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

  • MR THOMAS DANIEL PETTIFOR (affirmed).

  • Mr Pettifor, could you tell us your full name, please?

  • Thomas Daniel Pettifor.

  • I understand you want to make a correction to paragraph 8 of your witness statement. On the fourth line up from the bottom, it says June 2004. I understand that should become June 2005; is that right?

  • There are also some additions you wish to make to your witness statement, and we will deal with those as we go along.

  • But subject to that one correction, are the contents of your witness statement true and correct to the best of your knowledge and belief?

  • You tell us that you are the crime correspondent at the Daily Mirror. You started your career working on the Hackney Gazette. You've worked for the news agency National News, and you started work for the Daily Mirror in June 2005. You became the crime correspondent relatively recently, in May of last year.

  • Like many of the crime reporters, you've described the current relations between the Metropolitan Police and the media as being in a state of some flux.

  • Do you agree with the last witness that it's not so much official briefings that have been affected, but the more informal contacts and the result of requests made to the DPA?

  • Yes, I would agree with that.

  • Can I just understand that a little bit? Do I gather that there is a different approach from the DPA now than there used to be, as a result of which officers won't talk, or is it the other way around?

  • What I was saying there was that official contact -- so briefings that we'd have, pre-trial briefings -- remain, the monthly commissioner briefings remain, but informal contact -- whether that comes from the DPA or not I don't know, but informal contact with officers is more difficult.

  • Do you find -- perhaps I should have asked the last witness -- that you're more likely to be stopped by the DPA from speaking directly to an officer than you used to be? So in other words, they're no longer acting as a conduit --

  • No, if I make a request to speak to an officer, they're always very helpful to put that request to the officer, as I understand it.

  • But the officer doesn't respond as he used to? Or --

  • There may be more of a reticence amongst officers to speak to me if I make an approach not through the DPA.

  • You tell us at paragraph 12 of your witness statement that you probably speak to Scotland Yard press office twice a day on average, but you also tell us that they sometimes call you, putting through senior investigating officers at court, so that you can publicise a particular case. How often do you get calls from the press office?

  • Fairly rarely, actually. If they know that the Mirror's interested in a story, they might -- or that a story would be of interest to us, they might contact us, but I can't think -- I'm just trying to think of an example. I can't think of one at the moment.

  • How often do you speak to SIOs at court and on the telephone?

  • I try to -- well, it all depends, but fairly regularly. Maybe once, twice a week I would go to court and speak to officers and on the telephone it could be -- well, it varies between twice to five times a week, maybe.

  • In your answers to question 13, so far as they relate to operational officers, you describe really very little contact with very senior members of the Metropolitan Police. Is that simply a reflection of the fact that you've been doing this job for less than a year, or is there something more to it?

  • I hope it's just the fact that I haven't been doing it for very long. As I say, there is a -- we're in a state of flux at the moment, so there may be a bit more of a distance being kept by senior officers and the press, but I'd say it's because I've only been doing the job for a short time.

  • In terms of your dealings with Mr Fedorcio, you tell us that you spoke to him, along with other reporters, on the day the royal wedding last year, and that a month later, in May of last year, he came to the Daily Mirror's offices.

    As a result of meeting him there, you emailed him asking, I think, for access to the Commissioner for an interview. You've exhibited the email to your statement. It got a response from Mr Fedorcio, and he didn't promise you an interview. He told you that the Commissioner would be speaking at a forthcoming CRA briefing, and what he also said was:

    "But I do have a queue filled by your colleagues and competitors. We'll see."

    Did you get any sense that you were being played off with your competitors for access to the Commissioner or am I reading too much into that?

  • I think you are. That's a fairly straightforward statement. I'd just started in the job. I think any crime reporter would make an application to interview the Commissioner when they got a job, so I'd just got at the taxi rank, as it were, put in my application, my request. There would have been -- everyone else would have been asking for the same thing.

  • And all he's saying is: "You can go to the back of the queue."

  • Have you yet got to the head of the queue?

  • I haven't had that interview yet, but I don't think the current Commissioner is going to be giving interviews to any particular newspaper, apart from the Evening Standard, maybe.

  • You tell us about attending the Scotland Yard summer party last year, and you say there were a lot of people there, maybe a hundred or so.

    Can I be clear: was this a party simply for the press?

  • It was described as the Scotland Yard summer party. I mean, there were officers there. I think there were freelance journalists and a lot of journalists, so I think it was mainly for the press.

  • And if I've understood correctly, reading it with paragraph 18 of your statement, there was a complimentary bar?

  • You tell us that -- looking now at question 15 -- when you speak with press officers, you're primarily doing so to check facts. Are you also trying to obtain stories when you deal with the DPA or are they not a good source of stories?

  • Do you mean exclusive stories?

  • Well, I would be doing a story all the time when I'm speaking to the DPA, but normally I wouldn't be expecting to get an exclusive story from the DPA. I would be checking facts. Unlike Justin, who works for the Sunday Mirror, I often have to do day-to-day stories that are moving quite fast and I need to check facts with the DPA and they're very good as helping me with that.

