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

  • MR ROGER BAKER (sworn).

  • Your full name, please?

  • You provided the Inquiry with a witness statement which bears the number 8252. The date of the statement is 21 February 2012. You've signed and dated it under a standard statement of truth, so is this your formal evidence to the Inquiry?

  • There are various annexes to the statement and there is also, of course, the report of HMIC published in December 2011, "Without fear or favour: a review of police relationships", which is the fourth tab in the MPS master bundle section on reports.

    First of all, Mr Baker, could you tell us, please, about yourself? You had a 32-year career in the Police Service; is that correct?

  • Starting in Derbyshire, moving to Staffordshire and then North Yorkshire, but you were appointed Chief Constable of Essex police in July 2005; is that correct?

  • You retired from the Police Service in July 2009 and in September of that year, you were appointed one of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Constabulary; is that correct?

  • Can you tell us a little bit about HMIC. It is a statutory regulatory body set up under the Police Act 1996; is that correct?

  • Very briefly, what are its functions?

  • I think it's a police watchdog, in that it assesses policing and police forces in the public interest. So that can range from looking at local efficiency and effectiveness of a police force to broader policing issues such as the riots of last summer. And we do that in -- hopefully in a way that the -- we ask questions that the public would want us to ask and we report it back to the public in hopefully straightforward terms.

  • So the whole point about HMIC is that in the main you are ex-chief constables. So you've all held senior police rank?

  • No, it's a broad church, sir. There should be four inspectors and one chief inspector. Of the four, two of us are ex-chief constables. One is now the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. Bernard went across. He was an inspector. He's now the Commissioner of the Metropolitan, and the other two inspectors currently don't have a police background. One was a chief crown prosecutor in London and one worked for the Audit Commission. So there's a mixed range of skills.

  • And are you looking at operational issues?

  • The whole breadth of -- through operational, strategic. That includes police authorities. That's the governing body for policing at the moment as well.

  • In July of 2011, you were asked by the chief inspector, who is Sir Dennis O'Connor, to conduct a review of police integrity, which included police relationships with the media, and having conducted that review over a five-month period, the report I referred to was published in December of last year; is that right?

  • That's correct. The Home Secretary asked Sir Dennis on 20 July on carry out a review into not just media issues but into broader issues of integrity and policing and Sir Dennis asked me then to carry out that review, which -- we'd completed most of the work by the end of September, in truth, so it was a matter of, yeah, eight to 12 weeks we took.

  • We'll address that in due course, but your witness statement also deals with your interactions with the media in your capacity as Chief Constable of Essex.

    It might be said that there are two schools of thought here, or certainly a spectrum. There's the austere wing and there's the more expansive wing when it comes to relations with the media, and if I may say so, you're certainly firmly to be found in the austere wing, not that that's a criticism, or indeed praise; it's just an observation that's going to be borne out when we see the evidence --

  • Thanks for the observation. I see where you're coming from. I think you did oscillate, depending on the circumstances, between the two, but I've never objected between to being called austere, not in these times.

  • We'll see to what extent there have been oscillations. You deal with the media and public relations departments which all chief constables have, and the electronic diary. The diary is no longer available, but we've had a picture looking at other people's diaries. What would it show in your case, if it were available?

  • It would show, in relation to the national media, every few months I would have some interaction with them based on either my national work or the bigger issues within the county of Essex. More locally, that would be based primarily around either initiatives that the force were launching or the meeting structure of the police authority, in truth, drove a lot of this, so if there was a police authority meeting, there would always be a discussion with the press after it because these things were in the public domain and I thought that was quite proper.

    Like any of these jobs, there was a honeymoon period when you first start, where you would have slightly more interaction with the media because they wanted to know what your plan would be as the incoming Chief Constable.

  • Thank you. In terms of what the media were seeking from you in your personal dealings with them, you deal with what you were seeking to gain for the police through your personal contacts with the media in paragraph 3. You say that the media was seeking information and/or your views on high profile events or issues affecting the force and the communities of Essex. Did you ever get the feeling that they were hoping, if not expecting, you to be indiscreet?

  • Not in the main, no. I think they wanted a view from the leader of the organisation. If I were indiscreet, I'm pretty sure that would be played back to me, so I'm not that naive.

    In fairness to them, I had a balanced press, I thought -- not all of it great, but a fairly balanced press over the time I was Chief Constable in Essex. They would publish criticisms when we'd got it wrong, but also when we did things right, there was a balance of reporting, I thought, from most of the media. There was one occasion which I've covered in this statement where there was a slight issue.

  • Do you distinguish there between the local press, the Essex press, and the national press, or do you just say generally?

  • I'd include all of it, in truth. So national, regional and local was a balanced coverage, in the main, and it would change from one minute that you were quite popular on what you may be saying or doing to other times you would be held to account quite properly and robustly by the media for what they perceived you'd got it wrong. But that was across the whole. That included as well some of the social media sites, certainly in 2006, were fairly vitriolic about some of the change of management that I was employing in Essex.

  • But all that's probably fair enough, isn't it? That's holding power to account and providing an alternative view for you to think about.

  • Absolutely, sir, yes. Hurtful at times, but appropriate.

  • Off-the-record conversations, page 8254. You say you didn't have any with the media whilst you were Chief Constable. To be clear, what do you mean by off-the-record conversations?

  • It's more to the extreme of what you described to Elizabeth Filkin, that this was going to go no further any stage. I think a lot of it is in definition actually. Some of it is if -- "not yet for publication" would be more to the point, and in my -- previous to being the Chief Constable -- because the question the Inquiry asked me was "as a chief constable" -- there have been times when I've been leading major inquiries where I've had "not yet for publication" conversations. I'm not a huge fan of what people term "off the record", although they do mean different things by it, I've found, but there is a place for it. If that is in extremis, if life is going to be endangered, as you put to the previous witness, if an inquiry is going to be prejudiced, then there is a place for it, but it should be limited, in my view.

