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


  • Mr Murray, could you confirm your full name, please?

  • You provided the Inquiry with a witness statement. I understand that there are a number of corrections that you would like to make to it before confirming the truth of its contents. First of all, in paragraph number 1, I understand that you wish to omit the references to television; is that right?

  • It's just because it's a grammatical error there. Something's gone wrong.

  • This is in the third line on page 2?

  • Yes, so:

    "I have a great deal of experience in television news and tabloid and broadsheet newspapers."

    "Television" is not necessary there.

  • You wish to omit that one word?

  • It's the word "television" you're omitting?

  • That's fair enough, as long as I know.

  • Paragraph 8, first line, the number "6" should in fact be the number "7"; is that right?

  • And in paragraph 27, second line, where you have written "Crime Writers Association" --

  • "Crime Reporters Association".

  • You meant to say "Crime Reporters Association"?

  • They do very different things, I hope.

  • I don't think there is a crime writers association.

  • I thought it would be a fictional body.

  • Subject to those corrections, are the contents of your witness statement true and correct to the best of your knowledge and belief?

  • You are the associate editor, news at the Sunday Express, aren't you?

  • Yes, that's my title.

  • And you've been with the Sunday Express for ten years now?

  • You started off as the news editor and then became investigations editor?

  • Yes. At the Sunday Express we have quite a small staff, so we do other things as well, so I sometimes do book reviews, I sometimes do showbusiness stories, I oversee the work of other journalists. We do a multitude of tasks.

  • But your remit includes crime?

  • In this context, yes. This is why I'm trying to be helpful to the Inquiry with my work in the crime field and my experience over the years.

  • You tell us a little bit about your professional background in paragraph 1. You've been a journalist for more than 30 years now and you've worked both in local media and also at national level. You've worked for both tabloid and broadsheet newspapers; is that right?

  • Moving now to that section of your witness statement which deals with relations between the media and the Metropolitan Police, you tell us at paragraph 4 of your witness statement that you think that the culture of relations has always been professional and positive and above board. Can I ask you to tell us what you consider amounts to an above-board relationship between the media and the Metropolitan Police?

  • That means having good discussions on the phone with Press Bureau, with the staff there, so you'll be clear and concise in what you're trying to achieve in getting information from them to help you construct a story. When you're invited along to a press conference at the Yard, it's cordial, the officers are polite, they introduce themselves, you introduce yourself. There's a professional understanding that you're both there to try and achieve the same aim, which is to get an accurate story out into the public domain, which may assist in the apprehension of a criminal or may assist in the inquiries the police are pursuing.

    Above-board -- I'm aware that there are corrupt officers, obviously, and they sometimes manifest themselves -- you hear rumours of that. In my dealings, I have never been approached by a policeman at any level who has said something along the lines of: "I'm quite happy to help you if you make a little payment to my daughter's piano lessons" or anything of that kind. I would consider an approach like that to be underhand, and I would be -- you know, I would decline it. So when I say that my dealings with been above-board, what I mean is I've never been approached in any means or any way to be party to any underhand relationship with an officer.

  • Have ever been given a tip-off by either a police officer or someone working for the police about involvement between the police and a celebrity or other famous person?

  • I can't think of a specific example regarding a celebrity that comes to mind. I have been lucky enough to be on the receiving end of a phone call when somebody's said they've got a good story about so-and-so, and you say, "Thanks very much", and you make further enquiries to establish the accuracy and the veracity of the story, and then it may be that a short time later you ring up your contact, your source, and say, "Would you like to have a little drink or would you like to have a cup of coffee or would you like to have a meal by way of thank you for being helpful in that matter?"

  • Is this a police source?

  • Yeah, it can be a police source. It can be a member of the public who's got information about a crime. I mean, the sources can come from a multitude of different ways.

  • And the interesting person you refer to is somebody newsworthy?

  • No, I'm saying I can't think of a specific example in relation to a celebrity, which was your question, but I can think of phone calls I've had when, for instance, there's going to be an interesting arrest made or there's been a big theft of property. I think I got some information about a job in London when some vaults were raided and a large sum of money was taken, and jewels, et cetera. That was appreciated.

  • Are we talking here about communications from the Directorate of Public Affairs or are we talking about operational staff?

  • On that occasion, it was not a police officer; it was somebody else, another source informed me.

  • Somebody who worked for the police?

  • Somebody who had knowledge of the event.

  • I'm not trying to be difficult, sir.

  • I'm not also going to betray any sources.

  • I don't ask you to do that. I've got the message about sources quite early on. But are you surprised -- let me ask this question -- when you hear that the police have gone to the home of celebrity Y, who has reported a burglary, but the photographers from the press have already beaten them there?

  • Doesn't surprise me, no.

  • Do you think that is entirely professional, positive and above-board?

  • No. In the old days, there were people who had scanners. I worked at Thames News in London for ITV and I was on the news desk and also did bulletin writing, and there were people who spent all day listening to the police wires, and they would be tipsters. I didn't deal with them directly; it was dealt with by the news desk executives. And they would hear information, you know: "There's a serious incident at X." They'd heard it on the scanner and then they would ring up the news desk. There's incidents where that happened.

  • It's not necessarily from a policeman, but with the ability to scan into radio/telephone communications in that way has long since passed into history, hasn't it?

  • It has, yes. It was very common, I think, in the 1980s, and it was quite well-known to the police that this was going on, I believe, but you know, that's what happened.

  • But it doesn't explain what happens these days.

  • No. It's -- that -- you're right to say that that sort of tip-off from a scanner has come to an end. I never heard of that when I was working in newspapers, by the way; that was whilst in television, because -- that's how they relied on their tips because they had to be there with a camera crew very, very quickly, you see, whereas a news reporter can be there an hour later and catch up with events, but obviously if you're trying to capture the scene when there's just been a shooting or when there's been a bank robbery, then it's vital that you get the immediate picture.

  • Yes. I'm not looking at how the television operates.

  • No, I appreciate that.

  • I have more than enough to do, thank you very much, Mr Murray. Yes.

  • Have you ever had anyone from the police, whether uniformed or civilian, come to you in the role of whistle-blower?

  • No, but I've had lunches with senior officers on occasions, and detectives, who have said -- not so much whistle-blowing. It's grumbles: "We're concerned about this, we're concerned about that." Often it would be things like they're concerned about the lack of equipment they have, that they wanted stories going into the press that they needed stab-proof vests, that they wanted to be better protected themselves, that they wanted -- some officers were keen to -- they seemed to have causes that they wanted to inform you about and promote. They weren't sort of taking the lid off corruption or anything like that. I wasn't lucky enough to be on the receiving end of a dossier of information which gave prima facie evidence of corruption. However, I did get the message that these people were conveying that sort of information.

  • Did you get the impression that they would be quite pleased if you were to write a sympathetic article without naming them?

  • Yes. I think they felt they had -- it's like politicians when you go out for lunch with them and it's off the record. They're always very pleased when you take up their cause and you try to be objective, not just to publish their view but you try and counter it with the other side and you try and make your own decision and gather extra information to see if what they're saying actually merits attention.

  • But these views were not necessarily the police party line?

  • Yes. I think Scotland Yard and other forces always found it slightly difficult to go on the record and say things like: "The government is not giving us enough money to get equipment, the government's not doing -- " you know. They had their federation spokesman and whatever, but it -- maybe they felt that they were too vulnerable. There is a certain shyness, I think, which is something you touched on earlier, this wanting to have everything off the record and whatever, which gets on your nerves a little bit, because I'm a great believer in being transparent and open, and in these meetings I always encourage the officers that it gives the story much more credibility and veracity if we can name you as the source, because, you know, that information is not particularly scandalous or whatever, it's a common view, sensible opinion, and what's the problem about attaching your name to it? And often the reply would be: "It's just not worth the internal politics, it's not worth the flak. I'd rather we did it this way."

