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

But we say there are circumstances, there are examples, where it's not simply a question of failing to see how there are human beings involved. We say there is a deliberate turning of a blind eye. And the examples I've given can't possibly be explained simply by the fact that there are individuals within a newspaper who haven't stopped to think of the very real damage they are doing to people. Particularly given the fact, for example, with the McCanns, that this sort of campaign lasted over months and months, and lasted despite the fact that the McCanns themselves were begging the PCC and anyone else who would listen to stop this kind of reporting.

We say, in the face of that, it can't possibly be maintained that this was simply the failure to do anything other than not take into account what the human dimension was to these stories which are just too good to resist.

What about Module 2, sir, the relationship between the press and the police? What did we really learn?

From my clients' point of view, from the public's point of view, perhaps very little, and I don't say that to diminish the exercise. Far from it.

The Inquiry has a lot to think about in terms of what it suggests is the way to deal with the obvious problems which the at times nauseating closeness between certain members of the police and press has led to, a culture which is at the very least evocative of a type of leniency or impunity, or at least the appearance of such, neither of which is healthy.

We've made recommendations about these, detailed and lengthy recommendations, which I'm afraid Mr Garnham has to some extent misunderstood, and I don't blame him for doing so. There are more pieces of paper in this Inquiry even than there are in Mr Mulcaire's notebook, and I will deal with this very briefly in a moment.

But as well as the closeness of relationships, there are other issues such as leaks to the media, particularly surrounding prominent arrests. There is a very lengthy and comprehensive document, as I said, prepared by Ms Mansoori and Ms Alan, and I leave you to read that, especially in terms of the recommendations it contains.

But the real reason I said that my clients have learnt very little from Module 2, as far as they are concerned, is simple: we already knew perfectly well that the police had failed the public. And by that I mean in relation to the hacking of thousands of people's mobile telephones by just one newspaper. We heard how, despite having uncovered an Aladdin's cave of evidence, of serious wrongdoing on a scale which at least involved hundreds of victims and encompassed a number of journalists, rather than open it up and properly investigate, the police shut the cave up as firmly as they could.

And despite what it seemed to suggest, whether out of abundance of caution or not, all of the evidence was there in that cave in 2006, as it is now. They had Mulcaire's notebooks, they had worked out there were over 400 potential victims, they had pages of PIN numbers, passwords, unique direct dial numbers, they had call data from Mr Mulcaire and from within the News of the World, from its Bat phone, they had the corner names of a number of journalists, the same ones as those who had been arrested, they had the "for Neville" email and they knew about payments for stories and so on.

So why did they shut the cave? Was it pressure of resources? Well, perhaps. But that doesn't explain the reluctance of the senior investigating officer to reveal the full extent and nature of the evidence to the CPS or to prosecuting counsel, or to pursue the agreed strategy of informing the victims.

The somewhat incredible claim to the CPS in 2006 that there was no evidence that any other journalist was involved simply doesn't make sense, and to test the police's position, look at it in this way: say the police seized 11,000 pages of notes from a burglar containing home addresses and safe codes and so on, with the names of a series of antique dealers, for example, on the corner of the numerous pages, antique dealers who had presumably commissioned the information and were no doubt using it to get pieces they might want to sell; would the police in those circumstances have stopped at prosecuting just the burglar and one such dealer? Of course they wouldn't.

Would they not have warned each and every house owner whose safe code or similar was in that book that they were potentially at risk? Of course they would have done. I'm sure you see the point.

By sealing up the cave, what they allowed News Group to do was not just to escape the full consequences of the criminality which they had perpetrated, they allowed News Group to peddle the lie of one rogue reporter, and they failed the victims, the thousands of victims who might have done something more about it if they'd been told in 2006 and not had to try and wait years to piece together what had happened as best they can, despite the deliberate destruction of millions of emails by News Group Newspapers.

What about Operation Motorman? The investigation which uncovered a widespread illegal trade in the purchase of private information on a scale which rivalled phone hacking and involved all of the press, practically, but especially the tabloid newspapers? And yet, despite the sheer volume of criminal records, friends and family numbers, DVLA checks and so on, which Mr Whittamore was paid significant sums to supply to the press, not a single journalist of any of those named in his notebooks was ever charged, a fact which the newspapers now rely on, rather unsurprisingly, to try and diminish the obvious significance of what was uncovered, and I will return to this shortly.

