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

  • LORD PAUL LESLIE CONDON (sworn).

  • Please take a seat and make yourself comfortable. Could you state your full name to the Inquiry, please?

  • And could you confirm, please, that the contents of the statement you provided to the Inquiry are true to the best of your knowledge and belief?

  • Thank you very much indeed, Lord Condon, for the work you've put into this statement. I'm sure you'll appreciate how valuable the assistance of all former Commissioners will be to what I'm doing.

  • Thank you very much, sir.

  • I'm going to start with your career history, starting at paragraph 2 of your witness statement, and I'll just summarise. You can tell me whether I accurately summarise what you say from paragraphs 2 to 5. You explain that you joined the Metropolitan Police Service as a constable in March 1967 and served in all ranks up to and including chief superintendent.

    Skipping over your university years, you explain that in 1984 you moved from the MPS to Kent Police. You were Assistant Chief Constable there in charge of operational policing. You then returned to London as Deputy Assistant Commissioner in charge of West London. You then were appointed Assistant Commissioner Personnel and Training and then you went back to Kent Police from 1989 to 1993 as Chief Constable of Kent Police?

  • You explain that you were awarded the Queen's Police Medal and knighthood in 1994. You then explain at paragraph 4 that you were the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis from 1 February 1993 until you retired from the Police Service on 31 January 2000.

  • Is it correct that you were succeeded by Lord Stevens?

  • Yes, I was. He had been my deputy and took over as Commissioner.

  • Then at paragraphs 5 and 6 you explain what you've done since then. You explain that you were appointed as an independent member of the House of Lords. You have also held various posts, including director and then chairman of the anti-corruption security unit of the International Cricket Council. You're also Sports Integrity Adviser to the Olympic Games in London and you have served also on a number of commercial boards and advisory boards in Europe, North America and Australia.

  • I've left some detail out but is that an accurate summary of your career history?

  • Thank you very much indeed. I'm going to ask you about a number of different issues or topics, Lord Condon, if I can. I'm going to start with your experience of police corruption. If we turn to paragraph 48 of your statement, please. I'm going to start with your first few days as Commissioner. You explain at paragraph 48 that within days of taking office you were made aware by your senior team of the challenges you faced in this regard. Can you explain to me what were these challenges that you faced and how were they presented to you at that stage?

  • Clearly in my first few days/weeks I was briefed on the major issues facing the Met that I was inheriting, and part of that briefing suggested that we did have a small but significant number of officers whose behaviour was totally unacceptable, and that their behaviour varied from minor disciplinary matters right the way through to serious criminal matters, and there was a hope and expectation that as an incoming Commissioner I would find ways to respond to this challenge.

  • Can you give us a flavour of the types of corruption that were identified?

  • Yes. I mean, in any major big city police service in the world, whether it's London or equivalent major cities anywhere in the world, there will always be a small number of police officers, sadly, who are drawn into corrupt criminal practice, and it can vary from relatively minor right the way up to the most serious criminal offences.

  • Was this corruption focused on the relationship between the police and the press --

  • -- or was it corruption in a more general sense?

  • I beg your pardon. The contextual setting, I know that now we are -- that's the focus of this Inquiry and a major part of it, but contextually then, notions of police corruption linked to the media was not part of the briefing, and at the time was not part of my concern. So it was a range of more general activity of -- leading up to and almost being participants in major crimes.

  • I understand the answer you've just given me, but can perhaps assist to this extent: what were the kinds of motives behind the kind of corruption that you identified or was pointed out to you?

  • Primarily financial gain.

  • You say at paragraph 48 -- this was obviously in 1993, when you first took office, and you say that it took until 1997 to 1998 to successfully lobby for changes to the police disciplinary regulations to make it easier to deal with corrupt officers. Can you tell us about that, please?

  • Yes. Part of my agreeing to become the Commissioner was an acceptance that I wanted to be and needed to be a reforming Commissioner around a number of issues. One of them was police discipline, which I felt at the time made it very difficult or unnecessarily and unwisely difficult to deal with bad officers, and therefore I started a campaign which led eventually -- and these things do take time. Via evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee and lobbying politicians and the media generally, by -- the police discipline regulations were eventually changed, for the better, I believe, in the public interest, and by -- it took until 1999, and then the amended police regulations made it easier to deal with bad officers.

  • You also tell us that during your time as Commissioner you introduced a number of policies aimed at maintaining integrity within the Metropolitan Police Service. I just want to look at your anti-corruption strategy, if I can. This is special notice 36/98. It's at page 04843. I understand -- do you have a tab number?

  • I don't have a -- hm. Let me just see if I can find it. If you just give me a moment, sir. For some reason, my bundle has no tabs. I think it's ... could it be bundle C? Can I just double-check? Just give me a moment. Sorry. (Pause)

    I'm being told that it's probably bundle 2, tab C, and it's the first document therein. Do you have a copy of that?

  • I have the front page on the screen here.

  • My bundle 2 goes from tab 97 to 124. Oh no, I have a --

  • I have it. No, I have a different bundle. One moment.

  • I'm sure we can get the relevant parts on the screen, if that assists.

  • Carry on, Ms Patry Hoskins.

  • Thank you very much indeed.

    Special notice 36/98 -- I'm now being told that the wrong policy is on screen.

  • No, that's the correct -- if you're talking about the major special notice about corruption, that is it.

  • Yes, that is it. Good.

  • Very good. We're doing very well. Good. Crack on.

  • Not at all.

    Can we look at the introduction to that? It's 04847, for those who have it on screen. We can see from the previous page that there's a foreword by you, Lord Condon, but if we look at the introduction and the definitions, we see there what you were trying to achieve. Is there anything that you would like to say before we move on to the principles and the strands?

