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


  • Could you please state your full name for the Inquiry?

  • Mr Lyons, you've provided a short statement to the Inquiry and a short CV. Can you confirm that the contents of your statement and your CV are true and accurate to the best of your knowledge and belief?

  • Your career history, Mr Lyons, is set out in considerable detail in the CV or biography document. For the purposes of this Inquiry, we don't need to go into it all, and it's probably sufficient to note a few facts. I'm just going to summarise them and if you just tell me whether I'm right, that would assist.

    You were originally from Australia, but you moved to London some 25 years ago now and started working for the Daily Mail as a freelance photographer. Correct so far?

  • You worked there for some years, and whilst working there, you set up your own picture agency, an agency which is now known as Big Pictures?

  • You then left the Daily Mail and continued to expand Big Pictures and it's now a global enterprise with offices all over the world?

  • Well, not quite all over the world, but in two countries, yes.

  • Okay. You have written a book about your experiences called "Mr Paparazzi", published in 2008. You've also participated in a BBC documentary called "Paparazzi" and you've also now created what you describe as "the world's number one online celebrity destination,"?

  • I think it's fair, isn't it, that unlike one witness we've had recently you have no problem with the term "paparazzi", would that be right?

  • No, it's only another word in the English language.

  • Let's start with Big Pictures and the scale of Big Pictures. You explain in your statement that you employ 29 members of staff, plus you have 152 casual workers. Is that still fair and accurate?

  • How many of the employed staff are photographers?

  • Around about 10 or 12 are staff photographers.

  • You tell us that they work on a salary and the freelancers will work on a commission basis.

  • Once you have the photographs from either your staff photographers or the freelancers, your job or your agency's job is to arrange to sell them on to a magazine, newspaper, or whatever? Have I summarised that accurately?

  • Absolutely. Yes, you have.

  • Can I ask you now about the way in which your photographers, either freelance or employed, are regulated? Let's start with freelancers, please. Are they entirely self-employed or do they have some form of rolling contract with you?

  • No, freelance photographers are self-employed. They -- we may give them some kind of a direction on a daily diary in and around London, but also agencies, foreign agencies have freelance photographers which supply them, which then, on a relationship between the two companies, we sell their pictures in either London or whatever rights around the world that we have particularly.

    So, no, they aren't regulated. They go out and they get their own stories and their own images and then we make a decision whether we publish them or not.

  • All right. You expressly say in paragraph 10 of your statement to the Inquiry that freelancers are not really Big Pictures' responsibility. What do you mean by that?

  • Basically when I say they're not our responsibility, freelance photographers submit to many different agencies. They'll also submit to different magazines. They'll also submit to various newspapers and magazines and possibly TV stations. So freelancers, they will have an agreement with different companies to supply the pictures. Sometimes freelancers, very common today, supply their pictures to several agencies, hoping to get as many sales around the world as possible.

    So they actually run themselves. Some take direction from the agency and my staff within the agency, ie photo editors or sales directors, but that's very, very rare. Most of them actually get their own information, their own ideas, whether it be home or abroad.

  • Did you also intend to mean that their behaviour is not your responsibility?

  • Well, they're not employed by us. My staff are employed by me so as far as I'm concerned my staff, it is within my responsibility, but also we make pretty decent checks on the photographers that do supply us and we also scrutinise the images that come in, and if there are any questions to ask about the images, my dedicated team in my London office would ask the questions that needed to be asked.

  • What kind of questions would you ask of a photographer when a photograph came in? Give us an example.

  • It would depend on what the subject would be. It would depend totally on the image. You have to remember Big Pictures turns over probably about 3 to 3 and a half thousand images a day, so it would have to be something -- if a question was asked, it would have to be scrutinised by the team, but that would happen in a pretty rare situation, unless a newspaper or a magazine or our photo editors or sales director looked at it and thought possibly there may be something odd about that particular picture.

    Each picture that comes in would be dealt with on its merits.

  • All right. So can I summarise your evidence like this: in most cases you wouldn't need to ask any questions because it would be obvious from the photograph that no questions needed to be asked, but in a rare case -- that's your word -- you might ask some questions. Are there any photographs that you would simply never accept? You say in your statement that you've rejected photographs on several occasions. Give us an example of a photograph that you would reject or have rejected.

  • Look, it would be a -- look, to be absolutely specific, there would be many, many cases. To have one specific off the top of my head would be difficult. But there would be pictures that we would find unsaleable simply because the person particularly -- it was taken not in accordance with how we would take pictures.