  • So by the term "off-the-record conversation", are you intending to cover conversations which are not going to be used by the media or are you covering conversations which are going to be used by the media but not attributed to a particular individual?

  • In the -- from my statement, every conversation I had in the four years, there was none of it that I wouldn't attribute with the media. None of it, as I can recollect, during that period of time.

  • So the media, if they were going to use what you said, would always attribute it to you as Chief Constable, but there were occasions when it wasn't yet for publication, so they would be expected to wait until the appropriate time. Have I correctly understood it?

  • That would be the price of me being a chief constable. Certainly when I was a deputy chief constable, as an example, I led a manhunt where a man had killed a number of people, murdered them, and was going to murder others, and the media were about to get in the way. So I told them things that I didn't want them to publish for a couple of days whilst we could get on and catch this man and that, for me, was off the record. But they could publish it later down the line.

  • I understand. The issue of hospitality -- this is perhaps why, amongst other reasons, I said you were at the austere school, because apart from the Sun bravery award, you say that you don't accept or didn't accept hospitality from the media other than a drink of tea, coffee or water. So no meals, no alcohol. This is it?

  • Makes me sound extremely dull, but that was the case in my time as Chief Constable. And in truth, there was never occasion to do that. We were polite with each other, and courteous, but I always found tea and coffee or water -- a bit like here -- suffices.

  • I'm not sure how the Inquiry would go if there was --

  • A bottle of fine champagne.

  • It might go more quickly.

    But this was in line with the gifts and hospitality policy in place in Essex?

  • But apart from perhaps you feeling that this was the right thing for you to do, do you have a view more widely as to whether hospitality only in this very limited sense -- namely you were going to accept tea, coffee or water but nothing more -- that that is a good idea or maybe it's a bad idea. What do you feel about it?

  • I think the thrust, so when we get to the report, is there needs to be clarity on what the thresholds are for all people. Not only chief officers, but for those people that leaked, because most of them want to do a good job but there needs to clarity and if you don't have clarity, then you can't govern or control or have oversight on these things because it's too loose.

    I personally have a view -- I do drink alcohol, by the way; I don't abstain -- that there is an issue, I think, with whether you're on duty or off, as a police officer, should you be drinking alcohol? My view -- it's a personal view -- is not on the public purse, should you be doing that. But that's not police policy; that's my own view.

  • If you're accepting alcohol from a media organisation, it wouldn't be on the public purse, of course, would it?

  • No, but if I'm seeing a media organisation, I am working. It wouldn't be my -- I was not offered alcohol by the media, by the way, certainly in the terms of this statement, for the four years. But if I had have been, I wouldn't have taken it anyway because why would I be having that conversation? This is not something I'd do in my spare time. In my private life, would I be meeting with the media? No, I wouldn't. That would, by my definition, be work.

  • But you did have some meetings with the national media?

  • And you didn't find that those meetings were more preferably conducted over dinner?

  • No. There was never an invitation, whether it was just me --

  • -- my veritable character. There was never a slip to the Ivy and we'll treat you --

  • No, no, forget the Ivy. There was never a suggestion that actually your relationship would be easier to maintain and develop in a more social setting, whether it's because they take you or because you invite them to the headquarters of the Essex police?

  • It was never an issue for me that we -- we had contact that included the national media. We did speak to each other, we didn't always agree with each other, but that was always for me business time and I never had any feedback from them that they wanted to do it any other way. So I didn't need to be in a more convivial environment or atmosphere. We got on and we did business. I stress we didn't all see eye to eye on matters, but that was always done in what I saw as work time.

    I think in some places it may be a bit more intense, particularly in the City of London here, but I was only just down the road in Essex anyway. It's not a billion miles.

    I don't seem to have answered your question, I see.

  • No, you have answered my question, but it might lead to a follow-up question, which is whether, in the course of your work for this Inquiry that you've just conducted, you saw or understood any reason why it might be different for the Metropolitan Police than it had been for you in Essex.

  • I have some observations. I mean, to be clear, my review was not about the Metropolitan Police; it was more broadly.

  • I know, I know, but you did look at the Metropolitan Police.

  • We did look at the Metropolitan Police and I got a sense that there was an intensity about the environment, that you have a lot of people physically located here, so having those relationships -- and there can be something seductive, I guess, about the environment whereby you are working here so it's -- you know, let's pop into a -- let's socialise, almost, together, and do business at the same time.

    That doesn't always apply outside of London, would be my take on it -- this wasn't a particular strand of the Inquiry, I have to stress -- but I did make the point -- because lots of chief officers and the police were saying to me: "This is a London problem, Roger, not for here." I don't accept that bit. I think it's a problem for the whole of England and Wales, but I think there is a different level of intensity on some of those relationships, and I know I'm generalising, here in London.

  • So you felt that the problem went outside the Metropolitan area but are you saying that the problem was, in quantitative terms, greater in the London area or do you think it was prevalent in an equal way throughout the United Kingdom?

  • Well, there's a scale issue, forgive me, on the size of the Metropolitan Police and the nature of policing in the Metropolitan Police, that they do some top-end business which is going to be interesting to the public and therefore very interesting to the media. They have responsibility for counter-terrorism and things like. And to be blunt, crime and everything that goes with it, policing, is of an interest. It will sell newspapers or cover space. But that is not to suggest that the media will not be interested in other parts of the country, and the point for me was: a lot of this you can still cover it by not leaving London if you wanted to, if you took social networking. If I were a journalist, which I'm not, you could cover most of these things virtually, if you so wished. And when we go on to the report, a lot of the gaps and the lack of threshold and what's appropriate and what isn't applies equally outside of London than it does within the Metropolitan Police.

