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

  • MR BRENDAN GILMOUR (sworn).

  • Your full name, please, Mr Gilmour?

  • I would ask you, please, to turn up your witness statement which you made on 23 March of this year. It has five exhibits, a standard statement of truth, and it's signed and dated by you. Is this your formal evidence to this Inquiry?

  • Mr Gilmour, you are currently a Detective Chief Inspector. You've been in the Metropolitan Police Service now for nearly 21 years. The time which we're looking at, that's between 2002 and 2005, you were serving on the DPS, which is, of course, the Directorate of Professional Standards, and your rank, I believe, was Detective Inspector; is that right?

  • And the reason why we're asking you to give evidence today is to enlighten us in relation to Operation Glade, which I'm going to ask you about in a moment, which started in 2003, but in order to understand some background, I've been asked to put to you this general question: had you experience of dealing with the press in relation to operations before Operation Glade?

  • Not in the context of the press potentially being suspects, only in the normal context of using the media for information appeals.

  • Of course, the standard work which you were undertaking between 2002 and 2005 was in relation to police corruption; is that right?

  • Yes, it was, sir, that's correct.

  • So in that context were you previously aware of a practice of disclosing information gained from the Police National Computer or the CRO to private investigators?

  • I was generally aware of possibly one other investigation that had been going on or maybe was going on at the time that involved private investigators acting or using police staff to gain information, but not specifically from the PNC, and I'm not sure of the specifics of the information that they were actually requiring, but it's not an investigation I personally was involved in, it's just one that I was generally aware of.

  • Can I ask you generally about the Police National Computer? Was it seen by you to be a general problem, namely a source of corruption, or was it something more isolated and sporadic?

  • Personally, I think it was more isolated and sporadic.

  • Okay. So we understand the Police National Computer and how it works, it contains Criminal Record Office information; is that right? And it also contains material such as registered keeper details of privately owned vehicles?

  • Yes, it does, that's correct.

  • And presumably a range of other sensitive information, some of which you wouldn't wish to discuss today.

  • That's correct, sir, yes.

  • Can I ask you, please, about the background to Operation Glade and its commencement? This is paragraph 7 of your statement and following. You tell us it started in August 2003. In your own words, please, how did it originate?

  • From memory, and from the documents that I've seen, sir, it -- the investigation emanated from an inquiry that Devon and Cornwall Police had conducted, which I think was code named Operation Reproof, and at some point Devon and Cornwall linked in with the Information Commissioners who ran an operation called Operation Motorman, I believe, looking at the activities of private investigators potentially using police employees or accessing the information on the PNC, which was in turn then passed out to various journalists.

    During the course of Reproof and Motorman, or Motorman, investigators established that a Metropolitan Police employee, a civilian employee, called Paul Marshall, was conducting checks on the PNC and the information from those checks was subsequently ending up in various newspaper articles. So we have the wider Operation Motorman investigation going on, and from that Paul Marshall was identified, a Metropolitan Police employee, and because of that the Information Commissioners came to the Metropolitan Police with that information and then it was briefed into the Directorate of Professional Standards, the command that I was attached to, initially into the Intelligence Development Group, and one of their roles was to scope any information coming in to see if it required an operational response, for instance an investigation to be conducted on that information.

  • Thank you. In terms of the chain of dissemination of information, Mr Marshall was the starting point working in south London, I understand?

  • Yes, in Tooting police station.

  • In Tooting. Did he provide information to Mr King, who was an ex-police officer, and then Mr King in turn furnished the information on to private detectives, Messrs Whittamore and Boyall?

  • The company you refer to, Data Research Ltd based in Surrey, was that connected with Whittamore and Boyall?

  • I can't remember which one of those persons it was connected with, but yes it was. I believe there were two companies, JJ Services, which I think may have been Mr Whittamore's company.

  • I think you're right, and Mr Boyall therefore would be --

  • Mr Boyall's was Data Research.

  • Thank you. You explain in paragraph 13 that the inquiry was then scoped, as you explain, and we have the evidence of that. I don't think it's necessary to look at it in any particular detail. I've been asked to put to you a couple of points arising. We know Mr Marshall, who was the civilian communications officer at Tooting, remained in post. Do you know why that was so, given that there was an obvious risk of future disclosures by him?

