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

  • MR NICK GRIFFITHS (sworn). MS ANNE PICKLES (sworn).

  • So we've moved from Suffolk to Cumbria?

  • We have, sir.

    Ms Pickles, please give your full name.

  • You have provided a witness statement to the Inquiry. The copy I have isn't signed or dated, but is that what you have in front of you?

  • Do you confirm that the contents are true to the best of your knowledge and belief?

  • Is it your evidence to the Inquiry?

  • You've been associate editor at Cumbria Newspapers since 2006; is that right?

  • You're responsible for content management across the main titles?

  • You're also a lead writer, feature writer and columnist?

  • For the past four months you've been acting editor responsible for the daily tabloid, which is the News & Star, and the Cumberland News, which is the weekly broadsheet?

  • So you're no longer acting?

  • No, I'm associate editor now still.

  • I see. Previously you were features editor and assistant editor at the Yorkshire Evening Post, Leeds?

  • Your career in journalism spans 39 years?

  • Mr Griffiths, please give your full name.

  • I'm Nick Griffiths, crime reporter of the News & Star.

  • You've also provided a witness statement to the Inquiry, again not signed or dated. Do you have that in front of you?

  • Do you confirm that the contents are true to the best of your knowledge and belief?

  • Is it your formal evidence to the Inquiry?

  • You're crime reporter for the News & Star and also the Cumberland News, and you have been since September 2004?

  • Your patch covers North and West Cumbria and Dumfries and Galloway?

  • You began your career as a journalist in 1998. You've always worked as a reporter, although before 1998 you were involved in general reporting as well as crime reporting.

  • No, I have been -- I was crime reporter from 2004 onwards. I was a general reporter before that.

  • I see. Sorry, you began your career in 1998. My mistake.

  • I would like to ask you both about your impression of the culture of relations between the media and Cumbria Constabulary. Ms Pickles, first of all, at paragraph 2 of your statement, you say you've always been a local and/or regional journalist.

  • You also state that the events which triggered this Inquiry are a world away from anything you or your colleagues at any of the newspapers for which you've worked have encountered. Would you describe then your experiences of dealing with the police?

  • As a local and regional journalist, my relationships with the police have necessarily been built on a mutual trust and respect, with both press and police understanding very well that we serve a common purpose and a common community. So as journalists, we build contacts and hope for some kind of rapport of trust with police officers. That's the nature of the game. We ask questions and we hope that they're able to answer them for us. When they are not able to answer them for us, we trust and believe that there's a very good reason for that.

  • To what extent is there trust between you and the Police Service?

  • I'm aware of no issues of mistrust, distrust.

  • In terms of ensuring that a contact remains appropriate, doesn't become overly close, where, in your view, does the boundary lie?

  • Well, it's -- there is -- there has to be -- and in Cumbria, within Cumbria Newspapers, anyway, there is -- a solid and well-regarded ethos of professionalism. You have to remember that the county we're from is large geographically, very sparsely populated. It's often said that Cumbria's a village. It is small, and police are our neighbours. They -- we understand that we are an -- the media is an extra resource to -- for the Police Service. They understand that they, through us, serve their communities. So that professional approach to our work is there every day in every possible issue. It contrasts hugely to anything that might have triggered this Inquiry.

  • Do you see that you're also there to hold the police to account?

  • Oh yes, of course. I think they understand that too.

  • Again, at paragraph 2 of your statement, you state that you believe that accountability and accessibility are the bedrock of local and regional newspapers.

  • I have been asked to ask you by a core participant whether you consider it in your judgment that the national media are accountable and accessible in the same way?

  • Well, because throughout my career in local and regional journalism I have experienced, obviously, stories and incidents that both local and national press have taken an interest in. It's always been my experience that national media are able to sweep in, do what they do and sweep out again into some sort of black hole of anonymity.

    The local press and regional press, we have to live with the people on whose lives we are reporting. We live and work with those people every day. They are part of our community. The mantra of Cumbria Newspapers is that the titles remain at the heart of the communities they serve and we have to be mindful of that.

    So the way we work and the way the national media -- not only press but also broadcasting -- work are just entirely different. Absolutely entirely different.