  • Thank you. I may move on to paragraph 27, if I can take the intervening paragraphs as read. That's at the bottom of page 8257. You're still dealing with Essex here. You say:

    "A record of all my meetings and contacts with the media was recorded in my electronic diary. I was always accompanied by a member of the media and public relations department who would have recorded the contact and key aspects of the interview discussion."

    So those are two important safeguards, which you underline:

    "The Essex Police media policy, talking to the media, reflected the ACPO guidance and required a record to be made of all information provided to the media by any member of staff. This policy also stated that off-the-record contact with the media should not be undertaken. All media releases by the media and public relations department and divisional media co-ordinators were recorded. The Essex media policy is an intranet-based system."

    And we've had a look at that.

    I've been asked to put to you this point in relation to off-the-record briefings by another core participant, that page 29 of the report "Without fear or favour" recorded that different forces had different approaches to off-the-record briefings. So far so good?

  • Would you therefore accept that in some circumstances, with appropriate safeguards, it can be appropriate for a police officer or member of police staff to engage in off-the-record contact, for example about an operation or to correct inaccuracies in previous reporting?

  • I would accept there will be circumstances where -- once there's clarity of definition, I think, is important for the future of what "off the record" means and what it doesn't mean. There will be circumstances at the top end of the business where lives are at threat, there's a national security issue or an inquiry is about to be completely scuppered by certain behaviour, then that would be appropriate to have a conversation that was not yet at that moment to be published. I think there is a difference.

    I think a more broad-brush approach, where people are making up their own rules and definitions of what this looks like, for the best intentions, is what I've found is a major gap in this -- when we carried out this piece of work, ie there's no clarity about the rules, the policies are very different, albeit well intended, and so that leaves lots of the staff with nowhere to go, in my view.

  • The person who gave me the question might say: well, "off the record" means, in this context, you can quote it but you can't attribute the source. Why is that objectionable, it might be said, if the purpose is to correct inaccuracies in previous reporting?

  • Well, on the latter bit, if you're going to put some inaccuracies right, then why not say so? I could make my own scenarios of where you think, in very extreme cases, you might want to keep that out of the public view, but if your purpose is simply to say, "You've got that wrong, here's what it looks like", then say so. For me, that is more on the record than off the record. I don't mean to be pedantic, but that it is more on the record.

    Nor do I wish imply by this that there isn't a major role for investigative journalism because I think it's very healthy in holding the police to account, but there are ways of doing that by asking questions.

    Now, it should be in extremis. I know not many people agree with this, by the way, but you've asked me for a view. My view is this should be used in extremis, but when you are using it, there has to be a good deal of clarity of what is meant, otherwise people start making up their own rules of engagement, and what there isn't in the police-media strategies and policies at the moment is anything around relationships other than in one case. So that does, in my view -- and the Association of Chief Police Officers are going to come back to me in the next few weeks with a response to the recommendations on how do you close some of these gaps.

  • If the purpose in the mind of the journalist is to hold the police to account and questions are therefore asked by the journalist, for which, by definition, I suppose, it would be appropriate for the police to answer, if they are to be held to account, why is there anything inherently undesirable in the answer coming back from the police officer: "X, Y and Z, but it's off the record; in other words, you can't quote me, but you can report what I've said"? Is that objectionable in itself?

  • No, I think if it's a case of, let's say, whistle-blowing, where you want to bring something to attention but you don't want your name on it, that, for me, is a different issue. Where you need to flag: there's a problem here for the public, nobody is doing anything about it, I want to draw it to your attention, there are many ways you can do that, including speaking to the media.

    So on that bit of it, I have no objection. Where we did the public survey work for the "Without fear or favour" report, they raised the issue, in my view quite properly, around transparency. Now, I think you need both ends. You can have these on and off-the-record conversations as long as, for the public, there is a degree of transparencies which -- like Elizabeth Filkin, one of the recommendations in this piece of work is there should be a record of what the contact was, what was discussed, and it's logged so there can be some governance arrangements put around it to safeguard the public.

  • But if it's going to be logged, then in due course it might enter the public domain and it is therefore -- although it was originally off the record, the public, in due course, will see which police officer it was who spoke to the press on a particular occasion, even if the newspaper piece had not identified the officer. Isn't that the problem, that the officer then would be less willing, perhaps, to give the information to the journalist which it might be in the public interest to give? Would you agree with that?

  • The thrust of it, yes. The detail of it, not entirely.

    So, for example, the police already have systems where they deal with very sensitive information. Covert human intelligence sources, for example, where that really would be dangerous for people's identities to be leaked into the public domain. So the police are accustomed to dealing with information and intelligence, and I don't see why -- the fallback for me on this is where do the public sit, including all of those within this? And the feedback has been loud and clear, that whilst their confidence in the police is high, they want it to be a transparent relationship wherever possible, and I think you can do both things. You can, in extremis, have these off-the-record conversations, once you've defined them, and you can have a system which allows governance and oversight. If you can't do the latter, you're left with making your own rules up again.

  • Paragraph 31, Mr Baker, deals with your experience of leak inquiries. Five investigations in all during your four-year tenure. None of the investigations resulted in disciplinary action being taken, which I suppose is an indication of how difficult it is to prove this sort of disciplinary infraction; is that correct?

  • Well, they are difficult to deal with, but it's been made more difficult by the fact that there is a sloppiness of rules around what is permissible and what isn't, if that makes sense.

    Now, on these five cases -- I wouldn't have been told about these five cases while I was Chief Constable because I was the discipline authority, if that makes sense. So if these had come to fruition from a misconduct point of view, I would have been the person in judgment ultimately. So it was only after I got the request to provide a statement that I found out there had been these five cases. That's perfectly normal.

  • I understand that, because if you're the judge, you can't have been part of the prosecution team.

