Sir, along with Mr Crossley and his team at Collyer Bristow I represent the core participant victims, all 51 of them. I sat and listened, as you did and everyone else did yesterday, to the representatives of the two largest press organisations in this country.
We are here, as you said, not just because of the shameful revelations which have come out of the hacking scandal, but also because there has been a serious breakdown of trust in the important relationship between the press and the public, and it is the general public whom my clients represent in one very real sense.
It is really this breakdown of trust that we are here to deal with. That is the terms, of course, of module one of part 1 of this Inquiry. But before I launch into my speech, can I say this? It hardly fills my clients or the public, I suspect, with great confidence that, having listened to the two largest newspaper groups in this country in the face of the well-documented problems, in the face of the experiences which my clients' evidence highlights, and in terms of what this says about the ethics, culture and practices of the press, or at least a certain section of the press, that rather than suggest some concrete solutions to rectify them, or even recognise that there is anything really wrong, other than the unfortunate hacking incident, as they see it, they both urge you that a freer press is the answer.
We say that this is symptomatic of a level of complacency amongst the British press, or a part of it. Such editors or newspapers, as was clear from the seminars of the Inquiry last month, are firm members of the "see no, speak no, hear no evil" brigade. It is a theme to which I will return in due course.
Before I continue, can I just explain one term, which may well recur throughout my submissions. I've already referred to a certain section of the press. Let me not be Delphic. After all, it's not my strong point. By that I am referring to the tabloid or popular end of the press, and in that I do include the Associated titles.
Whilst I accept, indeed I would urge the Inquiry, insofar as it seeks to set standards for journalistic activity, that these are standards which must apply across the board, the experience of my clients, the victims -- and I am here to represent them, not to be impartial -- is primarily and largely at the hands of that certain section of the press, as I will call it, a big section nevertheless, but it is still a particular section.
Whilst I'm also sure there are many people who have complaints against the broadsheet newspapers, the main elements of what the core participant victims complain about here in terms of intrusion into their privacy, principally, are features very much of the tabloid or popular newspaper market, something which Mr Rusbridger touched on only moments ago.
So far, so good. Let me begin then.
There are currently 13 or so journalists from the News of the World as well as a journalist from its sister newspaper, the Sun, who have been arrested and are waiting further questioning. However, it is the whole of the press, and in particular the tabloid section of it, which we say stands in the dock, at least metaphorically so, and certainly in the court of public opinion, if not here.
The nature of the charge, at least against some of the press, concerns their culture, practices and ethics, but the indictment could as easily read as follows: illegally accessing people's private voicemails, bribing employees into divulging personal information, blagging sensitive details through deception and trickery, blackmailing vulnerable or opportunistic individuals into breaking confidences about well-known people, the blatant intrusion into the grief of victims of crime, the vilification of ordinary members of the public unwittingly caught up in such events, the hounding of various well-known people, their families and friends, purely because this sells newspapers, and finally, the bullying of those who, in seeking to question these practices, are therefore merely exercising the very same freedom of speech behind which much of this behaviour is sought to be shielded or excused by the press.
Quite an impressive charge sheet, you might think. No wonder it may take this Inquiry some time to conduct the investigation. It may take me a little time today, as well, to outline the true, unvarnished extent of the tawdry journalistic trade that we now have in this country, particularly in the publication of personal information about people's private lives, information that in some cases has been rightly denied to the press, or anyone else, as a matter of law.
The real code of practice, we say, seems to be for such journalists, in publishing stories about the private lives of people in the public eye, that what you can get away with you buy, regardless of whether it is illegal, unlawful or just plain wrong. What you can't buy you procure, often through deception and lies. What you can't procure you just plain steal. And what you want to publish but you can neither verify nor necessarily prove, you simply make up, because it sounds right or it sells newspapers.
On that last point, don't just take my word for it, as they say. We were all treated to a classic example of this when a former tabloid editor, Mr MacKenzie, spoke at one of the seminars. A man who boasted that in his considerable experiences he only checked his sources once. An editor whose view was: if it sounds right, it probably is right, and so you lob it in anyway. Nothing has changed.
