5 Press standards|
310. Press standards are a matter of perennial public
debate, and one which this Committee and its predecessors have
periodically addressed. In recent times some new elements have
been added to the arguments. Long-term changes in reading and
advertising patterns are challenging the viability of the printed
newspaper, something which we are investigating in our concurrent
inquiry into The future for local and regional media. The
global economic recession is also putting new pressures on the
industry. Meanwhile, Nick Davies, in his 2008 book, Flat Earth
News, charged the industry with neglecting ethics in the drive
to cut costs and prop up sales. And the case of the McCanns raised
questions about editorial standards and the industry's willingness
to enforce them.
311. Discussion of standards often turns on the question
of whether they are in decline, but that is too subjective a judgment
to admit to a meaningful answer here. It is more fruitful to ask
whether press standards meet current public expectations. This,
too, can be difficult to measure: for example, the undisputed
decline in the circulations of national newspapers might be taken
as evidence of public disapproval of their contents, but it has
several other causes too and the relative importance of disapproval
is impossible to gauge. However, we do have the evidence of opinion
polls, and they indicate that public trust in journalists is at
a worryingly low level.
312. The Committee on Standards in Public Life's
most recent report on public attitudes to the press, published
in 2008, surveyed over 2,000 people. It found that 89% thought
that tabloid newspapers were more interested in getting a story
than telling the truth; 19% thought this was true of broadsheet
papers. The survey
also found that the people surveyed thought tabloid journalists
were least likely of the 17 professions covered in the survey
to be trusted to tell the truth.
313. In a 2008 YouGov poll, journalists were the
least trusted of 23 professions, and, troublingly, trust in journalists
had fallen the most overall of all groups.
In research commissioned by the Media Standards Trust for its
report A more accountable press, 70% of respondents disagreed
with the statement: 'We can trust newspaper editors to ensure
that their journalists act in the public interest'.
314. The industry was under economic pressure even
before the recession. In the past five years, the circulation
of the ten major national daily newspapers has fallen by more
than 13 per cent:
|Newspaper average net UK circulation figures May to October 2004 and 2009
| ||May 2004 to October 2004
||May 2009 to October 2009
|Source: Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC)
315. To make matters worse, traditional staple income
generators such as classified advertising and the advertising
of property, cars and holidays have been migrating from print
to specialised internet sites. And despite considerable investment
and ongoing costs, the press has failed so far to make online
news services profitable. The traditional business model supporting
print journalism appears to be failing in many cases, prompting
consolidation, job losses and other cost-cutting measures. Recession
has accelerated this process.
316. Professor Brian Cathcart, adviser to this Committee,
describes the current situation as the industry's 'worst crisis
in 150 years' and Tim Bowdler, former Chairman of the Press Standards
Board of Finance (PressBof), has been quoted as saying that they
are 'extraordinarily challenging times' for the industry.
317. Jeff Edwards, the former crime correspondent
of the Daily Mirror, described to us a long-term change
at the paper:
"I can only speak about the organisation
I was with for the last 20 years, which was the Daily Mirror,
but during that period I have seen the staff shrink year on year,
and when I left in December it was probably about 50% of the strength
it was when I joined in the late 1980s."
318. Speaking more generally about the industry,
"Its back is to the wall at the moment.
We have seen shocking cuts and economies being made wholesale.
Especially in the tributary system through the regional and local
paper system, we have seen huge job losses. I think that, inevitably,
the overall effect will be a poorer standard of journalism."
319. Nick Davies argued that, while newspapers have
been cutting costs by reducing the number of journalists they
employ, they have not generally cut the volume of journalism they
publish, "because the more pages you print, the more advertising
you carry and therefore the more money you can earn".
In consequence, journalists no longer had time to do their job
could not check facts and research stories as thoroughly as they
should. Mr Davies suggested that fewer original stories were published
and more was recycled from news agencies, press releases and articles
in other publications, a process he calls 'churnalism'.
320. His views received support from the NUJ
and the Media Standards Trust
in their written submissions to us. The Media Standards Trust
makes a direct correlation between the financial pressures faced
by the industry and the quality of editorial content:
"Newspaper publishing has always been a
competitive industry, but the current financial and structural
crises are unique and are placing intense pressure on the press
to capture the public attention. The need for more sensationalism
and more scoops can have undesirable consequences for standards."
321. Roy Greenslade, Professor of Journalism at
City University, argued that news was being generated from behind
desks rather than by active reporting in the field and described
the modern newsroom as a "factory of words rather than an
industry which is dedicated to telling the truth".
322. One witness who defended the industry against
such charges was the crime and security editor of The Times,
Sean O'Neill, who said the industry was more conscientious now
and journalism 'a more professional business'
than in the past. He told us that there was still the opportunity
to undertake serious journalism:
"You just have to look at some of the agendas
over the last year to see [
] that people do have the time
to get out there and still dig into a story. If you look at my
own paper's coverage of the Eddie Gilfoyle alleged miscarriage
of justice case, one of our reporters spent months and months
on that. He has had plenty of time to work on that. Ian Cobain
at the Guardian, in the work he has done on alleged British
complicity in torture, took months and months to pursue one topic.
I myself have a 3,000 word piece in The Times today which has
taken weeks and weeks to do. There is time. Absolutely. If you
have the right story, you will get time to do it."
323. Problems of standards may not only be to do
with the rise of 'churnalism'. Ben Goldacre, of the Guardian,
told us that, in the case of health and science reporting, sometimes
an editorial decision is made that the article should be written
by a journalist with no specialist knowledge. He did not believe
it was pressure on journalists to produce results in a short timeframe
which led to inaccuracies, but rather the lack of subject knowledge:
"One of the stories I have covered, for
example, the media's MMR hoax - as I believe it will come to be
known, effectively - is not an example of people being hurried.
It is also quite a good example of how, even though there are
people in newspapers who are well trained (for example, specialist
health and science correspondents who are often very good at what
they do), commonly when a story becomes a big political hot potato,
it is taken out of the hands of the specialists and put into the
hands of journalists. In the case of MMR that was very clear.
There is study from the Cardiff University School of Journalism
from 2003 which shows that of all the science stories in 2002,
which is when the coverage of MMR peaked, the stories about MMR
were half as likely to be written about by science and health
correspondents as stories about GM or cloning. I think that is
very problematic because, suddenly, the people who normally would
be writing about a funny thing that happened to the au pair on
the way to a dinner party were giving people advice about epidemiology
and immunology, which is plainly never going to work."
324. There is still a great deal of good, responsible
journalism in the British press. However, the picture painted
for us of corners being cut and of fewer journalists struggling
to do more work is cause for concern. If the press is to command
the trust and respect of the public, the public needs to know
that the press is committed to high standards even in difficult
325. While we have no absolute proof of the link
between financial pressures and declining press standards, we
are concerned at the evidence we have heard that one may be contributing
to the other. Such a state of affairs is in no-one's interest.
If press standards decline, then public confidence in the press
is likely to be diminished even further, leading to declining
sales and worsening still further the finances of the industry.
326. The relationship between newspaper headlines
and the content of the article has prompted much discussion during
our inquiry. Jonathan Coad, of Swan Turton solicitors, gave us
the example of an article in the Daily Star about Peaches
Geldof. The front-page headline was: 'Peaches: spend night with
me for £5,000', implying that she was offering sexual favours
for payment, but the article inside merely asserted that she was
receiving fees to attend celebrity events.
The PCC adjudicated on the case and described the misleading headline
as 'sloppy journalism'.
When the newspaper declined to publish a retraction and apology
on the front page (where the headline had appeared), Ms Geldof
brought proceedings for libel. The newspaper apologised in the
High Court and agreed to pay costs and substantial damages.
327. Newspaper headlines are normally written by
sub-editors and not the author of the article. Both Jeff Edwards
and Ben Goldacre told us that they were not consulted on the headlines
that were attached to their articles, and were conscious of the
risks that ensued.
Mr Edwards told us that the only time he had been sued for libel
it had been as a result of the headline rather than the story
content: "My copy was not libellous but the headline was."
328. Gerry McCann told us about his experience of
"I know that Clarence [Mitchell, the McCanns'
media spokesman] has had apologies from journalists and there
has been, 'I wrote this but the headline was done by the news
desk.' There is clearly pressure on the journalists on the ground
who are being funded on expenses and are under pressure to produce
copy. There is pressure from the news desk to write a headline
which does not necessarily reflect the factual content available
for the story."
329. The PCC provides some guidance on headline-writing
in its Editors' Codebook, a guide for editors as to how the PCC
interprets its Code of Practice. The guidance however, in the
section on crime reporting and court stories, is limited to one
example of a misleading headline.
330. Current defamation law does not draw a clear
distinction between the headline and article, but tends to assess
both together. We heard conflicting evidence as to whether there
should be more focus on headlines. Jeremy Clarke-Williams, of
solicitors Russell, Jones and Walker, suggested that in the age
of the internet more and more people read the headline but not
the story itself, making the accuracy of the headline more important.
He told us that his clients were often frustrated to find they
were unable to pursue a case even where the headline was clearly
"They cannot understand why a headline which
is patently defamatory and untrue does not give them a cause of
action simply because you can pick through the rest of the article
and find a correction to it. If you asked the man in the street,
the man on the Clapham omnibus, they would say, 'Yes, that is
something which one ought to be allowed to bring a claim on',
because it is what strikes the viewer in the eye."
331. Mr Coad told us: "The reality is that millions
of people see the front page who do not buy the newspapers, that
is all they get and at the moment neither the law nor the PCC
provides an adequate remedy for that."
But Mark Thomson, then of Carter-Ruck, warned of the difficulties
of suing on the basis of just a headline, believing that it was
reasonable that a defamation case should be based on the whole
of a newspaper article: "I think it is presumed that viewers
read the whole article [...]. It would get quite technical to
just sue on a headline. Everyone knows newspapers sex up the headline
to sell newspapers."
332. Misleading headlines can cause harm and are
poor journalism, but we recognise the difficulty the courts must
face in drawing distinctions between messages conveyed in headlines
and in articles and weighing their relative impact. We feel the
PCC, for its part, could more do to address the problem of headlines
than offer brief guidance in its Editors' Codebook. We recommend
that the PCC Code itself should be amended to include a clause
making clear that headlines must accurately reflect the content
of the articles they accompany.