    That's fair enough, you have to respect their view, as indeed you respect the view of the public. It's the same view. If a member of the public doesn't wish to be named, then you respect their view as well.

  • We'll come back to lunches in a little while, but before we do, I'd like to explore some of the more formal avenues of contact that you've had with the Metropolitan Police. First of all, you tell us in paragraph 5 of your witness statement that you regularly telephoned Scotland Yard and usually spoke with staff at the Press Bureau.

  • I think that's the Directorate of Public Affairs.

  • Can you give us your opinion, your experience, about how effective that avenue of communication is for obtaining information about the activities of the Metropolitan Police Service?

  • Well, they don't have an open-door policy, so you can't walk down Scotland Yard and walk in and have a cup of tea with someone instantaneously. So the only means if they're not calling a press conference is to phone them.

    Often the Yard, in my experience, released precious little information about major crime and it was quite hard work getting information out of them, like pulling teeth on some occasions. So you had to think in your mind, prior to ringing them, what were the key elements that you wished to draw from them, and I would often write down in my notebook three questions which seemed, you know, about -- to keep things fairly simple, on a particular running crime story that I wished to pursue, and if somebody would come back with an answer to those three questions, and that can be dealt with quite well on the phone because they take note of the questions, then they go away to the senior officer, have a discussion about those questions and then come back with a response, which is either giving you extra details to those questions or telling you: "Question one is not something we wish to talk about. Question two, we can add a little bit of detail. Question three, you've got no chance. We're not going near that."

    So it would be on that level. Then obviously -- in the old days, they used to hold far more press conferences than they do now and so there's much more communication. It was a good opportunity, the press conferences, to have a chat with the press officers and speak to the senior officers afterwards. So those were much better occasions and often you'd have the press conference -- the three officers would be lined up, they'd speak their bit, TV would pull off and then there would be a little chat in the back room with the senior officer in the case on an off-the-record basis, with CRA status or not. I was quite lucky because I knew the crime guys -- Mike Sullivan, Jeff Edwards, John Twomey -- and often it wouldn't matter whether I was a CRA member or not. I would be involved in those briefings.

  • May I pick up on a few themes from that answer. First of all, you tell us that there were occasions when you felt that the Metropolitan Police didn't give very much information out. Can I ask you whether you thought that was because they were being excessively cautious or whether you thought there were legitimate, if frustrating grounds for withholding the information, or whether you sensed that the information was being given out, not to you but to somebody else?

  • It's probably a bit of both. Certainly sometimes you got the impression that CRA members did get fuller briefings on the phone than non-members and sometimes -- I think Mike Sullivan alluded to this -- if you annoyed them with a story, you might get a little bit of a frosty reception and an "Oh, can't tell you much about that" response, and that would last for a couple of weeks, then there would be a thawing and then you get a fuller briefing, as it were, but whether there was any truth in any of those sort of gossipy rumours, I don't know. I certainly was aware sometimes, when I'd written stories which may have annoyed senior officers, that for the next couple of weeks life could be a little bit difficult and then it got back to normal again.

  • But I do think that the Yard, more so than other forces, does release less information, just as a general picture. I mean, the CRA is very much a London-based organisation, I think, in many respects. A lot of the guys who -- the sort of core members like John, Mike, Jeff in the old days, they were really involved in home counties and Met operations.

  • The CRA is restricted to national newspapers, isn't it?

  • Yes, but in terms of --

  • The biggest player, of course, is the Met.

  • It can be, sir, but I mean you can also have major crimes in Greater Manchester.

  • There isn't a part of the country where you can't have a major crime.

  • No, but -- and in my experience, when dealing with the press officers and the senior officers in the other forces, I found that they were more willing to accept questions and respond more fully to those questions and to give perhaps more interviews. You know, if you rang up with a request to speak to the investigating officer in a case, often it would be granted in the Met, possibly, but often would be: "Oh, he's very busy on inquiries, we'll get back to you", sort of thing.

  • Am I right to understand that you're not a member of the CRA?

  • Because I do many different things, many different sorts of investigations. They're not all crime-related. Sometimes they do spill into crime. I mean, I did an investigation into an Islamic school down near Tunbridge Wells, where they were acting suspiciously and there was very little being taught. The story was published on the Sunday. The following week, 300 officers raided that school and there were a number of arrests made. Arrests were also made in London. So what started out as an investigation into Muslim alleged extremism at a private school, if you like, an education story, then developed and became a crime story.

  • Have you felt in any way disadvantaged in your work covering crime stories because you are not a member of the CRA?

  • On certain occasions when, after major trials, there would be briefings and sometimes there would be briefings for CRA members only, so the senior officers would get together with the journalists and have a chat, and if you weren't in the CRA, you didn't get that information. But whilst I was news editor, we had a crime reporter who was a member of the CRA and who did go and attend to their briefings. She enjoyed the interaction between the other crime journalists and the social events and the going to the Yard events as well.

  • What's the position now? Does the Sunday Express have a CRA member?

  • Is that something that you think is just unnecessary or is that a matter of regret?

  • Well, at the moment, relationships seem to be very poor between the Met and journalists. The normal lines of communications have been chronically damaged, potentially, you know, for a long time, and we don't see any value at this stage in being a member of the CRA when so little information is coming out of the Yard, or, in some cases, other forces, but the Yard in particular.

  • How long has this situation been extant?

  • What, the difficulties?

  • Yes, the difficulties.

  • Probably since the Guardian published its story in July of last year. David Leigh and Amelia Hill wrote a story about an investigation into phone hacking and the allegations that News of the World had deleted messages belonging to the phone of Milly Dowler. That had an enormous impact throughout the industry to chronically and potentially fatally damage relationships between journalists and the police, because we do have a relationship of trust. I was actually the news editor on the Milly Dowler occasion and Andrea Perry was the crime reporter who was charged with working on it, along with other journalists, and we spent an enormous amount of time patiently building up relations with Surrey Police, meeting them at briefings, having coffee, gaining their trust, and saying to them: "We want to work with you on this inquiry and be as helpful as we can because it's imperative that everything is done in order to find this girl." She was missing for quite some time, about six months, I think.

    So we worked well and we established a good relationship. Milly Dowler's parents gave us, I think, from memory, a little statement on what would have been her birthday, which was very touching. We had photographs of Milly that we requested via the press office, and so, you know, all that trust over that long period of time, which still existed today, was blown out the water by these allegations.

  • You've spoken about a perception that the number of press conferences that the Met has given has reduced. Over what period of time has that reduction occurred? Is that something that you date back to the middle of last year or is it something that's occurred over a different timescale?

  • I was thinking in -- when Lord Stevens left and Sir Ian Blair took over, which was in 2005, Sir Ian was the new man and he seemed to be taking a positive view of the press. Not that Lord Stevens didn't; he was an excellent Met Commissioner and relationships were very good with him. And at that time there were good relationships building up. I think I had lunch with Dick Fedorcio and Andrea, and we were both of the same mind that we should improve and build on relations. You'll see in the statement that I mentioned meeting Sir Ian Blair and having some champagne with him --

  • I'll be coming to the meetings, but my question was: from when do you date the decline in the number of press conferences?

  • Well, I think -- difficult to put an actual date on it, with respect. I would say there's been a big impact since the revisions in the Guardian newspaper.

  • Moving now to paragraph 7 of your witness statement, where you tell us about meeting up with senior detectives for meals and drinks. Can I ask first of all about the number of people at these meals. Did you normally take out a single detective for a meal or would you take more than one?

  • It depends. Sometimes it would be one detective, sometimes it would be two. Often when a team of detectives have been successful in a prosecution at the Old Bailey, word would get around that they were having drinks in a certain pub, so you go in the pub and there might be ten detectives there, all, quite rightly, celebrating and having a drink because they work very, very hard in an extremely difficult environment.

  • On occasions, would you take a solitary senior detective for lunch?

