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


  • Thank you very much. Would you kindly give us your full name, please?

  • Thank you. You provided us, Ms Filkin, with a short statement dated February 2012, which is numbered 02193, which gives the background to your report. The report is entitled "The ethical issues arising from the relationship between police and media", dated January 2012, which starts in our bundle at 4447.

  • Can I ask you, please, first of all, before we look at the report, if you could tell us something of your background. You are a former Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, and you occupied that position between February 1999 and 2002; is that correct?

  • Can I ask you, please, though: very briefly, your career before and after those dates?

  • Well, I'm afraid it's rather boring and lengthy. I started life in community work. I was then chief executive of Citizens Advice. I was then director of community services at London Docklands and I was then promoted as deputy chief executive at London Docklands. I was then the revenue adjudicator and then that was extended to Customs and to the Contributions Agency.

    In many of those roles, I was fortunate enough to be allowed also to take on non-executive directorships, which extended my knowledge, and so I was very glad to be able to do that. So that was a range of public and private companies, such as the Britannia Building Society and Logica and so forth.

    Since leaving Parliament, I've done a variety of things. I chair a housing company, I provide regulatory input, I did to the Financial Services Authority and to the Law Society, I do their appointments for their regulatory body and I do the same for the pharmacists. So I do those sorts of things and I do odd jobs, such as this one.

  • I hope this job isn't described as odd.

  • But no previous involvement with the workings of Metropolitan Police or indeed any police service?

  • No, none at all, none at all.

  • You were asked in July 2011 by Sir Paul Stephenson to undertake a review of relationships between the police and the media?

  • And you carried out that exercise over about five months?

  • And we see the fruits of it in your report. But can I ask you, please, aside from the terms of reference, which are clearly set out, in your own words to explain how you got your evidence together for the purposes of this report?

  • Well, I did it in a variety of ways. I put out a request on the internal intranet for the Metropolitan Police asking anybody within the Metropolitan Police who would like to give me information, evidence or opinion to be in contact with me, either in writing or in person, and I offered to do that in confidence if people wished that.

    I requested interviews with a range of people across the Metropolitan Police Service, all of whom I'm very pleased to say agreed to be interviewed by me, and I did the same with a list -- and they're all listed at the back of my report, the people I saw -- who were journalists, editors, politicians, business people, who I thought might have something to give me.

    I also sat down with a number of internal groups in the Metropolitan Police, and the Metropolitan Police has a range of staff groups, of different groups, different ethnic backgrounds, et cetera, to get their opinions, too.

    I also was informed by the internal enquiries that the Metropolitan Police Service were conducting, which you're well aware of, I know, and I was informed about what they were doing and what they were finding as they went, and indeed I asked to look -- and did look -- at a number of internal processes that the Met has, for example, for collecting complaints from the public, for freedom of information requests, and from their speak-up arrangements, whereby staff can bring problems confidentially or anonymously to senior management's attention.

  • Thank you. You've clearly obtained evidence from a range of sources. How did you try and ensure that the evidence you were getting was representative across the board, as it were?

  • Well, I did the best I could in those circumstances. I was trying to ensure that I got a range of, for example, journalists' views by not only seeing the journalists who wanted to see me and who requested to see me but to interview some the journalists who write scrutinising articles about the Metropolitan Police Service, and I did the same sort of thing within the Met. I asked to see people who other people told me held different opinions. So I tried to ensure that that was as wide a view as possible.

  • I think some of the citations you give are not attributed to any individual person, presumably on the basis that that person did not wish that to happen?

  • How did you satisfy yourself in those cases -- because presumably it was a stipulation which they gave before you spoke to them that that would be the case -- that what they were telling you was likely to be reliable?

  • Well, by exercising my own judgment about whether people were trustworthy when I talked to them. What I said to everybody that I interviewed was that I was having confidential conversations with them, and that if I wished to quote from them, I would come back to them to ask them if I might quote them and to ask them if I might attribute the quotation. And as you will have seen, a large number of people did allow me to attribute their quotations to them, but some did not. And I have respected that, but I didn't quote people without making any comment about it where I didn't think -- I didn't support people unless I thought that what they were saying was trustworthy. That didn't mean to say I didn't also include some quotes from people whose views I did not accept.

  • So this is very important. This means that I can take your report -- obviously where people have identified themselves it's hearsay but identified hearsay, but where people haven't identified themselves, it's unattributed hearsay but validated by you, first of all because you've believed it, and secondly because you have taken other steps to do what you can to work around it to ensure that what you are saying accurately reflects the position as you found it?

  • Yes. I've hardly -- I've rarely quoted anybody who gave an opinion unless that was given to me by quite a lot of other people. So I tried to use the examples, the quotes, to illustrate what had been told to me by quite a lot of people.

  • So the great advantage of the work you've done is that it rather foreshadows some of what I have to do and therefore it would be perfectly in order, would it, for me to be able to use what's been said to you for the purposes of the Inquiry that I am conducted?

  • I would sincerely hope so.

  • Mrs Filkin, the key messages, paragraph 1.2, internal numbering page 7 of 56, which is therefore likely to be around 4454. You pick those up in the body of the report, as we're going to see in a moment, but they're usefully collected there.

    Can I ask you a question about the background, which is the next page. In the middle of the page:

    "There was speculation that cosy relationships involving excessive hospitality between some senior police officers and News of the World journalists undermined the willingness of the police to pursue possible criminal offences beyond the two convictions in 2007."

    There's arguably a difference between matters of perception and matters of fact.

  • Is this something which you were keen to explore?