  • It's a quite historic example, but you do refer to the conduct of the national media during the investigation into the murders by Peter Sutcliffe.

  • And you state that the national media, to use your impression, rolled into Leeds and Bradford -- this is question 3, page 58544.

  • That they rolled into Leeds and Bradford with chequebooks to lead the national and international scrum for an exclusive at any price. You say there was a discernible shift in police/press relations:

    "Police officers became nervous of trusting journalists. Some, it was suspected, may have trusted a touch too easily."

    That was a historic example. Do you consider that the behaviour of the national media has improved since then in terms of reporting of local high-profile incidents?

  • Not significantly. That period actually was the period that formed my opinion that I should always be a local or regional journalist. I didn't -- I wasn't impressed by what I'd seen. There was no accountability then. I think high-profile incidents more recently in Cumbria have shown a similar drive by national and international media, both print and broadcasting, to grab whatever they can and then disappear again, pay for it if necessary. I've always taken the view that if you have to pay a lot of money for information, it's probably not worth having in the first place.

    So, no, I actually don't think there's been a huge improvement over the years.

  • I've been asked to ask you in relation to your last words:

    "Some, it was suspected, may have trusted a touch too easily."

    I've been asked to ask you what you mean by this, police trusting "too easily".

  • I've had to think quite hard about relationships with police officers and how they've changed since then. I mean, we're going back a long way there, you know, and I think journalists in those days were quite proud to have favourite senior police officers and some senior police officers had favourite contacts within the media, and it all did get a little chummy at some points.

    There's a completely different culture these days. I mean, we're all more aware of how dangerous those relationships can be, and really -- well, clearly it is seen elsewhere, but I don't think you see it in the regions much these days.

  • So when you're referring to officers trusting too easily, do you mean within these close relationships that you've described?

  • Mr Griffiths, please describe in your own words your impression of the culture of relations between your newspaper or the newspapers you write for and the police.

  • Generally pretty good. We're both sort of after the same ends, really. We're both there trying to get across certain information to the public. We want to transmit that to the public as well. Certainly from my own point of view, there's a trust there. It's generally working quite well.

  • Do you have any concerns about the relationship at all?

  • Not in general. I mean, there's practical things you can sort of moan about from a journalist's point of view, about speed of information and things like that, but nothing sort of fundamentally wrong. The relationship's always been fine, as long as I've been a crime reporter. They've been pretty open on, you know, most things, down from your sort of messages you want to get out to people at sort of the most basic level through to the major incidents we've had. It's worked quite well with that as well, and ongoing reorganisation of the force, they've always been open, willing to sort of go into depth in interviews and so on, yeah.

  • Ms Pickles, you give an interesting example in your statement of the police seeking advice from the media following the tragedy of the shootings in June 2010. Can you describe those circumstances?

  • Yes. You -- I'm sure you can imagine how chaotic, to some extent, that all was. It unfolded very, very quickly. My understanding of it was, from the previous editor, who was approached for this advice, that some national crime reporters had approached the police and asked for preferential treatment. They'd wanted information first, before it was given to local media. This led to the police contacting -- the police communications department contacting the editor and telling him what request had been made, did he have a problem with this, did he want to be part of -- so they were asking for off-the-record briefings, my understanding is. And his advice was: "Absolutely not. You shouldn't be favouring one section of the media above another in any incident, never mind this one, and no." But that decision had already been made by the police, so he kind of endorsed, I suppose, or reinforced that decision, so that information was made available to everyone at the same time as and when it became right to make that information available.

  • You refer to "some crime reporters". Are you able to say whether it was the Crime Reporters Association as an organisation or whether it was just certain crime reporters?

  • My understanding is that it was the Crime Reporters Association, but --

  • Journalists, presumably, from that?

  • And this evidence comes from what the former editor told you?

  • You refer to a meeting that followed, where the police briefed you on what would follow in the complex inquest hearings.

