged or not is a matter for debate.

  • With great respect, that's a quite different point, isn't it? Whether you believe it or not is a matter for you. The question is whether you're being given access to briefings which weren't generally given to everybody else.

  • Oh, I see, perhaps I didn't understand the question properly. Well, clearly, yes, there were some briefings. There would be a situation, particularly during 2005, the terror attacks, situations, if I remember rightly, where there would be a general press conference and then there would be a CRA meeting afterwards where crime reporters would be able to ask additional questions. To the best of my knowledge, those additional questions didn't result in any further sort of -- any additional lines in newspaper copy, which disadvantaged people who weren't in the CRA.

  • It gave you background context --

  • -- which you couldn't use directly because of the nature of the briefing, but gave you a deeper understanding of some of the issues, would you agree?

  • Yes. Yes. Yes. And of course you're aware of the monthly CRA briefings with the Commissioner as well, which, to use your words, might be a sort of privileged situation.

  • You also suggested though that you didn't always accept everything that you were being told during these briefings. You're the first witness who has said that.

  • No, I think in 1999, a couple years after I'd started working on the Stephen Lawrence case, there was a briefing, CRA briefing of Lord Condon, and I was asked at the end of that -- just a monthly briefing at Scotland Yard, crime reporters, and at the end of that briefing the questions were open to the floor, "Anything you'd like to ask Lord Condon?", and I asked Lord Condon, Sir Paul as he was then: "If the MacPherson Inquiry is critical of you, personally, will you resign?" And jaws dropped amongst Metropolitan Police personnel there. I thought it was a perfectly legitimate question.

    After the meeting, one of Sir Paul's aides came up to me and asked why I was asking that question, which I thought was a legitimate question, so I said, "Actually, I asked that question because it's an important question, not because I have anything personally against Sir Paul Condon. I'm an independent journalist and that's the question I wanted to ask". He answered the question, but I felt uncomfortable that it was a cosy situation where you couldn't ask difficult questions.

  • I understand that. It's different, though, from being given misleading or incorrect information during such briefings, would you agree?

  • I think perhaps I was unfair there, but what I was getting at was sometimes I felt that the CRA briefings were a way for some senior officers to control the flow of information, which just went against my principles.

  • Okay. May I ask you, please, about paragraph 7 of your statement, our page 07729, when you're covering the West case. You say towards the end of that paragraph that you looked into the backgrounds of the Wests and spoke to a number of family members and then, I paraphrase, you did some research. It's implicit in what you're saying, Mr Wright, that you avoided in your reporting the sort of problems this Inquiry has seen in relation to the Jefferies case. Do you understand the question?

  • How do you feel that you were successful in doing that?

  • Well, I hadn't really thought about my answer on that, on the West case in relation to the Jefferies case, until this morning. The only reason I mentioned that was because I was a young reporter at the time at the Mail, it was a highly competitive Fleet Street bun fight, you could say, really. That's what it was. It was chaotic down in Gloucester during the first few weeks of the developing story. A lot of competition. I even had a situation where the senior investigating officer, Mr Bennett, rang me to ask me to withdraw from someone's -- a witness's address, and I said to Mr Bennett, "I'm actually in London at the moment, could you please give a description of someone who is saying they are Stephen Wright and write for the Daily Mail?" I hadn't met Mr Bennett at that stage, and it's fair to say that the description of that individual proved it wasn't me, but there was some real skullduggery going on there in that story.

    As I said in my statement, a number of media organisations, broadcasters, not just newspapers, were found to have been paying witnesses, and I'm very proud that the Daily Mail wasn't amongst those.

  • It's a trial about which I know really quite a lot.

  • I remember you very well, sir.

  • But I'm going to ask a slightly different question, which is this: you've described what you did in relation to that trial, that case. Has the way in which crime investigation has changed in the last 16 years meant that this sort of background work is no longer possible?

  • Do you mind me asking what you mean by "background work"?

  • Well, you explain that you spent --

  • -- three or four months researching the case, you spent the entire trial, seven weeks, in Winchester, and therefore you got a picture.

  • Yes, I would say -- yes, I get your question now. I would say most definitely yes, and sadly, with the exception of one or two papers, my newspaper included, the resources aren't there now to do that type of thorough background investigations. It's very sad. Very sad.

  • But that may be part of the problem about the resource implications of what's happened.

  • But the question then arises: how are such stories being developed and are corners being cut because you can't do the sort of work that you did in that trial?

  • I would agree, I would agree. I would agree. I can't agree enough. I find it very sad, I find it very sad that, you know, actually I enjoyed having rivalry with other journalists and other news organisations. Very -- if you had a Rose West -- an appalling, appalling crime, some of the stuff which we heard in that trial, which wasn't printed, I will never ever forget. But it was appalling, but it was also very important to investigate all aspects of that case, not just the grisly details of what happened in that house, but obviously the failures by the various sort of government departments, but I don't think -- if that was a similar case today, I don't think any -- most newspapers would put any real resources into it.

  • I understand, but my question doesn't permit of you to say "I agree".

  • Much as I'm very happy for you to agree with me. My question was: how are such stories being developed and are corners being cut because you can't do the sort of work that you did in that trial?

  • All I can do is talk for my newspaper and say that we still can devote the sort of resources we devoted 20 years ago. It may well be -- I don't want to be in a situation where I am criticising other newspapers.

  • Well, Mr Wright, that's very noble of you, but I'm looking at the culture, practices and ethics of the press as a whole.

  • I'm not going to spend a great deal of time focusing on individual titles --

  • -- as I've made clear. I'm very keen to understand what's happening.

  • I won't ask you to name names --

  • But here you are, you have an enormous amount of experience in the area. I'd be very grateful for your help.

  • Right. Well, I think, yes, definitely some newspapers -- resources aren't there and inevitably corners could be cut. The quality of journalism is not what it may have been 20 years ago. I think that's ...

  • And how might that happen? How would you go about collecting this sort of story?

  • I would say it's more about research, sir, having the time. You know, when I was -- sorry to talk about myself, but in terms of what I did down there, I was -- you know, in the old days you would knock on hundreds of doors, you wouldn't have mobile phones really in those days. You knocked on lots of doors, you pieced -- you approached the relatives and victims in a very organised way, and that's very, very time-consuming, to get the whole story.

  • So in terms of your practice, Mr Wright, the position has remained constant because the resources are available, but if one was going to look more widely, particularly in the context of crime reporting, the stringency of resources has meant, is this right, a lowering in standards?

  • I'm thinking carefully about this. (Pause).

    I think there's a danger, yes. Yes.

  • Okay. Now paragraph 8, you tell us you covered the Soham murders, the Shipman case and the murder of Milly Dowler, all of which brought you into contact with different police forces. Self-evidently different police forces will have different styles of dealing with the press. It's an open question: is there anything you can draw to the Inquiry's attention which would assist us in relation to differing police/press contacts over the different police forces who covered or were responsible for those different murders?