  • And it's a rather interesting position that chief constables hold. But have you found out now the detail about these five operations or do you just know there were five?

  • I just know there were five.

  • So you don't know, for example, whether the investigators knew who had done it, but because of the looseness of the rules, didn't feel it was disciplinary, or just never found out who had done it?

  • That actually ruins a whole series of questions I wanted to ask you.

  • You mentioned that part of the difficulty in certain instances, at least, surround a lack of clarity in the rules themselves. Are you including Essex within that criticism or not?

  • Oh absolutely, yes. This wasn't -- these issues contained within the report were not top of my agenda when I was a chief constable. So for example, secondary employment, you know, what your cops and your staff may do outside of work. It was actually the Sun newspaper that exposed me with a -- that actually superimposed a wizard's hat on my head with a rabbit sat on my desk, that we'd got two magicians and a wizard -- I'm not sure what the differential is -- employed in second jobs. So was it the top of my agenda? No, it wasn't. I don't say that with any pride but it wasn't. Most of these issues, I have to say, weren't.

    Was the relationship with the media and all the nuances of it top of my agenda as Chief Constable? No.

  • Is it convenient to take a break, Mr Jay?

  • We'll give the shorthand writer a few minutes. Thank you.

  • (A short break)

  • Mr Baker, paragraph 55 of your statement, 8263. You're asked for your impression of the culture within the Essex police in relation it its dealings with the press and you say you believe that "Essex police, as an organisation, tried to be as open as possible with the press to provide the best information to ensure the public were well-informed and confident in our service".

    Then you say:

    "As individuals, my impression was that many of my staff, particularly the more junior staff, were apprehensive of dealing with the media and deferred that role to those more senior and/or with the relevant training."

    We heard the adjective "defensive" used in relation to the Metropolitan Police this morning. Is that an adjective which could be fairly applied to Essex police between 2005 and 2009 in your opinion?

  • No, not defensive. There were times, I guess, we'd be annoyed, where we thought the coverage was inaccurate, and it may have appeared to the media we were being defensive because of how we had structurally approached our dealings with the media. That is to say that not everybody within Essex police would deal with the media, so we'd rely on training and what the issue is and whether it was divisionally based or corporate. So there were a range of options which didn't include all members of staff.

    Now, that may have come across, if you worked for the media, as being defensive, but it certainly wasn't the intention to be defensive. Put it that way.

  • Thank you. Question 56. On reflection, that was a bit of a wide-ranging question, to set out the most important findings to emerge from your report. You might have just said, "Please read the report", rather than expect you to summarise them.

    One point you make -- it's an important one, on the next page four lines down:

    "From the public's perspective, the Police Service needs not only to act fairly, but be seen to be acting fairly."

    So you place perception almost on the same level as importance as reality; is that right?

  • Absolutely, yes. I think it was particularly important that -- not only as a regulator but all of us, that we take the public's view, particularly if you're talking about the public interest, and that's what, on this occasion, 3,500-plus members of the public who were surveyed said, "That's what we think."

  • In terms of what's happening with your report, published in December 2011, I think you've given the end of this month as the cut-off date for the police services to respond to it; is that right?

  • That's right. For the Police Service, which is the Association of Chief Police Officers and currently the Association of Police Authorities, to come back to me with their views on the report. I have to say, they seem to have received it very well. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating, but having done a number of these reports before, there's been a difference with this one, that they were very open to engage the service across the piece, responded to quite a burdensome request from the inspectorate to provide lots of information in a very short period of time, which they did, in my view, the best to do, and there have been no naysayers to this point. But I will know at the end of the month what the initial thrust is.

    I then intend to reinspect this piece of work prior to the Police and Crime Commissioner's taking up post in November of this year. So by October of this year not only will we have what the solutions are to this -- this piece of work, that is -- but how they're progressing, how they're being implemented.

  • I'm very keen to understand how your work ought to be considered in the context of mine, or vice versa, because if I also report in or about October, there is a risk that we will be ships that pass in the night, and I don't know whether you will have a time, after you the receive the responses but before you do a reinspection, where you publish anything on what I'm going to call emerging findings, so that I can take into account your views before I make any recommendations which might impact upon the relationship between the press and the police, which are certainly within my terms of reference. Do you understand?

  • Exactly, sir, yes. I don't believe for a moment we'll be ships that pass in the night, and why I say that is we have met -- and I know you've met with Sir Dennis, to ensure that there's not duplication and that we don't interfere in any way, shape or form with the Inquiry, and we intend to do that for the next phase. And also forces have said to me that clearly you have primacy around this, so when you talk about the new media policies that will come out, they will all reflect what this Inquiry's findings are, which is understandable.

  • I wasn't thinking about primacy or you treading on my toes. I wanted to make sure that I could use the expertise that you bring to bear from your experience as a police officer and as an inspectorate so that whatever I recommend fits with what you think will work. You may have heard that I've said to editors throughout that I am very keen that what I suggest, whatever it might be, doesn't immediately get the riposte: "Well, that shows how little clue he has", and so it just sits on a shelf gathering dust. And in the same way I say about the regulation, if that's what there is to be, of the press, so I say it in relation to the police, where there isn't likely to be a statutory solution to anything. It is much more going to be around the culture and the positioning of the Police Service so as it to be able to address the issues that have emerged both through the report commissioned by the Commissioner and by the report commissioned by the Home Secretary have spoken about.

    I see the bits of work as complementary. You've come at it from the inspectorate's perspective, Elizabeth Filkin's come at it from the internal police perspective, albeit only the Metropolitan Police. I have to sort of try and grip the whole piece, and so it's not that you will tread on my toes; it's that I will want to make sure that what I can do, what I recommend, if that's where I go, fits with what you think will work. Do you follow me?