The case of the McCanns
333. On 3 May 2007, just before her fourth
birthday, Madeleine McCann went missing from her family's holiday
apartment in Praia da Luz, Portugal. British-born Robert Murat,
who lived locally, was named as an 'arguido' (a suspect in Portuguese
law) on 15 May 2007, and Kate and Gerry McCann were named as arguidos
on 7 September 2007. The arguido status was lifted from all three
on 21 July 2008.
334. The case, which remains unsolved, attracted
media attention of an intensity rarely seen. The activities of
the McCann family, of Mr Murat and of the Portuguese police were
subjected to the closest scrutiny. Numerous alleged sightings
were reported across Europe and in North Africa. Many appeals
were made, and several milestones in time, such as one month and
100 days from the disappearance, were marked in the media. The
coverage, notable from the outset by its speculative character,
became increasingly so once the McCanns were named arguidos, often
implying, with little or no qualification, and certainly no evidence,
that the couple bore some responsibility for their daughter's
335. On 19 March 2008, about 11 months after Madeleine's
disappearance, Express Group Newspapers became the first of several
groups and titles to apologise for publishing repeated falsehoods
in their coverage of the case, and to pay substantial damages
to the victims.
336. The McCanns had sued Express Group for libel
in relation to 110 articles which appeared in the Daily Express,
the Daily Star, the Sunday Express and the Star
on Sunday between September 2007 and February 2008. The McCanns'
solicitor, Adam Tudor, told the High Court:
"The general theme of the articles was to
suggest that Mr and Mrs McCann were responsible for the death
of Madeleine or that there were strong or reasonable grounds for
so suspecting and that they had then disposed of her body; and
that they had then conspired to cover up their actions, including
by creating 'diversions' to divert the police's attention away
from evidence which would expose their guilt [. . . ] Many of
these articles were published on the front page of the newspapers
and on their websites, accompanied by sensationalist headlines."
337. Express Group Newspapers apologised for publishing
"extremely serious, yet baseless, allegations concerning
Mr and Mrs McCann over a sustained period of what will already
have been an enormously distressing time for them, and at a time
when they have been trying to focus on finding their daughter",
and agreed to pay a reported £550,000 in damages to the Madeleine
Fund (set up to publicise and fund the search for Madeleine McCann).
Following the apology and statement of regret in open court, the
Daily Express, Daily Star, Sunday Express and Sunday
Star also published front page apologies to the McCanns.
338. Besides the McCanns, the group of friends with
whom they had been on holiday, referred to as the 'Tapas Seven',
were also the subjects of libellous reports over a number of months,
as were Mr Murat and two associates.
Here is a summary of court actions and complaints resulting from
McCanns sued the Daily Express, Sunday Express,
Daily Star and Star on Sunday over 110 articles
published over five months and received apologies and a reported
complained to Associated Newspapers about 67 articles that appeared
in the Daily Mail and Evening Standard (then owned
by Associated) over five months, and over 18 articles on the Standard's
'This is London' website. This complaint was settled by private
McCanns also took legal action against the News of the World
for asserting that it had permission to publish extracts from
Kate McCann's diaries when it did not. They received an apology.
Tapas Seven sued the Daily Star and Daily Express
over approximately 20 articles and received apologies and a reported
Murat and associates sued the Sun, Daily Express,
Sunday Express, Daily Star, Daily Mail, Evening
Standard, Metro, Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror
and News of the World over almost 100 articles described
as seriously defamatory. They received apologies and a reported
· Mr Murat
also received apologies from The Scotsman and Sky News
339. The publication of serious falsehoods seems
to have been even more widespread than this list suggests. Gerry
McCann told us: "Undoubtedly, we could have sued all the
Peter Hill, editor of the Daily Express, agreed: "I
was surprised that the McCanns at that time sued only the Daily
Express for libel [...] they would have been able to sue and
still could sue any newspaper at all."
WHAT WENT WRONG?
340. For a number of reasons, it was always likely
that this case would have prominence in the news media: the McCanns
were an attractive family; the case was a distressing mystery,
with few clues, and took place in a holiday location; and some
of the most important phases of the story were in the summer,
when the supply of rival news was relatively thin.
341. Kate and Gerry McCann were also determined to
keep the case in the public eye across Europe, with a view to
increasing the chance that Madeleine would be found. They and
their supporters issued appeals, gave press conferences and interviews,
released photographs and posters and took part in well-publicised
events as part of a strategy to give the case a high media profile.
The couple sought and received professional advice on how to handle
their relations with the media.
342. The intensity of the coverage was also a reflection
of a very unusual level of public demand for information. In consequence,
newspapers which printed prominent Madeleine McCann stories, almost
whatever their content, could expect to see their sales rise.
Clarence Mitchell speculated to us that running a Madeleine McCann
story increased newspaper sales by 40,000 or 50,000 copies a day.
Gerry McCann told us: "Madeleine, I believe, was made a commodity
and profits were to be made."
343. This phenomenon was also commented on by press
industry witnesses. Peter Hill told us: "It certainly increased
the circulation of the Daily Express by many thousands
on those days without a doubt."
Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail, commented:
"I do not remember a story for some time
now that actually increased circulation like the McCann story.
I remember the furious rows we used to have in our office at time
because other papers, opposition papers possibly, were putting
the McCanns on the front page and you could see the next week
their circulation had gone up that day and there were great recriminations
about whether we should engage in that and carry those kinds of
344. In this context London newsdesks were extremely
eager to secure competitive daily stories on the case. Jeff Edwards
"I know from talking to colleagues, not
just colleagues at the Daily Mirror but colleagues across
the business who were out there, that there was intolerable pressure
brought to bear on some of them to produce results at any cost."
345. He added:
"Essentially reporters, I know, will have
been congregating in Portugal over breakfast, and saying, 'What
the hell are we going to do today to resolve the situation?' Thus
a huge amount of recycling of information, and I have no doubt
that some of what went on strayed beyond the boundaries of what
was acceptable and some newspapers paid the price for that."
346. When we put this to Peter Hill, he was adamant
that he had not initiated that sort of pressure, telling us: "This
is not the way that anyone works as far as I know."
347. There seems to be no dispute that British journalists,
accustomed to being updated on an inquiry by official sources,
were frustrated by the position of the Portuguese police, who
were by law prevented from commenting publicly. In the absence
of official information, journalists turned to less authoritative
348. Peter Hill told us he thought the Portuguese
police were partly to blame for inaccuracies in reporting:
"The Portuguese police were unable, because
of the legal restrictions in Portugal, to make any official comment
on the case. What happened was that they resorted to leaking things
to the Portuguese press. We did our best to check up on these
things but of course it was not very easy to do so."
349. Gerry McCann told us:
"The worst stories that were printed in
this country were based on articles that had been directly published
within Portugal. Often what we found was that they had been embellished
and a single line that was very deep in an article within a Portuguese
newspaper, usually from an unsourced source, was front page and
exaggerated to the extent where we had ridiculous headlines and
350. Clarence Mitchell said he saw this happening
in Praia de Luz day after day:
"They would get the Portuguese press each
morning translated for them, with mistranslations occasionally
occurring in that as well. Then, no matter what rubbish, frankly,
was appearing in the Portuguese press from whatever source, they
would then come to me and I would either deny it or try and correct
it or say, 'We are just not talking about this today.' That was
effectively a balancing of the story and there was no further
effort to pursue any independent journalism as we might recognise
351. Undue pressure on journalists, wherever and
whenever it occurs, must tend to increase the risk of distortion,
inaccuracy and unfairness in reporting. Of course, it is impossible
to say for certain that untrue articles were written in the McCann
case as a result of pressure from editors and news desks. It is,
however, clear that the press acted as a pack, ceaselessly hunting
out fresh angles where new information was scarce. Portugal was
also a foreign jurisdiction, where contempt of court laws were
unclear, and no consideration was given to how reporting might
prejudice any future trial. It is our belief that competitive
and commercial factors contributed to abysmal standards in the
gathering and publishing of news about the McCann case.
352. That public demand for such news was exceptionally
high is no excuse for such a lowering of standards. Nor could
the efforts of the McCanns to attract publicity for their campaign
to find their daughter conceivably justify or excuse the publication
of inaccurate articles about them.
353. While the lack of official information clearly
made reporting more difficult, we do not accept that it provided
an excuse or justification for inaccurate, defamatory reporting.
Further, when newspapers are obliged to rely on anonymous sources
and second-hand information, they owe it to their readers to make
very clear that they are doing so, just as they owe it to their
readers clearly to distinguish speculation from fact.
THE ROLE OF THE PCC
354. Two days after the disappearance of Madeleine
McCann, the Press Complaints Commission contacted the British
Embassy in Lisbon and asked the consular service to inform the
McCanns that the PCC's services were available to them. Gerry
McCann told us that he did not recollect receiving such a message
and that if he had "it certainly was lost in the furore of
the other information I was bombarded with at the time".
355. On 13 July 2007, two months later, Gerry McCann
met Sir Christopher Meyer, the then PCC Chairman. The meeting
was by chance; Mr McCann had visited Lady Meyer, who runs a charity
concerned with missing and abducted children. Sir Christopher
took the opportunity to explain how the PCC could help the McCanns
and pass on some PCC literature.
Sir Christopher held one further brief meeting with the McCanns
on 29 February 2008 during which he 'repeated that the PCC stood
ready to help, if need be'.
356. The PCC was able to provide some help, and Gerry
McCann expressed to us his gratitude for this:
"Aspects with the PCC have been helpful
in terms of protecting privacy particularly for our twins, which
was a major concern for us. They were continuing to be photographed
and we wanted that stopped. Very quickly that was taken up by
the press and broadcasters within the UK. We are thankful for
that. There was also help in removing photographers from outside
our drive after what we felt was a very over long period, when
news had really gone quite quiet and we were still being subjected
to camera lenses up against our car with the twins in the back,
which was inappropriate."
357. The McCanns did not, however, make a formal
complaint to the PCC about newspaper reporting, of the sort which
would have prompted a formal inquiry. Mr McCann told us that an
informal conversation he had held with Sir Christopher suggested
that legal action would be the best way to deal with the libels,
and that "the advice from both the PCC and our legal advisers
was that the PCC was not the route."
358. The McCanns' lawyer, Adam Tudor, explained the
advice he had given to the couple:
"We had a conversation about the PCC when
Kate and Gerry first came to Carter-Ruck. It was quite a short
conversation. The PCC is perceived, to a considerable extent still
correctly, as being wholly media-friendly. It lacks teeth. It
cannot award damages. It cannot force apologies. As soon as there
is any dispute of fact between the newspaper and the victim of
the libel, the PCC backs off and says, 'This needs to go to law."