  • Yeah, but I just think -- on one occasion, which was, I think, after a successful prosecution in relation to a vault job when millions of pounds was taken and the criminals were tucked away, myself and a colleague were invited down and we had a very nice drink and a meal, and then it was too late to get trains home, so they called -- they were having lifts home in Yard cars, and so one of the officers who lived near me kindly said, "Would you like a lift in the car?" knowing that I'd have difficulty getting home. So I said, "That's very nice of you", and we both took the car, so effectively I got a Yard car to my home.

  • Are we talking about a celebration then that's lasted beyond the stamina of public transport?

  • Yes. It maybe started about 7 o'clock and it's gone to 11.30 or something and the trains -- you have a problem with the trains. You know, that's -- it wasn't an abuse of privilege because the officers do have access to these cars because they have to be at events at certain times. I mean, I may have had a little bit too much wine and they -- I don't think any of them were inebriated beyond doing their professional function, but it was a good night and a memorable night.

  • If they've worked very hard and they've had a result, it's not perhaps surprising.

  • No, no. An image of me is being created which is not entirely accurate. The question is where it crosses the line, or if it crosses the line.

  • Well, I've never -- I can only speak for my personal experience, and if anyone's suggesting, "Oh, right, you've gone out for this meal with the police, you've had a load of drink, da da da, the next step, you're dropping brown envelopes all over the place" -- it's just so far removed from the truth, really. It doesn't happen like that.

    The officer would be, first, mortally offended that that would be even suggested, in my opinion, and it would actually ruin the relationship because the relationship you're trying to build up is one of trust and so he doesn't want to receive a silly request and I certainly wouldn't give it, and likewise, you know, I don't want to receive a silly request, and he probably knows from my character, my nature, and a bit of background what I'm like. Because the officers do like to get to know you a bit. They like to know what you do, do they play a bit of golf, do you play darts, or whatever -- you know, whatever things, just as normal chit-chat.

  • If we stick to what actually happens, do you try and cultivate particular contacts? Do you form a relationship with particular senior detectives which you can then rely upon in the future when you need information?

  • Depends, because I move in different areas. One minute I'm doing a crime story, the next minute -- as I mentioned to you earlier, what I'm currently working on, which is looking at a solicitor. So it's varied.

  • Put it this way: have you taken the same senior detective out for lunch more than once?

  • Oh yes, I've taken the same detective out maybe five, six times, ten times.

  • You tell us later on in your statement that you normally have a budget which doesn't exceed £80 on meals.

  • Just to be clear, is this £80 a head or £80 for how many people?

  • £80 would be for two, so £40 each. So within that you get -- the idea is you get a starter, your main course, your pudding, a bottle of wine and maybe a couple of beers, and that normally reaches around £80. Obviously if there's two or three other people there, then that budget will go up.

  • You tell us that these --

  • But that hasn't been done for a while. Certainly that hasn't been done since the Milly Dowler revisions. Everything's on ice, everything's frozen. Nobody wants to know, nobody wants a phone call. Everyone's the sort of Big Brother -- not "Big Brother", but everyone's cautious, everyone's frightened.

  • You tell us that the status of the communications at these events is off the record. Do you mean by that that what you are told can be reported but not attributed?

  • There is some confusion over these terms and it's not just amongst senior officers; it's also amongst some journalists. Sometimes there's an OTRNFP briefing, which is "off the record, not for publication", which means that: "We're telling you all this" and sometimes you wonder what's the point of it, because you're telling me all this stuff and I can't do anything with it. Great. Really, what you want is a briefing where you can work out what you need to know for publication. The whole purpose is for publication, and this is what I try and stress to the officers. Sometimes it's very useful to pick up some background information on internal politics or why X was done or Y was done or whatever, but essentially you're there to gather information to include in a story.

    So I would say -- I mean, things could develop as the meal goes on. One minute they can say something and then you chat further and they say, "Actually, I don't mind if you do mention that. So you can put it in the story, but would you mind not attributing my name to it?" That's fine. On other occasions, they might say, "Let me have a think about that overnight and I'll give you a ring tomorrow. Come down, we'll have a cup of coffee and we'll work out formal words or a structure and they can be attributable."

  • Can I take it from that answer that these lunches have proved to be a fertile source of stories over the years?

  • Can I go back to the party after the case and ask this: presumably you were very pleased to be invited to a gathering of detectives celebrating a successful prosecution?

  • Did you ever ask yourself why that might be?

  • I can't remember forming that question in my mind. I just assumed -- it was a nice gesture. I got to know the guys fairly well and that was it.

  • And they were entertaining you, were they?

  • It's quite a long time ago.

  • I think I offered my credit card. I can't remember how much was taken off it. I think I did pay -- I didn't pay all the bill for all the officers, if that's what you're asking me.

  • I think I paid a contribution.

  • -- trying to work out how this works.

  • In usual cases, you pay the bill. Sometimes the officer will turn around and say, "Don't worry, you got it last time, I'll pay", and sometimes if you're just meeting for a quick drink or a coffee, it's very fleeting and it doesn't really matter who pays.

  • I understand, and I'm not being over-sensitive. I'm just trying to understand the nature of the relationship and whether it has potentially the seeds to cause difficulty for either of you.

  • I mean, certainly there is the potential there, because there could be corrupt journalists and there could be corrupt officers. Put the two together and you have a tricky situation. But all I can tell you is from my own experience, what's happened to me.

  • Can we move now to paragraph 8 of your witness statement, where you tell us about meeting Sir Ian Blair and how an event was arranged at which Sir Ian was present when you and colleagues attended a tour of the Black Museum at Scotland Yard?

  • I think it's called the Crime Museum now. It was previously known as the Black Museum.

  • You tell us that it was organised by your then crime editor, Andrea Perry. Was it therefore attended just by people from the Sunday Express and the Metropolitan Police?

  • I think Martin Townsend, the editor, was there. The deputy editor at that time, Dick Dismore, myself, Andrea -- I think there were some other production staff there as well. Andy was there. I think there was probably about six or seven of us.

  • But not from other newspapers?

  • No. This was solely for the Sunday Express.

  • You tell us that champagne was served.

  • Yes. We went to Sir Ian's office. I can't remember which floor it was on, and we weren't expecting champagne, but he was very friendly, very convivial, and there was a glass or two of champagne, certainly not a third glass, by way of just being pleasant and being convivial and saying, "I'm the new guy, let's have a social event, I'll tell you a little bit about myself", and we just had a very pleasant conversation. He mentioned that his -- he had roots in the north of England. He just gave a few basic details about his background, which was quite interesting, and he's a bright, intelligent guy and he spoke well.

  • So the champagne was provided by the Metropolitan Police?

  • I don't know from which budget it came from, whether he had his own personal entertaining budget or whether, as Commissioner, he had an allowance for a budget. I assume it came from an allowance from the budget, as -- most government departments, foreign office or whatever, have a budget to do that sort of thing.

  • Apart from the introductions and any conversation about the exhibits in the museum, what sorts of topics of conversation were discussed?

  • We just -- I think we chose -- we had about an hour discussion before we went down to the Crime Museum. He didn't actually accompany us down to the Crime Museum; we were in his office. The first part of the conversation was really just a bit about his background, as I was saying. He talked about what we'd call plastic bobbies, you know, the versions of the PCs on the streets. I think the editor had some reservations about how effective would they really be in defeating crime on the streets. So there was -- that's about the only area that I can recall where, if you like, an issue arose. The rest of it was just friendly chat and it all seemed perfectly straightforward.

  • Sir, would now be a convenient moment?

  • Yes, certainly. All right, we'll leave you in the Black Museum and come back at 2 o'clock. Thank you very much.

  • (The luncheon adjournment)

  • Yes, Mr Barr.

  • Thank you, sir. Mr Murray, can we resume by looking at the lunch that you had with Mr Fedorcio, which you tell us about at paragraph 8 of your witness statement.

  • Sorry, can I just clarify something I said earlier, just in case there's any confusion?

