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

Thank you, sir, and thank you again for agreeing to accommodate me personally today.

When I rose to my feet back in November of last year, I outlined a picture of a press, or at least certain sections of it, which, through a catalogue of wrongs, systemic, flagrant and deeply entrenched as they are, had lost the confidence of the British public entirely. That is why this Inquiry was set up, let us not forget.

It wasn't simply the fact that one newspaper group had authorised its journalists to hack into the private messages of a murdered teenager's telephone, an act which had caused public outrage, but rather this was the final straw in the groundswell of public opinion which saw the press as being out of control, a press which had become so complacent in the belief that freedom of speech has given them carte blanche to disregard or sacrifice the rights of those whose private lives they choose to write about in the interests of selling newspapers.

Indeed, if you read the written submissions, as I did, of one of the biggest media organisations, you would think that nothing wrong had been done at all, apart from the hacking of some phones.

Despite the powerful account given by just a sample of those who have suffered the most blatant of intrusions into their private lives, or whose characters have been assassinated by the press, all too eager to become judge, jury and executioner, the print media still advocates a law or framework of greater press latitude.

At the heart of this sits not just the continuation of a system of self-regulation, with the same old mantra that, "The press will behaviour this time, honest", based on an irrational fear, we say, of any kind of statutory underpinning, but also the widening concept of public interest.

As the Inquiry will recall, a critical part of my opening submissions was the demonstration of how the culture, practice and ethics of the newspaper industry, especially in the more commercially successful area of the market, had led to routine invasions into the private lives not just of those well-known and those connected with them, but also those who have found themselves thrown into the public spotlight, often unwittingly.

The public concern which this has caused was, as I said, the very reason why this Inquiry was set up in the first place. The answer to this concern is certainly not to be found either in greater press freedom or in the dilution of the test for public interest as being the justification for the publication of material which interferes with the rights of individuals to respect their private lives.

Let me not be Delphic about this. I'm here neither to bury nor certainly to praise the media. That's not to say there are not good and responsible journalists: there are, lots of them. This Inquiry has heard evidence from some of them and you don't need me to tell you who they are. But we are not here to focus on the good journalists, we don't need an Inquiry for that. We are here to consider the bad ones, or the bad examples of journalism right across the board and what they show about the culture, practices and ethics of the press as a whole.

Sir, I know you're at pains not to say this, but we do: the press is on trial here, and not simply in this room but also out there in the court of public opinion. After all, that is where the demand for this Inquiry started, and they know that. Of course they do. That is why they're so scared of what evidence has been heard here, and most importantly, how it will be perceived outside. That is why they've employed the megaphone of the pages of their newspapers rather than the serried ranks of lawyers sitting here dutifully day in, day out, when a particular egregious example of misconduct has meant that the best behaviour they've tried to present, whilst under the microscope of this Inquiry, has slipped, and I'll refer to some examples in due course.

The charge sheet is one which I read out in my opening, and I have one or two things to say about it shortly. Although understandably, sir, you've repeatedly said you are not concerned so much with the specifics of who did what to whom and when, the fact is that it is only through examples such as that that one can assess what the culture, practices and ethics of the press, or at least a certain section of them, are.

I will remind you of some of those examples we have seen, memorable as they were, because to some extent over the last eight months, what has been lost is the voice of the victims, as is often the way in any trial.

No doubt the press have breathed a sigh of relief as, with intermittent exception, for the last several months this Inquiry has focused more on what the press want to say, what they want and what they don't want to happen.

Some eight months have passed since this Inquiry started, and whilst it is clear to those such as myself who practice in this field that the media have had one eye on what has gone on here and the fact that the spotlight is so intensely on them, nothing has in fact really changed.

So part of my task, with the small voice that we have as victims, as representatives, in one sense, of the public, the only voice here in that respect, is to remind everyone in this room, as well as those watching it outside, who have become so accustomed to some of the outrageous behaviour which brought us to this point, that it has no longer the capacity to cause outrage, why it is, as I say, we are all here and what the point of it is.

Because we must not forget, unless something is done, unless real change happens, as I said at the outset, and someone, whoever that may be, takes a grip, a very firm grip, on the tabloid press, we will be back in the same position as soon as the spotlight in this room is turned off and the ink has dried on your report, sir.

