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

  • MS AMANDA HIRST (affirmed).

  • May I invite you, please, to turn up your witness statement, which is signed and dated by you on 28 February of this year. Is this your true evidence to the Inquiry?

  • In terms of who you are, you are head of corporate communications at the Avon and Somerset constabulary. You have been since April 2009. You have previous experience in the public sector and you report, as indeed do others in your position, to the Deputy Chief Constable. Is that all correct?

  • May I ask you, please, about question 6, first of all, page 10511. You say:

    "All requests for media interviews with Avon and Somerset police officers and staff are managed through CCD."

    Do you have knowledge or experience of journalists making direct contact with police officers which you learn about subsequently?

  • That does happen occasionally, but those officers would contact members of my team before speaking to journalists, and we would support them in doing that.

  • In your own words, please, what are the advantages of having a central point, which is you, for the dissemination of information to the media?

  • I think in this day and age, especially where we have 24-hour media and social media and a high level of media enquiries coming in, it makes an awful lot of sense for them to be managed through one point. Obviously, quite often one enquiry from a journalist may well be replicated over a number of different occasions by different journalists, therefore from the point of view of consistency and just relieving the officers so that they can continue with the job they need to do, it makes more sense.

  • In paragraph 8, you make it clear that your team's dealing with the media is generally positive. There can be tensions from time to time -- that's normal, you say -- but you hint or suggest that the relationship tends to be better with the local, regional and some national crime reporters rather than generalist reporters. Is that right?

  • That is correct. I think we obviously have a lot more contact with local and regional reporters, and we have a number of reporters who are regional representatives for a lot of the national papers and we have regular contact with them as well.

  • If one were to take a paper such as the Sun, do they have a regional reporter?

  • Is your relationship with him or her a good one?

  • I would say it's a reasonable relationship, yes.

  • Is it simply a case that because you get to know the local and regional members of the press better, your relationship is better or is it because there's a different standard of practice between the regionals and the nationals? How would you define that?

  • I think it's a combination of both. We obviously work on a very regular basis with local and regional journalists because they're an important tool for us in feeding information into the community and reassuring the public and so on, and they also have a better understanding of what we do on a day to day basis and the communities that we serve, whereas the national media will quite often come in, report and then go away again. So there's quite a significant difference between the two.

  • Thank you. May I move forward, please, to question 13, page 10514. The question was:

    "What is the media's attitude towards the press office?"

    You say:

    "On a day-to-day basis, the attitude is pretty positive but I think it is fair to say that the media suffer the existence of a corporate communications department/press office. Any journalist would say that their preference is to deal directly with an individual officer because they believe that they would get more from them. We know from direct conversations with individual journalists subsequent to the Joanna Yeates murder investigation that the media became particularly frustrated by the perceived barrier of the CCD because of the paucity of information they felt they received from us."

    That's clearly a frank answer, Ms Hirst. Just two points on it. The direct conversations with individual journalists, were these regional or national journalists?

  • In the context of the Joanna Yeates investigation, we dealt with regional, national and some international journalists.

  • The reference to their feeling that they were receiving from you a paucity of information, do you feel that there was any justification behind the perception they had?

  • I think in the Joanna Yeates case, it was unusual in the sense, as Mr Jones has already said, that it happened at a time of the year when there was an awful lot of airtime and print space to fill and there wasn't a lot of other things about. I also think that on that -- in those occasions, obviously there is significant pressure from journalists to answer an unrelenting number of press enquiries, and it becomes very difficult.

  • The point that Mr Jones made as well was that there was a huge amount of speculation around this case, and in order not to foment that speculation and attempt to reduce it, the policy was to cease to engage as fully as you might have wished. Was that also a factor?

  • That was, and in my statement I talk about the issue of jigsaw identification and I think it's the first time that we'd come across that in the context of a case that wasn't relating to child victims. In this case it was actually very different because we had many, many journalists asking numerous questions and making numerous enquiries on a day-to-day basis, and through a process of elimination there was a concern that they would get to the heart of the investigation. So we did draw a line in the sand at one stage and we continued to respond where we could, where we felt it was appropriate, always in consultation with the SIO, and of course, I discussed that at the daily meetings with the Chief Constable and the ACC, but on some things we did say we would neither confirm nor deny.