Before one says, as another former editor and now PR said at the seminar, that this type of journalism has been firmly consigned to the history books of Fleet Street, you should remember that Mr MacKenzie is still deeply involved in this industry and is currently a prize columnist employed by the Daily Mail.
Sir, as you said at the outset, it is not the function of this Inquiry to offer applause or to make specific criticisms of any one newspaper or another. My role here is not to give applause to anyone. My role on behalf of those who had suffered at the hands of the press over a number of years means that I am here to highlight the wrongs, systemic, flagrant and deeply entrenched as I say they are.
As I've said, I represent the victims and this is really their story. My submissions will be laced throughout with the accounts that they give.
While there are 51 core participant victims, there are in fact many, many more people with similar stories, similar experiences, similar narratives of how their lives have been ruined or adversely impacted by the kind of culture, ethics and practices which you will hear evidence about from a selection of individual core participant victims. These victims can explain their feelings and their experiences far more eloquently and far more vividly than I can paraphrase.
One may be forgiven if one attended or heard the seminars last month from thinking that it is the press who are the victims here. Victims of draconian libel laws, victims of greedy lawyers on no win no fee agreements, victims of unaccountable judges who arbitrarily impose gagging orders on them preventing them telling us, the public, about what the rich and famous get up to in private.
This is no accident. The press is a powerful body. They have a common interest and a self-serving agenda. Why wouldn't they, after all? This is about survival, and they have lobbied hard to try and push their agenda through the pages of their own highly influential newspapers, to influence politicians with the sole objective that there should be less rather than more restriction or regulation, and that if this was so, journalism would be even better.
If you need proof positive that it would not, then the setting up of this Inquiry provides it.
However, the press have a very powerful voice and should not, as Mr Jay said, be allowed to drown out the voices of the victims. As the embodiment of that voice, a lone voice, of course, amongst the serried ranks of newspapers and lawyers on either side of me, I can say that I don't intend to be drowned out, but I will show that unfortunately, sir, as you feared, a number of individuals have already been vilified for agreeing to share their experiences with this Inquiry, and I will return to this later.
There is, of course, a real difference between freedom of speech and freedom of the press. The two should not necessarily be seen as the same. While the first is an understandable and fundamental principle, we can see where an entirely free press, as some would suggest, has got us, and before I leave the narrative which the press wish to espouse, it is worth remembering what another former editor, Ms Rebekah Brooks, told the House of Commons Select Committee in 2003:
"Self-regulation under the guidance of the PCC", she claimed, "has changed the culture in Fleet Street and in every single newsroom in the land."
I presume by that she meant it in a positive way.
Well, eight years on, it is for you to decide, sir, what you think about that as a statement of fact. However, it's hard to resist the temptation to comment that if this is the press's own assessment of self-regulation, I could just as well sit down now.
It is equally tempting to point out that it was during the same evidence that Ms Brooks, the editor then of the Sun, admitted paying money to police officers. Mr Coulson, then editor of the News of the World, sitting to her side, stepped in to reassure the committee not only that this only happened in cases of public interest, but to make the now spectacular ill-judged assertion that they at News International always operated within the law.
What damage, I've heard it asked, admittedly by those whose self-interest requires them do so, what damage has really been suffered by these practices? We'll hear from a number of people who provide, as I say, a better answer than I can. It is, as I said, merely a selection. There are not enough details, not enough room in court for everyone. It is a sample, sir, as you call it of the bigger picture, a glimpse of the scale of the problem, and it comes mostly from those who have hit the headlines, quite literally, but for every one of them, it should be noted that there are many, many others.
However, before I outline this bigger picture, it is important to remember at all times that however loud the voice of the press may be raised, whether in this room or, more likely, outside, through the filter of their very own newspapers, there is a reason why we are all here and it isn't because the press got it right and it isn't because there needs to be greater latitude and freedom given to them.
So let's start with the breaking point which caused this Inquiry to be set up.
In the beginning was the word, and the word was hacking. A term whose significance until relatively recently one could have been forgiven for not really appreciating. Forgiven if you were a member of the public, that is, since the arrest and conviction of Messrs Mulcaire and Goodman in 2006 was reported but hardly with the level of impact or weight that everyone now realises it truly deserved.