And it may be worse, because we are all concerned that it might be payback time. Payback for those who have sought to stand up against certain newspapers, who have sought to exercise the very freedom of speech which the press themselves invoke to justify the great privileges which they enjoy. We have already seen signs of this during the course of the Inquiry, but hopefully the press will resist the temptation once it is over.

Anyway, that is a glimpse of the future, or one possible future. Now let us remind ourselves of some of the examples of the evidence we have heard.

As those who witnessed the first seven days or so of Module 1 of this Inquiry, for that is all that it was, will agree, it is no exaggeration to say that the evidence which was heard from the selection of victims who came here to recount their personal and often very painful experiences at the hands of the press was truly chilling. And those are not my words. That was the description which the Prime Minister gave in his evidence, and indeed he was right. Perhaps not quite in the way he intended it, though, because it is this evidence which we say should serve to have a chilling effect, a positive chilling effect, on the press.

I'm sure we were all struck by a number of things about this evidence, in particular perhaps by the fact that many of these victims were not well-known. They were ordinary members of the public, people such as Kate and Gerry McCann, Christopher Jefferies or Sally and Bob Dowler; people who had found themselves caught in the crosshair of a press baying for more and more stories, and were so devastated by the result.

I'm not going to repeat the roll call of individuals who sat in that chair over there and who described how their lives had been permanently scarred in the pursuit of a good story, often where personal and private tragedy had been compounded in the most public, sensational and intrusive manner.

Each of us will have our own very vivid memory of this, a particular example, for that is all they were. For each one, we could have brought many, many more, as I said in my opening submissions.

Whether it was watching the dignified but genuinely distressing testimony of Kate and Gerry McCann, in whose shoes none of us would walk, who were portrayed as the murderers of their missing little girl, and who had to listen as a succession of journalists came to try and justify some of the most woeful journalism.

I say "justify". I don't imagine anyone here thought that those hapless individuals who added so much to the grief of already grieving parents came even close to explaining how they could have written what they wrote.

But perhaps even worse than that was the episode which the Inquiry thought it important to probe in a little more depth, and that was the front page News of the World story revealing sections of Kate's personal diary written to Maddie. So personal not even Gerry, her husband, had read it.

It was clear from the evidence we heard that the editor deliberately tried to avoid telling the McCanns that they had bought her diary, despite the so-called "good relationship", despite how friendly they apparently were with the McCanns. And one does wonder, if that is the press' idea of a good relationship and that is what they do to their friends, I ask rhetorically.

They bought it to publish, even to procure and to pore through her innermost fears, hopes, things she wishes she said or hadn't said. Can one think of anything more intimate and more private than that?

Sometimes there are just no words which will do.

And this was the editor who had been brought in as the new broom to sweep away the troubles of the past, we heard, the regime that had brought you such journalistic high points as hacking into people's private voicemails or making corrupt payments to police officers, et cetera, et cetera. An interesting insight into the corporate culture of an organisation whose idea of housekeeping is to sweep as much as possible under the carpet.

What about the evidence of Christopher Jefferies, an English schoolteacher, a man of dedication and distinction, whose life, like the reputation he'd taken years to build, was ransacked by journalists drunk on the taste, as I said, of a story too good to be true, and certainly too good to check properly. Who could not have been impressed with the fair and even generous manner in which he dealt with having been monstered in the most public and devastating manner possible?

Perhaps his account was all the more powerful for having been told in that way. He certainly showed more circumspection than those that trashed his life and everything he held dear, without so much as a second thought, or so it appeared from the individual reporters who came here to defend the indefensible.

Or finally, perhaps, the raw emotion and pain of the Dowlers, Sally and Bob, who not only found that their missing daughter's mobile phone had been accessed by a newspaper desperate to obtain an exclusive, regardless of the fact that as the Surrey Police report shows, they were prepared to trample all over a current police investigation to do so. Someone also deleted her messages as well once the police had secured the phone, and there are only so many possible culprits.

But what perhaps was less known to those within the Inquiry, and equally shocking, was the way in which their private moment of grief, retracing the last footsteps of their murdered daughter in an impromptu attempt to obtain some form of respite from the public gaze, because a photo opportunity for one newspaper, which was too damn good to resist.