  • Well, since it was very largely the reason that Sir Paul Stephenson had invited me to do this piece of work, it was obviously very pertinent to the piece of work. I have to say that the vast majority of the people that I spoke to during the inquiry, that was of great concern to them, particularly people inside the Metropolitan Police Service, who were embarrassed by much of the coverage, who were concerned that it might turn out to be true, who felt that they had done their duty throughout their careers and this was being now seriously undermined, and they were worried that public trust would be undermined.

  • Because perception can undermine public trust, even if there may be little substance --

  • -- underlying the perception. The issue of cosy relationships involving excessive hospitality undermining the willingness of the police to pursue possible criminal offences, that's not something which I understand you were specifically investigating. You were looking at the wider picture from which, I suppose, inferences might be drawn in relation to the specific issue, which is closer, of course, to what this Inquiry is doing. Have I correctly understood it?

  • Mr Nick Davies expressed views to you. This is on page 9 of 56:

    "While Scotland Yard's public position remained that it did all that its resources and the law permitted, some police sources admit privately that they fail to fully investigate the case ..."

    Et cetera. Did you ask him further about that?

  • Yes, I did. I asked him about it in detail, and it was clear to me from what he said, as I think he makes clear in his quote, that he was being given information by certain people from within the Metropolitan Police Service, that there was more information. And he said also to me that he raised this on several occasions with the Department of Public Affairs when he was ringing up as a journalist for information, and they were giving him what he thought by then was inaccurate information which his sources provided.

    They, of course, were presumably being briefed, as the Commissioner was at the time, in the same way, but he raised with them on several occasions that he thought they were giving out inaccurate information. What I don't know is how that was then processed within that department, and whether anybody took that any more seriously than we have heard in relation to other people who were raising that.

  • Thank you. On page 10 of 56, you deal with the wider issues of the importance of a good working relationship between the MPS and the media. Some of these have, of course, been covered elsewhere. You say, level with the lower hole punch:

    "It is particularly important for the police to maintain a strong working relationship with the media given the coercive powers afforded to policing. The police should actively protect proper scrutiny of their work."

    Can I ask you, please, to develop that point in your own words? What were you driving at there?

  • What I was trying to convey was that the police have very, very extensive powers, and those powers, for the rest of us, need to be under constant scrutiny, to make sure they haven't overstepped their mark in the powers that they have and they've operated those powers properly.

    Obviously, they have to do that themselves as well, but we need outside agencies who constantly also scrutinise what these very powerful organisations do, and the media is important for doing that. And I would hope that as an important public institution, the police would also see that they had a role in protecting that scrutiny, that that scrutiny was valuable to them in helping them do their job properly. Though I have no doubt that scrutiny is sometimes grossly inaccurate and can sometimes be harmful, it can also be extremely beneficial, and it may -- even though it may be very uncomfortable sometimes for the police, it's very important that they work constantly to protect such scrutiny and to allow such scrutiny to take place.

  • Thank you. You refer subsequently to the need for transparency and trust. That comes through a number of citations. There's one quite interesting one at the top of page 12 of 56, which I take to be an academic work, is that right, from Dr Hohl:

    "The police are the civic guardians of the community's moral architecture and people look to the police to typify and represent these moral values and to defend and reassert them when they are perceived to come under threat."

    Of course, the role of the media in relation to that you've explained. Then you support the view of Chief Constable Andy Trotter, chair of ACPO, expressed in 2010, in the guidance which you set out in this page.

  • Yes, and I should say, in relation to your comment that the quote at the top of that page is an academic one: it is, but it does include, the team of academics, the person who is employed by the Metropolitan Police Service to provide information on -- statistical information and so forth.

  • So it's, if you like, operationally informed.

  • Chapter 3 now, Mrs Filkin. This is "Key problems identified in the relationship between the MPS and the media". The first problem, "Improper disclosure of information to the media". Some journalists told you they have several hundred police officers and staff on their phone contact list. You have no evidence of how many may be proper or improper contacts. However, it does indicate the potential risk and its scale. The reasons, I suppose, are obvious. The journalists will be phoning up the police officer unmediated by the DPA on a mobile phone or whatever and hoping for a quote or something that could be used, preferably exclusively.

    Then there's a citation from a journalist at the Sun. Then you say:

    "It is clear, both from what appears in the media and from what I have been told, that there is contact -- which is neither recorded nor permitted -- between the media and police officers and staff at all levels. This results in improper disclosure of information."

    Can I ask you: from what I've been told, this is presumably what you've been told by those who would prefer not to be named in your report; is that right? Or do I have it wrong?

  • Well, some who have preferred not to be named, but some of the people who are named are saying similar sorts of things. They're not saying they have done that themselves, but they've said that occurs. So some the people, some of the quite senior people who I quote are saying similar sorts of things.

  • Hm. When one is looking at the motivation here, this is section 3.1.1, you refer to vanity, buzz, flirtation, a sense of power and control and professional advantage during employment within the MPS or to gain future employment elsewhere."

    Then you say there may be a link to receipt of hospitality or other favours, and then a bit later on this page:

    "It was the general view however that receiving or providing excessive hospitality, cash or other favours are not acceptable for public servants."

    Presumably it would be the universal case that that would be the view in relation to cash, but excessive hospitality or other favours, you're referring to hospitality really, I suppose, or other favours in kind. You're not referring to anything else?

  • Because the publication of the hospitality register and so forth, which had occurred for the first time shortly before the summer of last year, many of the police officers and staff that I interviewed were obviously highly shocked by the amount of hospitality that the senior people appeared to be receiving; either hospitality in the sorts of things of dinners and lunches and so forth at rather expensive restaurants, but also some of them were receiving very large numbers of tickets to very expensive sporting events, so there were a set of things which some senior people had been receiving, others had not, others had not accepted, and that was clear. But many, many of the lower ranks people, as I think one of the senior people who was quoted said, felt -- I think his quote is that people were filling their boots, and that was a very general view.