  • I follow you entirely, sir. I think I'm confident, as you describe, that the work will be complementary, and clearly we will be talking to your Inquiry team as this work progresses, and where we have been very clear with the Police Service is they are best placed for the police bit to come up with their recommendations for this, but we, as a regulator, will be testing that, as the public would expect us to, because it's --

  • That's exactly what I want to happen, and I hope that ACPO are doing just that, and if my hope and expression of hope is passed to the relevant people in ACPO, that will not disappoint me.

  • I'm sure they're watching this as we speak, sir.

  • In relation to evidence-gathering for your report, first of all, your witness statement makes it clear that you gathered evidence from members of the public. You refer to qualitative and quantitative research which was conducted by an independent organisation.

  • Obviously the quantitative research was going to be much greater. Presumably that was providing multiple choice questions, as it were, was it?

  • And ticking boxes. Can I ask you, though, how you obtained evidence from within the Police Service itself?

  • We carried out -- having developed the methodology which was agreed with the Home Secretary, the terms of reference, we did share that with other people who were carrying out reviews at the time, including this Inquiry.

    Having developed that methodology in terms of reference, one of the things we did was we checked all of the databases to try and find out what the scale of the problem was, what -- the quantum of the issues we were dealing with. We then carried out a two-day inspection, if you like, a review in each force and authority, where members of staff and secondees who were working for HMIC at the time went along and spoke to stakeholders and gathered evidence from all forces in England and Wales, including the police authorities.

    Beyond that, we included the National Policing Improvement Agency, the British Transport Police and the Police Service of Northern Ireland that weren't part of the Home Secretary's terms of reference. They contacted us and asked if they could be included.

    So we went to every force and authority, interviewed the stakeholders, got the policy documents, got the evidence, if you like, from them, which we were sharing with them as we went through it, and then started forming a view that is now captured within this report.

  • I appreciate that the media weren't the centre of your report, that they were just one aspect of it, but were you able to gather evidence from any organs of the media?

  • Yes, quite a few. They were seen as being very key to this because part of the genesis was the phone hacking issues. So we spoke to lots of people from the media, from the Crime Reporters Association to representatives of Hacked Off, to people who have written academic pieces on the media and the police, to try and get a view on what were the most suitable recommendations and where the evidence was around this.

  • But you've not been to Scotland?

  • Not Scotland, sir, no. We don't -- just to be clear, there is a separate --

  • No, I'm sure. I mean, you explained that you went to Northern Ireland, and that's separate as well, isn't it?

  • But it's covered by us as an inspectorate.

  • Scotland has a separate inspectorate. That's not a reason for not going there, but that --

  • Do you know whether they've conducted any parallel exercise?

  • We have been talking to them. I don't think they have at this moment in time, but that's an assumption on my part.

  • The one message which came through your questionnaires of the public -- this is 8265, still part of your answer to question 58:

    "The public associate integrity with being treated fairly by the police. The public association of integrity with fairness suggests that they see inappropriate relationships and the conflicts of interest that might arise as a consequence to be one dimension of police integrity, but not the only one, and this has implications for the police if they're seeking to tackle corruption and inappropriate relationships from the perception of the service users or the public more generally."

    That's an important point. It's a point which came through Elizabeth Filkin's evidence as well.

    Can I ask you about the point you make at the bottom of the page about governance, oversight and control? In a nutshell, what is the point that you are making there? I appreciate it's developed in the report.

  • My view is that what the report is trying to say, or hopefully communicates, is that you need to be very clear on what your values and standards are as an organisation. Some of that is in place through officers being attested, new members of staff joining the organisation. Underpinning those values needs to be a clarity of what is appropriate and not appropriate within the component parts of this report. So we discussed hospitality earlier. There needs to be a real clarity on what is appropriate behaviour and what isn't, and if there's something that falls between, what course of action do you take.

    It's only then, in my view, can you apply proper governance and oversight to this. Otherwise you're putting the cart before the horse. If you've not got clarity of rules on what a good job looks like, you can't come along and regulate it. So whether I'm a new Police and Crime Commissioner, whether I'm the Inspectorate, whether I'm the Chief Constable, then I'm operating almost in a vacuum.

    The point also in the report is I do not believe there should be geographic differences to this. There are 40-odd different ways of doing this at this moment in time that I find odd, I think the police find odd, in truth, and certainly the public think that is unusual.

  • So there has to be one nation-wide policy, the policy has to be clearly expressed, it's understood that there may be grey areas in the middle, but subject to that, the need for clear rules and clear guidance is well established, and it's only then that governance, as it were, can take over, because one knows what one is governing, a set of rules which are clear?

  • Exactly. It's only then that governance can work. I think it's particularly important in relation to the question you've pointed out, because the governance of policing is changing quite seismically at the end of this year -- ie. police authorities go, with the Act, and one individual, ie a Police and Crime Commissioner, comes along -- it's very important that these matters start to be nailed down.

  • Can I ask you three general questions before we start to look at parts of the report. Did you get any sense, Mr Baker, as to how extensive a problem leaks are within not just the Metropolitan Police but more generally within the Police Service, in quantitative terms?

  • Well, on the -- on those that were reported -- we checked, as I said, the databases to find out what was being reported, not just within the police, but we took the Police Complaints Commission, the various commissioners who keep data on the police. So we searched the databases to find out what was the scale of the ill that everyone seemed to want to cure.

    What we did find out, over a five-year period -- we went back to April 2006 in the main -- we found 314 cases that could be classified as leaks to the police. I'm sure there were far more that hadn't been recorded in this way, but 314, which broke down to relationship issues, which had to be fairly specific within this, which there were 12 of across England and Wales, and 302 which were around information disclosure to the media, most of which couldn't be traced through sources. So there could have been a relationship but it wasn't clear.

