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

  • Sir, that's very helpful. It was never our intention that our core participant status or applicant status would touch upon the murder investigation itself. We've always understood that that would be far removed from your concerns.

    Our concern, as you probably anticipate, was the by now iconic status of the revelation on 4 July this year that Milly Dowler's mobile telephone had been -- to use the common word -- hacked, and the suggestions that have been made most vividly on 14 October, just a few days ago, by the Independent newspaper that Surrey Police were at fault for failing to investigate News of the World's activities after the Milly Dowler investigation was put on ice or whatever. That's the ambit of our concern.

    Naturally, I and my clients who sit behind are reassured to hear from you that you wouldn't be getting into any further detail or be likely to criticise Surrey Police, but I should say on that latter point our concern remains very live, because not only do we have national newspapers criticising Surrey Police in very strong terms, I'm not sure if you've seen the article on 14 October where one of the core participants in this case criticised Surrey Police.

  • Mr Beggs, the interesting impact of this Inquiry into the press has caused as much press comment as the subject matter of the Inquiry. I'm afraid that everybody is going to have to get used to comment and opinion being expressed in the public domain and grin and bear it.

    I have been surprised by some of the things that have been put in the public domain about me, but I am prepared to accept it. That's what a free press is all about.

  • Certainly, sir. I'm simply making the point so that you can better understand why the Chief Constable, as he now is, the acting Chief Constable, would be concerned to protect his legitimate interests in relation to the allegations being made, the byproduct, as you rightly described it.

    If you're saying, sir, that that byproduct, in other words what was done by Surrey Police in 2002 about the revision that News of the World agents had hacked into Milly's telephone will not surface in part one, then I probably won't have very much more to say to you.

  • Yes. I'm not saying that I wouldn't like to know the answer to the question. Namely: was consideration given to an investigation, and, if so, how that spun out? That may be part of the general narrative, but I will not be going into the detail, I do not apprehend, and I'll ask Mr Jay whether I've understood my own responsibilities accurately. That's why I wanted it done in public, because to do so would take me down a road which would take too long and be insufficiently productive to the ultimate issue that I have to address, which is the recommendations that part one requires me to make. It may be part two would be different, and I'm not suggesting that I wouldn't be very interested if it was said -- which I don't believe for a moment it will be said -- that the Surrey Police in some way did not investigate for reasons to do with the relationship with the press, but I'd be surprised if that was suggested.

  • It already has been suggested, explicitly, in the media. To some extent, it's now being pursued via a parliamentary route, namely the Home Affairs Committee, which I don't know the extent to which, sir, you're aware that Surrey Police are now being subject to close questioning in correspondence from Mr Keith Vaz?

  • I'm not aware of that, but --

  • May I just deal with it only as a matter of courtesy?

  • One of the other less important -- but nonetheless still important -- reasons for the Chief Constable wanting us to attend today was simply to record that if, as seems likely, we embark or continue to embark upon correspondence with Mr Vaz, as is probably the Chief Constable's public duty within limits, such as contempt and prejudiced by proceedings. Then the acting Chief Constable wants you to understand, sir, that no discourtesy is intended towards this Inquiry if another Inquiry -- which is also moving rapidly -- starts to ask us penetrating questions.

  • That's entirely understandable, and no discourtesy will be taken at all. I well understand the enormous pressures that large numbers of different people are under, not least because of the police investigation, the Home Affairs Select Committee and the general political debate as well as the debate in the press.

  • Sir, I don't want to take --

  • I will want to see evidence, not mere argument.

  • Certainly. Sir, I don't want to take unnecessary time when you have a busy agenda, but can I focus on the limb under rule 5(2)(c), the potential for criticism of Surrey Police.

    More importantly, may Surrey Police be the subject of explicit or significant criticism during the proceedings or in any of your reports, final or interim?

    Sir, I confine my oral representations very shortly just to that one point, without prejudice to what we say are good points made in relation to 5(2)(a) and 5(2)(b), you have them in writing, I can't improve upon them.

    To some extent, sir, you've already identified in the exchanges we've just had that you will want to know -- you are likely to want to know the answer to the question: what Surrey Police did upon learning of News of the World's intervention. Without going into that detail, for the very good reason it's still being investigated by those who instruct me, it's not difficult to see how the test, may Surrey Police be subject to criticism, is satisfied.