  • Yes. That was a decision that I took. It's not unusual in these circumstances, depending on the level of risk that the employee poses, to leave them in post to allow the investigating team to covertly do what they need to do, so to evaluate, assess any information that we're already in possession of or to retrieve any information that we need to. It frequently can prevent the disposal of evidence by remaining covert in our investigation.

    I recall reviewing Marshall's position and the risk that he represented, and given the nature of what he was doing, it was a relatively low risk. We would always consider risk to life and various other factors, but predominantly risk to life, and clearly there wasn't a risk to life here and there was more benefit in leaving him where he was in order for us to obtain the information.

  • The other general question is: you mentioned a few moments ago that the information that was provided to the private detectives eventually found its way into newspapers, so it was plain that the ultimate consumer or customer was a journalist. When you were scoping this exercise, was the sensitivity of investigating journalists discussed?

  • I can't recall specifically. I would imagine it was. We were certainly alive to the sensitivities of investigating journalists and the significance of that. But I can't recall specific discussions.

  • Did that for you create any particular fears or trap falls or was it something that you would simply take in your stride, in the context of the work you were doing?

  • Well, considering the work that we were doing, investigating corrupt police employees, police officers and members of the civilian staff, investigating journalists didn't present any fear. There wasn't any fear involved at all. But we did recognise the significance of what we were doing and the attention that that would attract and that would obviously shape how we approached that, but it certainly wouldn't have stopped us doing it and there was no trepidation around it.

  • Can I put it in a slightly different way, that there would be resource implications in taking on journalists and powerful newspapers, some might say. They would have access to sophisticated legal advice. Would those matters be a factor in your decision-making?

  • In terms of operational activity and our response? No. That wouldn't stop us doing what we needed to do. You can imagine that some the investigations that we were conducting at the time were relatively high profile and, no, that wouldn't have stopped us doing what we were doing.

  • Thank you. I'm going to take as read quite a lot of the early part of your statement. We're going to note at paragraph 16 what the terms of reference of the inquiry, which was then I think code-named Operation Glade by that point, were:

    "To investigate (covertly) at this time the allegations against Marshall in order to prove or disprove his involvement in the offences alleged. The parameter of the investigation at this time will include Marshall himself, John Boyall and possibly Stephen Whittamore. It appears to be clear evidence Marshall is conducting illegal PNC or CRO checks on behalf of John Boyall at the request of a number of reporters. The aim of the investigation will be to gather evidence of Marshall, Boyall and Whittamore's involvement in the misuse of the PNC or CRO systems with a view to prosecuting them for any offences disclosed or to prevent further misuse. Early consultation will take place with the CPS regarding appropriate charges should sufficient evidence be obtained."

    From the way in which the terms of reference are set out, it's clear that charges of conspiracy might be under contemplation. Have I correctly understood it?

  • Yes, that's correct, sir.

  • The possible conspiracies might be conspiracy to corrupt, which at that point would probably be under the 1906 and 1916 Prevention of Corruption Acts, or the common law offence of misfeasance in public office or the secondary offences in relation to that common law offence. Did you see any difference between the two?

  • I initially made reference to the fact that I was considering conspiracy to corrupt, and I think I made a note of that in my decision log. That really was a label that I gave the general activity at that time. Clearly the indictment subsequently read different, but that's not unusual when it's referred to the CPS and then obviously counsel have a view on that and they would choose the most appropriate charges. So conspiracy to corrupt was a general term applied to it because that's what we thought it was at the time, but the most appropriate charge was obviously decided by counsel.

    I believe that was conspiracy to commit misconduct in the end.

  • I think it became conspiracy to commit -- what was described as misfeasance, it's the same as misconduct in public office.

    Can we look at a few of the decision logs to see how your thinking may have evolved? This is under BG2, tab 3 in the bundle which has been provided. Go to decision 20 on 10 November 2003, which is page 16094. The decision was taken to arrest Mr King, do you see that?

  • In your own words, why was the decision taken to arrest him?

  • I seem to recall that we had arrested Paul Marshall and we were analysing a lot of telecommunications evidence that we had taken from his telephones and from his premises, telephone bills and the results of billing requests and subscriber requests, and from that we identified another link in the chain that we had previously not realised was there, and that was Alan King, a former police sergeant, I believe, who used to work in the same area as Marshall, and we saw a series of contacts between those two, which indicated that he was part of that chain. So on that basis he was then deemed to be a suspect involved in that, and I made a decision that he should be arrested on that basis.