  • Yes. We had 13 inquests. You can imagine how terribly sensitive the whole thing was. I think -- as I've described, this is a small community and it was so terribly tragic, it touched everybody. The editor and, I believe, the editor of the Whitehaven News, met in my editor's office in Carlisle with some -- I believe the director of communications and a senior police officer, for a briefing on how those inquests would be ordered, those 13 inquests would be ordered, so that we could adequately staff those inquests and give contemporaneous coverage, but also to establish with us that particularly -- some particularly gruesome evidence might be reported very sensitively because people were suffering enough, to be honest with you, and that undertaking was given willingly and the sensitivity was monitored right through those proceedings by the senior editorial team, I being one of them.

  • Do you know whether that briefing had been given to the nationals?

  • I don't mean to ask you to repeat any evidence unnecessarily, but another phrase that I pick up from your statement is you describe the level of contact, or the system of contact as an "old-fashioned system of communication". What do you mean by that?

  • Close. Where -- it is -- it is kind of old-fashioned and possibly a bit cumbersome, but it does work. Nick does -- has a face-to-face meeting every morning at the police station, running through what might have happened overnight, look at what might be bubbling around in terms of crime trends, and then he comes back to the office and we share that and we look at what's going on. We staff our local courts as a matter of course. Some days we come away with nothing much, but we're there because we understand that we represent the public in a public hearing, and somebody has to be there. We use -- we make heavy use of our press office, the police press office. I'm sure we badger them a lot more than they would like, because there's only two of them. They're very tiny now because they've been subject to cuts like everybody else.

    So we're not exactly whiz bang in terms of perhaps national media and some of the perhaps big four publishers, you know, big four groups. We are local. We use our local police station, we use our local office to let us know what's going on. So, yeah, it can be a bit cumbersome. We do make heavy demands on the police, because we expect them to know what our deadlines are and meet them, and they must shout about us a lot sometimes, I think.

  • I understand that Cumbria Constabulary does use social media such as Twitter and Facebook. Do you use those as means of obtaining information from the police?

  • Well, that's -- yes. Twitter is a personal irritant. I don't know quite -- I wouldn't have thought it was -- I can't speak for the paper's policy on it but since officers have started tweeting, it's become an obstacle, really, for us. It's almost a full-time job now, monitoring Twitter for police officers' tweets, and then -- of course, once they're out, they're completely out of control. Nobody's monitoring Twitter. So it's followed by all sorts of threads and streams coming after an officer's tweet. You get a point where it may be a touch ambiguous. You go to the press office: "I've just seen a tweet that says blah, blah has happened." "We have no information on that. Try tweeting the officer involved."

    From our point of view, it wastes time and it's just it's just a blurring and a fudging of what was really quite a streamlined way of getting information. So it's a selfish point of view, but I do find -- I do find this rushing to Twitter by the police a touch irritating.

  • What's your view on that, Mr Griffiths?

  • I pretty much echo it, to be honest. There's sort of established procedures of getting information out to us, and it -- like Anne said, it's more of an irritant, really. There's little sound bites, little bits of information coming out, not a lot of substance there, and it's sometimes trouble then putting meat on the bones to get it in a format that we can use.

    We've got very sort of strict guidelines ourselves on style and checking facts and making sure everything's -- all the information's there that the reader would need, whereas these 140-character things coming out about an incident that the office themselves has probably just dealt with, in my view, is a lot more sort of -- well, it's not as grounded and not as well-rounded as we would put in the paper to give out to the public.

  • Is it not helpful in that it brings to your attention an incident that might not otherwise have come to your attention? Then you can follow it up by contacting the press office to get more information.

  • We should be getting that anyway.

  • I think if we're -- it takes us into an area, doesn't it, of information that is authorised and unauthorised? So you see a tweet that says, "I just finished a drugs raid in Maryport", 140 characters. That's about all you're going to get. There's nothing you can do with that, absolutely nothing, apart from go to the press office and say, "Can you tell me about this drugs raid in Maryport? Can you tell me what went ..." "Well, no. I don't know. There's only two of us here. One's doing -- Tweet the officer who ..." It's almost teasing. It just isn't formal release of information. Okay, it's a sound bite, it's a tip, but it's not a very useful tip if you can't authorise it afterwards.