  • Try and give me an example, if you can. It doesn't have to be a specific example of one photograph you've actually seen, but give me an example of a situation where --

  • -- you would reject a photograph.

  • Whether it be extreme nudity, whether it be extreme -- a situation where we felt that the photographer would have crossed a line, whether it was taken on private property, those kind of examples, which would normally stick out like sore thumbs to us, or if the picture would have come that looks as if it had been taken, you know, from out of a magazine or a foreign publication or such like.

  • I'd like to know, Mr Lyons, just picking up on what you've just said, what is "the line"? Where is your line?

  • Well, the line is, sir, along with the PCC line. The PCC line is what we use.

  • Just sticking with freelancers for the moment, you've told us that essentially they're not your responsibility, but you ensure that photographs given to you by them are scrutinised carefully; is that a fair assessment?

  • Are you happy that in general terms your freelancers behave in a way that you would describe to be ethical?

  • I wouldn't be responsible for foreign agencies around the world, but particularly the freelancers that supply my offices in Australia and London, yes.

  • Okay. Let me ask you about employed photographers now. You explain in your statement that there is no Big Pictures code of practice, no manual governing behaviour of employees, but photographers are informed of what is expected of them. Was that just the employed photographers you were talking about there?

  • Look, the employed photographers by the agency know exactly and would have been briefed when they were employed by the CEO or the manager or the sales directors in this case of exactly what was expected of them.

  • You go on to say that they know what they can or cannot do, and this is based on the PCC recommendations. What do you mean by the PCC recommendations?

  • There is a -- in recent years, certainly the PCC has laid down reasonable guidelines that photographers should and should not act with, so it is -- if someone is in a public place, the fact of the matter is that I look at a public place, the company looks at a public place as recording a picture.

    Now, the PCC, not that I am overly familiar with it now as I explained to you earlier, I haven't had much time to look over the documentation, but photographers have to make their own judgment with regard to who and what they photograph and in what circumstances, guided by the management in my office.

  • Right. So when you say "the PCC recommendations", do you mean the PCC code? Do you mean another document? I'm just -- I just want to understand --

  • You mean the PCC code, all right. Again, in relation to your employed photographers, are you satisfied that they behave in a way that you would describe to be ethical?

  • I have no reason to believe from my management that they don't.

  • Right, okay. You've explained how your photographers are expected to behave. You have also explained the types of questions that you might ask before you accept certain photographs. You've also told us that your photographers act ethically. Now I want to understand, please, your ethical stance and whether or not you would accept certain types of images by reference to some practical examples, if I can.

    Can I start with a particular practice that's been described in evidence to this Inquiry and that's the practice of chasing people in cars with a view to obtaining a photograph of them. You may have heard some of the witnesses to this Inquiry describe being chased at speed, sometimes in dangerous situations, in cars by photographers just to get an image. I don't know if you've seen or heard that evidence.

  • I haven't heard that evidence.

  • All right. Let me start, please, with something you say in your book. I did ask that you have a copy of your book with you and unfortunately I think you've told me that you don't have a copy of it with you. Hopefully it will be familiar to you. Can I read out a passage from it?

  • Sir, I've given you relevant extracts and it's page 266 of the book.

  • This part of the book is just following your description of the role of the paparazzi following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. Previously you've explained in this part of the book that you think the chasing paparazzi were not responsible for her death, but I don't want to go into that, it's another topic in itself, but then you say this:

    "I hope people realise, though, that chasing for pictures has always happened and that for the quarry, the option to take is not to break the law and start driving at crazy speeds in order to lose people. Paris has always been famous for its teams of scooter-riding paps. Scooters are in fact a way of life in all of France. It was like that in 1997 and it is like that now. Big recently got some great shots of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt that were taken by one of our guys operating from within a pack of scooters following the stars' car through Paris."

    I'll pause there. Your book was published in 2008. I'm assuming that when you were saying "it's the same now", you meant 2007 or 2008; would that be correct?

  • It would be correct. It wouldn't have been from a photographer from our agency, it would have been from a supplying freelance, but anyway, I'll -- yeah.

  • The words that I've just quoted seem to demonstrate that you would consider this type of photograph legitimate, a photograph that was obtained whilst chasing someone's car through the streets. It's all just part of the chase and it's just a legitimate way of obtaining a photograph. Is that fair and accurate?

  • Look, the passage of the book you're describing would have been by a supplied agency. I was merely making reference to what happens in the way the French -- the way French photographers would work on a relevant news story. And I also think from whether it be a newspaper, a magazine or any freelance photographer on a news story, yes, I would say that that would be the case.