  • Question 26 next, please. Page 10518. I'm not covering all the ground in your statement. You've given very full and clear answers to many questions. I'm just dealing with matters which may require some elaboration or clarification.

    The question here relates to training, and your answer is:

    "Each new member of corporate communications staff receives a personal induction by me and is made fully aware of the need to maintain appropriate relationships with the media."

    Are there any particular messages which you give during this personal induction, and are there occasions on which the recipient of those messages is ever surprised by what you say because it might be counter-intuitive or for whatever other reason?

  • The key messages are around openness, honesty and proportionality and working to the rules and the letter of the law, which I think are very important. I can't think of any member of staff who has come into the department since I've been head who has been surprised at that. I think it's common practice and recognised that the relationship between media relations officers, communications officers and the media has to be -- there has to be a bit of distance and a bit of a firewall between the two.

  • To some extent, that description -- openness, honesty, proportionality, working to the rules and the letter of the law -- might be described as comparatively obvious. Why does it cause problems then? Not with you, but with your dealings with the press.

  • I think in the context certainly of investigations like the Joanna Yeates investigation -- but there have been others: the M5 collision in the autumn and other major cases that we've been involved in -- I think the problem is the media constantly want more, and in the context of Joanna Yeates in particular, one of the constant refrains that we had from some journalists was that it was in the public interest, they had a right to know, and I think -- certainly our perception was very much that they wanted to be inside the investigation, which clearly was never going to be tenable.

  • Yes. I've said earlier on in this Inquiry that everybody behaves well until the next big story, and then the whole thing goes to pot, and that might be summarised by what Mr Morgan said:

    "Fame and crime sends most of the usual rules out of the window."

    So at some stage -- you may not have an answer -- Mr Jay will come to it. I'd like to know whether you do have an answer, whether there is an approach that will work, that will demonstrate that actually the rules are even more important in these very big, very, very high-profile cases, not less important.

  • I welcome very much that comment that you made, sir.

  • Well, you welcome the comment, but what's the answer?

  • I think the answer is that in my view, the rules of media handling in large cases are not that different to the normal rules that we follow, and the issue is that in the significant cases that have substantial media attention, the demand from the media is more constant and more unrelenting. But I don't think the rules are any different. We should still abide by the rules that we apply across all of the cases we are dealing with.

    The difference is with the big cases that, as you said, each time we have a big case, we agree that things need to change, but when the next case comes along -- and the media make all the right noises, but when the next case comes along, it's exactly the change. I don't think the rules need to change from the perspective of the way we're dealing with it. I think there's got to go recognition, though, that there has to be some -- I don't agree with regulation. I think overregulation is not the right route, but I think there has to be some acceptance by the media that perhaps their behaviour needs to change.

  • I would agree that overregulation is not the right route; that's not quite the same as saying that regulation isn't the right route. I'm not saying it will be, I say immediately, but anyway. Yes, Mr Jay.

  • Your definition of appropriate contact, Ms Hirst -- this is question 27 -- is both axiomatic and common sense. It's just the last point you make:

    "... reflective of an agreed organisational view."

    Why is it inappropriate contact if the view which is being imparted is not an agreed organisational view but may be a reasonable minority view?

  • There will always be a case where, for example, the chair of the Superintendents Association will give a different view to the view of the organisation, and I think there's room for that, and I think we have to respect that, but if a police officer is speaking to the media, then in the context of whether it's cannabis or whether it's organised crime or sexual assaults or whatever, I think it's very important that that police officer is representing the policy and the view of the force as opposed to a personal opinion.

  • So on matters of strategy, of policy, there may be a difference between junior officers expressing views which are heterodox, personal views off-piste, on the one hand. If you look higher up the chain, though, more senior officers may have greater latitude; is that what it amounts to?

  • Yes. If the Chief Constable were asked for a view, then obviously the Chief Constable would give his view. I imagine that -- I'm sure it would be in the context of the way that we operate within the constabulary. But that comment was reflected -- was meant to reflect much more the views of more junior officers, the rank and files.

  • Yes, obviously Mr Port is the leader.

