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

  • DAC SUE AKERS (recalled).

  • Thank you very much, I'm very grateful to you, Ms Akers.

  • Thank you, sir. We thought it was important.

  • Bear with me one moment. I have to find your statement. My apologies, I've put it somewhere too safe.

  • Only if you have a spare one, Mr Garnham.

  • I know it by heart.

  • You know it by heart?

    No, take that one. I don't want to trust Mr Garnham's memory. Right.

  • You have kindly provided a second witness statement, Deputy Assistant Commissioner. It's dated 24 February. The Inquiry is very grateful for it. There is a statement of truth in the usual form and you've signed the statement and this is your formal further evidence to the Inquiry; is that right?

  • Yes, it is. I wonder, before we begin, whether I could, having had the opportunity to read over the statement again last night -- it was a rushed statement, as you know, at the end of last week -- whether I might just make a few amendments now?

  • Some corrections. Firstly, there are some reference to "cash payments". I'd like that word "cash" to be interpreted more widely to incorporate, as it does occasionally, cheques.

    Secondly, on paragraph 21, when we talk about assessment of public interest, I'd like the second line to read:

    "Essentially, it is first for the CPS and then for a judge to make the final assessment in relation to whether there is a public interest in a specific disclosure."

  • At paragraph 5, there's just a simple typo. The last line:

    "Given the issues raised by Article 10 of the Human Rights Convention ..."

    Comma, "legal advice", not full stop.

  • A more general point. Although I haven't specifically stated throughout the statement, wherever payments or offences are referred to, it should be read, obviously, as alleged, as nothing is yet proved.

  • And finally, when you come to paragraph 16, I'd like to explain what I mean by "network", in case it isn't obvious.

  • Thank you. The individual typographical changes should be made to the statement before it is put online, so that we can correct that. The other matters we'll take into account as Ms Akers gives evidence. Thank you.

  • Deputy Assistant Commissioner, you told us earlier in the month, I think it was 6 February, what the scope of Operation Elveden is, and you deal with that again in paragraph 2 of your statement.

    The role of the Management and Standards Committee, an independent body outside of News International, have they been of great assistance to you in taking Operation Elveden forward?

  • They have. That's because of their independence from News International, and it's that set-up that I hope goes a long way to allay some criticisms that have been made about how it's perceived that it can't be necessarily an independent inquiry. The fact that we are dealing with the MSC directly and not News International I think should make any contention that it isn't independent without foundation.

  • Thank you. You touch on that specifically under paragraph 46 your statement.

  • In paragraph 5, you make it clear that the terms of reference of Elveden were initially set in relation to payments to police officers by News International staff only, but it's always been your intention to follow the evidence where it takes us, and we're about to hear that the evidence has taken you further. Can you just identify, please, the possible criminal offences which are involved here? Corruption under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906?

  • Misconduct in public office, which I think is a common law offence; is that right?

  • And then there's the conspiracy --

  • Which I think is probably under the Criminal Law Act; is that correct?

  • And the effect of Article 10 of the Convention means that there are public interest considerations which you are taking into account at all stages; is that right?

  • That's correct, yes.

  • Have you passed by paragraph 3, Mr Jay? Because if you have, there's a question I'd like to ask about it.

    You make the point that the MSC respond to requests for information from the police which are relevant to your enquiries, but it's not to uncover legitimate sources. I'd just like to understand how that works, if I could. Under PACE, before you're entitled to obtain a warrant, you have to have tried other methods of obtaining the information. I'd just like to understand the context and the MO, if you like, given the suggestion that actually the MSC are simply dumping all sorts of material, irrespective of Article 10 considerations, on the police, or the extent to which it's actually responsive to police enquiries. Do if you understand what I'm trying to investigate?

  • Yes, absolutely. The whole objective is to identify criminality and it's not to identify legitimate sources from journalists, and as such, the MSC don't provide us with any material that would indeed do that. So they seek to protect journalistic sources, legitimate ones, at all times.

  • And they are responsive to you rather than proactive towards you or what?