359. Mr McCann also told us that it was a cause
of concern to him that the editor of the Daily Express,
which he regarded as the worst offender, was on the board of the
360. Had the McCanns at any time made a formal complaint
about press coverage to the PCC, the PCC would have been obliged
to investigate it. Paul Dacre told us of his disappointment that
they had not done so: "I deeply regret that the McCanns,
if they felt they were being portrayed in such an inaccurate way,
did not immediately lodge a complaint with the PCC.".
This sentiment was not shared by Sir Christopher, who told us:
"It seems to me perfectly normal that if
you feel that you are defamed or libelled and you want damages
for that, punitive damages for that, you obviously go to court,
but there is a whole range of other things that we could have
done and could do for the McCanns which are of a quite different
nature. The McCanns are an interesting case of people who chose
both ways; they went to the courts on the matter of defamation
and they came to us for the protection of their children and their
family from the media scrums when they returned to the United
Kingdom. It seems to me a perfectly normal way of proceeding."
361. The PCC did not publicly criticise the actions
of Express Group newspapers until the conclusion of the McCanns'
legal case against them. Sir Christopher denied that this was
too little, too late:
"You are looking at this with 20:20 hindsight,
forgive me for saying it, but what is obvious now was not obvious
at the time. On 19 March  when the judgement became public
I rose from my sickbed, stuffed myself with paracetamol, staggered
out to a radio car and on the PM programme castigated Peter Hill
and Richard Desmond for a bad day for British journalism. There
was no question of us remaining silent; I said it was a bad day
for British journalism, that Peter Hill should consider his position
and that Mr Desmond should make a greater effort to ensure higher
journalistic standards across all his publications."
362. The PCC, in written evidence to our inquiry,
cited a number of reasons for not taking action in the McCann
case on its own account:
"The PCC does not generally launch inquiries
into matters without the say-so of the principals involved. To
have done so in this case would not only have been an impertinence
to the McCanns in the light of our previous contact, it would
have risked looking like a cynical attempt to exploit the publicity
surrounding the case. Without the involvement and instructions
of the McCanns, it would also have been very unlikely to have
The PCC is not supposed to investigate every
example of alleged malpractice by the press. Breaches of the laws
of libel, copyright, data protection, contempt of court and so
on in relation to published material should be considered by the
363. We asked Gerry McCann whether he would have
found it impertinent of the PCC to invoke their own inquiry. He
told us: "I would not have found it impertinent. I certainly
would have been open to dialogue if it was felt to be within the
remit of the PCC."
364. The PCC Code of Conduct states in paragraph
1a that 'the Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading
or distorted information, including pictures'. In paragraph 1c,
it states that 'the Press, while free to be partisan, must distinguish
clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.' We believe it was
obvious as early as May 2007 that a number of newspapers were
ignoring these requirements, yet the PCC remained silent. That
silence continued even though the coverage remained a matter of
public concern through the summer and autumn of that year. It
was only in March 2008, after the Express Group settled in the
McCanns' libel case, that the PCC spoke out. By then, as we have
seen, hundreds of false and damaging articles about the McCanns
and others had been published across a large number of titles.
This was an important test of the industry's ability to regulate
itself, and it failed that test.
365. While we understand Mr Dacre's regret that
the McCanns did not make a formal complaint to the PCC, we do
not believe that justifies the PCC's failure to take more forceful
action than it did. Under its Articles of Association, the PCC
has the power to launch an inquiry in the absence of a complaint;
such provisions were in our view made for important cases such
as this. Nor does the McCanns' decision to sue for libel justify
inaction: they did not sue until early in 2008.
366. We received many submissions from newspapers
and press organisations suggesting to us that the McCann case
was unique. The case was described as "atypical"
by the Newspaper Publishers' Association and PressBof, as "rare
if not unique"
by News International, as "unique" and "unprecedented"
by the Express Group and as "highly unusual"
by the Guardian.
367. This rarity was presented, broadly, as grounds
for making no changes to newspapers' procedures or to the PCC
Code. The Society of Editors suggested to us that it would be
"wrong to undermine a system that is clearly working by reference
to the tiny number of cases each year that raise special issues."
368. It is far from clear that the McCann coverage
was really so freakish. On the evidence we have heard, the press
reporting of the suicides in and around Bridgend (discussed in
paragraphs 381 to 398 below) bears similarities in the intensity
of the coverage and the repeated breaching of the PCC Code. Further,
we found strong echoes of the McCann case in a report by the Press
Council, Press at the Prison Gates, on the coverage of
the Strangeways riot of 1990.
Here was another instance of a dramatic story, a great public
hunger for news and a limited supply of reliable information,
where much of the press went badly astray. As that report observed,
in the absence of a ready supply of hard information, "newspapers
fell into the serious ethical error of presenting speculation
and unconfirmed reports as fact".
369. We also raised another example of a high profile
story after the McCanns: the case of Josef Fritzl, the Austrian
sex abuser, who imprisoned and fathered children by his daughter
Elisabeth. In March 2009, just before Fritzl's trial, the Daily
Mail published the name of the new location to which she and
her children had moved. Since we raised this, the village's name
has been removed from the newspaper's website.
370. We suggested to Peter Hill that reporting on
the McCanns held similarities with the repeated publication in
the Daily Express of conspiracy stories, also since proved
to be false, about the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. He replied:
"The inquest on Princess Diana, for me,
was pretty much the end of the matter. I think you will find that
after the inquest we published hardly any, if any, reports or
stories, about Princess Diana. Up to that time it was a similar
situation but not as intense a situation as the McCanns. Our readers
were absolutely avid for news about the death of Princess Diana
because there certainly was a theory that Princess Diana might
have been murdered."
371. We have heard no evidence to suggest that newspapers
have taken action on their own account to ensure that the mistakes
of the McCann coverage are not repeated in future, much less that
editors and journalists responsible for the publication of so
many falsehoods have been asked to account for their decisions,
or have faced disciplinary action.
372. When we asked Peter Hill whether anyone at the
Daily Express was reprimanded or sacked because of the
McCann coverage, he replied: "I have reprimanded myself because
I was responsible."
Asked whether he offered to resign, he said: "Certainly not.
If editors had to resign every time there was a libel action against
them, there would be no editors."
373. The newspaper industry's assertion that the
McCann case is a one-off event shows that it is in denial about
the scale and gravity of what went wrong, and about the need to
learn from those mistakes.
374. In any other industry suffering such a collective
breakdown - as for example in the banking sector now - any regulator
worth its salt would have instigated an enquiry. The press, indeed,
would have been clamouring for it to do so. It is an indictment
on the PCC's record, that it signally failed to do so.
375. The industry's words and actions suggest
a desire to bury the affair without confronting its serious implications
- a kind of avoidance which newspapers would criticise mercilessly,
and rightly, if it occurred in any other part of society. The
PCC, by failing to take firm action, let slip an opportunity to
prevent or at least mitigate some of the most damaging aspects
of this episode, and in doing so lent credence to the view that
it lacks teeth and is slow to challenge the newspaper industry.
376. We return to the role and structure of the PCC
at paragraph 497.
Suicide reporting in the media
377. In June 2006, following the submission of evidence
to the Editors' Code of Practice Committee by Samaritans and other
groups, the PCC inserted clause 5-ii into its Code of Practice:
Clause 5. Intrusion into grief or shock
i) In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively. This should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings, such as inquests.
ii) When reporting suicide, care should be taken to avoid excessive detail about the method used.
378. This change was to address the risk that media
coverage might prompt copycat suicides, as the then Code Committee
Chairman, Les Hinton, explained:
"For example, while it might be perfectly
proper to report that the suicide was caused by an overdose of
paracetamol, it would probably be excessive to state the number
of tablets used. We have consulted with the industry on this and
it has been accepted. The new rule, in effect, codifies a practice
already currently followed by many editors."
379. We have heard criticism that the PCC Code contains
only a single clause on suicide reporting,
and that the Code does not go far enough. In their submission
to us PAPYRUS, the charity for prevention of suicide in the young,
told us that they wanted to prohibit any reporting of the method
of suicide, not just 'excessive detail', as they did not believe
journalists were qualified to judge what was excessive.
However, Antony Langan of Samaritans told us that when the Code
was properly applied by the press, he had found reporting to be
380. We have sympathy with the views of PAPYRUS
but consider that a complete ban on the reporting of the method
of suicide would have a negative impact on the freedom of the
press. For reasons which we detail below, we do not believe that
the guidance contained in the PCC Code on suicide reporting should
be altered, but rather that the PCC needs to enforce compliance
with the Code as it stands.
THE CASE OF BRIDGEND
381. Between January 2007 and August 2008 there
were more than 20 suicides in and around Bridgend, South Wales,
involving people aged under 27. Again, the media coverage was
intensive. This time numerous complaints were made to the PCC
about the accuracy of reporting, the extensive and repeated use
of the victims' photographs, the headlines, the descriptions given
of the suicide methods used and the various attempts to link the
suicides in a 'death cult' or something of the kind.
382. In February 2008, the Member of Parliament for
Bridgend, Madeleine Moon, collated details of 15 relatives of
suicide victims who did not want any further press coverage and
asked for an end to the repeated publication of photographs of
those who had died.
Ms Moon also made a complaint to the PCC about a Sunday Times
magazine article, featuring a large picture of a noose under the
title 'Death Valleys'. The PCC did not uphold this complaint,
stating that since much of the extensive coverage had identified
hanging as a common feature of the deaths the use of the noose
did not constitute excessive detail. The PCC acknowledged that
the pictures would be 'an upsetting and stark reminder to the
families about how their relatives had died'.
383. On 20 February 2008, Sir Christopher Meyer,
then Chairman of the PCC, wrote to Madeleine Moon offering to
attend a meeting in Bridgend, if this would be of assistance.
In May 2008, three months after the initial complaint to the PCC,
Sir Christopher and other PCC representatives visited Bridgend
to talk to local people and communicated to the press the wishes
of those who requested the coverage to stop. When asked in an
interview if the PCC had been too late, Sir Christopher conceded
that the PCC 'should have been down there earlier'. 
384. As part of our inquiry, we heard evidence in
private from Mr Langan of Samaritans and from Tim Fuller, the
father of one of the young people who took their own lives. We
wish to thank them, and especially Mr Fuller, for his willingness
to discuss such events with us.