Nevertheless, whilst its significance may not have heavily impacted upon the public consciousness at the time, it was something of which the press or certain sections of it were well aware.
They chose to ignore it publicly. That was until Nick Davies wrote about it so famously in 2009. Yes, it took a journalist to do it, which is important to note. An old-fashioned investigative journalist, if Mr Davies doesn't mind me calling him such, and no one here is saying that they should be rendered redundant.
Of course, it was never going to be the tabloid press themselves who confessed or self-regulated on this. It wasn't the police or politicians who reported it either, both of whom were likely aware. Perhaps Harold Pinter was right when he said, "Most of the press is in league with the government or the status quo". No doubt the accuracy of that statement is something, sir, which you will consider in the later modules of part 1 of this Inquiry.
So now to begin with the narratives of those who will give evidence before you.
On 21 March 2002, a 13-year-old girl was abducted and murdered on her way home from school. Her name was Milly. Between March and September 2002, she was still believed missing, not just by the public, but most importantly, by her family. Five days later, after her disappearance, a mystery caller left a voicemail message on Milly's phone, apparently inviting her to a job interview in the Midlands. The call was a hoax. A particularly cruel and insensitive hoax.
It was such an awful story that it made the front pages. A certain now defunct newspaper put it in their first edition: "Missing Milly hoax outrage". Whilst the woman who made that call and thereby caused distress to poor Milly's family was convicted and imprisoned for five months, what we now know is that another outrage, another act of cruelty and insensitivity, was the one which was nowhere mentioned in the News of the World, and that was the fact that Mr Mulcaire, acting in the course of his work for the newspaper, had deliberately accessed and listened to the missing 13-year-old's voicemail, and worse still, he had even deleted some to ensure there was room for waiting voicemails to come through to her otherwise full mailbox.
We don't know who within the News of the World authorised this and at what level. We can speculate, but that's not the purpose of part 1 of this Inquiry. The individual names of those involved in such activities are to be anonymised, in a twist of irony that, whilst it is understandable to protect the criminal prosecution, will not be lost on those whose anonymity has been shattered in the past by tabloid journalists.
Of course, the hacking of Milly's phone did not come out until July of this year, her parents having been told just before the criminal trial started in April. And it was this revelation which finally provoked the government into setting up this Inquiry. Mr and Mrs Dowler will tell you in their own words what it felt like in those moments when Sally, her mother, finally got through to her daughter's voicemail after persistent attempts had failed because the box was full, and the euphoria which this belief created, false as it was, unfortunately.
Perhaps there are no words which can adequately describe how despicable this act was, but the Dowler story is just one of those you will hear. It comes first, for obvious reasons, but it is not just a story about hacking, in the same way as this Inquiry is an investigation into the much broader and bigger picture.
The Dowlers were subjected to terrible intrusion by the press, intrusion at a time of immense grief, and as I will describe, they are by no means alone in this experience. For example, they will explain how in the weeks following her disappearance, and when the reporting frenzy had calmed down, the couple decided to repeat the very walk which Milly had done the day she was abducted. This was no formal reconstruction done with the police. It was not for publicity. It was, rather, a private act, a very private moment, something the couple had decided to do between themselves to try to come to terms with their teenage daughter's disappearance. A way of coming to terms with their grief in private. Or so they thought.
But their moment of grief was obviously a photo opportunity too good to resist. Somehow the press found out that they were undertaking that last walk on that particular day and at that particular time. Their voicemails, they suspect, theirs of course, not Milly's this time, were being listened to.
The News of the World published an article on that day under the headline "The longest walk", complete with pictures of the distressed couple and a side bar which read, without even a hint of introspection:
"Face etched with pain, missing Milly's mum softly touches a poster of her girl as she and hubby retrace her last footsteps."
And alongside the picture was a caption which read as follows:
"Mile of grief. The Dowlers follow Milly's footsteps from Walton station and below mum Sally can't help but touch the poster of her daughter."