  • I think it's not a secret in the Police Service that the Soham murders, Cambridgeshire police found it very difficult in the first week to deal with the huge press interest in that case. It was really the first case I covered where 24-hour news really gave a domestic high-profile crime real, real publicity. That was unprecedented. So they were deluged and I think within a week they sort of got extra help from the Metropolitan Police press officers and stuff like that, so I think they were -- as a result of not being able to field some questions, you know, they were just completely inundated, there was -- there were dangers in terms of press accuracy, I would say.

    The Shipman case -- well, Manchester police is obviously a big force and I think they're able to deal very -- able to deal with that quite easily. And also it wasn't -- it didn't have the intensity -- the story didn't have the intensity that the murders of Holly and Jessica had.

    Milly Dowler, as well, I think -- let me think, that was 2002, wasn't it? Surrey's a small force. I think at the start of that case, there was quite a lot of publicity in the first two or three days and it drifted off after a while, so it wasn't that intense, the coverage or the media interest in it, after a few days. So they were able to handle the sort of media interest.

  • You tell us in paragraph 9 that it's self-evidently necessary to build up relationships of trust with police officers so that you have a reputation of being trusted. How do you achieve that, Mr Wright?

  • I think it's -- as a -- as a crime reporter, it's not just what you are told and print which makes an impression on police officers, it's what you were told and don't print, and that's a sign of trust.

    Obviously the normal human traits of integrity and honesty are important. What I have discovered over the last 18, 19 years is that in the Police Service nationally, a lot of -- word gets around quite quickly if you are perceived to be a good journalist -- someone who can be trusted -- and obviously the opposite applies too.

    So what I'm saying is if you get a reputation for being someone who's unprofessional, word gets round quickly and your career may not progress.

  • Are these issues which are discussed either privately or formally within the Crime Reporters Association? In particular, journalists who are perhaps regarded as not as trustworthy, for whatever reason?

  • I must say that in my time when I was a crime reporter -- I'm not any more -- I thought all the crime reporters were people who were trustworthy, definitely. I wouldn't -- they were rivals, they were competitors, and it would be very easy for me to say to other officers or press officers, "Oh, this person can't be trusted", but that would be completely self-serving and completely wrong, because they were honest, decent people.

  • You've correctly told us that you're no longer a member, the reason being that on your promotion, you're no longer crime editor?

  • So you lose the credentials, as it were?

  • But looking back at or on the Crime Reporters Association, is it a positive force or not, in your opinion?

  • What, the Crime Reporters Association?

  • Yes, does it work in the public interest, if I can ask it more widely? (Pause).

  • Yes, I would say it does. It can. It has on occasions. I'm thinking about 2005, that momentous month in July, particularly the July 21 attacks, when there were four very dangerous men on the run, and the -- obviously a time of unprecedented national security concerns, and the Crime Reporters Association worked quite closely with the press officers and the Scotland Yard officers to be -- I think there's -- I believe there's -- at that time the CRA was slightly extended because it was an unprecedented situation, but there were confidential briefings about the case, about the hunt, which were massively in the public interest, information about what the police were doing which could be reported and, more importantly, what they might be doing but couldn't talk about, which can't be reported. So I think it was an excellent example of teamwork between the press and the police. And the CRA was at the heart of that.

  • Okay. Speaking more widely about the relationships you built up over the years, paragraph 10 of your statement, Mr Wright, you say the officers:

    "... tended to be those of senior and middling ranks as they were given discretion to talk to the media."

    So you're looking at those at inspector level and above --

  • -- on the policies we've seen.

    "Who would initiate contact would depend on the circumstances."

    So there's circumstances when police officers would contact you; is that right?

  • Yes, on occasion. I mean, I think if a murder squad officer was looking for some publicity on an unsolved murder, I might get a call. I can't think of any case off the top of my head. I'm not being awkward, but I just can't think -- I guess conversely I might contact officers on occasions as well. It would depend on the circumstances, as I said in my statement.

  • From a journalist's perspective, the journalist just listened to the information he or she received. That information can either be authorised, in the sense that the police authorises its dissemination, even off the record, or unauthorised.

  • So it's information which is leaked. Do you draw any distinction between the two? (Pause).

  • Well, clearly I'm aware of what might be in the Scotland Yard press release, and what isn't in the Scotland Yard press release, so my job as a journalist is to probe beyond the press release to find out what's going on.

  • Your probing may just be to obtain information which hasn't publicly been disseminated but is still authorised, in other words it's coming from an inspector rank officer or above, and it's within his or her area of responsibility.

  • Do you follow me?

  • But there may be circumstances where you're receiving information which is unauthorised, either because it's coming from the wrong rank or because it's outside that person's area of responsibility. Do you accept that?

  • There would be occasions.

  • Because you say at the end of paragraph 10:

    "However, at all times what they decided to tell me was a matter for them."

  • Which, of course, is strictly speaking 100 per cent right, but implicit in that is the assertion that on occasions you might be being given information which the person who was providing it to you ought not really to have provided to you. Do you follow me?

  • I follow your argument, yes.

  • Over the years, have I correctly understood it, you were in receipt from time to time of unauthorised information, namely leaked information?

  • I received information from people of a certain rank who were authorised to speak to me. Are you thinking about a particular case or --

  • No, I'm speaking generally, that I'm sure most of the information you received, Mr Wright -- and I'm not suggesting for one moment any impropriety in what you're doing, because a journalist has to act on information the journalist receives -- most of the information you got was authorised in the sense that it was from an officer of inspector level or above --

  • -- and it was within their area of competence?

  • But there must have been circumstances, situations, when you received information either from junior officers below inspector rank level, or from officers at inspector rank level and above but it was outside their area of expertise or competence; is that correct?

  • On your former point I'd say no, that I can't think of occasions when I've spoken to anyone below inspector rank.

  • My only dealings with constables normally are family liaison officers, and that's dealing with setting up interviews with victims and that's organised through --

  • The big working rank, certainly when I was a junior barrister, was the detective sergeant.

  • They were the ones that locked up the burglars and the people. You didn't have conversations with the detective sergeant in your local --

  • Well, I was conscious of the media guidelines in the Met, which gave authority to inspectors and above.

  • But you're entitled, as Mr Jay has just said to you -- you can listen to anyone, you're not doing anything wrong, and if somebody wants to say something to you which -- that's their problem, it's not your problem.

  • I think all he's trying to ask you is whether actually people did go behind what they should have done, perhaps because they trusted you, perhaps because they had a wonderful relationship with you and they knew you wouldn't misuse the information --

  • -- but you were aware that actually really you shouldn't be getting the information. I think that's what Mr Jay is asking you.

  • That's really what you're saying, isn't it, in the last clause in paragraph 10?

  • And I'll be wanting to gather information. But what we hear and whether we use it is a completely different matter.