  • That's where you find them most useful?

  • Paragraph 18 is one of the paragraphs that you want to make an addition to. As I understand it, what you would like to add to paragraph 18 is that you were also given a glass of wine when you were reporting the royal wedding?

  • All right, don't worry about that. Thank you.

  • And a similarly quite straightforward addition to paragraph 19. I think you say that you have also met another detective chief inspector for lunch?

  • Detective constable, I'm sorry.

    You tell us that you find the briefings at the Metropolitan Police provide valuable. What I'd like to ask you: to what extent do you find the informal contacts that you might have with the Metropolitan Police Service staff valuable as well?

  • By informal contacts, what do you mean?

  • When you're speaking to them in any other way other than at an official briefing or press conference, whether you're speaking to them outside court, whether you're taking them for a coffee --

  • Yes. I mean, that's really helpful, not necessarily for stories gathering in the short term but just for understanding the job that they do, and for me to have a deep background knowledge of policing, so that when big stories do break, hopefully I can explain the context to my editor and I can write a more accurate story. So it is very helpful in that respect, and also you can really get deep into policing issues when you're talking to people privately, and it can give me ideas for stories in future.

  • How do you compare the way in which the Metropolitan Police Service interacts with the media and the way in which regional forces interact with the media?

  • As I say, I don't have much contact with regional forces because the Mirror has regional reporters who cover their areas and speak regularly to the police there. I've said that the smaller forces may be slightly less -- harder to contact just because they have smaller teams, but I wouldn't like to make a comment particularly because I've been doing this job for a short time and haven't had much experience of dealing with other forces.

  • Do they offer less hospitality?

  • Well, I've never had a face-to-face meeting with an outside force, so ...

  • Can we move now to paragraph 30 of your witness statement, where you tell us about going along with the Metropolitan Police to watch their operations. In relation to the people trafficking operation, you say the Metropolitan Police offered to take you along. Do you know anything more about how that opportunity came to have been presented to you via your newspaper's news desk?

  • All I know is that we were running a campaign on people trafficking, highlighting the issue, and that my line manager approached me and said that this would be a good thing to do. I'm not sure whether one of our executives had contact with the Met over our campaign. I don't know who was overseeing the campaign.

  • In terms of access to witness operations taking place, are you content that your newspaper gets an equal share of the opportunities or do you have any sense that there's a problem?

  • Having just started the job, it's hard to gauge that. You've heard evidence from other crime reporters and former crime reporters who have been doing this job for over two decades, so I would expect them to have more access than me after doing a job for eight months, ten months.

  • How frequently do you have off-the-record conversations with the Metropolitan Police Service?

  • Well, if I go down to court and speak to an officer during a trial that's concluding or ongoing, that would normally -- I mean, "off the record" is a slightly vague term that I don't really like using, but it would be a non-attributable conversation, just to give me context on the story. So it could be a couple of -- three times a week, maybe, that I would have non-attributable conversations with officers.

  • Does that mean that it's quite an important part of the information flow between the police and yourself?

  • But it's rather important to understand that. What you're saying is you're interested in a particular case, you go and chat to the officer in the case to get some context or background, not because you're going to report it but just to make sure that what you do report is accurate, fair and balanced?

  • That's rather different from going to an officer to say, "Tell me about some entirely specific piece of work", which isn't connected with a case they're doing and you're just looking at, for example, knife crime in Hackney or whatever. How would you go about getting in touch with an officer if you wanted to do that?

  • If I wanted to speak to an officer off the record about a specific subject?

  • Or about knife crime in Hackney, say.

  • I'd go, probably, to the regional press office, the east area press office, and ask them to put me in contact with an officer.

  • But you're not there necessarily seeking an off-the-record meeting; you're wanting information. You've described your off-the-record material in relation to a specific case --

  • -- because you're not seeking to quote the officer; you're simply trying to understand the context?

  • That's rather different from the sort of meeting you might have if you're investigating a specific topic. Is that fair?

  • Have you ever been offered a story about involvement of a famous person with the police, either in the role of victim or someone who's got into trouble?

  • Not by a police officer.

  • A civilian member of police staff?

  • Have you ever been approached by a police whistle-blower?

  • What, a police officer who is a whistle-blower?

  • Or civilian staff.

  • You tell us at paragraph 42 of your witness statement that you currently have mobile phone numbers for 12 officers. Can you indicate the range of ranks that they span?

  • They would be mainly above inspector, actually.

  • Do you have any below?

  • There's one detective constable.

  • I understand that at paragraph 49 of your witness statement, you wish to make an addition, that you also know of a former Trinity Mirror reporter who has worked for a police press office; is that right?

  • The other reporter who you mention in paragraph 49, who was not a Trinity Mirror reporter --

  • -- which newspaper did that person work for?

  • Looking to the future, do you see a benefit in police staff having clear guidance as to what they can and cannot say to the media?