First stolen voicemail messages. Why not then steal these precious moments too? Ethically, what's the difference?
Both Sally and Bob Dowler will give evidence on Monday. They will be the first of my clients to do so.
It is fair to say on any view that with the drip feed of revelation after revelation in the hacking story, as each new fact has come out, each one more outrageous perhaps than the last, it has got to the point where it is difficult perhaps still to be shocked. And whilst I suspect there are those who vehemently deplore the hacking of Milly's phone, or the phone of Shaun Russell, Josie Russell's father, or the victims of the 7/7 bombing, there are some who seem to have less sympathy for the high profile figures whose phoned also were illegally accessed.
The basis for this I presume, certainly if the tabloid press's view of the ordinary reasonable reader is right, is that so-called whingeing celebrities deserve to have their private messages listened to. After all, they want the public to watch their films or buy their records or to pay to see them play football. However, I trust that the majority of the population accept that high profile or not, there is no excuse for this kind of what is called news-gathering.
Lest it should be overlooked, while Mr Davies was the man who was prepared to write about the dark arts, it was individuals like Sienna Miller who were prepared to take on News International, unlike some of those in government or authority. And it is Sienna Miller and others' actions which forced the hacking scandal to be taken seriously by the police. Without people like her and other so-called celebrities, who knows when or even if the Dowlers would ever have found out about the hacking of their daughter's voicemails? Who knows whether this Inquiry would have been launched? After all, the Surrey Police had known about the hacking of Milly's phone for nine years and the Metropolitan Police probably for several years as well.
So before we condemn the wonderful stereotypical rich and famous, as they are termed, and suggest that the law is not just for them, in fact no one, not even the rich and famous, wants that, it is important to remember that it is in fact a sad but true reflection of our system of justice and in particular the lack of state funding in this area that it is only because of those with sufficient resources and the access to lawyers, those terribly grasping claimant lawyers we all hear about, or the bravery of these people to run the gauntlet of the press, that the law, particularly the law of privacy, has now been developed to protect everyone, wealthy and non-wealthy alike.
Now, with the demise of conditional fee agreements, giving access to justice for those of limited means such as the Dowlers and others you will hear about, the situation is only going to be more polarised, but of course that doesn't make for good print. It's an inconvenient truth for the press, a press largely, but not entirely, hellbent on self-interest and self-preservation, or to put it another way, continuing self-regulation.
As I mentioned at the outset, one of the features of the phone hacking scandal is that victims were not always well-known people or those caught up in headline-dominating incidents. As often as not, it seems, they were people whose crime was simply working for well-known people, people who were involved with or were simply friends of those in the public eye, and therefore who might have access to material that could provide good, but let's face it, relatively cheap copy. Ordinary people, so to speak, who were caught in the cross-hairs, often with very tragic consequences. The collateral damage in a war where every means, fair or foul, has been employed. People who have only been able to bring proceedings against News Group Newspapers because they have the benefit of lawyers who will act on a no win, no fee agreement. People, for example, like Mary-Ellen Field, a distinguished professional, an accountant by training, who was employed because of how good she was at her job by someone very much in the public eye, Elle Macpherson.
Ms Field will give evidence to you, sir, about how she became the well-known model's business adviser and confidante, but how when damaging details about Ms Macpherson's private life started appearing in the press, she was blamed by her employer.
This is no ordinary story though. The circumstances in which Ms Field was packed off to a clinic in America because her employer believed that her refusal to accept that she was responsible was plainly a denial borne out of the strain of caring for her disabled son and a problem with alcohol. She will explain how she reluctantly agreed, in order to save her job, to travel to this clinic in America, and then, when the clinic sent her back because there was no such problem with her, she was in any event sacked by her employer. These are matters which she will graphically describe.
Of course, we all know now that those stories in the press were actually the product not of someone leaking to the newspapers but rather the unlawful interception of Ms Field's voicemails and her employer's voicemails, too. Indeed, the unlawful interception of Ms Macpherson's phone was one of the counts on Mr Mulcaire's indictment.
So for those who question, as some outside this room still do, why all the fuss about hacking, maybe Mary-Ellen Field provides an example.