  • Of course. Well, let's see how this plays out in the individual cases in a moment, but can I move forward to paragraph 14. You deal with the Rachel Nickell case, and you say about a third of the way down through that paragraph that in 2001 you conducted a five-page interview with Rachel Nickell's partner, in which he issued an emotional appeal for the police to catch her killer. It was a very poignant article, as you were the first journalist to meet Rachel's son, who had witnessed her murder.

    "I later alerted a very senior police officer to the article which, I believe, may have helped restart the inquiry."

    What was it in the article which reignited the investigation?

  • Can I make this clear. I don't want anyone here in this room to think that I restarted the Rachel Nickell inquiry, because I didn't. That was obviously a decision for officers at the Met to decide. I showed my -- the article was deemed by other people to be very poignant. A young father bringing up a son alone, crying out for justice. And I said to Rachel's partner, Mr Hanscombe, that I would try and find out or try and use any influence I could to get some sort of new investigation launched. The big difference between that and actually me being responsible, I just want to make that absolutely clear.

    But I did show my article to a very senior officer, left it with him and just said this, "Please read this, this man and this son need justice."

  • So would it be right if we crossed out the word "helped" -- because I'm very conscious that this sort of thing is very sensitive.

  • So if we crossed out the word "helped" and put "contributed to the decision by the Metropolitan Police"?

  • I think, sir, that might even be a bit too strong. The reason I put this in my statement was because there's been a lot of emphasis on the negative side of the relationship between a journalist and a police officer. In this case, I was doing -- I wanted to do -- I wanted to, if I could at all, just raise this issue with a senior officer who had a lot of influence at the Yard and to say, "Is there anything can be done to get justice for this family?" That is it, I don't want anyone to think it's anything beyond that.

  • I am very comfortable with that proposition. I think I've given the example before in the Inquiry, I am happy to repeat it, that the Sun newspaper found a photograph of Charmaine West, which was extremely important in dating the time of her death.

  • So that hadn't been found by the police, that was found by the Sun, and the police then got hold of it. So you do not need to convince me --

  • -- that there are enormously powerful tools available to the press that can and do dramatically help the pursuit of criminal justice in this country.

  • It's something I've talked about with some of the very senior police officers. Everybody must be harnessed to encourage people to come forward, otherwise we don't solve crimes.

  • You can't do it at one remove.

  • And I repeat the story now, just so that again, as I have said about the value of other journalism, I am not seeking to place the concerns that have been expressed out of context, and I'm not seeking to redefine the context at all.

  • Thank you.

    I just say the Metropolitan Police solved Rachel Nickell's murder. I want to make that clear and I congratulate them.

  • Yes, en route to that, though, in chronological terms, there was a piece in the Mail on 6 September 2003, which you wrote under the headline "Hope of DNA breakthrough in search for Rachel's killer". You said in that piece:

    "Detectives have made a potentially vital breakthrough in their hunt for the killer of Rachel Nickell."

    It was finding a DNA sample.

  • And apparently police sources made a comment about that. Was this information which was leaked to you by the police?

  • I only became aware of this article being the subject of scrutiny in this Inquiry last night, and I have been thinking about where it came from, that information. It either came from a police source in the -- speaking to me in -- a police source in the generic sense -- the definition mentioned by Sandra Laville yesterday is one which I would agree with -- or it came from a freelance journalist, and I cannot say for sure, I'm afraid.

  • In this case, though, it's likely to have been within the police, owing to the nature of the investigation, would you agree?

  • Yes. Oh, the origins of it, yes, definitely, but I'm just saying I can't be certain whether it was something which I picked up myself or whether it was a freelance journalist.

  • It's going to be very difficult for you now to remember the details of what occurred seven or eight years ago.

  • But I think the suggestion is, and this may well be right, that the disclosure to you was unauthorised in a sense that it's not something that the police would have wanted to enter the public domain at this stage. Would you agree with that?

  • What I would say is this, is that I've covered the Rachel Nickell case since 1996. It was a horrific murder and I had written a number of articles chronicling developments in the case. It was my job to find out what was going on, but also a case hugely in the public interest. It wasn't my job to jeopardise the inquiry, and I don't think that story jeopardised the inquiry in any way.

  • One can accept that because of the general way in which you were speaking in the article, it would not have prejudiced a police investigation, nor indeed would it have fallen with the Contempt of Court Act because no one had been arrested. It's just whether you felt that you were being provided with information which you knew that the police would not have wanted to enter the public domain at that stage?

  • Mr Jay, I didn't actually -- before writing that article, my main concern was: would this jeopardise -- would the -- my main concern was whether the article would jeopardise the police investigation. Just to repeat, it's a story hugely in the public interest, and as crime reporters we act ethically but we are soon out of work if we rely on press releases for our stories.

  • There was another piece, as you know, the following year:

    "Police refuse Stagg DNA test."

    Again was that information which was provided to you by a police source?

  • That information came from Mr Stagg turning up at a police station with a Sky News TV crew in attendance. I made some enquiries in the last 24 hours. I understand Mr Stagg's publicist may have had a role in that situation.

  • That disposes of that one. The last one is 10 January 2007, which relates to Mr Stagg's award of compensation from the Home Office. Again, the suggestion is that you obtained that information from a source, but perhaps, though, within or close to the Home Office. Is that correct?

  • Is it correct it came from the Home Office?

  • It did not come from the Home Office.

  • I'm not, I'm afraid, able to go into any more detail, but Mr Stagg's solicitor is making assumptions there, and perhaps his assumptions are flawed because of the passage of time.

  • I think the point may be made in this way, Mr Wright, that provided that there's no prejudice to an ongoing police investigation, number one, and provided that self-evidently you haven't paid for this information, well, then you say it's in the public interest to publish it so you'll go ahead and publish it, provided your editors agree, of course?

  • We think very carefully about what we write and what we publish. There's a lot of things to take into consideration on sensitive inquiries, on less sensitive ones. As I said earlier, you know, I'm a reporter and I don't -- we don't rely on press releases for our stories, and it's getting that balance right. It's about judgment. It's about judgment, but -- and occasionally we get it wrong, we get it wrong, but I think certainly the Daily Mail crime desk and the fantastically talented colleagues I work with, we get it right most of the times. We get it right most of the times. Nothing worse for me as a journalist -- a crime editor, nothing worse for the editor than to be accused of -- of -- of genuinely, and I stress the word genuinely -- jeopardising a successful outcome in a police investigation.

  • Although reliance on this type of source, there's nothing inherently proper in that for the reasons I've explained --

  • Yes, I know, I am not being too defensive, but in terms of Mr Stagg's solicitor's assertions, they are wrong. They are wrong, okay?

  • If you're relying on a source which may or may not be providing you with unauthorised information, of course self-evidently you're taking a risk as to whether the source is accurate. Would you agree with that?