  • In relation to the story I was doing about the school which was -- investigation into extremism at that school and it was subsequently raided, if there was any police surveillance on that school, I had no knowledge of it and had I had knowledge of it, then I wouldn't have done the story, because that would have jeopardised any surveillance and the police operation.

  • I understand. I took your evidence merely to be identifying the fact that you were doing an education story which subsequently became a crime story.

  • Where did you have lunch with Mr Fedorcio?

  • It was at a restaurant very near Scotland Yard, with Andrea Perry. I can't recall the name of the restaurant. I think, from memory -- and this is going back seven years -- it followed on from the meeting that we'd had with Sir Ian Blair and -- it was a useful meeting and I think it was a follow-up to try and improve relations and to get to know each other and Andrea was doing very well at getting to know the Yard officers and working hard there, and it was really a sort of face-to-face meeting.

    But at that time, maybe there was other things going on in the background. Maybe there was an increased threat level, because a short time afterwards there were the dreadful 7/7 bombings, and it was obviously very useful to have, at that time, an extremely close relationship with the Yard.

  • So if it was useful to you from that general point of view of improving relations, was it useful to you or did it pay any dividends in any specific way?

  • It's difficult to put a sort of rational perspective on it like that in terms of a dividend. I think it was a positive, constructive meeting. I was impressed with Mr Fedorcio. He seemed a very straightforward sort of person, the person that I like dealing with, and Andrea clearly got on well with him and it was a valuable meeting. There was a sort of open agenda: if you have any problems, air them. If they've got any problems with us, air them, and hopefully we can reach a sensible compromise and work well together.

  • Got a feeling it might have been Andrea. I might have paid. It may have been Andrea.

  • But the newspaper paid, one way or another?

  • Yes, I think so. I can't be sure.

  • I think there was some, yeah, maybe just a glass or two, but it was a lunch as opposed to an evening meal, and obviously, you know --

  • The need for some restraint?

  • Nobody has more than a few glasses of wine.

  • I understand. Moving now away from the lunch to paragraph 11 of your witness statement, where you tell us a little bit about what you think the police were trying to get from you. You say that one of the things that they wanted to use the media for was to get the public to assist with their inquiries. That's something which this Inquiry readily understands, so we can take that as read. What I'd like to ask you is: did you ever get a sense that the Metropolitan Police were trying to manipulate their image and promote their image through the media?

  • In terms of basic PR, I think all PRs are there to promote the image of whoever they represent, whether it's a pop star, private company or the police force. Obviously the police forces are public organisations and there's no commercial interest in it, but the press officers will be looking to you to write about them in a positive way and a straightforward way. Is that being manipulative? Probably. But it's not in a sort of serious way, I would suggest. I think it's in their interests to be as positive as they can be, and I think the reality check on all that is that when things go wrong, like the shooting of Charles de Menezes and other incidents which are unfortunately bound to happen, then they should be as honest and straightforward about their responses and their dealings in those unfortunate incidents as they are when they're trying to promote themselves.

  • If we take that as an example, were you satisfied with the way in which information emerged about that particular tragic incident?

  • Well, there was enormous confusion around that time. There were suggestions, as I recall, that Mr -- the gentleman who got shot, Mr De Menezes, had jumped over the barrier and then ran down the stairs, and that came out of the Yard. From memory as well -- that was false, by the way.

  • I think that was later accepted to be false. There was something else that Mr Blair himself said. The exact phrase that he used, after seven years, I can't remember, but I know he himself made a comment which later proved to be slightly misleading. So that came actually a fairly short time after we'd met him, and if you like, his honeymoon was over very quickly and suddenly he was dealing with the other side of the press, where we were demanding answers. I think there was a -- there was a press conference, the Yard wasn't big enough and it was moved to the Queen Elizabeth Centre, and there were an awful lot of questions piling up, and as things unravelled, it was clear that the Yard had not been, on that occasion, fully correct in a lot of -- in some of the things they had said.

  • If that is one example where things were perhaps not as they might have been when bad news was concerned, can you think of any other examples during your experience of dealing with the Met?

  • The other thing which I mentioned in that paragraph 11 was the Rachel Nickell case, and -- I was involved in that, in doing some press briefings, and at the time when Colin Stagg was arrested, I think -- there was not a sense of triumphalism and there was nobody saying, "We've got the right man", but they seemed quite confident that they had the right man, but there was a lot of concern among the press, some members of the press, that the evidence didn't stack up against Mr Stagg.

    I covered some of the remand hearings in relation to that and listened to the evidence and, quite frankly, it just wasn't there. There was no forensic evidence, there was no identification evidence. There was entrapment, to my mind, and I took an unusual position in sort of openly saying to some of the officers: "Are you sure you have the right guy here? You know, it doesn't quite add up, really, does it? Where is your evidence?" And I made a point of establishing contact with the Stagg family and got on very well with Colin's mother and his stepfather, and they produced some letters that he'd done in prison to me and some other things -- I mean, he's not a likeable gentleman, let's be honest. However, I took the view then that something had gone awry in that investigation and that if it did go to court, that it probably wouldn't get anywhere. I covered the pre-trial hearing where the evidence was examined by a judge and was subsequently thrown out, Mr Stagg was released --

  • I think the facts of that case are well known. If we focus on the way in which the Metropolitan Police managed the public relations side of things as it became clear that Mr Stagg was innocent and that someone else had committed this atrocious murder. Do you think they handled that well or not?

  • Well, that was not until many years later --

  • -- that the evidence clearly showed that someone else was responsible, and they did get the right man and to their great credit they stuck with that and they continued to look at the case and examine the evidence, and when there was an overwhelming case, they charged the right person. So they should be congratulated for that.

  • There had been a long passage of time between that. I think officers had retired. They'd done a good job. They'd done the best that they could do under the circumstances, I think. They did an apology, I think, to Mr Stagg, and there was a payment made to him. Whether he -- his life was effectively ruined by it. Whether that's enough -- whether they did enough, I think, is open to debate.

  • I don't think we're revisiting miscarriages of justice here.

  • We're doing something slightly different.

  • But I think it's interesting in relation to the police. There was some concern about the arrest of Mr Stagg by reporters who had been right at the beginning of that case and followed events as they unfolded and that they were raised at police levels.

  • I think what I'm getting at is whether you think, when it comes to bad news, the police manage that properly or whether there's room for improvement.

  • I think there's definitely room for improvement. What happens is when the police call a press conference, it's usually because they're getting nowhere in a case and they need publicity, they need to issue photographs and they need to encourage public to come and engage with the case. When things go wrong, they sort of have to be forced into holding a press conference. You know, you have to pile on questions to get answers.

    So that is an aspect that should be examined, I think, where they should -- you know, feel obliged to hold a press conference and explain themselves, not just release a short statement through the Press Bureau or something else; be prepared to take questions, be prepared to admit where the mistakes were made and how they were made.

  • It's quite difficult that, isn't it, Mr Murray, because it's not impossible that some of the people who are acquitted because the jury weren't satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt, although entitled to the benefit of their presumption of innocence, may not have been entirely without fault.

  • Yes, it may be that they might be without fault, but you have to respect the jury system, and if they find --

  • Yes, of course you do, but that's not my point. My point is slightly different. It is that the police may not have anything to apologise for.

  • No, it may just be turn of events and they acted in good faith on the information which they had, and the reliability of their witnesses, the reliability of their forensic -- there are a whole host of reasons, but they should be forthcoming about the chain of events which led to errors being made, mistakes being made and, in some cases, wrongful convictions.