  • On the same day, you make another decision, number 21, page 16095. You cross out the words "arrest the journalists". The decision was to:

    "... interview under caution the journalists who are suspected of being concerned in the offence of conspiracy to corrupt."

    First of all, why weren't the journalists arrested in the same way as Mr King was?

  • The default position isn't always to arrest in the first instance. My consideration then were what is it that I was hoping to achieve and what I wanted to achieve was to interview the journalists under caution. I, through the legal departments of the various newspapers, was able to access and secure the attendance of the journalists, and that was relatively straightforward, I think, without any complication. Whereas King, I didn't have that access to King and it was necessary to secure him by arresting -- to secure his attendance at the police station for investigation interview by arresting him. But it was always a -- for each of the suspects and for every suspect, it's a consideration as to whether or not they need to be arrested in order to achieve what it is you want to achieve.

  • But we know that you arrested seven journalists --

  • Interviewed, pardon me, seven journalists. How were they identified?

  • From the ledgers that Stephen Whittamore had as part of his business.

  • There may be a misunderstanding about this, but how many journalists in all have been identified in Mr Whittamore's ledgers insofar as concerns this operation, Operation Glade, in contradistinction to Operation Motorman?

  • So you arrested the whole lot?

  • We interviewed all of them.

  • Sorry, you interviewed the whole lot, you never arrested them.

    Can I ask you this: the quality of the evidence you had in documentary form -- you touch on this in decision 21, 16094, you said:

    "Evidence exists which implicates a number of journalists in the offence of conspiracy to corrupt. In some circumstances newspaper articles and invoices from Whittamore show that PNC data has been requested and acquired."

    Pausing there, you obviously had the newspaper article, which contains the source information; is that correct?

  • And you had an audit trail of requests from the journalists to Whittamore, but in your own words, to do what?

  • Whittamore kept very detailed ledgers of his business and he had invoices in there to -- going out to the various newspapers and named individuals within those newspapers. And that's where the seven names came from.

    On the actual invoices it could show CRO and I think vehicle check, but it was quite clear that they were asking for CRO details or vehicle checks, registered keeper details, and on those invoices would be a price as well. So we had the invoice, which to us was the acknowledgment, and obviously the PNC audit trail showed that the checks had been done, and that the invoices had gone out to the various newspapers.

    So we already had very good evidence that that link between the journalists did exist evidentially, that they were requesting or that everything indicated they were requesting the information, and obviously we had the audit trail which showed that Marshall had conducted the checks and fed them back through the chain into Whittamore.

  • Are there any inferences to be drawn, possibly from a few matters: first of all, the speed or otherwise with which Whittamore was able to obtain this information for journalists; was it slow or fast?

  • It was fast. And during the interviews of the journalists, we put that to them on a number of occasions, to each of them during the course of the interview, that they couldn't reasonably -- when they were being interviewed, quite a few of them said they thought the information was coming from the courts because they thought CRO stood for court record office, and we put it to them that they couldn't possibly -- they couldn't possibly accept or assume that that information would get turned around so quickly, I think a matter of hours in some cases, two or three hours, and I think without exception, from memory, they all said that that is genuinely where they thought it was from, regardless of our suspicions. Really because we were putting to them that the turnaround was so quick, it couldn't be from there, we didn't accept what they were saying, but they stuck with that line and all of them stated that they would not have used Whittamore or any other agency if they had known the information was being accessed or obtained illegally.

  • About the price or the level of consideration, could any inferences be drawn from that?

  • I seem to recall that they were paying perhaps £200, £300, and maybe a bit more on occasions, for the information. I'm not sure that you could draw an inference from that. I think the information was of value to them, not necessarily the quick turnaround, but I'm sure that was a factor in their using Whittamore because he provided such good service.

  • Were the words PNC or Police National Computer on any of the invoices you saw?

  • I don't recall, but I couldn't say for sure. I would have to have a look at them again. Certainly CRO was written on the invoices.

  • The information itself included information as to previous convictions of a target; is that right?

  • A target for the newspapers?

  • Yes. Individuals that were of interest to newspapers. Registered keeper details for their vehicles, presumably to find out where they lived, or previous convictions that they may have had.