    The reason I was citing the Independent, was not to criticise free speech in the press, or indeed that newspaper, but simply to give you an illustration of an agenda that is out there in public debate, which is likely to gain momentum. Indeed, it was heralded a few months earlier by another core participant, as I understand it, Mr Chris Bryant MP is a core participant. If I'm wrong about that, I apologise.

  • Yes, he's a core participant in relation to the allegation that he has been the subject of phone hacking, but the Independent aren't, in fact, core participants.

  • No, but they quoted a core participant, who is a lawyer --

  • Yes, but I don't believe that Mr Bryant will be coming to this Inquiry to talk about his views of other cases in which he is not personally involved. I would be very surprised if he was.

  • No, no. That wasn't my purpose in referring to him. My purpose was to give you another illustration beyond that in the Independent. I'll hand you up the article up if you wanted to look at it for yourself, but on 18 July of this year, which coincided with the very public demise of several senior police officers from the Metropolitan Police, that member of Parliament, in questioning the Home Secretary, asked whether she would ensure that there is:

    "A proper investigation into the Surrey Police and what happened between the police officers in charge of the investigation following Milly Dowler's disappearance and death and News of the World and other journalists at the time."

    He went on to say:

    "I do not think that the collusion was only in the Metropolitan Police."

    He's using his rights in parliamentary context to allege -- make a serious allegation against my clients --

  • I understand that, and I will be seeking from ACPO evidence in relation to one of the limbs, which is the relationship between the press and the police. I don't limit that Inquiry to the Metropolitan Police, and I will be looking for some material.

    Even if I engage with Surrey Police, or Surrey Police may want to submit evidence; it doesn't have to be as a result of my using my powers under the Act, or indeed inquiring -- anybody is entitled to put evidence before me who wishes to. Whether we use it, that's the decision that I will make with the assistance of the Inquiry team. That's a very, very limited remit, and indeed, if there were to be -- first of all, if there was a witness who was going to come along to criticise the Surrey Police, the rules make it abundantly clear that anybody acting for the Surrey Police, you, would be entitled not only to suggest questions that counsel might ask, but also to apply to me to ask questions yourself, whether or not you're a core participant.

    If a witness for the Surrey Police were to give evidence, you would be entitled then to attend to answer questions. If you then wanted to make submissions at the end of the Inquiry, then I've made it clear that under certain circumstances I'll be prepared to receive written submissions from those who aren't core participants.

    In other words, it seems to me that the interests which I quite understand the acting Chief Constable wants to protect, are amply protected within the rules, without you necessarily being involved throughout, and that's a submission thats I have -- that's not a submission from me, it's a proposition which I have put to other people who have sought to become core participants, and who have a remarkable ability to use the facility of making submissions as and when they believe them appropriate. I will listen, but that's not quite the same.

  • Sir, a number of points arising from those observations. First of all, our involvement, if you were to grant us core participant status, which I appreciate is currently looking like an uphill struggle for me, but our involvement would --

  • I'll think about it and I won't decide now.

  • Particularly, I would invite you to decide only when you've read some of the documents that I'll hand up, because it may illuminate the debate.

  • Our involvement would be, may I stress -- indeed as you said -- very limited, principally because we have only one interest and that's the issue that you describe as the by-product, but it's an interest which has already generated interest in the House of Commons, in the media, with sensible and intelligent debate about what Surrey Police did or didn't do. It relates, it's fair to say, to the iconic revelation, which has become the iconic revelation, not just in this country but abroad, so therefore our interest is beyond that of a mere interested observer.

  • You are not in the same position, I readily recognise, as a police force with one alleged hacking victim, because I suppose if there was a tipping point, it may be that the Dowlers provide that tipping point, and I recognise that, but that's not quite the same as saying that the role they will play in this Inquiry creates a larger issue as a result.

  • We understand that, sir, and of course your perspective and ours is bound to differ in that regard, because we are concerned to avoid unfairness -- as are you, and as you have repeatedly said -- ensuing inadvertently towards Surrey Police as certain issues become ventilated in the media and then potentially ventilated, even if only in a relatively confined area, in your Inquiry.