  • And this was a phenomenon that you were perceiving at senior levels rather than junior levels within the Metropolitan Police?

  • That was what people were telling me, that it was very much a senior issue. Not entirely a senior level. It was -- people would say, well, people, yes, have drinks, people might be bought the odd meal and so forth at more junior levels, but it was very much in that period of time seen to be identified with certain members of the senior staff and management team.

  • Is this an issue more of perception rather than of frank corruption? Obviously if there's going to be money passing hands, then we're in the realm of frank corruption, it goes without saying, but how would you analyse this?

  • I think before I started doing the piece of work, I would have shared that distinction. What I was trying to convey here was that people across the Met saw these things all as one and thought they should all be described as corruption. Of course, you have to then get into the issue of how do you define "excessive", but from what people had seen from the publication of the registers, most of the people that I spoke to within the Met felt that people had been receiving excessive hospitality.

  • Most of the people you spoke to in the Met?

  • Most of the people who I had these conversations with referred to the publication of these registers with some shock and felt that that was an indication of excessive hospitality, which they, as you say, perceived as improper.

  • If one were to analyse it further, the impropriety is because it is evidence of corruption, in other words, something is certainly being given in exchange, or it's improper because that's how it might be viewed? How would you see it?

  • I would say that people were saying it isn't a proper thing for public servants, trying to carry out a role which, above all things, must be seen to be independent and impartial, to be seen to be receiving a lot of hospitality from particular individuals or businesses.

  • Thank you. The next page and paragraph 3.1.2, you've been given examples where:

    "... inappropriate information has been provided to the media to dilute or prevent the publication of other information which could be damaging to the MPS or senior individuals within it."

    I think someone said that's "burying bad news" in a different context, but you've given us the examples, one from Mr Davies and then one from an anonymous police officer. We've looked at that one. These are just illustrations of a range of examples you were given; is that right?

  • Yes. I can't, of course, say how frequent this was, but it was enough people referred to this sort of activity for me to feel it was proper to put in those descriptions, and people told me of a variety of different occasions in which information, for example, about senior officers' private lives was kept out, so they claimed, of the media by the person in the media who had that information getting an exclusive story as a trade.

  • Then tip-offs, paragraph 3.1.3.

    "It is also said the media is sometimes tipped off by police officers and staff who, as part of their job, have come into contact with celebrities or others in the public eye."

    This would be plainly illegitimate, would indeed be an offence if money passes hands, as you make clear, but the tipping off relates to what? That it relates to a story, preferably an exclusive, which relates to the celebrity, or is it that a celebrity is about to be arrested and therefore the media come along and watch? What sort of things are you --

  • Well, I think it goes -- from what I was told, it went across that whole range. Some of it was about people allegedly ringing up in excitement to the newspaper to say that, "Celebrity X has just come into my police station", and when that poor celebrity got outside, there were lots of cameras there because the media had delivered the cameras. But people also said to me that they thought that in some instances people were paid for information about celebrities. Of course, the enquiries, the internal Met police enquiries which are current and which you've had drawn to your attention last week, I hope, will get to the bottom of this as to how extensive that was.

  • Yes, and that meshes with the next section, "Bribery and financial award":

    "Most inside the MPS think that payment for information is received by few. This conflicts with what some journalists have told me and with what some have now said to [this] Inquiry."

    Outside the one newspaper which has been named by Deputy Assistant Commissioner Akers, are you able to assist the Inquiry at all -- without naming the newspapers, of course -- as to whether this phenomenon of paying for information does relate to other titles?

  • Certainly some people within the Metropolitan Police said this, a few, and some journalists, and indeed some politicians told me it related to a number of newspapers across Fleet Street, but I couldn't confirm whether or not that's true, but I did have it said to me.

  • Was that said to you by journalists who were or had been working within the papers concerned?

  • No. On the whole it was said to me by people who had worked from one or other paper or had been freelance and made very general comments about this being common practice amongst newspapers and so forth. So it wasn't people saying to me, "I know it happened because I worked on the X news desk". They were making much more general statements than that.

  • I understand. And there was a limit, I suppose, as to how deep you could drill into this in evidential terms --

  • -- and how much people were prepared to tell you, for obvious reasons. You asked questions, you listened and see how far you could get.

  • And it's other people's responsibility to do the forensic investigations, obviously.

  • Of course. "Disaffected staff":

    "It has also been said to me that staff disaffected or in dispute with the organisation can become a source of improper and damaging disclosures."

    Then you give one example, which the Inquiry has already received evidence about, which was proven in a criminal court, and you exclude from these examples whistle-blowing, general public interest reporting of wrongdoing.

    You say in the last sentence of this subsection:

    "Many of those who whom I have spoken have said that these systems are not always trusted and therefore not used to their full potential."

    What were you referring to there?

  • Well, the Metropolitan Police Service has an internal speak-up process, which I think they take seriously -- I had looked at it in some detail -- and staff can report concerns, either personally or indeed anonymously on the telephone to that operation and those reports are looked at very carefully. I believe that the current Commissioner is looking at all those reports as they come in. So there is a process.

    What quite a lot of staff said to me, which is why I wrote what I did, is, "Oh, well, I wouldn't use it because I don't know what they do with it and I don't trust it", and so in many instances I would say, "Well, wouldn't it have been the sort of thing you could have brought to the attention of your manager?", and I would get the same reply.

    Obviously for some people there were concerns or fear about their own future if they were in any way regarded as -- the term that they would use to me -- as a trouble-maker. But it was clear from looking at the system that quite a lot of staff did use it and do use it. But it's very important, of course, that the Metropolitan Police Service do some more to make sure that people do use it if they need to and can trust it.