385. Mr Langan told us of the practical difficulties
of applying the PCC Code, and how the experience of reporting
in Bridgend had shown that a number of issues were not catered
for by it:
"One of the things that Bridgend threw up
is within the remit of the PCC a lot of things fall outside that
Code. There were particular issues around the re-publication and
duplication of photographs [...]. When we looked at the regular
re-publication of 10 or 20 photographs of people of a certain
age then other people of that age would see perhaps a pattern
of normalisation and that was equally dangerous. The current Code
does not address that. We think the guidance note behind that
could do with some work but we see the Code of Conduct as a working
document. We want to keep working with the PCC and the Code Committee
to extend that remit so it is actually going to go further."
386. Mr Fuller described to us the impact that press
reporting had when his daughter took her own life in February
2008 and in the months afterwards. He did not feel that he could
visit her house because the press were gathered outside it,
indeed he was advised by the police and the coroner not to go
there, and he was not aware that he could have used the services
of the PCC to ask reporters to leave.
"It was at the end of that session with
the police when that was wrapped up and I was ready to go home
the police and the Coroner let me know that they had released
the details of the name and address of my daughter and advised
that unless I could handle it not to go anywhere near the address
because there were cameras and press and all sorts there."
387. The knowledge that the press would be printing
a story about his daughter also put pressure on Mr Fuller at a
"I found I was frantically making phone
calls to people that perhaps I would not speak to for two or three
days. Maybe if they put the news on and they have children they
would pick the papers up the next morning and they would see all
this information. I felt I wanted to let them know myself rather
than seeing it first-hand in the media. I was put under pressure
there. It took away from me the opportunity to let people know
what had happened."
388. Due to the linking of a number of suicides,
press interest in Mr Fuller's daughter's death did not go away.
He found particularly distressing the constant re-listing of the
names of all of the young suicide victims
and the unauthorised use of photographs of his daughter which
he had not seen before.
389. Although Mr Fuller did not attend the PCC meeting
in Bridgend in May 2008, he explained to us that the invitation
to do so opened a dialogue with them which led him to make a complaint
against the Daily Express about their coverage of his daughter's
death. In the
time immediately after her suicide, the only contact he had was
with the police liaison team and the coroner in Bridgend.
390. It is clear to us that an ordinary person who
suddenly finds himself and his family the focus of media attention
in circumstances such as those detailed to us by Mr Fuller would
be ill-prepared to deal with it. The PCC can perform a vital role
in assisting such people, yet Mr Fuller was unaware of this for
a full three months after his daughter's death.
391. In oral evidence to us the then PCC Chairman,
Sir Christopher Meyer said the PCC felt frustration that its message
was not getting through:
"One of our painting the Forth Bridge tasks
is constantly to remind police forces around the country that
they really must, in situations of suicide or murder or whatever,
tell families how to deal with the press [...]. When we go on
our missions outside London we always invite to the events or
to a lunch or whatever the local coroner or the local coroners,
depending on how many there are, as well as the local judges.
A number of times we have found that the system has not worked
properly and a coroner has said 'I did not know about that', so
we send them all the stuff and say 'Please make sure that you
and your staff know about this.' It is a permanent struggle to
be perfectly frank."
392. We recommend that the PCC should not wait
for people who find themselves suddenly thrust into the media
glare in traumatic circumstances to come to it, but should take
more steps to ensure that such people are aware of its services.
This could perhaps most easily be achieved through dedicated and
compulsory training of coroners and police family liaison officers
about ways in which the PCC can help and through providing them
with standard leaflets which can be offered to those with whom
they come into contact.
393. Following the resolution of Mr Fuller's complaint
by the PCC, the Daily Express apologised to Mr Fuller and
withdrew the offending articles. The apology took the form of
a letter to the PCC, which was passed to Mr Fuller. The paper
did not accept that its reporting broke the Code by giving
excessive detail of suicide method, something which Mr Fuller
"In the article, and in the response as
well, from the Daily Express they say that they did not
give specific details of the method used and they are allowed
to say that she was found hanging and that was the nature of her
death. They said they gave no more details about how that happened
but within the article they quoted the mother of the previous
victim who actually described that they found him hanging and
he had used his dressing gown cord and they found him hanging
from the framework of a built-in wardrobe they were having constructed
which to me is quite specific."
394. Mr Fuller went on to say:
"I do not know whether [my daughter] would
have read that information printed beforehand but [my daughter]
too used a dressing gown cord so we just have this thought. I
do believe that some of these youngsters were influenced by the
publicity, not of the minute detail but the method. A big question
has been asked why all bar one of the victims used hanging as
their form of death."
395. The coverage of suicide in the media is one
of the most sensitive areas that falls into the PCC's remit. We
note the good work the PCC did in Bridgend from May 2008, although
we believe the PCC should have acted sooner and more proactively.
396. The PCC Code provides suitable guidance on
suicide reporting, but in our view the PCC should be tougher in
ensuring that journalists abide by it. The experience of Bridgend
shows the damage that can be caused if irresponsible reporting
is allowed to continue unchecked; the PCC needs to monitor the
conduct of the journalists and the standard of coverage in such
397. During our inquiry, regarding the reporting
of personal tragedies, we also asked how the press - local newspapers,
in particular - moderated their websites, when asking readers
to comment on stories. Certain comments of which we have been
made aware have been sick and obscene.
The PCC told us, though, that it did not consider this a
398. The Editor's Codebook refers to complaints
about newspaper websites, making clear that editors are responsible
for "any user-generated material that they have decided to
leave online, having been made aware of it, or received a complaint."
We believe this does not go far enough, with respect to moderating
comment on stories about personal tragedies, in particular. The
Codebook should be amended to include a specific responsibility
to moderate websites and take down offensive comments, without
the need for a prior complaint. We also believe the PCC should
be proactive in monitoring adherence, which could easily be done
by periodic sampling of newspaper websites, to maintain standards.
Phone-hacking and blagging
399. In July 2007, we published our Report Self-regulation
of the press,
addressing concerns about methods used by reporters and photographers.
We were prompted principally by the conviction of Clive Goodman,
royal editor of the News of the World, and Glenn Mulcaire,
a private investigator employed by the paper, over phone-hacking.
400. Mr Mulcaire and Mr Goodman were convicted of
unlawfully intercepting telephone voicemail messages received
by three members of staff at Buckingham Palace. Mr Mulcaire was
also convicted of unlawfully intercepting the voicemail messages
of five other individuals: Max Clifford, Simon Hughes MP, Andrew
Skylett, Elle MacPherson and Gordon Taylor. Both men were jailed.
401. The News of the World assured the Committee
that Mr Goodman acted alone in this conspiracy, and that no one
else at the paper authorised or was aware of Mr Mulcaire's illegal
also told us - and the PCC - that its own investigations had shown
Goodman's to be an isolated case. Our evidence session with Les
Hinton, then chief executive of the newspaper's owner, News International,
"Chairman: You carried out a full, rigorous
internal inquiry, and you are absolutely convinced that Clive
Goodman was the only person who knew what was going on?
Mr Hinton: Yes, we have and I believe he was
the only person, but that investigation, under the new editor,
402. Our 2007 inquiry also considered evidence from
the then Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, that a large
number of journalists had purchased information from a private
investigator who was known to have obtained information through
illegal means, proof of which had been obtained through an investigation
called Operation Motorman, which took place in parallel with police
investigation, Operation Glade.
403. In July 2009, the Guardian newspaper
reported that News Group Newspapers, the division of News International
to which the News of the World belongs, had paid more than
£1m in damages and costs to settle invasion of privacy cases
brought by three people connected to the world of professional
football who said they were victims of voicemail message interceptions
conducted on the newspaper's behalf by Glenn Mulcaire.
404. One of the three was Gordon Taylor, chief executive
of the Professional Footballers' Association, whose phone messages
Glenn Mulcaire had been convicted of unlawfully intercepting;
another was Mr Taylor's legal adviser, Jo Armstrong. The third
person, a lawyer, has not been named. Nothing about these cases
had previously been in the public domain because of gagging clauses
in the financial settlements. Such was the level of secrecy, indeed,
that the newspaper group also asked the court to seal the case
files. Politicians, as well as many celebrities, were targeted
by Mr Mulcaire's activities, which were far more extensive than
previously publicly known.
405. These allegations cast some doubt on testimony
given to us, and to the PCC, by News International executives
in 2007. We therefore
reopened hearings to pursue this matter and heard oral evidence
from representatives of the Guardian, the Press Complaints
Commission, the Information Commissioner and the Metropolitan
Police as well as from current and former News International executives.
We also received written evidence from the Director of Public
Prosecutions, and heard evidence, too, from Mark Lewis, the solicitor
who acted for Mr Taylor and Ms Armstrong.
406. At our hearing on 14 July, Nick Davies, who
wrote the Guardian story, presented us with a number of
documents. Two stood out: a contract between Glenn Mulcaire and
the News of the World and a transcript of voicemail messages
recorded by Mulcaire. Both were seized by police at the time of
his arrest in 2006.
407. We invited Mr Goodman and Mr Mulcaire to appear,
but both were unwilling to do so. The News of the World's
chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck, who was implicated in the voicemail
transcript, would only give evidence in private. In each case,
we considered employing powers of summons, but for reasons of
time and practicality, decided it would not be fruitful. We considered
that Mr Goodman and Mr Mulcaire were unlikely to answer questions,
because of settlements with the newspaper. Mr Thurlbeck had also
been depicted as an unreliable witness in the Mosley case. Gordon
Taylor's solicitors, meanwhile, said any co-operation would depend
on the newspaper group releasing him from confidentiality undertakings.
Finally, we also asked Rebekah Brooks, News International's new
chief executive to appear, to resolve inconsistencies in its evidence.
She also declined. So as not to delay publication further, however,
we decided not use compulsion and comment further on the Group's
THE MISKIW CONTRACT
408. On 4 February 2005, Glenn Mulcaire, using the
pseudonym Paul Williams, and Greg Miskiw, then Assistant News
Editor of the News of the World, signed a contract in the
"The News of the World undertakes
not to publish any information/pictures supplied by Paul Williams
in connection with XXXXX [sic, redacted by the Guardian]
PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor. The News of the World
agrees to pay a minimum sum of £7,000.00 on publication of
the story based on information provided by Mr Williams. The figure
will be renegotiable on the basis of prominence given to the story."