  • What about where there isn't the 140-character limit? For instance, Facebook or one of those sorts of media, where a full report can be given to you. Are those used by the force?

  • Are they more useful?

  • Well, it's just a press release that's going up. So I suppose it's useful for getting certain information out, but press releases don't always have, in my opinion, the information they should have that the public would need. So I think the more reliable form is -- more rounded form is what the media can offer.

  • Going back to the old-fashioned system of communication, Ms Pickles has said that you will go to the police station every day to speak to people.

  • So your contact with individual officers is a daily thing.

  • Well, most days. If I can't get down there, it will be over the phone, but yes.

  • You've built up a rapport with a number of officers over the years?

  • Yeah. Well, you're working with these people. It's a daily thing. You go down and you spend 20 minutes with them going through whatever's happened overnight and what messages they want to get out, what crimes they want highlighted as really needing an appeal for information, and obviously it's like working with anybody. If you're there every day, you know, you build up a rapport.

  • You mention that you have been, on occasion, given an officer's personal mobile phone number or home telephone number. Why was that done?

  • Basically for -- there's a lot of work you do where you'll get given certain information, and perhaps it's a failing on my part, but after I've put down the phone and taken my notes, I sometimes need to ring back and check things for accuracy or I'd forgotten to ask something. Not everything you work on is to be filed in 30 minutes. Sometimes it's for a deadline in three days' time and just as a matter of course, I'll say to someone: "Are you around this afternoon? If I need more information or any clarification, are you around in the next couple of days?" They might mention they're off on holiday and -- you know, I've been doing this seven years, whatever it is now, eight years. Occasionally they'll say, "I won't have my work phone with me. Contact me on this number."

  • So it's just a case of: "Can I just check: was that guy 38? Was it in Maryport where it happened?" That kind of thing.

  • Thank you. Touching then on hospitality, probably quite briefly, Ms Pickles, you say in your statement you've never accepted or provided hospitality to or from Cumbria Constabulary?

  • No. Me, not in Cumbria.

  • So that's no tea, coffee or biscuits? Nothing like that?

  • Since I came to Cumbria, I've not really been a journalist out on the road so much. I've been more office bound, so I don't come into regular contact with police officers unless they're sort of in the street, where I live. My hairdresser's husband band is a police officer. I'm sure I've bought him a drink and I'm sure he's bought me one, but it's on that level, you know.

  • Yes. But there is a policy within the newspaper, perhaps a theoretical one, that if you do accept hospitality it needs to be signed off by the editor or, if the editor accepts hospitality, by the chief executive?

  • That's right. If Nick spends any money on a police officer, he submits his expenses. I or the editor will authorise those. Everybody knows where money has been spent. Nick's expenditure, I have to say, is very modest.

  • Mr Griffiths, you refer to cups of coffee --

  • -- that might be bought for you if you're attending the police station for a briefing or an interview?

  • You do refer to, on occasion, being invited to a leaving party or a social occasion where you say you might be bought a pint out of politeness or you buy a pint out of politeness?

  • You say "leaving parties". What other social occasions?

  • I mean, just to clarify on this, I mean in the seven years or whatever I've been doing this, I can probably count on one hand the amount of time I've been on these occasions, and -- someone might be leaving who I know, moving up, retiring. Occasionally the department who I deal with in the morning might have a sort of after works drinks and I'm invited along, pop along for a couple of pints and it's what you do, isn't it? You walk in and you say, "Do you want a pint?"

  • This isn't in an effort to sort of --

  • Is work ever discussed at those sort of occasions?

  • They might talk about work, but only the way you talk about work with your colleagues, moaning about it, the frustration you get. I'm not there saying, "Give me a list of all the drug busts you're going to do in the next three weeks."

  • Have you ever received information on one of those occasions that you've wanted to print or have printed?

  • No, because we don't talk about things like that.

  • Have you, Mr Griffiths, ever had experience of a police officer or member of police staff putting any pressure on you to water down a story or hide any information on the ground that it would be unfavourable to that officer or the organisation?

