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

  • MS JANE SARAH JOY WINTER (affirmed).

  • Make yourself comfortable, please.

  • Your full name, please?

  • Jane Sarah Joy Winter.

  • Thank you. You provided a witness statement to the Inquiry on 11 November. It's quite short.

  • You've signed it and you say at the end that you believe the facts contained in this statement are true. So that's your primary evidence. You've also provided a supplemental statement but we've agreed, I think, that we will cover that in part 2, if we may, and therefore can we proceed with your first statement.

    You're a director of British Irish Rights Watch, and you give your professional address. Could you tell us about that organisation?

  • Yes. It was set up in 1990. We're a registered charity and we monitor the human rights dimension of the conflict and the peace process in Northern Ireland.

  • Do you adopt a political position? What are the aims and objects of your organisation?

  • We're absolutely not political. We work with people on all sides of the community. Our own criteria is whether their human rights have been affected by the conflict or not, and we'll assist people from all walks of life who have sadly been affected by the conflict.

  • Ms Winter, thank you very much for making this statement and coming today. I'm sure you heard me say to Mr Hurst that the conflict in Northern Ireland is an extra dimension to this problem that I am considering, which is an extra dimension among many other dimensions, and I'm sure you will understand why that aspect of it could be an Inquiry of its own -- I'm not suggesting there should be one, but it could be -- and therefore to keep within my terms of reference, I have to be rather careful about how far I go. I hope you understand that that's not a discourtesy to you and it's not a demonstration of lack of interest. I hope it could be considered a demonstration of focus on what I really have to pay attention to.

  • Ms Winter, you've seen Mr Hurst's witness statement. It goes without saying that you've heard his evidence this morning, but in terms of where you fit in, this is made clear from paragraph 2 of your witness statement, that he told you in July 2011 that email communications and documents which you had sent to him, of course amongst other people, had been illegally accessed; is that right?

  • Before he told you that, were you aware that this sort of thing had been going on?

  • I was aware that his computer had been hacked, but I didn't know that correspondence from me was involved until that stage.

  • Thank you. Have you been interviewed by the Metropolitan Police in relation to these matters?

  • Have you seen evidence which confirms what Mr Hurst told you, namely that emails and associated communications that you sent him were unlawfully accessed?

  • What the police showed me was attachments to emails that I had sent to Ian Hurst. They didn't show me the actual emails. It looked as if whoever did the hacking had extracted the attachments and that's what they were interested in, not my covering note, as it were, in the email.

  • We're not going to go into what the attachments contained or anything more about them, save to make the general observation that they might well have been highly confidential, if not sensitive; is that right?

  • They were both very confidential and sensitive, yes.

  • Thank you. So what your evidence demonstrates -- and this perhaps is fairly obvious -- is that if you hack into one person's computer, you will see a panoply of information of a confidential nature which may be derived from third parties such as yourself?

  • Indeed. I should perhaps say that I'm not in a position to know whether my own computer had been hacked because I no longer have that computer in my possession and when I replaced it, the hard drive was wiped and the computer was given away to a charity that gives computers to poorer people, so it's no longer available. That's the only other possible explanation I can think of as to why Mr X had possession of these documents.

  • You make a number of bullet points in paragraph 3. I think we've really covered the first bullet point. The second bullet point is the ongoing ripple effects of this, Ms Winter. The first is at the top of the page, that persons/organisations sending material to you that you passed on to Mr Hurst have had their documents accessed. So it's not just you, but people further down the line, as it were?

  • Once you're into somebody's computer, then you can see everything that that person has sent or received, including communications that have been sent to that person which might themselves have been forwarded from any number of different sources. It becomes, if not a mushroom, at least an ever-expanding circle?

  • Thank you. In your own words:

    "This ripple effect is particularly chilling for an organisation such as BIRW, which handles extremely sensitive and confidential documents and information. Unauthorised access to that material has the potential to compromise both official investigations and the safety of individuals, including myself."