  • We had something or at least one insight into the culture of the organisation from Sir Paul Stephenson. He used the word "defensive", admittedly in a particular context. I know it's very difficult to generalise about culture of organisation, particularly one as large as the Metropolitan Police with 54,000 employees, but does the term "defensive" fit in with your analysis of the evidence you received?

  • Yes. And I would very much support his view, because it became mine, that the Metropolitan Police Service has not done enough to create what I'd call a challenging environment, where you're rewarded if you challenge what people, your peer group, say or you're rewarded if you challenge senior people.

    The police service operates or says it operates as a command and control operation. In fact, it doesn't. Often command and control operates in very small pockets or small areas within the Met, so it doesn't operate corporately in that way, in my view. But there is obviously a tradition -- and there is value in the tradition -- of people getting on and doing what they're told, and that can be in conflict with creating the sort of organisation in which people feel valued if they give a different opinion, and I think that does lead in some instances to defensiveness.

    And I quote a journalist who, in summary in my report, said to me quite clearly that a lot of police officers and staff, quite rightly, are brought up to be secretive, not to disclose information -- and of course I would support that, if it's confidential information, very much -- and they therefore find it difficult to be open and challenging about things which they don't need to be secretive about or defensive about.

  • How does a hierarchical organisation, particularly one whose very raison d'etre is to uphold law and order, create a challenging environment in the sense in which you deploy that term?

  • Well, I think it's the same issue for many large organisations, and I think you do it in a whole variety of ways. You do it, critically, through the leadership. How a management team goes on, how the person at the top of the organisation goes on, whether they're seen to be open to comment and differences of opinion, given in a considered and considerate way, will affect the way in which the organisation goes on.

    I think also there are all sorts of smaller ways that organisations can proceed to try to encourage the people quite low down the organisation to say what they think and speak up, and I know that various people within the Met have made efforts to do that and do make efforts to do that, and that's a long-term and ongoing job for all the managers at all levels in the organisation.

  • Would you mind if we come back to that towards the end of your evidence, and we'll break now.

  • 2 o'clock. Thank you very much indeed.

  • (The luncheon adjournment)

  • Yes, Mr Jay.

  • I think we left it at paragraph 3.1.6, which is unregulated conduct or other unregulated conduct. What specifically are you referring to here, Mrs Filkin?

  • I wanted to make sure that I had recorded that numbers of people within the Met and indeed some journalists told me about perfectly healthy contact that they didn't at this moment believe to be regulated, where they had trusted relationships and that those were handled professionally and sensibly, but they were relationships which other people didn't know anything about or didn't -- not many other people knew about them.

  • Would this cover, then, off-the-record briefings or just informal exchanges which might never find their way into a newspaper piece?

  • Off-the-record briefings -- if you like, formal off-the-record briefings which have been agreed by both sides will be off the record, with it being agreed that the journalists won't print anything at the moment because it might do harm or jeopardise some investigation.

    No, I don't think they would be referring to those. They would be referring to informal contact or people that they knew when there was something that they wanted to have reported correctly that they would ring up and give information to, which they weren't -- neither side was describing as unhealthy, not as information which was going to harm anybody, and so I was trying to record that there was lots of perfectly ordinary relationships which were about both sides doing their jobs.

  • But it's rather in the eye of the beholder, isn't it? What one reporter and policeman will say is healthy and worthwhile, albeit informal, somebody else may say, "Well, actually, that looks rather dangerously like the provision of information to the journalist which we don't think is healthy."

  • I quite agree, and that is why I say that one of my recommendations is that all contacts should be recorded, that there should be -- people might be given a general authority to be responsible for talking to the press about areas that they're responsible for, but that they should record that they've had that contact, and I think that's very important because I think corporately the organisation has to be able to do some review of that. I also think it protects people, that they have properly recorded it.

  • But Nick Davies, the journalist whom you were speaking to and who, of course, has given evidence to the Inquiry, would say, "Well, if you do that, it will all dry up and our ability to hold the police to account, which is one of the things we're supposed to do, will be lost because we won't get whistle-blowers." I mean, there's a different side --

  • It is the dilemma, and what I am not saying is that if you have a proper process and you are required to keep a brief note of contact, that that will stop all unregulated contact. I don't think it will. But I think it will go some way to regularising those arrangements in a more professional fashion, and if the Met does, at the same time, improve its internal procedures for people to bring matters which need scrutiny to the attention of people internally, and indeed if the Met increases the amount of information that they provide to the media, I hope it goes some way to deal with that.

    But I also say that I don't -- I'm not in any way saying that there won't occasionally be proper whistle-blowers who are acting in the public interest, who do feel, rightly or wrongly, that they haven't been heard and are giving proper information out, and I say in relation to those that when the Met becomes aware of them, they should deal with that proportionately too.

  • Yes, that's another problem, according, again, to evidence that I've heard. Yes?

  • Relationships themselves, section 3.2. The first issue is inequality of access. I think you are referring here to certain journalists, wherever they are from, getting too close to certain senior police officers; is that correct?

  • Yes, and as we heard this morning, that some journalists felt very much cut out of the club, as it were. Some crime journalists feel that they haven't been allowed into the Crime Reporters Association, and other journalists feel that because they're seen as difficult -- I would say in many instances good at scrutinising -- that they were in the past given short shrift.

  • The quid pro quo here is that the journalist brought into the club would be less likely to write a critical piece of the particular police officer or perhaps the force as a whole; is that right?

  • That would be the implication. How often that occurred, I don't know.