  • Yes, it would be a legitimate way of obtaining a photograph?

  • If someone was not breaking the law in taking a legitimate photograph, I would assume that that is right, yes.

  • The second point I want to draw out from that example is you say that the option for the person being chased is not to break the law and start driving at crazy speeds in order to lose people, so would it be fair to say that you consider part of the blame might lie in the fact that people being chased break the law, speed up and try to get away? Is that part of the problem?

  • Well, I can't -- I couldn't be specific because I'm not a photographer on the road out there in the field. You'd have to ask a photographer that. But I would say -- look, the fact of the matter is obtaining pictures are obtained within the law. That would be what our photographers have been told on many occasions, and if there has been any incidents, my management would be hauling them in and asking questions why that wasn't the situation.

    Can I be responsible for a French agency that runs its own agency, whether it be in the same way as I do or the management I employ do? I can't answer that question.

  • It's their responsibility to act accordingly within their ethics and boundaries.

  • The question I have for you, Mr Lyons, is not whether you are responsible for the photograph, but whether you would have any difficulty ethically with accepting a photograph that had been obtained in that particular way. I think the answer to that, that you've given me, is: no, you would not have a problem with that?

  • I said it would be totally dependent on the circumstances that the photograph was taken.

  • All right. Let me ask you about this same topic by reference to a different example, if I can.

  • Mr Lyons, I think it's quite important you understand I'm not inquiring specifically into the operation of your business; I'm trying to get an image of the culture and the practices of your industry. That is taking photographs. So I'm not looking for a hook to get at you; I'm simply trying to learn what happens.

  • Let me raise this same topic with you by reference to a second example. I think we sent you various links to various documents. Do you have an article -- it's at tab 8 for you, sir -- it's an article in the Guardian newspaper headlined "Have celebrities finally snapped?" It's dated 4 May 2009. You should have had a link and therefore a printout of that copy.

  • I don't have a printout, but I can get it up, I'm pretty sure. (Pause) You'll have to refresh it, it's not coming up.

  • That's fine, I can do that. The section I want to refer to is short.

  • This concerns proceedings brought against you by Sienna Miller in 2009.

  • Now, the relevant part of the article is at the bottom of the first page and it says:

    "Both [it's referring to other injunctions which we'll come back to] follow an action brought by the actor Sienna Miller, who sued Big Pictures, one of the biggest agencies for celebrity photographs, for harassment and invasion of privacy ..."

    Pausing there, do you remember that particular claim brought by Miss Miller?

  • I'd like to know in relation to which particular claim it was.

  • It was a claim in 2009 brought on two --

  • Relating to what pictures, I was asking the question.

  • It was not just photographs, of course, it was two different -- well, the claim had two parts: harassment and invasion of privacy. So it wasn't just about the taking of particular photographs.

  • It was also a claim brought because she'd been subject to a campaign of harassment, as I understand it.

  • Okay. I wasn't -- I wasn't in charge of that particular action.

  • Do you remember the claim? That's all my question is for the moment.

  • I remember -- I do remember a claim, but I don't remember that specific claim, no.

  • All right. Perhaps I can just tell you a bit more about what it says here. Maybe that will refresh your memory. She brought the claim, she was awarded £53,000 in damages and costs as part of a settlement that resulted in the agency's photographers being forbidden from following her. As I understand it, your company had to give detailed undertakings to the court including not following her or chasing her in a car. Do you recall that now?

  • Right. The article goes on to quote your chief -- well, yes, your chief executive, Alan Williams, as saying:

    "We believe in the right of a photographer to take pictures in a public place."

    And you are quoted as saying -- this is tab 7 and the fact that you don't have the particular tabs is not particularly helpful. Do you have an article headed "Amy Winehouse wins court ban on paparazzi at her home"?

  • I think this is the one I have up here, yes.

  • At the bottom of the third page and over onto the fourth page you are asked about a number of cases brought against you, and --

  • -- on the very last page of the article you say this:

    "As for Sienna Miller I don't go near her now and we throw away any pictures that come in that are taken of her but I do wonder how wrong it was to photograph someone on a boat in the Mediterranean and in the company of a married man whose wife and children were at home. What's more immoral in this case?"

    Do you see that?

  • Can we agree that it might be said that both these responses, the responses of your CEO and your response, miss the point on the issue of harassment?

  • I think I'd like to address on this also --

  • -- and make a very valid point.

