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

  • Mr Barr, in the light of further reports in the media, I begun wish to make it clear that suggestions or possibilities that I put to witnesses should not be taken as insight into the proposals that I intend to make. I repeat that if change is required, one of the purposes of this Inquiry is to devise a system or series of proposals that balance the legitimate interests of the free press and the right of free speech on the one hand, and the legitimate interests of affected members of the public on the other.

    It is critical that whatever comes of this Inquiry works for both. One of the ways of doing that is to try out ideas coming from different directions to test reactions. By asking these questions in public, everyone hears them and all can consider what is worth pursuing and of value, and what has unforeseen consequences that will work against the ultimate public interest. It is in that spirit that suggestions put to witnesses must be considered. I am presently minded to use module four to focus on emerging findings. I hope that I do not have to repeat this clarification yet again.

    In that context, I have taken on board what a number of editors have said about the operation of the criminal law. I made it clear that I considered it highly unlikely that a proposal coming out of an Inquiry into conduct, practice and ethics of the press, set up after serious criticism of the way in which the press, and in particular of the News of the World, had operated, would lead to a suggestion that the law should be amended to decriminalise such conduct. On the other hand, there is legitimate concern that clarity might be needed in relation to investigations which are undeniably in the public interest and which could lead to breaches of the law.

    I have always appreciated that the code for crown prosecutes requires the public interest to be considered before any prosecution is undertaken, and in the light of the circumstances, I've caused a notice to be issued to the Director of Public Prosecutions under section 21 of the Inquiries Act 2005 asking for evidence about the approach to public interest when the activities of a journalist are being considered, and for detail as to any present policy or guidance. I have also asked for a draft policy, which can be discussed in evidence.

    Having said that, whatever view I might ultimately form, I make it clear at this stage, before the DPP responds to my notice, that it will never be a matter for me to issue such a policy. The responsibility for deciding whether to issue guidance, and if so in what form, will remain with the director in the light of such consultations that he thinks are appropriate.

    I anticipate that Mr Starmer will give evidence on this issue before I conclude module one. This will be in addition to any evidence that he might be asked to provide in relation to module two and the chronology of investigations into the activities at News International.

    Thank you.

  • Thank you, sir, and good morning. The witnesses we are going to hear from today are Mark Thompson, the Director General of the BBC, Lord Patten, the chairman of the BBC Trust, Mr Jim Gray, who is the editor of Channel 4 News and Mr John Battle, who is head of compliance at ITN.

    There are a number of witnesses to be taken as read. From the BBC, these include Greg Dyke, Nicholas Eldred, Robert Peston, Nicholas Robinson and Richard Watson. From ITN: Tom Bradby, Maggie Carver, Gary Gibbon, John Hardy and David Mannion. From Sky: Matthew Hibbert.

    There is also an agreed summary of the BBC's evidence, which is going to be posted onto the website; that's to say, an agreed summary of their documentary evidence.

  • Thank you. Thank you very much to all those who have put effort into preparing these statements and summaries. They are all of value. If one took each witness in turn, it would inevitably mean that this Inquiry would take a period of time which would be unsatisfactory.

  • Indeed, sir.

    Can I now call Mr Thompson?