  • Indeed. In the final bullet point:

    "It is not clear what the purpose of taking my documents and communications was in this case. The material does not readily appear to be newsworthy and it is not clear that it was obtained for the purposes of publication. Even though the evidence in Ian Hurst's statement (paragraph 15) appears to indicate that the hacking was conducted at the request of a journalist working for News International, it is not apparent that my documents were taken solely for publication as news stories. Therefore, the possibility of the hacking having another purpose rather than simply gathering news stories must be contemplated and investigated."

    That's a very reasonable inference, I think.

  • In fact, the material that came into Mr X's possession had appeared in the newspapers as long as three years earlier, so it clearly wasn't about simply trying to find a story to put in the paper.

  • Without going into your supplementary statement, at least at this stage, is there anything else you would like to add to assist the Inquiry with, Ms Winter?

  • I'd simply like to say that from the point of view of my organisation, we really rely on trust and confidentiality, and we do deal with people from all sides of a very difficult situation in Northern Ireland, and when I first heard that these documents had been compromised, my first thought was: if all of the people that we help hear about this, they will lose confidence in us, through no fault of our own, through nothing that we have done, and that's a very chilling thought for our organisation. We can only hope that the trust that we've built up over the years will convince people who work with us that we can still be trusted, but it is a real issue for us that this could dent our reputation for confidentiality.

  • Thank you. That's very clear.

  • I understand, thank you. Thank you very much indeed. Thank you.

    Right. We have two witnesses left. I am very keen to resolve what I should be doing about the statement and promulgating the order that I made, and I think, subject to how long it's thought the two witnesses will take and their convenience, it may be appropriate to do that now.

    Help me, Mr Jay.

  • Our belief is that according full and appropriate time to the last two witnesses, were we to start at 2 o'clock, we would conclude both of them by 4.30, and therefore the important administrative matters to which you refer, which I need to take some oversight of, if I could do that over an extended lunchbreak, we can start at 2 o'clock and there will be no difficulty receiving all this evidence.

  • All right. How about restarting at 1.45? That gives us just a little bit of leeway in the afternoon, if we should need it.

  • Mr Sherborne, do you disagree with that which Mr Jay has said?

  • Sir, not at all.

  • Just so I'm clear, does Mr Jay have an idea as to how long we may take at the beginning of the afternoon session, which is going to start at 1.45, to deal with what I might call the administrative issues?

  • No, I might have dealt with them already and I will only come and ask your assistance if I feel it necessary. I have to deal with Mr Caplan's point, but that may or may not collapse; we'll see. If it's necessary, I would deal with them after I've dealt with the witnesses. If the witnesses are here and ready to go, I'm not going to keep them waiting.

  • Sir, I'm grateful, I understand. I can tell them that we'll start at 1.45 with their evidence.

  • I think that's right, subject to two or three minutes if I want to expatiate about something or other.

  • Could I say in relation to another matter that the ruling that I intended to give in relation to the protocol is available and is either now or very shortly will be on the website together with a finalised protocol. Thank you.

  • (The luncheon adjournment)

  • Yes, Mr Jay.

  • The outstanding issues we left open at lunch -- the position is that the Section 19 order that you made has been put on the website. It is therefore formally promulgated.

    In our view, it covers any further publication -- because publication is continuous -- on anybody's blog or website. That has been pointed out to Guido Fawkes, so I can be explicit about it, and he should take the appropriate immediate steps to rectify the matter. So there's that.

    Whether or not Mr Campbell's witness statement should not be published, I can see arguments both ways but maybe Mr Caplan should say what he wishes to say and if necessary I will revert.

  • Yes. Thank you. Mr Caplan, it might be best to wait and see what happens during the course of the afternoon, might it not? I haven't yet directed that it should go on the website, and it isn't there, so this might be a case of wait and see.

  • Yes. Sir, perhaps we can return to it then at the end of the day.

  • I think we'll probably find out if it comes off.

  • Sir, the first witness this afternoon is Ms Charlotte Church.