    If we are not core participants, our ability to input evidence, our ability to participate, is undoubtedly less than if we were core participants, and I have already given you the assurance that if you grant it to us, it will be very focused indeed, to use your words from 6 September. Not only because we wish only to be focused, but also for other more prosaic reasons of public funding.

    I note that in paragraph 15 of your ruling of 14 September on the Metropolitan Police Service, one of the reasons you granted them readily core participant status was because they may be subject to criticism, so may we be subject to criticism, even though you at this stage anticipate --

  • You didn't start a wholesale Inquiry into hacking.

  • That is the very point.

  • Well, you didn't. Or maybe you did, but even if you did, it was in relation to one specific phone. It wasn't in relation to a complaint which then led to documents which may or may not have been appropriate to investigate further.

  • You're in a very different position. I don't think that this is contentious.

  • We are in a different position, because we're a smaller force just south of the biggest force in the country, and our involvement, I quite accept, in the Inquiry is less than the Metropolitan Police Service. However, our involvement was in the case which you have accepted as if not iconic, certainly a tipping point. It is that tipping point on 4 July which led two weeks later to two of their most senior officers in effect leaving their jobs in a hurry, and the agenda that is being pursued by some, including those as I've mentioned more than once who are participating, is the suggestion made that, I quote:

    "The failure by Surrey Police [I'm quoting from the Independent] to pursue the Sunday tabloid meant that phone hacking by its journalists continued for another four years until Metropolitan Police intervened with their arrest of Mulcaire and Goodman."

    It's not difficult, we respectfully suggest, for you to find at this stage -- if only under that one heading, whereas we advance the submission under all three headings and under general evidence -- that there is a risk that Surrey Police may be criticised. As importantly though, sir, your narrative, as you describe it on 6 September and again on 4 October, from which you launched part two, where we would have -- we say -- an even stronger application for obvious reasons, your narrative needs to be as accurate as humanly possible. Even if our involvement in your narrative was very narrow indeed --

  • I can do all that without making you a core participant; can't I?

  • I accept that, sir. As a matter of fact, you're right about that. I can see that, and I could see that before I made --

  • Just occasionally, Mr Beggs, it happens.

  • I'm sure it's just an accident.

  • That, of course, is not entirely the point when it comes to exercising your discretion under rule 5(2)(c), because if on further reflection after today and when you look at one or two of the documents I hand up, you may come to the conclusion -- which we urge you to come to as the only fair conclusion -- that we are at risk of being criticised. Therefore, as a matter of fairness, the word that you repeated in all three previous hearings, it wouldn't be right for us to be denied the ability, albeit in that limited scope that I've mentioned, to participate, in just the same way as the larger force with a bigger involvement has been granted that right.

    There's one final point, before I try your patience any more, which is this: it's also now emerging, perhaps it was known before, but my instructions are that it is very likely that a number of Surrey Police officers themselves were victims at the time of the launch of the Milly Dowler investigation, that's in March nine years ago, themselves victims of hacking.

    I don't want to develop that point any further in terms of the detail for reasons that are probably obvious. It's unnecessary to do so, but based upon your previous utterances as to qualification for core participant status, when you add that into the mix, it seems to us that that's not an irrelevant consideration. It may become more relevant as time effluxes and more detail emerges.

    I just give you that as an additional fact.

  • I understand, Mr Beggs, as I say, it may be -- I will look at whatever material you want. It may be that actually we're dancing a little bit on the head of a pin here, on the basis that I won't make any adverse comment about the Surrey Police without making sure that you and your clients have absolutely every opportunity to deal with it. Anything that Surrey Police can do to make sure that my narrative is accurate, Surrey Police will have the opportunity to do and I will expect and hope that they would take it, whether or not they are formally involved as core participants.

  • Sir, in the light of that very helpful indication, I'll now sit down, having, as I say, formally made the application.

  • Hand me whatever material you'd like me to look at, and I shall look at it.

  • Thank you very much.

  • Thank you very much indeed, Mr Beggs.

    Mr Jay, is there anything you want to say about that series of exchanges?