  • No, not that I can think of. There are occasions where you come across information and you then go to the officer who you know is dealing with a particular case and they might say, "For operational reasons, would you please not print this until further" -- and we'll abide by that because we're not in the business of screwing up police operations.

  • Yes, but not: "Please don't put this because it makes us look bad", that sort of thing?

  • No, I've never -- not that I can remember. I mean, you know, I deal with X amount of people on an average and if we did have that, we would never do that anyway.

  • No. I was asking whether you'd experienced that, rather than --

  • Are you aware of any other reporters having such an experience?

  • Have you had experience of receiving what might be termed "leaked information", information that an officer or member of police staff would be prohibited from sharing with you?

  • I don't know about prohibited, because, you know, no one's ever come to me and said, "Here's this, I'm not supposed to give you it." We've had things ahead of things happening. For instance, I mention in my statement about sometimes being given the heads up on certain incidents or ongoing stories where, for instance, you could have had a serious incident -- series of front-page stories with appeals for information that could put fear of crime out there and then the police can pool the results and they've arrested or charged someone and they're aware that our deadlines are very tight, so they might say, "There's a press release coming out in an hour on this, can you hold off with the presses", as it were, "as long as possible?" But not leaked. You know, not: "I'm giving you this, but you shouldn't be having this."

  • How do you receive those heads up? By what form of communication?

  • Just a quick phone call.

  • Do you get the impression it's just to you, as a local trusted journalist, or is it circulated more widely?

  • I don't know. It's not one of the questions I usually ask.

  • I'd like to ask you both about off-the-record communications. Ms Pickles, you state that off-the-record briefings and communications do occur. In what instances have you experienced those?

  • I think we've had off-the-record guidance, which has been very useful. One example I can think of was when there was a particularly vicious attack on a man on a filling station forecourt by three men, I believe, with baseball bats. Really nasty. He was very, very seriously injured, hospital. For some time it wasn't known whether he would live or die, and the three ran off, escaped. We were given guidance that we shouldn't report this as these three guys running amok in Carlisle and therefore the whole of the city ought to be afraid of them, the inference being that we risked causing an awful lot of fear, perception of fear, when that was not necessary.

    I think we've been given also guidance on how best to avoid identifying victims of sex crime. This is a small community, as I described, and communities within communities may only have, you know, a couple of streets. Where it happened may only have one teenage girl living there. So we've been given those kind of off-the-record -- I would also call them heads up, but for a very, very good reason: to inform our reporting, really, so that we can best accurately report what has happened.

  • When you say "off the record", do you mean not for publication?

  • I do. That's what I mean, yes.

  • Mr Griffiths, I understand from your statement that you've had similar experiences where you've been given information. You give an example of where the police are aware of a quite serious car crash that could prove to be fatal.

  • And you were informed that that might be the case, so that you approach matters more sensitively?

  • You say that you would then take greater care approaching the family because they may have just been informed of a fatality. So that sort of --

  • You give the same example as well about not inadvertently identifying victims. You were given some guidance to make sure you didn't?

  • On the question of training -- I just touch on that very briefly -- you state you've received on-the-job training on dealings with the police.

  • Has this included any guidance on the maintenance of appropriate relationships, where the boundaries lie and that sort of thing? Or perhaps from your evidence it's not been necessary?

  • Yeah, it's never relevant been an issue, to be honest. You just sort of pick it up as you go. No, sorry, that's wrong; you're given training but it's not a formal day-long training of: this is the do's and don'ts. When you're a young reporter, you ask other reporters, you ask your news editor: "What should I do with this? What should I do with that?" and it sort of forms your training as you go along.

  • Returning to Cumbria Constabulary's media operation in response to the shooting in June 2010. It's obviously a very large-scale operation to manage. Do either of you have any comments to make to the force's handling of the media, whether positive or negative?

  • I thought it was very positive. We didn't want to spend a lot of time harassing victims' families, knocking on doors, looking for the screaming sensational headlines. As I've said before -- I know I'm repeating myself, it must be boring, but we have to live with these people and we didn't want to cause them any further distress. So we worked very closely with the police liaison team, who were extremely helpful in sourcing photographs, tributes and any information they thought we might need, without us having to go camping on people's door steps or occupying Whitehaven, so that, for all it was a dreadful, dreadful incident, was perversely, I know, an extremely successful police/local media operation.