409. This was a holding contract of a kind intended
to guarantee exclusivity, while ensuring that the story's source
would be appropriately rewarded when publication occurred. Colin
Myler, editor of the News of the World, told us: 'The contract
or the piece of paper that he received under the name of Paul
Williams is very common, very common practice in newspapers and
indeed broadcasting, I would say.'
410. For such a contract to be in a false name was
certainly less common.
Tom Crone, the newspaper's in-house lawyer, told us that he later
questioned Miskiw about this:
"He told me that Glenn Mulcaire had come
to him with a view to selling a story as an independent project
- that is, independent of any work that he did under the general
retainer he had with us. His story was based on information he
had gained, as I think he is a member of the PFA having been a
professional footballer; he had gained it in that context and
he was concerned that if his real name was attached to the story
he would obviously upset his PFA colleagues et cetera if
that ever came out. Therefore he wanted to contract under an alias,
and 'Paul Williams' was the alias he supplied."
411. Whether or not Mr Mulcaire had accessed Mr
Taylor's voicemails at the time of the contract, or needed to
do so to get his story, there is no doubt that he had the ability
to do so. At the sentencing hearing in January 2007, the prosecution
stated that Mr Mulcaire first accessed voicemails - those of a
member of the Buckingham Palace staff - in February 2005,
the same month as the Miskiw contract.
THE 'FOR NEVILLE' EMAIL
412. On 29 June 2005, five months later, a reporter
at the News of the World, Ross Hindley, sent an email to
Glenn Mulcaire which opened with the words: "This is the
transcript for Neville."
There followed a transcription of 35 voicemail messages. In 13
cases the recipient of message was 'GT', Gordon Taylor, and in
17 cases the recipient was 'JA', Jo Armstrong. No witness has
sought to deny that these messages had been intercepted by Glenn
Mulcaire, or that they had been transcribed by Mr Hindley.
413. Mr Crone said that he was not aware of the email
until April 2008, during the course of the legal action brought
by Gordon Taylor.
Once he knew, he set himself the task, with Mr Myler's knowledge,
of investigating their background.
414. He asked the News of the World's IT Department
to find out who else had received the email and was told that
'there was no trace of it having gone anywhere else'.
He also questioned the reporter:
"He had very little recollection of it [
He does not particularly remember this job in any detail; he does
not remember who asked him to do it; and he does not remember
any follow-up from it. He saw the email and he accepts that he
sent the transcript where the email says he sent it."
415. We were unable to question the reporter, however.
Mr Crone told us that Mr Hindley was in Peru: "He is on a
holiday. He is going around the world. He is 20 years old."
] about this time he had only just become a reporter;
prior to that actually I think he had been a messenger and he
was being trained up as a reporter,"
he added. We return to the veracity of this below.
416. The message above the transcript said it was
'for Neville'. In June 2005, there was only one Neville on the
Thurlbeck, the chief reporter. Mr Crone told us he asked Mr Hindley
whether he had given him the transcript. "He said, "I
can't remember." He said, "Perhaps I gave it to Neville,
but I can't remember."'
Mr Crone said he also asked Mr Thurlbeck if he remembered receiving
the transcript: 'His position is that he has never seen that email,
nor had any knowledge of it.'
417. On Saturday 2 July 2005, three days after the
'for Neville' transcript was sent, Mr Thurlbeck knocked on the
door of a person living in the north-west of England in connection
with a possible news story relating to Gordon Taylor.
418. This story was based at least in part on the
contents of the voicemail interception transcripts, Mr Crone told
us. Mark Lewis,
the solicitor who acted for Mr Taylor in his successful action
against News Group, went further, saying:
"I think it incredibly unlikely to have
been obtained any other way, because it was not a true story,
it was a misunderstanding of a message which had been left on
the phone, so how you would misunderstand a message left on a
phone in any other way is completely beyond me [...] In order
to misunderstand it, they would have had to hear it."
419. Mr Lewis told us that the development of the
story was sufficiently advanced for there to have been a draft
of an article, which he had seen.
Given that it was a Saturday, and that the paper's chief reporter
was involved, it seems reasonable to infer that the intention
of the News of the World was to publish the next day.
420. No article ever appeared, however. Mr Crone
"I came back [from holiday] the following
week and one of the legal complaints that was on my desk by about
Wednesday, I think, was a complaint from one of the story's subjects.
I went and made enquiries of Neville Thurlbeck actually, because
I knew that he was the reporter on the story; and I was told that
it was based on a source and he had gone up and had a conversation
with the person whose door he knocked on; there were stringent
denials; the legal letter that was in front of me contained stringent
denials. I went and spoke to the editor, Andy Coulson. I said,
'It seems to be based on a source, but if it's true the source
is probably never going to come forward'; and Andy Coulson told
me to 'Forget it. Tell them that we won't be running the story',
and that was the end of it."
421. It was not the end of Mr Mulcaire's interest
in Gordon Taylor, however. One of the charges to which he pleaded
guilty in November 2007 was of unlawfully intercepting Mr Taylor's
voicemail messages between February and June of 2006, some six
months after the door-knock had taken place.
422. Mark Lewis also told us that, during his conversations
with the Metropolitan Police at the time of the Gordon Taylor
case, a Detective Sergeant Maberly had put the number of people
affected by the phone tapping at 6,000. Mr Lewis went on to say
that 'it was not clear to me whether that was 6,000 phones which
had been hacked, or 6,000 people including the people who had
Assistant Commissioner Yates, however, referred to only a handful
of victims, while
Detective Chief Superintendent Williams told us that: "I
suppose the honest answer is we do not know".
Subsequently, in answer to a Freedom of Information request, the
Metropolitan Police confirmed that there were 91 individuals whose
pin numbers were recorded in the material which they had seized.
This does not however prove that only 91 individuals were targeted;
how many of those pin numbers were accurate, and the number of
individuals with default pin settings which might not be individually
recorded, is not known. The request came from the Guardian,
which also reported being told by three mobile phone companies
that they had traced over 100 customers, from numbers passed to
them by the police, whose voicemails had been called.
We comment further on the police evidence, and recent changes
to it, in paragraphs 456 to 472 below.
423. It is likely that the number of victims of
illegal phone-hacking by Glenn Mulcaire will never be known. Nevertheless,
there is no doubt that there were a significant number of people
whose voice messages were intercepted, most of whom would appear
to have been of little interest to the Royal correspondent of
the News of the World. This adds weight to suspicions that
it was not just Clive Goodman who knew about these activities.
WHO KNEW ABOUT THE PHONE-HACKING?
424. Mr Crone told us that, when he questioned Mr
Thurlbeck about the source of the Gordon Taylor story, he at first
said he had been briefed by Miskiw, and asked to confront one
of the story's subjects.
425. Mr Thurlbeck then revised his account of events,
as Mr Miskiw had by then just left the newspaper:
"Neville Thurlbeck told me that his refreshed
memory told him that in fact the briefing that he received was
from the London news desk [...]. I went to speak to the relevant
person at the London news desk, who told me that he had no knowledge
of the email and he had never seen it.
426. In summary, Mr Crone's investigation, he said,
had established that nobody remembered the 'for Neville' email,
apart from Mr Hindley, who could not remember what he did with
427. In spite of the allegations contained in the
Guardian, the News of the World has continued to
assert that Clive Goodman acted alone. Les Hinton, the former
Executive Chairman of News International, told us: "There
was never any evidence delivered to me that suggested that the
conduct of Clive Goodman spread beyond him."
428. However, there is nothing to connect Mr Goodman
with Gordon Taylor and the 'for Neville' transcript. The transcription
took place in June 2005, and at his sentencing hearing Mr Goodman's
counsel told the judge that his client was not aware of Mr Mulcaire's
voicemail accessing until late 2005.
Neither was Mr Goodman accused in the later interception of Gordon
429. There has been speculation that the then editor
of the News of the World, Andy Coulson, must have known
what was going on. In his evidence to us, however, Nick Davies
said: "I have never seen a piece of paper that directly links
Andy Coulson to any of the activity that we are discussing of
430. Mr Coulson told us that during his time as editor
he "never condoned the use of phone-hacking and nor do I
have any recollection of incidences where phone-hacking took place".
"What we had with the Clive Goodman case
was a reporter who deceived the managing editor's office and,
in turn, deceived me. I have thought long and hard about this
(I did when I left): what could I have done to have stopped this
from happening? But if a rogue reporter decides to behave in that
fashion I am not sure that there is an awful lot more I could
431. Mr Coulson also said he had "never read
a Gordon Taylor story, to the best of my recollection"'
although, as we have been told, it was Mr Coulson who spiked the
story (see paragraph 420).
432. We turn now to the 'full, rigorous internal
enquiry', which News International told us in March 2007 that
it had conducted.
There were, from evidence we have received, two internal reviews,
one before and one after Colin Myler arrived as editor in January
433. Firstly, solicitors Burton Copeland were brought
in by the News of the World in 2006 to 'liaise' with the
police. They were also given free rein to ask as many questions
they liked, but found no evidence to implicate any other staff
in phone-hacking, we were told. By Mr Coulson's admission, however,
they were tasked "with the primary purpose, I have to say,
of trying to find out what happened in relation to Clive."
434. A separate review was carried out by News International
in May 2007 of emails still on IT systems of Mr Goodman and five
senior newspaper employees, including Mr Coulson, the timing of
which coincided with the unfair dismissal claims. It is this review
to which Mr Myler referred during this enquiry when he said he
had looked at over 2,500 emails to see if there was any wider
involvement in the phone-hacking.
435. The conclusions of Lawrence Abramson, managing
partner of a further firm of solicitors, Harbottle & Lewis,
make interesting reading:
"I can confirm that we did not find anything
in those emails which appeared to us to be reasonable evidence
that Clive Goodman's illegal actions were known about and supported
by both or either of Andy Coulson, the Editor, and Neil Wallis,
the Deputy Editor, and/or that Ian Edmondson, the News Editor,
and others were carrying out similar illegal procedures."
436. We have not seen any documents relating to the
unfair dismissal claims, nor whether they included allegations
that senior staff, including the News Editor, knew of the phone-hacking.
437. We have found no evidence, however, of systematic
questioning of Messrs Thurlbeck or Hindley, or any full review
of their emails. Mr Crone told us he certainly had not done so.