  • No. I mean, this was really the culmination of a number of years. 1997, 1998 were particularly busy. In 1997, I gave evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee and knew that changes to discipline rules were on the way. Early in 1998, I remember, with warrants, we raided the homes of about 30 serving and retired police officers and started some major corruption inquiries into criminal matters.

    And then I wanted, before the end of 1998, to draw together in one document our ongoing determination to deal with malpractice, however it manifested itself, and so this document, clearly though not perfect, was an attempt to bring together and make it absolutely clear to people what the rules of engagement were.

  • Had there previously been such a strategy in existence?

  • Yes. All police forces are against corruption, aren't they? They wouldn't be for it. And so I'm not being trite, but there would have been rules in all police forces at all times which would embrace the criminal law for dealing with criminal behaviour by police officers. There would have been disciplinary measures. But this was bringing it together in a special order, reinforcing the importance of it, rebriefing every senior officer in the service, down to and including chief superintendents, with briefings about what we were doing, how serious we were, and then briefings beyond that, so that everyone in the Met, by the end of 1998, would have been no doubt, in no doubt, how serious we were about dealing with these issues.

  • If we turn over to the following page, 04848, we see the principles behind the strategy and the strategy itself. If I can read out the words from the strategy:

    "We will adopt a strategic approach towards the prevention and detection of corruption and unethical behaviour. The strategy has six strands at present, each of which identify and deliver a number of objectives."

    And you say:

    "Whilst this initial phase is designed to last three years, the philosophy of the strategy is that the MPS will continuously invest effort and resources into assuring the highest levels of integrity for all time."

  • Was this a particular policy or strategy intended to last beyond your time as Commissioner?

  • Yes. It certainly -- and the -- my deputy at the time, John Stevens, took over as Commissioner and John was -- and I'm sure remained -- as committed to dealing with these issues as I was. So this was not an ephemeral, time-limited, quick in-and-out look at corruption. This was a major reassertion of what the Met stood for and would stand for going forward.

  • The document actually emanates from him. You wrote the foreword -- I'm not suggesting you weren't heavily involved in it. On the face of it --

  • The Deputy Commissioner at any time, sir, is the head of the discipline side of the service, so I wrote the foreword, clearly, as a policy board, we have been fully committed to developing this, but it would have been strange for anyone other than the Deputy Commissioner to have put his name to it.

  • No, I wasn't suggested by that that you were distancing yourself from it; quite the reverse. If Lord Stevens, as now he is, was also part of it, everybody would understand that when he took over from you, then this was business as usual.

  • Yes. No, I was delighted to get him into the Met as Deputy Commissioner, I think in mid-1998. So John had -- I had three deputy commissioners during my seven years and John came in, I think, in about June or July 1998. So we had already been working on this, and then he was fully supportive of it and carried it forward.

  • Can we turn finally, for the purposes of looking at the policy, to the following page, 04849. The top of the page should say:

    "The strands are ..."

    You'll see that the strategy has six strands and they're set out there. One of the key strands is prevention and detection, and under the heading "Prevention and detection" there is set out the over-arching aim of the strand, which is to continuously develop methods and systems of preventing and detecting corruption, dishonesty and unethical behaviour, thereby increasing the certainty of detection.

    Then you set out some objectives below that. Can I ask you about one of the bullet points therein? You say, maybe three quarters of the way down this page, that:

    "One of the present objectives is to research and identify cultural issues which act as a barrier to staff voicing concerns and taking action to overcome them."

    Can you identify for us what you meant by that? What sort of cultural issues were you aiming to identify which might act as a barrier to staff whistle-blowing?

  • In any organisation it is difficult to encourage whistle-blowing. Some people think it's wrong to inform on their colleagues, some might be frightened to do it, some might be oversensitive to do it. So what I was seeking to do and encourage was to legitimise and to encourage and to demand that it was the right thing to do, to whistle-blow. The Police Service of all bodies should not have people within it who are frightened of pointing out malpractice by their colleagues.

  • Can you give us an overview as to whether, during your time, you feel that this strategy was effectively implemented?

  • Yes, I believe it was. If it hadn't been, I would have taken, with senior colleagues, remedial action. I honestly believed at the time that this was probably one of the most demanding and appropriate sets of policies for dealing with malpractice of any major city in the world, and in fact we were visited by police forces from around the world who sought to replicate parts of it.

  • Do you have any knowledge of the extent to which it's still followed today?

  • I have been retired -- I'm now in my 13th year of retirement, and the Police Service changes dramatically, so I'm very reluctant to talk about a service that I no longer am part of --

  • -- or, in all honesty, would understand all the nuances of, but to demand the highest standards in the Police Service, again, is not an ephemeral issue; it's an enduring issue, and I would be amazed and disappointed if there wasn't serious endeavour to deal with malpractice in the current Police Service.

  • I'm going to ask you now about the relationship between the press and the police, if I can. Turning back in your witness statement, please, to paragraphs 9 and 10, first of all, you explain that -- well, you contrast between your time as Chief Constable of Kent and Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service, and you explain at the end of paragraph 10 in particular that the MPS post is becoming a very public post and that you understand that the Commissioner is now expected to be a very public figure in a way, perhaps, that the Chief Constable of Kent Police is not.

    Can I ask you one question about paragraph 10. You say at the start:

    "As I expected on taking over as Commissioner, my professional relationship with the media became a significant part of my life and at times would completely dominate it."

    What do you mean by at times your professional relationship with the media would completely dominate your life?

