Press standards, privacy and libel - Culture, Media and Sport Committee Contents


5  Press standards

Introduction

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.[275] 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.[276]

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.[277] 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'.[278]

Financial pressures

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 Change% change
Sun3,345,195 3,063,667-281,528 -8.42%
Daily Mail2,419,612 2,177,600-242,012 -10.00%
Daily Mirror1,812,942 1,321,044-491,898 -27.13%
Daily Express945,575 721,111-224,464 -23.74%
Daily Star889,505 865,388-24,117 -2.71%
Daily Telegraph905,889 812,906-92,983 -10.26%
The Times654,913 580,324-74,589 -11.39%
Financial Times428,643 406,185-22,458 -5.24%
Guardian377,589 323,393-54,196 -14.35%
Independent263,020 192,383-70,637 -26.86%
Total12,042,883 10,464,001-1,578,882 -13.11%
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.[279]

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."[280]

318. Speaking more generally about the industry, he added:

    "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."[281]

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".[282] In consequence, journalists no longer had time to do their job properly,[283] and 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[284] and the Media Standards Trust[285] 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."[286]

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".[287]

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'[288] 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."[289]

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."[290]

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 times.

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.

Newspaper headlines

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.[291] The PCC adjudicated on the case and described the misleading headline as 'sloppy journalism'.[292] 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.[293]

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.[294] 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."[295]

328. Gerry McCann told us about his experience of misleading headlines:

    "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."[296]

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.[297]

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 inaccurate:

    "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."[298]

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."[299] 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."[300]

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

THE EVENTS

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 disappearance.

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."[301]

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",[302] 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',[303] were also the subjects of libellous reports over a number of months, as were Mr Murat and two associates.[304] Here is a summary of court actions and complaints resulting from the case:

·  The 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 £550,000 damages.

·  They 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 agreement.

·  The 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.

·  The Tapas Seven sued the Daily Star and Daily Express over approximately 20 articles and received apologies and a reported £375,000 damages.

·  Robert 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 £600,000 damages.

·  Mr Murat also received apologies from The Scotsman and Sky News website.

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 newspaper groups."[305] 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."[306]

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.[307] Gerry McCann told us: "Madeleine, I believe, was made a commodity and profits were to be made."[308]

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."[309] 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 stories.".[310]

344. In this context London newsdesks were extremely eager to secure competitive daily stories on the case. Jeff Edwards told us:

    "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."[311]

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."[312]

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."[313]

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 sources.

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."[314]

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 stories."[315]

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 it."[316]

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".[317]

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.[318] 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'.[319]

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."[320]

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,[321] and that "the advice from both the PCC and our legal advisers was that the PCC was not the route."[322]

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."[323]

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 PCC.[324]

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.".[325] 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."[326]

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 [2008] 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."[327]

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 achieved much.[328]

    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 courts."[329]

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."[330]

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.

LESSONS LEARNED?

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"[331] by the Newspaper Publishers' Association and PressBof, as "rare if not unique"[332] by News International, as "unique" and "unprecedented"[333] by the Express Group and as "highly unusual"[334] 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."[335]

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.[336] 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".[337]

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.[338]

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."[339]

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."[340] 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."[341]

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.[342]

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."[343]

379. We have heard criticism that the PCC Code contains only a single clause on suicide reporting,[344] 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.[345] However, Antony Langan of Samaritans told us that when the Code was properly applied by the press, he had found reporting to be appropriate.[346]

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.[347]

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.[348] 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'.[349]

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'. [350]

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."[351]

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,[352] 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."[353]

387. The knowledge that the press would be printing a story about his daughter also put pressure on Mr Fuller at a distressing time:

    "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."[354]

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[355] and the unauthorised use of photographs of his daughter which he had not seen before.[356]

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.[357] 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."[358]

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 contests:

    "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."[359]

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."[360]

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 cases.

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.[361] The PCC told us, though, that it did not consider this a major issue.[362]

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."[363] 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,[364] 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 activities.[365] It 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, concluded thus:

    "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, continues."[366]

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.

FRESH ALLEGATIONS

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.[367]

405. These allegations cast some doubt on testimony given to us, and to the PCC, by News International executives in 2007.[368] 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 evidence below.

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 following terms:

    "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."[369]

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.'[370]

410. For such a contract to be in a false name was certainly less common.[371] 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."[372]

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,[373] 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."[374] 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.[375] Once he knew, he set himself the task, with Mr Myler's knowledge, of investigating their background.[376]

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'.[377] 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."[378]

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."[379] "[…] 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,"[380] 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 staff:[381] Neville 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."'[382] 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.'[383]

THE DOOR-KNOCK

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.[384]

418. This story was based at least in part on the contents of the voicemail interception transcripts, Mr Crone told us.[385] 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."[386]

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.[387] 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 explained why:

    "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."[388]

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 left messages'.[389] Assistant Commissioner Yates, however, referred to only a handful of victims,[390] while Detective Chief Superintendent Williams told us that: "I suppose the honest answer is we do not know".[391] 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.[392] 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.[393]

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.[394]

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 it.