  • Miss Miller was photographed at this particular time on a boat, yes, in the Mediterranean, on a boat with I think it was Balthazar Getty, which was a huge news story at the particular time --

  • I'm going to interrupt you because I'm on the issue of harassment. The claim was brought in relation to photographs which were agreed to have invaded her privacy, but the claim also related to harassment, ie following her in a car, chasing her and so on. Okay? So at the moment can we just stick on that? I promise we'll come back to the issue of privacy in a moment.

  • Just sticking to harassment, your response seems to suggest that you now leave Miss Miller alone. You've said that here:

    "... I don't go near her now and we throw away any pictures that come in".

    Am I right --

  • I haven't asked my question, if you just give me a moment. Am I right to think in that case you leave her alone but you don't necessarily agree that the methods employed by your photographers were wrong?

  • Well, I mean, at the end the fact of the matter is that celebrities court publicity when they want to court publicity and then all of a sudden they want to switch it off very, very soon after. I'm still trying to understand the question as to what you're trying to say. I mean, it was very clear what I said in that particular statement.

  • That particular paragraph is totally relating to different circumstances than what you're talking about. I don't agree that people should be hounded up and down the street all day in any shape or form, but I do agree that people, as a part of historical -- as a part of history, should be photographed in public places, absolutely, and I'm avid about it. We have a free press and a free press should be able to work in public places.

  • All right. Let me put this question in a different way: were any of your photographers or freelancers disciplined or blacklisted as a result of the Sienna Miller claim or did you put out any relevant guidance to them? Did you stop using certain freelancers? Did anything happen as a result of that claim?

  • (overspeaking) I couldn't answer that question. That would have to be referred to Mr Alan Williams who was dealing with that at the time.

  • I understand, all right. Let me give you one last example on this issue, please, from your book. Again, you don't have it but I will read out the section. It's pages 32 and 33 of the book.

  • It's referring to your time at the Daily Mail and you explain that you spent much of your time loitering outside the Portland Maternity Hospital, with others, waiting for the Duchess of York's first child to be born.

  • And while you were there, you were being teased by other photographers because you didn't know how to pull off a car shot.

  • And you say this:

    "This shot required technique, luck and a whole lot of guts. Pete gave me the lowdown and left me to practice. The premise was as follows."

    And then you set out some technical details with your camera and you explain how you set your camera and then you say this:

    "You then run at the car crash, bang, wallop with a wide angle lens. Rosie and I used to run up to people driving home past the Portland and practice on them. Must have scared the living crap out of them. Funnily enough, just recently I took a call from the police who were making a complaint about a couple of my big guys. They were outside TV personality Ulrika Jonsson's house and had been practising their car shots on a family and almost caused a major accident. While this was in truth no laughing matter, it did remind me of the old days."

  • Yes. And that particular situation was an isolated case where, without question, the photographers were disciplined in no uncertain terms.

  • All right. So car shots are acceptable, but if they cause a major accident or almost cause a major accident, that might be where you draw the line?

  • No, madam, I think you're talking about totally different times here. Historically, the terms and conditions of photographs being taken in the press have changed over many years. We're talking about the Portland Hospital 25 years ago, where it was common practice for TV crews, camera -- staff photographers, world media, there were 150 of the world's media camped outside the Portland Hospital at that particular time. The fact of the matter was it was standard practice to get news stories directed by editors of national newspapers and picture editors of national newspapers to do car shots. That was your job. If you didn't get that particular picture, there was a good chance you'd never get another shift again on a national newspaper, and that's an absolute fact.

  • Do you still condone the use of car shots?

  • Look, the fact of the matter is in a news situation of someone leaving a premises, yes, I think it is within the right of a photographer to take a photograph of someone in a car.

  • All right. Let's deal with --

  • Just before you do. When did it change? You mentioned 25 years ago and that sort of activity outside the Portland and it wouldn't happen now, but when did it change?

  • Look, I don't think it has changed, sir. I think that various staff photographers of national newspapers, freelance photographers all over the world, for instance, at the Royal Wedding, and recently with, you know, even the London riots when Camilla and Charles were in particular cars, car shots were taken then and they're probably being taken at some stage in London today. They're a regular occurrence of news photographers, and more so news photographers than celebrity photographers in getting an image which a newspaper or magazine may want around the world.

  • Can we continue with some more examples, please? At tab 6, for the Chairman -- you don't have tab 6:

    "Lily Allen given legal protection from paparazzi harassment."

    Do you have that article? If not, I can read out the relevant parts.

  • Two seconds, I'll be there. It's coming up. (Pause).

    Yes, I do.