If it sounds a familiar theme to this Inquiry, it should do. Sometimes not even a "no shoot" list, if one really needed something so obvious in this case, would do. Sometimes, as we will see, even the microscope of this Inquiry is not enough to prevent.

As the Dowlers told us, somehow the newspaper knew their movements, perhaps through listening to their voicemails, and not just Milly's. After all, if you can listen to the voicemails of a missing teenage girl, why not also do so to her distraught parents? And what does that tell you about the ethics of this section of the media?

There are other individuals we heard from, whose lives had also been turned upside down, some of them without even knowing why. For example, Mary-Ellen Field, an impressive and loyal adviser who was even bundled off to a rehabilitation clinic by her employer who could not explain the leak of stories about her private life in the press other than by the fact that this trusted worker must have been responsible and her denials must have been the result of some illness or condition.

There was no condition and there was no leak. It was just the friendly neighbourhood hacks down at the News of the World doing what they called "screwing over the phones" of a supermodel who was no doubt good for a story or two. Lots of public interest there, you might feel, and definitely a great advertisement for freedom of speech.

And who paid the price for this? A woman who had done nothing wrong but has had to live with the legacy of this for years and years, and has had to fight to have her claim recognised.

Or poor HJK, who just happened to be involved with a well-known person, someone the tabloid media wanted to know all about because he happened to be in the public eye, which in this country apparently makes you fair game, or so some of the journalists in that section of the media clearly believe, given the evidence they gave to this Inquiry.

And HJK also paid a heavy price for this. It is no wonder that he asked for and was given anonymity, brave as he was to come in the first place.

All of these people, ordinary members of the public, if they don't mind me describing them as such, who came to explain to you, sir, to all of us how their lives were shattered by being caught in the crosshair of a press which had so lost its moral compass.

And then what about those who by virtue of their particular skill or talent have become well-known and who figure in the public spotlight? Their lives have also been made, to lesser or greater degree, difficult or had serious impact on them by the behaviour of the press in this country. And I make no apology for mentioning them, however unfashionable or unpopular that makes me.

Is this, as I said, the price which they have to pay for their success? For being good at singing or acting or running fast or kicking a football and so on, as opposed to being good with numbers, skilful with their hands or even consummate at constructing legal arguments?

Whilst there are those who vehemently deplore the hacking of Milly Dowler's voicemails or the phones of Sean Russell, Josie Russell's father, or the victims of the 7/7 bombing, or even Sarah Payne, a woman whose cause, ironically, the News of the World even championed in its last edition, full as it was with a final burst of faded glory.

There seems to be less sympathy, however, with people like Sienna Miller. She understands that, as others in her position do. They will always be seen, somehow, as whingeing celebrities.

But remember this, sir: she was one of the first to take on the weight of News International in her groundbreaking hacking claim, and look how many far more influential people failed to have the courage to do exactly the same. Module 3 was full of them. Unlike the police or the politicians, she was not scared to take on News Group.

It is people like her who were prepared to do what they did, or journalists, good journalists, like Nick Davies and others, who wrote about what had really taken place in the dark days in Fleet Street, which led to the rubbishing of the oh so convenient lie pedalled by News International's most senior executives, that this was the isolated work of one rogue reporter, and led, therefore, to Sally and Bob Dowler discovering the final outrage which provoked this Inquiry.

But it was other evidence which Miss Miller gave, about what people in this country, whose talents lie in a medium which the public want to watch, have to endure, that is perhaps the legacy which she has left. Who can forget her description of being abused, of being spat at, of being chased down a road by a gang of men, who, if they weren't carrying cameras, would have been immediately arrested for assault? Freedom of speech, you say? Licence to carry a weapon, more like.

This is nothing to do with public interest. Indeed, so little of what we've heard about really is, although again that makes me very unpopular for saying so.

And whilst this Inquiry will remember the description which a number of well-known figures who were brave enough to come here to give evidence gave, of the highly intrusive way in which the media had treated them, it was perhaps the account of how those near and dear to them were made to suffer for the fact that they happened to be related or close to someone who was in the public eye.