  • Do you agree with that, Mr Griffiths?

  • Yeah, I do agree with that, yeah.

  • In terms of the future -- you've both spoken very positively about the present, but Ms Pickles first, do you think any changes do need to be made to -- I appreciate you don't feel that the relationships that you have need any kind of recalibration, but do you feel that police forces should have any systems for monitoring or auditing relationships between officers and reporters?

  • I think they already are, as far as they should be. I think the relationships are monitored. They're understood. We each know and understand our role in supplying the public with the information to which it is entitled, and those relationships are founded on that understanding and that knowledge. I don't believe it is broken. Frankly, I don't see what purpose can be served by a police officer filling in a form every time he speaks to a journalist or she speaks to a journalist. And I can't -- I know it's -- I agree it's healthy to review all relationships in this area from time to time. It has to be healthy and it's good to look at it and flush out the bad apples, but you know, there aren't very many of those and I don't know why the rogue miscreants weren't just dealt with existing law and without having to haul the rest of the industry over the coals for it.

    I think the relationship we have works well. It's built on trust, it's built on respect and it is professional. I would like to see a better-staffed press office, more keenly conversant with media deadlines that are not just print deadlines but online deadlines. I mean, every -- even as small as that office is, a 24-hour operation now. Two people in a press office for Cumbria Constabulary is simply not enough.

    I agree with the principle of press offices because I think they're extremely helpful and when they're working well, are just invaluable, but it ain't big enough, and that's the only change I would make, to be absolutely honest with you. I don't think there's any good reason to drive a wedge between local media and local police officers.

  • Mr Griffiths, do you have anything to add?

  • I'd echo that again. From a purely practical point of view, since I'm the one having to stand up stories in the morning, I'd just say extra red tape, another form to fill out, would, like Anne said, just put another barrier up. I think more often than not, officers, if they're worried about having to fill out another form, just wouldn't take your call. Most of the time those calls are just to sort of clarify incidents, inform the reporting as much as possible.

  • What if there's no form to fill out, if it's just a question of the officer recording time, date, who they've spoken to, the fact of the contact in a pocket notebook?

  • Well, if it's that, I don't think it's a massive problem, but I just think that -- I think any more sort of -- anything more to fill out just means more work for officers and they wouldn't want to undertake that extra work.

  • Is there anything else either of you would like to add?

  • Just that whether it's a form or a tick box or whatever, sticking a red star on a piece of paper, it is distancing two people, two organisations, who should be working closely together to the same end, and I don't believe that can be good in a community such as ours.

  • Thank you. Those are my questions.

  • Sorry, can I just clarify something from before? When you asked that question about do I ever ask officers whether to keep it just to myself or to --

  • It's not that I don't want it kept to myself, because obviously my job's to get stories for the newspaper. It's just my own personal style is not to ask that, because I often find that if you flag it up, if it's something that might be of interest to other media, it puts an idea in their head to do it. I just wanted to clarify that in case I was misunderstood.

  • Ms Pickles, of course, we're not just thinking about the relationship between the Cumbria police and the journalists in the newspaper for which you work.

  • I readily recognise your observation that we have to live with the people who we're serving, so do I get the picture that you develop relationships with your community -- I've heard before that local newspapers develop relationships with the communities which they serve, and with the people within those communities. Then there's a big story, and along come the national press, and they trample over everybody's garden, literally and metaphorically.

  • They grab what they can, then the next day they've gone and leave you to replant the flowers.

  • Mm-hm, that's exactly right.

  • And as a result, damage the relationship which you nurture and have to build up again?

  • They do have to be build up again. They do, and every time there's another -- for want of another word -- another fuss about this type of behaviour, we get the backlash. So a straightforward court report will perhaps, as an example -- and it's not a fictitious one. This is real. Some guy's gone down for his crime and his mother rings the news desk and says, "He didn't mean to beat him up. He's a good lad, really, my son, and I know what you people are like because I've read what's happening with journalists." So we've had: "I've been watching the Leveson Inquiry. I know how you people work."