  • And there's little way of substantiating what the source is saying, is that also right?

  • Well, it's -- it's -- it's very rare that you would write a story based on unofficial sources and not put it to the police force in some way or another, give them an opportunity to comment or, if they wish, to make strong representations for us not to write it, because any strong representations for us not to write something would be taken very seriously by me and the editor.

  • This may not be an altogether fair question, but do you recall in the cases of the three articles I've been taking you to whether you did seek formal -- the formal police view on those stories as to whether they should be published and whether they were accurate?

  • I think -- well, certainly, Mr Jay, the first story about the DNA breakthrough, yes, I did. And I think they decided to comment they're not prepared to give a running commentary. If they had said, "Please don't run this, it will cause us a problem", it would have been taken very seriously. I can't say what the outcome would be, but certainly it would be really unprofessional to ignore it.

    The second story, well obviously it's self-evident, with the Sky TV camera, I was just following up that story. So I don't know if we spoke to the Yard.

    And the third case, I did speak -- I did put in a call to the Home Office and they gave me a full statement.

  • Thank you. I'm moving on to another topic. Would it be convenient to break now?

  • Certainly. Thank you very much. 2 o'clock.

  • (The luncheon adjournment)

  • Mr Wright, the Lawrence issue. First of all, paragraph 14 of your statement, please, where a senior figure within the Superintendents Association made a speech dealing with the repeal of the double jeopardy rule, and you had some influence over him in making that speech?

  • The influence was small, possibly. There was influence, I think, that prior to the -- prior to the police Superintendents Association annual conference in September 1997, I had a private meeting with the president, and he gave details of what he was proposing to put in his speech and the same thing he would have said to other reporters as well, and it's just open, but he mentioned that he was interested in the issue of the double jeopardy laws and was going to raise a case in the north-east in relation to his speech.

    And I said, "Well, actually I'm very interested in this as well in relation to the Stephen Lawrence case, and if there could be a change in the law and if there's suitable evidence came forward, then there might be an opportunity for a retrial." As a result of that, he inserted that in his speech and made a powerful reference to it and used it in a slide show as well. So I just wanted to emphasise once again the positive aspects of being a crime reporter.

  • And then paragraph 18 of your statement, if I may, which gives us the background to the famous "Murderers" front page in 1997. You were advising Mr Dacre about that and obviously it was going to be his decision as to whether to publish it in that way.

  • Yes, it was. In the days and weeks leading up to that front page, and I had no idea that the editor was planning to do that until the eve of publication, but I was making my own enquiries about the case, and it was through what you would describe here as unofficial sources, about the background to the case, the background to the killers. There was an inquest going on and it was a case we were very interested in and on the eve of publication the editor sought my advice on my knowledge on the background of these five. And it in a small way perhaps helped him make his mind up.

  • So the unofficial sources you refer to were those who knew enough about the evidence, as it then existed, to, as it were, make the link between the faces we see on the front page and the --

  • Yes, I just wanted to be sure that these men remained very strong suspects.

  • When you say "unofficial sources", were they police sources who were speaking in an unauthorised fashion, do you think?

  • Well, I'm trying to think who I spoke to. It would be -- well, it wouldn't be an officer in the presence of a press officer, put it that way, that I needed to understand the situation and also I spoke to other individuals who had a knowledge of the case as well from different aspects of life, shall we say.

  • But without going into the details here, and I know you won't want to, can I just explore the possible motivation of these sources? Do you think their motivation was a determination to bring these matters into the public domain and therefore accelerate achieving justice for the Lawrence family in bringing these men to justice? Was that it, do you think, or was it something else?

  • No, I think I was making my own enquiries into the case and they, I think, respected that I wanted to research the case and be knowledgeable about it. I don't think anyone could have foreseen at that stage where this story would end up. I'm not going to reinvent history now.

  • So it's pure speculation then as to what their motives might have been, because they didn't know what you were going to write or how it would in the end turn out?

  • As I say, I was interested in the case, I was interested in the case and I wanted to approach the case or be able to write about it, advise the editor, deputy editor, whatever, in a knowledgeable way. That's all. And if I hadn't been able to do that, then these matters of great public interest might not have -- well, would not have come to the fore.

  • And your interest in the case has endured over the succeeding years to the present day?

  • You heard the evidence, Mr Wright, relating to the piece which appeared in the Mail on 8 November 2007 --

  • -- from the police witness, Mr Driscoll. Do you have to hand the online version of the article you wrote?

  • We'll provide you with one.

  • Mr Driscoll's evidence was that there was a high-level meeting the day before, on 7 November, and some of the information which was discussed at that meeting is here appearing in your piece in the Mail. I know you're not going to name anybody, nor are my questions designed to elicit names. Are we talking about police sources in the sense which I choose to use the term, namely those in the Metropolitan Police Service?

  • Um ... can I just say something? This article was actually a second article which was written, so there's one on the preceding day which I wrote, so this is a follow-up article.

  • What I'd be -- I am particularly protective of sources. What I am happy to say, hopefully it will be accepted by the Inquiry, was no one on that investigation team was responsible but I'm loath to go beyond that.

  • So no one on the investigation team --

  • Can we try and narrow it down just a little bit more? Was it a police officer?

  • I would rather not say so, because if we get into that, then there's a process of elimination. I am concerned in the current climate, I have colleagues, former colleagues in the CRA who are been receiving what I would call intimidating phone calls from a certain department in the Metropolitan Police demanding to know who sources are. I find that very concerning indeed, even over innocuous matters. I'm very mindful about going into detail about these matters.

  • I may or may not come back to that. May I explore it in this way, that you were satisfied, because you wouldn't have published the article otherwise, that what you were being told was, broadly speaking, correct?

  • I was. I was. And I might add as well that -- and this is important to note -- I did put a call in to the police before.

  • You did put a call --

  • I put a call in to the Scotland Yard Press Bureau on the eve of publication of the first article, and no objection was, from memory, no one actually came on the phone to me and said, "Please don't run this".

  • When I put in a call before we published, sir, we -- I wrote -- I rang Scotland Yard press office to ask some questions about this proposed story.

  • That's slightly different.

  • Did Mr Driscoll's evidence, therefore, come to you as a shock, about the impact that the story has had on his investigation?

  • Well, I -- slightly, yes. I have enormous respect for Mr Driscoll as well. There is shock in the sense that I would disagree personally that that article would jeopardise a police investigation, anyway.

  • Well, yes, but can you disagree with the proposition that the publication of your article would have caused enormous concern within the inquiry team?

  • That it was likely to cause a potential rift between the Lawrences and the police?

  • And that it might have an impact on one of the suspects going to one of the witnesses? I mean, I'm just --

  • -- repeating the facts as he told me.