  • And he will have a view. Doubtless he will consult his senior colleagues, but ultimately that's the job he's paid to do.

  • Yes, sir, and I would expect the organisation to be reflective of that view.

  • Thank you. In question 29 now, still on page 10519, general question about incidents that attract national media interest presenting particular challenges. You answer that question with reference to your own experience to the Joanna Yeates case and a number of issues come out of your answer. The first issue is that of contempt and the need to maintain anonymity. Do you share Mr Port's view that the reference to the 65-year-old being arrested, that may have been too specific in that particular case or not?

  • Then jigsaw investigation. We touched on this already, but you put the point quite fairly and squarely, because you say that during the investigation the print media in particular adopted a tactic of elimination via multiple speculative media enquiries. Do you really put it as high as that, that it was a deliberate tactic, or is that just the way it appeared to you?

  • It certainly appeared to be a deliberate tactic, sir, yes. Perhaps I should just give you a bit of context.

  • With the Joanna Yeates investigation, we had -- some of the national media organisations sent down three or four or five journalists to investigate, to look at the -- to report the case, and on many occasions we were fielding multiple enquiries from one media organisation and that was multiplied by a number of media organisations on a very regular basis. Whether it was a deliberate tactic, it certainly felt at the time as though it was, and certainly I think the point of it was very much to get to the heart of the investigation.

    My view was that obviously we had to do everything in our power to prevent that, which is why, when we discussed with the chief and the ACC and the SIO at one stage, we decided to stop answering speculative media enquiries and issued a statement to that effect.

  • Isn't there a further risk here, which is the fact that what is being overlooked is that the investigation is dynamic? In other words, different information can change the view. So looking at a fact through one set of spectacles may lead to one conclusion, but if you add another fact, then the picture looks very different, and if you have gone into print on fact one, it becomes more difficult and potentially creates problems for the investigation if fact two changes the perception of fact one. Is that sufficiently clear?

  • It is right. It is right, and I think that was one of the real dangers, that fact one would get published and then other journalists would pick it up and would take a lead from that, and pursue that particular line or go off in a number of other tangents. So we ended up with a lot of very, very inaccurate reporting, which created problems for the SIO and the investigation team at times.

  • Your next heading -- but you're perhaps grouping here different contexts: "Leaks and investigative journalism". Those two aren't synonymous, of course, but your answer is really directed to the use of experts, in inverted commas, who comment on the investigation from afar with imperfect knowledge and not always with the right expertise. That's really your point, isn't it?

  • "Dangers of comparison". Well, that point speaks for itself. Differences between a case where the offender is still at large and you're trying to catch them and cases where the identity of the offender was known. You can't draw analogies between the two.

    Your last point is an interesting one: "The public have a right to know", which is presumably the line many journalists give you in an attempt to prise more information out of you. What's your attitude to that?

  • Yes. The public have a right to know within bounds, within boundaries, and I think throughout that investigation and throughout other investigations, we provide the media with as much as we can, always led, of course, by the SIO.

    I think there's another point to make here as well, which is a really crucial one. Certainly in the Joanna Yeates case, we know that Vincent Tabak was actually following the progress of the investigation via the media, and also on our own website and through other social media, and that was something that the investigation team picked up and was also discussed openly in court. So it was very, very important for us to preserve the integrity of that investigation and ensure that anything that was inappropriate or shouldn't get out into the public domain was contained.

  • So you can summarise that as saying the public have the right to know what it is appropriate and safe to let them know. What they most certainly do not have the right to know is anything that, by its publication, may interfere with or even prejudice ongoing inquiries. Is that --

  • Yes, sir. That was a constant refrain to journalists, was that we could not in any way prejudice or allow their reporting to prejudice the integrity of the investigation, nor whatever trial might ultimately take place.

  • Was it your experience at the time, to pick up a point you made earlier, that when you made that point to an experienced crime reporter, the point was readily understood, but when you made the point to a generalist reporter, it was less readily understood?

  • Yes, sir, it was. We had -- at one stage during the investigation, we had one feature writer for a national newspaper who wanted to come and spend a day with the investigation team to write a feature piece on a day in the life of the investigation team, and of course we declined, but such was the varied nature of some the requests, the more bizarre ones that we got.