The appalling story of Charlotte Church's parents, for example, her poor mother, who despite the fact that the News of the World were well aware of her depression -- well aware because they'd listened into her messages from her hospital visit when she tried to commit suicide -- how they not only published the graphic account of her husband's infidelity, but in an act of the greatest compassion, blackmailed her into giving an interview, making her bare the arms which carried the marks of her self-harming with the promise that this would avoid a far worse follow-up story about her family.

I do wonder, sir, what sort of code, what sort of self-regulation, would prevent that kind of journalism?

And then there was the story of Garry Flitcroft, the relatively unknown Blackburn footballer, who shot to fame at least in the legal world because of the injunction he won and then lost, but should not have done, to prevent his infidelity being splashed across the print media.

Whatever you think of the rights or wrongs of what he did, does anyone who heard his testimony truly believe that the disclosure of this fact really served any form of public interest, let alone the hounding of his poor family?

Then there was his father, who we heard had come to watch his son play football, something he had trained for over years and years, not because Mr Flitcroft wanted to be famous or to be a role model, but because it's what he loved doing and was really rather good at. We heard how, as a result of the abuse which followed his son across the terraces, his father stopped watching his son play, after 20 years of doing so. How his depression worsened and he later committed suicide.

As I said before, uncomfortable for the press to listen to? Well, then good, I hope it still is, because nothing we say has changed.

Yes, these are just, as I say, examples of the sorts of practices which are prevalent throughout the commercial end of the print media. What did we hear about? We heard about voicemail interception, of course, but was this a practice, I ask, which was hermetically sealed within News of the World? Of course it wasn't.

Evidence of this is difficult, I appreciate. Mr Mulcaire only acted for News Group Newspapers, and thank God he kept notes, albeit not particularly legible ones. But anyone out there who believes it was just the News of the World only needs to think about the other evidence which this Inquiry heard, evidence from a number of quarters about how the practice was widespread amongst tabloid journalists. So widespread, for example, it was an in-joke between the editors of the two leading daily tabloids, the Sun and the Mirror, at a press awards ceremony.

Mr Mohan, the editor of the Sun, was candid enough to admit that the practice could not have been ruled out, and the same was true of Mr Wallace, more recent editor of the Mirror.

Whether, as I say, other newspapers were engaged in it or not, or whether, more importantly, we can prove now that they were, is not something you need to answer necessarily for part 1. But you do have enough evidence that everybody knew it was going on throughout the late 1990s and 2000s, and at best, turned a blind eye to it.

It was part of the tabloid journalists' armoury, of which I'll say more in a moment. Part of tabloid culture. It had its own name: screwing phones. We heard about it from Paul McMullan, we heard about it from James Hipwell, we even heard about it from Piers Morgan, although, in his characteristically fabristic(?) style, he denied any personal involvement, despite the words that he'd written about Heather Mills, who was forced to come and appear here in order to explain.

And if her evidence wasn't enough to demonstrate the personal knowledge of those in senior places, then perhaps Mr Paxman added weight to that suggestion.

But, really, does there need to be any clearer signal that this was rife amongst that area of the industry than the fact that, unlike the Guardian, which led the good old-fashioned journalistic investigation into the scandal and was monstered for it by the tabloid press, not to mention our friends at the Press Complaints Commission, unlike the Guardian, the red tops ran a million miles from the story, as they did from reporting the findings of the Information Commissioner's "What price privacy now?" report. Funny, that.

If nothing else, it tells you something about the culture. In a dog-eat-dog world, where rival titles fight a constant battle in a brutally competitive market, the deafening silence of the tabloid newspapers in the face of News Group's criminality speaks volumes.

But then, as I said, News Group's downfall was Mulcaire's note-keeping. There are other Mulcaires, other Goodmans, other newspapers, most of whom will be breathing a sigh of relief, especially if part 2 of this Inquiry doesn't happen.

But before those who say all the Inquiry has really seen in terms of press malpractice is the hacking of phones -- and believe me there are media organisations that do -- let us not forget the other tricks of the trade we've seen.

To add to hacking into private voicemail messages, there are incidences of email hacking. We've only seen the tip of the iceberg here. Operation Tuleta starts to move into full swing, as DAC Akers said to this Inquiry yesterday. We have seen now the use of messages even taken from stolen mobile telephones, which appears to relate to 2010, long after the so-called lessons should have been learned.