  • Sorry, I'm trying to remember all the points you just made there. In terms of the witness being approached, sorry, that wasn't a consideration. In terms of the relationship with the Lawrences, all I can say is that my newspaper continues to enjoy a fantastic relationship with the Lawrences -- no, I'm --

  • Yes, yes. And this story was a story hugely in the public interest --

  • But that's the question. I'm sorry.

  • -- the Lawrences have a very, very great regard for your paper, which has taken an enormously important lead in connection to the death of their son, murder of their son.

  • But do you doubt Mr Driscoll's evidence that the carefully rebuilt relationship was at risk of fracturing because of their fear that actually this was all going to leak out again?

  • Right, I can understand why Mr Driscoll said that, and obviously he's better placed to comment on their initial reaction when that story broke. These -- these stories, these big ones, it is a judgment issue from a newspaper perspective as to when you write them. I would argue, I would say in my experience these iconic cases, the Lawrence ones and the like, when there are developments in them, can be very difficult for the police to control the flow of information. It doesn't always come to the Mail, I say, but sir that is the reality of the situation, and we would not have run that story had the police objected, and nor would we have run the story if we thought it was going to jeopardise the investigation in any way.

  • Actually, that's what caused me to interrupt Mr Jay. Asking questions about the proposed story is one thing, but did you explain to the press office precisely what you had and what you were going to run, so they could make informed representations to you about the risk that ran?

  • Right, I cannot recall.

  • I mean, if you've done that and they've said, "Get on with it", that's one thing.

  • Then the criticism goes back -- if there is criticism, it goes back to the Met and their internal handling proceedings.

  • But if you didn't, it does raise a question, and it's a very, very finely balanced issue --

  • -- which is very different from the sort of black and white stuff that I've been hearing about.

  • But it's no less important.

  • And I think perhaps there's some further evidence which will emerge which shows the next stage in this story, where we did actually hold back on something on the Lawrence case.

  • Yes, I know. But we can only take it a step at a time.

  • Yes, of course, I just wanted to --

  • You have to follow my rather --

  • I'm not going to get out of sequence here but that's what -- I mean for us as journalists and newspapers these are finely balanced decisions. My way of dealing with it isn't affected solely by the possibility that if we hold off, someone else might do it. That is not the -- a lot of things are considered, in case people are thinking, oh, they are going to ignore a request not to hold a story because they fear being scooped.

  • But you can't remember whether you actually put it to the press --

  • Yes, I did, but I want -- I did put it to them in the evening, late in the evening, a decision was taken quite late at night, quite late, to run the story, but I did ring the press office before, but I --

  • And told them precisely what the --

  • I'd say my experience, my experience, my -- part of my reasoning behind thinking this story is one which we should run is that we'd already named five men as the murderers. To the best of my knowledge, they were already in south London, and in my opinion, my judgment, it was unlikely a story saying that there had been a DNA breakthrough in the case, or whatever I wrote at the time, fibre breakthrough, that they were likely to go on the run. They had been living with the shadow of being suspects for a long time, and that's an important consideration for us.

  • But the issue that I was trying to raise is whether you really could say that you've taken into account the informed views of the investigating officer.

  • Because Mr Driscoll, he was talking with feeling. This is a professional police officer.

  • And he clearly felt very strongly.

  • You'll reach your own view about it, but he certainly seemed to me to feel very strongly --

  • -- that actually this had caused real problems.

  • And he was the very first to say you were a driving force in the inquiry, so he wasn't trying to get at you --

  • -- at all. He had the highest regard for you.

  • But he raised an issue which it seems to me is at the very core of where --

  • -- we should be thinking about --

  • At the risk of going out of sequence, I might be able to say shortly that we did it a different way the next time.

  • All right, well, we've done it.

  • I don't know -- you know what I am saying.

  • Yes, you're right to, to raise that point, obviously, and I --

  • It's not obvious that I'm right to.

  • People are perfectly happy to disagree with me and frequently do.

  • I will do, but not on this occasion, sir.

  • On the second occasion, which was in September 2010, you informed the MPS press office that you were proposing to publish a story. The press office had sufficient information from what you told them to enable them to speak to Mr Driscoll, and the message came back to you with a request not to publish, do I have that right?

  • Yes. I'd like to correct that slightly. Actually I contacted the press office to say that I was aware that there may be developments in the case. I put a question to them about the possibility of charges that week, and I had no idea that the DPP had been in court seeking some sort of legal order or anything like that, that was not something I was aware of specifically, and I wasn't saying we are going to run a story, I said I want to let you know about -- that we are -- wanted to find out if it was true, firstly, and then I said I'm fully aware of how sensitive this case is and the last thing I want to do is to do anything which would jeopardise the investigation. So it doesn't matter whether I'm -- you know, that another paper runs it tomorrow, if you wish to make representations to me to say we shouldn't run this, then I will advise the editor accordingly, and that is what I did.

  • The heart of the issue in relation to the earlier story, the November 2007 story, is that people would think that there had been a police leak, do you follow me, and that you were publishing on the back of that leak, and that would cause harm not necessarily to any future criminal trial, but to the ongoing delicate relationship between the police and the Lawrence family. Is that a factor you think you took into account when advising the editor as to whether or not to publish that story in November 2007?

  • (Pause). I cannot -- I cannot recall -- I cannot recall that, Mr Jay.

  • Okay. May I just test with you this issue of trust, which obviously is very important, your credibility with the police, and you've obviously maintained that trust. But is there not a danger as well, looking at the long game, as it were, that if the police think that you are acting, as journalists are entitled to do, on the basis of stories which have been leaked to journalists, that might diminish the trust that the police might hold for that journalist?

  • Sorry, might diminish the?

  • The trust the police hold for that journalist, because you're acting in a way which is -- well, I won't say unethical, because that's putting it too high, but you are acting on the basis of stories which are leaked to you and which you know are unauthorised.

  • Well, I don't know, I disagree there. My job didn't involve writing about leaks every day.

  • No. So -- and I'm led to believe that -- I'd like to think I've enjoyed a good, professional relationship with a lot of police officers, some very senior, and no one's ever accused -- no one's ever said to me, "I'm not talking to you because you received leaked information".

  • That was the next question I had.

  • No, not at all. So it hasn't actually been an issue in informal discussions you've had with police officers. They don't point the metaphorical finger at you and say "We're not going to trust you in the future because we know that you've been acting on the basis of unauthorised disclosures". That hasn't been an issue?

  • I think some people believe I was well informed.

  • Yes, well they probably are grown up enough to say that you're trying to get as much information as you can. It's up to them to make sure you don't get what they don't want you to have.

  • Just because I'm giving information doesn't mean to say I'm necessarily going to write it, and that's the point I would make.

  • But the megaphone has changed. It's no longer in the hands of the police, it's now in your hands for you to decide what you want to do.

  • I would never write a story -- the trust -- Mr Jay said the trust issue is very important. I would never write a story based on someone telling me something and me not checking, "Are you happy for me to write this or not?"