  • In that interview was it put to the journalists: well, information as to previous criminal convictions is not in the public domain, almost by definition it must be obtained illegally?

  • Yes, it was. It was specifically put to them, and they pleaded ignorance around how the information would have been obtained illegally. They just said they wouldn't have used Whittamore if they had have known it was being obtained illegally.

  • Did you conduct any of these interviews yourself, Mr Gilmour?

  • You obviously reviewed the records of the interview, which we don't have. The CPS, we know, took a view about it. Did you take a view as to the plausibility or otherwise of the defences which were being maintained at interview?

  • I did take a view. As I said earlier, it was put to the journalists that the speed with which the checks were being turned around would suggest they weren't being obtained through courts or court records, but that said, we couldn't establish guilty knowledge on the part of the journalists as to where the information was coming from.

  • Well, at highest, it would be an inference, wouldn't it?

  • At its highest.

    The other difficulty that we had, sir, and this came out during the course of the interviews, was that all the journalists accepted that they used Whittamore to obtain the information, and obviously they all denied knowing that it was coming from the PNC, but frequently they would say, "Yes, I accept I asked for that information, but that piece of information I didn't ask for, it could have been any other journalist within the newsroom using my name when they contacted Whittamore", so even attributing all the checks to a specific journalist would have been difficult.

  • Or maybe not on a conspiracy charge, Mr Gilmour, but let's not investigate that.

    Can we look at one or two other decision logs, just to see how this evolved. Decision 22, page 16096, you're thinking now about the need to devise a press strategy for the proposed interview of journalists?

  • Yes, sir. That's standard for all investigations of this nature, and any other investigation which is going to attract media attention.

  • Did you fear a press backlash to an investigation of journalists?

  • No. We didn't fear a backlash. We were aware that it would cause a reaction. The reason for having a media strategy was to deal with the enquiries that we would expect to come from dealing with the media. It wasn't that we feared a backlash, we just knew that this would attract a lot of attention and we needed to have a process in place to manage the questions that would come in.

  • Was the need to devise a press strategy in any way linked with your decision not to arrest the journalists but instead to invite them for interview?

  • No. There would have been a press strategy in any case.

  • It's clear from the next decision that you weren't going to interview the journalists until you had arrested and interviewed Marshall and King. That presumably was for sound operational reasons. You wanted to have the best available evidence to be able to put to the journalists as and when the need arose?

  • Decision number 24. The decision is to meet with the CPS after reviewing King's computers. The reason:

    "To assess and evaluate all evidence gathered to date, to assess the strength of evidence against all suspects, to decide if interview under caution for journalists should proceed."

    I've been asked to put this to you, so you can deal with it: does this decision demonstrate a diminishing will to interview the journalists?

  • No. In my opinion, no, because we did interview the journalists.

  • And the decision -- just bear with me -- there was a further review, decision 27, which starts at 16101. We're now on 19 December 2003. King's computer has been fully reviewed.

    Then on the next page, 16102, you say:

    "I reviewed this case, which is the subject of CPS advice. It's likely that the advice will be to charge all subjects on 14 January 2004. Careful consideration needs to be given to the interviewing of the journalists who it would appear have required the checks."

    I've been asked to put this to you: why was careful consideration required in relation to the journalists over and above any consideration you gave to the other suspects?

  • Sir, I should point out that this isn't my entry. I do recognise the signature, I believe it's Detective Superintendent Tony Fuller. So I don't think I'm in a position to answer that. I can give a view, if you wish.

    I think it's because of the significance of what we were dealing with and recognising that significance and just giving it due consideration to be able to manage the consequences of what we were doing, or the fallout from what we were doing.

  • Because the record reads on:

    "Clearly there would be huge press interest when this happens which would need to be very carefully managed."

    Out of interest, was there huge press interest?

  • I don't believe there was. I don't recall that much press interest.

  • Then you say:

    "I will therefore arrange a Gold Group to take place before 14 January 2004 involving ..."

    That's a Deputy Assistant Commissioner, isn't it?

  • So you're taking it to a high level. Then that's Mr Fuller, he's the superintendent or the chief superintendent, and then you and then other officers, and then Mr Fedorcio is involved as well. Do you know why he was going to be involved?