  • You prepared a log which you called "The inside story". It's under your tab 21 and starts at our page 11320. If I can just understand the genesis of this document, is this something you were preparing at the time or at the end of the 34 days, I think it was, did you come back to your records and prepare this document?

  • Yes, sir, it was prepared at the end of the investigation. We have a -- like a number of other forces, we have a computer logging system, so every contact with the media is logged, and in this case was obviously logged throughout. That includes questions from the media, it includes our responses, it includes statements, and, as you can see, all of this information was picked up from that log. I prepared it at the end of the process because the Chief Constable and I felt that it would be something that would be very useful for us just to see exactly what the issues had been and, I suppose, see it in black and white.

    It was also shared selectively by the chief with one or two other people, other ACPO members.

  • Can I just ask you about a few of the entries, please. 2 January, on the next page, 11321, this is the Mail asking you about low copy DNA. Were you concerned, when you learnt of that, that there was a leak from somewhere within your organisation? I don't mean your department, but I mean the force as a whole.

  • Yes. Clearly there was a concern that the Mail had got that information, but I think that the most important thing for us was really to deal with what they had and carry out that negotiation so that we could try and minimise the impact on the investigation. I spoke at length with Mr Jones, also with Ms Dorsey(?), who is our head of legal services and with the ACC for protective services, in order to try and resolve what the best outcome would be, and in the end it was a negotiation with the journalist and the editor to come to a compromise which meant that not all of the information was disclosed in the newspaper.

  • By the use of the adjective "lengthy", are you intending to suggest that it was difficult in the sense that the journalist and the editor were not seeing your point of view or is it just neutral?

  • Yes, sir, it took some time. It took probably most of that Sunday evening with phone calls going backwards and forwards between myself and the journalist and the editor and also, of course, consulting with Mr Jones and Ms Dorsey and Mr Hampton(?). It was a lengthy process so --

  • Did you ask the Mail where they got their information from?

  • I'm not saying you would have got an answer.

  • Move on to 4 January. This is the items of clothes missing. Can we be clear what the position was here? Is it right that two journalists from the Sun separately corporate communications on 4 January?

  • My recollection is that it was one journalist and my recollection is that it was the crime editor of the Sun who contacted us.

  • Do you remember a Mr Coles contacting you later on that day in the evening?

  • I don't recollect contact with Mr Coles that evening.

  • We just pass by:

    "ITN, 10 pm. News report very negative. Expert at Longwood Lane critiquing investigation and alleging glaring omissions. No right to reply or comment given in advance of broadcast. Expert is ..."

    Is that "detective constable"?

  • "Ex-family liaison officer"?

  • "... from Surrey with PPU ..."

    There you've got me. What does that mean?

  • Public protection unit, sir.

  • "... but no murder investigation experience."

  • So it's not surprising that you put the word "expert" in inverted commas.

  • 6 January, 11323, where you say:

    "Media starting to ask very specific questions relating to particular aspects of investigation; long lists of questions and criticisms from Sunday Telegraph and the Mirror."

    Did you feel there that the questions were well targeted or did you feel they got their information from somewhere close to the investigation, in other words they were acting on leaks, or did you feel something else?

  • At that stage, sir, I don't recall -- certainly the Sunday Telegraph's questions weren't -- didn't appear to be subject to -- or arising from leaks. There were a number of questions. We had multiple questions from many newspapers which -- I think Mr Jones used the term "scattergun" earlier, and that's very much how it was. So they came up with a whole range of different questions, some of them -- quite a lot of them focusing around certain lines of the investigation, but also the 28-day turnaround, the abilities of the SIO, the abilities of the investigation team. So it was a wide range of questions that we were getting, but they were very specific. They weren't general. They weren't: "How is the progress of the investigation?" They were focusing on very particular themes.

  • Can I ask you about the fourth bullet point there:

    "Extensive negotiations with Sun news editor; says they will go ahead with £50,000 reward offer even if Crimestoppers and police say no; persuaded to give police only contact details rather than Sun telephone number; brief statement from Phil Jones but no conditions referring to the reward."

    I know you deal with it in your statement later on, but what is your evidence in relation to that sequence of events?