  • So with reference to the Filkin report, there's no trickery involved in my crime reporting at all. No trickery. If people want to tell me something, or wanted to -- it's a matter for them, then we make a judgment on whether it's right to run the story or not.

  • The person who's providing you with the information, who may well be acting in an unauthorised fashion -- of course I'm not saying that this is the norm, I was indicating it probably only happens exceptionally -- that person may well be entirely satisfied that you write the story, because that's why you're being provided with the information; would you agree?

  • I'd like to think that, you know, quite a few police officers respect the role of journalists, and what we do. I say, to repeat myself, my -- this was a -- I covered the Lawrence case since 1997. There were a lot of exclusive stories I broke early in that campaign. No one complained then. And obviously some people might regard it as being a force for good, those stories, and they were unauthorised but they were for good, so I think it was well-known by a lot of people that I had a close interest in that case.

  • When you have been provided with unauthorised information over the years, have you on occasion doubted the motives of those who have been providing you with such information?

  • And if you do doubt their motives, is that a factor, whether or not you publish a story on the back of the --

  • -- information they provide to you?

  • There was an occasion in 2005 when I learned that the Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire had been acting in an inappropriate way with a woman at a conference, and I was concerned that this information had come to me for -- well, I was concerned how that -- I was concerned that there might be some ulterior motives and I considered the information for a couple of days, I thought very carefully about running that story because of the implications for that man's future career. As it happened, I did run the story, having thought very carefully about it, and he resigned the next day. I might add as well that individual is a man of integrity and he's never held it against me. He actually called me some time later, he recognised it was a story in the public interest.

  • You deal with some other stories you've written over the years, paragraph 19, for example. You deal with the Commander Ali Dizaei stories and a string of exposes. Those exposes, without looking at them one by one, as it were, your sources there on occasion unofficial, unauthorised or does it vary?

  • I guess it would vary. It would vary. I mean that particular officer, who's just again been convicted of corruption, very difficult individual to deal with, not only for journalists but for police forces, police authorities, anyone who challenges his view on the world. And I had to move very delicately to gather information on that case. An extremely litigious man, extremely litigious. And we -- as far as I'm concerned, the Daily Mail -- what we did in not being -- in challenging that man and revealing details about what he was up to was hugely in the public interest, as was our -- my revelations, my colleague revelations about the cowardice at Scotland Yard, the senior officers who were scared of him, they were scared of him, they were scared of him.

  • May I move now to the issue of hospitality. Could we see if we can deal with this broadly before looking at the detail? Do you think that part of the reason for developing semiprofessional -- they're always professional, let me correct that -- professional relationships over lunch and over dinner is to foster the degree of trust which you identify as being essential?

  • I think it's part of it. I don't -- I'm happy to meet a police officer for a cup of coffee, breakfast, lunch, dinner, drink, or in his office, doesn't matter to me. I think my own personal view has been an overemphasis on hospitality because for me it's just a small part of the way in which you operate as a journalist.

  • Apart from to win the confidences of the officers you were meeting on these occasions, was it in any way in order to gain access to more of the information we've just been talking about, namely unauthorised information? (Pause).

  • Um ... well, I'll just put it this way. It's -- you know, if a police officer wishes to join you as a reporter for a coffee, a tea, lunch, whatever, it can be part of that trust-building process, but I just want to reiterate it's not exclusively -- that's not the exclusive way in which trust is gained. So I've had many social occasions with police officers when it has been perfectly pleasant and if I was a reporter desperate for a story, I would have been very disappointed; actually that is not how it works. You do not go along to a meeting with a police officer expecting to get a story. If you show that, then it comes across very quickly. For me it's about gaining knowledge and context.

  • I'm sure you're right about that, Mr Wright, but it's a far more subtle process. You don't go out to lunch or dinner at a restaurant, whether it's a nice restaurant or not, expecting on that occasion for the officer to share a piece of unauthorised information with you?

  • What I am suggesting, though, is you might be doing that as part of a trust-building process, to use your terminology --

  • -- which would yield in due course to that officer maybe giving you a ring on your mobile phone.

  • Is that correct?

  • It may or may not, Mr Jay, and I would not -- there are some police officers who I'm very, you know, aware are not -- everyone's different, and there are some people who I might meet for a lunch or dinner, or have done in the past, where it's more a question of them trying to find out what I'm up to.

  • I've been very conscious of that over the years.

  • I understand that, Mr Wright, human nature being as it is. Sometimes it's the officer who wants more out of you than he's ever going to give to you. Sometimes it's an entirely neutral process, where you just wish to get to know each other better.

  • But on other occasions it may be that you are hoping in due course that the officer may provide you with unauthorised information. Have I correctly understood it?

  • I'm a journalist wanting to find out -- my job is to find out -- to find out what's going on. I say I do not -- whenever I've had lunch or dinner with someone, there's no strings attached. I fully respect that. If they don't want to talk in an unauthorised way.

  • Of course. Of course, but do you think that there's any sort of relationship in causal terms between the quality of the restaurant and the likelihood of you in due course receiving unauthorised information?

  • You say that with complete confidence?

  • Absolutely. It would be completely inappropriate to lavish hospitality on a junior officer -- any officer, frankly. I don't think that is the issue at all, certainly not the way I operate, it would be completely inappropriate.

  • You're never lavishing hospitality on junior officers. They are always --

  • No, and seniors. I say junior, what I -- any officer, frankly, any officer. What I was going to say was if you were meeting a junior officer, you know, you wouldn't take him to an expensive restaurant, and quite possibly if you're going to take out a senior officer, you wouldn't go to the transport caff around the corner, unless that individual particularly insists on that.

  • Standing back from what the hospitality records say, and I'm certainly not going to go through all the items, when Lord Stevens was Commissioner --

  • -- 2000 to 2005, it appears that Mr Dacre must have had a reasonably good relationship with him --

  • -- because there were quite frequent meetings. Very often, actually, at Associated's offices, not in a restaurant.

  • To the best of my knowledge, Sir John -- we never met Sir John in a restaurant. It was either at Scotland Yard or at the Daily Mail building.

  • Yes. When we move on to Sir Ian Blair, there are only about two or three relevant entries. There's lunch, it may be the same occasion, 10 and 11 October, maybe one of them was cancelled. Lunch in October 2005, a chat in June 2005 and drinks in December 2005.

  • The detail isn't going to matter, but the Daily Mail's relationship with Sir Ian Blair was not quite as warm, perhaps, as its relationship was, and vice versa, with Sir John Stevens?

  • I think that Sir John Stevens, as this Inquiry has heard already, dealt with a number of newspapers which I imagine he perceived to be important newspapers. From memory -- I don't have the benefit of your document there -- I think we had a lunch with myself, the editor, key commentators in the paper, with him, probably every eight or nine months, maybe even every year, once a year, but I think he used the phrase the other day that he was grilled. He was grilled.