  • Well, certainly in relation to wrongful convictions, I agree, but my point is that one has to be rather careful, because if you say you ought to have a press conference when somebody's been acquitted because obvious something's gone wrong, that doesn't actually follow, because something may not have gone wrong in the process and the risk that you run is if you have a conference and the police want to say, "Actually, we did everything right here", then somebody is going to say, "So what you're doing is you're challenging the verdict of the jury, you're saying the jury got it wrong", and you get into a secondary debate about guilt, which is inappropriate in the light of the fact there's been a criminal trial. Do you see the problem that I'm trying --

  • Yes, it is a problem. It's a difficult area. There's also obviously the legal implications of people being sued in civil matters and a whole host of things that raise their head, but where possible, they should make themselves available to answer the questions. Whether they choose to answer them fully or not, at least there's been an attempt -- because there's a relationship between the press and the public. The press, if you like, represent the public, so -- the public takes an interest in major crimes and helps, in some cases, to bring people to justice, and the public has a right to know when things go wrong and they do seek explanations.

  • Yes, I have no problem about that, and it's perfectly legitimate, provided one is careful to understand what is appropriate and what isn't appropriate.

  • The police can certainly properly say, "Well, there was a case to answer, the judge found there was a case to answer, the burden on the Crown is always heavy, it's always to prove beyond reasonable doubt, and the jury weren't satisfied. That's the system operating."

    That's fine, but it's not terribly newsworthy and it's obviously not appropriate in every case that the verdict not guilty is returned. It's a question of being open and transparent when it is appreciated that things have gone wrong for reasons which the public ought to know about.

  • Yes. In those circumstances where there's an acquittal, often a senior officer will stand outside the Old Bailey and give a short statement, possibly take a question or two and disappear, and in the wording of that statement often there is a message, you know: "We are not looking for anyone else", or however it's phrased, and the public can pick up on that message.

  • When you are investigating a crime story, do you ever try and find out who the guilty party is?

  • No. I don't see that journalists should play the role of detective. It -- playing an amateur detective can get you into all sorts of trouble, and that's not what we're about. Sometimes events transpire that you do actually bump into the real criminal, just through accident. In relation to the Jo Yeates trial, we were doing some investigations around that area and myself and a colleague came across a gentleman who we thought was actually a little bit suspiciously near the scene of Jo Yeates' property. That gentleman was arrested three days later and is now serving life for murder, and the police were very interested in how we bumped into him.

    It was pure accident that we came across him. We thought he was a bit unusual and we asked him a few questions and engaged with him. There was no sort of attempt to solve the crime or play detective. It was a sequence of events. But when the police said they wanted to speak to us, we were more than happy to speak to them and we co-operated fully with them.

  • You, I think, were here this morning when Mr Harrison gave evidence --

  • -- about other newspapers trying to run a parallel investigation. Have you ever had any awareness of other newspapers playing detective?

  • I think there has been stories in the past about the News of the World having the resources to employ former detectives, having the resources to employ former special services and having sort of camper vans or something with blacked-out windows and doing sort of -- looking at properties, sometimes for showbusiness stories, to see if two stars are having an affair, or sometimes involved in surveillance work. So I think there's a general appreciation that the News of the World, pretty much a lone wolf, was carrying out that sort of activity.

    But in terms of mainstream newspapers, if you like, I can't think of anything where there was such a sort of well-organised enterprise.

  • Moving on to a different aspect altogether, in your dealings with the Metropolitan Police, did you ever come across one senior officer briefing, either directly or through an intermediary, against another senior officer?

  • There were a couple of occasions. In some occasions, when there's a long-running investigation into a high-profile crime with someone who's been in the news a lot, there is a -- gets into a situation where there's low morale in the detectives, and sometimes you can get situations where you hear about camps being formed. You know, some detectives believe X did it, some detectives believe Y did it, and -- but I -- they're professional people and they have debates amongst themselves, but you do pick up on the rumour that that's going on. I think in the case of the Rachel Nickell case, there was rumours flying around that, you know, there were slight disagreements within the detectives that who was actually responsible. Was it Colin Stagg? You know. But I haven't had an officer sort of say, off the record: "So-and-so's got it all wrong, he's barking up the wrong tree there", no. They're very careful in general about how they speak about their colleagues and they normally speak very highly. There's an awful lot of respect within each force for the senior detectives because people understand it's an extremely difficult and stressful job.

  • Moving now to the part of your statement where you deal with your relationship with other police forces -- I'm looking at page 6, paragraph 17 onwards -- you express a view that all police forces operate in similar ways, and you describe having worked closely with Kent and Surrey Police forces. Are you meaning there to say that regional forces operate in similar ways or are you trying to say that all police forces, including the Metropolitan Police Service, operate in similar ways?

  • I think the Met are slightly different, probably Greater Manchester as well, because they have a far greater volume of calls so they have a larger volume of people dealing with a multitude of inquiries. You can have a local paper in Finchley ringing up about a car crash. You can have John Twomey on the phone ringing up about a robbery -- a serious robbery in London, and they have to sort of be able to have a system where they can look into all that, so they obviously have their own computer system, whereas a smaller force -- some of the forces are very small and they have less crime, so you have a smaller team and, if you like, they will split up what they're dealing with. So if there's a big crime running, one press officer may handle it and the other two, three press officers are left dealing with the traffic situation for the local radio and other enquiries about other crimes.

    So I think the Met is a difficult job for the press officers because of the vast volume of calls that come in.

  • In terms of hospitality, have you ever been offered anything like the hospitality that you were offered by Sir Ian Blair by any regional force?

  • No. I went on a raid with Kent Police last month. They were doing an operation against drug dealers and -- bit unusual this, actually, because we went to one place where they busted open a guy's house with an acetylene torch, found a sword and a couple of dogs, and then we went to the police station. Normally they would buy you a cup of tea. You've been up since 4 o'clock in the morning -- but on that occasion we bought ourselves a cup of tea. So they wouldn't extend to a cup of tea.

    Now, in the old days, if you were invited along to an operation, then they usually had a glass of water, cup of tea, a few biscuits. I'm not saying they're being rude or anything. I think it's just the way that events have been unfolding. Perhaps because of this, everyone is slightly conscious of -- you know.

  • People are being careful. They don't understand quite what is going to happen and they don't want to be on the wrong side of it and that's entirely understandable.

  • Exactly, but I had a chat with the Assistant Chief Constable, Gary Beautridge, there. I think he said, "Any time you like, come along and have a look at the serious crime directorate", which was nice because that's the way it used to be. You meet the chaps, you have a comfortable conversation over a cup of tea and the guy says, "Do you want to come along and just have a look?" There's no pressure to write anything, and it's a nice offer to have, and I'm -- I must admit I did think: "Oh, should I accept it or not?" or: "How would it be seen? How would it be perceived? Or would he have to fill out a form? Would I have to fill out a form?"

    So those sort of thoughts do enter into your mind and I still haven't decided whether to go or not. I probably will go, but it's just putting you -- having to think a little bit more carefully about your interaction, which is, in my view, negative.

  • Well, it's not negative to have to think a bit more carefully. What's negative would be if there was a close-down of an important relationship which meant that the way in which the press learnt about the work of the police was unduly hampered or restricted, which would not serve the interests of justice and the confidence of the public in criminal justice well at all. I think that's right, isn't it?

  • Yes, I think you have to look at the big picture. The objectives of having a strong relationship and the objectives of basically the public interest being served override the sort of petty considerations.

    For a journalist like myself and other journalists who have normal relations with police, we feel a little bit aggrieved that we even have to think about this because we've done nothing wrong, yet there is a sort of unspoken slur. I mean, some of the guys when we're going out on the bust were saying, "Oh, you're up before Leveson. What have you done? What have you been up to?" So you get all this joshing. It's just a bit unfortunate. I think over the passage of time that will diminish and I'll go back to normal.

  • I'll be coming later on to what might be done in the future to get the balance rights, but before we do that, could I ask you: have you taken any detectives from regional forces for the sort of lunch which you described to me earlier, having taken Metropolitan Police Service detective force?

  • In the past, a few years ago, yes. Not recently, actually.

    Some ex-police officers -- because another thing that's happening now is because there's some frustration and lack of information coming from forces, journalists attempting to cover stories are contacting former officers, not really to see if they know what's going on in any investigation, but to write these sort of pieces: what do you think's going on in the investigation? How do you think the officers are looking at so-and-so?