    Beyond that, there's clearly a lot more going on, is my view, and part of that is because this is not the top -- or hasn't been the top of people's agendas. Your systems and processes have not been focused on finding these things out. They've had to be fairly major issues for them to become recorded at that moment in time.

  • So is this right: the recorded or recordable leaks are perhaps the tip of an iceberg, or is that putting it too high?

  • It's an assumption on my part, but it would be an assumption there are -- on inappropriate disclosure of information to the media and others, my sense is there would be -- from my experience, there would be more than this around -- if you make organisational changes, you're quite likely to be reading about it in the media quite quickly. Most of those will not be recorded as leaks to the media historically. They may be now, but they wouldn't have been in the past, would be my submission.

  • So those are the things that you know about that you don't know the number of them. There is also stuff that appears in the press which you don't know has come about by a leak, but if you really did the work on it, you would find it would have to be a leak.

  • It would certainly have to be a leak, sir. One of the other dimensions to that is: where did the leak come from? Because within this, quite a few people assume it's the police, and I'm sure in part they'd be right, but because of the nature of the way the police do business, ie lots of growth and partnership work, lots of other people have access to that information and intelligence in very real time. I'm not saying that, by the way, to deflect it from the Police Service, but lots of people will have their hands on that information. But you're right; this is only what is recorded and that we found during this research.

  • I turn now to the specific issue of social media. To what extent is that becoming an issue or a problem and in what way?

  • Well, there's clearly been a communications revolution around how not only the media but the public communicate with each other, and not unlike other organisations, the police in my view have been struggling to keep in front of that or apace with it. So very few have what I would call robust policies around what you can and cannot do on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, et cetera. Please don't misunderstand that, I'm not against any of these sites, there are lots of positive aspects from the Police Service communicating with the public on these social networking sites to inform the public of issues in their areas that they would want legitimately to know about.

    But the controls around it and, again, what a good job looks like has become very blurred and the blurring I found, doing this piece of work, was the differential between what is public in your professional life, what should be in the public domain. There will be bits of your private life, I guess, which it's okay to expose in the public domain anyway, because it has some relevance, but there will also be other bits about you that are, in my view, best kept private, because it's nothing to do with anyone else and it can taint people's judgment on the professionalism of, in this case, the Police Service.

    So we found examples of people -- we got an organisation that knows far better than I do in these cases to do as a piece of research with eight forces to find out the people who were using a social networking site, Facebook in this case, to find out whether they were engaged in any inappropriate behaviour, and whilst the numbers were small, ie on the inappropriate behaviour, it was clear there are no great checks and balances around how people should be using this media.

  • Could you give me an example, just so that I can understand?

  • An extreme is somebody who had identified themselves as working for a police force, were exposing themselves on -- taking photographs of themselves minus appropriate clothing, and it had appeared on Facebook.

    Lots of this seemed to be silliness, in truth, not organised criminality, and it was generally holiday snaps that had probably been taken many years previously when you were far younger, that in some bizarre moment, generally under the influence of alcohol, I suspect, that you've decided to share with the rest of the world in the tweetosphere or whatever it's called, so that would be an extreme case, to other cases of "I don't really like working for X police because they don't know what they're doing", so that would again impact on public confidence.

    To stress, these cases were small in nature and my guess, and it is a guess, is that these people weren't doing it from malice aforethought, it was just an act of stupidity, but the impact on public confidence can be quite high, if you're following this on the network.

  • Is this a question of education?

  • It's -- as what's, I think, written through the report, sir, is a clarity on what you can do and what you can't do that doesn't impact on your rights as an individual, and says, "Look, whilst you work for us, this is okay, this isn't okay", so exposing your genitalia, having identified yourself as a member of X-shire police might not be the corporate image that you're trying to get across.

  • (inaudible) the vices of lavish or overlavish hospitality, and you explain the principal objections to that, but in the course of your work, did you find any examples of, sort of, frank corruption, or was it always the quid pro quo for hospitality was either an expectation that a story might not be written in a certain way, was more diffuse rather than blatant? Can you assist us on that?

  • Well, hopefully. In relation to broader hospitality, so that would be not just hospitality with the media, there were some isolated cases which are alleged to be corrupt, which are being investigated, and part of that was the genesis of the Home Secretary's commission to Sir Dennis and then to me to carry out this review, ie it wasn't just about media relationships. Some of that was relationships with contractors who wanted to do business with police. So some of that, it is alleged, is corrupt in criminal terms, ie that it's being investigated.

    In relation to the entries we found relating to the media, hospitality entries -- and there is an amendment, if I may refer to it in a moment -- none of those overtly you could say were corrupt or otherwise because our piece of work wasn't an investigation to that degree. All I can tell you is there were a number of entries, and on page 41 of the report --

  • -- it does give a figure on the number of entries that excludes the bulk of the entries from the Metropolitan Police, I was told today, which there are an additional 230.

  • Sorry, page 41 of the report?

  • Page 41, sir, fifth paragraph, which says:

    "Over the last five years we found 9,600 entries, of which less than 1 per cent, ie 68, related to gifts and hospitalities or gratuities and hospitality received from the media. That involved 23 forces."

    The 23 forces bit is right. What I found out this lunchtime was that it had only included a certain amount of time from the Metropolitan Police and not the whole of the five years. The whole of the five years for the Metropolitan Police includes another 230 of those. That's not a reflection on the Metropolitan Police, by the way. It's our error, not theirs.

  • So, to get the picture, if you include all Metropolitan Police, that number of 68 --

  • We have to be a bit careful about that figure as well, because although it's four times the size, the Met is by far and away the largest employer --

  • -- of staff and by far and away the most likely to have any of these sorts of contacts.

  • Exactly that. I think it's back to the earlier discussion around --

  • Yes. I just wanted to make the point before it was described in some other way.