  • By police staff, do you mean police officers?

  • Officers and civilian staff.

  • I believe they have guidance already, but if there was a national -- I mean, there should be national guidelines for all the forces. I think Lord Justice Leveson is looking at that. And I believe that there should be a charter of open information. There should be more information being given out and officers should be trained to look for what they can give us rather than think about what they can't give us.

  • Do you think that if officers have the benefit of national guidance as to what they can and can't say to give them the confidence to speak to you, that there really will be any chilling effect if they also have to make a minimal record of the fact of contact with a journalist?

  • I'd be interested to know what the point of -- I mean, having this record of meetings with the press is obviously not going to alleviate the problem of corruption, which is obviously a very, very small problem, and if it was to flag up people meeting the press very regularly -- I mean, I've heard people saying three times a week, which obviously doesn't happen -- I don't know if it would work, because perhaps officers just wouldn't meet the press or they wouldn't log it.

  • But it would allow a monitoring of the position, wouldn't it?

  • That's truly a good thing, isn't it?

  • Hm, if it makes officers more paranoid than perhaps they are now, then it's not a good thing, and I think it's important that we have a flow of information that isn't necessarily official to find out things that, as Justin said, the police forces would never put out and we'd never know about if we didn't have this flow of unofficial information.

  • But putting aside the whistle-blower, doesn't it make more normal interactions between the police and the media that much more transparent?

  • I would have to think about it. My gut reaction is that it will freeze up information flow more than it is already is at the moment. Whether -- I mean, I think transparency at senior levels is a very good thing. I think DAC and above showing their hospitality records in all forces will alleviate problems, perhaps, that have arisen that led to this Inquiry. I think at senior level is important to have transparency.

  • Mr Pettifor, thank you very much --

  • Let me just ask you one thing. If you are right and there should be a greater willingness on the part of the police to share information, and indeed I think the Commissioner didn't in any sense dissent from that proposition, then that information becomes official information.

  • If it's official, what is the need for unofficial information?

  • I think you've hit the nail on the head there. If the official information parameter broadens so much that we have all of this information out there, then it will very much reduce the need for unofficial channels, and if police forces actually said, "Right, we've got this negative -- what could be a story, or this negative occurrence that's happened, let's put it out there, let's not worry too much about it", I think that would really help.

  • I'm not sure that you're going to persuade them to make a positive feature of the things that they're not happy about --

  • I'm not saying a positive feature; I'm saying they release this information.

  • -- but it may be that they should be more prepared to deal in the same way with potential negative stories as they deal with positive stories.

  • Which is a slightly different point. Anyway, there it is, thank you very much.

  • Right.

    Mr Browne, I don't intend in any sense to close down the concern that you have. I understand, and I understood when the evidence came, that Mr Harrison was giving hearsay of what he understood, which may or may not have been right. But you'll appreciate that I am looking at the entire area at a high level, and not wishing to condescend to a detailed analysis that would occur if each time there was a disagreement, somebody wanted to make a statement about it. That's the point that I was making.

  • I understand that, but when I raised the issue of fairness, it was simply this, that on more than one occasion allegations have been made to which there was a good response, and the allegations are publicised, they are very often reported in other organs of the press, and it's really no good, if one is concerned with fairness, that subsequently, tucked away in some written closing submission, would be the answer.

    Now, you have said --

  • Rather like a correction by the PCC.

  • Well, I won't follow that hare, but the point I'm -- was simply this, that what is clear from this article -- and I'm not going to make a speech -- is, firstly, the sequence of dates, that the article was published the day before the first briefing and two or three days before the second, which was said to have raised the question of the so-called Sunday Mirror surveillance team. In fact, what one sees from this article is, firstly, that there was no team, no specialist inquiry agent, no special forces, as was put --

  • Well, you don't necessarily see it from the article because it wouldn't necessarily be admitted in the article if it was true.

  • Well, what one sees from the article, and this accords with the evidence of Mr Justin Penrose, who was part of the team in Ipswich, is that in fact the interview did not take place in a hotel, as Mr Harrison suggested, but in fact in a pub car park, see six lines from the bottom of the first column, and lasted over two hours, as is clear from eight lines down from the top of the fourth column. So it doesn't look as though the police were surveying Mr Stevens at the time --

  • Well, you don't know that, do you, because this is where it all gets rather difficult. The police may very well have been watching him, may very well have lost him, your reporter taking him to a car park may very well have not wanted to have been seen by another reporter, not seeking to evade the police. There are all sorts of issues. That's what concerns me about investigating the facts.

  • Forgive me, it is in fact simpler than it might first appear, which is that Mr Driscoll's evidence was -- I'm so sorry, Mr Harrison's evidence was that Mr Stevens was taken to a hotel to be interviewed. In fact, he was interviewed over a period of two hours in a pub car park.

    Well, thank you for allowing me to say that.

  • All right, thank you very much. 2 o'clock.

  • (The luncheon adjournment)

  • Yes.

  • Sir, the next witness is Timothy Gordon.