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."[395]

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.[396] Neither was Mr Goodman accused in the later interception of Gordon Taylor's voicemail.

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 either kind."[397]

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".[398] He added:

    "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 have done."[399]

431. Mr Coulson also said he had "never read a Gordon Taylor story, to the best of my recollection"'[400] although, as we have been told, it was Mr Coulson who spiked the story (see paragraph 420).[401]

432. We turn now to the 'full, rigorous internal enquiry', which News International told us in March 2007 that it had conducted.[402] There were, from evidence we have received, two internal reviews, one before and one after Colin Myler arrived as editor in January 2007.

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."[403]

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.[404]

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."[405]

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".[406]

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."[407]

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 Resources."[408]

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."[409]

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",[410] adding "[...] I cannot remember the detail and, in any event, I have been told by News International not to discuss it."[411]

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.[412] 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."[413] To Mr Myler, on the other hand, Mr Goodman's pay-off appeared to come as a genuine surprise.[414]

448. Afterwards Mr Myler wrote to confirm both pay-offs, adding that "the terms […] are subject to mutual and legally binding confidentiality obligations."[415] 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."[416]

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 claim.

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."[417]

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".[418]

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,"[419] 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."[420]

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 company settled.[421]

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"'.[422] 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.[423]

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."[424]

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."[425]

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 community."[426] Nor was there evidence in any of the other material seized from Mr Mulcaire to suggest a link.[427]

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."[428]

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".[429] 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."[430]

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."[431]

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 phone messages.

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."[432]

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.[433] 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,[434] 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".[435] 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.

OPERATION MOTORMAN

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 Computer.[436]

474. In May 2006, the then Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, published a report of the investigation, entitled What price privacy?.[437] 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.[438] The journalists seeking the information were not named in the report, though most were named in the documents.[439]

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.[440] 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'.[441] 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."[442]

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."[443]

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 reported."[444]

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."[445]

480. The Information Commissioner's Office initially denied putting copies of the invoices we received from Mr Davies in the public domain.[446] 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?."[447]

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.[448] As the Information Commissioner has pointed out, many of these transactions would be for obtaining information perfectly legally.[449] 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."[450]

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 Commissioner[451] and his Office accepted that this was the case.[452] 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.[453] 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.[454]

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,[455] who made 90 requests to Steven Whittamore, 35 of which were to illegally access databases.[456] Mr Davies did not name to us the other two executives, but he confirmed that Andy Coulson was not one of them.[457]

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.[458]

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".[459]

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.[460] 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 the ICO."[461] 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."[462] 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."[463]

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[464] 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 AND BLAGGING

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 7.5  Back

276   Ibid., para 2.1  Back

277   YouGov poll, commissioned by British Journalism Review, 27-28 March 2008 Back

278   Media Standards Trust, A More Accountable Press: Part 1, p 7 Back

279   "'Extraordinarily challenging times' at Johnston Press as share price tumbles", Press Gazette, 25 November 2008 Back

280   Q 304 Back

281   Q 304 Back

282   Q 402 Back

283   Ibid. Back

284   Ev 407-410 Back

285   Ev 441-444 Back

286   A More Accountable Press: Part 1, para 5 Back

287   Q 409 Back

288   Q 311 Back

289   Q 306 Back

290   Q 309 Back

291   Q 112 Back

292   Press Complaints Commission, Peaches Geldof v Daily Star - Press Complaints Commission Report 78, 4 February 2009 Back

293   "Peaches Geldof wins damages over prostitute claims", BBC news online, 12 January 2010, www.news.bbc.co.uk Back

294   Q 308 Back

295   Q 325 Back

296   Q 178 Back

297   The Editors' Codebook, p 20, 2nd Edition, www.editorscode.org.uk Back

298   Q 101 Back

299   Q 102 Back

300   Q 102 Back

301   Q 213 Back

302   Gerry McCann and Kate McCann v Express Newspapers Statement in Open Court 08/0278, 19 March 2009 Back

303   Jane Tanner, Dr Russell O'Brien, Fiona Payne, David Payne, Matthew Oldfield, Rachael Oldfield and Dianne Webster Back

304   Sergey Malinka and Michaela Walczuch Back

305   Q 213 Back

306   Q 604 Back

307   Q 201 Back

308   Q 171 Back

309   Q 620 Back

310   Q 561 Back

311   Q 307 Back

312   Ibid. Back

313   Q 626 Back

314   Q 614 Back

315   Q 173 Back

316   Q 181 Back

317   Q 199 Back

318   Q 369 Back

319   Ev 107 Back

320   Q 188 Back

321   Qq 189-91 Back

322   Q 188 Back

323   Q 195 Back

324   Q 194 Back

325   Q 561 Back

326   Q 343 Back

327   Q 379 Back

328   Ev 107 Back

329   Ibid. Back

330   Q 188 Back

331   Ev 109 Back

332   Ev 410 Back

333   Ev 159 Back

334   Ev 184 Back

335   Ev 418, para 2 Back

336   Press Council, Press at the Prison Gates: A report by the Press Council, booklet number 8, January 1991 Back

337   Ibid., p 25 Back

338   Qq 576-78, Ev 157 Back

339   Q 654  Back

340   Q 644 Back

341   Q 645 Back

342   Press Complaints Commission Code of Practice Back

343   "Editors introduce rule on suicide reporting", Press Complaints Commission press notice, 29 June 2006 Back