  • Mr Baker, we're going to go through the detail of the report with Sir Dennis O'Connor next week, but may I go through the overview with you and pick up some highlight points and the methodology insofar as we haven't covered it? On the internal numbering of the report, it's page 7, the "Overview". That, in our bundle, is going to be about 4383. I say "about" because my bundle doesn't contain the URN numbers, but I know what the front page number is.

  • What's the internal number?

  • And the essence of the issue -- you really strike at the heart of the matter here five lines down:

    "A conflict of interest arises where police officers or staff give or appear to give preferential treatment to one interest over others. At best, this behaviour may be regarded as inappropriate; at worst, as corrupt. Potential conflict of interest include the access and influence accorded to individuals and organisations; inappropriate disclosure of information to the media and others, whether for financial gain or otherwise; excessive or inappropriate hospitality, especially when offered to senior officers and other decision-makers; question marks over contractual arrangements and police/supplier relationships; and secondary business interests which may conflict or be perceived to conflict with the integrity of the police force."

    The review methodology -- you've covered this quite generally in answer to earlier questions, but here we have the detail -- around 500 interviews with stakeholders within the Police Service, as well as approximately 100 focus groups. Did you conduct any interviews with stakeholders on the basis that what they said wouldn't be attributed to them in your report?

  • There were, I understand, a couple of senior stakeholders that we'd call the external reference group of clear opinion formers who didn't want the comments attributing within the report. I think there were two of those, by recollection.

  • The focus group mentioned at the first bullet point was within each force and authority that we visited, we held a couple of meetings with staff, because a lot of this is focused on very senior people, but we wanted to get a view from the workforce on how they saw these issues, and I think it's right to say here that their moral compass was very strong on these things. They were very clear that lots of these things, in their view, were not acceptable.

  • So the staff were tougher on their forces than the public?

  • The staff were clear in two parts, sir. One, where there was clear leadership from the top, they understood what the rules were and were happy to go along with that. And secondly, where it was less clear and when they were talking about what gratuities and hospitalities it was right to receive, in my words their moral compass was very strong. There was a clarity of, you know, most things were not acceptable. Teas and coffees were; beyond that then the Police Service shouldn't be engaging in it.

  • Can you explain the benchmarking exercise, which is the fourth bullet point, just elaborate on that? What is that?

  • We did another two. One was we contacted not only police forces, nationally and internationally, but other organisations to take a view on all of the component parts of this report. So what were their relationships with the media and how did they manage it, some of which is cited in the report. So the New South Wales Police media policy, how New York Police Department dealt with integrity testing, because they have a 650-strong team on internal affairs that are separate from the police, if you like. I don't necessarily advocate that model. But also other organisations such as banks, charity organisations -- so third sector -- on how they were dealing with inappropriate disclosures of information and relationships. So not just about policing, but added the Police Service benchmark, and we didn't find the cure for this in any other organisation. In fact, in many parts, the Police Service in England and Wales was a lot stronger than many much the organisations, nationally and internationally, that we spoke to. So if you took in appropriate disclosure of information recorded by the Information Commissioner, there are far more complaints about other organisations than there are about policing, for example.

    So the police came out of that strongly. I know it's easy to put them in the spotlight with this, but whilst they have a way to go, whilst you'd find on policies and procedures 70 or 80 per cent of forces would have some sort of policy, if you applied that to most of the sectors, you were down to 20 and 30 per cent had got policies around it.

    In some cases, the Police Service were outshone by other organisations, but generally in just one component part of what we looked at.

  • And the review findings, on the internal numbering page 9, the first bullet:

    "We did not find evidence to support any contention of endemic corruption in Police Service relationships, either in relation to the media or more generally, with the majority of police officers and staff striving to act with integrity."

    By definition, you weren't intending to duplicate the work of Operation Elveden there, were you?

  • No, to be very clear, in relation to Weeting, Elveden and the Surrey inquiry around Milly Dowler, we did speak to those inquiries, but at that time, bearing in mind this was September when we closed the data gathering, they had no data recorded because their inquiries were ongoing. Similar to a point made earlier, it was not our intention to get in the way of those inquiries. So it wasn't an investigation into the Metropolitan Police Service, the Milly Dowler inquiry or any of that. This was around the terms of reference as shown in the inquiry and what we found with the 43 forces and others in England and Wales.

  • The fourth point:

    "Visible consistent leadership is a key contributor to promoting integrity and raising awareness of or focus on these issues."

    If I were to ask you to substantiate that with evidence, how would you do that? Obviously this is a very important point, if it's correct. I am not saying it isn't correct, but how do we know it's correct?

  • The cases where we went into forces and found that, particularly from the very top, where the chief officer and the chief officer team were very clear on what was right and what was wrong and that was being articulated in not only bits of paper but the way they behaved, you would get that feedback from the staff, but you'd also see it when you tested some of those areas of business. Where they would bring in that clarity to it, we found a difference.

  • Thank you. On the next page, a point you've already touched on:

    "A hugely inconsistent approach [second bullet point] across the service and a lack of clarity about where the boundaries lie."

    And you're contending for a country-wide approach, on my understanding, and a clear approach?

  • That's the recommendation, or one of the recommendations is there needs to be an agreement of what the thresholds are and a framework that's to a nationally agreed standard, is my view, because I don't see, when it comes to integrity, how you could argue geographical differences on some of these things.

  • Then the sixth point:

    "Governance and oversight is generally weak and limited proactive checks and balances take place."

    Clearly the strength of governance and oversight would be indicated by a more proactive approach; is that correct?

  • Exactly more proactive, but you need to put the first component parts in place first. You need to be very clear what you're actually governing.

  • Understood.

    Then page 11, information disclosure. That probably speaks for itself. These are leak investigations. Hospitalities and gratuities -- this is the lack of consistent approach point, and also a lack of proactivity, page 12. Procurement and contracts, page 13.