  • Just that. For every waking minute I was on duty for small periods, that relationship with the media would be the single thing that was dominating my life. So a major terrorist event in London -- and I had them during my time, both Middle Eastern and Irish terrorism -- there would be an insatiable demand for the Commissioner of the day to be saying things about it, to be reassuring the public, to be giving information, and so -- and it is -- you can use any language you like. Chalk and cheese, paradigm shift, whatever comparators. The role of the Commissioner of the day vis-a-vis the media is fundamentally different and totally more demanding than any chief constable's role, and I have done both. And I'm not saying that in an arrogant way or a patronising way. It's just the way it is. The Commissioner of the day is the public face of policing for their country, whether he or she likes it or not, and that brings with it certain demands.

  • You say you don't say that in a patronising way. Do you say it in a critical way?

  • No, I say it as very much a matter of fact way. I had been a very young staff officer as a chief superintendent to a Commission, I had been a deputy assistant commissioner, I had been an assistant commissioner, I had worked closely with former commissioners, I had been a chief constable. So I knew exactly what to expect on taking over as Commissioner and I knew it would be -- in relation to the media, it would be totally and comprehensively different to the relationship I'd had as a chief constable.

  • Did you feel that in those times of great media interest that the need to interact with the media meant that this kind of activity acted to the detriment of your other responsibilities?

  • No. It was a -- the Commissioner of the day -- as I say, rightly or wrongly, the Commissioner of the day is seen as the voice of the Police Service, along with the president of ACPO, and it's quite right that the Commissioner of the day should be helping to set the agenda on policing issues.

    Something I've realised, thinking about how I could help the Inquiry, is what has changed -- when I took over as Commissioner in 1993, a small number of editors, leader writers and their equivalents set, dominated and controlled the media agenda around policing, and the Police Service had very little alternative routes of giving information to the public. That has been transformed by the Internet, World Wide Web, social media, and so the Police Service now has different challenges and fundamentally more opportunities to communicate direct to the public than was available to me.

    The Met didn't have its first website until, I think, about 1996, 1997, so Commissioners up to and including me, if they wanted to stimulate discussion about policing issues, if they wanted to reassure the public, they had to be working with the media.

  • In your statement at paragraphs 11 to 13, you set out three main ways in which the MPS interacted with the press: first of all, there were event-driven press conferences following a serious event of some kind; planned campaign-driven media events; and then what you call relationship building. I'm not going to ask you about the first of those, the press conferences following a serious event; they're fairly self-explanatory. Let me ask you about each of the other two interactions that you had with the media.

    First of all, at paragraph 12, you explain campaign-driven media events. You give an example of Operation Bumblebee, for example, the campaign to reduce domestic burglary. You explain essentially that there were a number of briefings and interviews in order to champion those campaigns. Can you tell us what form those briefings and interviews took? Were they, for example, held at New Scotland Yard or were they something more informal?

  • Bumblebee is a good example, because again, when I took over as Commissioner, the crime that seemed to worry the public the most was domestic burglary. You couldn't feel safe in your own house. That totally undermined your quality of life. So we'd decided to have a huge campaign to bring down domestic burglary. I forget how Bumblebee became the brand or the name, but what we tried to do was to have events that captured the public imagination, that reassured them we were doing something about burglary, that transferred fear from the public to the burglars. So we would have things like Bumblebee days, where -- I know it sounds corny, but we would save up our warrants, a lot of the activity against burglars, and then we would perhaps make 200 to 300 arrests simultaneously to make an impact. The media would be briefed about that, they would be told about the results. There would be quite dramatic footage of police officers carrying out raids, arresting suspected burglars, and I would be part of -- not necessarily fronting it, but I would be part of that.

    The gentler side of that is we would have Bumblebee roadshows where we would take over a major venue, a major public venue, where we would put on display thousands of items of recovered stolen property and the public would be invited to come and look for their stolen property, and again, very media-friendly incidents would happen during that. So I remember a war hero -- Second World War hero was reunited with some of his military paraphernalia that had been stolen from his house. Elderly people reunited with sentimental jewellery and so on. Again, I would be part of fronting those events.

    So in a sense, it was not so much talking to the media about it; it was having quite dramatic events which would capture the public imagination, and over the seven years we were able to bring burglary down to about an 18-year low, which, because it's good news, got very little publicity, but, if you like, it was part of the reassuring the public.

  • I ask the question because at the end of paragraph 12, at the bottom of page 4, you say that you frequently championed these campaigns through personal briefings and interviews?

  • Personal briefings with the media?

  • The briefing of the day, yes. We would say that today we have raided X number of locations in London and Y number of people have been arrested and this has been recovered and here we have here a -- and so it was to create the interest and it was primarily about reassuring the public and putting fear into the burglars that this was a major issue for the Metropolitan Police.

  • So these briefings would take place at New Scotland Yard or elsewhere?

  • New Scotland Yard primarily.

  • Were they ever anything more informal? That's the question I've been asked to put to you, whether they may have been informal, say, over lunch or dinner?

  • I have no doubt -- and I'm sure you will ask me about my contact with editors and so on.

  • But clearly Bumblebee was a major campaign and dealing with burglary was a major campaign, which no doubt would have featured in discussions with editors at various times.

  • I'll come on to ask you about that. Just in response to something you've just said about publicising Operation Bumblebee -- you said that you would carry out a number of arrests at the same time with the aim of making an impact.

  • Did you ever invite members of the media along with you to attend when you went in to raid or to arrest?

  • Yes. It's a sensitive issue and there are arguments for and against, but on balance, I felt it was in the public interest if done correctly, with very clear parameters.

  • What very clear parameters?