  • Yes, sir. The -- we had an initial contact from the Sun earlier on. Crimestoppers had offered a £10,000 reward and the Sun were proposing to add an extra £25,000 to that. The SIO wasn't especially keen on us doing that at that stage because there were some concerns about the administrative processes. We said that that would be okay if Crimestoppers were involved because of course they have those processes set up.

    The manager from Crimestoppers contacted the Sun and started to carry out some of those negotiations, and they ground to a halt, and about a week elapsed and then, on 6 January, the Sun called us again and said that they wanted to offer a £50,000 reward. At that stage, they were saying that Crimestoppers couldn't facilitate that because it was too short notice, so the proposal from the Sun was that they were going to do it anyway and they were going to include in their front-page lead a number that would be a Sun number. We negotiated with the Sun that the number should be the incident room number rather than a Sun newspaper telephone number, and it eventually went ahead.

  • It was at that stage that -- I think I say in my statement that the news editor freely admitted that this story was selling newspapers and there was a strong drive from on high to keep the exclusives and the stories on the front page.

  • Are you intending to convey by that answer that you were reluctant to participate in the reward offer in the sense of providing the phone number or not?

  • No, sir. I think once the negotiation had been completed and they used our own incident room number, we were happier. I did have discussions with Mr Jones during the course of those negotiations and there was some concern about the ability of the incident room, which, as he's already said, was dealing with significant numbers of enquiries, to actually deal with additional enquiries that would come from people who potentially could provide misinformation on the basis that they thought there might be a reward. We reached a resolution in the end and it went ahead.

  • I move on to 9 January, Ms Hirst. You see the reference to the Sun again at the bottom of the page:

    "Follow-up on Saturday piece; text from Jo to young man on night she disappeared; Sun knows who he is; looking for a steer because there's someone giving the media hoax information; wants off-the-record steer that name is correct."

    Can we deal with two points there? First of all, did you give any offer-the-record steers?

  • Were they barking up the wrong tree?

  • Perhaps I should ask you about the first bullet point from that day, when the ITV contacted you:

    "He's no longer a suspect [that's Mr Jefferies, of course]; can we confirm?"

    Again, did you confirm that or not?

  • We would have spoken to Mr Jones and would have gone back to the -- to ITV with a response to that, sir.

  • The next page, two points on the Mail. We're still on 9 January:

    "DNA sampling and elimination of suspects through proximity and location of two mobile phone masts; asked by editor to check whether we had problems with either line but would be running these lines anyway."

  • Yes, sir. This happened on a number of occasions. The media were selective quite often about what to respond -- whether to use some of the responses that we gave them, if it didn't fit their story, and this was an example of that. It didn't happen with every media organisation but it happened with a number of them, sir.

  • So can I just understand that last answer. Whether the information you might give them would fit their story -- what was the story here? Can you be clear about that, please?

  • The story was that the -- through -- as it says, through DNA sampling and the elimination of suspects through proximity and location of two mobile phone masts, that we were using those two techniques to actually eliminate people from the inquiry. Again, we would have spoken to Mr Jones and clearly those were investigative tactics that, even if we were using them, we wouldn't have wanted to disclose.

    And that's -- sorry, sir, I think that's also a good example of what I mean by this process of elimination in terms of lines of inquiry.

  • But they were making clear to you that whatever you said, is this right, even if you had had problems with either line, they would have published the story anyway?

  • Is that what you're saying?

  • Yes, sir. That particular incidence, I think, happened over a weekend and it was the media relations manager who had those conversations with the Mail. There is an entry in our Prologue system to that effect, sir.

  • The next item for the Mail:

    "Reliable source tells of discussion this week about an overhaul of enquiry team. Serious meeting planned. Concerns about number of experienced detectives working on case. Will be running this story tomorrow despite our denial -- their source is 'very good'."

    Did they run the story, to your recollection, despite your denial?

  • I don't recollect. I suspect they must have done, because otherwise I don't think I would have included that entry in here, sir. There was a lot of discussion and debate, as I said earlier, about the reliability and the abilities of the SIO and the investigation team. I took a decision not to share that with Mr Jones, because I felt it was information that he just didn't need at that point, and he only found out about this when he saw this when he saw this material through the Inquiry.