  • Excessive hospitality, section 3.2.2. You say:

    "A culture had developed at some senior levels in the organisation which made it normal, and in some cases expected, that contact with the media would be close. In addition, hospitality, which is now widely considered inappropriate, was accepted."

    That probably speaks for itself, but in terms of the hospitality you're referring to being inappropriate, you're referring both to it in terms of quantity and quality, presumably?

  • Yes, and -- quantity, quality and being skewed towards certain publications.

  • Are you able to identify those certain publications?

  • Well, they're only identifiable through the published registers and I think you identified it very clearly in the list you were giving today. There was certainly a lot of hospitality given by News International newspapers.

  • And then the next subsection, "Different rules for some". This is an important point:

    "... one rule for senior contact with the media and another for the rest of the organisation."

    The importance of this point, presumably, is if the culture of the organisation is set by those at the top, it's particularly invidious, if not unfortunate, if those at the top are not setting the right standards. It's self-explanatory.

  • And as I say, I think that that sullied other relationships of the top through the organisation, or some parts of the top. I think it's very important that I underline "some parts".

  • The next page, six lines down. You say many have told you they would not give confidential information to the DPA because leaks regularly occurred and such leaks have harmed work. Can you give us some sense of the quantity of evidence here? "Many" have told you?

  • Yes, it was a very constant refrain from a lot of people at very different levels within the organisation that they were concerned about some of the relationships -- and I underline "some" of the relationships -- within the DPA and the media, and that the DPA favoured some journalists and indeed would trade and would indeed, on occasions, because of that, cause harm.

    I gave an example where harm was obviously caused, but that was, of course, not the only example that I was given.

  • The trade that you are referring to here is the trade of information from the DPA out to the journalists, and whatever comes back in consideration for all that?

  • Well, often this -- the trading that I was referring to earlier, which is: "I'll give you this story if you'll keep this story out." That seemed to be the main consideration, but there were quite a number of people who said to me that they thought that it didn't necessarily have to be like that, that it was about people who had their pets or who were frightened of certain journalists, and so all of those things were said to me.

  • Does this mean that really what the DPA are doing is acting as a sort of extended newsroom, this time giving out information rather than receiving it, but its members acting in the same way as if they were reporters, rather than as if they were providing a neutral, impartial service?

  • Certainly -- and I do underline that, of course, my interviews and my report is very much looking back on how things were.

  • I don't wish to -- and I know efforts have been made recently to improve things considerably in the DPA.

    But certainly what had happened, it appeared, in the past was, as you suggest, that instead of seeing themselves as a public information, public affairs operation, which collected and provided information, and provided access for journalists to people who were responsible for pieces of work, were in some instances, because they had been led to believe that is how they should proceed, were involved in that sort of trading.

  • Friends and family. I think that section is probably self-explanatory. May I move on to organisational context. You have obviously considered the policies and standard operation or operating procedures which we have in the bundles prepared for the purposes of the Inquiry. It's your view that:

    "None of these documents provides clear and straightforward guidance on what is acceptable in dealing with the media."

  • None of them did when I began my work. Some of these have been improved since then.

  • Your plea is in terms of providing over-arching principles which help police officers and staff apply sound professional judgment. What would those principles be?

  • Well, they're the sorts of principles that I have tried to set out as being core, that people should be very careful in their dealings with the media, that they should think about what they are going to say before they say it, that they should record briefly what it is they have said, that they shouldn't respond to pressure. There's a whole sort of list of things which I would say people who are dealing with the media need to be aware of so that they can operate sound judgment in terms of what they do provide and what they don't provide, and of course they need to be absolutely clear that they don't provide anything that's confidential.

  • Presumably there should be a good reason for them providing what they do provide?

  • Not just because this will be a good story.

  • Absolutely. But there's lots of information that the Metropolitan Police collects which would be of great interest to the public which isn't confidential and which is statistical, which is information about their neighbourhoods and so forth, which I think the Metropolitan Police ought to do more to disseminate.

  • Yes, I readily accept that. I'm much more concerned, though, not about, if you like, the general flow of detail, but how one really stops the telephone calls saying, "Celebrity X has just been burgled and will be coming into the police station to make a statement if you're here at 5 o'clock."

  • I agree with you, it's difficult, and that -- as I've said earlier, it seems to me that it is about creating a culture within the organisation and within small parts of the organisation that this is not what we do here.

  • Thank you. Section 3.3.2, relationship between corporate and local communications management, is probably one we can take as read. It speaks for itself.

    Internal perceptions. This is page 25 of 56, 3.3.3. This is dealing with the question of leaks. You make the point that everybody has an opinion as to where leaks are most likely to occur but there's no consensus.

  • It's always somewhere else.

  • Did you get a sense at all of scale of this problem, its quantity?

  • Well, it was a big enough scale for a lot of people with -- inside the Met to be worried about it, but in terms of numbers, no, I couldn't say anything solid about that, I don't think, other than almost everybody I spoke to felt it did the Metropolitan Police Service harm, that it was thought, sometimes wrongly, to leak.

    I make the point that in some instances -- and I saw instances of other people in other organisations leaking information about the Metropolitan Police Service. So that obviously happened too, but certainly people within the Metropolitan Police Service felt that it did them harm that that was a reputation or a perception, however accurate it turned out to be.

  • You point out, in the middle of page 26, a certain amount of leaking is inevitable. Investigations of leaks tend to be futile and resource intensive. Then you say that in your view there's an overreliance on a quasi-judicial approach, with criminal avenues pursued where ordinary discipline and appeal arrangements may be more effective. Is it not the case that the difficulty in proving leaks, and particularly investigating them, applies whether you're looking at criminal contexts, where admittedly there's a higher standard of proof, and in the disciplinary context as well?