  • Clearly it shouldn't be -- these were suspects, and so the dignity and the rights of suspects had to be respected, and so the footage was not of cameras going into a bedroom of someone who is arrested at 6 o'clock in the morning. The pictures would be of police perhaps breaking into premises, if they hadn't been allowed in voluntarily.

    So we discussed this at great length, and certainly in my time as Commissioner I would have been very angry if any of that activity had trespassed across into what I would have seen as unethical behaviour.

  • If you invited along a press photographer to attend one of these raids, how could you control which images they then went on to publish?

  • By controlling the access you give them. I mean, you -- and these were -- this was not on every event. These were occasional, the media involvement, and they were very, very tightly controlled.

  • Can I ask you now about the third of the interactions with the press: relationship building, as you call it. This is described at paragraph 13 of your statement. You explain that the media and the public needed to know who you were, what you were doing and what you stood for and valued, and this is why you say that this third strand of media contact, relationship building, was an important one.

    You explain that this was achieved in a number of ways. The first example you give is that on a monthly basis you would brief the members of the Crime Reporters Association at New Scotland Yard, and you say these were fairly informal gatherings, allowing those present to range across all the topical events which were of interest to them.

    I should note the last sentence also of paragraph 13, because there's been some criticism of this -- not criticism of you, but criticism more recently -- that you would also occasionally brief members of the Foreign Press Association based in the UK. What justified these regular briefings to what is, in effect, a select group of journalists?

  • I inherited these meetings. There had been a long standing arrangement that the Commissioner of the day did meet with the Crime Reporters Association, and it sort of -- I think in my time it sort of petered out towards the end, and I certainly remember as it got towards the middle and towards the end of the 1990s, they certainly weren't monthly events.

    I wouldn't have briefed them if I felt it was a desperately exclusive sort of small trade body that gave special access. To me, it seemed that every major crime reporter around in London was part of that, as were those involved with the electronic media, and I guess it was a handy way, once every month -- or certainly, latterly, it was every few months -- them having the opportunity to discuss things which were of interest to them. It suited my purpose, certainly in the initial years. I had a -- as I say, I had an agenda of reform around police discipline, the accountability for the Met. I campaigned and argued strongly for there to be a police authority for London for the Met in the way there was for provincial forces. So it suited me and my agenda of change to have those sort of meetings with -- more so with editors, but I was happy to have those meetings with crime resporters.

  • I felt -- I think they felt they weren't getting from me what they wanted. And I don't think -- and I don't say that in a sort of pejorative sense. For me, they were -- they couldn't and shouldn't be sort of off-the-record briefings. Off-the-record briefings are never something which I've felt comfortable with. For me, they were background briefings, so it was me there, as the Commissioner, talking about issues. I didn't expect headlines the following day based on those discussions and I think because they were generalised briefings. I suspect that some of them found it a bit boring, so --

  • Is the CRA self-selecting?

  • Yes, I -- as I say, I don't -- I can't say that I was aware of their rules of engagement, sir, but my view was it seemed that most of the crime reporters on the national newspapers and in the BBC and ITV in London were all part of that, so I don't think it was as tight as, say, the parliamentary lobby, where it's sort of seen as more exclusive. It's probably for them to say, but it seemed to me just a sort of generic description of all of the crime reporters who seemed to work --

  • So anybody who wanted to come, but not quite?

  • Almost. That's certainly how it felt to me, yes.

  • Because when you were doing your other work, inviting reporters along to operations that you were conducting, how did you select them?

  • That would have been open invitation. Through the -- through my directorate of public affairs, they were well versed at inviting the media to events, and so they would have had a list of people they would have invited.

    But I was happily -- I inherited those meetings. I was very happy to carry on with them. I never felt they were desperately productive, either for me or for them. As I say, they tended to -- during my time, they sort of petered out, really.

  • There's no question of -- in your mind, at any rate -- of journalists being given favoured status?

  • In other words, some journalists got rather more access than others?

  • No, no. I was -- both in relation to the individual reporters and editors, I was -- tried to be scrupulously fair, so there could be no accusation of either an individual journalist or editor getting preferred status, and trying to, over a yearly cycle, have meetings with all editors and so on.

  • Can I build on from those answers to look at paragraph 14. I'll read it out because it's important:

    "Relationship building with editors was a very important part of my interaction with the media. I achieved this by inviting print, television and radio editors to individual and group meetings at New Scotland Yard or occasionally going to meetings at their offices."

    Now, that paragraph leads me to ask you a number of questions. First of all, did you invite all print, television and radio editors to individual and group meetings or was it a select group?

  • All of them. My ambition -- as I say, I wanted to do it for two reasons. One was because I had an agenda of reform around three or four big issues, which I needed -- I felt I needed to share with editors, and also, secondly, because at the time they were the arbiters as to what the public were told about big policing issues, and so in the way that I would brief politicians, local and national, I would brief the business community, I felt it would have been negligent not to brief the media on big issues.

    Others would have called it boundary management. What are the -- who are the organisations who surround the Met? Who needs to be told what we're up to? And clearly the media were a part of that.

    My ambition, although I never achieved it, was to brief each of the editors probably once a year, and it was not selective. It was inclusive, all of them.

  • All right. Can I ask you about the words "individual and group meetings"? Who would be selected for an individual meeting?

  • That was just -- I mean, the guidance I'd given to my -- and I had two directors of public affairs -- was that as a general steer, I hoped to meet each of the editors perhaps once a year. So that would be the individuals, and looking back on the diaries that I've had available to me, that seems to have about worked. It looks as if about 8 to 12 meetings a year took place, and no editor seems to have had more than about one a year. Perhaps occasionally it might have been two. So that was the ambition.