  • Both, sir. They are conducting their own review internally, and when they come across material, they will produce it to us and then we conduct our own enquiries, and as a result of which we will then make demands of them.

  • You explain in paragraph 7 that in relation to certain categories of information, it comes to you unredacted, but in relation to other categories of information, specifically the system by which cash payments are made, it's provided to you redacted, but then you, on further request, if there's evidence which can justify identifying the source, they're then provided to you unredacted; is that right?

  • In paragraph 8, you begin to deal with the way in which Operation Elveden has progressed. 20 June 2011, material was disclosed which identified an ex-News of the World journalist, who may have paid the police for information. In your own words, what has happened to that line of enquiry?

  • We've identified a number of ex-senior managers who were -- and indeed arrested them -- for authorising or facilitating the payments, but we haven't yet identified the police officers.

  • In paragraph 9 you deal with the arrest of a journalist in December 2011. Again, in your own words, how did that arise, please?

  • That came, again, through disclosure of a large quantity of material which was volumes of business records that we went through. Very time-consuming, and again, we haven't as yet arrested any police officers or police staff as a result of that analysis.

  • Then in paragraph 10, following email searches, a police officer from the MPS specialist operations directorate was identified, and he or she was seeking payments from journalists within the News of the World. That officer was arrested in December?

  • Arrested in December.

  • Thank you. You-make it clear in paragraph 11 the searches of News of the World emails continues. Is this the 300 -- it's billion, I think, emails in all; is that right?

  • Sorry. One order of magnitude too many.

  • I think it's News International, not just exclusively News of the World.

  • Thank you. At paragraph 12, you say that last year the MCS initiated of their own volition an internal review of the Sun newspaper. This review had not been requested by the MPS, and to paraphrase, they found some suspicious emails, which were provided to you and then there were some arrests?

  • In terms of the sequence of arrests, could you identify those for us, please?

  • One Sun journalist arrested in November last year. We then had further disclosure from the MSC on the 18th and 24 January this year, and these disclosures led to arrests made on 28 January of four Sun or News International employees and one serving police officer, and then a further operation on Saturday, 11 February this year, led to the arrest of a further five Sun employees, another serving police officer, one member of the MOD and an army officer. There was also a relative of one of the public officials who was arrested acting as a conduit to hide the cheque payment to that person.

  • Thank you. Paragraph 13, please. This explains, in part at least, why the arrests were carried out. You, of course, had sufficient information to justify the arrests but you were seeking further information, or possibly further information; is that right?

  • Paragraph 14:

    "The purpose of police action to date has been proactively to investigate the criminality which has been identified. The aim has never been to threaten the existence of the Sun. To this end, there has been liaison with the MSC to take account of business risks to the Sun newspaper, hence searches being made at the Sun offices on a Saturday when the office would be empty."

  • Of course, the position has changed a bit with the publication of the Sun on Sunday.

  • But it was certainly true at the time --

  • That was true at the time.

  • -- this was being considered.

    Paragraph 16, please. Could you paraphrase that to us in your own words.

  • Yes. The payments have been made not only to police officers but to a wide range of public officials. So there are categories as well as police: military, health, government, prison and others. This suggests that payments were being made to public officials who were in all areas of public life.

    I have said that the current assessment is that it reveals a network of corrupted officials. When I say "network", I don't necessarily mean -- and I don't mean -- that the officials are in contact with each other; more that the journalists had a network upon which to call at various strategic places across public life.

    There also appears to have been a culture at the Sun of illegal payments, and systems have been created to facilitate those payments, whilst hiding the identity of the officials receiving the money. The emails indicate that payments to sources were openly referred to within the Sun, in which case the source is not named, but rather the category "public official" is identified, rather than the name.

  • Yes. In paragraph 17, you set out material which indicates that the journalists involved were well aware that what they were doing was unlawful according to the criminal law; is that right?

  • Yes, and that's really by reference to comments being made in staff risking losing their pension or their job, the need for care and the need for cash payments.