    We had a case in point at the weekend where the offices of Ed Miliband were raided on Friday night. Very little was coming out from the Yard and I was actually off sick with a sore throat, but I was asked to ring an MI6 contact and see what would MI6 think about it. Not that he would know what MI6 thought about it but just: "As an ex-MI6 guy, what would you look at?" Do you see what I mean?

  • Yes, your next best source when you want to get direct access?

  • Yes, whereas obviously what you really want to know is as much information about the incident which occurred.

  • You mentioned a moment ago having accompanied the police force on a raid and you talk about that as well in your statement at paragraph 26, where you tell us about having accompanied Scotland Yard on a dawn raid. Can I ask you --

  • That was a long time ago, I think.

  • -- to what extent were you prepared to deal with the ethical and professional issues which accompanying the police on a raid might throw up? Had you gone through any formal briefing or training or anything like that?

  • No. You have to sign a disclaimer, I think, a sort of three-page form, and I think there is potential that you could be injured during the operation. On this particular raid with Kent Police, a sort of dog shot out and could have -- it was actually quite a calm dog, but there are potential for things to happen that you don't quite know about, so I think you sign that form, but you just take it as presented.

  • Did you consider that there might be ethical issues that would arise over things like privacy, if you were involved in a raid on a private home?

  • Yes, because you have to work on the assumption of innocence all the time. You know, that's the great British tradition, innocent until proved guilty, and on this occasion, this recent raid, we obviously could see the gentleman concerned, we could see the weapon was seized and other things, but we chose to not use the picture and to identify him. So in terms of that, we respected his privacy in that we didn't identify him because -- the other factor, of course, is it could be prejudicial.

  • Indeed. On the whole, do you think opportunities like those you've enjoyed to accompany the police on operations is a good thing or a bad thing?

  • On balance, a good thing, because relationships are established and gives an opportunity to see how they operate. You get to see a mixture of ranks. You know, you have a nice little chat with the PC or the WPC, who are just ordinary people trying to go about their jobs, and then you get an idea of the views of the senior officers. Not from the raids; they have other people there, people from the police authority or an MP or somebody else who is interested in the actions of the police. So it covers quite a wide variety of aspects of what the police do.

  • As far as you're aware, are such opportunities allocated fairly between newspapers or have you suspicions that there might be certain favoured newspapers?

  • I think it's actually towards television, perhaps, that the forces lean towards, maybe, because the pictures are moving and they're dramatic. You know, you're smashing down doors, flames sometimes. A lot of hectic scenes. You know, it's quite a dramatic image. So often I would say -- there's certainly always a TV facility and then it's like: "Who else should we bring along?"

    So I would say the balance was not is much amongst newspapers, more perhaps a prejudice towards television.

  • I'm moving to paragraph 32, page 9, of your statement, where you say:

    "We do not make any payments to police officers or forces for information or otherwise."

    That's crystal clear. What I'd like to ask -- and before I ask it, I'm going to say please don't name anybody when answering this question -- is: has that always been the case or historically has there been a different position?

  • In respect to my career or in respect to the Sunday Express or ...?

  • We'll do both. We'll start with your career.

  • I can't think of any occasion in any newspaper -- and I've worked for quite a few -- where I've been asked to directly pay a police officer, so no.

  • Or indirectly. I'm trying to think -- no, I honestly can't think of anything, and in terms of the Sunday Express, no. I mean, there are occasions when we seek the opinion of former police officers. You know, John Connor from the Flying Squad makes himself available, John Stalker from Greater Manchester, Dai Davies, former Royal Protection Squad commander, and if we want to seek their profession opinion on the story, then we would pay them a fee, but not very much, and possibly as well some expenses if travelling's involved and whatever.

  • These are retired officers, yes.

  • Page 10 of your witness statement, paragraph 39. These are questions about the type of people who are working in police press offices, and you express the opinion there that you would prefer it if more officers worked in press offices. That's officers as opposed to people who have worked in the media. Why do you think it would be desire to be have more officers in a press office?

  • Well, certainly in the early days of my career, there were usually half and half press officers and police officers. I have no problem with civilian press officers at all, but I would say that sometimes an officer with a higher rank, say at inspector level, working in a press office just has a natural sort of authority, male or female, on the release of information, and perhaps less cautious about giving information because he knows how the force operates.

    Also, police are very much like journalists. They like facts. They like to know the date: when did it happen? What time of night did it happen? Who's involved? What happened after that? These are the things that they're sort of trained to put in their notebooks and these are the sort of questions that they would automatically ask in a briefing, because they would expect, I guess, to debrief a senior officer, so they would -- when you ring up, you know that if you got a policeman who is familiar with it, I just felt that they have more information at their disposal.

  • The other problem is that a lot of the civilians aren't fully briefed, so there's a time delay in that they then have to go back and ask the officer, get more details, come back, and then they haven't asked perhaps a supplementary question.

  • Are you saying that the operational experience that an officer has gives them more confidence in communicating pertinent facts?

  • Yes, I think it does -- on some occasions it does, yeah. And also you can build up a bit of a rapport with these guys quite easily.

  • Moving now to paragraph 41 of your statement, where you say that the Metropolitan Police did have a lot of ex-News of the World journalists and you couldn't understand why it was exceptional. Can you help us with the point in time that you're talking about?

  • I wonder if it's always been the case. I don't know, it's just something that I was aware of. I mean, I don't have the figures and I don't know if it's meaningful at all, but I just felt that -- you know, I know that for some reason over the time there's been quite a lot of ex-News of the World guys working for the Metropolitan Police press office.

  • Moving now to the section of your statement which deals with the HMIC's report, at paragraph 43, you say:

    "Now nobody is sure that Milly Dowler's phone was hacked."

    I've been asked to suggest to you that that's not, in fact, correct.

  • The real issue is not whether, but when.

  • I think that is factually incorrect. Nobody is sure that the phone -- emails were deleted during the hacking process, would be more accurate.

  • I think that came out -- when I wrote this, that came out when the report from Surrey Police to the culture committee suggested that there was not sort of evidence to suggest that the News of the World had deleted the messages from the phone and it was said in the July report by Guardian that Mulcaire was responsible for hacking the phone. Mulcaire has denied that, so I think we have to be very careful here because --

  • -- we're going into sub judice, so --

  • -- aware of the differences. I just wanted to confirm that you were content with the way you had expressed it, because it isn't quite right.

  • Yes, I think that is poor expression on my part.

  • We can move on now to paragraph 44, where you say that your view is that police officers and journalists are "sensible people who have intelligent interaction on both sides and have high ethical standards".

    I wanted to ask you whether, in the light of the evidence that that's been given to this Inquiry over the last three weeks, when we've heard, for example, of quite a high degree of hospitality at a very senior level, you still adhere to that view completely?

  • Well, of course this was written prior to a lot of --

  • Indeed. That's why I'm asking.

  • I think we have to err on the side of caution and see what the prima facie evidence is and assess it at the time and see whether or not there is real evidence to support major wrongdoing. I mean, without being privy to all the information, I mean --

  • But are we going to be so constrained, Mr Murray, and should we be so constrained? Is it really a question of looking to see whether there is, to quote your language, "major wrongdoing", or are we really constrained to look at whether the relationship needs to be recalibrated or reordered in such a way that maximises openness and transparency on the part of the police and minimises the risk or the perception of risk arising from the nature of the relationship between individual papers and the police?

  • Well, that's really a matter for you to consider.

  • Yes, you're quite right. But --

  • My view on it is that there is a major need for a recalibration, and if you like -- I am not saying that everyone's blameless and everyone's faultless across the entire written press, but it all seems to relate to one newspaper, or one newspaper group, and so you have to be careful not to draw in, if you like, the innocent parties into the equation when you're doing your recalibration.

  • Well, I'm looking at the culture, practices and ethics of the press, and I'm sure that you would be the first to agree that the issues that have arisen in connection with the press are not restricted to one newspaper group, are they?