  • Did you ever take the view that any particular editor or group of editors was somehow more important and therefore deserved greater access either to individual meetings or to group meetings?

  • No. Never at all. My -- throughout my career, although policing is intensely political and although the media have a voracious appetite for all things to do with policing, my view is the Commissioner of the day, Chief Constable of the day, must be totally apolitical and must be totally without any favourites in the media, and so there has to be a "without fear or favour" approach to the media.

  • Did you ever meet with editors at restaurants or pubs, as we've heard in evidence from other senior officers?

  • Rarely. My preference was always to have meetings on police premises.

  • But then the choice was -- there were some editors -- I don't think they were being precious, but the demands on their time were such that it was clear that if you wanted to meet them, it had to be on their terms, at their office or at a restaurant. So over the course of seven years, on a small handful of occasions, I may have had the odd meal.

    I remember -- I've sort of mentioned him -- Max Hastings, as editor of the Telegraph and as the editor of the Standard, always moaned about the quality of the food and drink at Scotland Yard and I think I weakened -- on a couple of times, I think I had one lunch with Max Hastings probably at one of his clubs, and then I think -- I can remember the sort of doyen of the crime reporters, Peter Burden, who was a very, very good crime reporter, I think for the Daily Mail. I remember having a lunch with Peter towards the end of his time, when he was retiring.

    I've tracked down -- I think I had probably a couple of -- either a lunch or a dinner with an editor of the Sun, I think it was Stuart Higgins, but I think that -- just -- over seven years, just a very small handful of occasions. My preference was meetings at Scotland Yard or police premises. If that wasn't possible, a meeting at their offices, and if that wasn't doable, if they said, "Well, look ..." I can remember the dinner with Stuart Higgins I think was in late 1997, and that was in the build-up to me giving evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee for reform of police discipline, and I was able to persuade Stuart Higgins that this was in the public interest to do so, and I think via that dinner he agreed to support what I was seeking to change.

  • You go on to describe in some detail why you consider these meetings or briefings to be important, and at paragraph 18, you give us another example of the value of building such relationships. You explain that when you were conducting investigations into threats to London posed by the provisional IRA, you were concerned that information relating to your investigations might reach the media. You say essentially you were able to invite editors of national newspapers into New Scotland Yard and give them confidential briefings.

    Does that mean that sensitive information was conveyed to journalists?

  • Yes, it does. The IRA and various other Irish terrorist groups had had ceasefires, broken ceasefires and so on, and in the mid-1990s we had major threats to London of major explosions that would have killed tens, if not dozens, of people. I can remember on one occasion calling in or inviting in editors both from the printed media and the electronic media, and telling them that we believed there was going to be a major attack on London, that we would probably be engaged in observation and surveillance over several months, and the challenge would be to intervene in the terrorist operation late enough to have the evidence to prosecute them, but early enough not to let them set off massive explosions.

  • That led to a particular operation where -- and I can talk about it because the perpetrators were arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned, but we had a 60-day observation of a terrorist team in London, and arrested them hours before they were going to explode several lorry bombs full of high explosives in Central London, and my message to the media, to the editors, was: look, this will be a long, torturous operation. If you get leaks from any source, you have a public duty around this and that any frivolous reporting of these issues will not be in the public interest. And we developed protocols for how they could contact the anti-terrorist units, Special Branch and so on.

    So it wasn't sort of an old style D-notice, because those have been long gone, but it was sort of in that sort of territory, that here is a huge public interest issue where there will be this major threat to London, you are part of the response, and you have certain responsibilities, and this is how I think you should behave.

  • Are you satisfied that, as a result of this confidential briefing, the editors listened to you and complied with what you'd said and that the relationship continued to be constructive after that point?

  • I would like to think that most, if not all of them would have done so anyway. They would have realised the gravity of that sort of information. But it was an opportunity -- if you like, it was a trust. It was -- I remember the briefing actually took place I think in our Special Branch offices in Scotland Yard. We were able to describe to them the sort of attack that we thought would be taking place on London, the sort of way we would be responding to it, the nature of the surveillance activity, that this would -- could go on for months, and that if they started -- they or their reporters started to pick up information, how damaging it could be if it was suggested that police were behind this terrorist group.

  • Before I move on to the issue of hospitality, I just want to ask you about -- you've told us on a number of occasions that you kept journalists essentially at a professional distance. Why did you take that view? Why did you not, for example, allow yourself to become friendly with journalists, as we've heard some officers give evidence that they have?

  • I guess it's a question of personal style and comfort zones and I think over the years, in policing and beyond, I think I understand the media, and I think whilst you're Commissioner, you have certain professional relationships and you make life more difficult for yourself if those professional relationships cross over into friendships and a social life that goes with friendships.

    I'm not saying that it's intrinsically wrong or morally or ethically wrong to be friendly or to have a social relationship, but I knew where my comfort zone was, and I was more comfortable with it being on very much a professional basis. So I may be wrong, but I don't think I ever invited anyone from the media to my home address or I ever went to their home address.

  • Okay. Can I ask you now about hospitality. At paragraph 20 of your statement, you say this in the second sentence:

    "In my view, hospitality can be the start of a grooming process which leads to inappropriate and unethical behaviour."

    Can you tell us how you've come to that view, Lord Condon?

  • Yes. I mean, that's with the benefit of hindsight, because since leaving the service I have gone on to work and deal with integrity in international sport, and dealing with integrity in the business community, and I think it's just common sense that in any walk of life hospitality can be appropriate, can be sensible, can be necessary, can be ethical. But the other side of that, it can lead to inappropriate closeness and, in some cases, that can lead to criminal behaviour.