  • All this must put an intolerable pressure on any senior investigating officer, and indeed on those who are supporting the senior investigating officer, who after all is trying to detect a murder, and unlike the television, it can't necessarily be done within the hour.

  • Yes, sir, I think it did. We worked very hard to give the SIO as much support as possible, and I spoke to him very, very regularly and suggested to him that he shouldn't watch the news or read the newspapers, that I would or my team would provide him with what we felt was relevant, purely because there was no need for him to be aware of some of those debates about his abilities. It could have been very demotivating for him and his team, sir.

  • We picked up the reference on 10 January to the feature writer at the Mail. You see that? You've told us about that. You name her here.

  • You say she becomes rude and accuses press officer of being rude and dismissing her idea?

  • Her idea was nonsense, wasn't it, to be frank?

  • Yes, sir, absolutely.

  • Okay. I'm nearly finished with these. 14 January, page 11325. The last entry again for the Mail. The question was:

    "Has another police force been approached with regard to stalker crime. Categoric denial; suggest to Mail that report on this would be irresponsible."

    The implication there is that you needed to persuade them quite strongly not to report that. Is that a fair inference?

  • Yes, sir, and you will see the following day, on Saturday, 15 January, I had a call from our head of PPU to said that he'd had a call from an ex-colleague in Greater Manchester about a query from the Mail on Sunday regarding collaboration with Avon and Somerset police on stalker crime and the Jo Yeates murder. So even though we'd made it very clear to them on the Friday that a report on this would be irresponsible, they still pursued it on the Saturday.

  • Just two entries more. 17 January, this is to do with the Ikea drivers:

    "The Sun are conducting their own murder investigation, contacting one of two Ikea drivers (who delivered to Jo's flat in November) at his home address; media linking it to alleged arrest of two people; lots of media calls."

    Did you have a suspicion in relation to that that information might have been leaking out of the Avon and Somerset force to the Sun?

  • At that stage, it wasn't quite so clear. It became clearer subsequently and it became clear relatively recently that one of our police officers had suggested that they'd been eavesdropped, but in fact I think that was just pure supposition and a throwaway comment. We know, as Mr Port said, that it didn't come from within our force; it came from externally.

  • Yes. Then there's another rather inappropriate request. This is the last point, Ms Hirst. You see for 18 January -- it's the same features writer in the Mail on Sunday:

    "Would it be possible to interview Jo's parents?"

  • Yes. That was just one example. We also had, quite early on in the investigation, a request from the Victoria Derbyshire show, which is a live chat show on Radio 5 Live, requesting a half-hour live interview with Jo's parents, which we, of course, declined on their behalf.

  • You obviously felt it necessary, at the end of this -- and the end of this is 22 January, when Vincent Tabak is charged -- to write all this up, as it were, for posterity. Was that your intention, as it were?

  • I felt -- and the Chief Constable and I spoke about this at some length, we -- there was a lessons learnt session after this for -- obviously it's important that we learn from things like this and see whether or not there are any things that we can improve and things that we can do better or differently, and I think that such was the nature of this that we felt it was important that we set it down and just analyse it ourselves, which is what we did.

  • That's fine for you learning how to do it better, but I notice there are a couple of PowerPoint presentations that are also exhibited to your statement. Is this a presentation you've given to other police forces as well?

  • So that everybody's learning from your experience?

  • Yes, sir. Yes. The presentations in here were given to the association -- ACPO, the Communications Advisory Group and the police communications officers that --

  • Another question, for balance and fairness: were the television authorities better or not as good or the same?

  • Did you raise any of this either with the Press Complaints Commission or with Ofcom?

  • We didn't at the time, sir, no. I think the chief and I had a discussion about that but felt that it probably wouldn't have made a substantial amount of difference. We have complained in the past. In fact, as part of this, preparing for Leveson, the Chief Constable asked me to have a look at complaints that we've made to the media in the last five years or so. We've made 17 complaints over the past five years.

  • Seven of which have been to the BBC. Not just over this, but over a series of different issues. So we are quite robust in complaining when we feel there is justification to do that. On this occasion I think, because we were in the middle of a very fast-moving investigation and a very challenging and unrelenting media frenzy, we didn't go down that route.