And what self-respecting tabloid journalist would be without the products of blagging? We have numerous examples of it in Mr Mulcaire's notes. And then there, of course, was the uncovering of Mr Whittamore's activities, another man who thankfully kept a detailed note of what he did and for who. Only he acted for every title, practically, and we know the league table of offenders, or more euphemistically, should I say, the users of his services. I will turn to what was said about Operation Motorman briefly in a moment when I look at Module 2.

Then we have the equally covert skills of surveillance men like Derek Webb, of whom we had the almost comical suggestion that he was a journalist because he was handed a press pass. Seriously. You can give anyone a wig, but that doesn't make them a barrister.

Then there are the more obvious visible practices we've seen: blackmail and intimidation, doorstepping, harassment. All of which are designed to interfere in the most intrusive way possible with the private lives of their targets, often at a time when they're at their most vulnerable.

And while we're on the subject of harassment, it is worth a word or two about one of the suggestions in this regard which came out of the paparazzi agencies who came to give evidence to this Inquiry, namely that the whole problem of camping outside people's houses, chasing them down the street, following them menacingly around, driving recklessly through the streets of London and thrusting cameras into their faces, all of that would end, they say, if people signed up to a "no shoot" list.


I'm not against some voluntary acceptance by the picture agencies that there are people whose names appearing on such a list should mean they're off limits, but with the greatest of respect, having been responsible for all of the anti-harassment injunctions, I can say with certainty that the individuals who obtained these injunctions all made it plain before that they did not want to be photographed, with lawyers letters and so on.

There isn't any piece of paper which will stop this type of photojournalist if that's what you want to call them. If they think there is a good photo to be had, they will take it. If they think there is a story which needs to be illustrated, they will do so, and the pressures of that are simple.

I can say that there isn't a piece of paper which will stop them, let alone a voluntary one, because if they will literally tear up an order of the court in front of you as you hand it to them, as they do, they are hardly going to take any notice of a "no shoot" list, and if you don't believe me, then just look at what happened to Tinglan Hong, one of a number of examples of where we've seen over the last nine months that despite the microscope of this Inquiry under which the newspapers are putting on their best behaviour, there are still examples of the same kind of misconduct I have just outlined, because a story sometimes is too good to miss.

Ms Hong made it plain, "no shoot" list or not, that she did not want to be photographed. She wanted to be left alone. After all, what had she done, other than have a baby with Hugh Grant? Of course, presumably that is justification enough to terrify this poor pregnant woman. And what about her mother, who some paparazzo even tried to run over when she tried to gather the necessary evidence by turning the camera on the cameraman? Another theme, you might feel, of this Inquiry.

And if you think there isn't good business in this, then look at the evidence of Matt Sprake of the Newspics agency, whose evidence came very late in this Inquiry but which demonstrated that all of our favourite tabloid newspapers had been using this form of covert surveillance right through 2011 and 2012, snooping around trying to find a photo which could catch out a well-known person smoking a cigarette when she shouldn't, or leaving a flat maybe they shouldn't have been at.

Really, I ask, in 2012, is this still what the press think is a practice that should be protected?

But there have been other examples of this during the ongoing Inquiry which I should mention. In the face of the contempt convictions relating to the investigation of Christopher Jefferies, there was also the contempt of court in relation to the reporting of the Levi Bellfield trial. There was the sale of evidence information from Virgin Atlantic to Big Pictures, and perhaps one of the most memorable pieces of evidence was the way in which certain newspapers dealt with the Belgian coach crash.

Yes, I'm sure there are those sitting in this Inquiry which hoped I would not mention the indefensible way in which a family's grief was intruded upon. Publishing the photograph of a child in pain at the funeral of her brother would be singularly appalling if it were an isolated lapse of judgment, but it isn't. We've heard many examples of other similar instances in other newspapers over the years.

Have they learnt nothing, though, from the number of people who came to give evidence to this Inquiry about the appalling way in which the press can compound an already tragic situation by the most intrusive and sensational of reporting? Apparently not.

What a fitting end to the evidence about the relationship between the press and the public.

And what about Module 2?

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