The newspaper, indeed, says it only learned of the 'for Neville'
email when it was produced by Gordon Taylor's lawyers in April
2008. The other key document, though - the Miskiw contract - was
known about at the time of the trial.
438. We also followed up evidence about Mr Hindley,
the 'junior reporter'. The News of the World has now confirmed
that he is in fact 28 and the nephew of former editor Phil Hall.
He joined full-time in 2005, having worked on local newspapers.
Searches show he also contributed to his future employer for five
years previously and from September, 2006, wrote as Ross Hall,
adopting his mother's maiden name. The paper blamed its errors
on "provocative questioning and interrupting of Mr Crone".
439. We have seen no evidence that Andy Coulson
knew that phone-hacking was taking place. However, that such hacking
took place reveals a serious management failure for which as editor
he bore ultimate responsibility, and we believe that he was correct
to accept this and resign.
440. Evidence we have seen makes it inconceivable
that no-one else at the News of the World, bar Clive Goodman,
knew about the phone-hacking. It is unlikely, for instance, that
Ross Hindley (later Hall) did not know the source of the material
he was transcribing and was not acting on instruction from superiors.
We cannot believe that the newspaper's newsroom was so out of
control for this to be the case.
441. The idea that Clive Goodman was a "rogue
reporter" acting alone is also directly contradicted by the
Judge who presided at the Goodman and Mulcaire trial. In his summing
up, Mr Justice Gross, the presiding judge, said of Glenn Mulcaire:
"As to Counts 16 to 20 [relating to the phone-hacking of
Max Clifford, Simon Hughes MP, Andrew Skylett, Elle Macpherson
and Gordon Taylor], you had not dealt with Goodman but with others
at News International."
442. Despite this, there was no further investigation
of who those "others" might be and we are concerned
at the readiness of all of those involved: News International,
the police and the PCC to leave Mr Goodman as the sole scapegoat
without carrying out a full investigation at the time. The newspaper's
enquiries were far from 'full' or 'rigorous', as we - and the
PCC - had been assured. Throughout our inquiry, too, we have been
struck by the collective amnesia afflicting witnesses from the
News of the World.
THE GOODMAN AND MULCAIRE SETTLEMENTS
443. In the course of our inquiry, we established
that payments were made to both Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire
in settlement of actions brought by them in relation to unfair
dismissal, despite the fact that both had been convicted of criminal
offences. In the case of Clive Goodman we were told by News International
that, as the statutory dismissal process had not been correctly
followed, he had been unfairly dismissed. It is open to an employer
to argue to an Employment Tribunal, however, that the outcome
would have been the same even if procedures had been correctly
followed, and therefore the failure to do so did not prejudice
the dismissal. Despite this, based on advice from Jon Chapman,
News International's Director of Legal Affairs, News International
decided to settle the case:
"In all contentious employment cases in
the News International group, a recommendation as to whether to
defend or to try to settle is made by me to relevant senior management,
based primarily on cost (to settle or legal and other costs to
defend), the very significant internal time and resource required
to deal with a defence, likelihood of success and publicity the
matter may attract. I applied this analysis to the Goodman claim
and recommended to Les Hinton, our then Executive Chairman, that
we explore settlement on reasonable terms. After some discussion
with Mr Goodman's lawyers, a proposed settlement was reached which
was approved by Les Hinton and Daniel Cloke, our Director of Human
444. In the case of Glenn Mulcaire, as a contractor
his contract was terminated by News International in January 2007.
Mr Mulcaire launched a case in April 2007 stating that he in fact
had full employment rights, and therefore the correct statutory
procedures had not been followed. Mr Chapman stated: "we
took the view that there was a significant risk a tribunal might
find he had employment rights. A similar analysis to that carried
out for Mr Goodman's claim was then followed and a similar internal
procedure was followed in relation to potential settlement."
445. Both were paid notice, legal costs and a compensatory
award. The group declined to confirm the amounts, but said the
awards were below the £60,600 statutory limit. Had it resisted
at a tribunal, and lost, given the convictions, we have also received
legal advice that it could have gained a substantial reduction
in any award.
446. Mr Hinton also declined to confirm any confidentiality
clauses or the terms of any indemnity given to Mr Mulcaire regarding
future civil claims: "I am not going to discuss the terms
of the agreement",
adding "[...] I cannot remember the detail and, in any event,
I have been told by News International not to discuss it."
447. Initial confirmation of the settlements came
from Tom Crone and Colin Myler. It took, however, persistent questioning,
and Mr Crone in particular was reluctant to be drawn. Regarding
the payment to Mr Goodman, indeed, he openly contradicted himself:
"I am certainly not aware of it" he told us on two occasions.
When pressed, citing misunderstanding, he then said: "I am
not absolutely certain, but I have a feeling that there may have
been a payment of some sort."
To Mr Myler, on the other hand, Mr Goodman's pay-off appeared
to come as a genuine surprise.
448. Afterwards Mr Myler wrote to confirm both pay-offs,
adding that "the terms [
] are subject to mutual and
legally binding confidentiality obligations."
In the letter, he also contradicted his own evidence: "I
and Tom Crone were broadly aware of the claims and the fact that
they were settled, but not of the terms of the settlement."
449. The News of the World and its parent
companies did not initially volunteer the existence of pay-offs
to Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire, and their evidence has been
contradictory. We do not know the amounts, or terms, but we are
left with a strong impression that silence has been bought.
450. The newspaper's approach in this instance
also differed markedly, we note, from that adopted towards sports
reporter Matt Driscoll, to whom a tribunal awarded nearly £800,000
- possibly the biggest amount in the industry to date - in November
2009 for unfair dismissal after persistent bullying by then editor
Andy Coulson. The newspaper strongly resisted that particular
THE TAYLOR SETTLEMENT
451. The News of the World also settled out-of-court
the civil claims for breach of confidence and privacy brought
by Gordon Taylor, Jo Armstrong and one other. The settlements
and payments were authorised by James Murdoch, executive chairman
of News International, "following discussions with Colin
Myler and Tom Crone."
452. Mark Lewis said the newspaper resisted the claim,
but changed its stance when confronted with the 'for Neville'
email and 'Miskiw contract': "[
] initially the News
of the World's defence was, 'This did not happen'. This defence
was subsequently amended to say, 'Yes it did' and the settlement
came about shortly after".
453. One of our concerns in re-examining these issues
was whether we - and the PCC - were misled in 2007 and whether,
following the Taylor case, News International should have corrected
the record. Confidentiality, it told us, prevented this and had
been requested first by Mr Taylor: "It was raised by him
before it was raised by us, but we fell in with it,"
Mr Crone said.
454. Mr Lewis, however, said that was inaccurate.
He made a distinction between confidentiality regarding information
in the story, which Mr Taylor had asked for, and about an agreement
per se. This was at News International's instigation: "That
is very different from stopping the existence of a settlement
getting out [
]. That was not suggested by Gordon Taylor
or by me on behalf of Gordon Taylor."
455. Gordon Taylor was cited in one of the charges
over which Glenn Mulcaire was convicted in 2007. In the civil
action, however, the News of the World nonetheless initially
resisted the claim, and on a false basis. We consider there was
nothing to prevent the newspaper group drafting its confidentiality
agreement to allow the PCC and this Committee to be informed of
these events, so as to avoid, at the very least, the appearance
of having misled us both. We also believe that confidentiality
in the Taylor case, and the size of the settlement and sealing
of the files, reflected a desire to avoid further embarrassing
publicity to the News of the World.
THE ACTIONS OF THE POLICE
456. The criminal investigation started with the
Anti-Terrorist Branch - now the Counter Terrorism Command - of
the Metropolitan police in 2005. The Miskiw contract, and the
'for Neville' email, were in its possession from August 2006,
and both were communicated in due course to the Crown Prosecution
Service (CPS). Neither saw grounds in either document to take
action. Consequently neither Mr Miskiw nor Mr Thurlbeck nor Mr
Hindley was interviewed by the police, nor was any executive of
the News of the World.
457. Mr Crone told us that as soon as News Group
became aware of the existence of the two documents, in April 2008,
when they were produced by lawyers acting for Gordon Taylor, the
458. We asked the Metropolitan Police why it was,
given that the contents of these documents caused News Group to
make a legal settlement forthwith, the police had not investigated
them at the time they took possession of them. Assistant Commissioner
Yates told us that the investigative strategy in respect of Glenn
Mulcaire, which was endorsed by the CPS, was 'based on the premise
of "to prosecute the most substantive offence"'.
Further, he stressed the novelty and the technical and legal difficulties
of securing convictions under the relevant Act, the Regulation
of Investigatory Powers Act, and he spoke of the need to protect
the victims of unlawful interceptions from unwanted public exposure.
459. Mr Yates explained to us the police's rationale
in dealing with the large amount of evidence it had seized:
"Our job, as ever, is to follow the evidence
and to make considered decisions based upon our experience which
ensures limited resources are used both wisely and effectively
and, supported by senior counsel, including the DPP, the collective
belief is that there were then and there remain now insufficient
grounds or evidence to arrest or interview anyone else and . .
. no additional evidence has come to light since."
460. We specifically asked why the police had not
pursued the matter of the 'for Neville' email. Mr Yates said that
this had been considered, but went on:
"There are a number of factors around it,
some practical issues. Firstly, the email itself was dated, I
think, 29 July 2005 and we took possession of it in August 2006,
so it was already a minimum of 14 months old, that email, that
is the minimum and we do not know when it was actually compiled
or sent. We know from the phone company records that they are
not kept for that period of time, so there was no data available
behind that email. There was nothing to say that Neville, whoever
Neville may be, had seen the document and, even if the person,
Neville, had read the email, that is not an offence. It is no
offence of conspiracy, it is no offence of phone-hacking, it is
no offence of any sort at all."
461. Mr Yates offered two reasons why Neville Thurlbeck
was not interviewed. The first was that "there is no clear
evidence as to who Neville was or who is Neville. It is supposition
to suggest Neville Thurlbeck or indeed any other Neville within
the News of the World or any other Neville in the journalist
Nor was there evidence in any of the other material seized from
Mr Mulcaire to suggest a link.
462. The second reason related to whether there would
have been any point in attempting to question Mr Thurlbeck. Mr
Yates told us:
"I would say it is 99.9% certain that, if
we were to question Neville Thurlbeck on this matter, he would
make no comment. That was the position of every other journalist
we spoke to during this inquiry. It was the position of Mulcaire,
it was the position of Goodman and they made no comment."