    Certainly in the sporting world I have investigating cases where initial hospitality to international sportsmen eventually led to criminal behaviour.

  • This leads us back to the working lunches or dinners.

  • If you look at the start of paragraph 21, you explain, as you already have, that you would have the occasional working lunch or dinner at media offices, but you tell us that on every occasion you would be joined by your director of public affairs and sometimes your deputy commissioner or another senior officer, and the question is: is this simply good practice, or should it be a requirement?

  • I'm not sure if you're going to ask me, but in 1997 I introduced a very strong policy around hospitality --

  • I will ask you, but please --

  • Fine. Sequentially, if you like, one thing leads to the other.

  • Which way around do you want to deal with it?

  • I would rather deal with the policy first, if I may, sir, because I think it then leads more naturally onto how I behaved in relation to the policy.

  • Absolutely. You introduced, in fact, a code of practice off the acceptance of gifts and hospitality, special notice 28/97. For the technician, it's 04763. Hopefully you will have that on screen shortly.

  • Actually, tab 3. That's wrong -- is it under "Gifts and hospitality"?

  • Code of practice for the acceptance of gifts and hospitality.

  • Hang on. B2. Do you have a copy there?

  • No, I haven't, sir. I still have -- I'm looking at paragraph 21 of my statement.

  • Yes. It's probably one of the bundles there, if there's a lever arch bundle marked "MPS master bundle, policies/procedures". Is there such a bundle?

  • We'll use Mr Garnham's. Thank you. Mr Garnham, is it tabbed? B2.

  • Yes. Would it help if I set the context for that?

  • Again, coming in as a Commissioner, seeking to reinforce, culturally and through rules and procedures, the best behaviour -- and contextually, remember, this was at about the time of all the cash for questions, the Nolan Report, principles of public life and so on, and I was determined that the Met should be seen to be at the forefront of responding to Nolan, and so again, we consulted widely within the service and outside, and it seemed sensible to give some pretty clear steer around hospitality, gifts, hospitality registers, and so this special notice was the product of that consultation process.

  • Can I just add one thing in setting the context? There had previously, of course, been a notice on the acceptance of sponsorship and gifts, notice 34/93, as I understand it?

  • A rather shorter document. Can you please explain how this new code of practice differed, in very general terms, from the previous --

  • It set it in the contextual setting of what Nolan had said about principles of public life. It set it in the context of our five-year strategy, something called "The London Beat".

  • Again, it was a reinforcement of trying to encourage best behaviour and discourage bad behaviour, and so it set out, in bullet points, some of the big issues that faced us around hospitality.

  • If I can summarise it in this way. It sets out the law, the guiding principles, and then has various different headings: gifts, payment for interviews and broadcasts, hospitality, interesting contacts, and then this one: hospitality registers.

  • It has some detail on setting up hospitality registers and sets out what hospitality registers must record.

  • Am I correct in saying that this was the first time that hospitality registers were introduced?

  • I believe so, yes. And again, all -- everyone in the chain of command down to chief superintendent was briefed on this, and so it's police technical jargon, but everyone running an operational or command unit -- that's a major police station or a major specialist squad -- had to keep a hospitality register for these purposes.

  • Why, in your view, is a hospitality register important in relation to the press in particular?

  • Because I think every meeting with the press that involves hospitality should be able to pass what some people have described as the sort of blush test: would you be happy for the Home Secretary or a local politician or your neighbour or a member of your family -- does this meeting feel right? And so hospitality registers, you can look at it two ways. You could say those who want to act badly will do so and won't put it in the hospitality register anyway, but I thought it was an important way of stating how we felt about these issues, of encouraging transparency, of having -- being able to audit trail frequency and so on. So it seemed a sensible stepping stone in encouraging good behaviour.

  • Before we leave the notice, look at paragraph 21. There's a question that's been put to me through another party to this Inquiry. This is the section that deals with penalties and it says:

    "This code of practice describes conduct which you are expected to observe. Failure to do so could render you liable to disciplinary proceedings and mainly to criminal proceedings under the Prevention of Corruption Act."

    Of course, subsequent notices -- you may or may not know this -- contain similar warnings.

  • My question to you is whether, to your knowledge, during this time, any serving MPS officer was ever subjected to disciplinary or criminal proceedings for what could be termed hospitality offences?

  • Right. I don't know, and there's a technical reason why I wouldn't know. Until fairly late in my time as Commissioner, until I got the police discipline rules changed, the Commissioner was the appellate authority for discipline in London, and so I was kept -- the Commissioner of the day was kept ignorant of live disciplinary cases unless and until they became matters for an appeal to the Commissioner.

    Again, that's why the -- that notice is signed by Brian Hayes, who was then my deputy commissioner. So the person at that time who would have had detailed knowledge of any investigations would have been the Deputy Commissioner of the day.

    Having said that, I would have been surprised if I hadn't picked up somewhere if there had been a major case involving an officer for these --

  • You'd find out eventually, wouldn't you?

  • Yes, yes, and so I -- you know, I have no recollection of those, so that probably tells me that no, there probably weren't anyway.

  • That's all I wanted to ask you about the gifts and hospitality code of practice. Can we go back to my previous question --

  • -- about attending lunches or dinners with members of the DPA. I asked you whether you thought it was simply good practice or whether you thought it should be a requirement.

  • Yes. I saw it as -- as I say, there were so few and occasional, and in some years there wouldn't have been any. As I say, it was -- it was not something I encouraged or wished to do, but it was -- there were certain individuals, if I wanted a few hours of their time, then it probably had to be either at their office and/or occasionally a lunch. But as I say, looking back through the diaries, some years there were none of those sorts of meetings and others, maybe two or three.