Ms Field is by no means the only such person who suffered such a fate. Others have different but equally disturbing stories. The Inquiry will hear from someone who is described by the letters HJK. There is a reason for that. The association of HJK with someone well-known is a matter of great sensitivity. HJK is not well-known, though. I say that before anyone outside this Inquiry attempts a jigsaw identification.
HJK's phone was hacked by the News of the World, as the mobile phone company confirmed in a telephone call to HJK out of the blue in the late summer of 2006. This was several months after HJK had been doorstepped by a journalist claiming to be from another newspaper group wanting to publish an expose supposedly about HJK's embryonic relationship with this well-known individual. The connection between the News of the World and this other newspaper group is not clear, but it is hard to think of any other reason why HJK's phone was hacked or this nascent relationship came to light.
The effect on HJK was profound. The story about the quintessentially private relationship almost hit the headlines, but was displaced by another story which, thankfully, blew up the same day. It was a terrible experience all round, and in a disturbing postscript, HJK will explain how shortly after having been diagnosed with a serious illness, a photographer who had been following HJK jumped out and took a photograph, leading to concerns on HJK's part that sensitive medical information had been accessed by journalists. HJK would not be the first to have suffered such a fate.
It is interesting that in what seems like on one view a fairly brazen approach to their selection of targets, the News of the World even targeted other journalists, albeit broadsheet ones. You will hear from Joan Smith, a journalist, broadcaster and novelist, but interestingly also a campaigner for human rights. Her claim to fame, as it were, and therefore the reason she was targeted, was presumably the fact of her relationship with the member of Parliament Denis MacShane. Their relationship was entirely legitimate and in the public domain, but perhaps it was felt something might be gained from just listening in to see what could be found.
Distressing enough, you might think, to be the subject of such prying into your private life, but made all the worse, she will say, by the fact that the hacking of her phone and the fishing around for messages came in the wake of the tragic loss of Mr MacShane's daughter.
Tom Rowland will give evidence next week too, a Telegraph journalist for ten years but then a contributor after that to other newspapers. He was one of those victims who was informed by the police about a number of calls that had been made to his mobile phone from a handset within the News of the World newsroom referred to as "the hub". 60 calls in his particular case. It makes sense, you might think, that journalists as well as Mr Mulcaire, the private investigator, might have made calls themselves to these voicemails. After all, they would have a much better idea of what they were looking for, or perhaps better understand what they heard.
The interest in Mr Rowland was apparently the details he might have picked up from the contacts he had made in the context of his own journalistic activities with high profile or wealthy individuals relating to the properties that they had purchased.
So the News of the World's list of victims includes journalists too. The press are even prepared to turn on their own, you might feel. But perhaps one of the cruellest twists of the whole story is the fact that one of the newspaper's most prominent targets had also been one of its most prominent supporters. Sara Payne, the mother of Sarah Payne, the murdered little girl.
Ms Payne spearheaded the campaign, as we all know, to bring in the eponymously named anti-paedophile legislation Sarah's Law, a campaign championed by none other than the News of the World. It is ironic, to say the least, that the final edition of the newspaper contains a letter from Ms Payne in which she thanks them for their support.
The revelation, which came only days later, that her phone, the very phone she'd been given by the newspaper as part of the campaign, was likely to have been hacked by Mr Mulcaire, was a sickening postscript, perhaps a new low amongst a wealth of lows, for a newspaper whose former glory has been so fatally befouled by its cultural dependency, it seems, on the dark arts, which sadly give journalism and journalists a bad name.
Mr Jay mentioned on Monday when he outlined the scale and extent of the hacking scandal that I would mention the civil claims which are currently due to be heard at the end of January, since I represent many of the individuals whose actions are being tried then. However, I hope I've already given you a flavour of quite how broad the cross-section is of individuals whose private messages were listened to or details were blagged, both those well-known and those who were targeted because the newspaper believed them to be associated with well-known people. There are currently over 50 claims which are being tried, but that in itself is just a handful in comparison to the potential number of claims.