463. The police also told us that their hands were
tied by lack of corroborating evidence and the stance of the newspaper's
solicitors, however, was described to us as "robust".
Detective Chief Superintendent Philip Williams, one of the investigating
officers, told us:
"As part of our investigation strategy,
we were asking the News of the World to supply more information
pertaining to Mulcaire, his employment, his records of work, who
he worked for and what stories he worked on, as was said, and
any editors or journalists that he worked for because this was
an ongoing process and we wanted to understand the whole picture.
What it came back to was the News of the World saying,
'No, there was no information' and, therefore, we were left in
isolation, literally, with that document which, when you look
at it, is not enough in evidence to pursue, which is where we
have ended up."
464. Regarding the failure to conduct wider interviews,
however, Mr Yates also said: "perhaps in 2006 it ought to
have been done; I do not know, but in 2009 that is going to take
us absolutely nowhere."
465. The police also told us that under section 1
of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) it is only
a criminal offence to access someone else's voicemail message
if they have not already listened to it themselves. This means
that to prove a criminal offence has taken place it has to be
proved that the intended recipient had not already listened to
the message. This means that the hacking of messages that have
already been opened is not a criminal offence and the only action
the victim can take is to pursue a breach of privacy, which we
find a strange position in law.
466. We recommend that Section 1 of the Regulation
of Investigatory Powers Act is amended to cover all hacking of
467. In 2006 the Metropolitan Police made a considered
choice, based on available resources, not to investigate either
the holding contract between Greg Miskiw and Glenn Mulcaire, or
the 'for Neville' email. We have been told that choice was endorsed
by the CPS. Nevertheless it is our view that the decision was
a wrong one. The email was a strong indication both of additional
lawbreaking and of the possible involvement of others. These matters
merited thorough police investigation, and the first steps to
be taken seem to us to have been obvious. The Metropolitan Police's
reasons for not doing so seem to us to be inadequate.
468. Nor are we impressed by the reported testimony
of Neville Thurlbeck. Mr Thurlbeck also figured prominently in
the case Max Mosley brought against the News of the World
which we discuss in paragraphs 40 to 57 above. Mr Justice Eady's
judgement in that case included the following:
"The real problem, so far as Mr Thurlbeck
is concerned, is that these inconsistencies demonstrate that his
'best recollection' is so erratic and changeable that it would
not be safe to place unqualified reliance on his evidence as to
what took place as between him, Woman E and her husband."
469. There is one other piece of evidence which we
have heard in this inquiry which suggests Mr Thurlbeck's involvement
in this matter. On 9 April 2006, the News of the World
published an article which described verbatim a joke message left
on the telephone voicemail of Prince Harry by his brother, Prince
William. The story
was credited to both Clive Goodman and Neville Thurlbeck. In the
light of the subsequent convictions of Clive Goodman and Glenn
Mulcaire it is reasonable to conclude that this story was the
result of an interception. Indeed, Mr Williams told us that he
had evidence that Goodman and Mulcaire had accessed the princes'
own phones to listen to voicemails,
although they were not prosecuted for doing so.
470. Following the Guardian revelations, the
PCC started a review of the phone-hacking and blagging affairs.
In its conclusions, published in November 2009, and which quoted
only part of the police evidence to us, it effectively exonerated
the News of the World. This drew an angry response from
the Guardian, whose reports, the PCC said, "did not
quite live up to the dramatic billing they were initially given".
Mr Rusbridger then resigned in protest from the Code Committee.
471. The following week, the PCC's new chair, Baroness
Buscombe, gave a speech to the Society of Editors annual conference,
which suggested that Gordon Taylor's lawyer, Mr Lewis, had misled
this Committee. This was prompted by receipt of a letter from
police lawyers denying that an officer, Detective Inspector Mark
Maberly, had told Mr Lewis that Glenn Mulcaire had intercepted
6,000 people's voice messages. Mr Lewis, whom the PCC had not
contacted for comment, also reacted furiously.
472. We accept that in 2007 the PCC acted in good
faith to follow up the implications of the convictions of Clive
Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire. The Guardian's fresh revelations
in July 2009, however, provided good reason for the PCC to be
more assertive in its enquiries, rather than accepting submissions
from the News of the World one again at face value. This
Committee has not done so and we find the conclusions in the PCC's
November report simplistic and surprising. It has certainly not
fully, or forensically, considered all the evidence to this inquiry.
473. The 2003 investigation known as Operation Motorman
was led by the Office of the Information Commissioner. It concerned
offences under data protection legislation by a private investigator,
Steve Whittamore, who had illegally accessed official databases
by pretending to be someone he was not (a practice known as 'blagging'),
and sold the harvested information to newspapers. The databases
that were compromised included the DVLA and the Police National
474. In May 2006, the then Information Commissioner,
Richard Thomas, published a report of the investigation, entitled
What price privacy?.
The report noted that the documentation seized during the
investigation made links between Mr Whittamore and the press.
The report listed the number of transactions undertaken by Mr
Whittamore for each newspaper and the number of journalists working
for each publication who had commissioned them. Most newspaper
groups and a number of magazines were implicated.
The journalists seeking the information were not named in the
report, though most were named in the documents.
475. Although Mr Whittamore and three colleagues
were convicted, journalists who had allegedly bought information
from him were not. We questioned this decision during our 2007
inquiry. The then
Information Commissioner told us that given the lightness of the
sentences handed down to the investigators he had been advised
by counsel that to pursue further prosecutions would not be in
the public interest and would 'attract severe criticism within
the court system'.
The Information Commissioner accepted this advice.
476. In evidence to us on 14 July Nick Davies gave
us his view:
"They prosecuted Steve Whittamore, the private
investigator, and three of his colleagues who were involved in
the network, gathering information, they came to Blackfriars Crown
Court and pleaded guilty, and the judge in the case said, 'Well,
hang on a moment. Where are the news groups? Where are the journalists?'
and the answer to that question is that the Information Commission
felt that, if they charged the newspaper groups, they would (a)
hire very expensive QCs, which meant that the Information Commissioner's
office would have to do the same, and (b) they would have masses
of preliminary hearings with all sorts of complex legal argument
and the effect of that would have been to break the Information
Commissioner's office's legal budget. They simply could not afford
to take on Fleet Street, it was too expensive. It was not, as
you might think, a political fear, 'We're not going to get into
a fight with these powerful newspapers'; it was a budgetary thing."
477. Mr Davies showed us a copy of invoices, dated
1998, that related to Operation Motorman, which he said had come
from the Information Commissioner:
"The Information Commissioner, some months
ago, presented the press with a collection of invoices. Some of
them dealt with News International, and I have just given you
copies, and some of them dealt with other newspaper groups, so
the Information Commissioner has previously made invoices public
relating to Steve Whittamore's work for other newspaper groups."
478. We put it to Mr Davies that his story in the
Guardian amounted to nothing more than a rehash of old
news. He denied this, saying, with regard to the lack of prosecutions
in Operation Motorman: "This is a story which did not get
479. He added:
"What I am really writing about, the core
of that story in the Guardian, is the fact that we have
discovered News Group have paid out more than one million quid
to suppress legal actions in three cases. Why did they do that?
Because the lawyers for the lead case, Gordon Taylor, managed
to get hold of two different caches of evidence, one lot from
Scotland Yard and one lot from the Information Commission, so,
in writing that story, necessarily I have to tell you that it
is those two caches of information which led to the News of
the World saying here 'take some money and will you please
go quiet'. If I did not tell you about the Information Commission
lot, I would only be telling you half the reason why News Group
folded the case."
480. The Information Commissioner's Office initially
denied putting copies of the invoices we received from Mr Davies
in the public domain.
However, in a letter to the Chairman dated 5 August 2009, the
Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, confirmed that in
fact his office had released samples of invoices from the Operation
Motorman case: "These heavily redacted samples were released
to the Guardian by the Information Commissioner's press
office in early 2007 to help illustrate the Guardian's coverage
of our report What price privacy now?."
481. The Chairman of our Committee subsequently visited
his offices in Cheshire and inspected the ledgers containing the
documents seized, which amounted to 17,000 invoices or purchase
orders from journalists for information.
As the Information Commissioner has pointed out, many of these
transactions would be for obtaining information perfectly legally.
But it is reasonable to suppose that many others were not.
482. We asked the Information Commissioner whether,
in the public interest, we could be provided with a redacted version
to publish as part of our inquiry. He replied that he was eager
to give us every assistance, but said:
"My concern is a practical one. The invoices
fill a large cardboard box and there are four A4 ledgers that
run to around 100 double sided pages each. I estimate that it
would take a member of staff between one and two weeks to perform
the redaction needed to remove any personally identifiable information.
I also have doubts as to whether supplying redacted versions of
all the ledgers and the invoices would serve any useful purpose."
483. We were subsequently given information that
led us to believe that the information had in fact been transcribed
into an electronic spreadsheet. We put this to the Information
his Office accepted that this was the case.
Nevertheless David Smith, Deputy Information Commissioner, then
told us that the work necessary to redact the spreadsheets would
still take between 15 and 30 staff days.
A copy of the Motorman spreadsheet relating to News International
newspapers was subsequently obtained by a member of our Committee.
The Information Commissioner then confirmed that the most straightforward
redaction, column by column, would take relatively little time.
484. We have been surprised by the confusion and
obfuscation in the Information Commissioner's Office about the
format of the information it holds, and to whom that information
has been released. Given our interest in the ledgers, and the
visit of our Chairman to the offices of the Information Commissioner
to inspect them, we would have expected to be told that the information
was available in an electronic format. As such, it could easily
have been redacted to give more information about suspect activities
than appeared in 2006 in What price privacy now?.
485. Nick Davies's Guardian article suggested
that at least three News International executives were involved
in commissioning Steven Whittamore for information. They included
Mr Miskiw, who
made 90 requests to Steven Whittamore, 35 of which were to illegally
Mr Davies did not name to us the other two executives, but he
confirmed that Andy Coulson was not one of them.
486. Although the information in the Guardian
which related to Operation Motorman was up to 15 years old, many
were surprised by it. We have heard that a number of those named
as victims of Mr Whittamore by the Guardian, such as Peter
Kilfoyle MP, who was a minister in the Cabinet Office at the time,
were until the story's publication completely unaware that they
had been targeted.