  • 16 March 2009 is the date of the article. What it says is this, I'll paraphrase: essentially, Lily Allen has obtained a legal injunction from the High Court to be protected from harassment by two paparazzi agencies, Big Pictures and another. It says it was made at the High Court in March 2009, and "followed an incident outside the singer's London home on Thursday in which a photographer's vehicle collided with her car. After the collision, photographers continued to follow Allen."

    Then it says:

    "[Lily Allen] obtained undertakings from two photographic agencies ... and one photographer."

    And also an injunction restraining further harassment by other paparazzi photographers.

    "Photographers covered by the order must not pursue or follow Allen by any means or approach her within 100 metres of her home. They are also forbidden from taking pictures of her in her home or the home of any members of her family or friends."

    I don't need to read any other part of it, but let me read another section from the "Have celebrities finally snapped" article at tab 8. Ms Allen describes the circumstances in which she decided to obtain the injunction. She said this at the bottom of page 2:

    "I turned into a T-junction and they all ran a red light, then tried to overtake on the inside. A woman had to slam the brakes on her car as they cut in. I braked too, of course, and this guy ran into the back of me. I got out of the car. I was shaken up ... Instead of talking to me, like a decent human being would, he got his camera out and started taking pictures, and I just thought, 'I've had it with the press, I can't do this any more.' I got back into the car and called my lawyer."

    Again that injunction was brought and obtained against your company, and persons unknown, it's true. Is there anything that you want to say about that particular incident or about the obtaining of that particular injunction?

  • I don't know about the incident, I don't recall the incident occurring, from my perspective. I do recall an incident where, after Lily Allen got an injunction, the photographers -- she walked out and revealed herself and said, "You can't photograph me any more, can you?" So I don't know that particular incident, and I'm sorry, I can't help you there.

  • I don't know what agency -- I don't know what agency it was in that particular incident.

  • All right. Finally, completing the picture, tab 7 contains the article we've already referred to about Amy Winehouse winning a court ban on paparazzi at her home, and again we can see from that document that an injunction was obtained by Amy Winehouse again banning your agency, Big Pictures, from following her and also referring to persons unknown --

  • -- seeking to photograph the musician outside her home and in other public places. Halfway down page 2 of 4, a source close to her management team is quoted as saying:

    "The injunction was sought because press attention made her life unsafe. Every time she got in the car she was chased or was jostled and it has become unsafe not just for her but for the people around her. We don't have a problem with the press doing their job, but it has been mayhem a couple of times and Amy had to do something."

    Now, again, are you familiar with that particular injunction that was obtained against your company?

  • I'm extremely familiar and it wasn't my company, and the fact of the matter was is that it was photographers using the name of my company, which has happened on a regular basis, because of the company's, I suppose, success, that we were used. I spoke to the management of Amy Winehouse at the time with regard to that and I did have an apology. I also then spoke to the PR people who spoke to me along the lines of this, and Amy Winehouse invited us into her house as an apology to do a set-up with Amy Winehouse in her house leaving, which is the absolute facts about that case. It wasn't a Big Pictures photographer at all.

  • Is that a problem that you have, that people pretend that they're engaged by your business?

  • It is a huge problem, sir. It's happened on many occasions and caused us no end of grief. People either from other agencies, competitive agencies, or freelance photographers giving, number one, false names, and saying always that they're from Big Pictures. It's -- it has caused us no end of problems and also with regard to relationships with celebrities that my company and myself personally, as you will see that we work with a tremendous amount of celebrities, and celebrities make a tremendous -- a very high cut of the profits of the sale of pictures.

  • All right. You see, Mr Lyons, it might be suggested by some that there's a bit of a pattern here, you see. The Sienna Miller claim, the Lily Allen injunction, the Amy Winehouse injunction, the Angelina and Brad photos obtained in Paris, the Ulrika Jonsson example we've read out from your book. These are all examples over a two-year period, Mr Lyons. Can you tell us whether anyone, any photographer, either freelance or employed by Big Pictures, has ever been disciplined or blacklisted as a result of any of these actions taken?

  • To the best of your knowledge?

  • You don't know, is that the answer?

  • No, I would certainly have to check with the CEO, but there is no doubt that photographers have been disciplined within my company for actions that the company does not adhere to with regard to their behaviour, absolutely.

  • But to the best of your knowledge, has anyone been disciplined as a result of the examples that we've been going through?

  • To the best of my knowledge, I would have to take secondary advice, I'm sorry.

  • Would the answer be the same if I asked you whether you'd ever issued any guidance relating to this sort of behaviour?