  • So obviously one has to create a system that works for everybody --

  • -- but caters for the problems and recognises that we have to achieve, at the end of this, something that is (a) workable, (b) appropriate, and (c) gets into the public domain as much as that which ought to be in the public domain but keeps out of the public domain that which has no business to be there at all.

  • Yes. I would agree with that statement. Or was it a question?

  • Well, it was a statement of claim, which then had a question: whether you would agree with it?

  • I agree with it. Yes, I do. I think it's a very important point and I think that is part of the difficulty of your recalibration, that you have to try and draw these different ends together. My concern, and the concern of the CRA, is that things ain't so bad as people say, so don't try and break it all up and -- it has to be finely tuned rather than sort of: "The engine has to be thrown out and we have to get a new engine."

  • It depends on what you're talking about, doesn't it? In some regards -- for example, in relation to the Press Complaints Commission -- they're creating a new engine. I'm not going down there with you, but the point has to be made that one has to cope with the risk that not everybody will necessarily behave as professionally or appropriately as the best.

  • That's true and that's true of human nature, and I think whatever you do and whatever you decide, unfortunately there will be some rotten apples in the journalistic barrel and they will let us down. Unfortunately, that will happen. However, we -- I think the view I'd like to express is that we're as disappointed in them as the general public, and we're trying to work with you to create a framework that will identify these people quickly and adequately so that they can be dealt with, because they are damaging to us. They're damaging to us in relation to our relationship with the police. They're damaging to us because they've damaged the reputation of journalists.

  • Yes, and in relation to the police, I entirely agree. A journalist is entitled to obtain whatever information he wants, perhaps not entirely in whatever way he wants to do it -- because he has to comply with the law and his own ethical code, assuming he subscribes to one -- but that's not quite the same as saying that a police officer is in the same position, because it may be perfectly legitimate for the journalist to ask, but not entirely appropriate for the police to answer.

  • Well, they always have the option not to answer.

  • But I think they should be encouraged to answer rather than discouraged from answering.

  • It depends what the question is, Mr Murray.

  • If we can start perhaps looking into the future a little bit. Would you accept that it's going to be essential that the police officers you speak to in the future have very clear guidelines about what it is they can and cannot say to you and your fellow journalists?

  • I think if you're going down the road of written guidelines that come in a little booklet that they have to have on the table while you're ordering a bottle of red wine, I think it's, frankly, ridiculous. It may be helpful to have some general guidelines or some general advice that should be in their minds, and -- I think we shouldn't diminish the respect that journalists have for the police and the fact that they're highly intelligent people. They know what we're doing, we know what they're doing, we're trying to work together, and you have to -- you can't treat us like children or them like children.

  • Excepting that there is thought to be given to the degree of detail and the way it's done, isn't the problem that if you don't give police officers guidance as to what they can and can't say, then the current position, where they are worried about saying anything and will say nothing, will continue?

  • Yes. That is a genuine danger. I think it would be very useful to have broad guidelines for senior officers to consider and perhaps they can be drawn up with the journalists, with the NUJ, with the CRA, so that it's a sort of mutual consideration as well, because no journalist likes to be accused of being a poodle of the police and no police officer likes to be accused of being corrupt towards journalists.

    So there's probably, you know, possibly an idea to put a joint framework together so that everyone knows exactly what's going on, but also knowing that so many different situations arise and so many different considerations that it's very difficult to plan for each eventuality.

  • Would it also be a good idea, in order to increase transparency and therefore confidence in what is passing between the police and the media, to have some recording of meetings, both formal and informal, between journalists and police officers and police staff?

  • Well, I think -- if that was introduced, you can forget there being any lunches or meals in the evening. I mean, why would you? Why would they bother? They're very busy guys. They have a tremendously difficult job to do and they want to get on with it. Do they want to spend ten minutes filling out a form saying, "I'm going to have an Italian meal with Jim Murray from the Sunday Express, I'm not going to talk about XXX"? Surely not.

    Likewise, do you want a journalist to spend ten minutes filling out a form saying, "I'm seeing Joe Bloggs"? It's a difficult position. I don't think you need that unnecessary bureaucracy. I think a broad-based framework of the relationship which both people understand as a base, you know, before they even have the relationship, if you like, then that would be useful.

  • Is the difficulty that if there's no form of recording then nobody can properly oversee what's going on?

  • There is a risk of that, but that's the risk of anything. I mean, you know, do senior figures in the legal establishment have to fill out a form if they go to lunch with somebody? Should there be oversight of that? Where does it end?

  • I'm understanding that you're against that idea --

  • I'm against the idea, yes.

  • I'm looking at paragraph 45 of your statement, where you say:

    "I see no problem with sensible socialising between officers and the media as it helps journalists get the facts straight and encourages officers to be more trusting of journalists."

    That begs the question, doesn't it: how do you ensure that the socialising is sensible?

  • Ah, yes. Again, because I think you have to have certain faith in people. You have to have a certain trust in people as well, that they will -- I think there's been a massive sort of -- and necessary recalibration already in people's minds about the relationship between journalists and the police and that they're having serious thoughts, we're having serious thoughts, and that process is under way.

    I mean, if you were saying it was any other profession than the police, I would say so, but in general, they're very, very sensible people.

  • I'm sorry, just before you go on, did you say that there had been an unnecessary recalibration already in people's minds or a necessary recalibration?

  • I think there's been a certain recalibration --

  • No, the reason I ask the question is because it's transcribed as "unnecessary recalibration", and I thought you said "necessary recalibration" --

  • I only want to know what you wanted to be recorded as.

  • I think I said "had a necessary" not "an unnecessary".

  • Moving to the question of alcohol, one can see that from the point of view of the journalist, if a little bit of alcohol lubricates the conversation, then perhaps elicits an indiscretion, from a journalist's point of view, that's a good thing, but from the police officer's point of view, if he or she misjudges the amount of alcohol consumed and ends up saying something that he shouldn't have done and regrets it, that's a difficulty, isn't it?

  • I think you're leading me down a particular road. Actually, I found -- sometimes find that alcohol makes matters worse. It clouds matters, and rather than talking about work, you know, the alcohol encourages them to talk about how Chelsea played, what's going on, politics, you know. It becomes more of a social event. In fact, some of the best information I've got is over a cup of tea when everyone's very sober and everyone's thinking correctly and therefore you're able to get information. So alcohol can work in both ways. Sometimes it can work against you.

  • From what you're saying, it sounds as if we might all be better off without it in conversations between police officers and journalists. Would you agree with that?

  • I think you have to go with whatever the officer wants. Quite a lot of people these days -- quite a lot of officers are actually teetotal, or they drink soft drinks.

  • I don't think we need to get into the details of what people drink. I've got the message. Right.

  • You wrote an article about the Jefferies story, which you've kindly provided to the Inquiry. It's dated 2 January 2011. In fact, the line you took in that article was to give voice to the feelings of Mr Jefferies' ex-headmaster, who was very doubtful that Mr Jefferies would ever have done what it was being suggested he might have done. In other words, you published an article supportive of Mr Jefferies.

    Can I ask you: in your dealings on the Jefferies case, how much contact did you have with the police?

  • Quite a lot of contact, because we had journalists working on the ground, I was in London, we had people making calls from London as well, we had the local agency, who probably had four or five people on the story.

    Mr Jefferies was arrested earlier in the week, on the Thursday, I think -- or it may have been the Friday -- therefore the period of his detention was moving into the weekend. We publish on Sunday, so it was getting to -- the situation was: would he be charged or released on the Saturday, you know, or would it go into the night or whatever? So we were dealing with that issue.

    So we spoke to quite a few people who knew him and there had been some coverage already in the daily papers, sort of saying he was a Mr Strange Guy, he had an unusual haircut. A lot of people have unusual haircuts and don't get banged up for it, so we didn't take the view that he was in any way guilty or anything like that. Quite the reversive, actually. I located his former headmaster and spoke to him and he was able to give me his views on what had transpired.