487. Christopher Graham explained to us why this
might be the case:
"My predecessor had to make the judgement
whether you throw the whole resources of the organisation into
going through 17,000 pieces of evidence in order to assess the
nature of a story and to work out whether the Ziggy Stardust in
the ledger is the Ziggy Stardust you might need to alert. The
decision was taken 'no, we are going to approach this by trying
to end the unlawful dealing in personal confidential information
at source, we are going to go for closing down these operations
and we are going to report formally to Parliament".
488. In the absence of a proactive approach from
the then Information Commissioner, the onus was on individuals
to question whether they had been victims.
Many will still be unaware that they were. The Information Commissioner
defended his predecessor's decision not to inform the victims
but told us: "I am very sorry if people feel let down by
From the Guardian's reports, we also now know of one complaint
to the PCC about intrusion, where it was held to be unfounded.
Unknown to the complainant and PCC, however, private details had
indeed been blagged by private investigators in the Motorman case.
489. The Information Commissioner told us that he
feared that the Guardian's reporting was obscuring the
positive aspects: "It was the Information Commissioner's
Office who highlighted this whole thing; we are the good guys
in this, Chairman."
As a result illegal blagging was much diminished. Nevertheless
his Office remained vigilant:
"If the trade builds up again the Commissioner
will consider making a formal request to the Secretary of State
to use his order making power under the CJIA [Criminal Justice
and Immigration Act] to bring in custodial sentences. The recent
reports of phone tapping by print journalists would be used to
support any case the Commissioner might need to make."
490. The question of whether there should be
custodial sentences for breaches of section 55 of the Data Protection
Act is not a new one. We recommended in our 2007 report Self-regulation
of the press that custodial sentences be used as a deterrent
and were disappointed at the Government's rejection of our recommendation.
However, we welcome the current Ministry of Justice consultation
on the introduction of sentences
and hope that a subsequent change in the law is imminent.
491. We recognise the value of the work of the
Office of the Information Commissioner in investigating the activities
of Steven Whittamore and his associates. The Office can take much
of the credit for the fact that such illegal blagging, described
to us in 2007 as being widespread across the newspaper industry,
is now rare. However we are disappointed that the then Information
Commissioner did not feel he had the resources to identify and
inform all those who were or could have been the victim of illegal
blags, and that he did not at the time make the case that he should
be given such resources.
CONCLUSIONS REGARDING PHONE-HACKING
492. The articles in the Guardian have
been criticised for lack of clarity, in distinguishing between
phone-hacking by Glenn Mulcaire and blagging and other data protection
offences uncovered by Operation Motorman. It has also been asserted,
by the News of the World and the police among others, that
they contained no 'new evidence'. The real question, however,
is 'new' to whom? Assistant Commissioner Yates admitted to us
that his assertion was, in fact, a circular argument. The Guardian's
original revelations relied on unused and unpublicised evidence
available to the police. And revelation of facts not already in
the public domain is the very definition of 'news'.
493. The Guardian articles did contain
new information, in particular, concerning the payments to Gordon
Taylor and others and the 'for Neville' email. This inquiry has
subsequently revealed more facts, including the pay-offs made
to Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire and that they tapped the phones
of the princes themselves. They also highlighted the fact that
a culture undoubtedly did exist in the newsroom of News of
the World and other newspapers at the time which at best turned
a blind eye to illegal activities such as phone-hacking and blagging
and at worst actively condoned it. We condemn this without reservation
and believe that it has done substantial damage to the newspaper
industry as a whole.
494. We are encouraged by the assurances that
we have received that such practices are now regarded as wholly
unacceptable and will not be tolerated. We have seen no evidence
to suggest that activities of this kind are still taking place
and trust that this is indeed the case. However, we call on the
Information Commissioner, the PCC and the industry to remain vigilant
and to take swift and firm action should any evidence emerge of
such practices recurring.
495. In seeking to discover precisely who knew
what among the staff of the News of the World we have questioned
a number of present and former executives of News International.
Throughout we have repeatedly encountered an unwillingness to
provide the detailed information that we sought, claims of ignorance
or lack of recall, and deliberate obfuscation. We strongly condemn
this behaviour which reinforces the widely held impression that
the press generally regard themselves as unaccountable and that
News International in particular has sought to conceal the truth
about what really occurred.
275 Committee on Standards in Public Life, Survey
of public attitudes towards conduct in public life 2008, para
Ibid., para 2.1 Back
YouGov poll, commissioned by British Journalism Review, 27-28
March 2008 Back
Media Standards Trust, A More Accountable Press: Part 1,
p 7 Back
"'Extraordinarily challenging times' at Johnston Press as
share price tumbles", Press Gazette, 25 November 2008 Back
Q 304 Back
Q 304 Back
Q 402 Back
Ev 407-410 Back
Ev 441-444 Back
A More Accountable Press: Part 1, para 5 Back
Q 409 Back
Q 311 Back
Q 306 Back
Q 309 Back
Q 112 Back
Press Complaints Commission, Peaches Geldof v Daily Star -
Press Complaints Commission Report 78, 4 February 2009 Back
"Peaches Geldof wins damages over prostitute claims",
BBC news online, 12 January 2010, www.news.bbc.co.uk Back
Q 308 Back
Q 325 Back
Q 178 Back
The Editors' Codebook, p 20, 2nd Edition, www.editorscode.org.uk Back
Q 101 Back
Q 102 Back
Q 102 Back
Q 213 Back
Gerry McCann and Kate McCann v Express Newspapers Statement
in Open Court 08/0278, 19 March 2009 Back
Jane Tanner, Dr Russell O'Brien, Fiona Payne, David Payne, Matthew
Oldfield, Rachael Oldfield and Dianne Webster Back
Sergey Malinka and Michaela Walczuch Back
Q 213 Back
Q 604 Back
Q 201 Back
Q 171 Back
Q 620 Back
Q 561 Back
Q 307 Back
Q 626 Back
Q 614 Back
Q 173 Back
Q 181 Back
Q 199 Back
Q 369 Back
Ev 107 Back
Q 188 Back
Qq 189-91 Back
Q 188 Back
Q 195 Back
Q 194 Back
Q 561 Back
Q 343 Back
Q 379 Back
Ev 107 Back
Q 188 Back
Ev 109 Back
Ev 410 Back
Ev 159 Back
Ev 184 Back
Ev 418, para 2 Back
Press Council, Press at the Prison Gates: A report by the Press
Council, booklet number 8, January 1991 Back
Ibid., p 25 Back
Qq 576-78, Ev 157 Back
Q 654 Back
Q 644 Back
Q 645 Back
Press Complaints Commission Code of Practice Back
"Editors introduce rule on suicide reporting", Press
Complaints Commission press notice, 29 June 2006 Back
Such as Q 228 Back
Ev 445 Back
Q 268 Back
"Two more hangings rock death cult town", Daily Express,
16 February 2008 Back
PCC newsletter, November 2008, www.pcc.org.uk Back
Press Complaints Commission, Moon v Sunday Times - Press Complaints
Commission Report 78, 17 November 2008 Back
"Britain's Teen Suicides", BBC Radio 4, 12 September
Q 228 Back
Q 277 Back
Q 277 Back
Q 282 Back
Q 284 Back
Q 290 Back
Q 393 Back
Q 281 Back
Q 224 Back
Q 397 Back
The Editors Codebook, March 2009, p 64 Back
Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Seventh Report of Session
2006-07, Self-regulation of the press, HC 375 Back
Ibid., para 21 Back
Ibid., Q 95 Back
"Murdoch papers paid £1m to gag phone-hacking victims",
Guardian Online, 8 July 2009, www.guardian.co.uk Back
Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Seventh Report of Session
2006-07, Self-regulation of the press, Q 95 Back
Q 1421 Back
Qq 1378-82 Back
Q 1349 Back
Sentencing Hearing, p17 Back
Ev 457 Back
Q 1340 Back
Q 1342 Back
Q 1342 Back
Qq 1368-9 Back
Q 1342 Back
Ev 467 Back
Q 1366 Back
Q 1344 Back
Q 1346 Back
Qq 2101-2 Back
Q 2097 Back
Q 1351 Back
Q 2069 Back
"Statement by Baroness Buscombe, Chairman of the Press Complaints
Commission, on new evidence in the phone message hacking episode",
Press Complaints Commission, www.pcc.org.uk Back
Q 1982 Back
"NoW pair hacked into 100 mobile accounts", The Guardian,
2 February 2010 Back
Q 1344 Back
Qq 1344-5 Back
Q 2106 Back
Sentencing hearing, p 70 Back
Q 1291 Back
Q 1550 Back
Q 1554 Back
Q 1591 Back
Q 1351 Back
HC 375 2006-07, Q 95 Back
Q 1558 Back
Q 1405, Ev 464-7; Press Complaints Commission, PCC report on
phone message tapping allegations, 9 November 2009, p 9 Back
Ev 467 Back
Ev 469 Back
Sentencing Hearing, p 179 Back
Ev 464 Back
Q 2198 Back
Q 2202 Back
Qq 1411, 1416 Back
Q 1537 Back
Ev 321 Back
Ev 465 Back
Q 2069 Back
Q 1336 Back
Q 2084 Back
Q 1329 Back
Q 1890 Back
Q 1892 Back
Q 1893 Back
Q 1904 Back
Q 1939 Back
Q 1907 Back
Q 1936 Back
Para 97 Mosley (2) Back
"Chelsy tears a strip off Harry", News of the World,
9 April 2006 Back
Q 1996 Back
PCC report on phone message tapping allegations, para 13.3 Back
Information Commissioners Office, What price privacy? The unlawful
trade in personal confidential information, HC (2005-06) 1056,
para 5.1 Back
Information Commissioners Office, What price privacy? Back
Ibid., para 5.6 Back
Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Seventh Report of Session
2006-07, Self-regulation of the press, HC 375 Back
Ibid., Q 41 Back
Q 1233 Back
Q 1236 Back
Q 1240 Back
Ev 341 Back
Information Commissioner's Office, What price privacy now?
The first six months progress in halting the unlawful trade in
confidential personal information, HC (2006-07) 36 Back
Q 1804 Back
Ev 342 Back
Letter from the Chairman to the Information Commissioner, 20 October
2009 (not printed) Back
Ev 355 Back
Ev 469 Back
Q 1211 Back
Q 1212 Back
Q 1804 Back
Q 1805 Back
Ev 341 Back
Ministry of Justice, The knowing or reckless misuse of personal
data - introducing custodial sentences, consultation paper
CP22/09, 15 October 2009 Back