  • Can I ask you now some brief final questions. Paragraph 59 of your statement. Start with that. You were asked here:

    "What limitations, if any, were there on staff in the MPS leaving to work for the media and vice versa?"

    And you say this:

    "It never really appeared as an issue to me. I personally declined all offers to write a book about my time as Commissioner. Similarly, I declined all offers to be a columnist or retained commentator for particular newspapers, television or radio. Since retiring I have similarly declined all offers."

    Then you tell us about one article that you wrote on cricket corruption where a fee was paid directly to a charity.

    Can you tell us roughly how many such offers you received? I've been asked to ask you whether you received any such offers from News of the World, the Sun, the Times or the Sunday Times.

  • Right. Yes, again I declined not because I saw anything morally or ethically wrong per se; it just -- having spent my career sort of trying to major on integrity, independence, being apolitical, it just seemed that I would have to take decisions and be partial and be drawn into favouring or working with one group over another, and I say those who have done that, I don't think -- my view is there is nothing inherently wrong in that, it just -- it would have taken me out of my comfort zone.

    The offers I had, several offers to write books, either personally or ghosted. Very seductive offers, very lucrative offers, some from publishers, some from agents, and all of those offers had linked to them serial rights to newspapers. But because I never explored any of those in great depth, I'm not sure if any of those would have been linked to any of the Times or sort of the News International group.

    The specific columnist roles I was offered -- and this had sums of money attached to it. I was offered a columnist role with the Telegraph Group. I had a very limited approach from the Sunday People as to whether I would be a columnist, a ghosted columnist for them. I don't remember any specific approaches from the Sun or the Times or so on.

  • The Murdoch stable, if I can call it that.

  • No, no. But in fairness, I think most of the book deals would have been linked to serialisation and may have embraced the Times or the Sunday Times.

  • Can I ask you finally about leaks to the press, please. In your time, were leaks to the press a cause for concern?

  • Yes, in a general way. I think they're always a concern. Again, you reluctantly don't accept but you sort of grudgingly acknowledge that, in a force of 45,000 men and women, police and civilian, occasionally there may be leaks, for mixed motivation and probably occasionally for financial reasons. But, again, during my time I was not aware that it was a significant issue beyond the general challenge of dealing with bad police officers.

  • You've exhibited at your exhibit number 1 an article by Kelvin MacKenzie dated 10 January 1998. If I paraphrase it, I'd say that he's arguing that you tried, during your time as Commissioner, to restrict communication between the police and the press. Yes?

  • Yes. There's a sort of serendipity of how it gets into my statement, in the sense that when I was trying to research issues around leaks and so on -- and you sort of dredge out of your senile mind memories of sort of going back -- I could remember a week early in 1998 where it had been a fairly frenetic week. We had raided a lot of homes of police officers, former police officers. There had been a lot of publicity around police discipline changes, and I remembered Kelvin MacKenzie going off on a riff for about a week, both on his talkshows and in the media, around that somehow I was trying to gag the police in relation to the media. I couldn't remember if it -- and I still can't remember whether that was linked to a sort of leak issue or whatever, but certainly it -- he had a "Let's get Paul Condon for a week". I certainly remember that.

  • Was there any fairness to what he said? Did you try to restrict communication --

  • No, no. I remember at the time thinking: what has caused him to go off on this campaign? And it died as quickly -- it just seemed to be -- I think those were in the early days of his chat -- talk radio sort of shock-jock radio channel, and certainly for a week it seemed that that was a major issue that he was concerned about.

  • Lord Condon, perhaps I could ask you the question in this way: to what extent do you believe that individual police officers should be entitled to form their own judgments as to what it is or is not appropriate to divulge to the press?

  • That is quite difficult to answer, in the sense that there can't be a free-for-all. You can't allow the most junior or the most senior police officer to just busk it on the day. I believe there has to be -- there have to be in place very strong guidance around what's acceptable and unacceptable, very strong guidance around who would normally be giving information to the media, and culturally a strong feel that people would think: "Yeah, that feels right, I can do this or I can't do that." But I would feel I had let my colleagues down if every day they just sort of had to think: "Can I or can't I?" in relation to the media. I think they should have more clarity than that.

  • You say at paragraph 67 of your statement that you would caution against a massive box-ticking or bureaucratic approach. What do you mean by that?

  • Well, I -- I mean, I was thinking of, if asked, what should change, what could change. I think in many ways this Inquiry, your role, the publicity, has already generated massive corrective action, and it's a question of what more needs to be done to be built on that, and so I think I would be confident that -- you know, the Police Service now already feels very different around these issues than it did in the recent, very recent past. I would think that behaviour is fundamentally different now than even the very recent past. And so I would be -- I would be worried about anything which suggested that any contact between police and the media was almost inherently wrong, that the media are given some sort of pariah status, that almost by being in the same room as them is somehow bad, and a massive box-ticking, that every time a policeman was in the same room or within 50 yards of a journalist, they should have to write up an entry in their -- they would probably do it electronically now, but some sort of record.

    So I think there could be a massive bureaucratic overreaction which won't actually help anyone but will be seen as some sort of generalised panacea to the challenge. I think it is about strong leadership, it is about clear guidance, and it's about the culture of the organisation, and we -- the service is already doing it, restating what seems acceptable and unacceptable, and that will be no doubt massively enhanced by the product of this Inquiry.

  • Are there any other ideas or recommendations that you would like Lord Justice Leveson to take into account in that context?