  • I can quite understand why, at the time, you were too busy doing the job to worry about take the time, really, to complain. But what about after it was all over? Of course, it's over and to that extent you have another problem to deal with, but in an attempt to try to address these issues, it's important that everybody learns.

  • It is, sir, yes and obviously, as I said, that's why we -- I did the presentations to ACPO. But I take your point, sir, that we should probably have shared this more widely, with the Press Complaints Commission perhaps and APCOM.

  • I was actually thinking of Ofcom.

  • Who are responsible for the regulation of broadcast services.

  • The Chief Constable did complain to Ofcom specifically about the ITN issue, sir. But that was resolved in the end and that complaint was withdrawn.

  • Yes. Well, whether I take it up myself is another matter, and not with those bodies.

  • Two final points on this issue. Question 37, back in your witness statement, Ms Hirst. It's our page 10523, where you refer to the significant pressure the journalists were under. You say:

    "I was told during the Joanna Yeates investigation by a national news desk editor that sales had increased as a result of their constant coverage, hence the imperative from on high to sustain the flow of exclusives and new leads."

    Are you paraphrasing there what the national news editor told you?

  • Not exactly, sir, but the national news editor certainly said that sales had increased as a result of their constant coverage, and he did suggest during that conversation, I seem to recall, that there was therefore -- it was in the context of the discussion about the £50,000 reward, and he suggested that that was one of the reasons that they were pushing for the reward, because it gave them another front-page lead for the following day, which helped to keep sales up.

  • So it's the Sun then, and it wasn't pure altruism offering the reward; it was simply a means of increasing --

  • -- their sales?

  • That might be a little unkind. The word "simply" might be a little unkind, Mr Jay.

  • Okay. I'll think about it.

    I'm asked to put to you a specific point on paragraph 61, your second example. We have touched on this already. This is the 4 January and the items of clothing.

  • One core participant has asked me to put to you this: that it wasn't in fact the crime editor who contacted you; it was the Sun's west country correspondent John Coles. Do you recall that?

  • My recollection is that it was the crime editor of the Sun, sir, but that's certainly something I can check in our Prologue record, our computer record.

  • I think the point is this: that you had a good working relationship with Mr Coles; is that right?

  • Yes, we did, sir. It became a little strained during this investigation, as did many of those working relationships with some of the reporters that we had.

  • And the secondary point is this: that if you had told Mr Coles -- and I know it's your evidence that you didn't speak to him -- that the story would compromise the investigation in any way, he would have ensured it wasn't run by the Sun. Would you like to comment on that?

  • I'm -- I would beg to differ, sir, on that. I think the evidence that I saw from my dealings with the Sun -- and there are many other examples here -- would suggest that if they thought they had an exclusive, that they would have gone ahead and printed it anyway. But that's my view, sir.

  • I understand. Finally we're looking now to the future, the HMIC report and Elizabeth Filkin report. Of course, the latter is not directed to you, it's directed to the Metropolitan Police, but there may be some commonalities which are relevant to your force. I appreciate you say that you're reviewing your policies in the light of those reports, but are there any ideas which you are prepared to share with us today? Your reaction in particular to the HMIC report -- is it helpful or unhelpful?

  • I think it's always helpful, sir, for the question of integrity to be raised up the agenda, just because it's important that we all remember that that's an important tenet of the way that we work. We did do some work following this, in the context of certainly the media regulations protocol, which you see in here, and our social media protocol. A section was added to each of those on integrity. I've also included in the most recent SIO media training that I've done a very small session in there on integrity because I think it's very important.

    I think with the kind of approach that we adopt at Avon and Somerset, with logging systems and a very strong leadership, in terms of culture that comes from the Chief Constable, that actually we have a very good -- a very sound culture within the organisation in terms of media, but I don't think we can possibly be complacent. I think it's very important that we're continually reminded of the need for integrity and professionalism in everything that we do.

  • Thank you very much, Ms Hirst.

  • Thank you very much indeed.

  • So we move from Bristol to Durham?

  • We do, sir. The next witnesses are Chief Constable Jon Stoddart and Ms Barbara Brewis.

  • Thank you very much. We'll just let Avon and Somerset leave and let Durham arrive.