Sir, at the beginning of this Inquiry, the MPS emphasised that it came here to assist not obstruct, to self-criticise and not to justify, and to try and improve rather than to hide. The MPS has done everything it can to be open and transparent, willing to acknowledge mistakes and learn from the errors which the Inquiry exposes.
In our written closing submissions for Module 2 of 11 May 2012 and our closing submissions for Module 3 of 17 July, the MPS attempted to summarise the evidence heard by you and the Inquiry insofar as it was relevant to the MPS or the relationships between the MPS and the press.
We frankly admit that there have been incidents which have led to a plain perception of cosiness between particular senior MPS officers and particular journalists. The MPS also acknowledge that the decisions in July 2009 and September 2010 not to reopen the phone hacking investigation were taken too quickly and with a defensive and closed mindset.
However, the MPS also submits that it's clear from the evidence you've heard that the vast majority of contact between the police and the media has been and continues to be sensible, constructive and proper. There has been nothing to suggest corruption on anything other than the rarest of occasions, and those rare occasions have been the subject of proper investigation and proper sanction.
The evidence received by the Inquiry unequivocally demonstrates, we submit, that there was no relationship between senior officers and journalists that was in fact corrupt. There was no cosiness or inappropriately close relationships that in fact tainted police decision-making. More specifically, we say, the evidence has demonstrated that the phone hacking investigation was not at any stage limited because of pressure from or fear of the media, whether News International or the press more broadly.
Similarly, we submit, the evidence has demonstrated that the decisions in 2009 and 2010 not to reopen the investigation were not in fact influenced by relationships between senior officers and News International.
The MPS has addressed these points in detail in its written submissions and I will not repeat those submissions here. However, we are grateful for the opportunity briefly to address orally some assertions and criticisms made by other core participants in their written submissions. In particular, sir, I want to deal today with two issues, which we say are critical to any proper analysis of the evidence.
First, the danger of conflating the perception of wrongdoing with its reality, and secondly, inaccuracy concerning the current work of the MPS to implement changes to its media relations, policy and practice.
The written submissions of the core participant victims in relation to Module 2 of 28 May cover much of the same ground as our submissions. Like us, the CPVs make a distinction between the perception that there were corrupt or inappropriate relationships between the police and the press and the reality of such relationships. However, in our submission the CPVs have at numerous points conflated or confused the two. That, we submit, is both unhelpful and potentially dangerous.
At paragraph 2 of their submissions, the CPVs say that:
"Perception is as important as reality."
With respect, that cannot be correct. A perception that senior officers are too close to journalists is indeed a source for concern. The MPS well recognises the damage that such a perception has caused and acknowledges the importance of ensuring that it doesn't arise in the future. However, had the Inquiry uncovered evidence of actual corruption of senior police officers or of inappropriate relationships with journalists actually causing different operational decisions to be made, it would, we submit, rightly be even more concerned about this than about the perception that some relationships were unduly close.
Saying that, sir, is not to downplay the importance of perception. It simply recognises the obvious truth that actual corruption or relationships which actually affect police decision-making would be worse. To say that the perception of corruption and real corruption are equally important is simply not valid.
The CPVs say perception is so important because perception that the police are corrupt can lead to a loss of public confidence in the police and a perception that the press can act with impunity, which can lead to a worsening behaviour by the press. We agree. The same point has been made by many witnesses to this Inquiry.
However, asserting that there is widespread corruption in the police and that inappropriate relationships between police and press have compromised police independence when the evidence doesn't demonstrate that is unjust and simply serves to worsen the perception. In short, it creates the very problem that the CPVs are so keen to avoid.
That, we submit with respect, is precisely what the CPVs have done on a number of occasions in their submissions.
Having recognised the distinction between perception and reality, and, we say, wrongly asserted that perception is just as important, the CPVs then assert that a number of senior police officers did in fact become too close to reporters and failed as a consequence of that closeness fully to investigate or disclose evidence of media wrongdoing. In particular, they assert that in 2006, 2009 and 2010 close relationships with News International journalists and editors actually affected police decisions.
In doing so, the CPVs are eliding the perception of police independence being compromised with the reality of such compromise. That's clear from phrases such as "independence or at least the appearance of independence was compromised", paragraph 32 of the CPVs' submission.
They have conflated the two and asserted that because there may have been occasions when it appeared that certain senior police officers' independence was affected, it was in fact affected. That plainly doesn't follow.