For the moment, it is sufficient to say that this, Operation Motorman and Operation Glade, was yet another failure, another blot on the copy book. It is no wonder that the failure properly to investigate and punish journalists has led to a sense of impunity, which did nothing to expose these illegal practices.

Coupled with the evidence we've heard of the overly close relationship between the press and police, the accounts of excessive hospitality, is it any wonder that there was the perception of bias or conflict of interest?

Let me take an example, one which Mr Garnham referred to, I think, yesterday when I wasn't here. At a key moment in the hacking investigation, when the police had uncovered evidence of how widespread the practice was and were deciding what to do about it within News of the World, Messrs Hayman and Fedorcio attended a meal with Andy Coulson and Neil Wallis at an exclusive London members' club. Whether they discussed it openly or not, which they deny, it doesn't matter.

But I wonder, would you have described the decision to meet and to have that dinner as a wise or a foolish one? And do you really need me to answer that question?

Real bias or just the appearance of such, either way, the relationship came across as a desperately unhealthy one, we say.

Whilst it is right that there should be recognition that the officers of Operation Weeting under DAC Akers have done much to restore the confidence of the public, the fact is that their predecessors, the lunching classes at the top of the tree, have so lost the trust of the public that the task of Operation Weeting is at best a damage limitation exercise and not just because the delay in not investigating in 2006 has made the task much more difficult for the officers now and has required more manpower as a result. As I'll explain shortly, we are still at the tip of the iceberg.

Whilst we're looking at unsatisfactory relationships, let's move to Module 3.

The lessons of Module 3 seem clear, certainly to the victims. Everyone admits the relationship between the press and the politicians was one which was and has been particularly unhealthy. Not because it was too cosy, perhaps, but because politician after politician of every colour, creed and class, sought to obtain the support of one of the most powerful media barons we have ever seen. Does it really need to be pointed out how unhealthy it is? The great irony that the elected representatives of this country, representatives at the highest level, have been under the influence, whether direct or indirect, and it matters not, of an unelected few?

Well, apparently it does. The culture of fear and favour which the relationship between our politicians and the press seems based on, cannot possibly be right.

You've heard evidence, sir, from some of the biggest names in politics, individuals of stature, serious politicians who have admitted to the fact that it was easier perhaps to prostrate oneself at the feet of the Sun king, or rather the king of the Sun, if only to ensure that they would be in power and could push through policies which they believed, genuinely believed, would benefit the many.

A small sacrifice, perhaps.

No one is saying to politicians like Mr Cameron that they can't be friends with editors, journalists whoever, and I know you aren't saying that either, sir. One isn't even saying, "Don't go to Santorini". I'm sure it's a beautiful holiday island. But that's what it should be. Not a place where those we elect should seek hospitality from the rich and powerful unelected few in return for political support and favours. After all, as Virgil taught us: Be wary of those in Greece bearing gifts.

It is not rocket science, any more than police being wined and dined by editors of newspapers who they were investigating for criminal offences.

Finally, it needs to be said that the evidence we have heard certainly demonstrates the importance of plurality and other similar checks and balances which have been recommended by many of my clients, who have either come here to give evidence or provided helpful papers. Sir, I'm sure you have and will read them, and will take their comments on board.

Before we leave the evidence we've heard, can I say one or two things briefly? Yes, there have been lots of individual examples, but the who did what to whom and when, tempting as it is to dwell on, really provides an insight, we say, into the culture, practice and ethics of the press as a whole.

What it has shown us, for example, is that right at the heart of the problems is perhaps a failure of governance. It is not the journalist that is simply to blame, or even the editors. The problems stem right from the top. You have proprietors worried about commercial sales, editors worried about pleasing proprietors, journalists who take their moral compass from those above them. We've seen clear examples of this in the Inquiry.

Take the News of the World as just one example. We have seen a succession of editors starting with Kelvin McKenzie, moving on to Piers Morgan, then Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and finally the new broom, Colin Myler; and when one looks at this list, one can see the nature of the individuals, some of the most powerful people in Fleet Street, people who have shaped popular culture, but have also shaped the culture, practice and ethics of the press. We have seen each of them up close, giving evidence here, and, sir, you will reach your own conclusions.

But if these are the generals, what about the foot soldiers? Men like Paul McMullan, the parody of a tabloid journalist. His evidence would have been comical with great tabloid headlines such as, "Privacy is for Paedophiles", if it weren't for the fact that many of us here suspect that this wasn't just his view, but reflected a newspaper which fed the public a steady diet of salacious stories.