344   Such as Q 228 Back

345   Ev 445 Back

346   Q 268 Back

347   "Two more hangings rock death cult town", Daily Express, 16 February 2008 Back

348   PCC newsletter, November 2008, www.pcc.org.uk Back

349   Press Complaints Commission, Moon v Sunday Times - Press Complaints Commission Report 78, 17 November 2008 Back

350   "Britain's Teen Suicides", BBC Radio 4, 12 September 2008 Back

351   Q 228 Back

352   Q 277 Back

353   Ibid. Back

354   Q 277 Back

355   Q 282 Back

356   Q 284 Back

357   Q 290 Back

358   Q 393 Back

359   Q 281 Back

360   Ibid. Back

361   Q 224 Back

362   Q 397 Back

363   The Editors Codebook, March 2009, p 64 Back

364   Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Seventh Report of Session 2006-07, Self-regulation of the press, HC 375 Back

365   Ibid., para 21 Back

366   Ibid., Q 95 Back

367   "Murdoch papers paid £1m to gag phone-hacking victims", Guardian Online, 8 July 2009, www.guardian.co.uk Back

368   Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Seventh Report of Session 2006-07, Self-regulation of the press, Q 95 Back

369   www.guardian.co.uk  Back

370   Q 1421 Back

371   Qq 1378-82 Back

372   Q 1349 Back

373   Sentencing Hearing, p17 Back

374   Ev 457 Back

375   Q 1340 Back

376   Q 1342 Back

377   Q 1342 Back

378   Ibid. Back

379   Qq 1368-9  Back

380   Q 1342 Back

381   Ev 467 Back

382   Q 1366 Back

383   Q 1344 Back

384   Ibid. Back

385   Q 1346 Back

386   Qq 2101-2 Back

387   Q 2097 Back

388   Q 1351 Back

389   Q 2069 Back

390   "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

391   Q 1982 Back

392   "NoW pair hacked into 100 mobile accounts", The Guardian, 2 February 2010 Back

393   Q 1344 Back

394   Qq 1344-5 Back

395   Q 2106 Back

396   Sentencing hearing, p 70 Back

397   Q 1291 Back

398   Q 1550 Back

399   Q 1554 Back

400   Q 1591 Back

401   Q 1351 Back

402   HC 375 2006-07, Q 95 Back

403   Q 1558 Back

404   Q 1405, Ev 464-7; Press Complaints Commission, PCC report on phone message tapping allegations, 9 November 2009, p 9 Back

405   Ev 467 Back

406   Ev 469 Back

407   Sentencing Hearing, p 179 Back

408   Ev 464 Back

409   Ibid. Back

410   Q 2198 Back

411   Q 2202 Back

412   Qq 1411, 1416 Back

413   Q 1537 Back

414   Ibid. Back

415   Ev 321 Back

416   Ibid. Back

417   Ev 465 Back

418   Q 2069 Back

419   Q 1336 Back

420   Q 2084 Back

421   Q 1329 Back

422   Q 1890 Back

423   Ibid. Back

424   Ibid. Back

425   Q 1892 Back

426   Q 1893 Back

427   Ibid. Back

428   Q 1904 Back

429   Q 1939 Back

430   Q 1907 Back

431   Q 1936 Back

432   Para 97 Mosley (2) Back

433   "Chelsy tears a strip off Harry", News of the World, 9 April 2006 Back

434   Q 1996 Back

435   PCC report on phone message tapping allegations, para 13.3 Back

436   Information Commissioners Office, What price privacy? The unlawful trade in personal confidential information, HC (2005-06) 1056, para 5.1 Back

437   Ibid. Back

438   Information Commissioners Office, What price privacy? Back

439   Ibid., para 5.6 Back

440   Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Seventh Report of Session 2006-07, Self-regulation of the press, HC 375 Back

441   Ibid., Q 41 Back

442   Q 1233 Back

443   Q 1236 Back

444   Ibid. Back

445   Q 1240 Back

446   Ev 341 Back

447   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

448   Q 1804 Back

449   Ibid. Back

450   Ev 342 Back

451   Letter from the Chairman to the Information Commissioner, 20 October 2009 (not printed) Back

452   Ev 355 Back

453   Ibid. Back

454   Ev 469 Back

455   Q 1211 Back

456   Ibid. Back

457   Q 1212  Back

458   Q1809 Back

459   Q 1804 Back

460   Q 1805 Back

461   Ibid. Back

462   Ibid. Back

463   Ev 341 Back

464   Ministry of Justice, The knowing or reckless misuse of personal data - introducing custodial sentences, consultation paper CP22/09, 15 October 2009 Back


 
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