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

Supplementary written evidence submitted by Tim Toulmin, Press Complaints Commission

  Thank you for your letter of 12 October.

As requested, I am sending copies of my letters of 7 February and 20 April 2007 to Colin Myler.

  As you are interested in the PCC's action in the Bridgend case, I am also sending you a copy of a letter that Christopher Meyer sent to Madeleine Moon MP on 20 February 2008. This makes clear that we were prepared to go down there much earlier than May, when the events there eventually took place. As there were a number of different organisations and people to co-ordinate it did take some time for Ms Moon's office and the PCC to make the necessary arrangements—but I thought you ought to be aware that the initiative itself was suggested by us relatively early in the sequence of suicides.

  Please do let me know if you need any more information.

With kind regards.

October 2009

Annex A

Letter from Tim Toulmin, Director, Press Complaints Commission to Colin Myler, Editor, News of the World

  I am writing following the convictions of Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire. As you may know, the board of the Press Complaints Commission has met and discussed the matter on two separate occasions. It has asked me to put a number of questions to you before launching a wider exercise aimed at ensuring that such phone message tapping does not happen again.

There are obviously several matters that are specific to the News of the World. The focus of our enquiries is on lessons to be learned. But clearly this requires some understanding of the situation which gave rise to the Goodman/Mulcaire case. It goes without saying that the Commission realises that you have no personal responsibility for what occurred.

  We have been especially concerned whether the employment of Mr Mulcaire represented an attempt to circumvent the Code's provisions by sub-contracting investigative work to a third party. We recognise that there is nothing inherently wrong with using third parties. But the Code says that "editors should take care to ensure it is observed rigorously by all editorial staff and external contributors, including non-journalists". There are therefore no loopholes.

  More specifically:

    1. Were Mulcaire and any other external contributors aware that when using their material the newspaper had to work within the terms of the Code and the law?

    2. To avoid a repetition of this episode, what new guidance has been or will be introduced for external contributors? Is it/will it be written into their contracts or otherwise made clear that material must be obtained in a manner consistent with the requirements of the Code of Practice and of the law, and that public interest exceptions may apply? What other steps are being or will be taken to ensure that material supplied by third parties complies with the Code?

    3. What steps have been/will be taken to ensure that all staff journalists on the News of the World understand that the use of third parties to circumvent the Code is unacceptable, and may be illegal?

    As to Goodman, it seems from the evidence submitted to the court that he repeatedly breached the Code and the law. It will not surprise you to hear that the Commission requires reassurance that the newspaper makes its staff journalists fully aware of the requirements of the Code and the law in terms of subterfuge, including when it is justified. This, of course, embraces also the Data Protection Act, where there has been separate comment recently about the extent to which it is respected by journalists.

  More specifically:

    1. Has the paper's guidance to staff journalists changed in light of Goodman's conviction? If so, what does it say?

    2. Are you satisfied that staff fully understand all clauses of the Code of Practice and the consequences of breaching the Code? There are occasions where exceptions to the rules may be made in the public interest—are these made clear?

    3. Do you need the Commission's assistance to help with internal training or anything else? As you may know, we run regular workshops on the Code and how it is enforced.

    4. The Commission intends to widen its investigation after hearing from you, with a view to establishing whether controls across the industry are adequate. With this in mind, is there anything else that would be helpful to us from the newspaper's experience in this case?

  I look forward to hearing from you. I may have some further questions at a later stage.

With kind regards.

February 2007

Annex B

Letter from Tim Toulmin, Director, Press Complaints Commission to Colin Myler, Editor, News of the World

  Further to my letter of 18 April, I have two further questions.

I see from your letter to staff of 19 February that further controls on cash payments were being developed. May the Commission know what conclusions were reached in this regard?

  Secondly, as you know, the Commission is looking at what lessons might be learned, and in particular it may wish to draw attention to examples of best practice. With that in mind, would you object if our report quoted from the revised contracts that have been drawn up for contributors and members of staff?

  I look forward to hearing from you.

With kind regards.

20 April 2007

Annex C

Letter from Sir Christopher Meyer, Chairman of the Press Complaints Commission to Madeleine Moon MP

  I thought you might like to see a copy of a statement I have made today,[113] which I have sent to the local and regional press around Bridgend as well as to national newspapers. I am particularly eager to ensure that anyone affected by one of these tragedies is aware of what we can do to help minimise the impact of journalists' inquiries at such a difficult time.

I am also very concerned about the suggestion that the media are somehow glamorising suicide. I understand that you are compiling a dossier to forward to us, and I look forward to receiving it. In addition, members of my staff would be very willing to come to Bridgend to see you, members of the public and anyone who has a professional interest in these matters to answer any questions.

  Finally, I should just remind you that our responsibility is for newspapers and magazines in print or online, but not for television and radio, which fall to Ofcom and, where relevant, the BBC.

With kind regards

20 February 2008

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