    Now, the stain from what has happened to trigger this Inquiry and a number of reports tends to spread across all sections of the media.

  • Therefore it's rather important, isn't it, to make sure that the context is described so that people can understand precisely what we're addressing, but if I could take your own two examples, the Yorkshire Ripper was when? How many years ago? I hate to ask you.

  • Yes, it was, a very long time ago, and yet you said in relation to the recent case in Cumbria to do with Mr Bird, you saw similar sorts of behaviour.

  • So here we are, in 20, nearly 30 years. It's the same thing. Do you think that's healthy?

  • That isn't healthy or appropriate.

  • It so happens I agree with you. So one has to find a way -- do you agree? -- of trying to cope with the excesses while preserving what is not merely valuable but critical for local communities. You are the ones that report the local football matches, you're the ones that go into the local schools, you're the ones that report on the courts, the health authorities, the local authorities. It's critical that you're able to do it.

  • Absolutely necessary.

  • I didn't think you'd disagree with that.

  • So would you agree the trick is going to be to find a way is that allows you to do what you do well, and to develop the relationship that works well for your community, while at the same time preventing that which does not work within the public interest?

  • That is my sincere hope for the outcome of this Inquiry.

  • Well, it's my hope as well, so we can agree on that.

  • But the question then arises how you do it. I'm not suggesting that either you or the police or anybody should fill out a great form just because your reporter wants to know a bit of news, wants to speak to the community officer that deals with vandalism on that estate or that sort of thing. But if you're working within a very small environment, it's probably easier to keep an eye on what everybody's doing.

  • If you're working in a very large environment, it's not merely not easy; it's probably absolutely impossible.

  • So I want to know whether you can help me -- and it may be you can't, but I want to give you the opportunity of devising a mechanism which encourages all that is good that you've spoken of: openness and transparency of the police to the press and a positive relationship dependent upon trust and mutual co-operation for the benefit of the community. It does all that --

  • -- but at the same time does not simply generate a complete free-for-all where nobody knows really what's going on and can therefore exercise any measure of control. That's the reason behind suggesting -- and it's only a suggestion, I'm not there, I'm listening and thinking -- that strategic issues should be dealt with by an appropriate ranked officer.

  • And local issues by anybody who has the authority to deal with them. By that, I mean the knowledge -- so they're not just talking off the top of their heads; they know what they're talking about, and the fact that that is operating is demonstrable in some way. That's what I'm trying to get to.

  • Yes. There's responsibility too, though, for closer control in newsrooms and in news organisations on how journalists approach those relationships and how they work. I think we've found ourselves here through an absence of perhaps control, perhaps concern, perhaps belief in the faith that a newspaper owes not only the police and politicians and the system and democracy, but its readers. You know, it's quite clear we're in a bad place now in some sections of the media, but I still think a lot of that, you know, the media has to blame itself for and take responsibility for.

  • I think you're probably absolutely right. I say "probably" because I have to keep an open mind to the very end. You're right in one sense: the rogue miscreants could have been hauled over the coals. But this isn't just criminality.

  • Well, that's the question.

  • It's actually not entirely straightforward --

  • -- to get people to address those issues within a mindset that is either: "We're doing everything right -- maybe others are not, but we are", or: "Our readers know best, and if our readers don't like the paper they won't buy it", which might justify anything.

  • If there's anything else you would like to offer on this topic, I'd be interested, but I understand your point and I absolutely understand that it is of critical importance to celebrate the enormous contribution that regional and local journalists make to their communities and not to forget that when one deals with the other side of the coin.

  • I can only say to those who telephone your office and say, "Well, we know what you're like" that it's far more nuanced than that.

  • Thank you. Thank you both very much.

  • Sir, would you like to take a short break before the next witnesses or shall I call --

  • Are they coming together?

  • Very good. I think Mr Mackey is going to get rather more, because he has other duties now, so I warn him. All right. Five minutes.

  • (A short break)

  • Sir, the next witnesses are Mr Mackey and Ms Shearer.