  • Yes, and I don't belittle the difficulty of doing those leak investigations, but I think there are some things that the Met could do more speedily on though things. If, for example, you know that the information was only held by three people, you haul the three people in and you say you're going to take action against all three until the person tells you who it is.

  • That's a bit tricky, isn't it? That rather reminds me of school. Somebody threw the rubber, and unless the person owns up --

  • No, but I think that there are -- of course you're right, and of course, any of these methods to deal more quickly with leaking has those problems and may not lead to anything sensible, but I think that it's possible that ordinary discipline arrangements that would operate in any other business could be more effectively used by the Met than very lengthy procedures which move towards criminal outcomes.

  • I understand that, and I'm sure that's right, but the problem isn't just confined to the Metropolitan Police.

  • It's throughout government.

  • And once you have the culture that it's all right to do it, then it happens, and trying to get to the bottom of it, if only to acquit the innocent as well as convict the guilty, is extremely difficulty.

    But the real difficulty is how you address the culture of preparedness to do it in the first place. That's, to my mind, verging on the holiday grail, but which nobody yet seems finally to have solved.

  • I'm sure you're right, I have no doubt, and I have no doubt that this it difficult, but I think there are other things the Met could do. For example, they're very loath to tell their staff that they're carrying out some of these enquiries and even more loath to tell them what the outcome was.

    I give an example not in relation to a leak but in relation to another matter, in which people across the Met had to get their information from the tabloids about what had happened to somebody. The information that was given internally was -- I'm sure somebody tried to be absolutely proper and not in any way undermine an individual more than they were undermined already because they were being sacked, but I think it doesn't help to create a culture that we don't approve of this and we do take it seriously and we do take action on it if you don't tell people that you're taking action on it.

  • How much of it would be addressed by being much more open, by recognising that, of course, if you say, "We're looking at this", then whoever is doing it will close down -- now that's, of course, a risk and number inevitable, but how much do you improve if you are much, much more open? "This is what went out. There are 15 people who could have done it. Now we're looking to see, we're not sure what we're going to find, but the more this happens, the more we're going to have to perhaps rejig the team, perhaps do this, that and the other, and let's have some ideas, please." Engage with people.

  • Yes, I think you're absolutely right, and: "We'd like some information, please, and it's your duty to protect this organisation through giving us that information."

    So I think there's a number of those sorts of approaches which would help somewhat, but I share your view that it won't solve the problem totally, I'm sure.

  • Thank you. I move on to the section, page 28 of 56, 3.3.5, "Scrutiny and monitoring of propriety issues and corporate culture". We're back to the point here which you developed at an earlier stage, namely the culture emanating from the top and the lack of consistency in how some of the senior team conduct their relationships with the media and how they view gifts and hospitality. I think you said earlier in some areas, amongst some people, there are -- or at least there were -- inappropriate relationships.

    "External environment", section 3.4. In a nutshell, what is the issue you are addressing here, Mrs Filkin?

  • I hope I'm giving due regard to the very difficult and complex job that the Metropolitan Police have to provide, and the way in which they are often the eye of a media frenzy, which I think does make all the things that it's easy for somebody like me to say often very difficult to carry out. So I'm trying to acknowledge that.

    I'm also trying to say that they're in a -- the Met are in a particularly difficult situation because there is politicisation. Some of that, there's nothing wrong with it. It's politicians saying what their views are and different politicians from different parties saying what their views are. I think the Met should be very careful about trying to respond with their own views to political statements in sort of the media because I don't think, in my view, that that's their role, but I understand if they feel that they have this hard operational information, that they might feel that they want to get that out in the public domain. I'm not arguing against that.

    But I think that the fact that six management board members have left the Metropolitan Police in recent years, where the media coverage of what was happening to them or the arguments that they were having with other people, does make their situation even more difficult than in some -- many other organisations.

    So I was trying to acknowledge those sorts of things that they have to contend with, but they do also have to contend with the fact that there are several other organisations who have an absolutely legitimate role in relation to the police and who may have very different views about what it is proper to provide to the public.

  • Yes. In section 3.4.2, you refer to sort of an inherent conflict of interest. A journalist may, on occasion, need to consider breaking the law in the public interest and then the police may have a correlative obligation to investigate that subsequently.

  • May I address the issue of the term "police source", which is page 32 of 56. Its use, as you say, tends to imply a leak, but it may be used properly to indicate that the source is an institution or someone which is different but related, such as the MPA, or indeed it may be as a mask to try and protect the real provenance of a source.

  • Were those differences explained to you by journalists or by police officers or are those inferences you've made?

  • I was in one other organisation when a person who had a relationship, a proper relationship, towards policing gave information to a journalist, so I saw that happening, and I was in another organisation where a person said they had given information in the past and had described themselves as a police source. So I saw those sort of things happening. I don't know that anybody explained those things to me, other than seeing what was actually occurring.

  • Thank you. Section 3.4.3, former employees. This is the revolving door point and it's a concern which you're expressing in line with the Home Affairs Select Committee.

  • Yes. There are two bits to it. There's the bit of former employees very quickly taking up jobs in the media, but perhaps even more concerning than that is former employees who become investigators and who either have favours to call in from colleagues that they used to have, or indeed they haven't got favours to call in but they have good contacts inside, and those people trust them and give them information because they think they're all trying to do the same thing. So I think there need to be very clear guidelines for people within the Met about how they relate to former employees.

    And the Met, as you will have seen from my report, also employs quite a lot of former employees in a variety of roles, and all I'm advising is that the rules that should apply to the staff ought to apply to anybody who is working for them temporarily or on short-term contracts, having left the Met.

  • Or, indeed, on any contract.

  • It's not a question of the basis upon which they're employed.