  • Can I ask you: in your dealings with the police, either personally or through your staff, did they give you any information about the case off the record?

  • I think the calls to the press office were off the record. The questions that we were asking were: what's likely to happen with Mr Jefferies in our timeframe, and explaining that -- what our deadlines were on publication, and they didn't want to go on record about what was going on. They were telling us pretty much very little. They weren't prepared to say on the record: "We're continuing to question him for XXX", or whatever.

    So it was useful to speak to them. There was some guidance. I think they did say that: "We're continuing to speak to him", but they wouldn't say charges are imminent or charges are expected. These are the sort of phrases that press officers use when dealing with the press because we have to be extremely careful as well, because we're in that unusual stage of sub judice where we're actively working on information and we're building up stories and pulling stuff together, but obviously at the point where that person is charged, then we have to reevaluate what's already been written and take out anything which could be prejudicial and reduce it.

    So that was the conversation. There wasn't a sort of slurring of his reputation or anything like that. There wasn't a note of triumphalism or anything like that, no.

  • Apart from telling you that they were continuing to question Mr Yeates(sic), did they tell you anything else off the record?

  • Mr Yeates. Sorry, Mr Jefferies, forgive me.

  • I honestly can't think of anything.

  • Moving on to a completely different subject, I understand that you've had some experience of dealing with the Press Council of Ireland --

  • Before you go to the Press Council of Ireland, let me just talk about the Jefferies case a moment. First of all, proceedings are active from the moment of arrest, aren't they? It's not from the moment of charge.

  • Yes. But obviously from the point of charge, things change dramatically.

  • I understand. That was my first question. My second question was this: I quite see the purpose of this article, which I've read, that reports that his ex-headmaster effectively was saying in terms he'd be astonished if Mr Jefferies was actually involved, and you report all that. Given the way in which other reports had been put end the public domain, this provided some balance.

  • Yes. That's why I offered it as potential evidence to you, because the impression given, I think, is that there was a one-sided sort of campaign by the press against Mr Jefferies, which --

  • Let me, I'm afraid, use it against you for a moment, Mr Murray, in this way: what was the business of the press getting involved in this debate at all? Searching out people who were saying he was very odd, he was doing this, that or the other, and then generating reports saying, "Well, actually, I'd be amazed if he was involved"? Aren't you therefore muddying the whole water? I'm not saying this particularly, because you're balancing other material, but why is it the business of the press to be doing this at all?

  • The -- you -- the press responds to events. There had been a lot of stories in the papers regarding Mr Jefferies. It was also on television. It was a major invest --

  • But should there have been?

  • Well, quite clearly the view of, you know, the papers -- some papers were punished, and the view in those cases, not our paper, was that they shouldn't have been.

  • That's the point. I appreciate you'll observe the law and you'll respect the decision of the Lord Chief Justice, particularly as the Supreme Court refused to interfere with it, but do you see the point I'm asking?

  • Yes, I do see the point. You're saying: should there be a debate? My view is there probably shouldn't be the debate, that, you know -- but whether you or I think there should or shouldn't be a debate, the debate goes on.

  • Yes, well, the trouble is that we can all agree that there should be these principles applied and this is how we should go on, and that works wonderfully until there's another big story, and then everybody throws all the rules out of the window and so the frenzy generates. Pro or anti.

  • Potentially, but the point here is Mr Jefferies was never charged with everything.

  • Yes, I know, but actually that isn't the point. The point is all that had happened was he'd been arrested, and a whole series of articles had been generated about how odd he was and a lot of prejudicial material which might put off people who would be prepared to stand up to help him. You decide to put something into the public domain the other way to provide some balance, and suddenly there's a big debate going on about somebody who has not been charged or anything.

  • It is a matter -- and you're correct that these situations arise when there's huge public interest on major stories. Whether it falls in your remit to look at the current situation regarding sub judice, I don't know.

  • It's not necessarily sub judice; it comes very much into the first area of my investigation, the press and the public, and you will know that I have twice heard evidence from Mr Jefferies, who, perhaps not surprisingly, feels extremely strongly about what happened to him.

  • Yes, but I note that some comments from Mr Jefferies have also said that he was pleased, you know, that some people stood by him and some people supported him and were prepared to make their views known.

  • Yes, but it might be that he'd have simply preferred that nobody said anything at all.

  • I fully expect that is his view, but I don't know his view on that.

  • Well, anyway. All right. You want to ask about Ireland.

  • Yes, it's the final question, Mr Murray. You have some experience, I understand, of the Press Council of Ireland. Is there anything from your experience of working with the Press Council of Ireland that you would commend to this Inquiry considering the future regulation of the press?

  • As far as I'm aware, the Sunday Express has never been involved with a situation where -- you know, in terms of complaint by Press Council of Ireland, but obviously news editors and journalists have to be aware of what goes on in Ireland because papers are distributed there. They have slightly different codes of conduct and slightly different phraseology, which I think are interesting for you to have a look at.

    One aspect is -- we've obviously got clause 4 in our code of practice, saying that journalists have a moral -- moral obligation to protect their sources, whereas it's, in my view, perhaps a little bit clearer in the Irish version of the code, which states that journalists shall protect confidential sources of information. And they obviously have a situation where they have the press ombudsman who conciliates and tries to deal quickly with complaints, and if he can't deal with them himself then he refers them to the Press Council, which is a group of people, to analyse the complaints, and so obviously we have to be aware of how that situation operates as well as the PCC, previously the Press Council, you know, which covers us.

  • Are you bound by the Irish system?

  • Well, we -- it's an interesting point this, and it's never been tested because we've had no complaint against us, but obviously when our journalists are working in Ireland and carrying out enquiries, they will be bound by that code because it relates to the Irish Republic.

  • That's not quite my question. In Ireland, there is a statutory framework which allows an independent regulator to exist. The framework identifies what the regulator must do, doesn't it?

  • Yes. I mean, you have a better understanding than I do, but my understanding is that that's correct.

  • I just wanted to know whether your journalists in Ireland were bound by the Irish system in a way that your journalists in this country are not bound by the PCC?

  • My understanding of it -- it may need clarification -- is that when you have a journalist working in Ireland, then -- and you distribute in Ireland, and you're doing an Irish story, then that would become a matter potentially, although it's untested, for the Press Council of Ireland.

  • Tell me this: if you do feel yourself bound by the Press Council of Ireland, have you found that that in any way restricted what you could do or what you could investigate in a way that wouldn't restrict you where you wouldn't be restricted in this country because you're not part of the PCC?

  • No, I don't think there's any sort of difference in that. I think you're still free to make enquiries, free to contact people and do that. The only major difference is the clause 14 as opposed to the clause 3, I think it is.

  • I'm not terribly troubled about that. I'm more concerned about whether you've seen some terrible problem in Ireland, given that you publish there and that you're involved in Ireland --

  • No, we distribute there.

  • -- which is a consequence of the fact that there is a statutory framework in Ireland, which stands behind the regulatory regime.

  • No. All I would say is all newspapers must be aware of what goes on in Ireland in terms of their set up, and we are obviously aware of that too. Nothing's been tested so it's a bit of a grey area.

  • But you don't feel your freedom of speech, your freedom of expression, in relation to what you want to put in your newspaper, is imperilled by the Irish system?

  • No. I have had some discussions with some Irish journalists, who have said that they find it a much freer system over there.

  • Yeah, and Donal MacIntyre, we work closely with him. He's obviously the investigator for the BBC and he assists us in some investigations, and he's often said to me that he finds it easier to operate in Ireland, in the Republic, than over here. He tends to publish his books from Dublin-based publishers than over here. As I say, it's not been tested so I don't know.

  • Thank you very much, Mr Murray.

  • Thank you very much. Right, shall we take a break now before the final witness? Right.

  • (A short break)

  • Sir, the next witness is Jeremy Lawton.