  • I think I should say that I don't believe this meeting took place. I haven't seen any record of this meeting taking place and to the best of my recollection I didn't attend a Gold Group. I'm not entirely sure there was a Gold Group.

    Just to help everybody understand, a Gold Group is called to review a significant event, it could be an investigation, it could be some other event. So as the organisation can properly manage that and co-ordinate a response to it, members of the Gold Group would generally be the heads from particular units or other people who can bring specific skills or support or arrests which could assist the investigation or the event. So in answer to your question, sir, I would assume that would be why Dick Fedorcio would have been included on that, because from recollection I think he was head of the media section or media department within the MPS at that time, but I can't specifically recall --

  • And that would have been why he would have been there.

  • Well, at all events, the decision to interview the journalists is decision 28, taken by you on 16 January 2004. We'll come to the upshot of that decision.

    Can I go back to paragraph 33 of your statement. You point out at paragraph 33, this is at a meeting which took place in November 2003, you were in fact of the view that the journalists should be arrested before they were interviewed; is that right?

  • Yes. That's correct, sir.

  • Can you explain why you were overruled or did you change your mind?

  • I wasn't overruled, sir. That was an opinion that I had formed at that point. The investigation stopped -- well, from the operation's point of view started in August. As you can imagine, there was quite a large quantity of material that we needed to go through, we were constantly doing that, so the evidence was being updated almost on a daily basis, particularly from the ledgers, the information within the ledgers and the telecommunications data. As that assessment went on over a period of weeks and months, I realised that we actually had significant evidence to show that connection between the journalists and Whittamore, and in fact everybody within the chain, to the point that -- taking you back to the question around arrests, I then reconsidered the need to have to arrest the journalists and to conduct any searches because in reality I already had what I assessed to be significant evidence showing that link, so in my view the need to arrest diminished and I didn't need to do that and secured their attendance through invitation.

  • So it's not just a question of arrest that's concerned, it's whether you need to effect a search, because arrest carries with it, under PACE, certain rights of search?

  • Yes, correct, sir. They can obviously be two operate issues.

  • But on this occasion there wasn't -- I decided there wasn't a need to go and search premises used by the journalists because we had a proof of that relationship and the information requests already within the ledgers.

  • This was before they were interviewed and before they were saying, "I might be responsible for this bit but not that bit"?

  • Had you understood that earlier, then that might have itself impact on your decision whether a search would have been of assistance?

  • But we know that the decision to interview was made on 16 January. The actual interviews took place between 19 January and 31 January 2004. This is paragraph 39 of your statement.

  • And the journalists co-operated, they responded to written invitations to attend police stations to be interviewed under caution and they had legal advice. Is that broadly speaking correct?

  • Might it be said that you, rightly or wrongly, deprived yourself of the element of surprise? The journalists would know full well what you were going to ask them, and any line they might take in defence could be, as it were, orchestrated?

  • I certainly couldn't discount that. And equally, the need to search the premises may not have delivered anything for exactly the same reasons because Motorman and Reproof had already, for want of a better word, let the cat out of the bag. So yes, they would have been forearmed in advance of the interviews, but I can't say that for sure.

  • I think you have told us that there was a consistency between the journalists and the lines they did take in answer to your questions. Is that fair?

  • Generally speaking it was along the same lines, yes.

  • I suppose there are at least two inferences which could be drawn from that.

    Can I ask you about paragraph 41, please?

  • You say two-thirds of the way down that paragraph, our page 18584:

    "All of the journalists accepted that they had used Whittamore to obtain information but denied knowing that a corrupt police employee or unlawful methods were being used to access the information."

    You told us that you had evidence from King and from Marshall. Did you have evidence from Whittamore which would enable you to complete the jigsaw in relation to what you might put to the journalists?

  • But beyond what the ledgers said, they spoke for themselves, did you have an interview under caution taken of him?

  • Was there any reference there to his use of the Police National Computer?

  • He denied using the Police National Computer to obtain his information.

  • When he said "his use", I meant of course his use through the agency of Mr Marshall. He denied that?

  • What did you think of that denial?

  • Well, again, looking at Mr Whittamore and Mr Boyall and Mr King and Mr Marshall, it was my view, a view shared by companies, that given the nature of their business and how prolific certainly Boyall and Whittamore were in acquiring information, that it didn't wear, you know, the fact that they were saying they didn't know it came from the PNC. They were professional information gatherers who would have recognised that you couldn't get that fast turnaround from a court, even though they did say that they thought it was coming from court. So we didn't accept what they were saying.