  • So that's three roles for retired police officers: in the media, or commenting about the media; within the area of investigation where they might exploit their contacts with the press; or back in the police, where they might continue practices which might have been acceptable once but which are no longer acceptable.

  • Yes, and then the other bit, which is going to work for security firms, which I think sometimes leads to, again, people coming back to their colleagues for information and --

  • Yes, I'm putting that into the second point.

  • Yes, I think you're right.

  • Section 3.4.4, shared responsibilities and the importance of collaboration. There you're dealing with possible confusions which might arise between the IPCC and the MPS, and you provide a case study, the shooting of Mark Duggan.

  • Yes, and I understand that a new protocol between them has now been agreed.

  • You summarise these problems, section 3.5, page 37 and 56. You pick up on the themes we've been discussing: the issue of perception, how damaging it is, the difficulty of proving it, the close relationship that's developed between parts of the MPS and the media has caused harm, lack of hard evidence about improper disclosure but boundaries need to be established and perceptions corrected.

    Chapter 4 was your findings and recommendations, page 38 of 56. Your first point, the way the MPS communicated with the public, second paragraph there:

    "The way that relationships with the media have developed has resulted in the perception that some have better access to MPS information than others. I am convinced that some information has been given inappropriately."

    And you say towards the bottom of the page:

    "For these reasons, I consider that more, not less, contact with the media as a whole is essential, providing it is open and recorded. However, it is important that the public are informed through all media outlets, not just the national print press, because different sections of the public use media in different ways."

    So in order to address this access problem, there are two sort of competing -- well, not competing but complementary strands. One, more access, but the access -- this is the second point -- should be open and recorded, rather than subterranean.

  • That's your key finding one and recommendation one in the middle of the next page, and the supporting advice which locks in with recommendation one is at page 49 of 56.

  • It probably speaks for itself, so I'm not going to take you to that unless there are any particular points you wish to highlight.

  • No, I hope that's clear.

  • Then the next point is 4.2, "Leadership and trust within the MPS". This is the senior officers not following the rules, a wide variation in how the senior team interpreted policy, et cetera.

    Maybe I should pick up a point most of the way down page 40, where you say:

    "Many police officers and staff would welcome a less defensive stance and greater willingness to inform the public about the difficulties and challenges faced by those working in policing."

    That, again, is a point we've already discussed, and I think your turn of phrase was "a challenging environment" as opposed to a defensive one, and the recommendation you make at page 41 of 56 -- the supporting advice is at page 50:

    "The MPS senior team must signal a change in culture and set a consistent example for all staff on the ethical standards they expect."

    Then 4.3, corporate management of ethical issues:

    "In the past, the MPS did not identify as a risk the close relationship of some senior officers and staff to certain sections of its media. During my inquiry, members of the senior team acknowledged that there were significant differences of opinion about the need to develop close relationships with the media and the appropriateness of receiving extensive hospitality as part of it."

    And your recommendation there, page 42 of 56, says:

    "The Commissioner delegates responsibility and resources to a member of his senior team to initiate change in the way the MPS approaches integrity and ethics issues at all levels."

    And the supporting advice is at page 51.

    Transparency. This is the back-door briefings point through informal and unofficial channels, which you've already covered in the body of your report.

    What about the strength of the fear you recognise halfway down page 43, that acquiring a greater degree of transparency -- I think this is probably Mr Davies' point -- may stifle good investigative journalism in the public interest? I mean, how much weight do you give to that fear?

  • Well, it's a real fear, and certainly journalists have expressed it very forcefully to me. So they're anxious about it. I think if all the things that I'm saying are adopted by the Met, particularly the openness and more contact with the media, this should not happen. Yes, it will be more controlled, I hope, and less harmful, I hope, but I'm not in any way wishing to undermine proper scrutiny. The opposite. I mean, I think there's quite a lot more scrutiny that needs to happen. So I'm trying to encourage more scrutiny, and I think the Met should be about encouraging more scrutiny.

    So, yes, there may be problems which people may have to work through. If they find that everything's dried up, this is a very proper thing to discuss and set right. So I -- but I don't at the moment see that that will be a problem or a particular problem.

  • So is this right: the general rule should be maximum transparency but if you can find public interest exceptions, which are narrowly defined and properly applied, then fair enough.

  • And deal with those properly and proportionately.

  • Yes. Your recommendation, page 44 of 56 -- the evidence in support of it is page 52:

    "All police officers and staff who provide information to the media should make a brief personal record of the information they provide."

    Then 4.5, these are the core principles you spoke of earlier. You're not in favour of creating another set of SOPs or media policy. You've pointed out already that the guidance has, in your view, changed and improved. It's the identification of core principles.

    Perhaps the key principle is the one you've italicised in recommendation 5:

    "Permissible but not unconditional. This should be the over-arching principle."

    So in your own words, what are you seeking to convey by that?

  • Well, I'm seeking to convey that there will be some information -- and the Met must make it absolutely clear what that is -- that everybody who works for the Met can and should pass on to members of the public, to local media outlets and to anybody else who talks to them, and that there should be a general view that this 54,000 people who are working for London and working for the public are responsible people and that they can -- as long as they stick to what it's being said can be given out, they can give it out, and that people with particular responsibilities at certain levels -- and I've set out the levels -- will tell their line manager that they're going to be investigating X or doing Y, and the assumption will be that part of that job is that their job is to keep the media informed and not informed, as is appropriate, and that it will be their responsibility.

    So I'm saying that numbers of those things will be, if you like, agreed -- they might be agreed now -- and it will be in six months' time that a chief inspector doing something will be -- because that's his or her area of work and they'll be able to provide information on it.