  • No, as I say, I think you've covered all of the ground. Since leaving the service I have worked on integrity issues in sport, in business and so on, and I think the rules of engagement are pretty similar across the piece, and if you want to deal with malpractice, whether it's with the media or whatever, it's about having very clear rules. It's about having a programme of education and information so that everyone in the organisation is aware of what's acceptable and unacceptable. It's having methods to test, sample, check, audit, whether things are going right or wrong, and then, finally, it's having enforcement that you can be confident that those who transgress will be dealt with. And I think that's a tried and tested formula that tends to work against corruption and malpractice in all walks of life.

  • Lord Condon, those are all my questions. Was there anything else that you wanted to add?

  • No, thank you very much.

  • I have a couple of questions.

  • You said very carefully that you had your own compass, your blush test.

  • And I absolutely recognise that. You also made the point that the way you might approach some issues could be legitimately different from the way some other people might address those questions. That's very polite and delicately expressed, but I'm sure that you have read some of the material that has been put before me, or, if not actually as given, then in the press, and heard some of the concerns about the extent to which this relationship has altered in the period since you were Commissioner. I appreciate that it's a slightly different time, and it's difficult to generalise from one -- not generation, because I'm not prepared to accept that you're becoming senile at all -- to another, but would I be right to assume that you would not have been content for some of what you have read about to have happened under your command?

  • Based on what is in the public domain, primarily from what has happened in your Inquiry, sir, I have been very disappointed and concerned by some of the issues that have emerged, and I would have been -- had I still been involved in the service, I would have been probably very angry.

  • Now, let me move on. It will be very, very comforting for me to think that the exposure of what has happened and the reaction to what has happened will have had the effect which you suggest, because it would mean that what I perceive to be a very, very large part of what I am doing has already succeeded.

  • But there is a danger in that, isn't there, that if I become complacent and say, "Well, job done", then I run the risk that has transpired in relation to every other attempt to review -- not here the relationship between the police and the press, but perhaps the press and the public. There is some real public concern, there's an expression of that concern, everybody says, "Well, we now know", and for a while everything is very much better, but then standards slip and there's a default situation that develops.

    Do you recognise the risk that I'm speaking of?

  • Yes, I do, sir. The history of police malpractice is cyclical, and it goes something like: scandal, inquiry, remedial action, relaxation, complacency, scandal, inquiry ... and that's been on about a 20-year cycle.

  • And malpractice in any walk of life is very basic. It's about human weakness and opportunity, and those two things are omnipresent. So what I said earlier was in no way to suggest that your job is done at this stage because the oxygen of publicity around these concerns -- everything has been dealt with. I was merely suggesting, based on my knowledge of the Police Service, which I'm immensely proud to have been part of and associated with -- they will be chomping at the bit to be doing the right thing in relation to these issues.

    But you are absolutely right; history tells us that unless your report has within it things which are not ephemeral but are enduring, that do demand checks, that do demand action, that do allow auditing and monitoring and checking of these relationships, then the default position is in 10, 15 years' time to get to that complacency point on that cycle again.

    I'm not advocating -- you don't need to say or do anything more --

  • I didn't think you were. I'd have been very pleased if you had.

  • I think the challenge is to find that something which avoids the massive bureaucracy, which will be superficial, and something that really hits the spot, that does encourage change that is lasting, and so there are issues around how the press are -- whether it's self-regulation or something stronger, there are issues around very strong national guidance around police behaviour in relation to the media, reinforcement of what is appropriate, condemnation of what is wrong, and so on.

  • You bring to the Inquiry not merely your experience as the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, but also all the other work on integrity that you've done since.

  • So what I would like to ask you is: how would you achieve that?

  • Because I am not a former policeman. I've been around the prosecution process for 40 years, but that's very different. So I would like you to give me the benefit of your knowledge and experience to suggest ways -- if not now, then by all means write to me.

  • But suggest ways that are proportionate, that aren't just box-ticking. Because I take your point; it's easy to tick a box.

  • But that will be meaningful and will try to achieve the endurance of which you speak.

  • Yes, I will, sir. I mean, I was out of the country for the last week, so I haven't had a chance to -- I think -- did Richard Baker give evidence yesterday?

  • Before Christmas, I spent some time with Sir Dennis O'Connor, the chief inspector of the constabulary, trying to give them a bit of a feel for how the inspectorate could be helping with this process. So I think the "Without fear or favour" report again has added some interesting comments to the challenge, but I will -- I know you're busy today, sir, so I won't ramble on now, but I will respond to your challenge.

  • But I think it is about trying to set clear rules of engagement, it is about making sure that everyone understands them, that there is a way of monitoring and checking, and there is enforcement. And where the challenge becomes even more difficult now than in my time is if you have police officers who are tweeting, blogging, social -- and part of that can be with the media, sometimes totally independent of it. I think the service is at a point where it needs to totally recalibrate how it provides information to the public directly, via the media, via social media, and so I think it is -- I think the challenge is probably beyond your remit at this stage, sir, and I think part of that, the inspectorate and the service have to get their act together nationally --

  • -- to say how the service is going to respond to these issues.

  • I agree, and there are a number of strands into this. There is the report from the HMIC and I heard Mr Baker yesterday and Sir Dennis is coming next week. Of course, I've also had the report -- and I know you comment upon it -- from Elizabeth Filkin, and there's some valuable material there.

  • It's really standing back from all that. The way in which I've put it to editors is that the system, whatever system I suggest, if adopted, has to work for the police.

  • Therefore, there is nobody better than those who have a deep knowledge, understanding and commitment to the police to help me sort it out, and you won't be alone in being asked this question.

  • Thank you very much indeed.

  • That's probably a convenient moment to take a break before we carry on. Thank you.

  • (A short break)

  • Sir, the next witness is Lord Stevens, please.