    Can I just ask you to develop the point on secondary business interests and risks? Again, there is an inconsistent approach countrywide.

  • You're referring here to what, more specifically, Mr Baker?

  • There is an ACPO policy on what second occupations police offers -- because there is a differential between police officers and police staff, although some have tried to renegotiate contracts with police staff. Police officers are guided by regulations where they need a chief officer authority to take up a secondary employment. The current guidance are there are four areas whereby that shouldn't take place. Two are around driving, ie being a taxi driver or giving driving instruction. One is about giving financial advice, being a financial adviser, and the other one is giving professional training around things like taser or self-defence.

    We found examples in a good number of forces that people were employed -- ie police officers and staff were employed in those functions, so the existing policy wasn't being adhered to. But we also found examples of things that need clarity, in my view. So there weren't legions of them, but you'd find examples of cage fighters, door security, those types of occupations, whereby what I'm saying here the Police Service needs to be clear with what you can and cannot do, what is compatible and isn't.

    To balance that, when we ask the public, they seem to be more relaxed about some of these other things because people do understand the age of austerity, and their view was, in a general term, as long as there were no conflicts of interest, they thought that most secondary employments were okay, as long as there wasn't an obvious conflict of interest.

    So again, a lack of cooperacy, if you like, within the Police Service I think would benefit from being tightened.

  • Thank you. The governance and oversight issue and the lack of consistency across the country we see again at pages 15 and 18. You're developing there points you've already made orally. Your recommendations -- and there are seven of them, I think --

  • Pardon me. Six core recommendations, pages 19 and 20. Those are recommendations which have been generally well received amongst your 40-plus police services throughout the country; is that right?

  • That's right. I mean I was, I have to say, having done a number of other pieces of work, extremely impressed with the energy that the Police Service put around. They took it very seriously. They appeared to be taking the recommendations very seriously. We will know at the end of this month what some of those products will look like.

  • Well, the main narrative section of the report I'm going to take up with Sir Dennis O'Connor next Monday. The original intention, for the avoidance of doubt -- it might appear to be a bit bitty to the public -- is we were going to have you on the same day but for reasons which I can't now recall, that didn't prove possible. So that's why you're here one day and Sir Dennis next week, but specific matters on the detail we will take up with him as we go through the report.

    I think those are all the matters I was going to raise with you.

  • There's one thing I would like to raise with you. I readily understand the difference that there might be between Essex and the Met, but do I gather from what you're saying that although they had yet another set of rules and approaches, there was a similar difference between a large force like Greater Manchester and the Met as well?

  • That's correct, but there are also large differences between --

  • Essex and Greater Manchester?

  • Exactly. If you're trying to find a commonality of the differences, I don't think you will, sir, or good luck to you.

  • I'm not necessarily going to look, because actually all that's a run-in to what I am going to ask about, which is Northern Ireland, because Northern Ireland is a separate Police Service where they have their own issues with the press and their national press, the Northern Irish press, is based in Northern Ireland along with them. I just wanted to know whether you found that the Northern Ireland Police Service was nearer to the Met or to one of our other regional forces. Do you see the point I'm trying to get to?

  • Yes, I see the point entirely, which of that information I don't have with me to give you, but the sense I got from looking at the Police Service of Northern Ireland response was, yeah, there are some scale similarities, but the intensity that one experienced with the Metropolitan Police and the media around London wasn't the same as what we experienced on this piece of work with the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

  • That's interesting, because the police may say, "Actually, you can't compare us to anywhere else in England and Wales. We are the centre, we are doing the highest profile operations that the national press are going to be the most interested in. Therefore we have to be considered a special case." Nobody's quite articulated it in that way, but the argument is there.

    But a similar argument might be deployed in Northern Ireland, where the Police Service in Northern Ireland are responsible for the core Northern Irish policing issues, and there's a national press, if you like, in Northern Ireland, which would be focused on what the Police Service in Northern Ireland are doing. So one might expect the same sort of issues.

    I don't know whether you've done the comparison --

  • I see the point entirely, sir. I think the difference for me is, because those similarities may exist, a lot of the turning the stone over in relation to the Metropolitan Police Service in this case wasn't the HMIC piece of work. The phone hacking with the Home Affairs Select Committee and all of that was pre-existing, and so Operation Weeting and Elveden and all these things were ongoing prior to HMIC being commissioned.

    So the bit that's missing from the point you're making, from my perspective, is we didn't have that richness of data with the Police Service of Northern Ireland, ie they got a two-day light touch, along with other police forces in England and Wales. So it may exist and we may be able to do some further work on it to come back to you on what that looks like.

    The bit that's missing from the Police Service of Northern Ireland is a level of exposure and scrutiny that the Metropolitan Police have enjoyed since the summer of last year.

  • Yes. I'm not sure they would agree with the verb you used, but if there is something in relation to Northern Ireland which you think would be of value from what you've learnt, I'd be quite interested to learn about it, because that's the nearest I'm going to get, I think. I appreciate they've not received the exposure that the Met have received, and therefore the comparison may not be helpful, but if there is anything there, I'd be very interested to see it.

  • Thank you very much indeed. Mr Baker, thank you very much.

    I said in relation to Elizabeth Filkin's work, and I say equally in relation to the HMIC's work, that I appreciate that you did this for the Home Secretary and that's what you do, but it is tremendously valuable to have got this report and to be able to fit it in to the parameters within which I'm working, and I'm very grateful to you and to Sir Dennis for ensuring that the way in which you did the job and its structure would fit with what I am doing rather than create a conflict with it. So thank you very much indeed.

  • That concludes the evidence for today.

  • I thought you were going to say that. Thank you very much. 10 o'clock tomorrow.

  • (The hearing adjourned until 10 o'clock the following day)