  • But the link between Whittamore and Marshall was clearly established, wasn't it?

  • We didn't -- we never established a direct link between Whittamore and Marshall. We had, obviously, the indirect link. We had Marshall, King, Boyall and then Whittamore.

  • Was Mr King denying that he knew the information was obtained through access to the Police National Computer?

  • Mr King didn't make any comment, from recollection, to any of the questions put to him about that.

  • Well, what happened then, we know that the last interview took place on 31 January 2004. The file was then passed on to the CPS in the natural and ordinary course of things and in paragraph 45 of your statement, 6 March 2004, CPS advised there was insufficient evidence to charge any of the journalists.

  • That's their decision, it's taken out of your hands by then. And then letters are written to the journalists explaining that state of affairs. That's right, isn't it?

  • We also know what happened at Blackfriars --

  • Before we go to Blackfriars Crown Court, I think we just ought to clear something up in relation to your exhibit BG5.

  • They needn't go on the screen. They are copies of letters that were written to journalists and the names of the journalists will be redacted, if they haven't already been. But the important feature to anyone reading these letters is this, isn't it: Presumably you've taken these off a computer system which automatically dates the letter?

  • So it is wrong to read the date as 20 March 2012, which is presumably the date that the letters were printed?

  • Your statement makes it clear that it was March 2004 that these letters were sent.

  • So before anybody suggests that you've been creating letters later on, that's just not right?

  • It's just the way that the computer updates them on the day they were actually printed.

  • I'd understood that, but I wouldn't want anybody to misunderstand it.

  • Were you disappointed by the CPS decision or not?

  • I accepted the decision on the basis that we couldn't prove guilty knowledge. I wasn't disappointed with the CPS taking that decision; I was disappointed that we couldn't prove guilty knowledge.

  • Well, I suppose that was nothing compared with your level of disappointment with what happened at Blackfriars Crown Court in April of 2005, Mr Gilmour?

  • That was very disappointing, the outcome of the trial. Obviously the four were convicted but the sentences, in my personal opinion, were lenient.

  • Let's just understand this. Were these different judges, Marshall and King on the one hand, Whittamore and Boyall on the other?

  • I think it was the same one, sir.

  • So they were all -- am I misrecollecting that Whittamore and Boyall was Judge Samuels, is that right?

  • Yes, it was all on the same occasion.

  • Yes, I noticed that, but I thought that he was referring to some earlier decision of a recorder.

  • Sir, if I can help, Mr Marshall was found to be in possession of a large quantity of property which didn't belong to him, and he was charged with handling stolen goods, and a different judge heard that matter, and maybe that's what's being referred to.

  • I see, all right. But there it was, these four were all conditionally discharged, and you describe the sentences as a disappointment to such extent that consideration was given to referring them to the Court of Appeal, but unduly lenient sentences at that time, certainly, could only -- appeals could only be brought in relation to indictable only and certain other offences, isn't that right?

  • It's beyond me, sir. I wouldn't like to comment.

  • All right. You're coming back into my territory of the law. And the other feature is the only penalty for Data Protection Act offences, am I right in saying, at this time was financial and indeed remains financial, so by adding Section 55.1(a) of the Data Protection Act 1998 to an indictment that charged conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office, which of course is a common law offence and therefore sentences at large, pleas were accepted to offences which only carried a potential financial penalty. Do you know about that?

  • Sir, I'm obviously aware of what happened. It was a matter for the Crown Prosecution --

  • I wasn't in any sense criticising you, Mr Gilmour, but do I have that right, Mr Jay?

  • I think the rest of it speaks for itself and you've covered the inferences, if any, which could be drawn from the journalists' interviews.

    The rest of the questions which I've been asked to put are really just comment on the facts as they stand, and I don't think it's necessary for me to ask them.

    Thank you very much, Mr Gilmour.

  • Mr Gilmour, thank you very much indeed for the obvious work you've put into reconstructing what happened a very long time ago. Thank you.

  • I'll rise so that we can reconnect the bits of electrical equipment.

  • (A short break)

  • The next witness, please, is Mr Middleton.