  • In most years, though, but usually only once a year, you had a one-to-one lunch with Mr Fedorcio.

  • What was the purpose of those lunches?

  • I -- Mr Fedorcio, obviously head of press. For me it was about listening -- well, once a year is useful to catch up with the head of press at Scotland Yard. I also tried occasionally to talk to his number two or his number three as well.

    The Daily Mail was perceived to be, on some occasions, harsh about the Metropolitan Police, even before Sir Ian Blair took over, and part of my role would be to listen to those concerns and feed them back to the office about how we were dealing with things.

  • Did you have any discussions with Mr Fedorcio about the Lawrence case?

  • Well, first of all the general question.

  • Oh yes, I had -- I mean, I've had -- I mean, I apologise to all the press officers I have called over the years about the Lawrence case because I've been following it relentlessly. Mr -- Mr Fedorcio would have been asked about that, but he never spoke about it. I do not believe he had any knowledge about what was going on.

  • So when you had lunch with Mr Fedorcio at a restaurant called Tapsters, I think it is, on 6 November 2007, the articles we're talking about were written either -- we know one was written on 8 November 2007 and you mention one the previous day?

  • That's a pure coincidence, is it?

  • That is a pure coincidence. That is a pure coincidence. I do not believe -- well, I can't remember what was spoken about that day, but I want to avoid any doubt, I am as certain as can be that not only -- well, he wasn't involved in telling me anything, and I, to the best of my knowledge, think we didn't even discuss it.

  • Was he ever the source of unauthorised disclosures or information provided to you?

  • Not to you, but to others, that suggests?

  • I couldn't comment, I don't know. It wouldn't be for me to say.

  • You couldn't comment, okay. Because the Mail was taking a consistent line in relation to Sir Ian Blair. The first piece you wrote which he actually mentions in his book, 14 October 2004, it wasn't particularly hostile, but I think he felt it was. The articles over the years you're, quite entitled to write in this way, there's no criticism, were less friendly of Sir Ian Blair than they were, perhaps, of the previous Commissioner; is that correct?

  • Well, they were, but there was an explanation for that, obviously. When Sir Ian was appointed Commissioner in I think it was November 2004, I was very keen to foster a good relationship with him -- not a good relationship, but a working relationship. There were concerns on both sides, I'll be honest, and we met for a private lunch, there was no press officer there. Obviously what was discussed that day was confidential but it was just me saying that I will be, you know, fair and -- fair in our reporting, and I want to be -- to build, you know, a good, professional relationship with you.

    Unfortunately, after the 7/7 attacks, Sir Ian's career started to be affected by a series of stories about himself. So I think if you're coming up -- not to pre-empt what you're going to say, but unfortunately the sad reality is that Sir Ian was the architect of his own downfall because of the controversies which he attracted. It wasn't a factor -- it wasn't a factor of the Daily Mail having an agenda against him. As police officers followed the evidence, we as journalists followed the story, and Ian Blair made himself the story.

  • We know that people were briefing against Sir Ian Blair over the years, but in particular from about 2006. Were you the recipient of any such briefings?

  • I was gathering -- I wasn't -- I was -- sorry, in 2006?

  • Starting -- well, it started when he started as Commissioner, which I think was January or February 2005, but things --

  • I think -- I think there is the -- 2005 there was the terror attacks. I think initially Sir Ian dealt well with those, and then there was the issue of the Stockwell case and all the controversy around that.

    In 2006, Sir Ian made some unpleasant remarks about the Soham case. Then it emerged that he had bugged the Attorney General and the head of the police watchdog. Then there was the issue later of his appeasement and promotion of Dizaei. There are a whole host of controversies which made Sir Ian be in the spotlight and I'd have not been doing my job properly if I'd ignored those. So I wasn't -- there was no need for anyone, in my opinion, to brief against Sir Ian. The stories which engulfed him were very much in the public domain and had to be reported on.

  • So is this your evidence, that people did -- insofar as you were aware, did not brief against him and you did not receive the results of such briefings?

  • Maybe I can put it more specifically, that within the management board --

  • -- there were a couple of people in particular who were briefing against him.

  • Were those people speaking to you?

  • Can I put it this way, that there was a civil war at the Yard and I'm at that particular time the top level, and it was my job to report on that. I'd be failing my duty if I didn't. And, you know, that -- in 2008, Assistant Commissioner Ghaffur issued race discrimination proceedings against Sir Ian and that was another sign of the disharmony at the top of the organisation.

  • Let's assume all that is true, Mr Wright. Civil war in the Met, in the public interest to write stories about it. I think my question was more: what was the source of your stories aside from matters which entered the public domain? Were people on the management board speaking to you so that you could write stories? I think the answer is either "yes" or "no". (Pause).

  • I was aware -- I'm trying to think of -- can I put it this way? I've got to be conscious of my journalistic obligations here.

  • I was fully aware of the camps and I had information.

  • Well, it's possible to draw inferences from that answer, but I'm ...

  • Well, the management board is so small, Mr Jay. It's not like asking --

  • I'm not asking you to identify who it was.

  • No, but I think, you know, you should be aware that the race claim brought by Mr Ghaffur was a very significant moment that year, symbolic of the divisions in the Met. It didn't just -- it wasn't just about any briefing and counter briefing within the management board.

  • Were you particularly close to AC Hayman and AC Yates?

  • Were you often to be found in this wine bar -- there may be more than one wine bar, though -- that we've heard evidence about near Scotland Yard?

  • I wouldn't say I was often there, no. Often in any wine bar, frankly. If you're seen in a wine bar near Scotland Yard frequently, it doesn't send a good message about your way of operating let alone your lifestyle.

  • Okay. Finally on this point, Mr Wright, aside from the Commissioner Mr Fedorcio and Deputy Commissioner, when you refer to senior officers at the Met in paragraph 23 of your statement, we're looking, I suppose, at assistant commissioners and deputy assistant commissioners, are there any who bought you lunch, drinks or dinner on more than a handful of occasions?

  • Absolutely not. I have always been very keen not to -- something I was going to raise with the Chairman later -- the intensity of meetings with people and any hospitality has to be closely monitored. I've been very aware of that over the years, so not meeting people too often.

  • And this is a point, no doubt, you'd wish to come to at the end of your evidence when we're discussing as it were the future possible recommendations.

  • Can I ask you, please, a number of assorted questions. We've received some evidence in relation to the Mr Subramanyam story, who was the Tamil hunger striker, which resulted in libel proceedings which were successful from the claimant's perspective, and you, I think, were responsible for the defamatory piece; is that correct?

  • The piece itself referred to a "police insider"?

  • Can I ask you this: was there a police insider or was the story derived from other material?

  • There was a generic term "police sources", Mr Jay. Obviously I was -- I was misinformed. No excuses from my perspective. Very disappointed from a professional point of view that we got it wrong, and it was right that we put it right.