  • There is guidance -- of course there is guidance relating to this behaviour. It would be on a regular basis to anyone coming into the company. People know where they stand with regard to the rules and regulations and our code of practice within the company, albeit I don't have it in written form in front of me, but I can certainly check for you.

  • But no new guidance has been issued as a result of that spate of injunctions and claims?

  • I didn't say that. I have no idea what my CEO or managing directors have said at the time along the lines of those personal incidents. I'm the company chairman, I'm not in the office every day, in fact I'm in the office very rarely. I've been over here for the last four months filming television. At the end of the day, that has been a consistent pattern over the last five years with Big Pictures. I am away a lot but I certainly trust my management in place to take action if action is sought in that area.

  • Could you let us have copies of any written guidance that your company have issued over the last five years?

  • I certainly can check with my PA as soon as I get off this, certainly, sir.

  • Thank you very much indeed.

  • That was just examples of harassment or claims brought where a campaign of harassment was alleged. I am now going to ask you about privacy briefly. Again you've been pursued through the courts in privacy claims a number of times. Can I ask you -- well, let's touch on the Sienna Miller case in 2009. I think you wanted to talk about this before. These were the photographs taken on a boat. It's right to say that you had to accept that you had invaded her privacy on that occasion; is that correct?

  • Look, at the end of the day, I think -- it is very interesting what sir said just recently, he wants to get a whole overview of what goes on within the industry.

    Now, the fact of the matter is that pictures on a boat in the middle of the Mediterranean have been taken -- well, since Brigitte Bardot was sunning herself on the beaches of San Tropez. It's only in recent years that people have taken, number one, legal cases against photographers in privacy situations.

    The photographers in that particular circumstance, the reason I found it very, very strange is that the week that those pictures -- or around about the same time, Sienna Miller was photographed by a long lens, a paparazzi picture placed on Grazia magazine, and strangely enough Grazia magazine didn't have any legal issue because it was a very good brand for Sienna Miller to be seen on the cover. But as soon as a picture is taken by a freelance, which at the time freelancers all around the world it was normal practice to photograph celebrities in the sun and sand, and the rich and famous playgrounds, all of a sudden, when photographers were seen openly, and there were 300 or 400 boats around this at the particular time, all of a sudden there's legal action.

    I think when it suits a celebrity at times, they decide to legal, and when it doesn't suit -- sorry, when it doesn't suit the celebrity at the time, they decide to legal, but if it's presumed that they are in a good light, the celebrity necessarily won't.

  • All right, that's very helpful, but can I just ask my question again about Miss Miller?

  • You accepted that that case was not simply about photographs on a boat; it was about photographs taken on a number of occasions, including occasions where she was clearly distressed, photographs of her taken when she was clearly distressed. Do you remember that, Mr Lyons?

  • I don't know about specific pictures that relate to that case unless you show them to me, no.

  • All right. Can we look at some other cases? We'll move on if you have no memory of that to other privacy payouts, other privacy claims brought against you. Tab 5, sir.

  • This is the Grant and Hurley privacy payout and the article makes clear that Hugh Grant, Elizabeth Hurley and her husband have accepted £58,000 in a legal case over photographs taken whilst they were on holiday. Again you and one other agency had to pay compensation as a result of an invasion of privacy over the photographs which were taken while they were staying in a private resort. Do you remember that?

  • I didn't deal with this at the particular time from a legal basis. My CEO at the time did. Do I remember it? Very vaguely.

  • All right. Then we have the JK Rowling photographs which resulted in a court judgment, tab 3, sir. Photographs taken of her child in 2004.

  • Do you remember that? I don't want to go through it in any detail.

  • I do recall it, of course I recall it. I didn't deal with the particular situation at the time, but I'm very happy to take questions on it.

  • I simply want to understand --

  • The ones I can answer I will.

  • Of course. As a result -- you may again not be able to answer this, but as a result of the JK Rowling case, the Grant and Hurley case, the Miller case, where there were invasions of privacy in each case, are you aware of any disciplinary action taken or guidance given to your photographers?

  • In the case of the JK Rowling case, certainly this was the first legal situation that we had ever had, and it took -- I think it was two or three years after the pictures were taken, when anything actually happened with regard to privacy. Those pictures were on our website -- the pictures actually were taken, from what we thought, the photographer took a picture of her walking down a public street in Scotland. There was no problem that we felt that she had at the particular time of the picture. The picture was posted in our archive, which is a library, and it was downloaded several years later and used by a story about famous mums' families for £75. It was just a stock image that was downloaded by the Sunday Express. We didn't feel, certainly at the time, that there was any privacy invaded at the time. It was not common knowledge in the industry that any case had been brought against any picture agency.