We have heard that Mr Mulcaire's notebook contained the names of almost 6,000 potential victims. If you just stop to think about that for a moment, 6,000 people. If you need a comparison, that would fill the entirety of the new velodrome stadium built for next year's Olympics, and those are the details obtained by just one private detective. Of those 6,000 people, the police have only managed to speak to about 600 so far.
Whilst their individual stories are all fairly different and unique to them, they do have two important similarities. Let's not forget.
One, all of these people were targeted because of the information, private, personal or sensitive information, which it was hoped could be gained to be used for the purposes of stories in the News of the World, stories which made the newspaper money. That's why it was done: to sell newspapers. Not to detect crime or to expose wrongdoing, not to protect society or for the public good.
Which leads me to the second thing that they have in common, that is the fact that none of these stories had any public interest whatsoever. There is and was no public interest defence open to those responsible for such criminal activity. No defence for this flagrant invasion of people's privacy.
News International's other Queen's Counsel, Mr Silverleaf, basically admitted as much when he gave his fateful opinion in the Gordon Taylor case after seeing just the "for Neville" email back in 2008, and no one says differently now.
As we know from the civil litigation, the other things which News International have admitted, through the very same Queen's Counsel, in the Sienna Miller action in which judgment was entered against the newspaper group, was that this was a scheme which was devised or introduced between Mr Mulcaire and a number of journalists. We say a very large number. The figure of 28 has been mentioned in this Inquiry, and I have not heard it corrected. But in any event, it was a systematic and, it appears, highly efficient arrangement which started at one end with Mr Mulcaire using various illegal or unlawful techniques to obtain private telephone numbers, PINs, passwords, unique direct dial numbers and other access information, information which was sometimes used to listen to targets, or, it seems, simply passed on to journalists for them to use themselves to access individual voicemails. That was one end of the scheme.
At the other end, the ill-gotten gains, the fruits of these labours, were turned into articles, if possible. Either directly, sometimes as quotes, we think, from the so-called pals or sources that you read about, or just as stand-up stories for which they would otherwise have had no proof.
It is important to remember that the admissions made in the Sienna Miller action were not simply as regards accessing her voicemails as well as her email account, using her generic password, but also related to the inclusion of that material in a series of articles and the persistent harassment of her over a number of years, both from the articles published and the continuing targeting and surveillance of her.
As Mr Jay explained, whatever may be said now or in January at the civil trial, it has been admitted by the newspaper group not, as was originally claimed, that they were simply liable for those activities of Mr Mulcaire because he had been hired or commissioned to carry them out, but also because their very own journalists were mixed up in it, a large number, it now seems.
I am not going to repeat the facts and figures the Inquiry has already heard based on police material as to the sheer scale of this practice, the number of pages in Mr Mulcaire's notebook still being minutely analysed five years after it was seized, or the volume of calls made by him or made from within News International as part of the routine plundering of people's voicemails. What I would say, however, is that the evidence demonstrates not so much a cottage industry, as Mr Jay called it, but rather an industrial revolution, a culture change, we say, away from proper old-fashioned journalistic activity.
The precise details of this I will deal with in part 2, not to mention at the civil trial at the end of January, but I will just leave you with one calculation.
The police say in the 11,000 pages of Mr Mulcaire's notebook it looks as if there is evidence of well over 2,000 tasks assigned to him in the four years to which the notebooks relate. That means potentially 500 plus stories each year from this single source. Which means, on such a calculation, that there were possibly ten stories in each edition of the News of the World which were the product of phone hacking alone, even leaving aside the other dark arts practised by the newspaper.
That may be speculation, although there is other evidence which suggests higher figures, but even on that, it is hard not to conclude that the very foundations of this most popular newspaper throughout these years were built on manifestly unholy and indefensible ground.
And, if the newspaper was receiving such an endless stream of stories, and a significant number of journalists were involved, then it must surely raise questions about who knew what and at what level. Again, that is something about which I will have much more to say in part 2.