Mr McMullan, the tabloid world's guilty pleasure, a dirty secret that everyone was so quick to disown as journalist after journalist came from the News of the World and said that they didn't recognise what he was describing. It's funny, isn't it, that a man who no one seemed to recognise was responsible over the years for countless News of the World exclusives.

Or you have Neville Thurlbeck, the chief reporter and senior figure within News International, the classic journalist who made his exclusives and left. The man who seemed incapable of recognising a blackmail demand, no matter how clearly it stared him in the face. Or perhaps he was just unwilling, as he was to admit having written the emails in the first place, despite the equally glaring evidence that he was responsible.

How much does this tell us about the personalities of those people who are running these newspapers? And it applies to other newspapers in the industry too.

Sir, I'm going to move on next to consider how the press have responded to all this evidence, because we say again: this is indicative of the culture.

While it would be good if the reaction of the core participant media organisations to this evidence was a full acceptance of what had been done that was wrong, or at least a large, large measure of mea culpa, what we have seen in some areas, particularly to my right -- and I don't just mean my immediate right, before there is a shifting of chairs -- what we've seen is a culture -- and I use that word advisedly -- of plausible deniability rather than openness and candour. A culture of cover-up rather than clean-up.

While certain newspaper groups are more representative of this culture than others, of their: "If we shout and protest long enough, avoid making any concessions and dispute everything, even in the face of strong evidence, that will wear down any criticism, let alone condemnation". We say it is an example of what is prevalent across the board, and if anything needs to be given to support this, let us look at Operation Motorman.

I don't need to repeat the sections of the Information Commissioner's reports "What price privacy?" and "What price privacy now?", in which he outlined the catalogue of personal information illegally obtained at the request of newspaper after newspaper. On any scale, it was industrial. It was blindingly obvious to us, certainly on this side of the room, that in view of the travesty which the failure to prosecute any journalist represented and the absence of any proper investigation of the material in this Inquiry, which had been released to the core participants, there was every chance that a newspaper group would try to avoid any suggestion it must have known that the information it obtained, in large volume, must have been illegally obtained.

And so it came to pass, or almost came to pass, with a misunderstanding over precisely what position was being adopted by one of the core participants.

Being right, as I tell my children, is no consolation. Much better if it never happened in the first place. We all know the significance of what was disclosed by Operation Motorman: the widespread use of Mr Whittamore's services, which continued, in the case of one newspaper, until 2010, after he was convicted.

It has always been the position of the core participant victims that it is hardly credible for the press to claim that they were blissfully unaware that this type of personal information which they would buy had been obtained or might have been obtained illegally. The sheer number of criminal record checks, friends and family numbers, DVLA checks and so on and so forth is a testament to this. But as important was the fact that some of the newspapers simply refused properly to investigate and respond to the complaint.

Despite the newspapers' mantra, these activities could hardly be described as historic. For example, if the same journalist was still there at these newspapers and remained unrepentant or ignorant at all of what the fuss was all about, as it appeared some believe, or worse still, the information was still being processed, then, as we say, it is hardly historic.

And what have the newspapers done to investigate this? Well, some have been pretty candid, like Trinity Mirror for whom Sly Bailey came to give evidence. She said they'd asked no real questions of anyone in the wake of the report, and it wasn't because of the difficulty of doing so that they hadn't investigated. She said it was because they were only interested in a forward-looking approach. And who can blame Trinity Mirror for only looking forward? With a track record which Operation Motorman shows about the practices of the press, who on earth would want to look backwards?

And take Associated Newspapers. They stated that they had banned any further use of the services of Mr Whittamore once they had discovered they were top of the table of his clients, and the Inquiry has recognised that they've done so.

Mr Dacre, at least, said he would carry out a further investigation. That was in March. It is now July, and perhaps Mr Caplan will outline, when he makes his closing speech, what has been done and what has been discovered as a result.

You will also recall what the editors said to Mr Jay about the individuals who might have been involved and whether they might still have the information in their contact books and so on. He said it's so long ago that most of the people involved have actually left the newspaper, are working elsewhere or emigrated.

Sir, this might be an answer that might be given by any number of the newspaper editors. The Inquiry knows, however, that there are journalists, some of whose names appeared in the Inquiry for other reasons, who carried out numerous requests of Mr Whittamore, who are alive and well in senior positions within newspapers still. One doesn't need to worry about getting their ex-directory numbers or doing area searches in relation to them.