  • I've been through a number of examples with you, both in relation to harassment claims and privacy claims. Does it concern you that there have been so many actions brought against Big Pictures in the last three or four years?

  • Any legal action is concerning, especially where on one day we're doing a set-up with Naomi Campbell through her PR or management and then all of a sudden one day, the next, she's sending through some kind of legal action for privacy. The same as either someone like Charlotte Church, the same like many celebrities, one day if they're photographed in a situation that they -- you know, it is so -- the problem with the industry as we face today is photographers and picture agencies and publishers really don't know where they stand. It is extremely ambiguous. With regard to Lily Allen, you'll photograph her on a beach one day and you'll never hear because they're lovely pictures. The next day you'll have a lawyer's letter through your post. So I'd like to make that point.

    And also, half the industry make a tremendous amount of money working with agencies such as this, not only boosting their PR around the world but also taking cash for set-up photography with the paparazzi on a regular basis.

  • I'm going to quote one more paragraph from your book. I'd be grateful if you could tell me whether you still hold the same view. Page 149 you say this:

    "All these truths about the nature of celebrity mean that when Big Pictures is out there papping the stars, some will claim that to an extent we're imposing on their privacy and causing them some kind of distress. My answer to that is simple: if you can't hack the job, don't wear the hat."

    Do you still believe that? Is that still your view?

  • Look, at the end of the day, being a celebrity is a choice of the person. I've seen it from both sides of the camera, and the fact of the matter is that if you are in the public eye, you are looked up to. We live in a world of voyeurism. It is a business where young people look up to. I think you're in a situation where celebrities feel if it's on their terms, it's fine, and if they've done the wrong thing or something immoral and that's been recorded in history, as in a photograph, and they don't like it, all of a sudden -- I get apologies from celebrities along the lines in these situations.

    So the trouble is there is no direct -- you don't know whether you're photographing someone famous these days, whether it be right or whether it be wrong, because the fact of the matter is it's totally ambiguous. 50 per cent of celebrities want to be photographed and they love it for their own self gain in terms of financial back pocket, and to make them more famous, and others will pick and choose the times when they're promoting their record or their television show or their movie to be photographed, and, you know, we have people from all sorts of Hollywood stars ring us up, from Mariah Carey's PR as soon as she hits town, Paris Hilton's PR and management ring us up as soon as they hit town saying she's staying there, she's going there. They want the publicity.

    It's an ambiguous situation that I have said all along that picture agencies and picture -- people that are recording history of celebrity don't know what is right any more and what is wrong because common practice up until the last five to ten years has changed dramatically through people -- through kind of a back door privacy law, really.

  • I have three short questions left, please, Mr Lyons. The first is the existence, whether or not you have what's known as a "no shoot list". Mr Morgan from Splash picture agency explained to us that he has a list of people that he simply doesn't touch any more, he doesn't accept photographs in respect of those individuals any more, either because there's been a court injunction or for other reasons.

  • Do you have a similar list --

  • How does someone make it on to that list? Is it simply when there's a court injunction in place or would you place someone on that list simply because you thought that they'd behaved in such a way which would indicate that they were private and were unlikely to want to be photographed?

  • No, a "no shoot list" would be placed with someone that would regularly -- with regard to a court situation, a legal situation. Absolutely. I mean, it's no good trying to give publicity or someone courting publicity if they're going to turn around the next day -- I mean, not even at a photo call would we even enter into a situation with someone that is not sure whether they want the publicity. It's not worth running the risk. It's a purely commercial decision.

  • All right. Mr Morgan was asked whether he would provide a copy of his "no shoot list". Sir, would you like a --

  • Yes, I'm quite interested in this and I'm very interested in what you said about photographers not knowing where they stand.

    First of all, Mr Lyons, I wonder whether you would be prepared, confidentially, I wouldn't necessarily publish it if you didn't want me to, to provide us with a copy of your "no shoot list".

  • Yeah, absolutely, sir.

  • Thank you. And the second thing is: do you think photographers would value some other guidance to make it rather clearer where everybody stood?

  • Oh, look, I've been campaigning for this for some time throughout the media, sir. Yes, absolutely, because I also think that photography -- and historically we live in a world of celebrity and several celebrities need it and want it, and very few certainly don't want it. So you don't know from one day to the other whether they're going to want it that day or they wake up the next day and say, "This is a private moment", or "Come into my house and photograph me walking down the street". It is so ambiguous a situation, you don't know what is right and what is wrong.