  • So I'm saying there should be clarity about who is providing what, but the assumption should be that a lot more people will be providing information, and I hope that will go some way to do what so many people within the Met wished, that the public was better informed about the difficult job they have to do.

  • Thank you. Then item 6, "Communications infrastructure". This, of course, is the directorate of public affairs point:

    "There are two perceptions which are in play here. First, the DPA is unwilling, in some instances, to provide information to the public. Secondly, that information is sometimes misused."

    Then you say:

    "I am also concerned by the perception that the access provided to the media by the DPA has not been impartial, a view that's been expressed internally and externally."

    You've told us about that.

    "This perception appears to have grown as a result of a particular style of leadership."

    May I ask you, please, to develop that sentence?

  • Well, I can only develop it by saying that the person who was the senior person in that department was said by a considerable number of people who spoke to me to have set that tone and that style within that department, and that -- made it clear that certain newspapers were favoured over others. So all I was doing with that was recording what really a very large number of people had said to me.

  • That, of course, is a fertile breeding ground for people to try and get information around the back door.

  • Of course, and that was said to me by numbers of journalists.

  • So we're clear, the "certain newspapers" are those in the News International stable; is that what you were being told?

  • Yes, I think mainly, but it may have been wider than that.

  • Thank you. Recommendation six, which flows from that, is clear.

    Finally, prevention. This is the leaking issue. You say:

    "Until recently, leaking has not been recognised as an organisational risk, nor have clear messages of deterrence been sent. The MPS should publicise misconduct findings or prosecutions in enough detail to inform staff and provide more management information."

    Then at the bottom of page 47:

    "Agreeing a set of core principles which leave staff in no doubt about what is appropriate will enable the organisation to identify breaches more readily."

    And your recommendations --

  • Just before you do, you say on page 47:

    "Most agree that whether money is involved or not, providing information for personal reward of any kind amounts to corrupt conduct."

    Does that mean that some people did not consider it inappropriate to accept money or other consideration?

  • I assume that some people, who -- I, by this time, knew that there was some evidence that some people had accepted excessive hospitality, for example -- did not regard that as improper, and I made the assumption that that must also be true of some people who accepted money, because what I was told was that some people accepted money for giving information to the press such as "Celebrity X is going to be at the police station today", felt that they were just being treated like any member of the public would be who rang up the tabloid. So I think there were a few people who thought like that. But the point I was trying to make was that most people didn't think like that.

  • Yes, well, I'm gratified to hear it, but I'm rather concerned that anybody should think that phoning up the press to give them some information, such as the presence of celebrity X or the fact that famous person Y has been burgled, or has called the police, all of which examples we've seen --

  • -- (a) is ever acceptable, a fortiori that it should justify the receipt of money.

  • I couldn't agree with you more.

  • Maybe some felt because certain tabloids offer money if you phone a particular number with a tip --

  • -- that if they're phoning in --

  • -- at one minute past 5 in the afternoon, then it's okay.

  • I think that's the possible argument which you have been treated to.

  • Yes, I think you're right.

  • In relation to leaks and prevention strategy, it's the creation of the right environment, clear messages of deterrence, and -- I think you made this clear earlier -- not pursuing overlong technical investigations which might lead to a criminal prosecution but being more pragmatic within a disciplinary context. Have I correctly understood it?

  • Thank you. Now, the ideas for practical guidance, which is after the first 56 pages, these are helpful and probably self-explanatory. You apply, obviously, some common sense here, that the offer of a pint of beer may not be objectionable. It's a question of fact and degree, but there comes a point when -- maybe it's a bottle of champagne or whatever -- you're on impermissible terrain.

    Just one issue, because we may be picking it up with the next witness. Perhaps it's one of terminology, because there can be confusion about it: the on or off the record point, which is page 510.

  • What's your feeling here? "On the record" obviously is self-explanatory, but "on the record" can mean different things to different people in different contexts.

  • It might mean "Don't use it at all", which is its rare meaning, in fact, in the United Kingdom, or it might mean, more frequently: "You can use it but don't quote me." What is your practical advice in this domain?

  • I think the practical advice -- and with all this, my -- what I hope was little bits of practical help were not making an assumption that many police officers didn't know these things. Of course they do. But I was trying to provide them with what they asked for, particularly for new recruits and more junior ranks particularly.

    But in relation to on or off the record, my key recommendation to people would be: talk to the journalist and find out what this actually means before you start. To exercise some judgment about it. Many journalists are absolutely proper about it, tell you exactly what they will do or won't do with an off-the-record briefing, and if you explain to them that you can give them information but they can't use it at the moment, will respect that. There's no issue. Some won't. Some are untrustworthy, and like any other walk of life, one has to weigh up people very carefully in terms of what they're saying.

    I have no doubt that the police will have to occasionally do off-the-record briefing, because otherwise they would jeopardise an investigation, and a reporter may have got a bit of a story which, if they ran it, would be very harmful, and the only way to prevent that being run, in a sensible fashion, would be to give them an off-the-record briefing and to tell them that you would inform them as soon as you could when it was possible to let that get out onto the public airwaves.

  • Then you list ten tactics to watch out for, which I'm sure is salutary advice not just to police officers but more generally.

  • Whether or not they're often deployed is obviously a matter for debate.

    Well, those are all the questions I have for you, Mrs Filkin. It's possible there may be some more.

  • I repeat what I've said before: I'm very grateful to you for this, which makes a great part of what I'm doing much easier, if not redundant.

  • But how it's been taken forward will doubtless be the subject of some questions of the present Commissioner and how it's going to be monitored will doubtless be the subject of the evidence of the next witness.

    Thank you very much indeed.

  • Shall we move straight on to Mr Baker? Mr Baker, please.