    There's also an indication of what we would describe as "tradecraft"; in other words, hiding the cash payments to sources by making them to a friend or relative of the source, and I have referred to that earlier when I said we've arrested an individual who'd acted as a conduit.

    Further evidence is that the authority level for these type of payments was made at a very senior level -- or a senior level within the newspaper.

  • Yes. In paragraph 18, you fairly make the point -- it was touched on in your earlier evidence -- that it's much easier to identify the journalist than the public official and that's why more journalists have been arrested than public officials; is that right?

  • Exactly. It is hoped that as we progress and do more enquiries that we will identify corrupt public officials, but at the moment certainly that's true.

  • Thank you.

    Obviously you're not going to set out your future strategy so the that it's emblazoned in the public domain, but in paragraph 20 you've set out general examples of the sort of criminality that we are concerned with here, and again, because this is very important --

  • Or the inferences that you think are possible to draw. That's the fair approach to this, isn't it? Ultimately, it's not your decision, as you made clear in the beginning of your evidence, but to provide a context -- I think that's what you're doing in paragraph 20?

  • Thank you. So in paragraph 20, Deputy Assistant Commissioner, is the material you're drawing to the Inquiry's attention?

  • They're certainly not ones which involved just the odd drink or a meal to police officers or other public officials. These are cases in which arrests have been made involving the delivery of regular, frequent and sometimes significant sums of money to small numbers of public officials by journalists. Some of the initial emails reveal, upon analysis, that multiple payments have been made to individuals amounting to thousands of pounds. In one case, over a period of several years, this amounts to in excess of £80,000.

    There's also mention in some emails of public officials being placed on retainers, and this is also a line of enquiry that we're exploring. One of the arrested journalists, for example, has, over several year, received over £150,000 in cash to pay his sources, a number of whom were public officials. Not all, but a number.

  • Thank you. This gives us an idea of the seriousness of these matters.

    At paragraph 21, you deal with public interest issues. Again, because this is important, could we have this in your own words, please, Deputy Assistant Commissioner?

  • As we said earlier, we're very mindful of Article 10 and the issues regarding public interest, and we work very closely with the CPS to look at every strand of our investigation and assess the public interest. Ultimately, it's not for me. It is first for the CPS and then for a judge to make the final assessment, but we are looking at public interest at the earlier stages as well as the later stages.

    What I can indicate is that the vast majority of the disclosures that have been made have led to stories which I would describe as salacious gossip, rather than anything that could be remotely regarded as in the public interest, and they often involve a breach of trust by the public official and an invasion into the privacy of the subject of the newspaper article.

  • Is that because you're able to link particular payments to particular articles?

  • Yes, we can, sir. That's the -- that goes really to the heart of the investigation.

  • In paragraph 22, you reemphasise a point you've made earlier, but again it's important: mindful of the need to protect genuine journalistic sources but in seeking to identify corrupt relationships, it is necessary to probe this sensitive area.

  • Yes, absolutely, and again, the MSC make sure they manage the disclosures for that reason and we don't seek to act against such sources.

  • Thank you very much, Ms Akers.

  • Thank you very much. What you do is you provide a context within which I must now consider the rest of this part of the Inquiry. I appreciate that this context is fast-changing, and I therefore would be grateful if, as we progress and as you progress, to such extent as it is not, in any sense, damaging to your investigation or to any subsequent prosecution, you would be prepared to keep me informed as to what's going on.

  • Of course, of course.

  • Because the more that I can provide the context and understand the context, then the better to help devise mechanisms to put in place that avoid the risk of this happening in the future.

    So number one, I absolutely do not wish to prejudice your investigations or a prosecution, if there is to be one. But number two, the more that you can keep us informed, for me, the better.

  • Thank you very much and thank you again for being prepared to come this morning.

  • Thank you.

    Well, before we hear from Mr Garnham and Mr Phillips, it's probably sensible just to have five minutes for the shorthand writer to recover from the morning. Thank you.

  • (A short break)

  • Thank you very much. Yes, Mr Garnham?