  • Well, if you have suggestions as to what that might contain, you're perfectly at liberty to submit them in writing to me and I will consider them, in the context of the over-arching requirement that I have to deal with the customs, practice and ethics of the press.

  • Yeah, fine. You do understand where I'm coming from, sir, that on that situation, though?

  • I understand what you're saying.

  • Can I ask you about, please?

  • This is your website. I'm going to again quote from your book. You say:

    " is a huge priority for me. The site allows the public to upload their own pictures and take advantage of my skills as an agent and a salesman to make them top dollar and avoid them getting ripped off. The potential is there for to be a much better business than Big Pictures. It is the future and I'm putting a lot of thought and money into it, although the business is self-funding, as was Big when I started it."

    So that's obviously considered to be a key part of your business?

  • Look, is a new media celeb -- could you hear?

  • Yeah, it is a celebrity breaking news site at the foremost. It is like any another online celebrity publisher, but yes, with regard to whether it be the BBC or whether it be News International or whether it be Associated Newspapers, everyone has affility [sic]. We have a brand where we are an agent to the public for pictures, whether it be a news picture, an animal picture, a celebrity picture, any picture that's saleable around the world, whereas most other media companies say, "Send your picture in and we'll publish them", whether it be a big news story on Sky News or the BBC. We act as an agent for the public, for instance if you're in the right place at the right time, you're in the right place at the right time and you get a picture that is saleable, yes.

  • It might be said by some that encouraging members of the public to snap out their phones and take a picture of a celebrity encourages or may encourage invasions of privacy. What steps does your agency take to ensure that photographs are not taken in a way which either invaded someone's privacy or harassed --

  • Before the pictures -- okay. As people are uploading, there is very specific terms and conditions, which you will have had sent to the court by my personal assistant, on -- the terms and conditions of what's on the site. If we have any doubt of any picture that comes in that is in any way that we would find unethical or suspicious in any way, which I think on occasions has happened, we have then phoned the particular supplier, taken the details of what was the picture, where was it taken, under what circumstances, and then made decisions and made several decisions, and also the copyright background of the picture, and made several decisions with the team that looks over that on a regular basis on the site and the sales director.

    So that is a commonplace that it is checked.

  • All right. Mr Lyons, is there anything that you wish to add? Those are all my questions for you.

  • Oh, I'd just like to go into the smaller deal, and I can make a written submission to sir on the situation, but I think I want to make it quite clear that, you know, what we touched on earlier about one day a celebrity will want their privacy and then the next day it will be up for sale is a great worry within the industry, and many names that have appeared, from what I can gather, before you have been in situations where they regularly will take money from either a photographer or an agent around the world if they feel they're in a money-making situation but also a situation to use the paparazzi as a huge PR tool.

    You know, paparazzi in America is regularly used by management and it's regularly used by publicity agents to boost someone's profile, and I think that where we are here in the United Kingdom is it is all over the place in terms of what can we do, what can't we do? Can someone have their day one day and all of a sudden get a legal letter the next day, which I think is totally wrong.

    I also think that celebrities use these situations for their own self gain on a regular basis, and I think that there's two sides to every story, which I hope this Inquiry looks at in great detail.

  • Thank you.

    Sir, unless you had any questions?

  • I have one question. I appreciate the terms and conditions on your website will allow you to filter out photographs that you believe offend the code or your --

  • -- view of code. But is there anything on the website which explains to would-be photographers what they can and can't do or should and shouldn't do?

  • Yes, absolutely there is. There's a page on what they should and shouldn't do, sir, on the site.

  • Thank you. Thank you very much indeed and thank you for making yourself available in the evening to give evidence to me in the morning. Thank you very much.

  • Sir, I understand that we need a couple of minutes simply to ensure that the video-link is switched off and that the feed is switched back to -- some technical explanation I don't really understand.

  • We'll have a couple of minutes.

  • I also need to before you rise ask that you read in two statements, if I can.

  • The first is the second statement of Mark Thomson, which was received by the Inquiry at the end of last week, and the statement of Patricia Owens. Can they be formally read into the Inquiry?

  • Certainly.

    Before I rise, I'll just deal with a matter that Mr White's solicitors raised. You are, of course, correct. It is an error that you were not excluded from the fact that you were in the list of those who appeared before the Administrative Court and the ruling will be amended accordingly.

  • Thank you very much.

  • (A short break)

  • The next witness is Mr Ian Edmondson, please.