Can I leave you with this taster? Can it really be sensibly argued that this is a simple case where checks and balances were not properly observed and that a handful of rogue journalists were allowed to run amok with the company chequebook? Or, rather, was such activity, the systematic and deliberate employment of unlawful methods, encouraged or condoned at higher positions in the newspaper for the purposes of obtaining stories about the private lives of individuals, the very lifeblood on which this newspaper prided itself?
Whatever may be the knowledge of those in senior positions at the time, there was on any view a concerted effort, we say, after the event, to conceal the ugly truth from ever surfacing.
There is little that can be said about this because of the criminal prosecutions, at least in terms of the individuals involved. However, some general comments can be made about the bigger picture.
Whilst it is comparatively easy now to summarise the activities, the way it has unfolded has little, if anything, to do with News Group Newspapers coming clean of their own accord. Hardly a great advertisement for self-regulation.
An examination of the state of mind of those who were involved, especially in successive hearings before the Parliamentary Select Committee, has led to inconsistency and corrections, a tangled web, one might say. But what can certainly be said is that it has revealed at the very least that someone somewhere is not telling the truth.
In order to assess the culture, it is important to remember what was said by the News of the World in July 2009. Let me pick out some highlights of the statement they put out on their website. A statement which News International, and that was the website it was put out on, said they had deliberately delayed making until all relevant facts had been analysed and checked, both internally and externally, and this is the statement:
"News International has completed a thorough investigation into the various allegations made referring to Nick Davies' initial story. Apart from matters raised in the Mulcaire and Goodman proceedings, the only other evidence connecting News of the World reporters to information gained as a result of accessing a person's voicemail emerged in April 2008 during the course of the Gordon Taylor litigation. Neither this information nor any story arising from it was ever published. Once senior executives became aware of this, immediate steps were taken to resolve Mr Taylor's complaint.
"We can state with confidence that apart from these matters there is not and never has been evidence to support allegations that News of the World journalists have accessed the voicemails of any individual or that News of the World or its journalists have instructed private investigators or other third parties to access the voicemails of any individuals.
"Further [they stated categorically], in the context of allegations having appeared in not only the Guardian but the BBC and Sky, it is untrue that officers have found evidence of News Group staff, either themselves or using private investigators, hacking into thousands of mobile phones; it is untrue that apart from Goodman, officers found evidence that other members of News Group's staff hacked into mobile phones or accessed individuals' voicemails, and it is untrue that News Group reporters have hacked into telephone voicemail services of various footballers, politicians and celebrities named in reports this week."
Pausing there, it is a telling feature of the scandal that the reporting of it was largely, if not exclusively, confined to the broadsheet newspapers and the broadcasting media.
The other tabloids, or popular newspapers, ran a million miles from it in the opposite direction. No screaming headlines, for once. No finger pointing between competitors in a brutally competitive market. How interesting, you might think.
Although the myth of one rogue journalist has thankfully been exploded, it is one which was perpetuated for some time by the News of the World. Even as recently as September 2010, the group issued a public statement in the face of mounting evidence which said simply this:
"We reject absolutely any suggestion that there was a widespread culture of wrongdoing at the News of the World."
Of course, it's important to bear in mind, sir, that as Mr Pike, one of its external solicitors, admitted only a few weeks ago to the Select Committee in their unenviable task of trying to uncover the truth of who knew what and when, that News Group solicitors knew perfectly well from 2008, some two years earlier than this statement was put out, that the first defence of rogue reporter defence was blatantly untrue but the solicitors felt bound not to reveal this information because of client confidentiality. Solicitors are bound to keep the silence of their clients, but the clients, of course, are not restricted in this way.
The Inquiry will hear from the solicitor Mark Lewis, who will explain in his own words the story of how his claims against News Group started, his dealings with News International and therefore how the News of the World eventually met its fate.
Mr Lewis's account of what happened to him, how the Gordon Taylor case ended with an enormous settlement and later the Dowlers' too, how he has been the subject of attack by those in authority, the police and even the PCC in the course of his work and finally how he personally became the target himself of News International, would read a little like a John Grisham novel if only it was fictional, but the truth, as Mark Twain said, is stranger than fiction.