  • So without going into this in full detail, this is another example of an unauthorised provision of information to you?

  • Did you on that occasion check the story out with the press office?

  • I did -- I did call the Scotland Yard press office and put a general question in. Unfortunately, they declined to comment, and it was left to my judgment whether to run it or not, and unfortunately I made the wrong call.

  • We've heard evidence from Mr Quick, as you're aware.

  • The evidence he gave largely, not exclusively, but I may be wrong about this, related to the Mail on Sunday and not to the Daily Mail.

  • Obviously you've had nothing to do with the Mail on Sunday stories.

  • But have you written any stories about him --

  • I think I may have written some articles in relation to the arrest of Damian Green, but with that particular story, the arrest of Damian Green, my role was very secondary in the story. My colleagues in the lobby or the home affairs were dealing that so mine was really a small role.

  • Do you think that there was an agenda in relation to the Damian Green issue? He was a Conservative Member of Parliament. The Daily Mail tends to support the Conservative Party, and therefore part of the motivation to go for the Metropolitan Police in relation to the Green arrest, et cetera, was political?

  • No, I wouldn't accept that, although I wasn't involved in the decision-making around stories, because obviously I'm not the editor, but I wouldn't accept that -- I think it was -- there was clearly -- the stories speak for themselves. Across a lot of papers, there was a lot of briefing going on which appeared to come from political sources, there was, but it's us -- it's our role at the newspaper to decide which way we want to report it, so I don't -- there's no -- no agenda against Mr Quick, that's for sure.

  • The Daily Mail is entitled to take whatever political position it chooses.

  • No one is questioning that, but had Mr Green been a Labour MP, do you think the story would have been the same?

  • I can't speculate on that.

  • Okay. Can I move on to some more general questions, then, Mr Wright? You say in paragraph 31 of your statement, our page 07735 --

  • Sorry, which paragraph?

  • Paragraph 31, "Proposals for reform".

  • Towards the end of that paragraph:

    "I believe that, in the current climate, clarification and new guidance on police/media relations is inevitable and must be respected ..."

  • What are you driving at there?

  • I didn't want to come to this Inquiry today being perceived as someone who's in denial, that everything's been okay, that things can't change. That would be wrong. That's what I'm saying. I believe that the main issues around hospitality, which you've been considering in this Inquiry, it's about the closeness and the intensity of that hospitality. I think that's a key issue for me, something I've been mindful about anyway but it's something which needs to be formalised.

    I'm very concerned about moves to ban all informal contact. I think that's wrong. That's not going to serve the public interest. And I am concerned that if draconian rules are brought in banning informal contact between the police and the media, then genuinely that the police will not necessarily be better for it, and the public will be worse for it as well.

  • There are stories I've done in my career and there will be stories which other papers have done exposing things in the police which will not be volunteered out. You have to find it, you have to go and dig, you have to deal with people on a confidential basis, but if the laws or the rules are such that that is completely banned, then we have no chance.

  • But suppose the proposition was not we're going to ban these interactions but instead we're going to require that they be recorded in the sense that there is some written record of them.

  • Not necessarily the gist of what was said, but the mere fact of their occurrence. Do you see a difficulty with that?

  • Yes, I do. I think I see a bureaucratic problem with that, which is the police have enough bureaucracy as it is. I fear that people who do act in the public interest -- and many of the people I've dealt with have over the years, they do act in the public interest talking to me -- will be persecuted for doing that, even if there's no record of actually what was said. That is my concern. These types of rules could be abused by senior officers looking to look after their own careers. Controlling information flow. There has to be some sort of balance, in my opinion, some sort of balance, some sort of safeguard put in, because if every contact with the media is examined to the nth degree and people are scared of dealing with the media, it could lead to a corruption of a different type.

  • The same could be said the other way round. If it's a complete free-for-all, then that might undermine the public interest --

  • -- because of what goes in the newspapers. They have to find the right balance.

  • Absolutely, that's what I said. The right balance has to be achieved and that's -- you know, I've been thinking about that these last couple of weeks.

  • I haven't come to a decision. I can't -- your Honour, it's difficult, it's difficult. There has to -- has to be change and there will be change, obviously, but actually I am concerned about those safeguards so you don't have journalists being persecuted for carrying out their legitimate enquiries and police officers helping journalists when necessary or when appropriate.

  • Well, necessary and appropriate are --

  • There's a judgment issue, also.

  • But in relation to leaks there have undeniably been serious leaks which it seems, looking at the papers, are not always in the public interest by any stretch of the imagination. That then you've not merely -- leak enquiries are very, very difficult, but you've not merely got to -- one of the reasons you need to find out who's doing what is to protect those who haven't done anything, and yet who all will fall under suspicion.

  • Yes, I understand, yes.

  • So it's to acquit the innocent just as much, if not more, than to find out who is responsible.

  • A very good example of the issue we could talk about was that article that you wrote about the new evidence in the Lawrence case, which actually gave you the decision, the pen to decide whether it's in the public interest to say this, and there wasn't quite the dialogue --

  • -- that got for you from Mr Driscoll, "Actually, there are these problems about this", and it's a good example because you were both on the same side in this case. It's not as though you were trying to expose anything that the police weren't doing, and it's not as though you wanted the police to do something different to that which they were doing, so you were both on the same side and that's where it becomes very, very difficult.

  • Of course I appreciate you don't necessarily know and he doesn't tell you because he wants to keep the whole thing tight, and therefore we have to think of a way that provides a mechanism --

  • -- for safe discussion which works both for the public interest --

  • -- respects freedom of expression --

  • -- but respects the integrity of investigations.

  • Now that's the trick and if you think of a solution --

  • Can I -- we will be putting in a submission at the end of this Inquiry, of this part of this module, so I will think very carefully.

  • Hopefully I'll come up with something.

  • Thank you. You've heard me ask everybody from all their different fields.

  • I am very conscious this is your world, not mine.

  • But it's inevitable that you will look at it through your spectacles, a police officer will look at it through his spectacles, and I'm trying to combine the various interests.

  • Yes, those are all my questions.

  • Is there anything you want to add to what you've previously said?

  • No, I just hope that when you come in -- when you consider your report and write it up, that, you know, the importance of public interest and investigative journalism is considered. I'm sure it will be, but, you know, it's -- the Metropolitan Police, huge public body, 50,000 staff, just one force, it's like journalists, it's not above scrutiny.

  • I entirely endorse the importance of investigative journalists.

  • And of investigative journalism and the great value for good that it can have. And you are there to hold the police to account. But I will ask you, as I asked some of your colleagues yesterday: who is holding you to account?

  • Thank you, Mr Wright.

  • Well, shall we have a few minutes now before Mr Brett or do you just want to crack on?

  • Possibly a few minutes now.

  • (A short break)

  • Yes.

  • The next witness is Mr Brett, please.