Unlike Ms Bailey, yours is not an entirely forward-looking exercise. If it was, after all, you wouldn't be examining the past if one couldn't learn lessons from the history of it.

We say there is strong evidence to infer that the journalists who used Mr Whittamore knew they were gaining information illegally. As such, buying personal information was just another tool in the trade, rather like phone hacking; and the number of victims is similar, as are the lists of names in some cases.

Talking of victims, when considering the response of the media core participants to the evidence as we've seen it, it's important to recognise the bravery of people who have come here to tell their account, distressing as it has often been, of what they've had to go through.

Of course, they've not only done this with nothing to gain, no compensation, no judgment in their favour, no promise it won't be repeated and so on. Instead, they've opened themselves up to more publicity, and even on occasion, to attack. And attack it has been, in some cases, which is illustrative of another aspect of the culture.

You will recall, sir, even before the Inquiry started, the Mail's journalists started a series of curtain raisers to attack the credibility of those who had agreed to come and give evidence, despite the warnings you gave in this regard.

One such article was the one which bemoaned the fact that the McCanns and Dowlers were being sullied by the suggestion that they were giving evidence with the likes of Max Mosley, Hugh Grant and Sheryl Gascoigne, and you'll recall that I mentioned that in my opening submissions.

Mr Mosley and Mr Grant were both strong enough to weather this kind of nasty comment. It was just the sort of intimidation that they suspected. But it's the intimidation of the integrity of the Inquiry which we're worried about. It's an interesting postscript that Ms Gascoigne has recently forced an apology and statement in open court in relation to that very article, but it is a shame that it took the highlighting of it in this room to get that.

Anne Diamond was not so lucky. You recall how she was attacked by Mr McKenzie as being an unreliable witness because she could remember word for word a conversation she'd had many years ago which showed she'd been effectively blackmailed into not complaining about a photograph the newspaper wanted to publish on its front page of her carrying the coffin of her son.

As you yourself said, sir, is it that surprising, given the nature of it, that she would remember such a conversation for the rest of her life? It didn't stop Mr McKenzie's attack, though, but then one wonders what would for a man who told this Inquiry he'd only checked his sources once in his entire career, and that was once too often.

Perhaps the clearest example of this tactic of a certain section of the press, that attack is the best form of self-defence, came with the evidence of Hugh Grant.

I'm not going to rehearse what happened. We all remember it. Mr Grant in his evidence in answer to Mr Jay, based on a number of extraordinary coincidences between the article which the newspaper published about an alleged affair with a plummy-voiced executive and messages that were left on his voicemail, together with what he'd been told by Mr McMullan in a taped conversation, led him to believe that it could have been the product of someone listening to his mobile phone messages. That was all. It was his belief, as he said. But that was enough to have an associated newspaper not respond within this Inquiry but to reach for its website and to issue a public statement accusing one of the witnesses of not simply being mistaken or wrong, but deliberately lying.

It's a shame that instead of this very public accusation of perjury, they didn't reach for a dictionary, given that there was a singular failure to comprehend what the word "mendacious" meant, namely: lying.

Whatever else may be said about this episode, and there is much more I could say, what it does show is how the press, time and time again, goes on the attack, rubbishing those who run the gauntlet as a way of instantly deflecting criticism away from itself.

This culture of intimidation, where people become too afraid to speak out about the press, is not only unhealthy, but is surely as much a curtailment of free speech as anything which the press itself complains about.

Let us not confuse this with the freedom to bully, to intimidate, to set the agenda. After all, the media have all the resources. And whilst on this subject, let me say a word about conditional fee agreements, which the media again bitterly complained about here in this Inquiry, how well-known individuals have used them to help fund actions against the press.

Remember, of course, that it was this ability to bring a claim which allowed the McCanns, Christopher Jefferies, Sally and Bob Dowler to have equality of arms with the most wealthy organisations in this country.

The attack on CFAs is just another example of a culture which rubbishes anyone well-known who complains as a "whingeing celebrity", any lawyer who takes them on as "greedy", any judge who supports them as "amoralistic and lofty", and any law which they don't like as "strangling the media" or being introduced by the back door. Is it any wonder why self-regulation doesn't work?

Before we explore that, I want to turn to one other topic, one which again I submit the press will do their best to rubbish, and that is the prospect of part 2 of the Inquiry.

Sir, I don't know if that's a convenient moment to take a short break.

Keyboard shortcuts

j previous speech k next speech