Indeed, the revelation in the last few weeks that not only was he under surveillance but private investigators were also instructed to and did carry out covert surveillance on his family, filming his ex-wife and his teenage daughter, is, to use the words of News International's own counsel yesterday, totally unacceptable. And whilst an apology may be some comfort for Mr Lewis, and no doubt he can be asked this, it is important to remember that as with this fresh disgrace and the previous drip drip of revelation after revelation about the conduct of News of the World, that it is all well and good apologising once you've been caught out. How much better if the stables, however Augean, had been cleared out voluntarily by this organisation. Hardly, I would suggest, a task of Herculean proportions.
The timing is critical, too, for the newspaper was caught out in this respect not in some nefarious activities in the dim, dark days of 2005 and 2006, at the height of Mr Mulcaire's activities. This was commissioned and discussed with solicitors as recently as the middle of last year, at the same time that News International's offices were telling the Select Committee that the organisation was trying to get to the bottom of what had gone so horribly wrong. It is clear that News Group's response to this was instead to consult with their solicitors -- of course, not the so-called greedy claimant lawyers, but their external solicitors, Farrers, about commissioning surveillance of those conducting litigation against them, surveillance designed to unearth the true scale of what Mr Davies of News International describes as the wrongful and shameful behaviour.
Mr Lewis was targeted for standing up to a powerful newspaper organisation, but he isn't the first, as you will hear from me later, and despite the best of hopes, I suspect he may well not be the last. He wasn't, certainly, alone in terms of those seeking to hold News International to account. No, it appears that the organisation commissioned private investigators to carry out surveillance of other key lawyers whose clients were bringing civil claims against News Group, such as Charlotte Harris, who prepared, amongst others, Mr Clifford, and Mark Thompson, who prepared Sienna Miller and let us not forget that News International also set investigators on members of the Parliamentary Select Committee themselves. Remarkable.
These, you might think, are the tactics of fear and desperation. But I ask you this: is this what journalism or the protection of it comes to, organisations setting themselves up so far above the law that nothing seems to be beyond the pale? What a culture. What an ethical vacuum, and from a newspaper whose moral crusade is still being championed by News International even yesterday and filled the pages of its final edition.
And yes, you might say, in this example it may be the culture of just one of the players in the market, but it is, or at least was, a highly influential one, and we say fairly representative in a number of respects of the rest of the tabloid market.
Before I finally leave the issue of hacking, I need briefly mention two things.
Firstly, it is important to say that what we have so far may only be just the tip of the iceberg. I don't just mean the fact that the police may only have notified about a tenth of the total number of victims of this scandal. Two of the core participants giving evidence next week will provide a glimpse of what I mean: Mr Hurst, a former member of British Army Intelligence, and Ms Jane Winter. Both will deal with how their computers and emails passing between them were illegally accessed by private investigators working, they say, for the News of the World by the use of Trojan horse software.
Mr Hurst's claim was the subject of a Panorama programme and is probably familiar to some of you here. He alleges that his emails were hacked into to obtain information and documents about activities connected to his investigations in Northern Ireland. Ms Winter, with whom he communicated, worked for an independent non-governmental organisation striving to ensure that human rights are respected in Northern Ireland.
The second thing I must mention, something Mr Jay said in his opening on Monday, is that the use of hacking into voicemails may well not have been a practice hermetically sealed within the four walls of the News of the World's offices. Indeed, as Richard Peppiatt, the ex-Star journalist who walked out in protest at tabloid culture, asked rhetorically himself at the seminar: who seriously believes that there was just one rogue newsroom, or one rogue investigator, for that matter?
Whilst Mr Davies was at great pains yesterday to dispute the action brought against the same defendant, News Group Newspapers, by my client Jude Law over his claim of hacking by the Sun newspaper as well as the News of the World, and to downplay the evidence against the sister newspaper, it would be wrong to think, and indeed as much has been said in the Chancery Division, that the corner names which were mentioned by Mr Jay are by any means the only basis upon which Mr Law's claim is brought. Neither of us can say any more. It is a matter which will be tried in the Chancery Division, although not in January of next year, unfortunately.
Sir, I don't know if that's a convenient moment to break shortly.